Lessons Learned: 2011

Duchesse’s post on Tuesday prompted me to retrace my own wardrobe/style steps over the past year. In looking back over pictures from the blog and finishing up my January closet purge, some broader themes became evident. I’d started out the year with the intention of upgrading and refining my wardrobe, continuing in the direction of simple, dark neutrals. But toward the middle of summer, I became a bit (!) obsessed with color, resulting in some experimentation and some mis-spent clothing dollars, before I finally invested in a comprehensive professional PCA (Personal Color Analysis) in December. (Wish I’d done this earlier.)  The good news is most of my “experimental” pieces were accessories or inexpensive cardigans, no major investments.

I didn’t track my spending in 2011, and probably would give myself a heart attack if I added it all up now.

But water under the bridge, yada yada.  Here’s what I’ve come away with:

1. Second-guessing myself rarely ends well. When I hear myself saying “It’s not really me, but…it’s so pretty/such a bargain/one-of-a-kind/such a great fit/such a gorgeous color/my friend really likes it…” I need to pay more attention to the “it’s not really me” part of that sentence and walk away.

2. No turning back the clock. I can’t go back to more tailored clothing, or styles rooted in reprising the past. Even tailored jackets on their own feel wrong now.

3. Shopping/buying out of habit/boredom. I still do too much of this.

4. Boots! I haven’t yet gone wrong with a pair of boots. Whether “shooties,” ankle boots or knee highs, boots seem to fit seamlessly into my wardrobe, always feel right, and remain one of my Power Items.

5. Skirts and Dresses. I re-discovered skirts and dresses over the last 12-15 months. Especially with boots (see #4.). Key are knit pieces, flattering and comfortable cuts and styles.

6. Black will always be a part of my wardrobe. I know stylists and color analysts rail against it. But I still love the simplicity, edginess, elegance and ease of black. Yes, I’m trying to supplement my neutrals with some grey and taupe, but there will always be a place for my black pieces.

7.  I have officially given up on the White Shirt (Crisp™, or otherwise). Just doesn’t work for me. Marinières on the other hand, still hands-down winners.

8. There’s nothing wrong with a uniform. I need to tape this to my mirror and say it seven times a day as an affirmation. Despite my expressed desire to cultivate a uniform, as soon as I feel I’m getting close to one I find myself getting distracted and drawn to pieces outside of my tried-and-true parameters. The most stylish women usually have developed a uniform that they tweak and update. I need to tune out those voices that say “it’s boring,” and “but XYZ is the look for Spring!” (see #1).

9. Love on others, not for me: menswear look, über-feminine, full skirts, the Chanel suit look, anything too structured, fussy or twee, bows, most ruffles, classic Preppy, sheath dresses, mixed patterns, the kate spade aesthetic, lots of bright color.

10. Knits, knits, knits. Other than my denim jeans, knits have become the backbone of my wardrobe.

11. I don’t have a designer clothing lifestyle. Accessories perhaps, occasionally (bags and scarves), but my body, life and style demand clothing that’s comfortable, practical, flattering and versatile. And washable. I also have little need for any dressy or “occasion” clothing; we just don’t have events in our lives these days that demand that level of dressing up (a shame, really, but still).

In some ways, it feels as though I keep covering the same style ground, circling back around. Too much of #1, I guess.

Did you do any experimenting with your style over the last year? Have you come away with any insights or changes in how you approach style?

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77 Responses

  1. Faux Fuchsia
    | Reply

    I LOVE this post, I LOVE IT!! I know how much I spent on clothes and it is scary, like scary monsters.

    Good for you finding your path.

    I don’t follow fashion, what a relief, but I love knowing about the trends

    Have been reading your blog for 2 years HOORAY x

  2. Tabitha
    | Reply

    I’m so with you on number 12 – I must focus on comfy, wearable everyday clothes, my “other’ life has gone now.

  3. Glou
    | Reply

    Thank you for this post! It comes straight out of my heart!

  4. Patti @ NotDeadYet Style
    | Reply

    Beautifully said, Pseu. I think we must be in each other’s minds sometimes, as I have followed much of this path. I, too, am fighting with my “uniform” but I know what flatters and fits.

  5. frugalscholar
    | Reply

    A lot of wisdom here. Re uniforms: a very interesting book–called, I think Second-Hand Chic–has a great sentence on the French style so many aspire to: you have to look good every day; you don’t have to look different every day.

  6. Duchesse
    | Reply

    Great post, and thanks! I’m gonna say something contentious but I have to: I think posting WIWs or WIBs elicits postiive comments from women who *adore* the thing, but it still is not right for the poster. it is extremely rare that a commenter will say, “Uh, I don’t think so”. They don;t want to hurt someone’s feelings or make us feel worse, because the thing’s been bought.

    I tried it once (not on your blog) and the poster got so defensive, I thought, Never again. So I now just say something like, “Enjoy!” (Do people want an opinion or just praise?)

    Absolutely love you in those dresses you bought- so graceful and pretty. And though I love your boots, too, if I had your legs I would show them off.

  7. The Style Crone
    | Reply

    Your style self analysis and awareness is truly impressive. I could take a few lessons from your list!

  8. LPC
    | Reply

    Overall I take away that you are finally relinquishing that “classic” style idea, having found that you require more freedom in silhouette and palette. You go girl! Uniforms ARE great. I’m diddling away with v-neck sweaters and patterned button-fronts, optimizing a uniform can be as fun, albeit on a smaller scale, as wardrobe experimentation.

  9. Jane W.
    | Reply

    This post really resonates with me. This year knits became the backbone of my wardrobe.

    Like you, I finally accepted that a)”tailored” clothes are a thing of the past for me and b)it’s okay to be a PIB (person in black)

    Here’s to a wonderful 2012.

  10. Great thoughts and it is interesting to see how this past year has effected your fashion style/sense.

    I do love a crisp white shirt especially with jeans and knits are big players in my wardrobe too.

    Black is my staple colour and I am really not bothered if the fashion police are touting colour, it works for me and that’s what matters.

    My lifestyle has evolved since I started reading blogs and started blogging…you have been a great influence and I thank you for this.


  11. Karena
    | Reply

    Really in sync with you on this!! I used to wear suits, blazers, white (and other colored) shirts.

    Now I am about comfort; still classic. Knits, yes always.

    Black, navy, every shade of grey imaginable. Toss in some colored t’s and accessories.

    All the Best!

    Art by Karena

  12. NDMom
    | Reply

    I can’t believe this….but your lessons learned are almost the same as mine to a “T”. I am not a blogger, but started following you and a few others last fall.

    I, too, love Eileen Fisher and purchased a long, black, shaped EF cardigan after seeing something similiar on your blog. Seeing what a workhorse it is, I decided to order a duplicate to keep on hand for when my current one wears out. It’s long, knit, black, AND most importantly (having special needs kiddos) WASHABLE!

    Love your blog. I miss seeing your WIW’s….please post more, pretty please? Blessings, Paula

  13. Jean S
    | Reply

    I’m also done with the white shirt motif (my realization: no black or white near my face). I suppose I might change my mind when I go completely gray, but at the rate I’m going, that will be a long time from now.

    Good for you for thinking all of this through!

  14. cigalechanta
    | Reply

    My replacement for white shirt is a creme silk.
    I have alot of cashmere sweaters but they are not me. I need simple crew necks that I can wear with my jackets or alone with scarves and jewelry

  15. Anonymous
    | Reply

    I’m so glad everyone is different! I have decided to only wear white structured shirts and black pants… adding accessories for color. Isn’t it fun!

  16. donnie
    | Reply

    Great food for thought! And you articulated my inner musings…how I want to be neat and pencil skirt cool. But my tummy gets in the way. Also caused me to review what makes me look and feel good. Thanks!

  17. Tara Z.
    | Reply

    Fabulous post – and it seems to have struck a chord with many of us.

    I LOVE frugalscholar’s quote, “you have to look good every day; you don’t have to look different every day.”

    I’m interested in your comment about tailoring. I find, as I’ve gotten older, that I do need (want?) some structure. I’m trying to find the right balance between structure and comfort.

  18. coffeeaddict
    | Reply

    I think people are afraid of uniforms because fashion world keeps pressuring us to stay au courrant. Going through magazines and checking out fashion bloggers can be really intimidating: all this stylish people who know how to work the trends to come out looking fresh, polished and daring.
    It’s all moving too fast for me. I like to create a relationship with my clothes, it’s a partnership, getting to know how they fit me, how I can move elegantly in my skirts and shoes is key to a polished look for me. I don’t necessarily steer clear of tailored pieces but it takes time to break them in.

  19. Swissy
    | Reply

    Well, I must add my voice to this list, ifonly to thank you and all the others who share their evolving styles. This was the year I pared the closet down and really looked in the mirror. I found that memory guided me as well. For instance, the colors, shades, saturation, etc. I was attracted to as a young woman were absolutely right for me. I am and always was a “soft summer” who is a bit closer to “soft autumn”. But I listened to those who said I looked mousy or washed out. I don’t! I look…like me. So thanks for a great year. I’ve never felt better.

  20. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Funny–I went down your list thinking, “Check, check, check…”–all your points resonated with me. I, too, avoid most designer wear (unless I find an interesting piece second-hand,) look like a badly wrapped package in a crisp white shirt, feel empowered by boots (maybe it’s a short-girl thing?) and adore my uniform of tees, cashmere sweaters,comfy boyfriend jeans, scarves, and ancient leather jacket. And yes, after a certain age especially, color makes all the difference.

  21. Susan
    | Reply

    I’m a tall woman with nice legs and I like boots too! I wear them with tights when I wear dresses and the shape of my leg still shows.

    I’m into knits too–and considering consigning my fitted tailored jackets as I never choose to wear them any more–even though they fit. I like to be comfortable and I don’t consider it “giving up.”

    I am just home from visiting my son and dil and our two grandsons (one special needs) and my washing viscose jersey Eileen Fisher pieces stood me in good stead. One set is in the wash now. I love them. I hope that Eileen Fisher comes out with things that will work for me this spring.

    I bought a gorgeous EF sweater this fall. It’s mohairy and has an interesting shape. Now that it’s been several months, I don’t think it is that flattering–but it is beautiful. Next time I will listen to my inner voices.

    As I said at Duchesse’s site, I still need black tie outfis (upon occasion) and some dressy things too. I just hope to find some that are versatile and easy to wear. My black EF knit dress has worked well for many occasions. I wear different jewelry and scarves with it (and my black tights and boots.) I even got a compliment from a fashion conscious friend on New Year’s Eve.

    This is a great post Deja pseu. I’ve learned a lot from you AND others who post here

  22. Pam @ over50feeling40
    | Reply

    We are alike in many ways…My list would also include 1,3,4,6,7,11,and 12! I need to stop spending money on clothes, but I will always love the creativity of fashion and will most likely play with it the rest of my life. But, blogging has helped me better define who I am, Pam-style, and that has been a blessing!

  23. That's Not My Age
    | Reply

    I don’t have a designer lifestyle either – much better to spend your money on good day wear with loads of mileage. And comfy shoes!

  24. LuxeBytes
    | Reply

    Re #3, did you see this on the Vivienne Files yesterday? Such a powerful thought.

    “If you don’t need groceries, you don’t go to the grocery store to browse.

    “And if you’re not in the market for a new dishwasher, you don’t go to the appliance store and check out all of the available models.

    “But every day, millions of people who do not need a stitch of new clothing browse through mail-order catalogs (or look at emails from on-line retailers, or devour magazines that are full of advertising, and editorial content that is thinly-veiled advertising).

    “This, of course, wastes time (you could be in the gym…), kills lots of trees, and worst of all throws all sorts of temptation in your path.”

  25. Ann
    | Reply

    I relate to so many of the things you said — especially about trying not to shop out of boredom. And while crisp white shirts have never, ever worked for me, I recently discovered some button down-type shirts with collars in T-shirt fabric. I get the same look — really nice under a long cardigan for example — without the starchy crispness.

  26. kathy peck
    | Reply

    I think the main things I learned this year are, that like you, I don’t need dressy clothes just hanging around. We live in LA and there are (unfortunately) almost no chances to wear them. If I need something dressy for an occasion, like a wedding, I’m better off buying something for it then – when I know the time of year, how dressy, etc.
    I’ve also stuck to my black and neutrals palette. I’ve had a few experiments with color, and enjoy it a bit more in the summer, but overall, I still feel the most comfortable in neutrals.
    I do still wear blazers at times, but I’ve embraced the longer cardigan sweater. I love them. I’ll be looking for more in years to come.
    And like you, I don’t go wrong with boots!

  27. Cindy from Australia
    | Reply

    I love this post. Number 11 resonated with me – it has been three years since I retired and am just now accepting that I don’t need smart corporate style clothing in my wardrobe. Love your blog.

  28. Semi Expat
    | Reply

    What a great post. Agree that I will always have some black in my wardrobe too even though I know it’s technically ‘right’ for me. I do have a kind of uniform I guess and I am getting more ok with this but what I would really like to do is to pair down my wardrobe to the bare minimum. x

  29. Katja
    | Reply

    Thank you so much for saying you’ve given up on the crisp white shirt. I’ve given up on it a hundred times, it just doesn’t work on me, but some fool “must have” list is always driving me out to give it another try.

    My new mantra is “Do I love this?” I was so proud of myself – I went shopping for something, anything, for a fancy party, tried a bazillion things on, and not one item passed the “Do I love this?” test. All were left in the store.

  30. Chicatanyage
    | Reply

    No. 1 is a very good point. I bought a summer dress last year and how ever many compliments I got it still did not feel me so I don’t wear it that much.

  31. Toby Wollin
    | Reply

    My downfall are prints. I never saw a print I did not like: polka dots, plaid, stripes and anything else. and yet, very few prints ‘like’ me. But they are ‘fashion crack’ for me, so I try really hard to walk away…

  32. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @coffeeaddict I absolutely love the concept of “a partnership” with your clothing. Yes, it takes work to build, create and maintain.

  33. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @Faux Fuchsia FF, you seem to find good values though; with your “never pay full price for designer clobber” mantra and how you really make your pieces work for you. And THANK YOU for reading and commenting these last two years…here’s to many more for both of us!

  34. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @Tabitha It’s good though, to get real about our lives and wardrobes. Trying to shop for my fantasy life was getting expensive!!

  35. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @Glou And thanks to you, glad to know I’m not out here all by myself.

  36. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @Patti @ NotDeadYet Style Thanks so much, Patti. I think “uniform” can be used as loosely as works for us, and needn’t be a straightjacket.

  37. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @Pam @ over50feeling40 Yes! style is fun and an outlet for creativity, for sure. I glad that you’ve also found definition and insight through blogging.

  38. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @frugalscholar Frugal, I’ve seen that before and it’s a *great* paradigm shifter. Why ARE we often so afraid of wearing the same thing repeatedly?

  39. California Girl
    | Reply

    You may not have a designer lifestyle but you have a wonderful array of designer handbags for sale on your other site.

    I hear ya on the “second guessing” and those items that “no longer work”. It’s very hard to walk away especially if something looks great on others and is trending etc etc. I’ve always been fairly tailored, still am, but I find myself leaning towards softer, more feminine articles now. I love button down, long-sleeved shirts. However, my bustline does not. I’m finding it harder & harder to get a shirt that looks good or stays looking good after a few wash cycles.

    Wouldn’t mind some advice on the bra sit. Where does one find a bra that fits properly and raises my bust line (if that’s possible)? I live in the mountains so there’s nothing up here but can always go to Portland or Boston.

  40. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @Duchesse Duchesse, that’s not contentious at all, at least not to me. I welcome honest feedback, if it’s intended in a constructive way. And thanks for that nice compliment about my legs; I’m getting less shy about showing them.

  41. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @LuxeBytes Yes, that’s such a great reminder! Consumption as entertainment…it’s a bad habit.

  42. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @kathy peck kathy, lately I’ve found that even for dressy occasions, a simple neutral skirt and top or LBD can be sufficiently dressed up to be appropriate for just about any venue. Hardly anything requires “black tie” or “cocktail attire” anymore, and even many people play fast and loose with those definitions these days.

  43. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @kathy peck Also wanted to say that I’ve found in LA it’s a much worse faux pas to be overdressed than underdressed.

  44. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @The Style Crone You are very kind, thanks so much!

  45. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @LPC You would be correct. I’ve given up trying to buttonhole myself into a style that no longer seems to work. I think your uniform of patterned shirts and v-necks sounds like a perfect combination of fun and practical.

  46. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @Jane W. I see so few people who actually wear tailored clothing anymore, especially here in LA. It’s really come to feel out of place. Hope your 2012 is full of discovery and joy!

  47. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @hostess of the humble bungalow Thank you. I really WISH I could wear white button shirts…I love the look and you are able to carry it off brilliantly. I say if something works, hang the fashion police, dang the torpedoes and full speed ahead!

  48. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @Karena Yes!! Neutral basic knit pieces, some color accents with accessories…I’m so there.

  49. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @NDMom Paula, great minds… 😉 Aren’t those long EF cardi’s great?? I promise to do some more WIW’s soon, just have been a bit swamped the last few weekends (only time I have enough daylight now for pictures).

  50. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @Katja I get so irritated with those “must have” lists too, and how I still sometimes allow myself to be influenced by them. “Do I love it” is probably the very best criteria for determining your very own Must Haves!

  51. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @Chicatanyage Yes! It’s hard to put something aside that doesn’t feel right especially when everyone else thinks it looks great. But we have to trust our own feelings on this.

  52. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @Jean S Thank you! Scarves are a great way to get a flattering color near the face. I’ll still wear black on top, but usually add some pearls or a scarf to get a soft color in between me and the black.

  53. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @cigalechanta The creme silk shirt sounds like a good option. There are so many pretty crewneck sweaters out there now; you should have no trouble locating some nice ones on sale.

  54. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @Anonymous Bravo to you, and yes it IS fun. What a bore it would be if we all liked and wore the same things.

  55. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @California Girl Thanks! I hope they will find good homes with people who will use and love them. Finding the right bra is SO difficult! If there’s any way you can get to a good lingerie shop or department for a proper fitting (with a knowledgeable and trained fitter) once you find your correct size and best style you can then order online. What I’ve learned is that the band needs to be tight enough to stay level and support “the girls” and the straps shouldn’t be doing all the work. Different brands and styles of bras can fit very differently so it’s important to try on.

  56. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @donnie I have a bit of a tummy too, and find that knit pencil skirts with a tunic length top worn over work brilliantly. Might be worth a try. And you’re very welcome.

  57. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @Tara Z. Tara, it’s funny, the more tailored jackets I’ve tried on lately, even when they fit perfectly, just feel WRONG for me…dumpy, stodgy somehow. Yet I love how they look on other women. What do work for me are ponte knit jackets and other knits with some shape and structure. Middle ground, I guess.

  58. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @Swissy You’re so welcome! How great to hear about your success in refining and paring down your wardrobe, and in finding your best color; it’s so inspiring!

  59. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @Anonymous Fabulous to hear you’ve found a workable uniform! And yes, I think when we’re short, it’s best to stick to simple styles, and color itself becomes a design element.

  60. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @Susan Thanks, Susan! I do think if boots are nicely fitted through the ankles and calves, they can still flatter and show off the legs. I don’t think of this shift in style as “giving up” any more either; thanks to LPC I think of it as “moving forward.” I think there’s a good reason that EF pieces have become so popular. Many are very wearable and versatile.

  61. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @That’s Not My Age Oh yes! These days I don’t mind getting a little spendy with the shoes if they are stylish and comfortable. Better than some bit of fluff and glitter I’d wear one or two times, if at all.

  62. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @Susan Tiner I’m so excited for you, that you’re getting the bag you want! I hope you’ll post when you have time and show it to us. I think your style journey is coming along quite nicely!

  63. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @Ann Glad to hear you’ve found some button shirts that work for you! The internet has made “boredom shopping” far too easy…

  64. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @Cindy from Australia I imagine that it can sometimes take a while for our self-mage to catch up with lifestyle changes. There are so many great “smart casual” options out there now, we can be both more casual and still stylish.

  65. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @Semi Expat Thank you! The black lace dress you posted today is really a great example of a piece that you’ll be able to wear for years. Black rarely looks dated to me. I’m with you on wanting to pare down a bit more.

  66. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @Toby Wollin “Fashion crack!” LOL! I love it.

  67. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @Terri Sometimes I use the blog as a rationalization to shop (“I have to see what’s out there, need inspiration, etc.”) Why do you think you should give up on the white blouse? I thought your blouse from yesterday’s post looked smashing, especially with the black skirt…so elegant and classic! Or does that look just not feel like “you”?

  68. WendyB
    | Reply

    I feel I’ll never give up black. It’s sooooo damn easy.

  69. Susan Tiner
    | Reply

    All of your list items are the same as mine, except #3, #4 and #6. In the case of #3, I hate shopping so much this would never happen. As for #4, I keep meaning to try some on but worry the weather is usually too warm to enjoy wearing boots. In the case of #6, I occasionally enjoy wearing a dress, but it’s not a look I prefer in general.

    I can see why you love dresses though, a very flattering look for you.

    Btw, my m0851 Flap Knot bag is on its way. So exciting!

  70. Terri
    | Reply

    Sometimes I think I keep my blog as an excuse to dress up as our lives are pretty humdrum too. I have not yet given up on the white blouse…though I probably should.

  71. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @WendyB Wendy, indeed it really is easy! And I think your coloring also favors black. You can carry it off so well.

  72. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @metscan A very good guideline, Mette!

  73. fashionoverfifty
    | Reply

    So glad you embraced color (Lol–you know me by now!)
    There is only one I am confused with: why no more tailored looks? Not even a blazer? a little mix, right?
    oh, and I am not a crisp white shirt person either!

  74. metscan
    | Reply

    I am more than ever convinced of the – Buy the best you can afford! This includes everything.

  75. California Girl
    | Reply

    Thanks for responding to my question about buying a bra. Would never guess it’s the band that supports your breasts vs the straps.

    Just read coffeeaddict’s comment (1st one) and she reminded me of the advice my grandmother, who worked with the designer Irene at Bullocks Wilshire in the 1930s. She worked with and fitted Hollywood stars and told me some great stories. She always told me to wear “classic styles” and “good pieces”. They were “worth the money and they never go out of style.”

    I have, from time to time, forgotten her advice. It was always a mistake. She was quite right. Buy the best you can afford, nothing trendy, just classic style and you’ll be set.

  76. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @fashionoverfifty I know, I love the *idea* or more tailored pieces, especially blazers, but am just feeling that they look too mannish/frumpy on me now. Maybe the cuts I’ve been trying are just wrong?

  77. déjà pseu
    | Reply

    @California Girl My mother used to say the same thing (even if she didn’t always heed her own advice). Another bit of advice which time has borne out is that simple has staying power. You won’t tire of a simple item as quickly as one with more distinctive detail. (YMMV)

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