In my last post, I shared my wardrobe “do’s,” which are the characteristics that I want to be present in my clothing, shoes, and accessories. It’s helpful to be crystal clear on what we like so we can zero in on those features when we’re shopping. But it’s equally important to have clarity on the features of wardrobe items that we don’t like. Sometimes a seemingly minor detail can make or break something that we’re wearing, transforming what should be a wardrobe workhorse into a closet “benchwarmer.”
It serves us well to catalog our sartorial “deal-breakers” in addition to the characteristics of our closet pieces that have us wanting to reach for them often. Today’s post, which is part two of a three-part series, will focus on my wardrobe “don’ts.” I first created a list of my do’s and don’ts in a May 2015 essay on my previous blog, Recovering Shopaholic. Some important things have changed over the past six-plus years, which I’ll highlight in the third and fourth parts of the series, to be posted in the next two weeks. But for now, let’s move on to those deal-breaker “don’ts…”
I’ll use the same format for this post as my last one. My “don’ts” will be listed according to the following categories:
- Overall characteristics
- Colors and patterns
- Skirts and dresses
“Sales Goggles” and Personal Style Shifts
As with my wardrobe do’s post, I’m including lots of visual examples to help illustrate my points. To come up with these examples, I reviewed my purged item folders from the past ten years, which include everything I’ve passed on from my wardrobe during that timeframe. Sometimes I let go of closet pieces because they became worn out, went out of style, or no longer fit me. But in other instances, I couldn’t believe I ever owned certain items in the first place, as they were so far afield of the way I like to dress today!
Yes, my style has changed a lot over the years, but I doubt I ever even wore some of the pieces you’ll see in the photos below. I used to regularly shop at resale stores, which led me to make a lot of shopping mistakes. I used those stores to experiment with various styles because the prices were usually extremely low. But one problem with secondhand stores is that we can be prone to want to make something work in terms of color or fit when there’s only one such item available. After all, we can’t simply find the next size up or down or select a more flattering color or pattern of a given garment.
When I shopped at retail stores, I often wore “sales goggles” and pushed myself to buy things simply because they were offered at bargain basement prices. But as the old adage goes, it’s not a “deal” if we don’t love and wear it! Fortunately, I’m not making those types of mistakes quite as often these days, but it still happens. Hopefully, my increased clarity on my do’s and don’ts will help me make smarter decisions when I shop, and I hope the same will be true for those of you who also engage in this valuable exercise.
A Few Caveats Before I Dive In…
Before I delve into my lists, I want to provide a few caveats. My “don’t” items relate only to me and my style. I enjoy many of the styles, garments, colors, etc., referenced below on other people, but I don’t like them for myself for various reasons. There isn’t a right or wrong way to dress. What matters most is that we dress in a way that makes us happy, which is what this exercise is all about. If I say that I don’t like a particular style, I might actually love it if I saw it on one of you, but it’s just not my cup of tea for myself. Sometimes it’s a matter of body shape or coloring, or it might relate to my physical or emotional comfort, which are both very important facets of getting dressed that can often be overlooked.
Our “don’ts” can make that list for all sorts of reasons, and the last thing I want to do is make anyone feel bad because I’ve listed a certain style on my don’ts list that appears high up on their do’s list. As with everything else in life, “different strokes for different folks.” Part of what can make fashion and getting dressed so much fun is the fact that we all interpret style in our own individual ways. Even if one is a big follower of the latest trends, they can still put their own unique touches on them in order to set themselves apart from everyone else.
With styles, silhouettes, colors, patterns, accessories, and even garment types, we can always take what we like and leave the rest. My last part was about taking what I like, and this post is about leaving the rest. Both are very important to our defining, refining, and loving our style and the way we dress!
Overall “Don’t” Characteristics
- Overly tight or revealing garments. I tend to be fairly modest in the way I dress, and I’m more comfortable in fitted but not tight clothing.
- Boxy styles. I prefer to have some level of structure in my clothing.
- Bohemian or “hippy” styles. This type of style is fine on others, but it doesn’t feel like “me.” Sometimes, “boho-lite” styles are okay, though, like some maxi skirts and dresses.
- Too much going on. I prefer a more minimal aesthetic in what I wear, so I don’t like a lot of “bells and whistles” on my clothing. I’m also not a fan of wearing a lot of accessories at once and most pattern mixing (although I like to do milder versions sometimes).
- Exaggerated proportions, especially when they serve to accentuate my hip and thigh area. I’m sensitive about that part of my body and like to try to minimize it.
- Uncomfortable clothing. I will no longer sacrifice comfort for style, and I believe it’s possible to have both!
- Too much distressing in a garment. A little can be okay, but I steer away from jeans with big holes in them, for example.
- Ill-fitting clothing, including items that don’t fit me right because of my height. Examples includes: waistline too high on dresses, too-short sleeves on tops or toppers, and pants that are too short in the hem or rise.
Color and Pattern Don’ts
- Most warm tones. I prefer cool tones, which pair better with my coloring.
- Browns and beiges. I just don’t like these colors, and they also don’t look good on me.
- Most grays. They should ostensibly work for me with my hair color, but I usually look washed out in gray unless it’s a charcoal shade.
- White. I like to wear white as part of prints, but solid white washes me out.
- Cream tones. They also wash me out and tend to be too warm-toned.
- Light pastels. I used to avoid all pastels, but I can now wear mid-toned pastels with my hair color change.
- Neon colors. These are too bright for my personal preference.
- Most yellows and oranges. I occasionally like certain tones of these colors on me, however, so I won’t rule them out completely.
- Most pale colors. They wash me out and I don’t feel fab in them.
- Super bold patterns (with the exception or stripes, of course).
- Light florals. They’re just too feminine for my taste.
- “Cutesy” or overly feminine patterns.
- Boxy styles. I like to accentuate my narrow torso. Boxy styles just make me look bigger all over.
- Overly fitted/tight styles. I prefer a streamlined fit that’s skims over the body but isn’t snug.
- Stiff fabrics. I prefer to wear knit tops, but I also like woven pieces that include some level of stretch.
- Curved hems. I prefer straight hems and sometimes asymmetric hems as well.
- “Shark-bite” hems. I don’t feel that they’re flattering on my lower half.
- Side slits. I feel that they make my hips look wider, especially if the slits hit right at that area.
- Crop tops. That ship sailed for me long ago! My mid-section just isn’t firm enough, plus I worry about looking like “mutton dressed as lamb.”
- Necklines: square neck, boat neck, cowl neck, any “fussy neckline.” Square and boat necklines seem to maximize my shoulders, and cowl necks are just too much fabric for my taste.
- Sleeves: flutter, cap, elbow-length, puff, bell. I prefer more minimal types of sleeves, and most of these styles are just too fussy for me.
- Off-the-shoulder or drop shoulder styles.
- Peplum waist
- “Boho” styles.
- Spaghetti straps. I like to be able to easily wear a supportive bra. I don’t like to wear strapless bras or to have my bra straps show, so I steer away from spaghetti straps.
- Shoulder pads or epaulette details. My shoulders are broad enough on their own.
- Ruffle details.
- Tie or twist bottom styles. I like the look, but these styles never stay in place on me and I find them very fussy.
- Partially tucked tops. I know this is trendy, but it feels sloppy to me and doesn’t align with my “polished” and “elegant” style guideposts.
- Boxy styles. I prefer to have some shaping and tailoring in my toppers, especially in coats and jackets.
- Double-breasted coats/jackets. I don’t like the way they look open, and I don’t like to always have to take the time to button them up.
- Jackets/coats that must be worn closed in order to look good. See the last bullet… I like to wear my toppers open much of the time, so I need to have styles that look good that way.
- Overly cropped styles. If a topper is too cropped, it often looks like I’m wearing a size too small or like I outgrew my jacket. This is exacerbated by the fact that garments are often too short on me anyway because of my height. One exception is that I like to wear shorter toppers that hit around the high hip with my skirts and dresses.
- Bomber jackets. They tend to be boxy and not have enough structure, so they don’t look good on me.
- Moto jackets. I love the look of this style, but moto jackets almost never fit me right. When they fit my broad shoulders and wider hips, they’re almost always too baggy in the torso area. I used to have a knit moto jacket that fit me well, probably because of the stretchiness factor. I had to let go of that piece after I gained weight, but I’d love to find something similar again.
- Belted jackets/coats. This style can look nice, but as I mentioned above, I like to be able to wear my toppers open (and it’s not too cold where I live, so that usually works for me). Having to belt my jacket or coat every time I put it on feels too fussy to me.
- Fringe on jackets. This feels too “boho” and ‘70s inspired to me, and is not my vibe.
- Kimonos. I love the look of kimonos on other women, but they always look too boxy and unstructured on me. I’ve tried on many, many kimonos over the years and even bought one (which I wrote about in this post), but I’m now going to sit this style out.
- Side slits. I wrote about this feature in the “tops” section, but I don’t like side slits in toppers, either, unless they’re on a duster length topper that hits way below my hips.
- Overly stiff fabrics. I prefer that my jeans and pants include some level of stretch in them, for the sake of comfort.
- Skinny jeans. I have muscular calves, so skinny jeans are often too tight in that area on me. They also tend to give me the “ice-cream cone” effect in my lower body. I prefer straight-leg fits, which are less exaggerated. They tend to fit me how skinnies fit other women because of my larger hips, thighs, and calves.
- Leggings or jeggings. They’re too form-fitting and unflattering on my hips and thighs.
- Ultra-high-waist styles. They come up too high on my short-waisted body, often all the way up to my rib cage!
- Ultra-low-waist styles. On the flip side, if the waistline is too low, it gives me a “muffin top.”
- Bell-bottom or flared pants and jeans. This look is too ‘70s for me, and that’s not my vibe. I also don’t find them flattering on my figure.
- “Mom jeans.” I think they make my butt look long, flat, and wide, so no thanks!
- Overly wide-leg pants and jeans. I think I just don’t like “extremes” in pants. Since I tend to be bottom-heavy, I prefer my pants to be more minimal in style and to keep the visual interest in the top half of my body.
- Overly baggy pants or jeans. Same comment as above…
- Diagonal side pockets. These almost always poke out on me and I have to get them sewn shut, at least on the bottom. I try to avoid diagonal side pockets if I can, but since I have such a hard time with finding pants, I’m willing to do the alteration if necessary.
- Drop crotch styles. I don’t like the way this looks. However, I do have a few pairs of joggers (this style) with a moderate drop-crotch that’s quite comfortable, but I wear those only at home.
- Ripped or distressed jeans. I’m okay with very mild distressing, but bigger rips or holes aren’t in line with my “polished” style guidepost.
- Capri pants that hit at my mid-calf area. I used to wear these all the time when they were more in style, but I don’t like the way they look now. Even though I have very long legs, I find this style “stumpifying” and unflattering. I prefer a longer version of a cropped pant these days.
- Light-colored pants. Because I carry any extra weight in my bottom half, I prefer darker colors for the most part.
- Hems that drag on the floor. I think this looks sloppy, and it can also be dangerous!
- Hems that are of a “no-man’s land” length. I know that shorter full-length pants are trending now, but they just feel like “floods” to me. I guess it’s because I’ve struggled to find pants that are long enough my whole life… I’ll stick to either traditional full-length pants or intentionally cropped pants.
Skirts and Dresses Don’ts
- Skirts that are overly A-line / flared. I used to wear this style all the time, but it feels too formal to me, plus I don’t feel it’s flattering on my shape. I prefer a straight style of skirt these days.
- Skirts that end above my knees. My knees are not attractive, and I have a lot of varicose and spider veins on my legs. Even if I get the veins taken care of, which I hope to do soon, I still have unattractive knees that I don’t think I can change.
- Pencil skirts that curve in at the bottom. This style accentuates my hips too much and it’s also not very easy to walk in.
- Tiered skirts. They feel too “boho” to me and also add too much weight to the bottom half of my body.
- Brown or beige skirts/dresses, including brown-toned leopard print. I like gray/black leopard print, but that can be hard to find.
- Empire-waist or baby doll style dresses. I’m short-waisted and these styles tend to exaggerate that effect.
- Overly feminine styles or prints.
- Shift or swing dresses. I look better when my clothes include some sort of shaping.
- Too much flare or material. I prefer more streamlined styles with less material.
- Blouson-waist or drop waist dresses. I like to accentuate my slim torso, and the extra fabric in the blouson styles hides it. Drop waists tend to put the emphasis on my hips, which I don’t like.
- Heels over 2.5” high. I just can’t walk well in higher heels anymore.
- Completely flat shoes. Because I have very high arches, I find shoes with even a low heel a lot more comfortable. Heels also work better with my overall style vibe.
- Patent leather shoes. They’re just too fancy for my lifestyle and don’t work well with the clothes I like to wear.
- Square toes or “stumpy” rounded toes.
- Big lug soles. I know they’re trendy at the moment, but I don’t like the way they look for anything other than hiking.
- Shoes that are too heavy or “clompy.”
- Stiletto heels. They look pretty, but I can’t walk in them.
- Flip-flops or any material between my toes.
- Loafers. They’re too preppy for my style.
- Ballet flats. I just don’t feel good in them. They’re also too flat for my high arches, which feel more supported by at least a small heel.
- Bow details. They’re too feminine and “twee” for my style.
- Over the knee boots. I think I just can’t get the image of Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” out of my mind…
- Too much “bling.”
- Brown or beige shoes.
- Cork, rope, or white soles. The cork and rope feel too preppy, and I don’t like the white soles because they’re hard to keep clean and I also wear a lot of dark colors. I prefer to have darker soles on my shoes.
- Gold or bronze shoes or details. I prefer cool-toned metallic shoes and details.
- Sneakers for any activities other than walks or workouts. I know it’s trendy to wear sneakers with everything these days, but it’s not for me personally. They may feel physically comfortable, but I don’t feel emotionally comfortable wearing sneakers with a dress.
- Infinity scarves. I find them “fussy” and limiting, as they can only be worn one way. I prefer long rectangular scarves that can be worn many different ways.
- Scarves in colors that don’t suit me or prints/patterns that I don’t like.
- Gold or brass jewelry (I prefer silver).
- Warm-toned beaded jewelry.
- Overly beaded or too “chunky” jewelry items.
- Choker necklaces. They feel confining, and I also find longer necklaces to be more flattering on me.
- Most pearl jewelry. I’m not a fan of traditional white pearls on me, but I do like black pearls.
- Dainty jewelry. I prefer bolder pieces, both because of my tall stature and my “dramatic” style guidepost.
- Bohemian-style jewelry or bags.
- Too small bags. I like to carry larger bags that hold more stuff, plus they look better with my tall frame.
- Clutch purses. I find them to be fussy and impractical. I like my bags to have some sort of straps or handles.
- Floppy or unstructured bags. I’ve learned the hard way that unstructured bags just don’t work for me. I like my bags to have more “substance” to them.
- Patent or overly shiny bags. These read too “dressy” to me, and my life is very casual.
- Brown or beige bags. These colors just aren’t for me.
- Big hoop earrings. I’m not really a fan of hoop earrings in general (for me), but I especially don’t like extremely large styles of hoops.
- Multiple large jewelry pieces worn together. I prefer to have one “star” piece and keep the other items more minimal.
So those were my very extensive “don’ts” lists… It’s a good thing I also have lengthy lists of the features I do like in my wardrobe items! I hope that reading my lists perhaps provided you with a few “ahas” about what you might add to your own lists. Speaking of which, I’d love for you to share all or some of your own personal wardrobe don’ts.
- What are your “deal-breakers” in terms of your clothes, shoes, and accessories?
- What makes you pass something by when you see it in a store or on an e-commerce website?
I invite you to share your thoughts with me and your fellow readers. I’ll be back next week with the third installment of this series, when I’ll comment on what used to be “do’s” for me back in 2015, but no longer are. There are ten items on this “no longer do’s” list, and there are also ten items on my “no longer don’ts” list, which will be published the following week. In these two posts, I’ll break down all of those characteristics and share what I believe it means for my style. Stay tuned, and have a wonderful weekend!