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If memory serves, George Frazier once declared Biddle--A.J. Drexel, that is--to be the best dressed gent in the country. I think Frazier observed that Biddle owned seven--only seven--suits. Didn't he use the word "monastic" to describe the entirety of Biddle's wardrobe? I think the descriptive "sparse" was also used.

And didn't Boyer speak favorably of owning and wearing a few really well made pieces that would stand the test of time (read: fashion trends) and the elements?

And so, the question: When is enough...enough?
 

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I think you posted this on the wrong forum. Just kidding. :)

It is a good question. Maybe we need a thread to see who has the best, minimalist trad wardrobe.

It is not me. Between the great photo exposes, the sale forum, and general alerts of sales and deals, this forum has been extremely detrimental to the limited closet space in my house. My wife is threatening to have the closets re-designed.

The problem with good traditional clothing is that it does not go out of style and it does not easily wear out, so I do not want to throw out any of my older clothes.
 

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Harris-in my "archives" I've got an article by Frazier in which he listed the core elements of Biddle's wardrobe and I was amazed at how few pieces there were. On the other hand I have found over the years that it makes a lot of sense if done correctly. If you'd like a copy of the article let me know and I'll try to get it to you. It's over 40 years old.
 

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Harris, that's a great question. I'll give you the perspective of a newbie.

In short, the reason I keep buying more stuff is that I haven't found the right items (esp. in sizing and fit) and am still trying different things.

Starting this spring, I wanted to upgrade my look largely for professional reasons. I purchased the Details book on men's fashion. And concluded that my starting point was to find shirts that fit very well. This proved difficult until a coworker mentioned further educating myself via this website (though not specifically the "trad" forum). I discovered that yes, I really like the look of button-down collars (later, "OCBD's"), and found the shirt I was looking for: the BB slim-fit must-iron.

I purchased 8 of these shirts many months ago, and am greatly satisfied, and have not added to this collection. They are all I need for button-downs until they wear out.

But pants are another story. I haven't found the equivalent trousers to the OCBD's. (My M2's are great, but I now realize that I need a slimmer fit, esp. now that I've further shortened them. So, now I'll try M3's and other brands.)

Jackets, too. I'll continue to buy more, because I can't seem to get the fit juuust right on several key items. I HATE shouldery jackets, and most of them simply are that way. Or there's some other fit problem.

I do believe that I will eventually end up with a small wardrobe that works wonderfully for me. (But I also realize this could be a totally false. A rationalization. I really love to see what other posters are wearing -- so yes, the obsession is definitely in place....)
 

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The section on Biddle is as follows. I changed the formatting a little to make grouping the items easier. In my view, the wardrobe was "sparse" in that he had fewer suits and shoes than is typical on this forum. It's not sparse, in contemporary terms, in that he had a morning coat, a stroller, a tailcoat, a dinner suit, two white dinner jackets, two top hats, and two homburgs.

Even in its entirety, Biddle's wardrobe seems, by contrast, almost monastic.

It includes seven so-called business suits-two double- and one single-breasted navy-blue serge; one double- and one single-breasted dark-blue pin-stripe flannel; one single-breasted charcoal-grey flannel. (They were made by either H. Harris of New York, who charges $225 and up for a two-piece suit, or E. Tautz of London who charges, as to do most topnotch British tailors, almost a quarter less. All have skeleton alpaca linings and the sleeves have three buttons and open buttonholes. The single-breasteds have three-button, notched-lapel jackets.)

For formal daytime wear, Biddle has a charcoal-grey cheviot cutaway, a single-breasted white waistcoat, and black trousers with broad white stripes. (With these, he wears a black silk ascot and a wide wing collar.) For semiformal daytime occasions, he has a charcoal-grey single-breasted cheviot sack coat and trousers, in either black or Cambridge grey, with broad white stripes.

Besides a ready-made Aquascutum raincoat, Biddle owns three outer coats-a double-breasted blue chinchilla ($175 from Tautz), a single-breasted light drab covert cloth ($225, H. Harris), and a double-breasted polo coat with white bone buttons ($325, Harris).

He has, in addition to a tweed cap, four hats, all of them purchased at Lock's in London too many years ago for him to recall exactly what they cost. One is a high-silk, one an opera hat, and the other two homburgs-one black and one green.

For formal evening wear, Biddle has tails ($175, Tautz), a double-breasted dinner coat with satin shawl lapels ($150, Tautz), and, for warm weather, two single-breasted, shawl-collared white gabardine dinner coats ($98 each, Tautz). His evening shirts, with which he wears a conventionally-shaped bow tie, have pleats, roll collars, and are made for him by Dudley G. Eldridge of New York at $28 each.

Biddle's sports clothes include three tweed jackets ($160 each, Harris), three pairs of charcoal-grey flannel slacks, and a half-dozen button-down shirts made by Eldridge out of silk that he, Biddle, bought in Spain.

His shoes, of which he has three pairs of black for daytime wear and one patent leather and one calfskin for evening wear, were made by Paulsen & Stone of London, who also made for him, for sports wear, a pair of black moccasins, a pair of black loafers, and two pairs of white canvas shoes with brown leather toes and rubber soles (which he wears with either prewar white flannels or an ancient double-breasted light-grey sharkskin suit).

Biddle's neck-band shirts, which are either starched dickey bosoms (elongated so that the bosoms extend below the middle button of his jacket) or semi-starched pleated bosoms, have white cuffs and bodies of either grey or light blue. They cost $26 each and are made by Eldridge, who also makes his stiff white collars ($3 each) and his ties ($7.50 each), which run to solid black silks and discreet shepherd checks and are shaped so as to make a knot small enough to fit neatly into a hard collar. His underwear is ready-made and comes from Jacob Reed's.

As for his military wardrobe.....Biddle somehow manages to squeeze by on a total of five uniforms.
 

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This is a very timely discussion, as I'm beginning the process of completely overhauling and paring down my wardrobe. I am going very much in the direction of quantity over quality. I'm in the process of deciding now what exactly is the minimal wardrobe (2pr Bills, 1 navy blazer, etc) and what of that do I currently own and what needs to be sold or given away. I would be very interested to hear what people think would be a "starter" minimalist, quality trad wardrobe.
 

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Well, there IS a very good "trad minimalist" thread on this forum somewhere. I'm too lazy (um...busy at the office) to link it for you.

I buy the idea lock, stock, and barrel. Just can't find the right items to get minimal with!
 

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Harris, that's a great question. I'll give you the perspective of a newbie.

But pants are another story. I haven't found the equivalent trousers to the OCBD's. (My M2's are great, but I now realize that I need a slimmer fit, esp. now that I've further shortened them. So, now I'll try M3's and other brands.)
Try Press.
 

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Seems to me my problem with "enough" is that there are two usages of the word: "enough" being the amount of clothing which I practically need, something all of us here have; and "enough" being what suits my fancy, which I don't know that I'll ever achieve.

I'll certainly have enough, for my purposes, with three suits: charcoal, navy, and tan poplin. Can run the gamut with those three. But when it gets down to it, wearing the same things over and over again can get tiresome and frustrating, so I'll eventually want to add more--perhaps a charcoal birdseye for some texture, or just a touch lighter shade of gray, or a gray flannel as an irreplaceable piece in the winter months.

Same thing with shirts. White and blue OCBDs are great and will fit just about any occasion, but green has its place, as does cream, and pink, not to mention a rainbow of university stripes. Or maybe a blue Press flap-pocket, just to break up the monotony.

I have more ties than I know what to do with, but I can't seem to stay away from the thrift store rack. When they're as cheap as they are, it's hard to justify not buying them. I stick with a pretty basic style, but even the slightest variations in repp stripes give me enough to reason, and provide enough of a distance from everything else in my wardrobe, to buy them.

I'm not talking about branching out into any new territory here, just desiring things that are just a little bit different to break it up a bit. So I have enough in my closet, and there are certainly things I hardly ever wear, but I don't think I'll ever have enough to keep myself from getting bored.
 

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I think Biddle's wardrobe for the time was elegant and perfect. As for today, there have been a few "trad minimalist" threads and some discussions of what is needed for a basic setup. But from basic to "monastic" in this age...that'd be a hard one! With so many casual days, so many places not even noticing if people have shoes on or not, well, being an elegant fashion monastic today might be impossible.

All in all, though, I completely agree and applaud having a few quality, timeless pieces than a closet full of things one doesn't wear.

So, to the question, when is enough enough? For me I could happily exist on a selection of five navy suits, three or four navy blazers, a couple of tweed jackets, and a selection of striped and solid OCBDs and repp ties to compliment them. Shoes could be a pair of plain toe bluchers, a pair of penny loafers, a pair of bal-laced oxfords for dressier occasions, and a pair of topsiders to wear with khakis on the weekends. Trousers would be easy: half a dozen khakis and half a dozen flannels, mostly in darker colors. That would be it. (Well, except for undergarments and the like, but that is rarely mentioned. ;) ) Anything else would be pure vanity, but then again, this is the place for the celebration of such vanities, a celebration in which I happily participate.

Cordially,
Adrian Quay
 

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One other thing. I may be wrong, as I only vaguely recall what Boyer had to say on the subject, but I think his comments were along the lines of "better to have a few good things than a lot of junk." He wasn't necessarily advocating a minimalist approach, just stating that a few well-made and well-styled garments are better than a closetfull of fleeting fashions. That is, "If you're only going to spend X dollars on your wardrobe, spend it like this." He wasn't saying, "Only spend X dollars on your wardrobe, and spend it like this."
 

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If memory serves, George Frazier once declared Biddle--A.J. Drexel, that is--to be the best dressed gent in the country. I think Frazier observed that Biddle owned seven--only seven--suits. Didn't he use the word "monastic" to describe the entirety of Biddle's wardrobe? I think the descriptive "sparse" was also used.

And didn't Boyer speak favorably of owning and wearing a few really well made pieces that would stand the test of time (read: fashion trends) and the elements?

And so, the question: When is enough...enough?
I guess being new here I haven't heard of either George Frazier or Boyer. Who are they and why are they important?
 

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A very good question indeed. I do try focus more on what I need than as opposed to what is on sale especially for suits and shoes and more expensive items. I would rather have a fewer high quality items which fit well and I will wear than a closet of sale priced items which I may not wear.

That being said, as WNH pointed out, it is tough to pass up thrift shop ties or ties or other itmes from the thrift shop thread. I think adding these smaller priced items can expand the wardrobe without breaking the bank.
 

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Here's what I'm working (down) toward:

For business and dress-up:

6 summer suits--navy, grey, tan, olive cotton, glen plaid, navy pinstripe
6 winter suits--navy pinstripe, navy, charcoal, charcoal pinstripe, charcoal plaid, dark tan
6 pair chinos, stone to British khaki
1 pair grey flannel trousers
1 pair grey worsted trousers, lightweight
5 pair shell cordovan shoes, cordovan colored
1 pair black balmorals
1 Navy blazer
1 Tweed sportcoat
12 BB dress shirts
Burberry trench coat
Camel polo coat
20 ties
3 pair GTH pants

As I retire items in my closet, I will not replace them unless they fall under one of these categories. When I do replace them, I will find the best I can afford, and then go one step up in quality. I will not buy any of these on sale.

Obviously, I'll keep an entire set of other clothing for knocking around and recreational use such as hunting, athletics, yardwork, etc.
 

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Why is that?
I find that through my thrifty nature I fall victim to compromise when buying clothes on sale. Rather than buying the one pair of Bills khakis in British khaki that I need for $95, I would normally buy the regular color on sale for $60 adding it to my other four pair that I own. This leads to an unbalanced wardrobe. I currently have two dozen unwrapped dress shirts from BB and Press that I bought during sales over the years. I'll eventually wear them, but it doesn't lend itself to a small closet and a simple approach to wardrobe.

This technique is more a tool to fight my shopping quirks than a suggestion for others to follow.
 

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I find that through my thrifty nature I fall victim to compromise when buying clothes on sale. Rather than buying the one pair of Bills khakis in British khaki that I need for $95, I would normally buy the regular color on sale for $60 adding it to my other four pair that I own. This leads to an unbalanced wardrobe. I currently have two dozen unwrapped dress shirts from BB and Press that I bought during sales over the years. I'll eventually wear them, but it doesn't lend itself to a small closet and a simple approach to wardrobe.

This technique is more a tool to fight my shopping quirks than a suggestion for others to follow.
I see. Still seems kind of odd to me, though. If you need a pair of Bills in British khaki, and they're on sale somewhere, why not buy them on sale? I think there's a difference between shopping sales and purchasing something on sale. Just a thought.
 

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Harris, I agree. When I first joined this forum, I thought it might not be a place for me- I like to learn a lot about trad clothing, etc. but don't have an extremely sophisticated wardrobe. I don't do the whole "what are you wearing today" thing, because I don't really have too much variation in my wardrobe. My shoe collection is also minute in these terms.

When it comes to quality, however, I don't like to skimp (at least not too much- I know people who would say that other things are better, but Southwick gives me a good quality/money ratio) . My blazer, the one piece of clothing in my wardrobe which gets the most work, is a J. Press Pressidential. Southwick, which makes this, is my preferred suit and sport coat maker and makes my two trad suits (one a BB Madison 3B sack, and one a Brooksease 3B sack). I also have:

3 odd sack tweed jackets, one harris, one donnegal, and one just regular tweed. They all fit me well.
9 or 10 BB OCBDs.
2 Madras shirts from O'Connell's
BS long sleeved patterned shirts I wear under sweaters.
4 pr. AEs. Penny, Shell Wingtip, Cap, tassel
Shetland sweaters and 6 or 7 other wool ones.
4 pr. Bills Khakis in Khaki
2 pr. wool flannels in charcoal grey
60 ties/bow ties

This gets rather repetitive over time, and so I just try to find something I think looks good- I don't mind paying a lot for an item that will last a long time, and would rather have a few nice things than lots of not so nice things. This seems to be at the heart of trad minimalism.
 

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If memory serves, George Frazier once declared Biddle--A.J. Drexel, that is--to be the best dressed gent in the country. I think Frazier observed that Biddle owned seven--only seven--suits. Didn't he use the word "monastic" to describe the entirety of Biddle's wardrobe? I think the descriptive "sparse" was also used.

And didn't Boyer speak favorably of owning and wearing a few really well made pieces that would stand the test of time (read: fashion trends) and the elements?

And so, the question: When is enough...enough?
Harris: Your quotes are correct-Esquire, Sept 1960 (I have the original issue in my hand). As for the question-enough to rotate the suits or jackets so they are worn a maximum of every 3-4 days, and in both heavier and lighter weght fabrics appropriate for your clime.
 
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