Essentially speaking...

I've been enjoying the conversation on Angie's thread. 

Sveta said: "This is how I understand what are essentials: things which simple enough in color and style to play well with a lot of other things AND without them you CANNOT build outfits true to your style AND lifestyle."

This rings so true to me. It's that intersection between style and lifestyle that is so interesting and important to recognize, and unless you do this, you'll never be able to identify your true essentials. It takes acceptance. Acceptance of your body type/ income level/ climate/ actual activities (vs. fantasy) and your genuine needs. 

Well -- call me lucky, or blessed -- or maybe dull as dust. Because for me, identifying essentials has never really been a problem. I knew what they were, intuitively, even if I never really thought about it explicitly. And I consistently bought them, over and above any statement items. In fact, I still do. (More on that in a moment). 

CocoLion added something that also resonated: "...for me, a head-to-toe essentials outfit is easy but can get boring. I think this is why every few days I wear a bright colored shirt just to break things up." 

Wow, did I recognize myself there. And here's the unhappy result:  In the past year I have been feeling a bit guilty or worried about what I see as too much "churn" in my wardrobe.  

As a work from home mother who consistently wears outfits that fall into Amid Privlege's "Humming along" category, I find that my clothes "work together" really easily. The wardrobe is cohesive. And I can get dressed without any real angst. 

At the same time, I easily tire of the same old same old sweaters/ jeans/ belts looks.  The fact is, I get bored. 

Like Denise, I've  typically looked to colour and/or pattern to elevate items from the "essential" to at least the "regular" category. But that doesn't stave off the boredom. So I've been trying to vary the silhouette a bit, but that requires a bigger investment.  

Lots for me to ponder here. I've just come up with a set of ratios -- my personal percentages of essentials, statements, and regulars in each clothing category. But I will save this for another post because this is already quite long. 

Thanks for reading these musings and I would love to hear where you think you fall on this spectrum and what the effects are, for you. 

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • catgirl replied 6 years ago

    Suz, this is interesting because I think you always look incredible, and when Angie said an outfit of Es can add up to an S, you are what came to mind. 

    I'm realizing I think of my Es as fall-back items, on days when I have no time to think and just have to roll my eyes and tolerate the default.  When I can wear my S pieces, it's like going out to dinner at a place I love.  It's how I feel when I drag out the nice china too - and then wonder why we don't use it more - but if we did, would it still feel so special?

    What do you consider your S items in your closet, and how do you FEEL when you wear them? 

  • Tanya replied 6 years ago

    Great thoughts, Suz!    I can identify with a lot of what you say here. 

    For example, my lifestyle/job require that I pretty much live in jeans.  I am also tend to get bored pretty easily and require a lot of variety.  So, maybe ten or so years ago,  I realzied that I need a lot of diversity in my jeans.  I was always on the lookout for unusual colors/patterns/cuts even before the whole explosion of colored and patterned skinnies.  Different cuts automaticaly made the whole issue more complicated, as they required different shoes and also fairly different tops/toppers.  So now I have a couple of different formulas based on the different cuts/styles of jeans and have managed to acquire enough supporting acts that things mostly work. For a first time since I started realy thinking about clothes my shopping list for the season does not involve any new jeans!

    Another observation, about "humming along" outfits.  I find that I am perfectly happy with them as long every single item is of a great quality and modern cut, a '10', essentially.  But that is a huge challenge financially as high quality simple essentials tend to be on the pricey side.  So my rescue are inexpensive In-between, or regular items.  I find that if I invest in great quality essentials and in some statement items (like outerwear, shoes and bags); that I can add a lot of inexpensive regular items to serve as a glue.

  • Sveta replied 6 years ago

    Suz, it was a sudden light bulb moment for me actually. At first I wrote that sentence without "lifestyle" in it but then I got thinking...Angie, you and myself all have similar style preferences - but our essentials lists are not identical - because we have different lifestyles! Angie is out and about with the clients, you work from home, I work in the stands to a reason that our essentials are not all the same!

    Now about the boredom...If you saw my WIW posts you must have noticed that I vary not just outfits but silhouettes during the week: this is how I stave that boredom away without  a need to replenish a half of my wardrobe every year (well, I actually needed to do it this year but for a different reason :-) ) If I was to wear the same style of jeans and a sweater each day for all week I would be bored to death by the end of Wednesday - even if this would be a different pair of jeans and different sweater every day. I need variety in styles, not just in colors / patterns to feel happy. 

    I am going to open my wardrobe spreadsheet now and identify how many essentials vs statements I have: may be fun!

  • Michelle replied 6 years ago

    Suz, I already expounded on this a little over in Angie's thread, but I'm very much in the same boat as you, Sveta and Denise in this respect. Dressing in all essentials has little appeal for me, though I think I'd feel more than a little panicky if they were all stripped away or even if I didn't have a good handle on what they are. I had never consciously written down my personal style essentials, but found the challenge was easy to complete when Angie threw it down. :) Still, for me the ideal mix is to have one statement piece in each outfit. Sometimes it can be a subtle statement, but a statement nonetheless. That keeps me from feeling the style fatigue you eluded to in this post.

    For me the biggest challenge is repetition. Once I hit on a combo that works, I tend to stick with it. Remixing is an art I have yet to master but that I think could come in handy to help certain items transition from one category to another and keep the wardrobe feeling fresh.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts - theyy were intriguing as usual!

     Your reply

  • Mo replied 6 years ago

    I try to not over think this all, but to me the essentials are the glue that keeps everything together, allows you to wear your 'stars' and are items you don't even really have to think about styling, they just work.  My skinny jeans don't need a lot of thought or creativity to wear.  I pull them on.  Done.  ya know?  Ditto my drapey Old Navy white tee.  It just completes whatever I pair it with. I don't have to work at styling it.  Ever.  

  • bj1111 replied 6 years ago

    Tanya, I am reaching the same point you are which is purchase quality essentials that link the disparate parts of my the featherweight tneck from Jcrew which is magical, to replace the tjmaxx special which is schumply.

    My problem, as I mentioned on Una's thread, I can't seem to bring myself to purchase needed essentials like a dressy flat waterproof knee high boot (I have none and I live in the snowy middle west!!!) instead just purchasing a high heeled suede closed toe bootie (to be fair, a hewi).

    Another question, what do you prioritize--upgrading /updating essentials or purchasing hewi' that come into your life?

  • Isabel replied 6 years ago

    Suz, this is just awesome. I am going to print it and put it in my notebook of "secrets".  I write all kinds of things in there..and hope to pass it on to my daughter ( and son ).    One of my favorite thoughts is " Don't be brave, be fearless."   This mantra seem to apply for everything, even clothing.  The intersection of which you speak, is so hard for some reason. It is frightening to accept.  I don't know why.  Is it accepting your life as is that is scary ?  Is it because we are constantly aspiring ?  Is it because we are a society where "enough" is somehow not acceptable "    How quickly we veer from clothing to philosophy !  LOL 

    Our timing here at YLF always amazes me.  We are like the women in the college dorm whose menses all end up coordinated !  I say this because I had just come to the "essentials" as Sveta described it after months of thinking about it, reading about it , writing about it, packing up clothes.  In the end, I came to my Common Core ( hereby to be called my Essentials ) capsule ; which perfectly describes my capsule. 

    Thank you for this thread...everyone. 

  • Michelle replied 6 years ago

    Isabel connecting the dots between fashion and philosophy = exhibit A of why I love this group of ladies so much. :)
    But she's right. Suz actually hit on some pretty profound stuff here around acceptance. I didn't give those statements the thought they deserve at first, but I suspect I will from now on. Thank you both.
    Your reply

  • Angie replied 6 years ago

    Astute as always, Suz. 

    Suz, I suggested to you in the thread that I started that you CAN wear statement pieces when you work from home. Like today, I'm home all day. I am wearing old zippered blue skinnies (E). New plaid shirt (E), and new CM chunky shell (S). Add my apple green specs - a big Statement - and it cuts through the boredom. 

    It sounds like you need a few more casual statement pieces in your wardrobe, but they have to work for your lifestyle. 

    Your point about Acceptance is KEY, Suz. As much as I love to wear skirts and dresses - I am too cold most of the year to do so - and the footwear that I prefer to wear along with the look is not as comfy as a pair of low heeled booties. ACCEPTANCE. The same way I mentioned to Ornella that the biggest challenge about her style - is her very casual lifestyle. Unless you are prepared to be very impractical about it - it brings me back to your point - Acceptance. 

  • catgirl replied 6 years ago

    You're not alone in the struggle to accept it all? I've come to terms with my climate and ditched the surfer girl fantasies, exploiting instead the endless opportunities for boots and jackets. :). But I have yet to embrace that I am in a conservative career with a public face, not in my UWP fantasy life. Fortunately my job does have far more leeway with dressing - I could wear those new brocade Kuts on a weekend shift, for instance.

    Might you pick certain days to treat as dress-up days, when you might have to go out for a bit? I crave my casual outfits and never wear my work stuff at home, but you're in the opposite boat and maybe you need to create some false structure in your days to give you the chance to wear your statements!

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    Wow, great thoughts and observations, everyone, and thank you for chiming in. 

    Isabel, I was thinking of you when this talk of essentials came up; you've just identified your core items (some of which you always not-so-secretly knew) and now you will have the pleasure of wearing them, knowing that they are your core. I wonder if that will make it easier to add statements when you want and need to? 

    Ruth, I've been on a bit of a mission this year to replace my bleah essentials with better quality and updated ones. But you and Tanya are right -- this can get really pricey. I think this is where identifying your colour palette can help to reduce the cost (which I know you and Tanya have already done). And also maybe filtering out a COREcore set of essentials, a la Vivienne files (and as per Isabel). Even among our essentials there are some that are more essential than others! 

    And you see, we are the opposite kind of shopper. You can't bring yourself to buy the much needed high quality weatherproof boots. I can bring myself to splurge on those -- but can't bring myself to splurge on statement items.

    Can't even bring myself to recognize what they would be. I mean -- which ones would give me the most functionality and joy? I have no idea! 

    Mo, totally agree. The essentials are the things we need to make outfits work. 

    Michelle, I think you are very wise to mention the way that even a single statement item can elevate the way an outfit feels. I need to remember that. It is easy for me to follow this guideline when I go out into the world. It's harder for me to put it into practice working from home. Part of the reason, I've learned, is that my statement items are heavily in the bag and shoe and coat categories. Interesting, no? 

    Sveta, you hit the nail exactly on the head. Even if I wear a different colour every day, when I wear the same jeans and sweater silhouette day after day, I am so bored. This is part of why my winter at-home wardrobe bores me more than summer. In summer I have an easier time varying the silhouette with skirts and dresses, with BF pants, skinnies, long shorts, sarong shorts, BF shorts, flowing pants, etc. So much to choose from!! But in winter, the endless days of skinnies and boots just grate on my soul. 

    Also, I love your example. Angie, you, and I do share many style preferences. But because our lifestyles and our climates differ, our actual list of essentials won't be the same.

    Tanya, that is a really great point about "regulars" being the glue that unites the essentials and statements and perhaps upgrades or adds interest to essentials without a high cost outlay. I unconsciously adopted this idea in building my summer wardrobe, buying a lot of pieces that functioned as essentials but included unusual design details that put them slightly outside that category and made them feel a bit special. So, my high necked Zara silk front sleeveless tops are an example. In my core neutral and a core colour, they are simple, go with everything, take the place of a t-shirt for me, can be dressed up or down. So they are not statements. But their fabrication and slightly unexpected style makes them a little bit different than a background essential. 

    Una, thank you, and that is a great question. I will try to address it in another thread I think. I need to give it a bit more thought! 

  • catgirl replied 6 years ago

    One more point - I know neither of us are big on jewelry but sometimes when I'm all about the FFBO essentials outfit, a statement necklace will pick up the energy for me.  Or shoes - the oil slick oxfords or patent booties have been huge in elevating the "daily grind" looks.  Do you wear shoes in the house?

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    Angie, you are absolutely right. My number crunching has led me to the recognition that I need a few more statement items that work in my casual life. 

    I do have a few statements for my going-out-in-the-world outfits. And that is why I prefer those outfits, probably. I just don't have enough for the at-home capsule. It includes mostly essentials and regulars. 

    This has been SUPER helpful to me and will probably save me a ton of money in the long run, so thank you all! 

    Now I just have the task of identifying those items and figuring out if they will truly work. Because like you, Angie, I'm too cold to wear skirts and dresses in winter (except maybe when going out), and I won't wear heels, and at home I don't carry a bag, and I'm not big on jewellery. And so on. 

    Una, that's a good point -- I do try to do what you suggest, and consider even a trip to the bank an "outing" when I get to "dress up" in some of my statement items. It definitely helps me to plan occasions to wear my more interesting pieces. 

    Thanks, all - super, super helpful!! 

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    Una, this is a big part of my issue. MOST of my statement pieces are shoes. And I don't wear shoes in the house except on rare occasions when we are entertaining in winter. 

    I hear you on the necklace thing and might have to pay more serious attention to it. Anna was always after me to get a statement necklace and I think she was onto something. 

  • Michelle replied 6 years ago

    Suz, perhaps scarves could be a good vehicle for your at-home statement pieces? They can be very budget friendly, transition to multiple seasons, and help combat your perpetual cold. Plus, there are countless ways to experinemtn with them. Would that work, or are you just not a scarf person?
    Your reply

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    Ah, Michelle, thank you!  The scarf issue is one for a thread of its own, but for now, I will just say that in fact, in winter, scarves have been my fall-back statement item a lot of the time. To the point where I am sick of outfits involving scarves, which now feel a bit fussy for my style direction. But I can't stop wearing them because I need them for warmth (practicality) and I seem to need the statement item to make up the outfit! 

    It's not that I dislike scarves, really. It's that I resent my continual dependence on them, ha! 

    Well, we will explore that dilemma another day, I think. For now, I simply know that I need to add a few more statement items to the casual fall/ winter closet. And will need to give some serious thought to what those might be. 

  • replied 6 years ago

    I'm desperately trying to take in what's being written by you and Angie about 'E's versus 'S's (I have a case of serious brain fog... thank you menopause :P) But Una writing this: ' Might you pick certain days to treat as dress-up days, when you might have to go out for a bit? I crave my casual outfits and never wear my work stuff at home, but you're in the opposite boat and maybe you need to create some false structure in your days to give you the chance to wear your statements! '... Was just what I needed as a fellow work at home gal like you Suz. I just need to stop wearing the same pair of jeans and cardi ev-er-y si-n-gle day... And I need my brain to clear enough to analyse why I always do grab the same old stuff all the time.

  • bj1111 replied 6 years ago

    Hah! "I resent my dependence on [scarves]." Yes! That's me with essentials--they are the vegetable of the clothing world. Not the yummy snow peas, but the reviled swede.

  • Aubergine replied 6 years ago

    I've been following the essentials/statements threads and trying to figure out where my wardrobe fits in. So far, I think I've got two mini-insights:

    1. Like bj, I'm not the greatest at buying essentials. There's probably a couple of things going on here. Some essentials, like jeans and neutral coats, just aren't fun to shop for, so I'll try to fudge it with worn-out or less-than-ideal versions I already own rather than dealing with looking for a new one. Others, like neutral cardigans or pencil skirts (or flat black booties, like the ones in this thread, which I finally decided to keep), seem so easy to find that it's hard to pull the trigger on an actual item that works well enough when some magical perfect version, or one that's an amazing deal, could be around the next corner.

    Consequently, I do feel like my lack of good wardrobe essentials translates to a lack of wardrobe "glue". On the other hand, I've gotten a few updated essentials that I really like (e.g., EF black merino cardigan, Madewell cognac booties) and clearly need to keep looking for purchases along these lines.

    2. Left to my own devices, I think I gravitate to in-between "regular" pieces, not statements or essentials. I keep buying things in fairly simple, basic cuts with colors and/or patterns that make them more memorable than an essential, but not dramatic enough to be a statement. Maybe this is related to having such a dress-based wardrobe? It's hard to imagine a dress that's plain enough to be a true essential, except for something like a LBD. But, at the same time, a dress that's more statement-y feels more in-your-face than a top or pants because there's so much more of it. So that's less appealing to me than something more subtle.

  • rabbit replied 6 years ago

    I think one thing I've noticed in my own closet when I'm apportioning budget to new items, is that 'workhorses' and 'high happiness factor' pieces are where I want to spend more of my budget, regardless of whether they are statements or essentials.

    For example,  I have some essential pieces that aren't workhorses,  like a belt narrow and short enough to wear with any dress (I don't wear a dress that needs a belt that often, although I enjoy it a lot when I do).  I also have some black tops that work well with more unusual skirt shapes, or my moth-print track pants, so they are essential, but I almost never chose to wear them when I'm NOT wearing interesting bottoms.   The same with certain tights and leggings, essential (or even basic)  but because I  have a couple of different colors and textures, not workhorses.

    I also have several statement pieces that ARE workhorses, such as shoes and bags with a high wear count that work cross-seasonally.   

    When bj1111 was talking about apportioning budget to the Burberry versus the Aquatalias  what I took away from it was that one made her feel powerful or happy to wear, and the other didn't (or she didn't foresee it being energizing, just ho hum).   This is why I will splurge for a leopard coat,  but not a pair of black skinnies, because I don't yet see a fundamental difference in the look or 'happiness' of wearing high end solid black skinnies, and mid range black skinnies.   It might be different if I was wearing black skinnies a few times a week, but I'm wearing them maybe once a month.

    I am also agreeing with Tanya that simple quality essentials tend to be more pricey then they need to be to my mind.  Why is a bootie less expensive if it has a strap or chain then if it's sleek and minimalist?  I don't get it. (Don't get me started on bags and trying to buy quality with no large logo at a lower price).  They are also the kind of things that are rarely sent to thrift stores unless the owner changes sizes, and rarely end up on sale and clearance racks---which are prime hunting ground for statement pieces.

  • Elly replied 6 years ago

    I guess I have a hard time with this because I love my essentials dearly. I'm not saying that I don't love and need statements to complete things-- but I love to buy essentials. Nothing makes me happier than nice leather, well-fitting denim, layering tees, flannel shirts, and pullovers. For example, today I'm wearing a medium grey flannel shirt with jeans. I'm wearing dark purple specs and shoes. Guess what I am chuffed about? The dark medium grey flannel shirt! A high quality essential just feels so good to me-- so comfortable and so smart. My purchasing trepidation is almost always reserved for statement items--- although once in hand I do fall in love with some of those, like my purple specs, red shoes, draped crossover top, etc. I just have a much harder time shopping for them--- they don't jump out as "so me" as quickly as the essentials. 
    I think others may have already said this, but I'll highlight it again. I think the key (esp. in a situation like Suz's) rests on two points:

    1. Varying your silhouette/ having multiple uniforms so it isn't button down, skinny jeans, cardi every day-- one day is ponte pants and tunic, one day is bf jeans and a pullover, etc. I love the simplicity that fewer silhouettes lends me with shoes and tops and pants working together, but even I find that I need to switch it up 

    2. Pay a high level of attention to the details -- get fab slippers or outfit coordinating socks, wear earrings, wear a watch, pay attention to color, pattern, texture and shine-- I'm not even on team polished, but those things make a huge difference in feeling put together in casual duds, and SPECIAL too

    OR -- go very put together with home outfits but use them as a base for a collection of great jackets, purses and shoes that you layer over them when you go on outings several times a week 

  • replied 6 years ago

    Well, this was an interesting thread to ponder while eating dinner at my desk (yikes) .  I don't tend to think a lot about things like this, as I've never approached dressing as any kind of science.  But getting your money's worth out of your closet should be considered a science and needs to be paid attention to.  

    I identify most here with Sveta's comments. I have quite a variety of looks I like and wear, and I cannot imagine wearing a version of the same look  (based on essentials) over and over again throughout the week without adding some major statement piece (be it an accessory or an article of clothing) to make it mine.  This , however, doesn't mean I don't wear the same essentials day after day at home in my office or on the weekends at home....because I do.  That's a different topic to me .  Yes, it's boring, but it doesn't bug me terribly. 

    But - I would never go out for groceries, to the drugstore or bank, shopping , to a restaurant, anywhere in fact - without something to move an essentials outfit to something interesting.  I love statement pieces - and to me, they are worth the money as they make me feel dressed, pulled together, and different looking from everyone else out there.  I don't want to look the same as everyone else, and I truly like striking , sometimes weird or dramatic things that set my black leggings and sweater outfit apart from the crowd.  Does this sound obnoxious?  I don't mean it to sound that way.

    I always have one or two statement pieces in every clothing and accessory category, and have to reign in that impulse to have more.  My skull cashmere sweater, plaid bracelet sleeve coat,  orange gloves, leather leggings, safety pin earrings, skull print McQueen scarf (shameless lover of designer accessories) , Prada bag, crystal bib necklaces,  etc - I never leave home without something like that on.  But the downside to loving statement pieces is ignoring keeping up with current essentials. I am not particularly in love with plain basics and tend to accumulate just a bunch of the same things over and over again. But this fall , for instance , I found myself with a whole drawerful of sweaters that aren't fluid and roomy enough now to look current, and replacing them is stressing me out.  Anyways - sorry to hog space here - I am particularly long winded today.  

    I guess the question is:  what is the "right" breakdown between statement and essential???

  • replied 6 years ago

    Suz, I had another thought too that I wanted to share...

    I've always admired women, like you, who are able to wear essentials based looks with  a very defined style. To me, it speaks of quiet confidence and is classy and beautiful - like you!  I have never had the confidence in my appearance to wear "plainer" or essentials-based looks, feeling I needed to work harder than many to make myself look better or acceptable.  

  • Adelfa replied 6 years ago

    I love dressing in all essentials. I just met some old friends for a walking tour of downtown LA wearing jeans, gray Cons, and a charcoal tee. (I did a training yesterday in essentially the same outfit but the charcoal tee was silk front--the training involved self defense hence the casual attire).

    I feel intensely happy dressed this way. I think I add a statement with jewelry, most of which is delicate, but I layer it. Gold is my favorite lately even with gray tees. My one big item is a blue agate ring that belonged to my dad--love it with jeans.

    Of course I don't get to dress super casually that often, so I'm happy to own four gray tees! I did get really bored with wearing black pants to work so hat was my example of overdoing an essential item!

    As for acceptance, I had to quit buying lovely statement bags because I never carried them. They are in my desk drawer all day.

    Beads--Rose Cafe
    Decoupage--Modesto Flea Market
    Cuff--Nicole Ritchie
    Ring--Ellensburg Blue from Ellensburg, WA

  • UmmLila replied 6 years ago

    The whole essentials / statement thing is easy enough for me to parse, because if it's grey, black or dark blue, I probably have it in multiple items and it is an essential! I am not sure what to call things that I go overboard on due to their essential nature but I'm envisioning that expanding grey sweater shelf in my closet as I type. Maybe they are wardrobe hamster nests ... Things you need a lot of around to feel comfortable. There are some people for whom that might be black leather (looking at someone who might be able to see Russia from her house) but for me the nest item is grey knits.

    Suz, as another work from home, statement shoe lover, I feel your pain. I need some studded, glamorous, pointy toe, metallic grey leather, shearling lined cosy slippers to walk into my life and glam up the impending winter cardigan world.

  • Isabel replied 6 years ago

    Michelle, that is why I love this place too.  Nothing here is ever superficial.  : )  There is almost a spirituality and openness here in the way the women are introspective and not afraid to examine who they are.  I love that and it helps me feel safe in doing the same.  It is so incredible to share a scary journey of introspection with a group of women who fully understand that vulnerability. Aaaaahhhhhh......

    Suz, yes, it totally makes my wardrobe work.  It is very interesting to me that you noticed that these were things that I have actually known for a while.  Yet somehow it was such a convoluted road to finally say, " Yes, I LOVE this, it works and I am really ok with it.  "   I have always loved scarves and jewelry since I was a child.  So my essential core capsule is just great for that.  It doesn't compete with my statements.  I think that part of the issue for me was two fold :  I really kind got lost once I became a stay at home, then again after my artery burst and was followed a year later with the cancer diagnosis.  I never realized how much it affect me until this summer.  It was almost as if I had no energy to actually be me and then I forgot who I was.  How funny that going back to what I love in clothes somehow represents getting my life back.  I am not my clothes....but somehow I am.   My essentials give me peace of mind that no matter what happens, I will be dressed for it.  And not uncomfortable or paranoid that it is just maybe not working. 

  • Caro in Oz replied 6 years ago

    Such a fascinating thread & will re-read all the comments to make sure they sink in :) Your comments about acceptance are spot on imo.

    I've come at this from the opposite direction Suz - I had statement pieces in abundance but I couldn't find the right essentials that would turn them into outfits. I've also found that I'm not happy in an outfit of all essentials so I don't need that many of them. For everyday,  I only have x 3 pairs of jeans - white, blue & grey but I have about 15 non-essential toppers that give me the variety I need. I also have statement pants - silk track pants & x 2 harem pants which I find way more useful than so-called essentials like plain black pants. 

  • Isabel replied 6 years ago

    Oh, I forgot to say that I don't bore easily. I have no idea why. I have always been that way. I just don't get bored. But maybe I became afraid being boring to others. But thankfully no one has ever said, " your grey cashmere v neck sweater bores me ! ". ; ). I recently read that 80 % of sartorial activity should tweaking and refining and 20 % should be experimenting. I have come to realize that 20 is too much for me.

  • shevia replied 6 years ago

    Suz I so love threads like these - please muse your pretty little head off ;-)! Ok, I will reread when I am fully caffeinated later, but the idea that our essentials must incorporate both our tastes, our physical selves and our lifestyles strikes me as the very heart of what personal style is about.

    So if I may use shoes as an example, my lifestyle requires comfortable shoes as I walk a lot, and my feet are most comfortable in flats. Within those constraints, I right now prefer pointy toed flats for my essential shoe (the ones that are my default choice that go with most everything), because the look of the pointy shoe is most pleasing to me on me (a pleasure that is informed but not determined by what is current). Hope that makes sense! Anyway, I'll be back to this thread! 

  • Beth Ann replied 6 years ago

    I so hear you, and your struggle with boredom reminds me that it's not only extroverted, performing creatives that run into this -- it will reach all of us at some point, but creatives -- living on a stream of free flowing thoughts and ideas -- probably feel the numbness of boredom more quickly than most.

    Thanks for link to Amid Privilege's post.  Ironic, isn't it, that I would also feel like I'm "humming along," when I really want to SING?  I've definitely noticed this school year that I get more positive feedback when I dress as a modern classic -- bold and polished, and a bit conservative.  I'm not sure yet how I feel about this.  Like you, I'm so pleased that my wardrobe "works" far better than it ever has.  Most of the essentials are covered, yet they lack that extra something:  a beautiful fabrication, impeccable tailoring.  They're just OK.  I have a sinking feeling that, without a model's body or budget, I might get stuck at "good."

    So many good thoughts here.....I'll be pondering.  For right now, I do feel like I've done well with my loungewear/gear updates.  I've made it a goal to be more active, and that's causing me to deliberately stay in clothes that can run through a sun salutation, a short walk, or a few planks, push ups and v-sits.  This past year I stopped demoting worn clothes to loungewear, and purchased some flattering track and yoga pants and simple knit tops in more modern fits and colors that make me look as good as possible without makeup.  I'm surprised how fab I feel when I slip on my cheetah print slippers!

  • CocoLion replied 6 years ago

    Thanks for continuing the conversation Suz.  And I am flattered that my thoughts sparked more thoughts.

    When I think of your outfits, I think it is your use of color, cut and footwear that add the statement factor.  You are not afraid to add striking colors.  You are not shy about modern silhouettes, and you also have interesting footwear.  Your Zara brogues are an example of a statement piece, while keeping true to your love of classic style.

    My challenge will be to add more statement pizazz to my work outfits, I am again feeling more interested in this because we're slowing down so I have time to care.  When I'm running ragged 6 days a week, long hours, a FFBU-niform works.

    I used to have more smart casual dressing opportunities here in my small town without going to the city.  But my lifestyle is changing, and I do not have as many of these as I used to.  But things might change come November due to a schedule change.  It's made me realize that I miss having more frequent, or at least weekly, excuses to look nice or at least, wear high heels.

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    Thanks for weighing in here! Such good thoughts to ponder and you are all helping a lot. 

    Denise, you are right -- currently my use of colour, cut, and footwear is pretty much what adds any statement -- but it's not completely working for me. And the dependence on footwear is partly why, since I don't wear shoes in the house apart from WIW photos, LOL. Beth Ann may have a solution -- cheetah print slippers!! 

    Beth Ann, I am sure you look a heck of a lot better than you give yourself credit for. Let's see some of those supposedly "okay"  outfits!! I am certain you are going to get to POW fantastic, because we are going to do it together. :) 

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    Diane — yes, I think Una’s on to something. I don’t actually reach for the same old thing every day, but I do reach for the same formula. 

    I hear you, BJ1111! Scarves are definitely my reviled swede even if they make a statement. 

    Aubergine, what you say makes a ton of sense. Most dresses probably do fall into the “regular” category. When I did my closet analysis, almost all my dresses were regulars. I tend to pick a lot of regular items also, left to my own devices. And when I am picking them, I may even see them as “statements.” Because my nature is not to state anything too loudly, know what I mean? 

    rabbit, I love what you add about workhorses — some being statements and some being essentials. I absolutely have items like that, too. A couple of tops that I almost never wear but that are required to make outfits work. A scenic print tee that makes a big statement yet functions so well it mixes in and becomes a workhorse. 

    Your thoughts about items that make us feel powerful and wonderful are also illuminating. Yet (so far) my splurges have still been essentials or at most regulars. It could be that my closet was so barren I really could not justify less practical purchases. But honestly, I imagined those beautiful chelsea boots giving me that feeling more than any heels would — and they do! Because I wear them more often. In the end, this might come down to temperament, background, etc. It's really, really hard for me to let go of a practical, frugal upbringing and the idea that splurging on "fancy" and "useless" items of clothing is bad. I can internally justify the splurge on something I'll wear a lot (like jeans) -- because, opposite to what you say, I have experienced how much better they fit, look, and make me feel. But I have trouble shelling out for items I won't wear often. 

    Oddly enough, the few times in my life that I have done it, I have not regretted it in the least and loved and babied those barely worn beauties! 

    As for simplicity and cost, don’t even get me started — I could not agree more. 

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    Elly, I love my essentails, too. I just don’t love a closet of them and nothing else. I completely agree about varied silhouettes though, and have identified that this is why winter dressing feels harder for me (in addition to the length of the season). It’s much harder to vary the silhouette. 

    Really good idea bout paying attention to the details and maybe elevating essentials to regulars. 

    I do what you suggest re jackets, coats, ets — but this still leaves me bored while I am at home, LOL. 

    Lisa, I need more of your “statements.”  I should come visit your closet just to make sure I recognize what one is. it’s hard for me to see them, let alone buy them. Honestly — my eyes just veer past any luxury super high end dramatic pieces. It’s like I don’t deserve them. Thank you for those sweet compliments, though. I am not sure that it’s quiet confidence guiding my choices — it might be dogged practicality! 

    Adelfa — it sounds as if you have found wardrobe nirvana! I loved the view of your room, too! 
    I am thinking of your summer outfits, though — and how many of them shone especially bright because of those Okalas — statement shoes. 

    Ummlila, I will be out there with you on the slipper hunt, wearing one of my (many) grey sweaters, LOL! 

    Caro, thanks for that proportion breakdown. It is really helpful. I think one problem I have is that a lot of my toppers (and even tops) are essentials. 

    Isabel, it’s no wonder you felt lost for a while. You have undergone so much in the last few years! Wow. It’s wonderful to hear that things are better and your wardrobe has led the way! As for not boring easily — as long as I am learning, I don’t, either. But when I stop learning (and start repeating a lot) — ugh. 

    Shevia, yes — it is interesting to think about the question within each category. Good point. 

  • Elizabeth P replied 6 years ago

    Well, I've been reading these threads with great interest, and have been trying to process them and figure out how it applies to me and my own wardrobe and style struggles.  I've had an excrutiatingly busy couple of days, so haven't had any chance to write anything... just sneaking reads in on my phone :).

    Now the big question is WHICH thread to actually write on!

    While I was having children, and for 5-6 years afterwards, I think I wore mainly essentials.  With some statement footwear and jewellery thrown in.  It was easy, and I looked perfectly presentable.  Then I got bored, and started purchasing things that fit, were different for me, but weren't necessarily GOOD for me.  Then I went through the DYT process and discovered what WAS good for me, which was a total eye opener.  Many of my clothes were intuitively right, but many were wrong, esp the new ones :(.

    So then I went on a shopping spree, which has lasted pretty much two years now.  I have more confidence in what looks good, am well stocked (and bored) with essentials, so as a result I think I have been buying a lot of statement pieces.  So this totally explains why, when I get dresed in the morning, I still stand in front of my closet and feel "I have nothing to wear!!". 

    When I read Angies's thread about keeping essentials current, at first I thought "yes!  that's it" then I was filled with dread, as I realized just how MANY of my essential probably need replacing.  Like Sveta and others, I also like to vary my silouette, so this is compounded.  But I also have "too much stuff", so perfaps employing this way of thinking will help me really hone in on what essentials are most important, and do some selective upgrading of them. 

    It's all such a process, isn't it.  thanks Angie, Suz and many many others for sharing your thoughts etc to keep the lightbulbs popping!

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    Elizabeth, I think that's where systems like the Vivienne files' "core of four" can be helpful. You've already honed your colour palette pretty well. So then it is a question of identifying four key pieces in your core neutrals. Those are the truly essential essentials, if you know what I mean! 

    I don't really follow her system and wouldn't choose the same kinds of pieces as "core." But I do probably unconsciously cleave to something similar. My core neutrals are navy or ink, taupe, grey, and winter white. 

  • Sadie replied 6 years ago

    To me essentials are safe (I even believe that you can wear the same essential LBD to a number of functions because no one comments on it or remembers it). I have very few statement pieces because to me they require me to put myself out there: if no one comments on it, I feel like it may have been a wardrobe fail. I am pretty introverted (note how little I comment on threads) and statement pieces often end up being too bold for me.

  • Karie replied 6 years ago

    Suz, what a wonderful thread! I've been reading this while drinking my morning coffee. First things first, though, and dear girlfriend, you are NOT dull as dust! Interesting, fascinating, wonderful with words, a fashion rock star - yes! That is you.

    I don't see your essentials as boring, I see them as stunning. An outfit of well made, great fitting essentials to me adds up to a gorgeous statement. Do you/can you have statement pieces within your essentials? For example, I consider my blazers to be essential, but my Boston BCBG blazer is a statement. I also see some of your "essentials" working as statements simply by way of their color, cut and design.

    I too get bored easily, but I enjoy having many essential pieces because it makes it so easy to get dressed in the morning, and getting out the door early is a priority for me. I find that when I plan my outfits in advance (I try to take the time on the weekend to plan for the upcoming week), I purposefully look through my closet to find and add a statement piece/something interesting to my outfit. I'll add it by way of a fun color or pattern, a piece of jewelry, a belt, a scarf, or shoes (I like the suggestion of fun slippers!).

    Acceptance really is key. In my fantasy life I would dress like Carrie Bradshaw - at times girly girl, at times funky, but always in haute couture! And hey wait a sec, re that, you said "It's like I don't deserve them." WOW that hit home with me. I often feel the same way. But then Angie and the Boston Experience pops into my head. If there's one thing I learned in Boston, it's that Angie would look you straight in the eyes and reply with something like, "What do you mean you don't deserve this? You are a wonderful person and you deserve all things wonderful." 

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    Awww, Karen -- we need to get together again in person very soon! :)  (By the way, how is that foot of yours??? And how is the learning curve? I want to see your latest outfits!) 

    I also think that you might have hit on something with the planning. Maybe I'm not planning quite enough. I usually like my travel outfits better and they are more carefully planned. Mind you, they also include more statement items. 

    Sadie, you are so right -- clothes can help us fade into the background or stand out. 

  • Sadie replied 6 years ago

    Suz- I hear you on the travel outfits. Not only are they more carefully planned, but most of those outfits are in the "revving up" category. Une Femme had a post dedicated to dressing like a "stylish traveller" (rather than trying hopelessly to blend in with locals). So unless it's a sports activity like hiking, most of my travel outfits are stepped up notch.

  • shevia replied 6 years ago

    Ok I have read this thread again. I think you can be a very interesting dresser if you wear only essentials but maybe that comes more easily when you are wearing very, very well made and well fitting essentials. The idea of strict dressing, which was once discussed here comes to mind. On the other hand, quality essentials can also allow more leeway for flash in the pan statement pieces that may be bought to ride a trend without the expectation they will be worn often or over a long period. I am still working this out in my mind, but, with some exceptions, I do think our overall style is defined more by our essentials than our statements. 
    Which is not to say I don't think you should wear some statement pieces while working at home - I am completely in favor of that!

  • krishnidoux replied 6 years ago

    Suz, I so identifies with what you wrote here. I enjoyed reading Privilege's break down of degrees of casual. It is an interesting question you pose. How to dress simply, without fuss, stylishly, and without becoming bored? And without breaking the bank, as Tanya cleverly brings up?

    To me "essentials" are pieces that would remain if I had to plan an emergency travel capsule. Pieces that will facilitate - or allows - outfit building, within my own personal style. Pieces that work in color and shape with many other garments and footwear. Pieces I currently enjoy wearing either because of comfort or fun factor. 

    I love Angie's comment on acceptance, because it's so true, and also difficult to do. And Rabbit is so right in pointing out that "essentials" do not necessarily correspond to "wear". 

    Some of my essentials come from high end stores, others from Costco! 

    I think like Angie that our essentials need getting some attention and TLC. Essential can be exciting to wear if they are varied enough, and if their shape and color respond to these principles: comfortable, practical and reflecting one's personal style

  • replied 6 years ago

    Suz - just to clarify something:  in no way does a statement piece need to be a "super high end luxury " item - and that's not what I mean :)   Those examples I listed include things from all price ranges.    I can't afford a wardrobe of luxury goods either - but will buy the occasional - very occasional - luxury accessory as a statement piece. They have always paid for themselves in terms of CPW.   

  • JulieJohn replied 6 years ago

    Just a short chime in to say this thread has been a delight, and thanks to Una's musings in particular, I am on the road to acceptance that I might be a "Surfer Girl". Very happy about that.

  • Neel replied 6 years ago

    I need to come back to this thread Suz! But I already have a lot of AHA moments reading the first few posts!

  • Greyscale replied 6 years ago

    Really great thread. The side comments about travel capsules got me thinking. Next time I go on a long-ish trip I will try to be really focused on essentials (albeit my most chic essentials that make me feel most me) and leave behind all but a few statement pieces. My last trip had too many statements and not enough mix-and-match options.

  • Elly replied 6 years ago

    Hmmm---- Suz, I think this is a challenge because you know which shillouttes and colors and styles you like, but that it isn't working for you at home. What makes a good backdrop for someone with a modern classic style isn't cutting it at home without the "aww-factor" pieces (and maybe without some of the structure belts, bags, shoes, and jackets provide). Have you considered exploring more indoor jackets in comfy fabrics? I never wore jackets indoors until I worked this job where I'm always cold, and with the right jackets and a little trial and error I've found them comfy to work in---- a nice thick knit moto in a sleek style might layer over button downs the same way a cardi would and a coated or stretchy denim jacket might be almost as comfy over a pullover.  Have you revisited track pants? There are now so many other fabrications available that it would give you another bottom silhouette to mix with skinnies, BFs, and ponte pants/leggings. I could see you in ponte leggings and a cocoon shaped turtleneck dress/tunic at home. Maybe this is where you need to bring in your "arty" side with some really artfully draped cardigans or pullovers. They don't have to be "crafty". Maybe you need another pair of statement specs or another statement watch to switch up. I am not a big jewelry wearer, but stud earrings and something on my wrist always makes me feel put together at home. Weirdly a really beautiful mug to keep my beverage in has a similar effect.

     If I worked from home I would have several pairs of fab slippers and would wear a lot of textures and patterns --- I' could see you definitely mixing your merino, percale and denim with oxford cloth, bouclé, washed silk, fluffy sweaters (alpaca or poly nylon), coated fabrics, flannel, subtle mini-print blouses, graphic tops, and printed pants. I could really see you in statement belts.

  • texstyle replied 6 years ago

    I've been reading this thread with interest too since I also work at home and live such a casual lifestyle. Sometimes I wonder if I'm just being ridiculous for wanting to be more "fashionable." But I enjoy it so, I just can't help but  be interested in it.

    I really like what Shevia said:
    I think you can be a very interesting dresser if you wear only
    essentials but maybe that comes more easily when you are wearing very,
    very well made and well fitting essentials. ........................... I do think our overall style is
    defined more by our essentials than our statements.

    The woman who *always* wears distressed jeans. The one who always wears black. The one who always wears dresses. The one who always wears scarves. Etc. (*always* meaning most of the time you see them).

    Unless you have a really big style personality and wear extravagant statement pieces, I wonder if some of our statement pieces are sort of missed by others?

    I must certainly be the tee shirts and jeans/shorts girl - or maybe even more the "nature" girl. I guess I could add button downs to that. So maybe like Tanya, I guess ideally I'd like to have an Essential wardrobe of all perfect 10's - tees, button downs and jeans/shorts for me in various styles, colors and fabric weight. I have been working towards that goal. I think I *want* to be able to just grab something that is really comfortable and comforting to me to put on AND look great in it.

    Some of my belts are statement pieces (to me) but not sure if they are even noticed by others. And my bracelets might be a statement, but again, not sure how many others really notice. In fact, my statements are so subtle I'm not sure if they even count in the fashion world. My hair is a statement.

    My white UGG slip ons felt like a small statement piece at first (I hadn't worn white shoes in a very long time) - but now I've worn them so much (even bought a backup pair) that they have become essentials.

  • replied 6 years ago

    Suz, don't think I didn't reply to this thread because I didn't see it. I read it and thought about it so much on Sunday that I couldn't figure out a way to clarify my thoughts and get them down. Today I'm starting over, and first I will reply directly to your post, before I get lost down the wonderful rabbit trails that are the comments. 

    First of all, I always think you look great, but I understand that you need all kinds of outlets for your creativity. I wonder what is up with your at-home style? At least you can wear wider legged pants and jeans when you're not going out in the snow. Maybe you need to add in another silhouette or two. Nothing wrong with that (or a cranberry streak in your hair like Angie suggested). Maybe creating a few opportunities to work from a cafe each week would spice things up a bit for you. Like you, I'm not inclined to wear purely decorative accessories around the house, especially if they feel distracting or like they will interfere with my work or movement. But I can see how an essential top plus jeans plus belt (no shoes or jacket) can feel like the same old thing, day after day. I'll be staying tuned to see how you work out this dilemma. 

    For me, I'm wondering if I should have any essentials at all? With only 10 items of stand-alone clothing and a small footwear capsule, perhaps I should stop duplicating altogether, even if the colors are different. At present, I'm really wishing that I had another jeans cut besides skinny and another shoe style besides a ballet flat. 

    Okay, now I'm going to read back through the comments and see if I have anything to add. This was (is!) such a good thread!

  • replied 6 years ago

    Okay, now to type the novel I have jotted down on post-it notes, lol!

    How about an ear cuff?! Could you tolerate one of those?

    There is something about a high quality essential that shines a little more brightly to me than one done up in moderate quality. If we could afford to dress in head-to-toe, impeccable, luxurious, high quality essentials, would that be a striking look, or a plain one? Or would it be "strict" as Shevia mentions? 
    The main character in a movie is often presented like this, and I am always mesmerized by it. Or am I mesmerized her portrayal of the character? Or by her celebrity-grade facial beauty? Perhaps the plainer we are the more interest our outfits require (not talking about you here, dear Suz!). 

    Google does not know what a "reviled swede" is, nor do I, but by the context I assume it would mean hated but useful? My denim skirt (freshly rescued again from the donate pile and worn for the last two days straight) would definitely fall into that category. ;)

    I could really identify with your statement:
    It's really, really hard for me to let go of a practical, frugal upbringing and the idea that splurging on "fancy" and "useless" items of clothing is bad.

    I would add to that (for me) purely decorative accessories. It's not just a frugal upbringing I'm dealing with, but a frugal and unfancy lifestyle. My practical streak is a necessity, and probably always will be, and that's okay. I do want to add some modern elements in, but I can't afford to be completely frivolous about it.
    For now, my boring at-home wear (yoga pants and a fleece jacket in Winter) provides a stark back drop against which my (slightly more) exciting street clothes can shine. Maybe that's why I don't get bored of my small wardrobe, because I have that contrast? Or maybe I just don't bore as easily.

    I do tire of things, but I think that's different from boredom. If an item suddenly stops working for my style (because my inherent look is changing) or it begins to look cheap or shabby (maybe I'm just wearing it out?), then I find myself tiring of it--quickly sometimes. This is probably less from boredom and more "it was never right in the first place". Tough to own up to, but often the case for me. 

    If something is beautiful, well-made of good quality fabric, is in a flattering cut and color and suits my style, I'm not likely to get bored of it, no matter how much I wear it.

    Okay, the sun is going down and it's finally cool enough to walk. Thanks for letting me get all this off my chest!

  • bj1111 replied 6 years ago

    Claire, a swede is a rutabaga.  not a yummy veg for me.  similarly, shopping/wearing essentials are about as exciting as a rutabaga.

  • replied 6 years ago

    BJ: Hahahaha! So glad we weren't dissing a people of a certain nationality! Whew. 

    ETA: Try mashing them in with your potatoes. Rutabagas are delicious that way. Copious amounts of roasted garlic don't hurt either. :)

  • Isabel replied 6 years ago

    WOW,  Claire  , ".....a frugal and unfancy lifestyle" .   How true that is.  That phrase hit me like a rutabaga in the forehead.  That is so true for me. As life becomes more "casualized"  ( is that a word ? ), there are fewer opportunities to dress a certain way.  I also think that we are in such a rush all the time that it makes it difficult.   For example :  cleaning, cooking, change to get son at school,  go to drum lessons, swing by Target or grocery store or pharmacy, come home, finish dinner, clean up, do homework.    It would be nice to dress a little better to go to the store but sometimes there is no time.  With that said, I feel really good in my straight leg jeans and a cashmere and some sort of topper.  It seems to take me anywhere that I need to go without looking "too-too" , as we say here in the NE but I still feel presentable.   The added dimension for me is the frugality.  I don't want an extravagant lifestyle. I don't want to shop all the time or do loads and loads of laundry.  I want as much discretionary money as possible to go to my kids' college funds.  I don't want to be careless with the environment.  ( Those are my values, I am not expecting them of anyone else ) .   I am going to put that phrase on my mirror to remind me everyday that is my life !      And I like it.   :  ) 

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    Laughing with you here. I actually love rutabaga!! And (high quality) essentials. So I probably should have altered the analogy a bit. 

    For me, scarves are the....hmmm....I'm not sure. They're essential....but also a statement. A statement I don't really want to make! Ugh. I was going to say "cabbage" (they are all layered like that, too) -- but I actually like cabbage. Then again, I only like it if I don't have to eat it too often, which does correspond to my feeling about scarves exactly! 

    Claire, thank you so much for adding your thoughts here. I am with you on the purely decorative accessories, too. Maybe that is why I've never really been a jewellery girl, and haven't really been a bag lady, either, although I seem to be changing on that score, probably because bags can be useful if you pick well. 

    I'm starting to wonder if "boredom" is even the right word for what I feel with my at home winter wear. Whatever it is, I don't feel it at all in summer. I was more than happy with my summer closet. I'm trying now to work out why. 

    Texstyle, you are saying something very interesting here. I think it is along the lines of a "signature" style. And I do feel, on some deep level, that if we work out our signature style, we may not feel bored by wearing it (in slight variations) -- sort of like Emmanuel Alt. I have this intuition that it would be true for me, anyway. But that style would need to combine the right elements -- the right balance of essentials (nice quality, I hope) and statements. And I still haven't found that yet. 

    I do think -- as you and Claire and Ingunn do -- that for some of us "statements" can be quiet. What counts as a "statement" in one style would barely even register in another. Say, your bracelets, or my belts. 

    Thanks again, everyone, for your thoughts. I'll start a new thread soon about casual statements. 

  • rabbit replied 6 years ago

    Is there an equivalent to 'speak your truth?  Something like 'wear your truth'?  That's what I get from what both Suz and Claire have written about the role of classic essentials for them.   There is an integrity in the styles they are drawn to that works with both their lifestyle, values (in the way the term is used in this thread), and aesthetic preferences.   I respect that.   In my field there is a tradition of hand-thrown pottery -- tea bowls and the like, that place very high value on traditional, simple, minimalist craftsmanship and aesthetics and the process of making and using.   I respect that tradition.

    While I also live a frugal and unfancy lifestyle (I bought my first purse to hold my coupon binder), and don't want to expand in number of items, or in overall budget past certain parameters, tea bowls aren't my thing, contemporary sculptures are.    I want to get as playful, as varied, as experimental (mostly within my zone of comfort), as possible.   I want to brainstorm, I want to test, I want to sketch and finger-paint with clothes.  I don't want to wear the same outfit again if there is an opportunity to discover something new with what I have in my closet instead.   This might change and settle over time, although if I look at my life history with how I acquire and integrate new clothing, I've always done this.

    The ironic flipside of the economics of clothes at retail and second-hand right now might be that it's probably easier in some ways to dress in statements spending less, then to afford the highest quality essentials, unless one is really committed to minimalism in number of items.   That's okay, I don't want to be Emmanuelle Alt, she's already doing her, I'll do me instead. :)

    ETA:  I have another collection of thoughts swimming around in my head, maybe material for a different thread, but I'm thinking about low-brow fashion - street fashion, thrift/normcore, and the low-brow art movement.  There is a conflicted part of me that questions aspirational fashion and the whole idea of trying to look like my clothing is classy or expensive or impeccable -- which isn't exactly who I am.

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    Ah, rabbit! I think my problem is that I want to do both!! I want the simple, minimal, strict -- and the playful! 

    Argh!!!!  :) 

  • unfrumped replied 6 years ago

    Suz-- you need a poncho - thingy. In whatever iteration is most you.
    -- it's a statement
    -- it works with lots of essentials- requires them, even
    -- is comfortable enough for at- home, and for indoors winter, adjusting the underlayers for how warm you run and how warm is the poncho item, how open , neckline, etc
    -- the right one could transition out of home, ? Under a puffer? Or could just be an at- home statement.

  • replied 6 years ago

    I'm re-reading this from the bottom-up, because I chipped in on this one earlier but because it's so interesting, I like to see what everyone has to say here.  Throwing rutabagas at your forehead aside (and, for the record, I HATE turnips and rutabagas) , Isabel, you articulate so  well what I feel too. If I have a fantastic cashmere sweater , jeans (who cares what label ) and loafers on, I feel like I can take over the world running my errands - even if the world is Target.

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    Well, I have to admit, Isabel and Lisa, that wearing my cashmere tee the other day felt like heaven. And I was all ready to rush out and duplicate it. :) So maybe the secret is a luxury uniform. With weekend poncho! (Thanks, unfrumped).

     Actually, ponchos are really hard. The length can be tricky for my proportions, for one thing. And for another, most are made out of fabrics that are meant for outdoor wear -- so too heavy indoors in my climate, but not at all warm enough outdoors. But maybe a cashmere wrap thing like Ingunn has -- similar idea. 

  • replied 6 years ago

    oh, oh, more from me - but now I will wait to add in as I read above:

    1. I have a couple of ear cuffs now too - wow, how radical!  only wear them when going out :)
    2. you know I have a work-at-home job too the difference being that I can choose to head out and visit stores and call on accounts anytime I like , so I can decide in the morning that I'm getting totally dressed up , and then I see where the day takes me. Oddly, when I am already fully dressed and made up and ready to roll early in the morning, I'm more likely to find reasons to get out and do things:  even if it's heading to Starbucks to get a coffee, or do some quick grocery shopping, or drop in on a new account/ store I haven't visited before. And then..... I end up staying dressed, even when I return to my office, and find I feel a ton more professional that way , even if no-one can see me. I know your role doesn't require getting out and seeing people, but though I'd share what I found works for me.  Today in fact, I put together an outfit based on some YLF ideas (ink blue and black, leather bomber, semi tucked top, slouchy track pants ) and ended up feeling so good I stayed out calling on customers all day and finding things to accomplish on my personal errand list while I was at it.

    However, it's entirely possible I've missed the whole point of this post :)  

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    You have most certainly not missed the point, Lisa. Ear cuffs, it is! :) 

    In all seriousness, I do get dressed every day (except sick days). But I don't wear my jackets, shoes, etc. in the house, mostly for reasons of comfort and some to protect them. (If I'm doing stuff in the kitchen I don't really want to be wearing my leather jacket). And since jackets, bags, and footwear, and coats tend to be my statement items, the outfits without them end up feeling dull to me -- but only in winter! In other words, after some years of flailing with my summer style, I finally found out how to build in enough statement items for me within the context of a simple uniform of tops & bottoms (since in summer I can't really rely on toppers, though I do have sandals to play with). I just haven't achieved it with the winter wear yet. 

    And I'm in the process of trying to figure out why. I have a couple of ideas about it. 

  • replied 6 years ago

    I get it, and agree. I'm not clomping around the house in my shoes and boots either, nor do I wear the jacket or topper piece. But anyways, that's not the point. Yes, the fact is, our winters are long, we are housebound a lot, and outfits are more difficult to make look fab without a bunch of pieces that are ridiculous when worn inside our home offices.  The cycle of life:)    I await your casual statement essay with eagerness!

  • replied 6 years ago

    I really need to stop reading from the bottom up. Luxury uniform!  Yes!! This is me - totally. Why are two words so difficult to put together meaningfully sometimes?  Ok - I'm headed to bed and promise to stop with my nonsense. But this is what I aspire to: a luxury uniform, be it casual , or professional.  One of my favourite bloggers:  Preston Davis from Keep it Chic addressed this daily. 

  • Gaylene replied 6 years ago

    Maybe it's time to accelerate the winter uniform? After all, isn't that what you did to increase your happiness with your summer blahs a few years back? If color blocking, shape, and texture eliminated your blahs with your summer uniform, why not try it with your winter uniform?

    Lisa's suggestions for accelerators are a good jumping off point:
    Comfortable but well-designed accessories
    More adventurous color mixing
    More embellishment to shape
    More visually layered fabrics
    A tad more texture and spark to those flats

    Another thought. It struck me that, as I was drastically downsizing my wardrobe these last few months, I was also being forced out of my uniform comfort zone when I had to make choices as to what would stay and what would go. If I limited myself to six winter bottoms, did I want three of them to be jeans? Or could a pair of wool trackpants sub for those boyfriend jeans? And how about a pair of leather-trimmed ponte pants for my skinnies? It wasn't until I started culling that I realized my jeans and sweater uniform was partially the result of my essentially just buying the same items over and over, instead of branching out. A pair of patterned jeans and a textured sweater, although new and much loved, was still essentially the same uniform as what was already in my closet.

    Calling the items in a uniform "essentials" can muddy the waters if you are feeling bored with the uniform itself, especially if your "statements" are just different colors or embellished versions of the same thing. A few months ago, I'd have laughed at the notion that my tailored grey wool trackpants could be an "essential", but they work in that role every bit as well as my boyfriend jeans ever did. Call them what you will, those sweatpants have single handily re-energized my winter at-home wardrobe.

  • shevia replied 6 years ago

    This thread keeps getting more interesting. I look forward to your follow up Suz!

  • rabbit replied 6 years ago

    Suz, I think you are probably honing in on what might work for you, by making the comparison to summer wear.   With summer wear is it that the base layers include some statements? The top and shorts or whatever?  

    With the frugal/practical question, does it help if you recognize that certain statement pieces can also be workhorses, and just as comfortable and affordable as their essential counterparts?

    Lisap - I'm like you in that I find new ways to take on the world with confidence and extend my venture out when I'm dressed in a way that makes me happy.  Like Laura mentioned, this unfortunately can lead to me avoiding my primary work, which is necessarily based at home and needs clothes that will get dirty within ten minutes.  

    cross-posted with Gaylene, I'm nodding my head at her insights.

  • Aida replied 6 years ago

    A fascinating and insightful discussion! I thoroughly enjoyed reading everyone's thoughts.

    So one thought I had for you regarding silhouette (which I also need big changes day-to-day to keep from feeling bored), since you have to wear skinnies+tall boots for so long: get skinnies in varying fabrications. Denim, wool, ponte, coated, boucle, leather, tweed, corduroy... Even if the silhouette has to stay constant, at least with varying textures you have a very different feel from outfit to outfit. And of course, make the most of any opportunity to wear other tapered pants with booties! I basically force myself to wear my floor-sweeping hems any day that it's dry enough, because who knows when the next opportunity will come again!

    And then this is a little mini ramble that I thought might be useful. One thing that made a big difference to me regarding shoes, was realizing that I am not a statement shoe person. Which was a tricky thing to discover! I love shoes, and am no shoe minimalist (I have a lot of shoes), so early early on when I was trying to sort through my style preferences pre-YLF I had determined that being a "shoe person" was one of the few things I could say about myself with certainty. I bought several "fun" shoes, things in colors and in prints. And then found I rarely reached for them, and didn't really enjoy wearing them as the statement in simpler (or even more complex) outfits. It took me a good long while to realize and accept this though; how can I possibly be a shoe person and not like statement shoes?? So I got rid of nearly all of my statement type shoes and worked on figuring out what interesting but rather basic footwear I liked. Really cleared things up for me! I do still have a few pairs of more statementy shoes (e.g. cheetah wedge booties), but they are a definite minority in my shoe wardrobe.

    Now, the reason I bring this up is that you commented that you get a lot of statement from your shoes, which is missing from at-home wear. You also commented that you were very happy with your summer outfits (in relation to silhouette change). But I recall that your wedged sandals got worn a LOT more than other footwear this year, right? Not a particularly statement shoe, but still an interesting one. And it left you more open to get the creative variety from the clothing items. Of course I'm not saying that you're like me with the shoe thing, but just something I wanted to point out.

  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    Good gracious, the YLF wisdom is powerful! My head is just POPPING from all these fantastic suggestions!! 

    Gaylene, you were the guru who helped me toward a better summer style, so you had better believe I am now taking notes! 

    "Calling the items in a uniform "essentials" can muddy the waters if you are feeling bored with the uniform itself, especially if your "statements" are just different colors or embellished versions of the same thing."

    Wow. Those are words of wisdom right there. And maybe Aida has hit on something powerful also. Maybe the "essential" is not the "jean" but the slim or skinny pant (that can be tucked into jeans). But it needs to appear in different fabrications. Along with the looser pant (BF jean OR wool sweatpant) that can be worn on days when booties are possible. And so on. Very smart thinking, ladies!! 

    Rabbit, you're partly right -- I had some base layers that were statements in summer -- sarong shorts, or a graphic tee, or a boldly striped skirt. But also, I have more variety of silhouette. That variety isn't fully achievable in deep winter for me due to climate. But I can still have some variety. I already try to do as Aida suggests and wear my floor sweeping pants on days that are dry. Those can be few and far between alas! 

    "With the frugal/practical question, does it help if you recognize that certain statement pieces can also be workhorses, and just as comfortable and affordable as their essential counterparts?"

    Absolutely. It does help. And this year for the first time I am keeping track of wears. I've only been tracking for a little over a month, but what I'm noticing is a strong penchant for statement bottoms along with "regular" or "essential" tops and toppers. That is partly because the balance of my tops and toppers are not so much a statement, maybe. Not sure yet. 

    Aida, you may have a point about footwear, too. Although most of my shoes are more "regular" than statement, truth be told. I'd call the gladiators an essential in that they were my flat(ish) comfortable sandal -- I can walk a lot in them. But they were also more interesting because of the metallic finish. I think that would probably be my ideal type of shoe -- easily worn and mixed but still with some interest, as you say. Hmmm. Definitely food for thought! 

    Thank you all for this! I'll start my new thread soon. 

  • Destri replied 6 years ago

    Suz, anytime you start that new thread will not be too soon for me!  This thread has identified a big wardrobe weakness for me.  The question of what I wear to look stylish/cute (!) when I am just a step up from my lounging PJ's.  I actually utilized Angie's wisdom on that capsule last winter and upgraded in that area.  But, I, too, work from home a lot of the time and need to change out of the PJ pants/hoodie formula and into *something* but I just can't seem to find the balance between stylish and warmth/comfort.  I run cold and I just won't compromise on extreme comfort most of these times. 

    And, I so agree with you that I don't feel this way as much during summer time.  I am looking for wisdom from all!

  • gradfashionista replied 6 years ago

    I feel you on the challenges of working at home. Even with a solid wardrobe with a few statement jackets and blouses, I find myself wearing the same jeans and top day in, day out. A lot of that has to due with working at home, and not dressing within anyone in mind (DH lives across the country). Yes, I could (and should?) dress up for myself, but it's not the same, and I can't ignore the feeling that I'm "wasting" resources (the garment itself, the need to launder, etc.), since these garments aren't easily replaceable. If you need change and something to break the monotony, consider stepping out of your comfort zone with make-up, hair or jewelry. Bold lipstick really changes an outfit for me, even though I rarely wear lipstick. One comment above resonated with me, which is that if you get dressed up beyond the minimum, you're more likely to seek opportunities to leave the house. Great advice.

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