In her glittering memoir, Always Pack a Party Dress, Amanda Brooks chronicles her extensive career in fashion, working with names such as Patrick Demarchelier, Diane von Furstenberg and Barney’s …before leaving it all behind for a 700-acre farm in North Oxfordshire, England.
In desperate need of one year of peaceful contemplation, Amanda, her husband Christopher and their two children, Coco and Zach, made the move from the Big Apple to the Cotswolds…and they never looked back.
Though Amanda’s neighbours now include her beloved coop of chickens, and her daily ventures include making homemade jam from the estate’s countless fruit trees, this green, peaceful life has given Amanda and her family more happiness than they ever found living in the city. In balancing her love of fashion, her family and her future career aspirations, Amanda shares genuinely relatable insight into finding the courage and drive to cultivate the life of your dreams.
As a self-described “style chameleon”, Amanda has a wide array of sartorial looks under her designer belt. She has always been one to experiment with different designers and the hottest trends, while still remaining effortlessly chic.
Early in her thirties, however, she began to notice a subtle shift- from brand new, to vintage and from quantity, to quality. Amanda began to appreciate the timelessness of her mother’s fabulous recycled favourites and seamlessly paired those pieces with a few, high-quality designer items.
“My picture made it into the papers far more often for wearing original things that actually belonged to me rather than borrowed fashions du jour.”
But probably her biggest fashion shift would come from with her move from metropolitan to meadow. In addition to keeping a much simpler wardrobe, Amanda also dresses with practicality in mind, creating outfits for her daily horseback ride or romp in the garden. She remarks on the beautiful challenge of making her older pieces feel new and has been relishing in this new sartorial task.
“I can finally say I have the defined sense of my sartorial self that I was always looking for.”
Though many of us will not have to plan for our 11:00am countryside hike, we can all take a page out of Amanda’s book (literally and figuratively) and bring a sense of simplicity to our closets. By loving our vintage finds, appreciating our well-worn favourites and preferring quality to quantity, we too will be able to reach the ultimate sense of fashion calm.
Like many of us living amidst the hustle and bustle of the big city, Amanda was nagged by the ever-presence of hunched, tensed shoulders and a stomach running purely on adrenaline. Though she has now noticed the disappearance of these ailments from her time spent on the farm, she offers valuable insight into how she coped while still living in downtown New York City.
The first? Soul Cycle. Amanda is the first to recognize that this activity would rarely ever be classified as “relaxing”, but the physical demand and loud energy allowed her to shut off her racing mind for an hour at a time. Whether your favourite form of exercise is cycling, yoga, running or what have you, incorporating this activity into your hectic schedule will prove well worth it.
“There is enough time and space here to listen to myself- and my body.”
Amanda notes her proximity to water and the natural environment as her second coping mechanism. From her apartment close to the Hudson River, to her weekend jaunts to Long Island, the calmness and soft lull of the waves gave Amanda the calm she craved. Regardless of whether your personal form of nature involves your park-side address or your trusty, verdant house plant, introducing this green energy into your home life is sure to provide you with the calm sanctuary you desire.
On her Career
Above Amanda’s desk at the farm, hangs her favourite quote:
“If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to build theirs.”
Her time at the farm is dedicated to just that-discovering her innermost dreams and coaxing them to the forefront until she is ready to give them life. From photography to writing, Amanda is working hard to cultivate her passions and explore these ambitions as potential career paths. In this past year, as she turned forty, Amanda looked up to several successful women, like Diane von Furstenberg, who do not regard age as a limiting factor, but rather an empowering one. Regardless of current career , age or geographical location, Amanda shows us the power in embracing the unique, individual things that instill passion in us, and ultimately transforming them into the career of our dreams.