Alexandra Stedman has mastered the elusive art of a really tight edit, and every piece of clothing she owns has to work hard to earn its place in her wardrobe. It’s a practical necessity: if you’re one of her 250,000 Instagram followers or a regular visitor to her affordable-lifestyle blog, The Frugality, you’ll know that she and her husband are painstakingly renovating a period house in north London (they spent most of lockdown without a kitchen). Their home may be beautiful but it doesn’t offer much in the way of storage so, aside from a seasonal rotation of summer and winter pieces, her clothes have to fit into one small wardrobe and half a chest of drawers. “That’s except for my shoes,” she admits. “They’re trailing around everywhere.”
It hasn’t always been so. Space issues aside, Stedman’s approach to shopping and building her wardrobe has evolved. In part that’s because the former fashion editor no longer works in the newness-obsessed environment of a magazine office, but it’s also down to the demands of motherhood. “I used to be a trend addict and I’m definitely not now,” says the 37-year-old.
“These days I’m much more conscious of what I buy, I tend to go for natural fabrics and I choose clothes that are a bit more minimal, classic shapes that are going to last a few seasons. If I buy a summer dress, I think, will this look nice next summer and the one after?”
She describes her style as classic with a twist. Day-to-day that means that you’re most likely to find her in a pair of navy trousers, a grey cashmere crew neck and plimsols or trainers with an oversized coat. Or she might be in a throw-on-and-go dress that works with everything from sandals to high heels.
Being a considered shopper means that, while she obviously wants to look good, practicality is a major factor, too, when it comes to new clothes. Like all busy women she needs to be able to get dressed and look good fast in the morning. “It has to be easy,” she says. “If I have to think about styling it, it’s just not worth it. If I have to think about how I would wear it, if I have to buy something to go underneath or if I’ll need a trouser to match I’ll just leave it.
“That’s why I buy a lot of dresses, because they’re a whole outfit in one. Any separates have to go with at least 80% of what’s in my wardrobe already. It’s why I like crew neck jumpers, as they go with all my trousers and my jeans.”
She makes her classics pop with a splash of red, whether that’s a stand-out pair of block- heeled shoes or some red lipstick and, like most fashion insiders, relies heavily on the occasional injection of leopard print to amp things up.
The months of lockdown, and the small matter of being seven months pregnant, have given her wardrobe even more focus. “I’d love to say my maternity style stays the same but realistically I’m a bit of a slob at the moment,” she laughs. “I kept all of my maternity clothes from last time and I haven’t bought anything new. I went through my wardrobe and removed things that wouldn’t fit so that I wouldn’t get frustrated, and I just left in things like oversized shirts, big cardigans and flowing dresses that don’t have any seams so I still feel like myself.”
She’s long been a fan of giving her clothes a second life, regularly setting up stall at car boot sales, reselling clothes online or dropping them off at her local charity shop. Her most recent clear-out (a high-impact lace trimmed dress, a classic grey Crombie coat and a pair of much-loved pink corduroy trousers among others) is destined for TK Maxx’s Give Up Clothes For Good scheme. She’ll drop the items at her local TK Maxx, from where they’ll be passed on to Cancer Research UK to be sold in its shops – so her pre-loved items not only get a second life, they raise money to help more children and young people survive cancer.
“Social media can make you feel as though you need so much stuff but I’m moving away from that,” she says. “I love shopping, obviously, but I enjoy working on a much more limited wardrobe. I’m keeping the things that I love and getting much more wear out of those.”
Give Up Clothes For Good
Transform the items you no longer need into funds for life-saving research into children’s and young people’s cancers, with the help of a partnership between TK Maxx and Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People.
Here are five things to know about the Give Up Clothes For Good initiative:
1 You can donate preloved quality clothes, accessories and homeware that you’ve cleared out during lockdown – and beyond – at any TK Maxx store, all year round.
2 Your items will be passed on to Cancer Research UK to be sold in its shops. All the money raised goes to Cancer Research UK to help fund research into cancers affecting children and young people.
3 Since the launch of Give Up Clothes For Good in 2004, TK Maxx customers and its associates have helped raise more than £37m for Cancer Research UK.
4 TK Maxx customers and its associates have collected more than 1.7m bags of clothes, accessories and homeware. That’s 8,500 tonnes of preloved items diverted from landfill, or more than 190,000 tonnes of saved carbon emissions.
5 TK Maxx is playing its part too. The company donates any leftover or unsold stock to support Cancer Research UK shops all year round.
Find out more at tkmaxx.com/uk/en/give-up-clothes-for-good