Thursday, March 18 will be the Three Year Blogaversary of Une femme d’un certain age. I launched this blog right after turning 50, hoping to start an online conversation about style for les femmes d’un certain age, a demographic that at the time seemed to have almost nonexistent representation among fashion and style blogs and websites. I’m pleased to say that there are many, many more of us out there now, adding our viewpoints and voices to the mix of style and fashion bloggers. What I hadn’t counted on, and what has been the very best part of blogging has been making the acquaintance of so many wonderful people I now consider friends, many of whom I’ve had the delightful experience of meeting in person.
I’d also hoped to use the blog to explore and hone my own style and take my wardrobe to the next level. This has and hasn’t happened. In my head, my wardrobe goal is clear: a foundation of of well-edited, well-fitted, timeless pieces of best-I-can-afford quality to anchor my wardrobe, and be the basis for fun high/low styling to express my “with a twist” side. Despite these intentions, I continue to restock the same types of items (basic tees, cardigans, jeans, the occasional jacket) from the same mass retailers (Banana Republic, Talbot’s, Ann Taylor, J.Crew) as previously. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with these retailers’ lines or that they don’t contribute some very workable items to my wardrobe, but…
Some wonderful and thought-provoking blog posts in recent weeks and months by Make Do Style, Imogen, Duchesse, LPC and others have been percolating in my brain, culminating in a moment last week where I stood in my closet unable to move, overwhelmed by how oppressively drab all of my garments seemed. I’m not talking about color necessarily, still love my neutrals; I’m talking about style, quality, details, fit. There’s not a single piece of clothing in my closet that I would describe as “fabulous,” and that, mes amis, is a sobering realization. (I’m referring to actual garments here–tops, pants, jackets, etc.–not accessories. I do have some great accessories, but tend to rely on them too heavily to carry and elevate the whole ensemble.)
When it comes to clothing I’ve been settling for less, and in a big way. Settling is the enemy of satisfaction, and lack of satisfaction probably contributes in no small way to my urge to buy the same damn cotton cardigan in three different colors. Despite all of my talk about wanting to create a Goldilocks wardrobe, and embracing the French ideal of fewer items that are all Just Right, I’ve continued to repeat my pattern of settling for “it’ll do,” and overbuying. If you’re still reading and will forgive a bit more narcissistic navel-gazing, the following are some of the reasons/rationalizations that cloud my thinking and keep me in this rut.
1. Availability and Familiarity. I don’t have a lot of time to shop or try on clothes, so tend to shop online and “buy what I know.” I wouldn’t know where to begin to shop brick-and-mortar other than mall and department stores.
2. Sizing. Habitually limiting my shopping to the Petites section, which in turn limits which retailers I’m visiting. While it’s true that *some* items fit better in the Petite (short) cut, this is by no means true for everything.
3. Lifestyle. When I do run across something amazing (like the MaxMara coat I tried on a few months ago) I tell myself that a) it’s too nice (read: expensive) for my lifestyle, b) I don’t have anywhere to wear it or c) I’ll stand out too much.
4. Weight. And this is a biggie (no pun intended). I’m still at a higher weight than I’d like by a few pounds (but a few are all it takes on my 5’1″ frame) and have convinced myself that a) better quality isn’t available in my size or b) that it wouldn’t look good on me anyway. And some of my better wardrobe building blocks (black wool trousers, pencil skirt, decent cashmere tops) are just fitting too tightly these days to be utilized.
5. Fear-based buying. I’ll never find the perfect ________ and this is as close as I’ll get or I’ll never find another _________ that fits me. (Ridiculous, I know, especially when applied to items like tee shirts and sweaters!)
Unexamined, these thoughts have been powerful drivers, but laid out in black and white seem rather silly, n’est–ce pas? Conventional wisdom says that we have to recognize where we are to figure out how to get where we want to go. Coming up in Part 2: unpacking these beliefs and steps to move away from settling and toward sartorial satisfaction.
Do you have beliefs that keep you settling for less when it comes to style, or any other part of your life? Has recognizing them helped you to change your patterns and move ahead?
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 United States License.