Laura de Jong is the founder of the Free Fashion Challenge. She wrote a book together with Emmi Ojala, it’s titled: Dear Fashion Diary. It’s a DIY book where you can playfully discover your own fashion taste. She works as a social media expert, has her own blog lauraenjames.com and lives with her husband and son in The Hague, The Netherlands. Besides all this she also gives colour advice to women. She -talking in colour code- is a Spring, which means bright red, green, light brown, cream and light pink. It’s amazing that she has nothing black in her wardrobe, not even a pair of tights!

What makes your wardrobe green?
I choose my clothes based on colour. I’m a Spring (based on colour analysis and specifically the four-season typology), so I only buy clothes that match the spring palette colours. I also want the clothes to match my style. I don’t follow fashion trends because I find it very important that my wardrobe is timeless and not useless after one season.
I always go for either vintage or sustainable brands, but it’s not always possible because of my specific colour preference. I do always wear every piece for more seasons which makes it sustainable, although not so sustainable as I would like.

Can you tell something about your wardrobe?
I organize my clothes on colour, so that’s why I don’t put the pants with the pants etc. Most of it hangs because that’s the most practical for me.

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Do you keep things neat?
I’m not as neat with my clothes as I would like to be. I do have a shelf where I put the clothes that I already wore, but that I can wear again. And then next to the closet I have a pile of clothes that I can wear again as well.
I did sort out my closet recently, I took out almost everything I didn’t wear. Having too many clothes makes my closet untidy, so when it doesn’t fit anymore it’s time to sort things out!

Do you still have clothes in your closet that you don’t wear?
Yes, but less and less. I stopped buying clothes for one whole year in 2010. At first I thought I needed all the clothes I had, but I found out that wasn’t true. I only wore 1/3 of my wardrobe, even in the year that I didn’t buy anything! So I gave away everything I didn’t wear. I still do that twice a year; taking clothes out I don’t wear. But some dresses I just love, but only wear for special occassions like a wedding.

Is there an piece of clothing that you once owned but no longer own and still think about or wish you had?
Well I don’t part from them. I have a pair of vintage boots which I brought to the shoemaker six times! They are basically worn out, but I keep the boots, because I cannot part from them. I don’t get bored of certain pieces and still wear some that I bought ten years ago.

What’s your process getting dressed in the morning?
I choose my outfit the night before, because, in case of doubt, it will take me way too long in the morning. Usually my choice is based on practicality. I travel with public transport and have to walk quite a bit, so high heels are usually a no-go. And the weather; I get chilly easy so I wont wear open shoes easily.
Colourwise I wear a lot of bright red. Most people find it a very intense colour and they ask me if I wear that to work. And yes I do. The only exception I make is when I have an appointment at the bank, then I prefer to wear grey or green.

Do you have any dress rules?
Because I’m a Spring I have lots of loud and bright colours. The danger of that is that I can look like a clown if I combine them all together. So my rule is that I can only mix two colours. Now I’m also buying more dark brown and cream basics to make it more grown up. People usually think I’m very young. I personally don’t mind wearing bright blue with red, but I’m an entrepeneur so it’s important that people don’t mistake me for an intern.
One more rule is to wear dark colours below, because I’m more broad at the hips and legs I think it’s more flattering to wear dark colours. And I have very white legs, so if I wear a light pink skirt it’s as if I’m naked.

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Do you wear makeup every day? Perfume?
I wear mascara and some eyebrow pencil. For parties I wear a bit more, foundation and blush and a bit of lipstick. I stopped wearing perfume two years ago, it made me sneeze all the time.

Can you tell something about your style and taste?
It’s a colourful, feminine style, I love to wear dresses and skirts with lace details I like textures and no prints. I like lots of things but most important is that it suits my style.

So you know what suits you, how did you learn this?
By not buying clothes for one year. That year I really experienced to which clothes I was drawn to in my wardrobe. And because I know which colours look best on me I can exclude lots of colours while shopping. There is so much black in the shops, I don’t even have to look at it, because I will never buy them. I have no black clothes.

What does fashion, clothes and style mean to you?
Fashion I find difficult because that’s about the system of changing seasons and trends. I like that there are always new things, but I also think there are way too many clothes, much more than we need. I’m much more drawn to the word style and to discover your own style. To wear clothes that you feel good in.
Six years ago I only dressed in colours from the autumn palette and when the woman of the colourschool told me I was a Spring I was in shock. I really had to get used to the idea. But then I tried, I bought one bright red top and got so many compliments that I looked good or people would ask me if I went on vacation. Then I was convinced that the colour really did something for me. At first I found bright red too intense, but now it belongs to me.

Laura20What is really you?
Colour, vintage, red. Although red is also because it’s been in fashion the last years. I would also like to wear more greens and blues, but they’re not for sale right now. Maybe in a few years my wardrobe will look very different.
What’s funny is that magazines always write about the must haves for that season and then everybody needs to get that particular item. But for example I don’t have jeans, I have six red dresses, but no black one. I don’t have a white shirt, because it just doesn’t suit me.
I think if somebody had to describe me they would do say I’m a little red dress.

Do you talk about clothes? With who?
Yes, people that had a colour advice session with me always ask if they are doing it right or they apologize for not wearing the right colour. I think a lot of people feel insecure about clothes and that’s a shame! Clothes can do a lot for you and that’s why it’s a pity that people get insecure and decide to wear black to feel safe. So when people discover that I can tell them something about what would look good on them, they love to know more. I always like to share this.

Are there things you admire about how other women present themselves?
When I started studying at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI) I was really looking forward to meeting people with their own unique style, but it was not like that at all! If I would look around in the entrance hall they were more or less all dressed the same wearing Dr. Martens and half a year later they would look different, but all the same again with dark lipstick. That was so disappointing! I love when people have an authentic style. For example sometimes you see a lady with long grey hair that still wears her clothes from thirty years ago, they represent who this lady really is. I find that very beautiful.

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Do you have an outfit that you’ve worn for a couple of years?
Yes, the little red dress with the thin gold belt (although I gained some kilos so it doesn’t look a good as before). I had it before the Free Fashion Challenge and it’s a dress I can wear for a photoshoot or a job interview. I feel strong in it, I think that’s what a right outfit can do for you. I also feel amazing and feminine in my Camilla Norrback jacket. It’s just right for me, I’ve had it for fifteen years!

Is there an outift or piece that you would buy again?
Yes, my Camilla Norrback jacket for sure. That’s my most expensive piece and I would buy it again. Same goes for my vintage boots, they match with everything. They are just the perfect pair of boots. It’s such a pity that we never come to the point that our clothes wear out. Now we generally get rid of something because we think it’s not the latest fashion or you gained or lost weight. But to wear a pair of shoes untill your foot comes through the sole? Who really does that? Maybe only with socks?

If you could build up your wardrobe from scratch, what would you do different? Or would you do something different?
I’m really happy with what I have right now, but 4 years ago it was not like that. At that time I was led too much by price. Now I really ask myself if I would buy it also if I had to pay the full price. You never should buy something on sale just because it’s really cheap. The most expensive things in my wardrobe I wear most often, because I was very critical when I bought them. The fit is good, the material is of good quality, the colour is beautiful, it’s just perfect. But if you buy something and say ‘oh it’s not so flattering, but it’s only ten euros’, when it comes down to choosing what to wear, you won’t choose that item. In the past I bought things that were not an investment, in retrospect I do find that a pity. But now I know and don’t buy bad bargains anymore.

How and when do you shop for clothes?
I work for Studio Jux and I can choose pieces from their collection, so that’s one part of my shopping experience. If I’m in a city and I have time to shop, this happens occassionaly once every three months, I really prefer shopping in vintage stores. In several cities I have favourite shops and then I usually buy one nice item: a beautiful dress or a nice cardigan.
I also keep an eye on the shops that sell sustainable brands. If I see something that fits my style I will buy it. And if that’s not the case I will look in the regular shops, usually online, I’m so specific with my colour preference, that if I have to go through the whole city it will take me too much time, so shopping online works better for me. I prefer to search through Fashionchick.nl, they show the content of different webshops and you can just select red for example and then you see all the red dresses, this works great for me.

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Do you have shopping rules?
Colour, as sustainable as possible, no dresses without sleeves, no light pieces for the bottom (pants and skirts) and it must fit good in a lot of different occasions, I don’t only wanna be able to wear something with high heels, I must be able to wear it every day.
That’s also a rule that can help people: if you try on a piece in the shop and you have to buy five new things to be able to wear it, then it’s usually not a good piece for you., because it doesnt match what you already have. If you buy something you should be able to think of five possible combinations with your excisting wardrobe. The only exception would be if you are still developing your own style. But for me it works like this.

How much money do you spend every month?
It varies a lot because I freelance, so some months I spend 250 euros and other months nothing. On average it’s probably about 100 euros a month. Before the free fashion challenge it was much more, about 200 euros a month, while I was still studying and also only spent on fast fashion items. Shopping is really recreational for people. Also for me then, there was always a reason to go shopping: because I felt good or because I felt bad or to dress up for a party. But when I realized how much of those clothes I ended up not wearing I became much more critical.

If you buy clothes do you think of the person that made it and in what kind of circumstances?
Yes, I find that very difficult. I try to buy from sustainable brands, but that’s not always possible because of my colour preference. I still feel guilty when I buy clothes that are not sustainable and try to compensate by wearing the piece a lot, so it’s not made for nothing.
The same goes for the material. But that’s a bit easier because nowadays you can also buy biological cotton or recycled polyester at the big chains. It’s really complicated to figure out what the working circumstances are like, I hope that will quickly improve.

What are your favourite clothing brands?
Studio Jux I wear a lot, Camilla Norrback, if the brand would still excist I would definitly buy pieces from the collections every year. But in general I love a vintage piece because of the way it’s made. In a lot of fast fashion brands I miss the attention and details.

Do you have favourite shops?
I really love VIND Lifestyle in Haarlem. She has a really good collection, you can always easily find a nice piece. And the owner assists really well. I also like the Noordermarkt in Amsterdam. BrandMission in Haarlem is also a great shop, they only sell clothes from sustainable brands.

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Would you ever consider to doing another shopping sabbatical?
No, I feel like I made my statement and I just love fashion so I don’t wanna ask attention in that way anymore. I’m not against the fashion industry, I really like the fashion industry and there are lots of nice people working in it. But I would love to see more room for creativity and quality and for good working conditions and good materials. That’s my wish.

Do you have tips for other women?
I would really recommend women to do a colour analysis, people usually find that expensive, it costs around 100 euro. But if you look at the bad bargains you bought the last few months, they easily add up to 100 euro. And when you have a colour consult, colour wise you won’t go wrong anymore. That will make a big difference.
Buy less, maybe you should also take a shopping sabbatical of one year. If you don’t want that you can also unsubscribe yourself from newsletters of webshops, because it wasn’t your idea to shop with 20% discount, it’s just that you receive the newsletter and that makes you want to buy.
Don’t go into the city, just think of other activities than shopping. And definitely don’t go into the city when you feel sorry for yourself. That’s really not the right time and motivation to go shopping, because then you just want something new. Maybe at that point it’s a better choice to eat a big piece of cake or call a friend or watch a scary movie.