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?
24 thoughts on “What I Don’t Wear Anymore – Part One”
It’s great that you’ve been posting so much lately! 😀 I’m always excited when I get the emails notifying me of new posts.
Now that I think about it, my style has actually changed quite a lot over the past 7 years. I was in college in 2014, and I wore a lot of weird stuff, haha. I had a lot of random clothes, and I think I liked to wear interesting things in an attempt to make myself seem more interesting. I have since decluttered my wardrobe a lot, and now I think I actually AM interesting, haha, so I tend to prefer to just wear simpler clothes. I’ve also leaned a lot more into masculine styles. I guess I stopped thinking I need to wear fitted shirts, short shorts, etc, to be “cool.” So yeah, lots of changes!
I’m glad you’re enjoying the more frequent posts, Maureen! Ever since I took my writing course, I’ve been writing more often, which makes it easier to do more posts 🙂 I think a lot of us will see some big changes in our style over a period as long as seven years, especially if our lives have shifted quite a bit during those years. I love that you wrote that YOU’RE more interesting now, so you can wear simpler clothes and not have to garner interest there. It’s also great that you’re wearing more of what makes YOU happy and not thinking you need to wear what others may consider “cool.”
Like you, I’ve found clarity in reducing the “should haves” in my wardrobe!
And my skirt wardrobe has plummeted too. I do work in an office – well, in non-covid times I do – and for a long time, I held on to a few skirts that I really, really liked in theory (and, to be fair, looked pretty ok too.) BUT I realized I was never actually comfortable wearing them; I reached for them more because I felt like I SHOULD – because they were just sitting there in the closet, and were office-y, and got compliments – and when I DID wear them, was constantly re-adjusting them and just conscious of how they looked, whether they were lying right, etc. And yes, I always felt like even the casual ones looked super-formal too! It’s like with bangs: Other people can pull skirts off – but on me, they just didn’t have the office/smart casual/going out versatility vibe that makes me most comfortable, style-wise. So now I’m down to one summer casual skirt in a T-shirt fabric…and even that may not last this summer!
The same goes for colors. Everyone always said how great bright colors looked when I wore them – but I didn’t like them! And I realized what they were mostly saying was, THEY personally like bright colors. Which is great! But I don’t. So if all my shirts are white, black, gray or soft blue…that’s ok! If I only hold on to one or two pairs of jeans, because I truly love them and only mostly liked the others…that’s ok! If I decide I like booties or oxfords or wood-heeled sandals, but don’t like traditional closed toe heels or stilettos – the most “feminine-looking” shoes – I don’t have to own any of them! I can make any of the other types that reflect my style better work for pretty much any formal occasion anyway, and no one cares.
And so on. It’s all about figuring out what I like and what makes me feel like my best self, and then just rolling with that – and leaving everything else behind…
It sounds like you and I have had similar style journeys, Rachel. Just because items are “perfectly good” or even look nice on us, doesn’t mean we should wear them, especially if we’re not comfortable (either physically or emotionally). I feel the same way as you about bangs, too, so now I just enjoy them on others, as I do with some of the clothing styles I used to wear. Good point that people often like things on us that they personally like! it’s freeing to let go of clothing (and shoes and accessories) that doesn’t serve us. Good for you for making so much progress in that regard!
Looking forward to your next post and see what you are currently favoring. Due to my recent move I’m also feeling a change upon me.
Good to see you pop up here, Terra! I’ve read your recent posts about your big move… I hope it’s all going well for you, and I hope the changes will bring you increased happiness and peace. My part two post will go live in a couple of days. I hope you’ll write about your wardrobe and style changes, too!
Back in the mid-80’s, I experimented, fashion-wise and took risks with what I wore. I practiced accessorizing, wore bright colors (often the “wrong” colors) and red lipstick. Then one day, I paused in front of the mirror of the restroom in my office building. I was wearing a teal sweater dress, black pantyhose, and teal shoes—that, memorably, were a half size too small. (I wish I had a picture!) That was when I decided to tone things down.
My style became more subdued and “appropriately” classic, suitably fashionable and usually involved skirts, blazers, cardigans, and heels. Then, in 2014, at 55, I retired.
I soon realized I’d been dressing for others my whole life, and I’ve been on a personal style journey ever since. I’ve learned a great deal through various resources, including books and, more recently, YouTube videos. I take in what resonates and toss out what doesn’t. Sometimes it’s hard not to be influenced, but as I learn more about myself—and what I like and what I don’t—it gets easier.
Like you said, our personal style is an ever-evolving process and, therefore, an ongoing journey. It’s only natural that as we change and our lives change, so does our style.
I loved reading about your style journey, Jenn. Your comment about “dressing for others” resonated with me. I actually DIDN’T do that when I was younger, but I started to in my late thirties and continued for over a decade. Only recently am I working my way back to what I truly like and want to wear. You’re right that it can be hard not to be influenced, to gain knowledge and insights from others but still make up our own minds. I wish you the best with your ongoing style journey, and I hope you’ll continue to share what you learn with me and your fellow readers.
I am new here. I am reading the shopaholic blog and this blog. I have been working on my wardrobe to be truly me for the last two years. I Marie kondoed my clothing with my best friend about two years ago, but I just ended up spending thousands restocking my clothing!! I can’t feel comfortable or like I have the pieces to dress like me with a small clothing choice!! I need help!! My husband is understanding because I stay within a spending allowance he gives me. My style has changed since finding out I’m a celiac and being able to gain weight which I feel very uncomfortable about! I’ve also gone thru menopause already. I’m in my mid-fifties. I’ve been searching out fashion blogs of women within my age group and this has helped me feel much better about myself. Thank you for being here! I’m making an effort to make shopping not my main hobby in life and to focus on other things in my life. Please excuse my spelling errors. I am disabled with a neuro problem and dialysis for more than 26 years. I am also grappling with my husband who is very loving with me!–caring for me, I don’t drive anymore but am able to take care of my basic needs but cooking and cleaning.
Glad to have you here, Natalie! Good for you for “Kondo’ing” your clothing. I think it’s common to buy a lot of new clothes when we’re reworking our personal style. Some things will work and others won’t, but we eventually find our way. I agree that reading blogs by others in our age group can be helpful. I hear you about not making shopping your main hobby in life. It was mine for a long time, and it can be a hard habit to break… Don’t worry about your spelling errors. I corrected them for you here and will continue to do so – no problem! I welcome your comments I’m happy that you’re finding my posts helpful.
I have changed my style some of course over the years. I am a feminine dresser that has a European twist to my classics and with a sparkle touch! This is me! I’m working on expressing this! I’ve already learned so much on shopaholic blog on how to slowly clear my clothing of unwanted items. When we start going out again I will be able to wear my clothing items and make informed decisions. During the pandemic I have bought a lot on-line. This is how I shop, not just during the pandemic, I do shop in stores for my purses and shoes. Plus most of my jewelry and scarves!
I like the description you gave of your style, Natalie, especially the “sparkle touch” part. I think a lot of us have done more online shopping over the past year, but it sounds like you were already well-versed in buying things online. I hope you’ll be able to go out again soon and wear more of your clothes. It’s easier to make decisions about items we’re on the fence about if we wear them for a day, or at least a few hours.
I love your “church lady” outfits above and they are very similar to what I wear today, albeit with casual sandals and toppers. However I can understand your looking back now and feeling cringy, not because you looked bad (you did not!), but because your aesthetic has changed. I do the same when I see pictures of myself in my bohemian phase, with frizzy hair and brightly colored loose garments. I still love that style, but I would not wear it now.
For me, what to wear has been a lifelong struggle between “looking good” and being comfortable. The looking good part changes as my body changes or I grow tired of a style or my eye becomes accustomed to a new fashion that I previously would not have worn. The physical comfort aspect changes, of course because of aging and body changes, but also with changes in lifestyle. So it’s not surprising that my overall “look” making up the majority of my closet has changed a lot, sometimes several times in a decade. My style during decades of working and walking in chilly, formal San Francisco had to be completely discarded when I moved to scorching, informal Phoenix where I sit all day. Since then it’s been trial and error trying to find the new style that fits both the looking good and feeling good requirements.
To answer your questions, I think you’ve pinpointed one of the most useful tools in wardrobe planning/updating: figuring out what you DON’T want. For most people the only way to do that is to already have things you don’t want and analyze why you’re not wearing them – like your cardigan analysis and lessons learned. It’s really illuminating to pull those unworn things out and determine precisely what the problem is with each one. My only suggestion for people who are trying to hone their style is to realize it is an ongoing process. We change a little bit every day, whether it’s our bodies or our opinions or our lifestyles. So we can expect to have changes in our “ideal” wardrobes.
I think I could probably re-work some of those old outfits to better suit my personal style today, Katrina, but I no longer own most of the pieces. The ones without the toppers are less cringeworthy to me, but the combination of the skirts, blazers, and shoes just makes it all skew so dressy! I SO relate to your struggle between looking good and being comfortable. My dream is to have everything feel like I’m wearing pajamas while still looking stylish and pulled together. I’m getting there, but jeans seem to be a sticking point… I’m glad my suggestion about figuring out what you DON’T want was helpful to you. I like what you wrote at the end about honing our style being an ongoing process. We’re never going to get “there” and then just stop, but hopefully it will become less fraught for some of us who’ve experienced difficulties around shopping and style.
As I have aged–now I am 74–I stopped sleeveless and shorts. I feel better and warmer with cover. I have also cut out lots of colors in favor of blues, greys and black. Hair used to be dark brown, and I loved beige and white once.
Since about age 50 I have begun wearing only arch-support shoes because of metatarsalgia, but I really never wore heels or skimpy shoes very much.
Retirement 10 years go resulted in less need for dresses and–yippee–hose. I am so comfortable now in my comfy loose-ish pants and socks. Not being in the classroom, I am fine with wearing my shirts untucked as well. So, comfort seems to be my guide in addition to a low level of vanity!
Thank s for the frequent posts, Debbie. We are lucky readers.
I was intrigued to see you refer to your skirt and blazer combos as “church lady” style. I have quite a few myself but don’t feel this way at all about mine so I tried to work out why. One thing: I like to wear these combos in winter with thick tights that match my shoes and top to create a dark column of colour under the skirt and blazer. My skirts are a little above the knee and I wear deep v-neck blazers with one button closed to add shape. My blazers are kind of casual with a bit of stretch and the ones I wear with skirts are a little shorter than the ones I wear with pants. I feel cute and feminine in these outfits in winter, but still warm, snug and modestly dressed. But when it gets too warm for tights and warm layers under my blazers, I feel less put together and more uncomfortable in a skirt. If I want to dress up (a little) in the summertime, I prefer a knee-length dress and light-weight, waist-length bolero or (tied) wrap with espadrilles or ballerinas. (A quirk of mine: somehow, I feel underdressed and uncomfortable with my toes uncovered … unless I’m at the beach in a swimsuit.) Thanks, by the way, for all these posts lately. I really enjoy them. ☺️
I think there are a lot of elements that go into how one describes their style, Sue, and just because the skirts and blazers felt like church lady style to me doesn’t mean they won’t feel great for you or others. It sounds like the tights are an important part of your outfit formula since you don’t feel as put together without them. Such details are helpful to be aware of, and I’m glad you have a summer uniform that you like a lot more. A lot of women don’t like wearing open-toed shoes, but fortunately there are some greta alternatives out there that still work for summer. I’m so glad you’re enjoying my posts!
Thanks for sharing how your style has evolved with aging and a change in lifestyle, Gail. Yes, color choices often need to shift when our hair goes gray. My colors haven’t changed as much because I always wore cool colors anyway, but some of the more saturated colors don’t look as good on me anymore. I think a lot of us value comfort more as we get older – and yay for no hose! I haven’t worn them in as long as I can remember. As for the more frequent posts, I’m trying to post weekly now, which is easier since I’m still writing daily since taking my class.
Another fan here, Debbie, and thanks for posting! I truly feel I’ve been fortunate that I’ve always dressed to maximize my assets and downplay my perceived flaws. I’ve gained some pounds through the years, yet I’m fortunate to know what I like and what is flattering and continue to be complimented on outfit choices. Not bragging, folks. I have made some poor choices at times and realized that it, typically, included someone telling me I should dress in some way: “Be more casual.” “Talbots is boring, Catherine.” “Try some high heels and big hoop earrings for a sexy change, Catherine.” At about age 50, I began just not listening to them because I KNOW what makes me feel good – and that will make me sexy or whatever. (Not to mention, that particular compliment is just not that important to me anymore.) Another reason I’ve been successful, it was age 50, I began reading Recovering Shopoholics and it changed my life. I have space between the hangers in my closet! Catherine Graham…
Thanks for commenting, Catherine, and I appreciate your letting me know how much my previous blog helped you in your journey. Yay for space between the hangers in your closet! I think a lot of us get into trouble when we listen too much to others’ advice about what we SHOULD wear. My part two gets into that more… I’m glad you found your way and have been able to dress in a way that works for you for years now. I’m getting there, but I’ve had to go through a lot of “growing pains” along the way, that’s for sure!
The past year has been such an invaluable lesson for me on my wardrobe needs vs. wants. My ‘want’ urges plummeted since there were no social occasions and all I’ve been wearing are cotton jersey outfits most of the year. Denim was eliminated from my wardrobe except for one pair of elastic waistband jeans that feel like cotton pants. All of my bottoms (pants, skirts, shorts) are all now elastic waistband and I can’t imagine going back to anything fixed waist. Sweatshirts have been my saving grace, as there has not been a day since October that I haven’t worn one. To my own surprise I have felt fine dressing simply and comfortably rotating between very few items. With an already small wardrobe, the actual items I’ve been wearing are like 7, all of which with frequent washings has held up just fine. Even with warmer weather approaching, I can’t imagine needing more than 15 items for the entire summer. Frankly, it’s hard to look chic when everyone is walking around with a face mask, I don’t care what other people are wearing so I assume it’s the same when others look at me.
Thanks for sharing how your wardrobe has evolved over the past year, Wendy, as well as the lessons you’ve learned. I’m glad you’re in such a great place with your wardrobe now and are feeling satisfied with a minimal number of items in your closet. I agree that it’s hard to look chic wearing a face mask and also that people are caring less about what others (and themselves) are wearing these days. Like you, I’m preferring elastic waist pants now, but I haven’t found any jeans of that nature yet (but I hope to!). My dream is to feel like I’m wearing pajamas most of the time – but not look like it! 🙂
I always loved your skirt outfits & was excited to find another skirt lover. But we all change.
I wear skirts almost exclusively. I live in a subtropical climate-stifling heat, hair wrecking humidity & burningly strong sun. Skirts are SO much more comfortable (although I thought so when I lived in a better climate too) & are…healthier… for me as well.
Thank you, Ocd. A few other skirt lovers weighed in on my second part of the series, so you’re definitely not alone! I can totally see wearing skirts all the time in your type of climate (and I would be very sad about my hair there). I haven’t given up on skirts just yet, but I’m more into dresses at the moment. I think sometimes we just need to rework our style if we’re no longer happy with it, but it’s great that your skirts still work so well for you!
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