Friday, April 20, 2012

A chic sighting, and some thinking

Sweater – Le Mont St. Michel, Flats – Libby Edelman, jeans – J Brand

This very lovely young lady works in the building where I live.  While the jeans and sweater were very simple, the shoes demonstrated that she had put some thought into what she was wearing, and didn't just throw something together.  At her age, and with her level of natural beauty, she could have been wearing a sack and looked striking.  But with this level of style self-awareness, she's going to be just as elegant in 40 years as she is right now...

As the seasons finally seem to be moving toward warmer weather, I'm starting to go through that semi-annual wardrobe "switch out" that I find so distressing.  Vivienne repeatedly points out that this is not something that men do, and that women don't need to own that much more clothing than men, if we plan well.  So, I continue to try to plan.

I'm finding it instructive to spend a few minutes seriously pondering the garments that I'm deciding to donate, and trying to put myself back into the mindset that I had when I purchased said item.  Certainly, at the time that I bought almost anything in my closet, I was wildly enthusiastic about it.  

So what changed?

Why was I wrong?  WAS I wrong, or have my wardrobe needs changed since then?  If my needs have truly changed, shouldn't I re-allocate my clothing budget to reflect my current life, and not my various past incarnations?

If I was wrong, is this a mistake I've made more than once?  (humbly nodding "yes, I'll NEVER buy another sweater with a portrait collar, because I know they make me look like a golf tee")

Why do I repeat this mistake?  (delusions of pre-Raphaelite grandeur)  How can I stop it from happening again?  (uh, look in the mirror...)

Do I shop to try to accomplish something that SHOPPING CAN'T DO?  

What could I be doing with the money that I've spent on things I didn't need?

Know thyself.  


  1. Your post made me laugh; I can completely relate. I've spent the last couple of years gradually culling my closet. The first donations were very easy and obvious. I'm at the stage now though where each cull requires more thought and I find myself really trying to figure out what went wrong. These tend to be more expensive items and it kills me that I never got proportional wear out of them, quite the reverse in fact. In certain instances I've been hanging on to them hoping to incorporate them into my life, but it's finally time to just let go. Lately I've been spending money just on accessories - a watch I wear everyday, a pair of sandals for summer, a nice pair of sunglasses.

    Anyway, I love your blog and philosophy!

  2. OMG, you're speaking my language. In fact, did I write this? My problem as a recovering shopaholic (and I am not using that term lightly. It is a real issue for some of us)is that I have too much of everything. It is all classic, investment quality and fits my lifestyle and body very well. Much of it is new with the tags still on. I cannot rid of anything, yet, I am drowning in my stuff. I'm not sure what to do, so I do nothing. Paralysis through analysis. I keep thinking someday I will have the courage to give things up no matter what they cost me, how great they still are etc. but it never happens because I am waiting for the "right time" to wear it. What is the right time? I'm stuck. You bring up many good questions. I hope I can face my "stuff" one day soon.

    1. Why not consider therapy? Would it help you to select a wardrobe of what you actually wear, and put those things in one closet. And put everything else somewhere out of sight? When you're ready, you can look through a chunk of the stuff. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

  3. I have decided to start over. My closet(s)!! are filled with work clothes that no longer are part of my life. However, my first instinct was to get rid of almost everything and I did. I could have repurposed the twinsets, using the cardigans with jeans/khakis and flats for a new twist on the standard secretarial outfit. Now, because of your blog, I am re-evaluating everything that is left before consigning or donating, trying new ways to convert the item to a casual life. Thank you for the inspiration.

  4. I am finally getting to our closets. We have so few and they are so small that the slightest overbuying leads to a crisis. Every hour or so, I come back to your post (or some other one) for some reinforcement. Thanks!

  5. You make some valid points and I too have purchased many a garment that I neither needed nor flattered me. Over the past 18 months though, I have gotten much better. I now will wear my good clothes that I used to wear to work much more frequently and have ruthlessly culled things before my last move. I now have one closet that is not filled to the rim, no more changing back and forth between seasons, but sometimes I can't shake the feeling that I must look pretty much the same day in and day out. That's when I read your blog for visual inspiration. Keep up the great work!

  6. It is possible to amass too many great clothes, just like one can eat too much good food. So, your stack might not be all misses. Also, the workplace is a fashion show and we can get caught up in thinking we can't wear the same thing twice in a week (let alone month). Once I did a huge purge for a move, the item in/item out rule has worked well.

  7. Having only small closets in our heritage bungalow has really helped me keep my wardrobe smallish...
    I usually purge at every season too as I buy less expensive washable clothes for my work and they don't last as long.
    The serious clothes are basics and classics that stand the test of time and they take up very little room.

    If I had a huge closet I do wonder if I'd try to fill it!
    Nature abhors a vacuum!

  8. I have been trying to build a more seasonless wardrobe, too. However, I don't think it should be all seasonless because I would freeze to death when the temp is below 0 and melt when it is over 90! So I try for a few outfits that are for hot or cold extremes, and I shoot for 3 season clothes for the rest. I'm not there yet but getting closer.

  9. Great points!!! I so agree with you. I am about to do my Spring change out also. I love your blog and philosophy! Kathysue

  10. To the anon above, maybe I'm going against the flow, but if the clothes are great and right for you, why should you get rid of them? If you aren't returning them to get your money back, then what's done is done. So you have a great wardrobe and now your "therapy" can be something like the extended shopping fast our hero blogger is on.

    For me, I wish I had a closet of great clothes. I look and look and can't find what I want. I wear icky old stuff because what's in stores now just isn't doing it for me. I'd be happy to be in your position and just quit shopping.

  11. your musings sound remarkably like my own! thanks for sharing.

  12. I just found this blog. I love it! I too have a closet full of things I do not wear. I need to do a serious ruthless purge. You have given me such inspiration!

    I am going to Paris for the first time 2 weeks from today!! I am so excited I can hardly stand it!! I wish I would have found this blog sooner. I do not have such a well planned wardrobe to take with me. I also think some of the items I had planned to take might not be warm enough. Wish me luck!

  13. What a brilliant post - I have found it hard to work out exactly why something I've bought and barely (if ever) worn is a mistake. I feel like if I can just work out the reason I bought it, and the reason I haven't worn it, I will have learned an important secret to a well-ordered wardrobe.

    Love your blog!

  14. V,
    You have such a wonderful community here. I enjoy reading the comments just as much as your posts!
    Thank you for your inspiration.
    Lisa /MN

  15. Really fun to read everyone's comments and take on your question. From "having little is better" to "loving lots" and "do I have a problem?"---think it's a great question. I do believe that we tend to fill what we have so if you do have a tiny space, chances are you have less. I have a great BIG closet that has not served me well (other than to fill it as some have said!) so about six months ago, I finally decided to have a professional company come and put in organizers for me that would give me "starting and stopping" points, long dresses go here, pants go here, etc. It made a very big difference as I now can see that I have TEN purses and do not need any more. I also am a fan of the "one in, one out" strategy and, in fact, this has been the biggest help to me. It makes me carefully think about what I am adding as doing so means that I have to give something up. It does help me part with something that I don't wear, doesn't fit my lifestyle or, doesn't flatter me. Great post!

  16. I know I buy (way too many) clothes because I love textiles, colors, textures, fabrics--and because clothes are a form of self-expression and re-invention. There's probably a much less expensive and closet-cluttering way, however, to find pleasure and a portable art form. I do think this blog is better than therapy, better, in fact, than actually purchasing and finding a place for and laundering un-virtual garments!

  17. Oh indeed - these are all keen questions!

    I love the simplicity of the featured outfit.

  18. I so admire young women who have found their style and instinctively pick the right things! Even when I was younger, being short and stocky, even when I was slimmer, I was always far too influenced by everyone else and trying to wear stuff that doesn't suit me - now I see so many attractive girls wearing the "wrong" fashions, too, it's such a shame they thereby often enhance their less good points...
    Finally, I have learnt that I must NOT buy any blouse with a shirt collar with my short broad neck - far too masculine. And pencil skirts are another "classic" I simply can't wear, just too broad.
    It's taken me long enough and I keep trying to remember all the old no-nos when I am distracted by lovely catalog pictures or racks of nice clothes. All we need to do to make them our own is to add our own personal style of accessory...
    And after all these years, I've also realised that many of those nice catalogs actually show a double spread of clothes that coordinate beautifully - why do we have to try and be "original" and put our own selection together when fashion professionals have done it for us?! Each of those capsule wardrobes would easily clothe us for a season!

  19. I love the simplicity of the outfit shown. It will, I think, suit most ages. Since retiring from an office job that involved meeting clients I am gradually weeding out the 'suited and booted' items. The trouble is I am acquiring various pairs of jeans of different colours and lengths!! The jackets of the suits can be worn with the jeans but I do need to find some less formal tops. In the weeding process I am asking the question 'why did I buy this' when I find an item that has seen little light of day from purchase and cannot find an answer. Perhaps if I can I will eventually have that prized possession the 'capsule wardrobe' that I have put together myself while avoiding the mutton dressed as lamb syndrome.

  20. To those who are truly overwhelmed, I can highly recommend She helped me tremendously but it is NOT a fashion site. It is however very good for getting perspective of drowning in too much of a good thing - any thing. I intend to do a reverse recommendation as well. Many of her fans are in dire need of inspiration and NOONE gives it like Vivienne. Thank you again.