Sometimes it’s hard to know what we want. This may sound counterintuitive, but one good way to determine what we want is to first look at what we don’t want. The reason for this suggestion is that we often have more clarity about the unwanted elements of our lives. Our wardrobes can be much the same in this respect. Thus, when we feel stuck with regard to our personal style, it’s often helpful to start by considering what we don’t like wearing.
For all of us, there are types of clothes, shoes, and accessories that we’ve just never liked. I’m sure you all can picture a few such items right now. Sometimes just envisioning the opposite of those “That’s not for me!” styles can get you on the path to determining what might work well for you. For instance, if you don’t like garments with a lot of “bells and whistles” (as I mentioned in my last post), perhaps a more minimalist style aesthetic may hold appeal for you. Likewise, if you feel that a monochromatic neutral ensemble looks boring, maybe you’d be happier wearing more colorful clothing.
Examining styles that you’ve never liked and imagining their opposites can spark ideas for pieces and aesthetics to try, but there’s another place you can look. There’s “gold” to be found by considering what you used to like wearing but no longer do, which is the topic of my next series of three posts, beginning today.
Reviewing What We Own to Reveal Shifting Preferences
There are many explanations for why one might stop liking to wear particular items or styles. Taking some time to investigate these reasons can help you better understand what you’ll enjoy wearing now. Of course, fashion shifts over time and your preferences may adjust accordingly, which can be part of one’s rationale for souring on a previous signature style. After all, none of us want to look like we should be nominated for that classic makeover show, “What Not to Wear.” But unless you’re a “trend chaser,” your personal style probably evolves gradually rather than undergoing a full metamorphosis in short order.
What caused me to consider the question of what I no longer like to wear was looking through my wardrobe item photos the other day. I like to have pictures of all my closet pieces readily available so I can review what I own when considering what to purchase next (I currently do most of my shopping online). This practice hasn’t eradicated my tendency to buy too many similar items, as was evident from my recent cardigan overduplication exposé. However, I’m more likely to hit the pause button when pondering the purchase of yet another black cardigan when I take a few moments to peruse my current collection. I just need to remember to actually do this review before buying anything!
I keep images of my wardrobe pieces in computer folders organized by item types (e.g., sleeveless tops, short-sleeved tops, long-sleeved tops, pants, jeans, etc.). I typically use stock images from retailers’ websites for this purpose, but sometimes I snap my own photos if I’m unable to find an existing image or if I don’t like what’s available. There are many smart phone apps that do the same job as my old-school computer folders, and they have the added advantage of being close at hand when you’re shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. I’ve been meaning to install such an app – or at least copy my item images to my phone, but I haven’t needed to this past year with my shopping mostly being done in front of my computer.
If you’re not as anal-retentive about your wardrobe as I am and don’t possess photos of all of your pieces, you can easily determine what you no longer enjoy wearing by spending some time reviewing your closet. It’s also helpful to look at photos of yourself, whether they be “selfies” or images snapped by friends or family members. I have a large catalog of previous outfit photos available, as I used to post them periodically on Recovering Shopaholic. For a number of years, I also routinely took photos of what I wore and did frequent outfit creation sessions, during which I played at putting ensembles together that I might later wear.
When you look at what’s in your closet and at photos of yourself where you can see what you were wearing, you’ll likely be able to identify what you previously enjoyed wearing but no longer do. As you conduct this review, jot down the types of garments, styles, features, colors, embellishments, etc., that no longer hold your favor. You’ll probably be able to identify quite a few old favorites that you’ve moved on from, as was the case for me. There are a number of garments and styles that I no longer love, but I’m going to focus the remainder of this series on the two most obvious examples.
Skirt and Blazer Lover No More…
As I perused my item folders, I noticed that there are only four skirts remaining in my wardrobe (one of which is in my “holding zone” box). Back when I started Recovering Shopaholic in 2013, I owned thirty skirts! I was also very big on blazers at that time, and there were twenty-four of them in my early 2013 collection (you can see all of my January 2013 numbers here). I now only own three garments that could be categorized as blazers. Not only do I have far fewer skirts and blazers than I did eight years ago, I hardly ever wear the ones I do own. They also look a lot different from my garments of yesteryear, which I’ll get into in parts two and three of this series.
I thought it might be fun and interesting to examine why I no longer wear skirts and blazers all that often (pandemic notwithstanding), as well as how my preferences within both wardrobe categories have shifted. In the interest of this not becoming a marathon-length post, I’ll cover my past preferences in today’s essay and save the discussion of how my style has changed for upcoming posts, which will go live over the next two weeks.
Skirts of Yesteryear – “Church Lady” Style
Let’s start with the skirts…. The skirts I wore back in the early days of Recovering Shopaholic – and before that – were all quite similar in style, and some of them had been in my closet for many years. Looking back at old photos, I believe I started wearing midi-length, A-line skirts around 2006 and continued dressing in that style until 2014. Most of my skirts throughout that time period were relatively formal in appearance, which contributed to the “church lady” style aesthetic that I later lamented and worked to overcome. Here are some examples of the types of skirts I wore circa 2006-2014:
As you can see, they all had sort of a “twee” feel to them, reminiscent of a woman going to church, or perhaps to work at a bank or law office. Now, there’s nothing wrong with attending church or working in a formal business environment, but the problem was that I didn’t do those things. I was wearing quite formal skirts in my mostly casual life, which created a style disconnect that took me a while to understand.
Back then, I was dressing the way I thought a sophisticated woman in her early forties should dress. After eschewing the quirky and bohemian style of my twenties and thirties, I was determined to dress more mature and appear more stylish. Being a good student of Stacy London and Clinton Kelly (of “What Not to Wear” fame), I did my best to wear what they recommended to their makeover subjects.
What I failed to recognize, however, was that since I didn’t live in a metropolitan area or work in a business setting like many of the women they styled, much of what Stacy and Clinton suggested didn’t apply to me in my ultra-casual San Diego lifestyle. I also didn’t always do the best job translating their sartorial advice much of the time. I did my best, but the end result often wasn’t what I was truly aiming for.
When I look back at some of my outfits from seven or more years ago, I cringe. Many of them aren’t that bad, but they’re certainly not ensembles I’d want to wear today. Below is a sampling of the types of skirt looks I wore from 2012-2014.
As I look at the above outfit photos, I also notice that many of my shoe choices contributed to the formal vibe of my overall appearance. I can see now that if I had worn more casual shoes, I would have looked less like I was on my way to church.
I thought I was simply following Stacy and Clinton’s rules dressing as I did in the above examples, but instead of feeling stylish and well-dressed, I often felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb in my environment. I frequently felt overdressed, and I often didn’t feel true to myself and my own sense of style. I had lost my way, and many of my outfits weren’t projecting who I was and how I wanted to present myself.
Blazers – Another Past Signature Item
Back when I was dressing in my “church lady” style, I typically paired my skirts – and dresses – with blazers, which accentuated the formal vibe I wasn’t necessarily trying to cultivate. I had a large collection of blazers, of all different colors, styles, and even a few patterned pieces.
Many of my blazers were purchased at consignment and thrift stores, as I was big into secondhand shopping up until about five years ago. Therefore, some of these items had somewhat of a “retro” vibe, as they weren’t necessarily “current” at the time. However, quite a few of my blazers were also purchased at Nordstrom, including the brightly-colored pieces that I enjoyed wearing back then.
Here are some examples of the blazers I wore with skirts and dresses from 2006 to 2014:
I only wore the above blazers with skirts and dresses, as I felt the proportions looked “off” when I paired them with pants or jeans. Because I’m tall, standard-length toppers often look cropped or “shrunken” on my frame. I also have a tendency to be bottom-heavy, which can be accentuated when I wear a shorter topper with pants. The silhouette of my skirts and dresses was a better match for the types of blazers I had at the time, although I also owned a few longer jackets that I liked to incorporate into pants ensembles.
The skirts and blazers became my de facto summer “uniform” for close to a decade, and I always looked forward to the warmer months when I could wear those types of outfits. I never felt warm enough in such ensembles during the colder months, so I had different uniforms that I wore in moderate or colder weather. Although I still enjoy wearing variations of my “not summer” uniforms today, albeit with somewhat different proportions, my warm weather uniform no longer fits within my current style aesthetic at all.
You saw examples of my skirt outfits without blazers above, but below are some additional looks that included the various blazers in my pre-2015 collection:
I can’t see myself wearing any of the above ensembles today, and I don’t even think I’d wear most of the included pieces at this point, even if I could style them in completely different ways. I have truly moved on from those types of skirts and blazers, even though I still see other women wearing similar pieces these days. Although I did enjoy wearing many of the items shown above at one time, I didn’t have a good sense of my style preferences back then. I was dressing too much how I thought I should be dressing, which led to my not being fully grounded and satisfied with my wardrobe and my style.
Conclusion – and Preview of Part Two
We’ve come to the end of part one of this series, so I’ll close with a quick recap. I started out by highlighting the value of reviewing our wardrobe items, as well as photos of ourselves, to determine what we used to love but no longer do. I then covered two personal examples of items that used to be closet favorites: my skirts and blazers. I showed examples of these garments and outfits in which they were featured, many of which are cringeworthy to me today.
My style and preferences have moved on considerably over the past seven years, which will be the subject of parts two and three of this series. In those posts, I’ll share how my style evolved to wearing different types of skirts through to my mostly not wearing skirts at all. As for blazers, they mostly fell by the wayside when I shifted to new skirt silhouettes back in 2015. My reasons for these style shifts will be covered in part two, which will go live sometime next week.
Now it’s time for you to weigh in… I welcome your thoughts and insights on the topics introduced in this post. I’d love to “hear” about how your style has evolved in recent years and about the types of pieces and styles that you no longer like to wear. If you’ve taken the time to reflect upon how your sartorial preferences have evolved, please share what you’ve learned. Here are a couple of questions to help channel your responses, but feel free to comment however you’d like:
- How has better understanding what you DON’T want related to your wardrobe helped you to embrace that which you DO want?
- What suggestions do you have for those who are still trying to hone their personal style?