Back in May 2015, I published a post on Recovering Shopaholic about my wardrobe do’s and don’ts, the attributes of clothing, accessories, and style that did and didn’t work for me at the time. I thought it would be interesting and fun to revisit these characteristics in 2021, as a lot has changed for me since 2015. I’m six years older, I’ve transitioned to my natural gray hair color, I’ve gone through menopause, and my body is no longer as slim and firm as it used to be. Additionally, a lot of my style preferences have shifted, due to my body changes and also a gradual evolution of what I like related to my clothing. I wondered how different my do’s and don’ts lists might be today as a result of these shifts.
Before I re-read my 2015 post, I took the time to jot down some notes about what I currently like and don’t like in the following key wardrobe areas:
- Overall characteristics
- Colors and patterns
- Skirts and dresses
After creating these new lists, I reviewed my previous lists to see what has changed. I was actually surprised to learn that while some shifts have taken place, a lot has also remained the same. One important thing that I noticed, however, was that I’ve gotten a lot more specific about what I want and don’t want in my garments, shoes, and accessories. Therefore, my lists are now quite a bit longer.
A Four-Part Series…
I’ve decided that instead of writing one extremely long essay about my revised wardrobe do’s and don’ts, I’m going to divide this larger topic into a four-part series:
- In today’s post, I’ll start with the positives and cover all of the elements that I want to be present in the items that I buy and wear.
- Part two will address the characteristics that I want to avoid when shopping for clothing and related items.
- Part three will look at what I used to like but no longer do. When I reviewed my 2015 post, I recognized that there are actually ten such shifts that I’ve made in the past six-plus years, from colors to styles to silhouettes.
- The final installment will look at what I previously didn’t like but have now warmed up to. As was the case with my “no longer do” features, there are also ten shifts that I’ve made in the other direction.
Each post will be illustrated with photos of clothing, shoes, and accessories from my wardrobe past and present so you can see a visual representation of what has changed in regards to my sartorial preferences.
Why Create Do’s and Don’ts Lists?
Part of why I’m writing this post is to encourage you to create your own do’s and don’ts lists. Doing so will help you become crystal clear about what to look out for and what to steer clear of when shopping. You may think you have all of this information close at hand in your memory bank, but there is power in actually capturing it on paper or screen.
As I looked back at my 2015 lists, I realized that I had forgotten some important don’ts that might have helped me avoid shopping mistakes had they been top of mind. Since my most recent post was about 2020 shopping mistakes – and I’ve made a few in 2021 as well, I hope that revisiting what I do and don’t want in my clothing and style will aid in my quest to increase my success rate for the rest of this year and in future years.
When we shop, there are often many items that catch our eyes, including the abundance of new styles and trends that are on offer. It can be both tempting and overwhelming to shop, especially when we’re not sure exactly what we’re looking for – and what we should avoid. Getting very clear before we hit the shops or ecommerce sites can help reduce our likelihood of becoming flustered and buying pieces that ultimately won’t work for us. This clarity includes having an updated shopping priorities list (I’ll be doing an update on my list shortly) and an awareness of our wardrobe do’s and don’ts. Another list that can come in handy is a “do not buy list,” as many of us have a tendency to make a beeline for the same types of items over and over again (hello, cardigans…).
Creating these types of lists doesn’t mean that we can’t try on new styles and trends that appeal to us. However, having the lists at hand can prevent us from venturing too far afield from what we know works best for our bodies and our personal style. In some cases, it’s probably best to just enjoy particular trends on others rather than wearing them ourselves. As one example, I often like the way distressed jeans look on other women, but I’ve purchased them myself at least twice when they were trending, and I just never felt right wearing them. Those jeans were only worn once or twice before I passed them on. Needless to say, distressed jeans are part of my don’ts list now, so the next time they’re trending (which seems to be almost all the time), I’ll know that I should just say no and pass them by.
Our do’s and don’ts lists can also be helpful when clearing out our closets, as there’s no use holding on to items that feature some of our don’ts. We often try too hard to make things work simply because we spent money on them. I’ve even been known to alter items in a desperate attempt to salvage something that should have never been purchased in the first place. This 2016 post on Recovering Shopaholic highlights seven such examples, almost all of which include at least one of the characteristics on my current don’ts list.
If you have a don’ts list and review it prior to doing a closet audit, the process will likely go smoother. You’ll be less likely to hem and haw over whether or not to keep certain items when you clearly see that they include some of your deal-breaker characteristics. In fact, I’m going to do another closet audit soon when the seasons switch from summer to “not summer,” and I’ll be grateful to have my updated lists to help guide me through the process. I’m sure I’ll do a post about that wardrobe evaluation process, so stay tuned (“not summer” typically begins in November here in Southern California, but this can vary).
My Wardrobe Do’s
As I mentioned above, I’ve become a lot more specific in recent years about the characteristics I want my clothing and accessories to have. This specificity has been honed through style exploration, trial-and-error, and lessons learned from mistake purchases (as I wrote about in my last post). I’ve keyed in a lot more on the types of big and small details that can make me either love or hate an item.
We’ll get to the hate stuff in part two, but today’s focus is all about the positive. Using the categories that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I will highlight the characteristics can make a closet piece one of my favorites. I’ll also include examples from my closet in most of the sections so you can see pictures of what my wardrobe do’s look like (there are also lots of pictures of styles I like in this 2020 personal style post).
- Items and outfits should be in line with at least two of my style guideposts, and preferably all three: Dramatic, Polished, Elegant.
- Quality over quantity! (I’m still working on this…)
- I prefer streamlined, body-skimming clothing, rather than tight-fitting or baggy garments.
- Everything needs to be long enough to accommodate my tall height, such as sleeves, hems, and waistbands on dresses.
- In general, I prefer knits over woven garments. However, I do like wovens that incorporate some stretch for increased comfort.
- Fabrications: natural fibers or blends, preferably those that are “breathable.”
- I prefer minimalist styles without a lot of “bells and whistles.”
- I mostly wear classic items, but I like to sprinkle in some trends from time to time (“trend garnish” over “trend salad,” as Jennifer Mackey-Mary of The Everyday Style School podcast would say).
- I’m a big fan of the “long over lean” style formula and will continue to dress that way even though the trends have shifted more to wider bottoms and shorter tops and toppers.
Color and Pattern
- Black is my key neutral, but I’ve become increasingly fond of navy as well.
- Other colors I enjoy wearing include most cool-toned blues (cobalt continues to be a favorite), red, purple, bright pink, teal, and burgundy.
- I prefer cool tones overall, but I’ve also started to embrace some shades of rust more recently.
- Stripes are my signature pattern, but I also like polka dots, dark florals, watercolor prints, gray-toned leopard print, zebra print, houndstooth, some plaids (e.g., windowpane), tie-dye, and geometric prints.
- In general, I prefer smaller and less “busy” prints, but I like the clean, bold nature of stripes most of all.
- I like a streamlined and/or tailored fit, but I don’t like my tops to be tight. I have a narrow torso and a relatively small waist, so I like to show off that part of my body with the fit of my tops and often waist details as well.
- Because I’m very short-waisted, I prefer to wear untucked tops.
- I like straight hems that are either mid-hip length or end below the widest part of my hips. I also like asymmetrical hems, as long as they hit me in a flattering way and don’t overly accentuate my curvier hips. I wear to wear shorter tops (hipbone length) with skirts.
- Necklines: V-neck, crew-neck, scoop-neck (but not too low-cut), and surplice
- I like most sleeve lengths, with the exception of cap sleeves and elbow-length sleeves. If I wear 3/4 sleeves, they need to actually be 3/4 length and not 1/2 or 2/3 length (I have very long arms!).
- I love longer toppers, such as 3/4-length coats/jackets and duster-style cardigans. I also like the newer style “coatigans” that are a hybrid of a coat and a cardigan.
- I enjoy “boyfriend blazers” that have a more casual and less corporate vibe to them.
- With skirts and dresses, my favorite type of topper is a tie-waist style, although I’ve also started to pair duster cardigans with some of my dresses.
- I enjoy various types of vests, from menswear-inspired styles to mid-length knits to extra-long and dramatic styles.
- I have several puffer-style jackets/coats that I like to wear for sportier outings and occasions.
- My preferred silhouettes are straight and “baby boot” cuts.
- I also prefer to wear dark-colored pants and jeans most of the time.
- I generally wear solid-colored, plain styles, but I do have a couple pairs of black-and-white printed pants.
- During the warmer months, I typically wear pants that are cropped 2-4 inches above my ankle bones.
- For casual at-home wear, I like to wear slouchy fit joggers.
Skirts and Dresses
- I prefer dresses over skirts at this point in my style journey. I only have two skirts that that I like to wear at this point.
- Midi-length styles are what I typically wear, with the hem hitting either just below the knee or beneath the “meatier” part of my calves. I still have a few maxi-length skirts/dresses, but I don’t think I would purchase any new full-length pieces.
- Silhouettes: slight A-line, straight, asymmetrical, high-low, handkerchief hem.
- I like to have some shaping and/or waist definition in my dresses, such as tie-waist details, twisting, ruching, draping, or surplice/wrap styles.
- I like to have at least a small heel in most of my shoes, but I can’t really wear heels over 2.5 inches now. I typically stick to 5” to 2” heels.
- Almost all of my shoes are either black or a cool-toned metallic.
- I would also be open to shoes in my other key colors, but I like for my shoes to coordinate with my outfits rather than be a “pop” of color.
- I enjoy having metallic details on my shoes.
- Styles I like: ankle booties, peep-toe booties/sandals, gladiator sandals, wedge or stacked heels, cut-outs.
- Long rectangular scarves in either solids or bold prints.
- Large structured handbags, preferably in black or metallic.
- Statement earrings, often in silver and black.
- Silver and black bracelets.
- Cat-eye sunglasses.
- Necklaces: either long pendants or approximately 20” pendants. I often use necklace extenders to get the desired length for the neckline I’m wearing.
- Metals: silver or gunmetal, often mixed with black stones.
- Bold statement pieces.
So, those are my lists! I’m sure I probably left something out, but I found it helpful to encapsulate all of the details of my wardrobe do’s in one place. Of course, your lists may be dramatically different from mine, as we each have our individual tastes and preferences. It’s fine that we don’t agree on our wardrobe and style likings, as the world would be pretty boring if we all dressed exactly the same.
Speaking of style, I believe that defining our personal style is much more important than following trends or looking “current.” However, these things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. If we’re clear on our own style and what we like and don’t like, we’re much more able to pick and choose from among the trends and translate them in a way that resonates with who we are and how we want to look. It’s definitely possible to stay true to ourselves while still enjoying fashion.
I hope that reading through my wardrobe do’s has gotten you to think more about what you like best in various aspects of your wardrobe and style. Back when I did my initial do’s and don’ts post in 2015, I wasn’t nearly as specific as I was today. However, as I read through the many wonderful comments that I received from readers at that time, I was alerted to many clothing characteristics that I hadn’t even considered previously. The comments were extremely helpful to me, and I’m sure other readers were also grateful to have their horizons broadened as they perused all of the feedback.
I hope the same thing will be true with today’s post – and the rest of this series. So, I invite you to share your own wardrobe do’s in the comments section. Be as general or specific as you’d like. I think it will be fun to read your input and recognize how different we all are. What matters most, though, is that we’re each happy with our individual wardrobes and how we dress. That’s the “end game” in all of this introspection and navel-gazing! I look forward to reading what you have to say about what works best for you in terms of what you wear, so please weigh in with your thoughts.