Posts Tagged: style

How to Love Something From Afar Without Buying It



Transitioning to a new aesthetic (details here and here) meant getting rid of LOTS of stuff, and also meant doing some very fun shopping. A group of beloved and versatile items made the transition, but I was a little optimistic in thinking that I could go from a style that focused on pumps, cardigans, and fit-and-flare dresses to a style that focused on jeans, sweaters, and drapey tops without adding anything to my closet. Or without adding anything much. In most cases, I sold or donated several items when I bought a new one – often funding the purchase with consignment proceeds – and brought in lots of secondhand and new items that aligned with my vision of badassery.

But I also had to shore up an ability I’d been trying to cultivate for some time: Admiring a fashion item from afar without needing to own it myself.

This was especially relevant in transition since I still LIKED the look I was leaving behind, but no longer felt compelled to actually wear it. Also generally relevant because, although I was building, I wanted to keep my wardrobe smaller and more focused than it had been previously. And although this tactic is especially helpful when something is out of your price range, it’s useful to anyone who has limited storage space or a limited budget. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered loving things from afar, but I’ll share what I’ve learned and ask you to chime in with your experiences and tips.

Be honest about style and fit

Exploring new cuts and styles is an important and valuable practice. After all if you stick to the same things forever, you’ll stagnate. BUT. You likely know that certain cuts and styles don’t work for your figure and needs, but you’re still drawn to them. This becomes especially dicey when you see one of these items styled exquisitely on a model who may or may not have a body shape resembling your own. It fits her well, but will it fit you like that?  If not, is it still a smart buy? Be honest with yourself about which styles and fits will actually work on YOU, and which ones are fun to look at on others.

My weakness in this area: Boxy Eileen Fisher stuff shown on tall lanky gals. (As shown above.) Oh how I love that look, and oh how it doesn’t love me back. Even though it fits into my new style, wearing it doesn’t make me feel my best. So I drool from the sidelines.

Be aware of inventory and use patterns

Let’s say you’ve got your eye on a pair of ankle boots. You love this style of shoe, and already own three pairs. Is this new pair significantly different than the others? Is it different in ways that work for you? (If your other pairs are flat and this one has a 3.5″ heel, that makes it different … but not necessarily in a good way.) Do your other three pairs get worn equally, or are you wearing one into the ground while the others collect dust? If the former, adding another pair might make sense. If the latter, there should be a specific reason the new pair is a good candidate for frequent wear. Otherwise, perhaps they’re better admired than purchased.

My weakness in this area: Used to be handbags. Now it’s sweater dresses. The first group of tops I bought for my new aesthetic were lightweight and drapey with big, open necklines. And then it became fall, and then winter, and I realized I was gonna freeze, and decided sweater dresses were the answer. And they’re great, but I have one that’s a go-to and the rest are occasional. And even though my initial thoughts are always, “Warm! Cozy! Cute!” I force myself to remember the tidy little stack of sweater dresses already in my closet.

Be a stickler for versatility

There will be items in most wardrobes that can only be worn one way, but are still loved and worn. (For instance my tunics aren’t especially versatile, but they are in constant rotation.) So, ya know, grain of salt. But ideally most items – including new purchases – should have multiple applications. A handbag that works with office outfits and weekend outfits is a better buy than one that’s strictly casual. A pair of pants in a fabric that can be worn three seasons out of four is a great buy. Heavy, lined wool and cropped linen have their place, but if you’re looking at cost per use a more versatile fiber is the way to go. If you’re pining over something that doesn’t work across seasons or formality levels, consider seeking something more versatile.

My weakness in this area: Slouchy pants. Especially cropped ones. I have figured out how to make cuffed, boyfriend-esque pants work for winter by hiding my socks inside slightly taller booties, but my truly slouchy, drapey pants are lightweight and fluid by nature. They wouldn’t slouch or drape done up in thick ponte or stretch denim. I live in a place with 6-month winters and exposing my ankles makes me freezing. I am now attempting to ogle cropped, slouchy pants from afar.

In terms of the actual loving from afar? In most cases you’ll just do that when you’re shopping around and come across an item you love but shouldn’t buy. But it can also be helpful to actually stash images of these things somewhere, both so you can admire them aesthetically and so you can “have” them in an intangible way. Collages and inspiration boards will work – use magazine and catalog pages, printouts from websites and blogs, anything you can cut up or print out. Of course, if you’re a Pinterest user, you can make a board for your Imaginary Self and stash images there. If this practice is just going to make you pine harder, skip it. If you think a stash of eye candy might hold off unwise purchases, give it a shot.

Sometimes the things we want to wear are different from the things that we actually will wear. And learning to think, “I ADORE that … just not on me,” can help you differentiate.

Which items or styles do you absolutely adore, but only when someone else is wearing them? Other tips for figuring out what should be admired and not bought?

Images courtesy Eileen Fisher

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Reader Request: Style Maturation and Individuality

mature style

K emailed me this question:

At least for me (I guess all of us dealing with the time continuum), we are all getting older so many of the style shifts coincide with wondering if what I need now is a more mature style, but not wanting to lose the youth we still still feel, no matter our age, but wanting to dress appropriately for our bodies, career positions, and body size and shape in a kind, gentle way. Sometimes I feel this fear that I can’t identify about my shifting style-wanting to hold on to the old me yet let it go, and worry that I won’t get it back when the unknown new style is an unknown thing. Then I just throw on some jeans and a cardigan (my default) and I’m OK. However, after a stint in a more formal work environment I find myself wanting a blazer instead of a cardigan…I somehow feel older (jaded?) in a way I wasn’t expecting that makes me both sad and happy.

I remember the day I yanked open my bottom drawer and realized I was never gonna wear those bright pink tights again. I was just too old. It wasn’t my birthday, no one had made fun of me for having blazing pink legs, it was just an internal shift that took place overnight. And, like K, I felt a bit sad and worried that episodes like this would become more and more frequent until I’d lost everything fun and unique about my style. But I didn’t let that happen, and K doesn’t need to either. Here are some actions to consider and paths to ponder.

Don’t donate, store

I have experienced donator’s remorse fairly recently, so I’ll admit that I don’t always stick to this one. But when I went through my massive wardrobe purge, I did remove a number of items from my closet and stash them in the basement instead of actually getting rid of them. This allowed me to live without them for a while and see if they were actively missed. They weren’t. Not a one. But it still felt less overwhelming to know that they weren’t permanently gone, and that I had the option to work them into my revised style if I wanted. And this technique will be helpful regardless of the motivation. In this case, if you want to move toward a more mature, sophisticated style, you can stash your quirkiest garments out-of-closet, dress without them for a few weeks, and see how you feel. If you miss them desperately, it’s worth finding ways to keep them in rotation. And speaking of …

Wear one personality piece at a time

Eye-catching, funky garments and accessories can be made more subdued when they’re worn one to an outfit. So if you used to do a large-print cardigan AND leopard booties, try just doing one of those and making the rest of the outfit solid or neutral or otherwise quiet. A single unusual, conversation-starting element will make you look interesting while the rest of your ensemble helps you appear professional.

There may be some pieces that just won’t pass this test: For instance, tulle skirts and novelty prints will be hard to work into outfits that feel buttoned-up and über-professional. That doesn’t mean they should be nixed or that women over a certain age can’t wear and own them. Just that they aren’t stellar candidates for featuring in more formal groupings.

Lean on your fun accessories

If garments from your former style feel too disconnected from the style you’re moving toward, keeping a few accessories in the mix can be a great way to preserve your visual personality. Necklaces and belts, scarves and earrings in unusual shapes and bright colors can be worn in otherwise conservative mixes without disturbing the overall aesthetic too much. And even if no one else actively notices them, they’ll remind you that you haven’t completely jettisoned your old style.

In terms of the emotional part of this question, I think it is natural to conclude that your style needs to grow and mature, and it is natural to mourn that transition. Our society has taught us to fear aging, and feeling too old for bright pink tights is a very concrete reminder that YOU are aging. But continuing to dress in a more youthful way that no longer aligns with your desired aesthetic won’t stop you from aging, just as creating outfits with fewer funky items won’t make you a dullard.

I do believe it’s true that once you let go of a previous style, it’s incredibly difficult to revert back to it. But that’s a good thing. Style should evolve. And if you find that you miss aspects of a previous incarnation, think about how you can revamp and revisit them in the context of your current style. Some people say you should never wear a trend the second time it comes around, but others say just wear it differently. Tweak it, shape it, make it as new as it is old. That will feel more like progress anyway.

Anyone else mid-transition and feeling apprehensive? How are you hanging on to aspects of your old style while still moving toward a new one? Have you ever opened a drawer and thought, “I am officially too old to wear [some item] ever again”?

Images courtesy Boden

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Selective Drama

Selective Drama 1

I don’t think of myself as a Drama Queen. I’m usually pretty even-keeled and cool-headed; I figure life hands us enough drama already so why manufacture it?

But I’ll admit to loving clothes that add just a little bit of drama to an outfit, and this long cardigan does just that. I’ve tried to balance the boldness of the sweater and striped tee with softer grey pieces, and have added some gold with the bracelets for a little warmth.

Selective Drama 2

Earrings: Alexis Bittar // Scarf: Eileen Fisher from last year, similar // Long Cardigan: Eileen Fisher, (similar style from Asos) // Top: R13, similar from Gap (long sleeves) // Bracelets: Stella & Dot, few years old, similar and Aurelie Bidermann // Jeans: NYDJ // Shoes: several years old, surprisingly similar from ECCO.

I purchased these shoes in Paris in 2008. They’re a brand called One Step which I’ve never seen anywhere since. At the time, I’d been on the hunt for a pair of “shooties” in this shape but with lower heels that anything I’d found up to that point. I spotted these in the window of a small shoe shop in the Marais, and it was the start of a beautiful and lasting romance.  OK, so maybe I got a little dramatic there. ;-)

Selective Drama 3

Do you have a favorite “dramatic” piece in your wardrobe?

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.
Already Pretty contributor Une Femme is fifty-seven, married to the same wonderful monsieur since 1995, the mother of a special-needs teenager and two hooligan dogs, a full-time administrative professional, a coffee-holic, Paris-obsessed, native Californian, and a petite and curvy femme d’un certain age. She believes that personal style is an essential form of self-expression, and started her blog, une femme d’un certain âge, in 2007 hoping to start a conversation about style for women over 50.

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