Setting Style goals for 2016

Well, better late than never, right? I hope so, and I hope you will also excuse the long post. Putting it out there both to keep a record for myself and also for those who like this kind of rumination. 

Context: I’ve returned to school as a (much older) student. I’m also the mother of an active teen and the temporary guardian of another teen. I am no longer employed in the fitness world but I still try to make it a priority to get exercise each day. (Admittedly, some days "exercise" = a short walk). Still working as an editor/ teacher, still writing creatively and publishing when I can, still volunteering for community arts organizations. I live in a true four season climate and travel a lot. I had a stressful year and gained a few pounds as a result, but I haven't had to buy new clothes to accommodate the gain, so from that point of view, things are fine. 

What I liked and disliked in my style in 2015

Overall, I felt comfortable with my style last year — the wardrobe did what I needed and I had a fair bit of variety. My greatest dislike/ disappointment as usual had to do with the disjunct between practical needs and style aspirations. I need to be very casual many days; and I need to dress for my walking commutes in a slushy, snowy, cold, northern country. I prefer a sort of business casual juxtaposition of casual with dressier items, and I prefer to show a bit of bare skin with my outfits once in a while rather than covering up completely!  But it is very hard to do this in winter where I live and considering my lifestyle. 

What did I do well in regards to style?

  • Kept a coherent colour palette that works for me. 
  • Edited efficiently and bought sensibly. I bought far fewer items in 2015 than in my big wardrobe building year of 2014. 
  • Tracked my wears (at least in one season) and so got clearer on actual needs. 
  • Took great joy in my new things (and some older ones). 

What did I wear that made me feel great?

I felt best in simple, somewhat dramatic combinations. I liked it when my outfits combined some “sharpness” or “boldness” with some “pretty” element (eg cut or colour). As always, I loved wearing jeans, booties, jackets. I felt great in my Okalas with slim jeans and jacket, and in my pretty new Club Monaco dress. I also felt great in my Zara sarong shorts. A favourite fall outfit involved cropped or rolled jeans, higher shaft booties, and a feminine blouse with jacket or not, depending on weather.

I'm not sure that "Urban Prince" is the best moniker for my aspirational style any more. I picked up "Glam Gamine" from Viva and rather like it so I am trying it on for size. (Though I might have to lose those extra pounds to ensure it fits, LOL!) 

Style adjectives 

Pretty: I will always embrace an androgynous element in my style, but like Angie I find I am drawn to more obviously feminine cuts and detailing after a few years of boyish styles. Last summer and autumn, I enjoyed wearing blouses more than shirts, dresses and skirts when weather permitted, and pretty footwear when that was possible. (Alas, it's boots for now and nothing but!) I reached for flattering colours as well as sober neutrals. White and cream. Sparkle and shine. Also, I loved the hand of luxe fabrics like silk, cashmere, fine merino, great leather.

Modern: I really enjoy playing with trends. Nothing makes me feel better than a fresh seasonal update of some "wardrobe essential" item (e.g. jeans, jackets, footwear). I love to try my staples in a new shape or worn in a new way. Also, I like clean lines, simple outfits.

Retro: I used to have a very strong retro element to my style. Toronto was a paradise for vintage when I was in my twenties and that is what I could afford; I’ve always retained a fondness for that. But nowadays, I prefer contemporary re-workings of past styles. I am not into whimsy, cute, or twee. But I do a touch of romantic from time to time, and I definitely love 60s mod and 70s glam. 

Classic: I love wearing iconic items like slim jeans, chelsea boots, a blue blazer, a trench, peacoat, watch cap, etc. To my mind, these cannot be improved upon. I love love love great tailoring. I need to balance it with casual (ie jeans and a blazer; a skirt with denim jacket) or else it is just not practical in my life — but if I do balance it like that, it’s still wearable at least some of the time.

Note: for quite a while I dreamed of a more “avant garde” style. Well, I think I have given that up as not me. I finally found a pair of leggings I like reasonably well and that only fall down some of the time — but I still don’t like them on me all that much. I don’t really love the drapey vest I bought. (I’ve only worn it 3 or 4 times and couldn't wait to get it off). I do enjoy asymmetry, but one asymmetrical top I bought has been a bit of a bust. 

My conclusion? What I thought I wanted, I don’t really want. What I really seem to want is a type of “sharpness” or “crispness” or “tailoring” — this, again, is somewhat in conflict with my personal colouring and my climate, not to mention my need for very casual clothing. It's a conundrum I have yet to solve, and I would love input if anyone has ideas! 

Thanks for humouring me if you have read this far, and I would love your thoughts!

Below, a few favourite items from last year. 

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.

34 Comments

  • replied 3 years ago

    I enjoyed reading this, Suz, and as usual, you've articulated your thoughts very well.  It's as interesting to read about what didn't work or didn't stick as what did work and stick. The avant garde experiment?  Can't say I'm surprised.  It just doesn't seem, well, you.  

    I understand completely the conundrum created by the wish to be somewhat crisp and polished tempered by the realities of what you do every day.  Maybe the way to reframe it is to accept it as fact (as would someone who had to wear an actual uniform all day) and express the true fashion side of you in your off-time.  I wouldn't spend a lot of time trying to figure it out; I think you know where you are and are clearly adaptable to change as it happens.  

    I have nothing else to contribute - and what you've laid out here is probably a good exercise for any one of us to attempt.  I know I should, one day :)  

  • Suz replied 3 years ago

    Lisa, I really like that idea -- to see my daily clothes (i.e. my school clothes) as a kind of 'uniform.' It's actually quite brilliant!

    CocoLion (Denise) and I face a lot of the same problems despite having a completely different climate. And she does wear a uniform for work, and what amounts to a casual uniform in her regular ranch life. She gets to dress as she really loves on her city visits (much as I do). I remember she tried at one point to purchase less for that capsule but found herself feeling sad...she really needs to have fun with fashion in that part of her life. I think it is also true for me. 

  • anne replied 3 years ago

    Suz, I always enjoy reading your thoughts - your analytical writing is a pleasure to read, and since we have such similar body types I like to know what clothes work on you. I don't really feel avant-garde works that well on me either, and remember Angie saying once that it often works better on curvier figures.

  • Joy replied 3 years ago

    Your posts and musings are always a joy to read and think about.  Like you, I want a more polished ,dressy look than my casual life tolerates and can't see that changing.  Mostly my "uniform" is jeans and a dressier top and booties.  In the summer denim clam diggers or rolled jeans take the place of full length jeans, and worn with flats mostly with closed toes.

    What I've liked this past year is ankle pants or rolled jeans with ankle strap footwear.  So far the higher shaft booties rub my ankle bone and are painful. or the shaft is way too wide for my legs.  I have decided that jersey tops are not for me.  I just look saggy.  I also do not care for tunics with a straight hem.  Shirt tail or assymetrical hems work much better, revealing a higher part of the leg, so not cutting me off.  However I am liking a long soft flowing top under a shorter top or topper, especially if it is a little transparent.  It feels pretty.  You will probably be most happy choosing your fabrics and prints very carefully so that they at least feel lux but can be hand washed.  You might also get the prettiest underwear you can find. 

  • rabbit replied 3 years ago

    Well thought out, and I was nodding along.  One thing I really like about “sharpness” or “boldness” with some “pretty” element(s) is that it's easy for me to feel pulled together and confident in outfits with those descriptors.  I also have the balance of wanting to wear dressier clothes than my everyday activities would call for, and I sympathize with the snow vs. footwear and coat situation (we're luckier on Angie's coast).  do you have awesome beanies and winter scarves? Although hopefully you won't need those much longer this spring.  Are the colors and shapes of your coats and winter boots bringing you joy and/or providing a good foundation?

    I'm thinking about the possibilities of short chelsea shaped rain boots in bold saturated colors or pastels as a way to inject a little sharp and bold into the rainy doldrums (a bright colored trench helped).

    I also thought about upgrading the color and shape of my in-house only shoes -- they were chosen for support and ease of slipping on and off, but right now they are a highly distressed mud color with fuzzy pink socks...

  • Suz replied 3 years ago

    rabbit, that is a great idea about upgrading indoor footwear. I tend to wear slippers in winter and they are far from stylish (although they offer needed warmth and support). I am definitely going to hunt for something similar in function but better in looks next year. 

    I do have some great hats and scarves, yes. And I love my winter coats, although I'm due for a refresher in that capsule next year and will certainly be investing in new options. It really helps to have great outerwear. No question. 

    Joy, I also want to find some ankle strap low wedges for wearing when the weather gets a little better. 

    Anne, you are right -- sometimes drapey items work better on a figure that can fill them out. 

  • annagybe replied 3 years ago

    For you I'm trying to think of something like a mature Madewell, but not J Crew, which is a whole nother beast.
    Hmm, pondering

  • shevia replied 3 years ago

    Suz it is such a pleasure to read your thoughts. Two things stand out for me. You have reconsidered your attraction to avant garde and reframed your goal as dramatic. I have given some thought to the idea of dramatic dressing ever since one of the older Kibbe threads (Caro's? I don't remember.) Drama seems wider and includes avant garde but also includes other sorts of statements (even quiet ones I think). Anyhow, I am just trying to prompt you to muse a bit more on that for our benefit :).
    Secondly, there are certain trends that play more easily into your lifestyle and focusing on them might satisfy your need for fun with trends. I think cropped jeans are brilliant for trendiness and slushy road. 
    Looking forward to more!

  • UmmLila replied 3 years ago

    Suz, I wonder if you might get any wear out of a small shadow style capsule that is the tougher off-duty version of you? That avant garde leather-loving poetry-slamming gallerista with the punky pink streaked hair?

  • annagybe replied 3 years ago

    Ok I suggest you look at the street style of Miroslava Duma for the trendy.
    Garance Dore for the classic tailored.

  • Suz replied 3 years ago

    Thanks, Anna -- off to peruse -- this should be interesting! I'll report back. 

    Lisa, a shadow style is a thought. I do think I need an ink moto. Hoping Danier doesn't go out of business before they produce one that I like. I've never really gravitated to "tough" though. Feels really inauthentic on me. So it will have to be a sort of ladylike punk. :)

    Jaime, funny you should mention Kibbe. I think you're right about drama being wider than avant-garde. His "flamboyant" gamines have a lot of drama (unfortunate word, "flamboyant" but perhaps it fits). You're right that cropped jeans work well for me, although in true winter they are not warm enough, believe it or not! Wind gets up there.....brrrrrrr!!!! But for spring and fall they are terrific. 

  • gradfashionista replied 3 years ago

    Just popping in to say that I enjoyed your assessment of the last year and projection for the upcoming one. I admit that I was surprised by the items you selected. For some reason, I had a style more like Theory in mind, although that might be too conservative of a modern for your tastes. That said, the items you selected seem to work well for your goals, but you had better pounce on that gorgeous Danier before it's too late!

  • Bijou replied 3 years ago

    I find accessories to be a great way to inject style into an otherwise casual outfit.  It is interesting how if you wear jeans and a plain sweater what a difference pearls or an Alexander McQueen skull scarf will do - one accessory totally changes the look of the outfit. I am finding that as my wardrobe needs lessen, I can save and buy accessories that help me to elevate my casual looks. I budget for two "indulgent" accessory purchases each year.  For me these purchases are probably the most fun ones and take the most time and consideration because it is through these that the direction of my style moniker is realised.  My 2016 purchase is a Fendi monster tote bag, so my style moniker for this year is Monster Glam!

  • rachylou replied 3 years ago

    An At Home wardrobe that doesn't feel too relaxed without looking terminally preppy is like the unicorn of fashion. Unless you are an Artiste. I'm pondering this dilemma now that I'm not doing offices...

  • Staysfit replied 3 years ago

    Suz, you have an amazing ability to express yourself by writing. I'm not sure I have helpful suggestions. I can relate to the skin bearing piece because I'm also like this. I prefer sleeveless dresses and tank tops and would wear them everywhere if I didn't freeze! I tend to roll up my sleeves to 3/4 length as a compromise. Like Joy, higher shaft booties either hurt my ankles or are too wide. I have to wait for warm weather for crops or wear them with tights which defeats their ankle bearing fabness.

    Angie reminded someone yesterday about how lifestyle dictates and maybe constrains our style choices. Are you feeling conflicted about your lifestyle or the disjunction between your need for practical clothes vs. your personal style? I think there are ways to deal stylishly with the practical issues. You have had so many changes in the past year, plus a major loss. I think change and loss can be a major driving force behind evolution in ones life. The evolution can take many forms, possibly your style, so, with luck you may find more creative power to help solve your dilemma. :-)

  • Summer replied 3 years ago

    Suz, it's always such a pleasure to read your style musings.  You have honed your wardrobe so perfectly, even though you still have conflicts regarding style aspiration and lifestyle realities. I have those, too.  Much as I'd love to wear my smarter, trendier clothes on a regular basis, my everyday lifestyle demands a far more practical approach, so  I relish every opportunity that allows me to dress up a little more.

    Good luck with your style goals for 2016.

  • olga replied 3 years ago

    Thank you for this summary, it is kind of self-consciousness that i particularly like. You not only wear items and get dressed but also think about what it is and what it means which is interesting. I believe clothes can make one happy or sad and when you are "happy" with what is on you that day, the day gets better.
    Just a thought about a climate, i live in very warm climate, we actually have about 4-5 month of autumn-winter-spring, rest is summer with quite high temp. in june-july-august; so for me, while i also like "dressed up" and feminine, it also does not work. I try to put on a top and a jacket but its impossible to wear the jacket except early morning, so it comes off and good-buy "dressed up". Same for shoes, closed shoes is a problem, and with open shoes, dressing up without substantial heels is hard. So i thought: dresses! but hah, very hard to find not lined dress that will look good all day long or at all.

  • torontogirl replied 3 years ago

    Suz, great analysis and I could sonrelate to everything you said. Looking forward to following your journey in 2016!
    Anna the muses you chose for Suz are amazing ... You need to start that as a service to forum members ;)
    Rachy, ROFL on the unicorn of fashion comment ... It's funny cuz it's true *sigh*

  • Suz replied 3 years ago

    Thanks, TG -- I know you fully understand the challenges of dressing for winter weather. And I agree that Anna is awesome at picking muses!

    Olga, I hear what you are saying; you face the same challenge I face in summer dressing, for while our summers here are short, they are hot, and I don't have air conditioning. One of our fellow forum members suggested colour blocked outfits as a partial solution to this and I find it works, along with silk for tops (sleeveless only, of course) and adding a few simple (very simple) accessories. I also tend to use my bag as a statement much more in summer. The trick is to find a "3rd piece" in summer -- it cant be the jacket, as you say, so 't might be a cuff bracelet, an arresting necklace (if you can bear to wear necklaces in summer), a fabulous bag, dangling earrings, a cotton gauze scarf, perhaps even a sunhat. 

    Summer, I think you have hit on something key: even if I can't wear my dressier items all that often, I can enjoy them to the fullest when I do!! I am getting much better at that. 

    Staysfit, thank you for those kind words. I suspect you can relate to the skin-bearing aspect because we have similar fair, relatively low contrast colouring. I think that baring a little bit of skin (even just the forearms or ankles) can help to "balance" a look for us lighter-toned types, especially when wearing the darker colours in our range. It lightens things up just enough to make the outfit more flattering. I think for you, it helps to emphasize or reinforce the almost etherial and soft quality you naturally project, and for me, the bit of skin with darker neutrals can provide the some subtle drama. 

    I am very, very happy with my recent choice to change my work life and prefer my new situation. I love learning. But my student life does demand clothing that is more casual than I might wish. It's not just a question of bowing to environmental norms; I'm literally on my hands and knees on a dirty floor many days, so nothing but jeans will really work. Fortunately, like you, i truly enjoy wearing my denim! But I'd prefer to wear with a dressy blouse and jacket and what I need is a simple tee! :) However, I do get a bit more leeway on non-classroom days, and also, next year my classes will involve less crawling around and more sitting. So perhaps I will find that a bit easier to dress for! 

    Rachy, SO TRUE!! Funnily enough, I worry less about looking terminally preppy at home...I think the blouses have been a good addition. But you really described my earlier dilemma in a nutshell with that phrase. The "cool" at home wardrobe is the unicorn of fashion indeed. 

    Bijou, I like your idea of picking accessories to define your style. How do you decide on which ones you'll pick? I might be getting close to the point where this is possible for me as well. In my wardrobe building days it was impossible -- I simply needed too many things to make it practical. 

    Gradfashionista, those items are just items I purchased in the last year that made me happy and got a lot of wear, not necessarily style-definers (though they do represent the style evolution toward a softer, prettier, more feminine look on the whole). I do love Theory and it is not too conservative for me in theory (ha ha) -- it's just that I don't get many opportunities to wear my beautiful blazers these days. I didn't post pictures of that type of item because it wasn't part of my purchasing last year. But here are a few of my jackets etc. 

  • olga replied 3 years ago

    good advises, Suz, thank you!
    i am not that good with accessories but definitely need to improve

  • Angie replied 3 years ago

    *applause*

    I have been WAITING for this. And it did not disappoint!

    OF COURSE, as always you make complete sense. You have a great sense of self, which is at the heart of finding a complementary and authentic personal style. You analyse your needs AND listen to your emotions. You put in the work and reap the reward. The results are Killer, and despite your hectic year last year (((HUGS))) - you have never looked better. You are a wildly inspirational forum member Suz, and you know I adore you. 

    I love that:

    • you have come full circle with your style. (high five)
    • you have similar ideal style sensibilities to me: Modern, Pretty, Retro, Crisp. (Fun!)
    • You regard pretty outfits as a PLUS, and that you can be powerful in a pretty outfit. (At least I feel powerful in a pretty outfit). 
    • you will not give up on the classics that never let us down.
    • you tried the avant-garde thing and found out it wasn't for you.

    It's like we have come home, Suz. Rock on. 

  • Adelfa replied 3 years ago

    Hi Suz, great to read your post!

    All I have is empathy. A year or two ago I realized that I aspire to "pretty" after running from it for years (didn't feel girly enough, cute enough, thought it conflicted with my feminism).

    Also I too wanted avant-garde so badly and had to realize it was not me at all. I do enjoy a touch of 60s/70s hippie, though.

    I can't wait to see what you put together for this year!

  • Sal replied 3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing Suz, as always a well written eloquent and useful post. I have loved your recent WIW with some of your finds.

    It is fun to evolve your core style, and to try new things. I see drama and avant grade having some cross over or common ground but areas of difference. I use the word bold when thinking about where I want to be, and it might be a colour, a large piece of jewelry, or even wearing a hat when many people will not. That is a little bit similar to drama I think. I don't always get it right though! But maybe this is one way to enjoy basic practical student looks....

  • Mochi replied 3 years ago

    Suz, it's always great to read your articulate, writerly approach. Even though our body types are quite different, just in terms of your overall goals and thought processes, I'm going to use this post as a template to try and help me approach this topic. 

  • Suz replied 3 years ago

    Mochi, so great to see you here! And thank you. 

    Sally, I like the idea of trying to remember to include something "bold" in each outfit, even the super casual ones. I think that may be helpful going forward. Thank you! 

    Adelfa, I had forgotten you also wanted to try avant garde. Interesting that it doesn't work for you, either. I wonder why we are saying no to it, in the end? Some of my very favourite outfits on you have involved pretty elements like the Okalas, a tube skirt, a silky tee. I see you as looking feminine and strong and -- to Angie's point -- I see no contradiction in that whatsoever! 

    Angie, thank you. You're my inspiration, pure and simple.

    Another inspiration is my mother. She loved clothes and pretty things and though she denied herself for many years, there were other years where she allowed herself to have fun with fashion, and those are the years I remember best. She had a very clear sense of what looked good on her. Simple button front shirts, classic trousers. But she loved bold jewellery to go with these rather "mannish" items. Intuitively she seemed to understand that juxtapositions can work. Anyway, having lost her this year I may be trying in some way to bring her closer with my fashion choices. We will see where this goes! 

  • Angie replied 3 years ago

    I'm blushing and humbled, Suz. High five to having an inspirational stylish Mum, and wanting to bring her into your own style. (It's very comforting, isn't it). I'm glad that you remember her style well. And I bet you are a stylish inspiration to YOUR DD, even though she might not fully appreciate that right now. 

  • Bijou replied 3 years ago

    You asked how do I decide which accessories to purchase? Often I come upon the item and I think it is fantastic, but I question: Is it really me and how do I feel wearing this?  When and how would I wear it? I also think would I wear it if I was catching up with (insert name of stylish friend)? If the answer is I feel great and I can think of 5 realistic situations in which I would wear it, then it may have a place in my wardrobe.  I do like to think about these purchases rather then make impulse buys.  Often I will deliberate for a few days (or weeks) before buying, especially if the item is expensive.  Then when I do buy it - I like to wear it - using an item is the best justification of buying it in the first place.

  • Suz replied 3 years ago

    Bijou, thank you. That is helpful. I was thinking more about how you prioritize accessories purchases -- i.e. do you just *know* you need or want a bag and go for that, or do you prefer to wander the accessories aisles in general until something pops at you? I am rather hopeless with accessories, as you can probably tell. I think it is an element of style refinement I have yet to reach but perhaps am ready for. You can probably guess from my question that I hardly ever look at accessories so have few opportunities when I might spy and item and think it is "fantastic." Strange, no? 

    I'm in the process, actually, of trying to buy a kind of statement ring -- something I would wear most of the time. I don't wear a lot of jewellery but this is something I know I would enjoy. So I am searching. I agree it is good to deliberate on these purchases. 

  • Beth Ann replied 3 years ago

    I've been "working on" my style goals for weeks now, and it's nearly time to retire my Deep Winter capsule!  Seeing your notes here is inspiring --- thank you!

    I have noticed  the embrace of pretty this year, and it suits you.  Aren't feminine blouses -- with a modern, or perhaps slightly retro, flair magical?   Even though we don't share body type, we have a similar taste for dressier looks, but very casual "real life" environment.  I have found a lot of pleasure in blouses this year, too, often pairing them with dark wash jeans to keep them low key enough.

    I think I favor a bit more flow and softness in my silhouettes than you do, although my body type sometimes creates the "softness" on its own, lol! I hear you, though, on craving more crisp tailoring.  I feel the same.  Most of my cardigans have gone untouched this winter, while I wear my few jackets over and over again.  I am on the search for unlined jackets (cooler and more amenable to movement), but am finding them to be HEWIs!

    I'm so glad you've learned to love your own modern classic flair.  I think you bring much of yourself into these tried and true silhouettes --- which keeps it every bit as interesting and unique as a more "arty" closet!

  • Transcona Shannon replied 3 years ago

    I can only DREAM of having such clarity regarding my style and needs! This is brilliant Suz and I need to read and re-read it several times. I find it's the marrying of our style desires and our practical living situation that can be the most difficult. But you seem to have bridged that gap beautifully.

  • replied 3 years ago

    This was a fabulous read Suz! You've thought your needs through so well. I know you still have a bit of disconnect between lifestyle needs and how you would love to be able to dress, but I always think you present yourself so perfectly for any and every occasion. I'm loving the sound of the retro touches. 70's glam and 60's are 'made for you' eras. Can't wait to see how 2016 shapes up for you.

  • Caro in Oz replied 3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing - these are some of my favourite posts.
    Ikwym about that darn lifestyle thingy, it can still trip me up :)
    Can't wait to see where your style goes from here Suz.

  • replied 3 years ago

    Suz, I joined last year at the same time you were ramping up your " pretty" look. One of my favorites of yours (and Angie's) was the black and red blouse. I look forward to seeing more WIWs with pretty in mind.
    Even if your lifestyle dictates practical clothing, I still feel like if you have the will, you will find a way to do dressed up.

    Spring is coming, which means great fashion is on the horizon for us Canucks!

  • lyn67 replied 3 years ago

    Thanx for the insights, Suz, is always so educational to read how others think and do,   am so looking forward to seeing this new leg in  your style journey.

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