Signature...or rut?

So...it's not quite time for my annual closet switch out, but I’m easing into things by washing and putting away the cashmere sweaters and weeding out the items that are worn out or too rarely worn and no longer loved.

I have not bought clothes since December, and December's purchase was pair of snow boots, one heavy sweater to replace a worn-out version, and a necklace. So in truth, I haven’t made any significant clothing purchases since September. I've barely browsed the online stores, haven't looked much in at B&M stores, and don't even glance at the sale notices that file into my junk folder. 

I didn’t need anything, and I didn’t miss shopping. Instead, I got busy with my life (which has been quite stressful) and I wore the heck out of my clothes.

Actually, to be more accurate, I wore the heck out of my at-home uniform. Increasingly, since I started wearing my hair grey, I seem to gravitate to navy/ ink denim and sweaters/ shirts, with a good belt and chunky silver/ pewter accessories. Add fab booties/ boots and coat for when I go out, and a fab bag. (Actual items in Finds)

Yes, I have a striped sweater, a patterned sweater, pink pullover, a pale blue pullover, a grey cardigan, a burgundy cardigan (see Finds)— and I wore each and every one of these multiple times this winter. And yes, there were days when I was glad to be putting on something a bit out of the ordinary. 

But honestly? My navy/ ink stuff is what I reach for 8 times out of 10 for my at-home work wear — and even for my “going out” wear, although in that case it will be supplemented by a 3rd piece like a statement jacket or (gasp)  a navy blazer and more jewellery or a scarf.

My navy/ ink stuff is what I do not tire of. I always feel capable, confident, smart, professional, dramatic, and easy in ink/navy. 

In summer, add white to that, and I’d be fine if I had nothing else — as long as I had a super fun bright or metallic bag and footwear.

What does this mean? I think I’m just in a phase of uniform dressing and that is okay. I still respond to colour but love it especially in bags, footwear, coats, scarves, and jackets. I still like (and get) variety via the cut of my jeans. It is vital for me to have an updated denim capsule. I still like fun statement pieces for special events. And, I still need them. I’m not going to toss anything that I still enjoy, even if I only wear it a couple of times a year.

But this does make me think I might consider investing more in my “uniform” of ink/ navy (with some grey, and with lashings of white in summer) and make it more deliberate, the way Jenn has done.

I am also considering the "French 5" now that I have my essentials more or less in place. 5 fabulous higher quality items per season (I will do four seasons). 

I am trying to think about spring purchases. I definitely want: 

A silver/ pewter sneaker
A new and interesting belt
A new bag

Not sure what else should be on my 5. I need to investigate the state of my spring knits. I do have a few spring weight sweaters but I think I am due for more. 

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.

46 Comments

  • UmmLila replied 1 year ago

    Navy is one of my two "best" colors, with something like teal or turquoise being the other. So it's easy to wear it all the time, and know that it will look good. I have that same Equipment sweater, too, and I love it.

    If you're going to move over more to cropped flares and culottes for the weather in which ankles and lower legs can actually be exposed to the outside air, you might want to consider knit tops or sweaters in cotton or linen that are a somewhat cropped length.

    And I like how you look in pinky-purples.

  • replied 1 year ago

    To someone like me, you have , or are in, wardrobe nirvana.  I see a signature look, and an enviable one at that. I also love the fact that you haven't shopped for quite awhile, which is the sign of a truly functional wardrobe
    I've always liked navy and ink but have really embraced it in the past year or so.  It is SO easy to wear and looks infinitely more interesting that all-black-all-of-the-time.  As you know, I am trying out the French 5 , or whatever  name it has, and finding it a great tool to keep myself focused when looking in stores.  I like your list  and I think this spring (more so that other years) you will be able to find a really great pair of silver sneaks that are better than average.  I took a quick spin through the Geo store here the other day and could easily have bought everything .  And re: your jewellery, I agree that chunky silver pieces are a great way to go.  Looking forward to seeing what you find. 

  • Beth Ann replied 1 year ago

    Me too!  As in, I'm living with a uniform, which I hope isn't a rut, but has been working for this stressful period of m life.  My wardrobe, of course, is not quite as focused and well curated as yours, but I've been grateful to get through the winter with what works.  I suspect I need to make some additions and changes for warmer weather, but I've got no motivation, and even less money........

    I wonder if you will want a little more color when Spring/Summer arrives -- a bit of pop.  Of course, you do have these pieces already in your closet, should such a need arise.  And of course, white items often need replacing and updating, since they're hard to keep looking their best.  Also, how do you feel about texture as an element in your wardrobe?

  • viva replied 1 year ago

    Definitely a signature and not a rut. You've always loved these colors (and they've loved you) and the romance has deepened with your hair change. I love these looks on you and am excited to see what the "French 5" brings. I'm not quite ready to commit to that myself although it's a very intriguing idea that I might need to read more about. Do you think you need to have achieved "uniform" status to do it? I feel like my style is still evolving.

  • rachylou replied 1 year ago

    Do you want *more* navy/ink or does anything need replacing? My thoughts are always very muddled in spring. I'm trying to think of questions to ask myself... in five minutes I'm going to try and tackle the change over. It's an unseasonal 80 F! I thought I had myself sorted and I don't...

  • JAileen replied 1 year ago

    I don't think you're in a rut. I think your wardrobe is wonderful. Even though you have a lot of navy, you have other colors that mix in nicely. I love the printed cashmere sweater.

  • shevia replied 1 year ago

    Not a rut at all. Sounds like a happy place, especially when life is stressful and you do not have to focus on what to wear when you need to feel confident and strong. I think it makes perfect sense that you are drawn to navy/ink and white and silver accents - these look so right on you, especially with your hair. Perhaps there is a new pair of jeans on your five if any of the new trends appeal. Hoping for a calm spring.

  • bonnie replied 1 year ago

    It must feel really nice to have a wardrobe that works so perfectly. I keep finding wardrobes holes that need filling. Getting to the place where I can try the French 5 is a goal for me. I used black as my main neutral because it is so readily available but I really like navy/ink and have begun adding it because I think it works well with black.

  • Joy replied 1 year ago

    Not a rut but a happy place to be with a wardrobe. Do you have any problems with the shades of navy when wearing your navy/ink pieces together? That is the one problem that keeps me from really committing to navy over black. I will jump in to the French 5 per season too. I want great tomato red flats and up dated jeans most and have yet to go through spring/summer things to see what else. I also need to see what this climate is like for summer. It may call for more of what used to be transitional pieces and less really hot summer.
    Keep us posted on your progress.

  • Runcarla replied 1 year ago

    Like LisaP said, wardrobe nirvana. But, since you are 'easily bored' you might see it as a period of stagnation since there hasn't been any drama in 3 months.

    Since you are also in a period of some personal stress, the 'French 5' is probably a fun way to update your wardrobe without giving in to stress shopping. I remember some drapey tops with silver and grey from last year that were pretty fantastic with your newly transitioned hair last summer. And keep an eye out for signiture hits of fuschia and what seems new to you - lavender.

    FWIW - I hauled all my winter coats off to the dry cleaners this weekend and rotated my blacks to the back of the closet and brought my blues to the front. Double digit (deg C) forecast for most of this week!

  • Suz replied 1 year ago

    Thanks for the great responses and prompts to further thought. 

    Carla, I haven't felt bored really -- quite the reverse. I think I've been too stressed to feel bored. And your comment reminded me that I also want to add more red -- preferably in footwear and also a top/ sweater. 

    Joy, I have a pretty high tolerance for navy/ ink mixing. They are not always the same exact tone but that doesn't bother me as long as the undertones work together -- similar to how I feel about mixing blacks. I think it helps that I often wear it with denim, which adds texture and moderates the flat effect. 

    Bonnie, I might be jumping into French 5 a little too quickly! We'll see. And your own wardrobe is shaping up extremely well. It took me about four years to get to the place I'm at. 

    Shevia, I'm sure I'll buy more jeans; I always do, need them or not! :)

    JAileen, thanks. UmmLila's right -- it's a great sweater! 

    Rachy, for spring/ summer I will want more navy/ ink and more white. I'll want a few navy/ ink sleeveless tops, specifically, and a pair of shorts for work at home. 

    Vivian, I'm not even sure you need to be a uniform dresser to do the French 5 (or something like it). I think you just have to have identified most of your essentials and perhaps be a person who tends to lean on those a lot. (Which isn't quite the same as a uniform, though there are obvious overlaps.) 

    Beth Ann, I hope the stress reduces (and money increases) for you very soon. You've been working so hard since your move. You are so right about white and I will certainly need to update a few essentials. 

    LisaP, thanks. I am now always on the hunt for the right chunky silver bits. And I think the Ecco sneakers should work pretty well for me if they fit like last year's version. 

    Lisa, good suggestions. I definitely need a few more cropped tops of some kind for spring. And yes, isn't that sweater great? 

  • Firecracker replied 1 year ago

    It sounds like your wardrobe is in a great place. It is sustaining you and keeping you happy with what you're wearing, through a period in which you don't have time to focus on it. It's amazing how the change of hair color enabled you to get to a place where your color palette is so well honed. Sounds like that simplified palette has made dressing easier and comforting.

  • Penny replied 1 year ago

    My sense is a great signature look - potentially biased by my own love of navy / ink and recognition that I could happily wear it just about every day ;)  I'm also impressed by your discipline at not shopping . . . even when I'm busy, I find that it's a pleasant distraction to browse, and would like to focus more on just wearing what I have instead.  Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Emily K replied 1 year ago

    Signature!  Because you are consciously choosing this wardrobe and your motivations are current.  IMO, a rut is what happens when you STOP making conscious, thoughtful, current decisions.

  • Jenn replied 1 year ago

    As long as it's working for you, I say it's not a rut.

    I've really enjoyed having a work-from-home uniform this winter, though it's evolved a bit from my original concept. I still wear the same exact pieces often, but just as often, I reach for a formula loosely based on those pieces. Taking the majority of thought out of my outfits for 4 or 5 days a week has made the 2-3 days I do something different much more fun. I've been thinking about how I can adapt the formula for summer, but don't have a perfect solution yet.

    I love the idea of using at least some of your 5PF to invest in wonderfully-made uniform pieces. I am fairly certain that at least a couple of mine this season will be upgraded essentials. I'd also urge you to leave room for a statement piece or two. In your planning, leave a slot open for a love-at-first-sight scenario. It's a pretty wonderful feeling to be gobsmacked by something, and to realize you've intentionally left the space in your budget and closet to make it happen.

  • Brooklyn replied 1 year ago

    I am also working on developing, and sticking to, a signature style this year and a limited colour palette is a big part of it. I think ink/navy is a great choice for you. You love it and it suits you (it's not guaranteed that the colours we like will like us back). But also it is neutral, trans seasonal and generally available (there are plenty of colours that are hard to find at retail). You can introduce variation through silhouette, styling, embellishment. Not a rut. It sounds like your wardrobe is in great shape.

  • MomOfThree1980 replied 1 year ago

    I think there's always room for navy.  It's a neutral color that isnt super light like white or super dark like black and can still go with a variety of items.  Nothing wrong with always having a specific color in your wardrobe!

  • Lyn D. replied 1 year ago

    Sounds like you are in a great place Suz!
    I too like the 5 piece per season idea but I am struggling to justify it with my 1 in 1 out policy
    . Either the numbers increase or I let go an item I still like and may not yet have worn many times.
    It is so good that navy is more readily available these days (except in shoes, bags and leather jackets) I have to stop myself from buying everything in navy!.
    There is usually room for a new bag or belt though, and if they are in interesting colours or textures will be a good wardrobe addition.

  • Sisi replied 1 year ago

    When I look at your pics I see definitely a signature style. Your wardrobe is interesting and varied - no rut at all!

  • Style Fan replied 1 year ago

    I definitely see a signature style and a great one at that.  The French 5 is an intriguing idea.
    Navy is a great colour for you.  The navy works so well with your hair and eyes.  I need to check out those J Crew cashmere sweaters.  They were a hit on the forum.
    Silver sneakers and silver jewellery sound perfect.
    I find uniform dressing very freeing.  I am actually able to be more creative in my outfits now that I have found my "uniform".

  • Summer replied 1 year ago

    Your uniform works perfectly and beautifully for you, Suz.  No sign of a style rut from where I'm sitting! 

  • Bijou replied 1 year ago

    Definitely a signature and a great one at that! With the change in hair colour, I do think your colours have changed and the move towards more bold colours and contrasts seems to be part of taking advantage of your new look. To me you have never looked better!

  • Traci replied 1 year ago

    Isn't it funny how we can become so accustomed to struggle that we almost feel like something is wrong if the struggle is removed?  I think you are certainly not in a rut, but rather in your groove.  I think your hair change solidified something that allowed all the other pieces to fall into place (not without work, of course!) in a way that has made  your wardrobe more concise.  Enjoy this moment!  You've earned it.

  • Janet replied 1 year ago

    Traci has a good point -- when we've been working on something so long, it seems too easy when the effort is gone! I have never seen you in a rut, and it doesn't sound like a rut. But leave a little space in your shopping plan for an unexpected wild card, just in case. :-)

  • smittie replied 1 year ago

    Not much time to reply Suz, but I am doing the French 5 too! The concept must be in the ether. I feel like: why not? I think I'm going to have a loose 5 but an in-elastic budget (rather than the other way around) as it makes more sense to the money-manager in me.

    It sounds like you have a really good basis to make high quality additions.
    I know you love fashion and will probably want to experiment more with trends than the average French-5er, but maybe you can find a way to work that in. Maybe with denim and shoes, for example :-)

    Navy has been my best friend this winter too, and I don't mind repeating.

    So great to "see" you and I'm excited to see your picks.

  • La Pedestrienne replied 1 year ago

    I wear navy or ink on a near-daily basis. I think it's a fabulous base for a gamine palette, as it can carry a bit of a masculine vibe. I finally cleared the mental hurdle of pairing navy with black, which has opened up many wardrobe possibilities for me, especially in the colder months. Navy/black/white is my favorite tonal-neutral combo. I also find that a bit of black can tone down navy's inherent prep factor.

  • RobinF replied 1 year ago

    You are definitely not in a rut! I love how you always look put together and totally "you". I can see how focusing on your colors keeps things simple but the individual pieces add such interest that it isn't boring at all.

  • Suz replied 1 year ago

    So, guess what? I just put in an order at J. Crew -- not all navy! (But mostly). And not really hewing to the French 5 idea, either. Actually, I'm planning a modified version, which my budget will allow. Replacements of worn out essentials (even if upgrades in quality) will not count as part of my "five." The five will be new statement pieces or highly trend driven pieces.

    Thank you everyone for your comments. Smittie, high five for French five!

    Robin, Sisi, Bijou, Summer, Style Fan, Momofthree, Emilyk, Firecracker (nice to see you!!) -- thank you.

    LaPed, I hear you on navy/black in winter -- I agree that this combo can work. I've also been pairing navy with grey in winter (or rather, denim with grey) and this has worked really well to tone down the "prep." The truth is, I don't mind some prep, since I'm a bit of a prep at heart, but it has to be styled up prep. :)

    Lyn, why stop yourself from buying all navy? Be like me and buy all navy! ;)

    Brooklyn, let me guess what one of your key neutrals will be -- burgundy? Or cognac? Or maybe deep green? Which -- along with the black, of course.

    Jenn, thanks for weighing in. It sounds as if your at home uniform is just like mine. Basically the same thing, with slight variation. I wear a pullover and jeans almost every single winter day (this year, mostly but not always navy and blue denim), and shorts and woven top or linen tee almost every day in summer -- for work at home, I mean -- and I add a lot more variety for any outings. I feel as if it helps me with decision fatigue and feels put together.

    Traci, I am so touched that you weighed in here with all that is going on in your mind and heart -- and with such an astute observation. Janet, thanks for echoing it. I think you're both right. The change in hair added drama and allowed me to focus a bit more clearly. AND, I want room for a wild card, too. :)

    Does a leopard print shirt count as a wild card? :) Probably not, since it may become a staple. Anyway, here's what I picked from J. Crew.

    Of these, the first three are definitely replacements/ refreshers of essentials so do not count in French 5. The 4th, while a metallic, is arguably part of my essentials also since it is a style I wear constantly in summer. The last two are potential "5s". 

  • replied 1 year ago

    I was eyeing that leopard print shirt on their website too. Didn't it look fantastic with that chambray skirt?  Oh how I miss wearing interesting clothes....

  • Angie replied 1 year ago

    I vote signature, AND a form of "comfort food dressing" - which happens when we hunker down and life is somewhat stressful (especially in Winter). This is the next phase of your style journey Suz, and a meaningful one at that.  This is a great place to be with your style and wardrobe. You have put soooo much into it - and reap the reward over and over again. WELL DONE. If it isn't broken - don't fix it. See it through and keep listening to your emotions. 

    It took about a year to fully get used to the new colour of your hair, and how it conflicted and complimented with your wardrobe. Now you know what feels best, and you can build onto it. Excellent assessment. 

    As for the "French 5" - FWIW, I see little point in an inflexible shopping plan. I dress people and wardrobe plan with them for a living, and in my experience, it's best to have a proactive shopping plan that shapes to your needs and emotions throughout the year because they change. By all means set diciplined goals, but keep them flexible. 

  • Author Linda replied 1 year ago

    I also see signature. Your color palette and mine are quite similar. Navy. Periwinkle. Gray. Some pattern. I inject more aqua (my "summer" color). But the wardrobe you describe and items you're showing definitely have a cohesiveness I would attribute to a signature. Especially if you enjoy these colors, look good in them, and want more!

  • texstyle replied 1 year ago

    I agree that it's Signature, not rut. You still wear and choose interesting pieces and seem to have your style figured out. Love those jcrew picks you posted!  I also love navy and many blue colors. My own hair seems to be hanging onto golden tones and for some reason wearing anything lighter gray hasn't been feeling right so I'm sticking with deep charcoal. I'm in between "warm" and "cool" right now. I still can wear some deep olive greens esp. if they lean towards neutral. I can't really wear ruddy red toned colors. I think I feel a bit boxed in with what colors to wear at the moment. Even makeup colors seem to be more of a question right now.  I wonder if you've changed your makeup colors or if they've stayed the same?

  • Suz replied 1 year ago

    Tex, I absolutely understand what you mean about feeling unsure and boxed in with colours and somewhere between warm and cool -- that is where I was until my hair greyed -- and while I wore charcoal well, light grey was not great on me then. (It's one of my best tones now, providing I add a bit of contrast with white or navy for punch). I think you are naturally a bit warmer complected than I am, perhaps, so your mileage may vary on that. 

    On makeup, I've pretty much stayed the same. I don't wear foundation, so we're talking concealer, lipstick, blush, brows, mascara, with a swipe of blue or grey eye pencil -- and that's what I've always worn, since I was wearing makeup. I tend to wear nude-for-me berry tones on my lips, with the occasional darker berry.

    AuthorLinda, I'd love to add some more teal, as it is one of my best colours. I'd also love to add more berries and reds, especially in winter. It may take some searching to find them. 

    LisaP, yes, I love the look of that shirt -- I hope it works. I had to order in petite because it was sold out in my usual size, but I sized up in petite to make up for it, and that's usually okay for me.  

    Angie, thank you -- and I hear you loud and clear on French Five. Actually, I'm aiming for a "Flexible French Five" which is actually aimed at ensuring I include non-essentials in my closet and may, paradoxically, result in more purchases than fewer (at least for a while).

    As you know, my tendency is to go essential, essential, essential -- and I do in fact enjoy an essentials-heavy wardrobe -- but, and it's a big but -- I also enjoy, no, love my "wardrobe pets" of very high quality statement items like my Minkoff bag. My goal is actually to ensure that I buy around 5 statement or "special" items per season. Meanwhile, I can replace/ upgrade/ adjust my wardrobe essentials at will (and these will count as part of my overall budget, but not as part of my "five").

    Does that make sense? 

    My essentials for early spring include

    Cropped blue denim
    Cropped white denim
    Striped sweater
    Button front shirt in blue and white
    Knit tops in blue and white
    Trench
    Sneakers
    Bootie

  • Angie replied 1 year ago

    YES. That makes perfect sense, Suz. Great strategy. 

  • AviaMariah replied 1 year ago

    I have been in much the same boat.  I have so much going on that I feel like I need to simplify, simplify, simply in order to not feel frazzled.  I'm been focusing on not shopping as much and simplifying my wardrobe and have found that I'm happiest when I have a good amount of quality, well fitting and and comfortable neutrals.  For me neutrals are black, gray, ink and a little white (and stripes!).  With spring on the way (hopefully) I have been wondering if I'm still going to be happy with neutrals in summer.  I think I will as long as I have the occasional punch of color.  I think I need a variety of tops and maybe even pants in color but I'm think accessories might be even more important.  I'm haven't totally decided what those accessories are going to be but I'm thinking shoes, bags, jewelry, a jacket, vest, cardigan??  We'll have to see what's out there.  

  • Suz replied 1 year ago

    I love your picks, AV! You look great in stripes and florals, and yes, stripes are a neutral. :)

    Thanks, Angie -- glad that makes sense. 

  • Sterling replied 1 year ago

    Any woman that could make this statement:  My navy/ ink stuff is what I do not tire of. I always feel capable, confident, smart, professional, dramatic, and easy in ink/navy should be dancing in the streetsI know this is my wardrobe goal. 

  • Emily K replied 1 year ago

    Your response to Angie re: Flexible French Five -- "Flexible French Five" which is actually aimed at ensuring I include non-essentials in my closet and may, paradoxically, result in more purchases than fewer (at least for a while) -- represents exactly my point of view, although I may implement in flawed fashion. :-)

  • Rambling Ann replied 1 year ago

    Suz, are you still feeling the magenta in small doses? I imagine some of the pieces you already have (if not too dressy) would blend nicely with the navy, once it's more like spring. Like AviaMaria showed. I love the sneaks she found.

  • Suz replied 1 year ago

    Ann, absolutely, I love fuchsia/ magenta, teal, reds/ berries, lilacs/ plums. and will still include them in my closet. I just tend to like them as "occasional" items, or as outerwear, scarves, accessories, and statement pieces vs. my daily uniform. 

    Emily, Sterling -- thanks! 

  • Dana replied 1 year ago

    Suz, I agree with everyone! It looks like a very workable wardrobe. I say kudos to you for finding how much you love navy/ink and getting away from black. I think navy/ink is hard to find, but it is so much friendlier to most women than black, but the stores push: black, black, black! 

    I'm still working on finding "my" neutral. I really think charcoal grey is best on me, but it's so fall/winter...at a loss for s/s. 

    One last thing...you know, we see all of these capsules on Pinterest and they all look so perfect--on paper. Yours is real, so another reason to pat yourself on the back!!

  • Isabel replied 1 year ago

    I love the French 5 strategy. I don't see it as a rut. I think that you may be settling into your signature style for the next few years. It says something that it has become almost intuitive for you to wear and reach for certain things : while looking fantastic and feeling confident. That is the holy grail, isn't it ?

    I know that you used to bore very easily with your clothes. Maybe you don't anymore yet you still have a great outlet to keep it lively and "moving". 

    And I LOVE what Dana said,  "Yours in REAL !"

  • torontogirl replied 1 year ago

    Suz - I've missed your musings! Fwiw, I think this sounds like a fantastic signature look (and I'm not just saying that because I love navy AND your style and therefore look forward to seeing what inspiration you'll serve up next!). I think you commented you have different prints and this is a great way to keep a signature color from getting boring.

    I love your comment about forcing yourself to include non-essentials in your wardrobe - this is something I need to work on too!

    Enjoy the next leg of your journey :)

  • cindysmith replied 1 year ago

    It sounds like a signature style to me :-)

    I never get tired of navy either. It's kinder to my pale skin and grey hair than black

  • CocoLion replied 1 year ago

    I too love navy.  I think navy combined with a pale grayish lilac would look great on you.  (You might already be aware of this.)  I think navy is flattering on many different types, as is coral and teal/turquoise.  It does not hurt to continuing acquiring navy.  I use the stalk/sale approach for high quality items in colors I'm collecting, especially if they are useful essentials that I can wear every day.

  • Jeanie replied 1 year ago

    I know what you mean.  I gravitate to my navy and ink items so much as well.  I try on other things when I'm getting dressed but nothing "feels" quite the same or has that sophistication while suiting my coloring.  Maybe this is how others feel about wearing black.  It does sound like a signature style for you.  And it sounds like you are possibly on your way to a pared down wardrobe with items you know are your signature.

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