My Wardrobe, Myself

The intersection of clothing, emotions, and life

This is the fourth and final installment in my wardrobe “do’s” and “don’ts” series. When I set out to do an update on my original exploration of this issue from six years ago, I thought I’d just do a single post. But it turned out that I had a lot more to say on the matter than I originally anticipated. Here’s a recap of the posts I’ve done thus far:

This last post may be the most surprising – and the most fun to write. It’s where I get to talk about how I’ve gradually come around to liking some of the styles, silhouettes, colors, and patterns that used to be big “no’s” for me. If you would have asked me back in 2015 if I would ever wear many of the pieces featured in the post, I would have said something to the effect of “Hell, no!” But I’m here to tell you that some of my major “don’ts” have now become “do’s.”

The No Longer Don’ts

As with my “no longer do’s” list, there are ten features that used to be absolute no-go’s for me that I now happily wear. I single out each one below and include both images and commentary to illustrate my points.

1) Pastel clothing

For many years, I disliked wearing pastel clothing. I thought that pale pastel colors washed me out and clashed with my deep auburn dyed hair. I much preferred to wear black and jewel-toned clothing, which made up the majority of my wardrobe for a long time. However, after I transitioned to my natural gray hair, I found that I needed to make some shifts in the colors that I wore. Some of the saturated hues that I previously embraced no longer allowed me to shine, and often times it looked like they were wearing me rather than the other way around.

I still wear some jewel tones, including my beloved cobalt, but I’ve also come to love some of the pastel tones that I used to scoff at. I especially like mid-tone pastels in the blue, purple, and pink families. Below are some of the new pastel pieces that I’ve acquired over the past year or so. These garments are mostly for summer wear, but I could see myself also wearing similar colors in cooler weather.

no longer don'ts - pastels

I used to hate pastels, but now I enjoy wearing certain shades of them. 

2) Crew-neck Tops

I didn’t used to like wearing crew-neck tops and vastly preferred V-necks or scoop-necks instead. I thought that crew-necks only served to accentuate my broad shoulders, and I also felt that they tended to look “blocky” and unflattering unless a scarf or necklace was added to break up the expanse of fabric. A lot of women who are, shall we say, well-endowed, find that crew necklines aren’t the most flattering for their figures, but I would put my bustline in the “average” camp, so that wasn’t the issue.

I still don’t like crew-necks that come up so high as to feel stifling (which is why I also continue to not like  most turtlenecks), but I like to wear less extreme versions of this silhouette, as shown here:

no longer don'ts - crew-neck tops

Previously disliked, I now enjoy wearing crew-neck tops and tees. 

The marble print shirt in the top row was purchased online during this years Nordstrom Anniversary Sale (and is still available now – check out the ruching in the back), but I was surprised to find that the neckline was almost a mock turtleneck silhouette. I almost returned the top, but I loved everything about it except the neckline. So, I took it to my tailor, who was able to cut and re-sew the neckline to look more like the other tops pictured above. It wasn’t cheap to do that, but the top was inexpensive and perfect for me in all other ways. I’m not sure this is an alteration I’ll do often, as I can usually find my preferred necklines readily on offer, but I’m happy that I was able to keep the top instead of sending it back to the store.

My favorite necklines are still V-necks and modified scoop-necks (I say “modified,” as many scoop-necks are too low-cut for me), but it’s been nice to embrace crew-necks again and have more sartorial options to choose from.

3) Patterned and Bright Pants

I previously only liked wearing dark, solid-colored pants and jeans. Because I tend to be bottom-heavy and easily gain weight in my hips and thighs, I preferred to keep my patterns and bright colors in my upper half. I felt self-conscious when wearing garments that highlighted my lower half. However, a few years ago, I started to become bored with that way of dressing, and I longed for a bit more variety in what I wore.

The first patterned pants that I purchased were the ones at the top left below. Since the background color was black and the only other color was white, the pants were subdued enough to quench my thirst for variability without generating a “look at me” vibe. After I wore those pants for a while, I decided to become a bit more adventurous and branch out into brighter colors and some more bold prints like the ones pictured here:

no longer don'ts - patterned and bright pants

I used to fear drawing attention to my lower half with pants like these… 

The pants that “scare” me the most are the bright red ones, so I tend to pair them primarily with dark neutrals or prints that are grounded in either black or navy. I also prefer to wear them with a longer topper, but I wore them with just a navy t-shirt on July 4th this year and was happy with the look (of course, it helped that there were lots of other people wearing bright red that day).

4) Ankle-Length Pants

When ankle-length pants first arrived on the scene, I hated them with a strong passion. The reason for that disdain was that I had struggled for many years to find full-length pants that were long enough for my “giraffe legs.” Much of the time, I had to settle for pants that were either marginal in length or looked like downright “high waters,” so why would I wear that silhouette willingly?

For years, I didn’t even so much as try on cropped pants, even though they were very much on trend and were prevalent in all of the stores. I just had a “poison eye” for that length, until a few years ago. I’m not sure if seeing ankle pants on other women and in stores for years allowed my eye to adjust or if I just opened up my style horizons, but I finally came around to liking pants with hems that hit a few inches above my ankle bones. Here’s a look at the ankle-length pants in my current collection:

no longer don'ts - ankle-length pants

I used to hate them, but I now wear ankle-length pants all the time. 

Of course, now that I finally like ankle pants, they’ll probably go out of style soon. That’s often the way these things go with me! There’s something called the “innovation adaption curve(check out another article on this phenomenon HERE), which shows when various groups of people adopt new fashion trends. I’m either part of the “late majority” (which makes up 34% of the population) or the “laggards” group (16% of the population), depending on the trend – and some trends I simply eschew altogether.

5) High-Waisted Pants

When high-waisted pants first started becoming more popular again a few years ago, I dreaded the change. I never used to like wearing these types of bottoms because I’m short-waisted and struggle with a lot of abdominal bloating due to digestive issues. But as my post-menopausal phase has progressed, I’ve found that my midsection is no longer as slim and firm as it used to be. Thus, I now prefer for my pants to come up a bit higher, to either a mid-rise or a less extreme high-rise. To mitigate the comfort issue with higher rises, I try to incorporate a good amount of stretch whenever possible.

Here are some higher-waisted pants and jeans that I’ve added to my wardrobe over the past year and a half:

no longer don'ts - high-waisted pants

Menopausal body changes have me embracing higher-rise pants these days. 

The two pairs in the center of the photo are both new and have not yet been worn, but I’ve comfortably worn the other three pairs multiple times. I removed the belt from the cognac pants since I don’t like to tuck my tops in, but I like to wear that shade with black and black/white prints. The black pants with the metallic side stripe were an excellent sales find that are both comfortable and fun.

The light wash jeans also include a side stripe and will be a good stand-in for white pants until I get more comfortable with wearing lighter bottoms. I mostly purchased them for summer, but I hope to also wear them on the unseasonably warm days that we invariably get from time to time.

All in all, I’ve become more comfortable wearing higher-waisted pants such that they’re now actually a style preference. I never thought I’d see the day, but things change… That said, I still don’t like the ultra-high-rise pants and jeans that are currently trending. When pants come up to my rib cage, that’s a bridge too far for me. I’ll leave that trend to my younger and longer-waisted peers.

6) Midi Length Skirts and Dresses

In my “no longer do’s” post last week, I shared that “I’ve lost that loving feeling” for the maxi-length skirts and dresses that were part of my signature style for years. While I used to feel elegant and stylish wearing floor grazing dresses and skirts, I now much prefer garments with hems that hit about six to ten inches higher, and I actually feel more stylish today in those shorter lengths.

Interestingly, back in 2015, I was averse to longer dresses and skirts unless they were a true maxi length. Well, things have come full circle such that the following dresses and skirts are among my favorites:

no longer don'ts - midi-length skirts and dresses

The midi is now my favorite dress and skirt length. 

There are both upsides and downsides to shorter, midi lengths as compared to the maxi silhouette. On the plus side, they’re easier to walk in (no worries about potentially tripping when going up or down stairs) and the shoes I’m wearing are better highlighted. But a big “minus” is that they don’t look as good with flat shoes, at least not to my eye.

It’s interesting to note, however, that in the stock photos above, most of the dresses and skirts are shown with flats or very low heels. Perhaps I need to experiment more with the flat shoes I own (not many), or maybe I need to try different options. At this point, however, I’m still wearing shoes that more resemble the ones at the top right. Yet I would definitely consider styles like the others shown, with the exception of the heavy black sandals in the top center image, which just aren’t my style.

7) Blazers

I had veered away from wearing blazers by the time I wrote my initial do’s and don’ts post in 2015. After faithfully watching “What Not to Wear” for years and doing my best to abide by Stacy and Clinton’s style advice, I had accumulated a large number of blazers. Unfortunately, however, my pairing them with knee-length, A-line skirts and fancy-looking heels led to the “church lady” aesthetic that I worked so hard to get away from beginning in 2014. I slowly purged every single blazer from my closet in the mid-to-late 2010’s and instead embraced cardigans as my preferred toppers.

But as longer, boyfriend-style blazers arrived on the scene over the past couple of years, I became intrigued by them and lost my strong “poison eye” for blazers. In 2020 and 2021, I purchased the four blazers below:

no longer don'ts - blazers

I now like blazers again, but in a longer and looser fit than I previously wore. 

While I think the second blazer from the right might end up being a “miss” due to the fabric and somewhat boxy fit, I like the look of the other three. The blazer on the left is a bit shorter and has a zipper instead of the traditional buttons, while the black Ponte blazer and plaid duster blazer are longer and include ample stretch. I don’t think I will dive headlong into wearing blazers again because they can skew dressy, but I like to pair them with jeans and casual tops for a nice alternative to cardigans. Certain styles of blazers are once again a “do” for me.

8) Synthetic Fibers

I was definitely down on synthetic fibers when I wrote my first do’s and don’t list, but I’ve since learned that there are some synthetic and synthetic blend garments that are comfortable and breathable. All of the items shown below are either fully synthetic or include a percentage of synthetic fibers in the mix:

no longer don'ts - synthetic fibers

I no longer dislike synthetic fibers, but some of them are more breathable than others. 

Athleta does especially well with creating wearable and durable synthetic fibers, and I have accumulated a nice collection of pants from that retailer (who offers clothing in a wide array of sizes, including petite, plus, and tall options). My Athleta synthetic garments tend to be my most successful purchases in that genre (and they also have a lot of nice synthetic blends), but the other pieces shown also work well for me. The three dresses pictured above are in “breezy” silhouettes, and the zigzag print tank has two layers and doesn’t cover a very large portion of my body, so it’s pretty cool to wear.

My least successful synthetic piece is the zebra-print short-sleeved top. Although I love the animal print/tie-dye hybrid, I made the mistake of wearing the top on a hot and humid day last month, during which I learned that the fabric wasn’t breathable. I will still keep and wear the top on cooler days, but I’ll lean more toward synthetic blend pieces moving forward rather than garments that don’t include any natural fibers. I will still trust Athleta for their superior synthetic fabrications (the Brooklyn ankle pant is one of my favorites), but I’ll be careful when it comes to other retailers.

I mentioned my dislike of wool, acrylic, and cheap polyester in my 2015 essay, and I remain disenchanted with all of those fabrics. I find wool and acrylic itchy (although I can sometimes do higher-end cashmere), and I hate the look and feel of cheap polyester. All of these fabrics also tend to be hot, and I live in place where it’s pretty warm for much of the year. I’m fortunate in that I don’t really need the insulation that wool provides where I live. I wish that I could tolerate wearing wool, but unless a garment has only a very small percentage of wool in it, I usually find myself itching in short order.

9) Only Wearing Black and Metallic Shoes

I mentioned in my do’s and don’ts post six years ago that I wanted to include a few pairs of non-neutral shoes in my wardrobe. At the time, I thought that only wearing black and metallic shoes was boring, but I no longer feel that way. I’ve now more fully embraced my generally minimal style aesthetic, and I now accept the fact that I prefer wearing neutral-toned footwear.

The shoes shown below are my current favorites, and they’re all either black or metallic:

no longer don'ts - wearing only black and metallic shoes

I no longer want to veer away from wearing primarily black and metallic footwear.

The above shoes pair well with the black clothing I frequently wear, and they also look nice with my other preferred colors (lots of neutrals and jewel tones). I tried wearing brightly colored shoes, but it just wasn’t “me,” plus it required a lot of extra effort in terms of coordination, since I don’t like to have my footwear be the only instance of a particular color in an ensemble. I still enjoy wearing my burgundy booties from time to time, but I’m perfectly content to primarily wear black and metallic footwear these days.

10) Large Jewelry Pieces

I never used to be comfortable wearing large jewelry pieces, as I felt that they drew too much attention to me. Since I’m already quite tall, I tend to stand out regardless of what I wear, which can be uncomfortable given that I’m a strong introvert. But ever since I delved more into Dressing Your Truth a few years ago and identified myself as Type Four “Bold, Striking Woman,” I’ve been more willing to wear larger accessories.

As long as I’m being true to my style and wearing the colors, styles, and silhouette that best suit me, I also like to wear bolder, more “standout” jewelry pieces, including the ones shown below:

no longer don'ts - large jewelry pieces

I now love wearing large jewelry pieces like the ones shown here. 

I love the way a bold accessory or two can transform a relatively basic ensemble into a stellar look. I still don’t like to wear so much jewelry that it looks like I stepped out of a Chico’s catalog, but I enjoy pairing one large accessory with several other medium-sized ones. When I wear a big, bold necklace, I tend to wear smaller earrings. Likewise, if I’m wearing big statement earrings, I either don’t wear a necklace at all or I choose a less flashy one.

It’s taken me a little while to fully get on board with larger jewelry items, but I now love them and look forward to gradually adding more such pieces to my collection as time goes by. My favorite bold pieces are black and silver, but I also like to incorporate a bit of color into my jewelry, as you can see with the black and turquoise earrings and the beaded pendant in the center of the photo. But, for me, a little bit of color goes a long way, so I mostly stick to the neutrals.

Conclusion – and Your Thoughts?

We’ve finally come to the end of my “do’s” and “don’ts” update series. I’ve enjoyed pondering my style shifts and putting together these posts for you. I may decide to do these types of updates every year or two, as they seem to have resonated with readers (but it will likely just be one or two essays, not four!). Becoming clearer on what I do and don’t like in terms of my clothing, shoes, and accessories is helping me to shop in a more targeted and focused manner. I still tend to return a lot of the items that I purchase online, but that usually has more to do with fit or color issues (i.e., a garment looking either darker or lighter online than in person) rather than anything related to style.

Now I’d love for you to weigh in… I know that many of you have already commented on your shifting do’s and don’ts in the last three posts, but perhaps you have more to say on the topic – or maybe some new readers will choose to chime in. Here are a few questions to help you formulate your thoughts, but as always, feel free to comment however you’d like:

  • What types of styles, silhouettes, colors, etc., did you previously dislike but now happily wear?
  • What do you see as the reasons for these shifts?
  • How do you think your style will change over the next year or two?

I look forward to reading what you have to say. If you haven’t checked out the comments on the first three parts of this series, you might want to do so now. I always gain valuable insights from what readers have to say. I think about – and write about – clothing and related topics a lot, but there are always new angles to consider. My wise and thoughtful readers often open my eyes to things I hadn’t even thought about before, so I thank you for that – and for your readership!

8 thoughts on “Never Say Never… When Wardrobe “Don’ts” Become “Do’s”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Re: crewnecks, Inside Out Style had an article about finding the right “balance point” for necklines
    https://insideoutstyleblog.com/2009/07/how-to-find-your-balance-points-for-necklines-and-jewellery.html
    Having it right makes a big difference!

    I’ve been adding even turtlenecks, mock turtlenecks lately too, where I used to avoid them. I’m also trying a button up shirt this year for a change. Maybe not a full on “do” as a permanent change, but no longer a “don’t.

    Meanwhile, I’ve been passing on any necklines that are too wide and deep. They feel uncomfortable now, and make my top half look wider. Narrower V necks are still good.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for sharing that Inside Out Style article. Imogen always has such helpful information! I will pay more attention to the balance point. I don’t like wide and deep necklines, either, as they just look “off” on me (maybe because of the balance point), plus I don’t like feeling worried about my bra showing or displaying too much cleavage (I’m pretty modest). I actually tried on a button-front shirt the other day for the first time in I don’t know how long. I didn’t buy it and I probably won’t, but I felt a bit more open to the idea. I think there can be a gray area between full on “do’s” and absolute “don’ts.”

  2. loracstada@Q.com says:

    A few years ago as a way to simplify my life I started wearing only black from the waist down, including underwear. My feet are painful and the shoes terribly expensive, so stick with black there, too. But I love unusual combinations of colors on top. Now I’ve lost weight and hope to continue doing so, so will need a new wardrobe, which I can sew. But what to sew? How to find the interesting colors I love? I’m liking more fitted silhouettes now. I dread re-making all my larger clothes down to a smaller size but budget may call for that.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      That’s an interesting concept to only wear black from the waist down. It certainly can simplify things. I usually keep most of the visual interest in my outfits to the top half of my body anyway. Congrats on your weight loss! I know it can make things more challenging with the wardrobe, though… Have you lost so much weight that your old clothes can’t be altered? If you sew, maybe you could tailor some of your favorite pieces on your own. If the weight loss was so much that tailoring won’t work, perhaps you can pick a few of your absolute “workhorses” to recreate as a place to start. You can come up with a small capsule wardrobe and then gradually work up from there so that it’s not too overwhelming. Good luck to you!

  3. Vildy says:

    As usual, I’m so impressed at your skill with this kind of analysis. I tend to have continually evolving clothing preferences and am very experimental. I keep up with trends and look to see how I can adopt them if I think they might suit me. Usually, I thrift those items. Skirt suits are something I struggle with, if they are knee length and the least perky looking (stewardessy). I used to have loads of them but then there was a recent era when they were only being worn by sweet young things “ironically.” I don’t do ironic and they were sending up people my age. I have added back in a number of them but can’t say, especially with all the lockdowns, that I have worn them much. But am no longer opposed, perhaps because the young’uns have moved on. And my mission is to wear them jauntily.

    I have also rarely worn shirts but am sometimes drawn to them now, particularly if worn untucked and longer, though
    shapely. I am lately liking all top pieces worn this way. So maybe it isn’t so much what is worn but how it is worn.
    Maybe I’m trying to say that I don’t want classically masculine/borrowed from the boys items but will wear them in
    a more feminine way. At one point, I got rid of all my traditional blazers as stuffy but I slowly began adding back to the point where I have a surfeit of blazers, but mostly shorter or longer and looser in a more casual boyfriend style that’s breezier to use a world you used that I very much like.

    In general, I have been a huge avoider of jeans. I usually kept one pair to fit in when I thought it advantageous.
    I grew up in a time when even boys weren’t allowed to wear jeans to my public high school and I never adopted the idea of jeans and a nice top as a going out outfit. But I have added back some jeans lately and we’ll see where
    this goes. I like a peachy color jean I have that perfectly matches a cashmere sweater. But the jury’s still out on a light (but not denim color) blue and a cranberry one. Think they are too rugged and casual for me. I also have a few pair of subtly patterned jeggings but haven’t worn them in a while. I did recently buy a pair of distressed jeans where they are paint spattered in white and the paint patterns looks like delicate trailing stemmed blossoms. They have a rip at the knee, which drives me crazy but I picked up a napkin that has four heavy floral lace white corner pieces and am planning to put that motif behind the rip. 😀 This may be as much distressing as I can tolerate.

    One huge change for me has been wearing sneakers and I very much like Euro style leather sneakers. I used to
    think they looked like bowling shoes. And they do, of course. 😀 When I first came to school back East, it was
    very preppy and I was bewildered by all the girls wearing loafers. Now, though, Bass weejuns are heaven to me
    and I love the look and feel of them.

    I never liked wearing loose-fitting structured woven dresses but now I have a few and like them very much and this is
    probably my own version of casual.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I love doing wardrobe analysis, Vildy! I’m just glad that people find it interesting and helpful… It’s great that you’re successful in thrifting trendy items. I think it helps that you’re so creative and are able to translate trends well using thrifted items. I can imagine that skirt suits would be tricky to wear. I haven’t worn them for so many years that now I would struggle to wear them well. I agree with you that the WAY we wear things is very important. That’s why I don’t immediately get rid of something if I have an “off” day wearing it. Many times I’ve been able to turn a ho-hum item into something I love to wear just by what I pair it with.

      I avoided jeans for a number of years, too, but mostly because I found them to be uncomfortable. I sometimes still do, but I like the way they look and their casual and versatile nature. Peach and cranberry jeans both sound nice. Very clever of you to sew the a floral lace napkin behind the rip in your jeans! I wish I could come around to liking to wear sneakers more often, as they are so comfortable and “walkable,” but that hasn’t happened yet. Same with loafers, but never say never, right? Thanks for sharing all of your former “don’ts” with us, as well as some of your challenges with pieces in your closet. I always feel like we learn from each other’s sharing. Enjoy wearing those loose-fitting structured woven dresses!

  4. Terra Trevor says:

    I’m late to the party and by the time I got here to read your recent post, comments were closed. No worries, just know that I’m a happy reader. Good topics Debbie and so many insightful comments from your readers.

    Me? I “finally” spent a good deal of time in my closet, asking myself, “If I went shopping today, would I buy this? Am I likely to wear this within the next 3-6 months? Do I have something else that serves the same purpose that I’d rather wear?” The result is that I have culled many items and taken them to the thrift store. It wasn’t easy as many of my things are lovely, expensive and lightly worn but I don’t want to be troubled by reselling. I’m happy to give stuff away and be done with it. I wrote about my recent downsizing in my online journal in October. But today realized I’m not yet done with editing my closet. More needs to go, and I’ve put together a “Do Not Buy” list of items.

    For me it’s no leggings and tunics, because they make me look an an elf. Also, since now, at nearly 69, my shoulders and bust are the widest part of my body, so cap sleeve, high neck t-shirts are are on my list of things not to buy.

    Thank you for this series of articles. I needed to find inspiration, and I have, so that I can finish editing and figure out how I want to move forward.

    1. loracstada@Q.com says:

      Excellent questions to ask oneself! I printed them out and will hang in my closet, as before long I will be culling.

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