Walking the Walk (Part 2 - Next Steps) - une femme d'un certain âge

Walking the Walk (Part 2 – Next Steps)

First things first: today is the Three Year Blogaversary for Une femme d’un certain age! I’d like to express my most sincere thanks and gratitude to all of you who have read, commented, e-mailed, blogrolled and linked to une femme, and I hope we’ll continue to have these fabulous online conversations on style and life and all the rest! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Before launching into Walking the Walk Part 2, I also wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for such thoughtful and engaged comments on Monday’s post. It’s a relief to know I’m not alone in trying to navigate these murky waters.

It seems that many of us fall prey to some of the same beliefs that keep us in a pattern of settling, so let’s unpack those beliefs and see if we can release their hold a bit.

1. Availability and Familiarity. Lack of time is my well-worn excuse for sticking to what I know, and while it’s a valid one to some degree, I can make time to familiarize myself with some new retail options. In fact, if I cut back on my internet browsing/shopping for things I don’t need, and subsequent trips to return most of those items, I’d free up some time right there! What Jen said in comments on Part 1 about shopping being work is true, yet easy to forget. I use shopping as recreation, which is fine at times, but to achieve the desired goal I need to set priorities and schedule time for this like any other task.

2. Sizing. Shopping only in Petites section is more a lazy habit than anything. I have found some items that fit me well in regular sizes (and need to keep reminding myself that alterations should become Standard Operating Procedure to get the fit Just Right).

3. Lifestyle. It’s not like I’d wear my finest clothes to work in the garden or bathe the dogs. But for work, going out to lunch with friends, Saturday night out with le monsieur, why not? What’s wrong with standing out (in a good way)? Growing up when I did, I was raised not to be too “proud,” to be a good girl and not broadcast my accomplishments lest I make others envious and resentful. Having nice things that get noticed can sometimes feel like “showing off.” At an early age I also learned from my mother that my not-thin body was something to be hidden and camouflaged or risk attracting a critical gaze (or my mother’s critical comments!). Time to retire those outdated beliefs!

4. Weight. I’m trying to be realistic about this without settling in this part of my life too. I know that I’ll never weigh what I did in my 20’s or even 30’s, but I think I can get the weight back down to where my current clothes fit a bit better. I’m all about balance these days, and am no longer willing or able to undertake drastic regimes or become obsessed with a number on the scale. Just because we are no longer young or have girlish figures doesn’t mean we still can’t have great style! Knowing what works best for my shape (thanks, Imogen and Karen!) and keeping the possibility of alterations in mind will help me feel good in what I’m wearing.

5. Fear. While it’s true that nothing lasts forever, and our favorite items wear out or are discontinued or are “re-designed” (too often with pre-teenage bodies in mind it would seem), there will always be other wonderful pieces somewhere out there that we’ll love just as much. We may have some dry spells, but The Fabulous Abides.

So here’s une femme’s plan for the next five or six months (whenever fall fashions start to hit the stores):

1. Stop Buying, especially More of the Same. I have more than enough clothing to get me through the next several months. There’s nothing I need. Another cardigan is not going to add any value to my wardrobe or life. I’m going to stay away from my usual venues and e-tailers. I’m vowing to stop “frittering,” along the lines of Make Do Style’s challenge, and this includes makeup and accessories I don’t need. I’ll save up what I’d normally spend in these months to accumulate a decent War Chest when the time comes to shop for real.

2. Gather Inspiration. Rather than shopping online, I’ve begun collecting pictures of what inspires to create my own “lookbook” which I’ll share here periodically. The pictures need not show an exact item I’d want to wear, but rather colors, cuts, textures, stylings, aesthetics and moods that speak to me in some way.

3. Explore. I’m going to set aside some chunks of a few hours here and there to browse around some different boutiques and consignment stores outside of my normal venues. When I am ready to buy, I’ll hopefully have honed in on a few retailers that will have a greater likelihood of stocking items that will work for me.

4. Enlist Help. Once fall items start coming in, I plan to make appointments with some in-store shoppers at one or two better department stores, and maybe sales associates at some of the smaller boutiques if I’ve found anything promising. (This is where the lookbook will come in handy.) I’ll try on a bazillion things, maybe engage Karen for an afternoon of focused shopping.

5. Discriminate. Before I spend on an item, I must love it. No more “it’ll do’s.” I must be able to work it into my current wardrobe, or it must fill a gap. (Hello, LBD?)

So that’s the plan (which in a nutshell comes down to retraining myself how to shop) to achieve my goal of upping the “fabulous” quotient in my closet, while continuing to pare down to a solid core wardrobe. I’ll update how this is going periodically.

Have you changed how you shop? What motivated you, and how did you do it?

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  1. March 18, 2010 / 1:05 pm

    Eager to hear about your personal shopper experiences!
    1. Now shop with a list of needed items in my purse, which gets me away from aimlessly trolling (pun intended.)
    2. Simplified- to far fewer style genres and colours.
    3. Record every purchase, no hiding from mistakes and their cost!
    And have fun, it’s not sheer work or we’d relegate it to someone else!

  2. March 18, 2010 / 1:25 pm

    I look forward to your further posts on this topic, Pseu. I’m going thru a wardrobe purge now. I can’t believe how much stuff I’ve gotten rid of that I don’t miss. Duchesse has a good idea about having a list.

  3. March 18, 2010 / 1:31 pm

    You could add, go shopping with your virtual and real friends here once your 6 months is over:). Or a party. We can have cake:). I have a question for you – what will be the proportion of use cases for your clothes? How much for work, how much for weekend errands, how much for exercise, how much for nights out at varying levels of formality?

  4. March 18, 2010 / 2:46 pm

    You’re so analytical and methodical — I’m impressed! I tend to be more impulsive, much less organized, but I did make an effort not to shop through January/February (well, except for one fab pair of shoes it wouldn’t have made sense to resist) and then splurged on higher-price-point items than I would normally have bought. My plan is to do this more and more — to hold off on the shopping, get more out of what I’ve got, ’til I’ve got the distance (and the saved cash) to get pieces that really add style. But as I say, I know I won’t do it as methodically as you, so I’ll be needing your inspiration!

  5. March 18, 2010 / 2:48 pm

    Wanted to add: some of this is territory you covered back when you arrived at your “Would I wear this in Paris?” test. How would you compare your efforts now to your efforts then? Part of the same narrative, obviously, but do you feel as if you’re continuing to get closer to where you want to be or do you feel frustrated that it’s a bit like Xeno’s paradox? (the closer you get, the longer it takes to cover the final distance)

  6. March 18, 2010 / 4:43 pm

    First, your official congrats on hitting the 3 YEAR MARK. My favorite posts are those I suspect were the most trouble to write.

    Second, good plan. I really think your #2 (Gather Inspiration) will help you a great deal. Know you’ve done some of that in your posts, but IMO you need to give yourself permission to translate Audrey’s looks to your body shape and lifestyle. [And so on for your other inspirations!]

    And I know you can do it because not only did I do it but my friend Ms Fizz (she of the “PLAN TO FAIL” shopping strategy) did it right before my eyes/ camera.

    I’m not saying we’re fashionistas, but we generally feel good about how our bodies look in our clothes and can quickly assemble ourselves for what our lifestyles require. You will get there!

    *** I would like to see you pull together some looks you feel great in before fall, though — that’s too far away! Could you shop your closet (either alone, with reader input, or with Karen’s help) for some great spring/summer outfits? ***

    How I’ve Changed How I Shop, Cliff Notes Version

    1. Try to be ruthless about fit (I cheat with underlayers that cost less than $15, but shouldn’t). Have local shops and seamstresses that customize products, design from scratch, or alter…all for same price point as mainstream/chain stores like J Crew, Ann Taylor etc.

    2. Dress for my body type, an oft-seen-as-politically-incorrect or unimaginative move (saves me money on belts!).

    3. Spend more for less (required massive re-wiring of brain…and also requires discipline not to spend more on more, ha!). I know every item in my closet, and every item gets worn.

    Understand that “more” is relative, and stop freaking out that some get their look with a $10 sweater while others spend $400…focus on MY overall budget and style goals.

    4. Use “Style Statement” workbook as a jumping-off point [too lazy to do it] to arrive at soundbite definition of my style. Realize I feel most me when I use a classic (shape, color and/or fabric) as a base, then add things that show I don’t take life that seriously. [Easy to revert to serious when needed.]

    5. Like you, try really hard not to buy multiples/restock with similar items just because they are “basics.” Look for variations on Ts or sweaters and use budget to buy 1 more special vs 3 of same plain-jane style since I already HAVE those!

  7. March 18, 2010 / 5:02 pm

    Impressive body of work here…you’ve been doing some serious thinking.
    It will be fun to see what garments that you choose. Adding some unexpected fun pieces that make me feel great are how I am embracing my neutral basics. I have spent smaller amounts on these as they are not what I consider to be investment pieces.
    As always I have shoes…bags and scarves.
    I have accompanied my 30 year old daughter when she shops and so I can visit some hip and trendy boutiques…I shop at a local boutique which stocks great soft Yoga inspired clothing…cashmeres, silks, and cottons in figure flattering designs which skim the body and are great to mix and match…the salesgals are wonderful, they know their stock and can assess what will work on my body and pull together ensembles that work…I can always find something there. The pieces are meant to be worn in a variety of ways and simple yet elegant.
    Good luck with the shape up challenge…that is one of my goals as well…walking from shop to shop is a great start!

  8. Anonymous
    March 18, 2010 / 5:42 pm

    I second Vix’ idea – I would love to see you pull together some looks you feel great in by shopping your closet yourself and then getting Karen’s help, for some great spring/summer outfits. If I recall she helped you refine your Paris wardrobe and chose some items that you hadn’t thought of. Sometimes we need the perspective of another person to help us see ourselves (and/or our wardrobe) in a fresh light.

  9. Sal
    March 18, 2010 / 1:25 pm

    You’ve clearly put a TON of energy into puzzling this out, lady. And I think your plan is an excellent one. Especially the part about not shopping for a bit. Getting some distance on your buying patterns will allow you to transform them more easily.

    You’re a total star.

  10. metscan
    March 18, 2010 / 2:37 pm

    Your post made me act. If you are interested, please visit my blog. I have done online shopping too, but have found it time consuming and frustrating. Well, the YSL bag is ok, but then I knew what to expect. I try to favor small boutiques and negotiate for a return policy. I too concentrate on only a few colors, which will carry me through one season to another. And I believe that less is more. Thank you for your post number 2!

  11. Arabella
    March 18, 2010 / 2:53 pm

    Changes made:when my stalwart stores began designing for another body shape and that shape only, I took to the streets/malls and made myself look everywhere for alternatives. The result has been I have met a lot of sales assistants and my parking has improved.
    Geography is important here – boutique-friendly cities like San Francisco and NY will throw up some originals but if one lives in a mall city it tends to be the same stores ad infinitum.
    Change – I don’t shop on-line unless things are desperate or I know exactly what I want and have seen the item in the real world. It does not make me happy – I can’t touch anything, feel fabrics, try for size and I’m tired of the cost of endless returns.
    The result – I go to new boutiques when I travel;I have returned to vintage when I had thought I was getting too old for it; I play the ukulele instead of shopping.

  12. March 18, 2010 / 10:05 pm

    Excellent post Pseu – and thanks for the mention!

    I now shop less often for much better and signature pieces. I’ve realised that these are what makes me happy, not just making a purchase.

    So can’t wait to keep watching your journey from afar!

  13. March 18, 2010 / 11:45 pm

    I use much the same thinking as La Duchesse – I have a card in my bag with my list of ‘must have’ – my only problem is that I can’ find any of them, which is why I sew. The other thing is that I look at things much more critically now – and no matter what I see, no matter what the price point, it all looks like crap: made poorly, made of cheap tatty stuff, poorly designed, So it’s been fairly easy for me to not purchase a lot.

  14. March 19, 2010 / 3:20 am

    Duchesse – I’m going to hold off on the personal shoppers for a few months…better to not put too much temptation in my path until my new habits have had a chance to take hold.

    Rita – isn’t it a great feeling to clear out all of the “deadwood?”

    Sal – thanks! your shopping ban last year and your reflections on it helped cement the idea of taking a step back.

  15. March 19, 2010 / 3:24 am

    LPC – oh yes, think a trip north and an day at Stanford shopping center is definitely in order! Those are GREAT questions which I’m going to noodle over and post on as part of this project.

    metscan – good for you. Here in the US, return policies are fairly liberal. I guess that’s not the case everywhere. Your less is certainly more…your choices are so well thought out and cultivated.

  16. March 19, 2010 / 3:32 am

    materfamilias – well, my willy nilly shopping hasn’t been working, so I thought I’d try a different approach. 🙂

    And this: the closer you get, the longer it takes to cover the final distance really seems to describe what I’m facing. What the “wear it in Paris” standard helped me to do was get rid of the obvious “junk food clothing.” Now most everything I have would be packable for Paris, and I definitely wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb. But it’s time to turn up the panache a bit, still within my “Paris-worthy” framework, if that makes sense.

  17. March 19, 2010 / 3:42 am

    Arabella – I think you’ve touched on something here, the sensual experience of shopping which we miss out on when we shop online. I hear what you’re saying about mall cities…surprisingly unless you visit certain neighborhoods, LA can be that way too.

    Vix – thanks for sharing all of that. Most of my spring/summer items are serviceable at best. Trousers, tees, lightweight cardigans and a couple of tunics. I tend to cover myself up as much as I can without sweltering, and that’s my primary goal for summer dressing. Maybe after some pounds come off I’ll feel differently, but I’m never comfortable showing a lot of skin.

    All of the changes you’ve outlined are great steps and what I’m aiming for.

  18. March 19, 2010 / 3:50 am

    hostess of the humble bungalow – I’m hoping to find some reliable resources like your local shop.

    Anonymous – I’ll see what I can do. I tend to be most comfortable when I can layer. 😉

    Imogen – yes! Signature pieces! In just two words you’ve captured what’s missing from my closet. And as you’ve said, those are the pieces that really satisfy.

  19. March 19, 2010 / 3:54 am

    tiffany – I believe that the good stuff is out there; we just have to hold out for it. Good luck building your wardrobe.

    Toby Wollin – you’re so right that so much of what’s available is poorly made. I don’t have the space or time to sew anymore, but you’re making a good case for finding someone who does.

  20. March 19, 2010 / 4:24 am

    I will be counting down to a day at Stanford Shopping Center. Let’s see, 6 months puts us at the end of September. Well what do you know. That’s my birthday:). Which means I could be decent company…

  21. tiffany
    March 18, 2010 / 10:16 pm

    Wow. I’m going to try to follow your lead, except for the fact that I have so few clothes that I desperately need to shop. I have my list; now I just have to find the stamina to do the shopping. But definitely no more ‘it’ll do’. Thanks for the inspiration!

  22. March 19, 2010 / 2:25 pm

    I believe in Look Books. If nothing else they really help you discover what you see in others that you want others to see in you. I have always felt I have a hit-and-miss issue with what I wear until a beauty salon owner near here told me I have a unique, “edgy chic” style. Until that moment, I never realized this, and it gave me the all-important confidence to pursue my own “look.” (Tight-fitting neutrals in layered styles with lots of texture.)
    I love the idea of mixing vintage with new. GOOD FOR YOU on being more stylish than you know…and congrats again on the three years R.x PS, I did a little test yesterday called “What city shoud you live in?” The questions were mainly philosopical. Guess where I should live….

  23. SewingLibrarian
    March 19, 2010 / 4:01 pm

    I’ve enjoyed these posts so much and will follow your progress with great interest. My problems and location are very similar to yours, so your solutions will resonate, I’m sure. Good luck.

  24. March 19, 2010 / 8:20 pm

    Vix: My Style Statement end result was nothing like my short/cheat guesses. A slog but worth it.

    Toby: Hear, hear! Some of the bridge lines I depended on have fallen shamefully.

    Pseu, you are so prepared for this!

  25. March 20, 2010 / 1:18 am

    Rosina – from what I’ve seen of your style, “edgy chic” is a great description! I think there’s a bit of “rock n roll” in there too…Thanks so much and I’ll take a wild guess here… LA??

    SewingLibrarian – thanks so much and so glad you’ve enjoyed!

    Duchesse – thanks, I feel pretty “geared up.”

  26. March 20, 2010 / 1:22 am

    Karen – thanks so much! I’m sure we’ll have a marvellous time. I don’t feel too bad about replacing tees annually as they do wear out. And I’m ok with picking up one or two inexpensive “on trend” items. I need to get better at picking those Wow pieces though.

    You’re right, I don’t want to do a full-on Paris Strict here in LA. I love the idea of a few well-selected neutral items to be a foundation, but need to have some fun too.

  27. karen
    March 20, 2010 / 12:58 am

    I would be delighted to take you for a focused shop. First, you will need a list after honing in on your lookbook.

    Don’t accept the guilt of repurchasing; our society now completely accepts the concept of “disposable” clothing. It’s okay to turn things over seasonally. The “mistakes” are usually on the WOW pieces, but by zeroing in on those things like texture, cut, fabric, you won’t be making them anymore.

    FABULOUS post and happy third anniversary to Une Femme! Karen

  28. karen
    March 20, 2010 / 1:00 am

    Hmmmm, Mater’s comment about an earlier comment gives pause, “Would I were this in Paris?”

    I think when in Rome, do as the Roman’s and put a Parisian slant on it. If you go whole hog, it might lose its meaning in L.A. totally.

  29. Anonymous
    March 20, 2010 / 11:20 am

    I’m 56 and have been battling the closet demon for a few years now. Sometimes I’m not sure who is winning. I’m 5’4″ 112, but my “fabulous” weight realy is 107, and 5 pounds matter! That’s a belt notch and sometimes a whole size. This year I made the decision to abandon old “good enough” haunts like J.Crew, Ann Taylor, Talbots, Gap, Banana Republic, etc. The fits just weren’t working, even at my good weight. My biggest beef is that with more torso than legs, the ever-present lower rise pants look horrible on me. I will NOT give in to that. My challenge at this age is to not look like mutton trying to be lamb; nor do I want to look matronly. As others said, I believe a shopping fast is in order while I get rid of the blizzard blubber (more walking and riding horses). Once I’ve cleared my head and can fit into the truly fabulous things I already have, my goal is to buy less/buy better. I might even wait until the styles change and become more flattering. I look much better in Katherine Hepburn type pants than the ubiquitous low slung cropped things out there. Ugh.

  30. March 20, 2010 / 1:15 pm

    Anonymous, I’m at least an inch shorter than you … and if only I weighed 112 pounds! Suspect you are more than perfectly fine – though exercise is good for everyone (me, my bicycle of course). Agree about the ultra-low-rise trousers – they even look dreadful on most teenagers.

    It is spring cleaning season. Of course, put your pricy errors up online and get a bit of cash back, but please everyone, remember to give away decent, and especially work-worthy, clothing to charity shops and associations that help women seeking jobs or re-entering the job market. (These days, job-worthy doesn’t just mean matched suits).

  31. March 20, 2010 / 4:03 pm

    Apparently my prior comment got lost in cyberspace, so I’ll try again . . .

    I have a question that I can’t seem to answer.

    The idea of buying only quality items is not a new one for me. However, I don’t know how to buy one good piece and make it work with less expensive pieces until I can build an excellent wardrobe.

    Can I wear $500 pants with a top from Target or LLBean or Lands End? I’m not brave enough to even try that and not look like a fool.

    But the alternative is to buy one good piece at a time. But I don’t have much money, so I can only presume that one piece will begin to wear out before I can buy a second piece.

    So how can someone build a good collection on a limited budget? I think this explains why I end up buying just average pieces. They do the trick but they aren’t what I really want.

    Any advice?
    Thanks for the wonderful discussion!

  32. March 20, 2010 / 8:20 pm

    Laura, that high-low mix the stylists show is hard to pull off- but there is a lot of room between $500 per piece and Target. I’d put the more expensive piece on top, usually. And avoid cheap.

    Example: A well-made tweed jacket might last for a decade, great with pants and skirts, dressed up or down. But those $500 pants will wear at the seat in a few seasons. Look for sales, resale and events like church bazaars. (Amazing what people donate or consign.)

  33. March 21, 2010 / 9:00 am

    Love this post. I think confidence has a lot to do with clothing as well. Something weird happens in your 30s- you start the journey to invisibility and this can be confronting and damaging. I’ve learned to tell people things are fab about what I’m wearing and hey presto they’ll agree. Confidence might be soemthing you fake at 1st but then one day you realise it’s there. Good luck with your style Journey x

  34. March 21, 2010 / 4:49 pm

    Duchesse, that’s a good point about spending on top because pants wear out. On the other hand, I wear a lot of $45 tees with $250 trousers, and that works just fine…jackets on the other hand, cheap can be found at BR, midrange at Gryphon, but nothing will ever depose the Chanel from my heart:).

  35. March 23, 2010 / 4:11 am

    Anonymous @ 3/20 420am – it sounds as though you’re quite slender even at your higher weight. If you’re long-waisted, you can wear those fabulous Katherine Hepburn high-waisted trousers. They’ve been all over the runways, hope you can find some you like! You want fabric the *moves* for full effect.

    Laura – I’m with Duchesse; the top half is where it counts, and I’d spend first on a fabulous jacket. Wear that jacket with tees from Gap or Banana Republic (I do) and some dark trousers or a skirt. The bottom half doesn’t have to be pricey, but be sure it fits well, hemmed to optimum length, waist taken in if need be.

  36. March 23, 2010 / 4:17 am

    Faux Fuschia – thanks, and yes confidence is key. (Another reason to have those items that will always make us *feel* fabulous.)

    LPC – I’ve found that tees are one item it’s easy to economize on. Banana Republic makes some really great ones. Those Chanel jackets…le sigh.

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