How Gear got me Here

All this talk of capsules (Unfrumped, here: and ClearlyClaire, here: has made me remember/ realize that one impetus to my joining this group in the first place was a "capsule" experience I had in February, 2010.

Shortly after losing 35 pounds (and before I'd had much time to build a new wardrobe) I went on a writing retreat to Vermont.

I had no choice. I knew I needed clothing for the weather, so I had to buy some stuff. And because I planned to do a lot of outdoor activities I needed gear!

Biting the bullet (and grateful that it was sale time!) I bought a pile of things (more than I had bought myself in at least a decade at one time.) I mean snow boots, ski pants, a puffer vest, a wind shell, hats, mitts....we are talking GEAR, ladies, not high fashion.

But I bought it, and I took it with me, and I wore it.

And guess what?

This was the first time in my entire life -- a life of living in a cold climate, mind you -- where I actually felt properly prepared for the weather and for my daily activities. The first time in my life that I could recall when I didn't have to choke back a bit of panic or disappointment and frustration as I looked at my closet and tried to prepare for the day ahead.

As a result, I truly enjoyed the outdoor time. And every morning I felt great. I knew what to wear. I didn't get that awful panicky feeling. I had probably a 10 item capsule of regular clothes while I was there (all uber casual - jeans and Ts and sweaters) but that, too, served my purposes perfectly -- and again, it was an entirely new experience to feel happy with the clothes I had available to me to wear.

It was that experience of closet nirvana that made me realize, truly: CLOTHES MATTER. Not just in how they look, but in how they allow us to function in our lives.

It also made me realize that I couldn't just expect my dream wardrobe to happen; I'd have to put work and effort and money into it. It would be an investment.

Ultimately, I realize, I am seeking that kind of function and ease in my everyday well as in my occasion wear.

That is why Angie's PPP mantra rings so true for me.

Thank you so much, Angie, for always helping us to make sense of it all.

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.


  • Kari replied 10 years ago

    Suz, I don't have time to give the kind of thoughtful response that this post deserves, though I'll try to return to it later. But in spite of some of the frustrations of trying to find your direction, you have been SO wise and introspective during this process, and I love how you have summarized exactly what you're striving for in this post. I'm adding this thread as a favorite as I'm really inspired by your thought process.

  • Gaylene replied 10 years ago

    Do you think it is the clarity and simplicity that makes it so easy, Suz? I'm wondering about this because I've had a similar feeling when I've cobbled together a smallish wardrobe to take on trips and vacations. I know, more or less, what activities I'll be doing, I assemble and buy carefully because space is limited and everything has to be functional for this particular trip, and, last but not least, I don't have many decisions to make when I get dressed in the morning. I don't fret and fuss about what I'm wearing so my time and energy is directed towards other things.

    At home, things get muddied up. I buy for future, imaginary occasions that may, or may not, happen. I have more choices and more decisions to make every morning from my closet. I see items hanging in my closet that I've rarely worn and wonder what I was thinking when I bought them. I try an older garment and realize it no longer fits properly. And, probably the biggest one, I put more pressure on myself to experiment to look "fashionable". That leads to my trying on a bunch of different outfits, often feeling vaguely dissatisfied with everything. I over think and analyze to the point where I can feel paralyzed and frustrated.

    It makes me long for the simplicity of the trip.

  • jenanded replied 10 years ago

    Suz, thank you for this important reflection. I wonder why we go off track? I had a similar experience after weight loss and HAD to buy something. I think I went in with the thrill to be able to look in the shop and this assistant took me in hand and I walked out with a pair of knee length shorts and two coordinating tops. As this was my first pair of shorts forever, I then bought a pair of cute little sling backs to go with them on the way home, Went back and bought a pant suit from that same shop and I was entirely happy wearing my little capsule with bliss in my heart! Maybe we keep dipping back in hoping for more of the same which totally defeats our original purpose in doing so.... mmmm looking forward to some more sage reflections...

  • Jules replied 10 years ago

    I totally agree and one of the reasons I initially "allowed" my cheap, anti-consumerist self to actually buy some clothes was to avoid that morning stress of literally nothing to wear (like, I had 1-2 pairs of pants that fit when I went back to work after my first kid).
    However, for myself I can see it the possibility of the pendulum swinging too far in the opposite direction, where I'm obsessing too much about having all the just perfect items and that makes me miserable. So there's a balance to strike for me.

  • Transcona Shannon replied 10 years ago

    Suz - you always write the most thought provoking posts! Seriously, you always make me think.

    "CLOTHES MATTER". Bravo!

  • CocoLion replied 10 years ago

    I feel this way when I reach for my ski bag. I have all of my clothes and gloves and gear in one place and am ready to go. The bag has been sitting unused for many years now, unfortunately.

    The rest of my wardrobe does not feel this way. It could be too big, although I do wear my clothes. The CPW is not too good however. I just wore my red plaid pants the second time on Friday and felt done with them. I don't like the way they feel when I sit down, even though they are a size too big (for a slouchy look). CPW: over $35.

  • jenanded replied 10 years ago

    Claire ... I have just stepped to my closet thinking I can do one little capsule before breakfast and have run screaming back to the forum... Did you pick your capsules based on where/which part of your life you would wear them? Perhaps this is revealing but my first reaction was that is a 'good' jacket so it must be for work.... Ok one more coffee before I start... and ok I did pyjamas yesterday (I do have to say I capsule PJs so I feel like I have variety!!) so the easy one is done...

  • catgirl replied 10 years ago

    Suz, this is brilliant. I haven't had time to comment on the string of Suz-related posts, so let me just add that I LOVE YOU and think you are amazingly thoughtful and articulate about your style journey in a way that helps all of us move along.

    Despite living here for 20 years, it has taken me until now to feel my style and wardrobe needs coalesce in any way. I spend a lot of time thinking I live in Hawai'i (fantasy) or in the UWP world (fantasy) or in a flurry of Hollywood events (mostly fantasy).... and yet I actually live, like you, in a primarily winter climate where gear and function are the norm. And I had no awareness of how those worlds were fighting each other in my closet. Only since finding ways to incorporate fantasy into reality and reality into fantasy have I been able to make my clothes work for me AND make me happy (mostly!)... That is hugely thanks to YLF and the epiphanies it has brought me.

    Love you in your snowshoes! It reminds me that function is a limiting reagent - for those of us who can be all over the place, a gear capsule has primary purposes that come first, before color, pattern, and all those other variable. Maybe that's why these are the easiest capsules to put together for many of us.

  • Caro in Oz replied 10 years ago

    I so agree. The RIGHT clothes matter.

  • replied 10 years ago

    You are adorable. Soooooooooo, are you coming to our NYC 2013 meetup?
    and YES clothes do matter. As I say to people, life is hard enough, there is no need to make it harder with the WRONG clothes.

  • replied 10 years ago

    Amen to all of that! I was a ski instructor in college and I remember my capsule: one expensive pair of wool stirrup ski-pants. Two nice wool ski sweaters. Enough turtlenecks to get me through the week. Parka, hat and gloves and long underwear. Done!

    Clothes do matter! I find when I have the *proper* clothing for any activity, I'm able to relax and enjoy it, without giving my clothing a second thought once I leave the house. It's when something is wrong, or off that I am uncomfortable, either physically or otherwise.

    I really enjoyed reading this, Suz. You look adorable in both pictures and I'm so glad that your gear brought you here!

  • Suz replied 10 years ago

    Claire, that's it, exactly. The proper clothes allow us to forget our clothing and simply have fun, immerse ourselves in what we are doing, and enjoy. Paradoxically, sometimes that involves taking pleasure in our clothes. Feeling the textures, the swish of a skirt, the smooth tailoring. The sense of luxury that fine fabric and good fit and the right colours for our complexion provide. It's not as if we lose any of that but we do lose our self-consciousness and the need to FUSS.

    Zap, I SOOOOOO want to come. I am not sure I can swing it, but I am going to talk with hubby. The thing is, we are going to London in March. So work hours and budget may get in the way of another trip so close.

    Una, I am so glad I am not alone. I also had/ have a fantasy wardrobe of sorts. I understand exactly what you mean about the necessity to bring fantasy into reality and reality into fantasy to make our clothes feel *right."

    Jen, yes - Claire's capsule in her post was for her Dress for Success work capsule. She volunteers one day a week and needs "business" type clothes to wear there.

    Gaylene, you're right - the simplicity comes from the limitations and our real closets cannot be so tightly edited (or at least mine can't). I am all for minimalism, but the 10 item wardrobe would drive me mad if that were for 7 days a week, 365 days a year. That would be even worse than having too many options, at least for me. Even though I'm fundamentally closer to a wardrobe minimalist than a maximalist!

    For me the stress doesn't come from trying to look "fashionable." I actually enjoy that (to a degree). The stress comes from not recognizing my true needs and buying for them. From trying to buy on sale or at thrift when it can't be had. From not ACKNOWLEDGING my true needs -- and then having to deal with the fallout. Trying to be fashionable or trying a new silhouette is *fun* for might mean I need to buy a few more things and retire a few others, but that's all good. The stress comes if I don't have the right clothes for my activities.

    Denise, such a bummer about those plaid pants. I know this feeling. Things I've bought and THOUGHT I loved, only to learn they didn't fit with my developing priorities, or they didn't fit, period! Or the fuss factor was too great. Or they didn't mix the way I'd imagined they would. In my case that is usually because I have neglected to consider proportion. I get the colours right, but not the shapes. I doubt you have that particular problem.

    Shannon, so glad if I make you think!

    Jules, I hear you about only having 2 pants...that was me for YEARS. When I first joined here I was essentially in that place. People would suggest a pair of strappy sandals with a dress and I would be left scratching my head. A pair of strappy sandals? Well, SURE that might look good, but I don't HAVE that and I can't BUY I would think. I thought I *should* be able to get by on 3 pairs of footwear, period - and I live in a 4 season climate!!

    But you're right - we can easily go in the other direction and just buy too much.

    Kari - you are a dear. It was good to see you post today.

  • Jaime replied 10 years ago

    Yes. Smiling because I should say more but you say it so well that I just want to say yes. And thanks!

  • replied 10 years ago

    Yes Suz you've hit on something here, the *suitability* of one's clothes for an activity. I'm usually best at explaining what I mean if I give an example, so pardon me here...

    I was once talking to an American pilot who had been based with his family in England for several years. They lived up north in an old farm house that didn't have central heating. I asked him how did they ever stand the cold? He said, "Well, we were freezing until someone told us we needed to go buy English clothes. Once we did that, we were fine." Since he was a guy, I didn't ask him to elaborate but I assumed they got some good woolens and Wellies. And the Brits have a great word in "proper"--not as in *presentable* per se, but as in "proper cup of tea". We need proper clothes for each aspect of our lives in order to function, just as those Yanks needed some proper English clothing to function in their new surroundings.

    I guess it has more to do with "appropriateness for the task at hand". You have created so much good stuff to think about! Why do we try to make do with what we have? Is it years of trying to just make everything work? Why do (North?) Americans over-buy in general but still have nothing functional to show for it? Is it like filling up on junk food and then not having room for a nutritious meal? This stuff needs to be taught in school!

  • Suz replied 10 years ago

    I love that word "proper," Claire. You've hit on exactly the issue here. We have a surfeit - yet go unnourished. It does seem a North American phenomenon, to a degree, but maybe it's not -- maybe it's part of modern life, when each of us fulfills so many different roles. The clothes that would have worked for our mothers' generation would not be right for us and would not fill all our capsules. Mind you, back then, they often seemed to dress with more respect to capsules than we do ...what else was the apron for? And the despised "housedress."

    Feeling appropriately dressed for the task at hand sounds so basic, on one level. Almost anti-fashion. Yet I think of it as the foundation of fashion. It might only be a starting point, but it's better than flailing around wearing sandals in the snow.

  • jenanded replied 10 years ago

    On the subject of proper, I have just been hanging out with some Europeans last week and it is sooo enlightening hearing them talk about clothes. One young woman, guess she is not sooo much older than my daughter, was saying how hard it is to buy good stuff - she laments buying $300 shoes that don't last even 2 years... So not just appropriate, but when it is appropriate therefore it stays appropriate for a longer while... I am going to try and do even a couple of hours to make ONE small capsule today... sigh... I will write more in another post but I have hired a stylist to come and help me in early January as I have a few things on next year and I really need to have PROPER stuff... I am so glad you have given me that word as well.

  • Gaylene replied 10 years ago

    Do we expect more from our wardrobes because we see fashion as a our hobby? Gear is easy to buy because it's about functionality and durability. It's when we expect more that we complicate things.

    We want our clothes to be appropriate-- to fit the situation and create the right impression. Can I wear jeans to the theatre? Can I wear a sequined top to work? Our grandmothers and mothers would have thought those questions were so ridiculous they didn't deserve a response. But, for those of us interested in fashion, these questions are quite relevant. The answers, however, are not always easy to discern; usually they are some variation of "well, it depends.." It gets complicated when you are making up the rules as you go along.

    As if that wasn't enough, most of us also want to use our clothing to express our personal sense of who we think we are. We want to be a "soft romantic", or an "urban warrior", or an "edgy modern classic". We have the luxury of being able to shop the world through the internet to find exactly the right jacket or top that will express this personal sense of style. We also have a surfeit of pictures and images that we can use as inspiration and hundreds of blogs that will tell us what is new and fashionable, and, even more importantly, how to incorporate it into our wardrobes. For previous generations, unless you were very wealthy, your options would have been much more limited. The more we can access, the more complicated it gets to decide what and how much to have.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that having fun with fashion, and being part of this forum, is a double-edged sword. Most of us are here because we want more than just functionality and durability from our clothes. We like playing around with the rules and style because it's these aspects that allow us to be creative and use our imaginations. Complexity, a lack of clarity, and, occasionally, frustration are downsides to having fashion as a hobby instead of just seeing clothes as gear to keep us warm and dry.

  • jenanded replied 10 years ago

    Gaylene, wise and true words :-)

  • qfbrenda replied 10 years ago

    So many wise words here, from so many.

  • Mona replied 10 years ago

    Every word of this thread is worth its weight in gold. Thanks for starting the thread, Suz. All your posts are thought provoking so this one is no exception. I want to frame these words and post on my wall as this is what I continuously struggle with. "For me the stress doesn't come from trying to look "fashionable." I actually enjoy that (to a degree). The stress comes from not recognizing my true needs and buying for them. From trying to buy on sale or at thrift when it can't be had. From not ACKNOWLEDGING my true needs -- and then having to deal with the fallout. Trying to be fashionable or trying a new silhouette is *fun* for might mean I need to buy a few more things and retire a few others, but that's all good. The stress comes if I don't have the right clothes for my activities. "

  • Krista replied 10 years ago

    You are so insightful as usual! Your post reminds me of a time a few months ago when my husband and I were watching the show "Waterfront Cities of the World" (amazing show, btw) and they were featuring Copenhagen. There was a significant focus on how they ride their bikes all year round, no matter the weather, and they dress accordingly for the challenge. One of the guests who was being interviewed said, "Well, there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes." Thus, as long as you are dressed appropriately, the weather is never bad!

    I swear to you that my brain almost exploded with that statement - enough that I wrote it down and it has been my mantra ever since. It made me realize that I had been not paying attention to how much the weather needed to play into my wardrobe in winter (it kind of ties into the fantasy life concept, right?). For example, I spend almost an hour each day walking my dog. He loves to walk; I like walking too, unless the temperature is somewhere between -15 and -40 degrees. But the reality of my winter means that I'm walking the dog for at least 3 months a year in that temperature range and that is too much time to be hating to walk the dog. If I use the wisdom of the above quote, it must mean that I am not enjoying my winter walks because I am not dressed properly. Bazinga!

    So, I scouted out a long puffer with a hood (scored at Mark's Work Wearhouse for 60% off!) and pulled out my warm winter boots (which need to be replaced - this week's task) and have been walking the dog in complete comfort. I've come to realize that I need some mittens that are a bit warmer, but that will come now that I'm on holidays and I have some time to knit.

    There's a part of me that can't believe that a TV show and a long black puffer helped me make these realizations. But I'm glad it did! I think it's also worth acknowledging that it takes time to get to these realizations and you have to jump on it when you get there.

    Great thread! Lots of learning for me here. Thank you! :)

  • Freckles replied 10 years ago

    Suz your style musings often discuss things I am currently working on. So glad that this gear capsule made certain things come to light for you.

    Your musings are always so well written with such a unique style similar to your outfits. Have a very Merry Christmas and happy New Year with your delightful family.

  • Suz replied 10 years ago

    Krista, that's EXACTLY what I mean! Exactly. Your knowledge and new comfort came from sitting yourself down and thinking, well, what do I actually DO in my day, and how does that feel to me? And hey, oh....maybe I need a coat for it!

    After my Vermont experience of a good capsule I agree completely there is not such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes. (Well....maybe I will except hurricanes, tsunamis, and cyclones from that....tough to dress appropriately for those!)

    But for our everyday, it just makes sense to dress for our dominant season and activities, something Angie has consistently said. I think the problem comes in because some of us are dressing for our imaginary lives (we love sparkly party outfits or dresses, when we really need clothes to help us muck out the barn; we love tomboy casual looks when we work in a law office). And some of us continue to dress for our PAST lives (i.e. you used to work in an office and now you are a MOTG; you used to be a MOTG and now you give presentations to a seniors' group; you used to live in Florida and now you live in Alaska....that kind of thing.)

    Or we simply fail to account for the variety of our different roles and their specific needs. I think that has been my problem. I say to myself, well, I work from home, go on the occasional city visit, give the occasional presentation (usually not dressy) so my whole life can be casual-to-business-casual.

    That's all very well in theory, but when I break my activities down even further I discover that I actually need quite different clothes.

    And it sounds like it's similar for you. You need that puffer coat for walking your dog; it's probably not the best coat to wear if you are driving to work. So realistically, you need two coats! (at least). If that were me, I'd have been trying to make do my entire life with the same ONE compromise coat, and feeling miserable no matter what I was doing. Recognizing that our different activities really do call for different clothes is a big revelation to me.

    ETA: thank you Freckles - we posted at the same time. And same to you!

  • Claudia replied 10 years ago

    Suz wrote: "I'd have been trying to make do my entire life with the same ONE compromise coat, and feeling miserable no matter what I was doing."

    Boy, does that wardrobe insight resonate with me. Penny wise and pound foolish.

    Great insights here!

  • Krista replied 10 years ago

    Haha, Suz! I love the concept of the Compromise Coat! Let's coin that one for YLF!

    You're right - I will use the long puffer to get to work on super cold and/or snowy days, but it's not for every day wear. Thus, I need another coat, which I have, to get me to work on a daily basis. My previous reality is that I was using my work coat to walk the dog and it was a real drag! Definitely not warm enough.

    I will throw one more possibility into this discussion. I think we use the Compromise Coat excuse because, in reality, coats are expensive. For what you spend on a coat you can get some really great tops, some jeans and maybe a pair of shoes! The gratification of ONE coat versus many items is just, well, boring!

    Until you're walking the dog in -40 degrees. Then the purchase of a great coat is pretty gratifying!

  • Suz replied 10 years ago

    Yes, Krista. That's very true. And budget definitely plays a role.

    But I learned a good lesson about this last year. I HAD to buy a winter coat. No choice. So I bought it full price, and I love it - a gorgeous dressy wool coat. I then added a puffer coat (also at full price) but really good quality.

    First, I wore both those coats so often last winter that I quickly realized the CPW was pretty small compared to most of my other clothing (despite the initial outlay).I don't really calculate CPW formally, but I am pretty sure I wore each of those coats a minimum of 60 times (probably much more). Which means that they are already hovering at around $5 per wear -- a heck of a lot less than several other items in my closet. And of course we have hardly begun this winter - or next - and I expect these coats to last me well for at least another 2 seasons, probably more!

    Having said that, my big financial outlay on the coats mean I had to buy pretty much everything else that I bought last year on consignment or on sale or via thrifting. And I didn't buy a whole lot.

    In the end, I think the coats gave me more pleasure and were better value and also more sensible purchases at a time when I hadn't fully figured out my style direction. The tops, skirts, jackets that I got on consignment and have since decided aren't quite right didn't cost me a lot and it is okay to let them go. The coats, on the other hand, were perfect for the occasions I needed them and made me feel fab going outside every time I wore them. And since we're so often seen primarily in our outside clothes (or at least I am) that made a lot of sense!

  • Angie replied 10 years ago

    Thank *you* wonderful and wise, Suz. You reap the rewards of the seeds you sew, and you are deservedly reaping, sweetheart! Your harvests are loaded with high returns.

    This is the BEST story I have heard about gear - and me and gear to do have a close relationship :)

    (It also warmed my heart that you finally felt warm in your clothing!!!)

  • Jules replied 10 years ago

    Gaylene, I agree. Gear is relatively easy. We know what it needs to do, there's a somewhat limited selection, and we can make good capsule choices fairly easily. But when it comes to every day life, it's so much more complicated, especially with all these changing standards of formality and looser roles (working fom home, etc ). This is one of the reasons I struggled - my workplace is an office, but mostly men with blue-collar roots - they're proud NOT to dress up for work, some wear shorts! So I have no formality guide to even point me in the right direction.

  • replied 10 years ago

    OMG, wonderful thoughts have developed here! I love what you and Gaylene said about expecting more from our clothes than just function (unlike our grandmothers). Maybe it's just that we need to be patient about laying the groundwork of functional items before we start adding the cherry on top. We see the glitter and we want to grab that first, because it's fun, meanwhile our feet are getting wet in the rain. I know I've certainly been guilty of that with my summer wardrobe--having the "more is more" approach. Angie is an excellent example of someone who dresses correctly for her weather. She spends on her boots and coats, probably first, before choosing that party dress or new bag.

    And the Compromise Coat! What Krista said was brilliant. I have been so guilty of that concept. It's like I'm in a hurry to check an item off my list so I can move on to the next purchase. Good basic essentials *can* be pricey, and she's right, I am seduced into moving on to the cute tops in the sales racks. A black puffer is not likely to be noticed or move us toward the fashion "image" we are trying to create, while the statement pieces are something that might garner a compliment.

    Suz, wasn't it Edith Head that recommended writing down how many times a week you entertain, "go to business", "go to market", attend services, etc. to help determine the clothing you will need? Also if I recall, her advice was very much in capsule form, even if it was very outdated (from the 50's). I did like her idea of a "morning" house dress. Something to throw on to be presentable before you officially get ready for the day.

    ETA: Suz, we must have posted around the same time. You actually did things right by investing in your coats first last winter. And the other items you got inexpensively helped you decide what was *you* and what wasn't. Rome wasn't built in a day I guess!

  • Gaylene replied 10 years ago

    Not to complicate things, but creating a wardrobe with functionality (as in Krista's example of needing to be comfortable while walking the dog) is quite easy for many people. My sister has very little interest in fashion and has a wardrobe that consists mainly of functional clothing that she wears to golf in the summer, walk in the fall, and snowshoe in the winter. Most of her clothes and footwear are purchased at MEC (the Canadian version of REI) and sports stores, with the odd dressy outfit that she picks up ONLY if she has a more formal event in the immediate future. She shops infrequently and keeps her wardrobe small, but EXTREMELY functional. But, I don't think many members on this forum would want to emulate my sister's approach to wardrobe building.

    Functionality can be a slippery term. Are you using it to describe clothing that has a definite purpose in keeping us safe from the elements while we go about our daily lives? Or does functionality include an element of looking fashionable as opposed to dowdy? Or does functionality mean having different options for different days to keep from becoming bored? Or should functionality encompass clothing that elevates our spirits and makes us feel attractive? Given that many of the things we buy are not inexpensive, it makes sense to want more from a coat than just something to keep us warm.

  • replied 10 years ago

    @Gaylene, I think most of us here want BOTH function and fashion from our clothes. Perhaps I jumped from function *to* fashion, not realizing that a quality item (that had both) might be within my reach as long as I researched, applied the PPP principle and was content to have fewer overall items.

  • Gaylene replied 10 years ago

    And that wanting both function and fashion from our clothes, ought to be attainable, shouldn't it? Especially, as you say, if we are very good, and buy carefully and thoughtfully, following the PPP principle.

    But I have the sneaking suspicion that maybe we ought not be so hard on ourselves when that goal seems to keep eluding us. I don't know of many fashion designers who embrace functionality as a major goal; for most, creativity and innovation seem to be the dominant themes. And fashion, by nature, is based on creating a desire for something new and interesting every season. That's why fashion is so much fun. We get to reinvent ourselves over and over again.

    Functional garments change, but not at the same pace or to the same degree. A navy, polo-neck, cashmere sweater looks much the same today as it did a couple of decades ago. Even if we recognize that a fashionable top has a shorter lifespan and will probably not provide as much functionality, we still crave it for its novelty and interest. And that, I think, is the conundrum that we all face when trying to create a wardrobe.

    I totally agree that wardrobe nirvana would be an entire closet of functional, fashionable clothes, but I think that, in reality, most of us end up with having to settle for a mixture of "fashionable but maybe not very functional" and "functional but not very fashionable" items. And, every now and again, if we get lucky, we do score an item that we love for both its fashion AND function, which makes us want everything in our closet to be like that item.

  • jenanded replied 10 years ago

    I am reflecting with every post and hope learning more every post and thought... I agree that one function of clothes IS to present ourselves. I so love that comment that we are telling the world who we are through our clothes and wow, look at all the wonderful and amazing things YLFers of all manner of ages do!!! Alaska girl taking an important case to the judge, Lyn with her medical exams, Suz on her trips and writing retreats etc etc... are just some I recall. I think sometimes I get distracted by all the beautiful and different outfits you all present - I am pounding the stores looking for skirts and dresses cos you all look so DIVINE in them, yet they are not often 'me'... maybe it says something about me - or my admiration for everyone's ideas... I think PPP as the checklist probably lets me try and cover off both... Merry Christmas everyone - these threads are a WONDERFUL gift!

  • Suz replied 10 years ago

    Gaylene, I agree that function can be a slippery term. Perhaps I'm asking it to carry too much weight.

    Yet at the same time, if one is in the public eye -- as you are, in your work, and I am on occasion for mine -- surely some level of fashion is PART of function. It is true -- we *could* perhaps, "get away with" a simple uniform of skirt or trousers and plain shirt with sweater or some other layer for cold, with no attempt at fashion of any kind. But our professional identities would be seriously at risk, I suspect.

    It may not be necessary to wear all the latest trends and it is certainly unnecessary to look like we just came off the catwalk. But at the same time, if we completely ignored fashion our clothes would not be doing their job for us -- any more than if we *did* wear some ridiculous runway concoction that made it impossible to walk or sit.

  • Mo replied 10 years ago

    I am coming out of left field at this time, but starting my old job over after a 2.5 year break, and having mostly 20 year younger than myself coworkers, has me seriously weighing what I wear says about me. I don't want to seem out of the loop. But I don't want to be chasing a teen dream either. Tricky stuff. So I would say my new uniform goals and their function would be to blend into my environment while still staying true to myself and being age appropriate. So function can and is more than just comfort in weather or ease of movement, in my opinion.

  • Suz replied 10 years ago

    I agree, Mo. And I was wondering how you might be finding the return to work. You work in a business full of young people - both staff and customers, I'll bet. You can pass for someone far younger than your years, and in some ways I guess it would be convenient to let that happen. Yet at the same time, your age gives you a wealth of experience that the younger people don't have and it is good to have that acknowledged.

  • krishnidoux replied 10 years ago

    This thread is so full of wisdom and truth, putting the finger exactly where it aches! I am late to the party here; but enjoyed reading every word from everyone. So many insights. Thought provoking, and reaching me way deep in my heart.

    Suz, you look so vibrant and beautiful in both pictures. In the first one, what a telling, expressive smile. It says "I (finally) feel good!" It is so heart warming to see them.

    It took me a while myself to reflect on this because I didn't * let myself *, I thought I should "toughen up"; or that these considerations were not for me, just for rich people; or that it was too vain... it was the way I had been brought up.

    Later in life I made the same discovery as you, through gear too! After my pregnancy, I couldn't (and didn't want to) go back to my previous underweight self, so I gave away all my anorexic clothes. I had no time in my life back then, loved physical activity, had a baby to look after and lived in a very casual city, so I bought gear. I reconstructed my wardrobe and with each piece felt more and more liberated. Finally, as you say, I knew what to wear, and could forget about it.

    BUT it can only go so far. I am always oscillating between gear and chic, always trying to marry the two. I love to browse in gear shops just to see the latest cuts or inventions, trying to imagining it as part of a fashionable outfit.

    And how true about needing more than one "basic" for different activities. Coats, boots are basics in colder places. Just this year for the first time in my life, I am enjoying my working boots (heeled, goretex) and my weekend casual flat goretex boots. I couldn't buy both pairs the same year, but now that I have the two, boy do I see a difference in my day-to-day life!

    @Krista: try lining your knitted mitts with a band of fleece. You can buy fleece at the meter at a fabric shop, and just cut a band the width of your hand and the length to wrap it around it. Make it slightly shorter than the width of the mitts your knitting. Sow the bottom and top of the fleece band to the inside of your mitts. Warm and comfort guaranteed!

  • Krista replied 10 years ago

    What a great suggestion for lining my knitted mittens, krish! Thank you so much!

  • krishnidoux replied 10 years ago


  • Ornella replied 10 years ago

    Suz, I'm just chiming in to say Thank you and Sorry.

    Thank you for starting so many wonderful, thought-provoking threads. And sorry I had no time or space to give them the attention they deserve, especially in recent weeks, my life has been hectic, but I've hearted them and am now reading through a backlog of things I need to catch up with. You have a wonderful way of capturing the essence of things and for someone like me who likes when the obvious things are spelled out because the obvious is sometimes the most easily overlooked that is just perfect. Plus, your enthusiasm for participating on the forum can almost be touched and I feel so grateful you generously share your insights with us.

    CLOTHES MATTER. Not just in how they look, but in how they allow us to function in our lives. So simple, so true.

    And now, back to reading :-)

  • Suz replied 10 years ago

    Ornella, thank you!!! The same words could be said of you, and your post on bicycle chic!! We have come to similar realizations through similar lifestyle needs.

    "You have a wonderful way of capturing the essence of things and for someone like me who likes when the obvious things are spelled out because the obvious is sometimes the most easily overlooked that is just perfect."

  • Isis replied 10 years ago

    Oh---gotta run, but just have to say that I started this thread and it is full of wisdom! Love your insights, Suz; you are a great writer! And the responses too! Gonna favorite this one and come back to it later!

  • Ornella replied 10 years ago


    Well, I've just read every single word here, torn between desire to let each and every single response sink in before I move on, and actually moving on to the next reply as I couldn't wait to see what else people have written. What an amazing read, I was nodding all along! Thank you for remembering my B-cycle thread, that too is exactly what popped to my head, identifying the actual lifestyle needs and working around them, rather than living in a fantasy world or no-man's land wardrobe-wise, which would have happened to me had it not been for learning to play the game thanks to YLF.

    Btw, remember our exchange on the other thread about travel clothes? I changed my original plans by replacing one cardigan with the blazer and adding a knitted dress that can be layered. The dress I'm still to wear, but adding the blazer was a clever move and I have you to thank for that :-) But, living out my suitcase these days with that very limited wardrobe actually is very much along the lines of what's discussed here: I knew my needs well, I prepared for them, I don't fret over what to wear but everything works whichever way I combine it so I can literally pull anything out and it'll work, it's the clothes I feel comfortable in (i.e. nothing's off or fussy, or as I like to identify it - nothing makes me self-conscious which I've identified as the main culprit for not feeling stylish) and the clothes serve me. It's functional, but feels 100% me. It's unfussy and simple, but again - feels 100% me.
    It's as if leaving the stress out of the equation leaves me more space to be me. Yet again it amazes me what I learn about myself just monitoring my thoughts about clothes!

  • Suz replied 10 years ago

    Ornella, so glad you brought a jacket and it is useful to you! And yes, it is amazing what we can learn about ourselves through our relationship to clothes. It is the same with food, I think. Both are necessities. But it is what we make of the necessities -- how and whether we use them to nourish us and help us grow or express our creativity.

    Identifying the real lifestyle needs is, I think, much more complex than we usually credit. It takes time and serious thought...and then of course our lives change. This is just one reason why style is always in flux, always a process, always a journey.

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