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 Comments

  1. January 12, 2012 / 2:55 am

    @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.

  2. January 12, 2012 / 2:56 am

    @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.

  3. January 12, 2012 / 2:58 am

    @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.

  4. January 12, 2012 / 2:59 am

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

  5. January 12, 2012 / 3:04 am

    @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.

  6. January 12, 2012 / 3:06 am

    @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.

  7. January 12, 2012 / 3:14 am

    @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.

  8. January 12, 2012 / 3:29 am

    @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!

  9. January 12, 2012 / 3:31 am

    @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.

  10. January 12, 2012 / 3:34 am

    @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.

  11. January 12, 2012 / 3:35 am

    @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.

  12. January 12, 2012 / 3:37 am

    @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!

  13. January 12, 2012 / 3:38 am

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

  14. January 12, 2012 / 3:41 am

    @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.

  15. January 12, 2012 / 3:44 am

    @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.

  16. January 12, 2012 / 3:48 am

    @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”?

  17. January 12, 2012 / 5:20 am

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

  18. Susan Tiner
    January 11, 2012 / 9:52 pm

    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!

  19. Terri
    January 12, 2012 / 3:11 am

    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.

  20. January 12, 2012 / 6:39 pm

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

  21. January 12, 2012 / 8:03 pm

    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!

  22. metscan
    January 12, 2012 / 3:15 pm

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

  23. California Girl
    January 13, 2012 / 12:13 am

    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.

  24. January 18, 2012 / 9:33 pm

    @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?

  25. January 18, 2012 / 9:35 pm

    @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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