“I plan all my creations a week in advance – it saves more than just money and stress”

Jo Elvin as Andrew Crowley for The Telegraph

Jo Elvin as Andrew Crowley for The Telegraph

Think of it as batch cooking, but with clothes. Some people spend their Sundays making loads of casseroles that they can pull out of the freezer for a quick weeknight meal. But for almost a year, every Sunday I spend about an hour checking the weather, checking the calendar for important meetings, events, etc. and preparing clothes for the coming week. And it changed the rules of the game.

It’s a practice that has its roots in fear. Fear of fashion. When I was Glamor’s editor, I attended biennial fashion shows in the fashion capitals of the world for 17 years. In all that time, I never really got over the fear that my outfits didn’t quite fit.

Former Women's Magazine Editor Jo Elvin attends an exclusive screening of Sex and the City's

Former Women’s Magazine Editor Jo Elvin attends an exclusive screening of Sex and the City’s “And Just Like That…” in London – Getty Images Europe

As a working-class girl from the wrong part of Sydney who cut her teeth writing for teen magazines, I wasn’t one of those crazy creatures who was born with the cool gene. But I was smart enough to hire an entire fashion team and rely heavily on their guidance to help me dress for the dreaded fashion exam that sits front row. I was so paranoid to be wrong that I planned out every day’s outfit for these fashion shows with detailed lists.

Every outfit, down to the belt, bag, and even the scarf, was written down and then crossed off as it was methodically packed into my suitcase. If there were a lot of fashion dinners or fancy tie parties, I needed a distinct evening look, and if there was a lot of walking, I’d make sure I had plenty of comfortable yet stylish footwear. Then it was enough to pray to BA’s luggage deities before arriving in the fashion capital with my pre-planned “I hope no one laughs at this” looks.

Jo Elvin:

Jo Elvin: “Every outfit, down to the belt, the bag, even the scarf, was written down and then crossed off as it was methodically packed into my suitcase”

This ritual started the habit. I don’t go to shows anymore, but every Sunday for years I have a general plan in my head of what I’m going to wear every day of the coming week. A few months ago I thought it would be fun to pull it all out of my closet, photograph each outfit and post it on Instagram. I called it #weekonawall and to my amazement it gained a cult following. To everyone else’s amazement, I really stick to my weekly outfit schedule.

No one judges what I wear the same way anymore, now I have a rich, multi-faceted “portfolio career” where every day is different. I am the CEO of Children With Cancer UK, a three-day role that I manage alongside other broadcasting and writing work. It’s juggling, but it can be done. If you are organized. Especially weekdays require meticulous planning. The last thing anyone wants in the morning is to be slowed down by a faff over what to wear.

Of course, there are people who like Mark Zuckerburg’s route. The Facebook mogul famously has a wardrobe filled with nothing but jeans and gray hoodies, and his belief is that spending time deciding what to wear every day is a trifle, a waste of brain power. Steve Jobs and Barack Obama also believed that wearing a uniform frees the mind and allows you to focus on more important things.

That’s great if it works for you. But what if you are a busy woman who also needs the joy of a variety of outfits?

While my wardrobe is full of choices, I’ve learned over the years what fits my style – and most importantly, what doesn’t. I would advise everyone to find their own rules (if you can call them that) about dressing based on what you know you feel good about, but some of them may apply to all of us.

My own “rules” include:

1. Nothing clings to the skin as most people prefer a loose fit in most things

2. Bold creations with quirky prints that can’t really be tied to any season and can be worn more or less. A bold print on trousers, for example, can be combined with satin blouses and jewelry for the evening, and for work with knitwear and sneakers.

3. We all have our little charms too. I’m self-conscious about my legs and knees, so even if I’m in a dress, you’ll rarely see anything above my calves. Take the time to develop your own “rules” and you’ll have a versatile wardrobe of things you’ll love to wear over and over again, often for years.

Since I ditched magazines for the charity sector, there will never be any pressure to wear designer head-to-toe, but that has never been me in my old life either. “Charity CEO ja” looks almost the same as “magazine editor ja”.

I think they hired me because I’m a little different, so it wouldn’t make sense to be someone other than me. And that extends to my wardrobe. When I joined the national paper in 2018, I spent several weeks trying to dress what I thought I would be expected to be as a woman in the paper – mostly pencil skirts and high heels. I couldn’t get enough of these things to pretend, and there was a surprisingly unhappy feeling, like I was dressing up to play a part that wasn’t me.

For me, what I wear still matters and how it affects my identity. In fact, just a few days ago, one of the six-year-old patients we work with grinned widely when she noticed my “shiny shoes.”

This means you won’t see many standard “office” dresses on my #weekonawall, especially in winter; I can’t stand the look or feel of pantyhose. My outfits include a lot of colorful pants. I’ve embraced sneakers as a way of life and I think they can look professional if paired with polished pieces like a good jacket. I admire the 30-year-old me who ran around the YSL platforms all day. Who was this girl? I’m generally attracted to timeless designs with a twist: these dark blue JW Anderson pants with ankle cuffs are a good example.

Timeless pieces with a twist are always a good choice - Andrew Crowley

Timeless pieces with a twist are always a good choice – Andrew Crowley

The benefit of being so organized has saved me time, but definitely money as well, as I believe it has had the effect of reducing my shopping habits. Decades of working in fashion magazines mean I have a lot of clothes. By spending some time on the weekend really going through my wardrobe, I often discover a forgotten gem, which feels like buying something new to wear. Rediscovering and rediscovering what I already have is better than buying even more.

Frequently asked questions

Q: “But what if you wake up and change your mind?”
AND: This would defeat the object. I liked this outfit when I put it on and now I can’t wait to wear it.

Q: “What if the weather makes the outfit inappropriate?”
AND: When that happens, it’s annoying, yes, but it’s surprisingly rare.

Q: “Who has time to bother with being so organized?”
AND: Who has time not to be. It saves me an incredible amount of time in the morning. The process, which would often involve looking high and low for the only top I can wear with these pants, etc., can take over half an hour. Now I get dressed in 60 seconds.

Q:“How long does it take you to do this?”
AND: From a little mental checklist of things I’d like to wear to pulling out and ironing anything I might need for a week, no more than an hour.

My styling week

Scroll down to see my favorites, but first, here’s my thoughts on them…

Monday

It’s pretty standard me. A tailored suit with a shimmering knit. I love wearing sneakers to work so where possible I make sure they have an interesting detail so they feel considerate and not just a lazy option.

Tuesday

The bane of my husband’s life is my love for a weird partner. This one is from one of my favorite Technicolor madness designers, Mira Mikati.

Wednesday

Simple, comfortable black pants from Cos with the addition of a front slit. The shirt is full of colorful, strange embroidery. I really like fun clothes.

Thursday

On Thursdays I shoot the royal show, Palace Confidential. Viewers like to comment on my looks, so I thought these diamond-encrusted jeans would get them talking.

Friday

A combination of writing and meeting, I wanted to feel comfortable but still smart enough. The Paul Smith bag adds something different to a laid-back outfit.

Here is the composition:

Are you planning your styling week in advance? What tips do you have for other readers? Tell us in the comments section below

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