Thanks and Epiphanies

Thank you so much to all who offered sympathy, support, and suggestions on my "sad holiday dressing" thread yesterday. You cheered me up and offered me a lot of wise counsel and gave me food for thought.

Everything went well (I'll post what I REALLY wore next week when I am home again).

I also came away with some epiphanies.

1. Something about Gaylene's explanation in combination with some of the things Linda (Milehighstyle) and Kellygirl were saying FINALLY made the penny drop on "capsule" dressing for holidays (and generally the dressier parts of my life). I think in the past I had tended to imagine that if I just bought a bunch of holiday-like pieces I "should" be able to mix and match them into my regular wardrobe. But it's not quite as simple as that: I need to think of all the potential types of occasion I might have and imagine outfits for each type. And buy what I need for that. AHEAD of time.

I think, even with Angie's guidance, years of sale and discount and thrift shopping have left me still shopping for *items* vs. capsules. Sure, I have a general idea of what aspect of my life I am buying and shopping for, but I don't go the extra step and think out the actual outfits I can make...I just vaguely tell myself, "That will go..." usually thinking of colours and forgetting proportion, etc. And then I am disappointed when I get it all home and it doesn't seem to work.

This is actually a HUGE revelation because I feel much better prepared for my next major shopping season. I'm going to be more methodical about it. What portion of my life is work-at-home? Huge, so obviously most of my clothes need to be casual. But I'm also going to list ALL the other parts of my life: appearances, visits to friends in the city, travel to other cities. And recognize and ALLOW MYSELF to shop for those parts of my life as well. Even if the clothing doesn't get worn as often, it is still important to have it.

(Yeah...duh....I know, but hey...)

2. Anna is right; I have been labouring under a certain style dysmorphia. I might look fine, but I'm not dressing close enough to my aspirational style, so I don't feel fine.

3. To dress to my aspirational style, I have to make a few key purchases that will get me there. I don't have to buy an entire new wardrobe all at once, but I need to come up with at least an outfit or two that seems to fit that style, and then ask myself what the common denominator is.

This was suggested to me earlier in the summer by some wise person and I did try to do it, but it's not as easy as it might seem. The problem is finding a way to mesh my aspirational style with my actual life as a work-at-home person. My life is very casual; my style is more urban. Yet I HAVE to be comfortable to work. Hence the struggle.

4. Quality matters a LOT to me. I would really rather have fewer, better things. the same time, I am still scared of taking risks laying out lots of money on items that I don't know will work. SO...if I am going to spend big money, it should be on something that I absolutely know I will adore. (Like my new boots). I will spend less on more experimental purchases. (like my fuchsia knit jacket). Angie is right - high-low is the way to go. But I need to pick my highs very carefully.

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.


  • Raisin replied 10 years ago

    I think you're on a good track Suz. You see, to have a lot of great thoughts lately. I agree totally in having some good quality pieces, like your new boots! I can't wait to see what you buy for your aspirational outfit though. I'm intrigued!

  • bj1111 replied 10 years ago

    suz, what a wonderful epiphany! mostly because it feels so positive to allow yourself to have those "nice things" because you are worth it!

    how did the sw's perform after a full day of wear?

  • replied 10 years ago

    Brilliant Suz! And you know that you *know* when you meet the perfect high-end item. There is no question in your mind about the purchase, and the splurge is justified.

    I too, have been guilty of buying festive items and thinking I can just throw something together. Proportion is a big concern for me as well. My new sparkly top/tunic/dress thing might work with skinny jeans, but it will be too long to wear with a pencil skirt, for example, and it is way too bulky to be tucked in. In fact, one of my biggest problems is having to have two completely different sets of tops, one set to wear with pants, and one to wear with dresses. That takes away a lot of potential combinations that I might have been counting on in my head.

    I am super excited about your new boots, and can't wait to see the stylish outfits they will inspire! How do they look with skirts/dresses?

    Edited multiple times for poor grammar and I'm probably not finished yet!

  • Suz replied 10 years ago

    BJ, the boots stood up beautifully to an afternoon/ evening's wear, with walking, standing, etc. No need to break them in. Perfect right out of the box.

    Wearing them now again!

    Claire, I still need to take a picture to see how they look with skirts/ dresses, but i wore them with a skirt last night, so I hope it was okay! I think the shape in the front helps them work a bit better for me. The slightly pointed toe is elongating, which I'm hoping created the illusion I am after.

  • Sveta replied 10 years ago

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Suz. Some of them resonate with me really well. I also need to think of my wardrobe in terms of different capsules. Unlike you I work outside of the house and this aspect of my life was the main focus for my style so far. However my other life occasions are sorely lacking and I have to focus on them more.
    Now I am off to look ate your new boots!

  • Gaylene replied 10 years ago

    Suz, your comment on trying to dress to your "aspirational" style caught my attention, especially in context with your next statement about "trying to mesh your aspirational style with your actual life..."

    I think you've hit on a problem that plagues many of us when it comes to our wardrobes. I'm inspired, and fall in love with, so many looks these days--and, given the plethora of Pinterest boards, I don't think I'm alone. But, truthfully, falling in love with another person's style and trying to imitate their look by buying similar items to style in the same way, has not worked out very well for me. My "imitation" outfits often made me feel awkward and odd, or inappropriate, or discouraged because I didn't look like my inspiration.

    This last year I've tried very hard to become more conscious about what feels right for MY life and MY body. I want to have fun with fashion and experiment, but, ultimately, my aspiration these days is not to achieve a particular style, or to imitate another person's style, or to fulfill a fashion catch phrase, but to wear things that make me feel good about myself, and put a smile on my face, as I go about my daily life.

    As far as taking risks with money, if an item fits my body and my actual lifestyle, plus makes me feel good about myself every time I put it on so I want to wear it over and over again, how can it be a mistake? Truthfully, I think the biggest mistakes I've ever made were buying things that looked good on others, and sounded good in theory, but just weren't very practical for my lifestyle.

    Just a couple of other ideas I thought I'd toss into the mix.

  • cheryl replied 10 years ago

    I love reading about your thought process. I'm like you in that I don't shop for capsules but just say oh yeah this will go with such and such. I like the idea of mix and match capsules but I also like variety too much to contain it to a small curated capsule, lol.

  • replied 10 years ago

    Suz -- you summed up my exact problems. Every word you said spoke to me and the problems I experience. I guess I am going to have to re-read your post and take careful notes. I would be very thrilled to hear your progress over the course of the next year.

    Also, have you read the Vivenne Files? This website might provide a great foundation for both of us to start planning for the new year. I love her way of thinking and the presentation is breathless (in my opinion).

    Happy Holidays.

  • Suz replied 10 years ago

    Gaylene, you are right. When I say aspirational style, it's not that I'm trying or wanting to look like somebody else. In fact, my aspiration is to dress like MYSELF and feel great in my clothes. So it's not that I'm trying to copy. My aim is just towards a more minimalist style, a bit more sophisticated than what I typically wear. I don't think this is impossible. In fact, it should be quite do-able. But I suspect it takes super-careful selection so that the pieces do not look and feel TOO plain.

    One of my recognitions this year is that I pretty much dislike embellishment. For me, I mean. Obviously I am not talking about ALL embellishment....buttons on a coat, or the occasional pleat or bit of draping. And I do like interesting cuts. But I really don't care for embellishment that is not crisp, sharp, and clean-lined. (On me, I mean. I ADORE romantic looks on others....and kept trying to dress that way for a while.)

    But overall, when it comes to mistakes, I think mine are less around trying to copy others than they are around just trying to figure out my own likes and preferences. It seems to be taking me a while to do that. Even though there are some these boots I've bought, that just call to me, either I haven't been in a financial position to listen, OR I didn't know where to find it. Or both.

    Now, with YLF, I have a much easier time locating things, and I have a bit more disposable income as well. So life is conspiring to help me finally focus my style. The year ahead is going to be interesting!

  • Gaylene replied 10 years ago

    Ah, that makes sense, Suz. Embellishment and complexity are so not my style, either, although it looks great on others.

    I think you are on the right track, though, with those amazing boots; they have that combination of good design and sophistication that is so in tune with your look these days--elegantly simple, distinctive, fun, and yet practical.

    Maybe your discouragement with the outfits you were putting together the other day was because those outfits didn't have that combination of simplicity, sophistication, and playfulness that is becoming your style signature? If those feelings gave you the push to grab those boots instead of waffling about them, you're actually getting into a good place style wise, at least the way I see it.

  • Inge replied 10 years ago

    Suz, I'm so happy to hear the evening went well. And that you found those amazing SW ankle boots, oh la la!! And then you had your epiphany, see it is all coming together nicely;-)
    Minimalist, crisp, clean and strong are personal style preferences of mine too, so I'm very much looking forward to seeing your style evolve and continuing to follow your sartorial adventures in the new year.

  • CocoLion replied 10 years ago

    The part of your post that I can relate to is aspirational style vs. real life style needs. I have a lot of clothes at this point and feel I can dress, head to toe, in my aspirational style (which also shifts *slightly* all the time). However if I look at myself right now, I am wearing the same floppy sweater from last years, cheap jr's jeggings, a new top (yay, wearing it) and... my work Sanita clogs.

    I still have the problem of over-spending on my smart casual capsule, like you it is an urban look, and it does not mesh with my day-to-day at home needs. And it all starts with the footwear for me. If I could find a pair of shoes as comfortable as the Sanitas, yet which are more trendy, I would be extremely happy. Oh and they have to be slip on-slip off with a low heel. I've tried loafers and don't like they way they look on me.

  • Suz replied 10 years ago

    Inge, you are one of the stars in my aspirational firmament!! In fact I was thinking of some of your outfits when I spoke as I did. :-)

    Denise, I always think of you as dressing so are another one of my aspirational stars!! But I understand what you are saying...the outfits we see are not the ones you are able to wear for your daily work life. I suppose I am lucky; if I ever learned to dress as cool as you, I actually COULD wear those outfits for my work at home life (well, except maybe the shoes and some of the jackets for indoors.) Even so, it can be easy to overspend for the capsules that aren't really the most necessary in our lives, and difficult to find the stylish clothes that are truly practical. This is something I'm really keeping in the forefront of my mind, moving forward.

    Gaylene, those outfits were all fine..and to some degree they embodied what I am after, but creating them felt a bit too effortful and something wasn't quite right with each one. I think I'm getting closer to understanding all of this, though.

  • jayne replied 10 years ago

    I feel it, this epiphany of yours, every word! I am in exactly the same spot. I tried using cheaper pieces to test out my style and feel it took several mistakes, and a bit of good luck to finally fall over the outfit that was 'perfect'. Trying to emulate that vibe in all my other outfits has been my next step. I feel I am honing in on the cornerstone pieces that make up my style. But I recommend just doing it every day. I made a 'plan' for wearing different choices about a week in advance, wore them roughly to schedule, and then really tried to see what I felt about them. THose photos help so much and I ask my daughters and they generally help. Even if you don't go out, you can start dressing the way you aspire to in one outfit to see how you feel about it every time you wear it, tweek it, and see if you can get there with one outfit. THEN go for more of the same. I don't feel it is easy. I never knew my clothes would require so much thought! DO you think those super stylish ladies think about it so much?

  • annagybe replied 10 years ago

    Ok I think I'm finally getting an inkling of what you're striving for in your style.
    Just be careful not to view it as an end sum game. I think fashion should be fluid and shifting.

  • Amy replied 10 years ago

    I really like what Anna said is fluid and are we :)

  • bj1111 replied 10 years ago

    several themes seem to emerge. trying to articulate it back to you to see if i understand...

    1. you have a proustian ideal of your style, which you've termed aspirational, in the sense that you aspire to show your true sartorial self.
    2. it seems to take more effort that you think it should or that you are not as comfortable/at ease/confident with the process of putting an outfit together either from your closet or from the stores to build your closet.
    3. complicating matters is the financial aspect of times past, tho past may have left a mark on your spending psyche, that seems to impede you from grabbing precisely the item you need to move your style forward because of the cost of making a financial mistake.

    forgive me if i have misunderstood. i think that you have the skills from precision nutrition already to handle #2. it's a habit. all the work you are doing posting your outfits has already honed your style. maybe you find it challenging because the next set of habits IS more challenging. #3 is habit as well...finding comfort and confidence in your ability to discern what is a good buy and what it not. to develop it, you should allow yourself a few not letting extra portions of dessert to derail what is a lifestyle change. building a closet is a lifestyle change. you already proved that you can change.

  • Transcona Shannon replied 10 years ago

    Brilliant Suz! I'm looking forward to seeing how these revelations translate into your outfits and style.

  • replied 10 years ago

    Wow, I loved BJ1111's analogy to diet/nutrition! I'd add that anything you *do* own that is remotely your aspirational style, get it out and wear it every day (like you're already doing with your new SW booties). I firmly believe that it's in this "road testing" of items and outfits that we discover what feels like *us* and only then can we move forward. I have been getting out some of my more treasured pieces and wearing them around the house and to run an errand or two in when I know they won't be ruined. What am I waiting for? There is this woman I want to be and to dress like, so if I already have some of her clothes, why am I not wearing them? The transformation is a process, not an event.

    And speaking of diet/nutrition, I often find myself in gear right before dinner, because we go walking before the sun sets. It's tempting to prepare the meal and eat in my athletic duds but I've been making it a point to "dress for dinner". It's actually kind of fun. I can try a new combination for an hour or two and see how it looks and feels. I wear an apron, so I can usually just hang it back up because I only have it on for a few hours before bed. Sorry if I've gone completely off track here!

  • Jaime replied 10 years ago

    Ok I have had to use all my will to not to tear myself from this thread and go searching for your new boots. I think you are wonderfully on track, and this is reflected in your recent outfits. I also think the lady is quite a perfectionist. And you know what, that is part of who you are, which has made you successful in lots of areas of your life, and you should embrace that and keep striving for perfection, while just bearing in mind you are already extremely fab and, as Anna points out, there is no final goal, just a refined process.

  • Gaylene replied 10 years ago

    "What am I waiting for? There is this woman I want to be and to dress like, so if I already have some of her clothes, why am I not wearing them?"

    Wow, Claire, I'm pasting this on my wardrobe door. Brilliant!

  • Isabel replied 10 years ago

    Suze, I have really enjoyed this. I believe that your struggle is a common struggle for women who spend a big chunk of their time at home. ( The reason that I didn't participate in the copycat challenge, which I was all ready to do, is that both my children got sick over a 10 day period and I did not leave the HOUSE except to go to the mailbox. ). Our poor dog walker basically saw every pair of pjs I own. And they are not my "best" clothing....that reminds me, I need to re-read Angie's loungewear post.........but I digress.

    I ended up reading that wonderful book, Lessons From Madame Chic ( hang in there with me, it is coming back to your epiphany, LOL ). I love it not because of the 10-item wardrobe idea but because it reminded me of how I grew up and how my mom handled things. And one of those things was that my mom wore housecoats or aprons OVER her clothes when she had do light housework. I distinctly remember her washing the kitchen floor on her hands and knees with high heels on and a dress ( and a housecoat ). So.....WEAR YOUR THINGS. BE YOU !!!!! Even if no one else is around to see you because the most important person to be authentic with is YOURSELF !

    OK, one, small, practical thing. I honestly believe that to make something truly yours, you have to have it tailored. I think you sew. Take advantage of that. Even a simple T shirt sometimes can be "tweaked". I am enjoying your journey ( not the angst though ).

  • Suz replied 10 years ago

    You're ALL brilliant! Thank you.

    Yes, true, it is shifting and moving (and if it isn't, that is where we get into trouble and become hardened relicts). I will keep that bit of wisdom in mind moving forward.

    BJ- brilliant connection! And you're exactly right...I have been trying to break the whole mystery down into a process and learn it bit by bit, and have made some progress, but still do have my perfectionist tendencies...and also guilt and shame when I make mistakes. "Oh no, I *shouldn't * have spent money on that item I only wore 3 times ...or once...or worst of all, NO times." When in fact (largely thanks to YLF) I haven't made too many of those mistakes, and I haven't made the even worse mistake of forcing myself to wear stuff I hate.

    Bj, it's the shopping part I'm still less confident about. When I have the things in my possession I feel good about making them into outfits. Usually, I mean. Good enough. Although admittedly, panic about making a holiday outfit was what got us into this whole discussion! But that is partly because I wasn't sure I had the components to make something work.

    Jayne, Claire - I love your idea of making up the outfits, planning, wearing those pieces that come closest to my ideal. I have actually been trying to do this. The other thing I've been doing is trying to wear the clothes that actually work in my life. And seeing where the two meld or overlap. And I'm taking photos...not always posting them...just building up a folder of them day by day as much as I can.

    And Claire, I love your idea of dressing for dinner. What a fun thing to do.

  • ManidipaM replied 10 years ago

    I love these epiphany threads, especially when someone writes them as articulately as you do, Suz. Because not only is it helpful to follow your thoughts and find resonances, it sparks off mini-epiphanies all the way down the line to myself.

    So many issues and comments brought up here that I wish I could pin to my bathroom mirror!

    1. shopping in capsules --- I need to steel myself (same background issues of budget and fear of mistakes) and do this too. I think it was Meredith who first pointed me to the Vivienne Files' Core of Four theory, and I can see how much of a difference it makes to have even just four pieces that for sure coordinate. Otherwise, like you and others have said, I find what I *think* will work does not actually work when combined, due to a sub-optimal balance of proportions, fit, fabric, colours or whatever.

    2. "To dress to my aspirational style, I have to make a few key purchases that will get me there." --- yeah, that! Especially, and also, with a view to the above.

    3. "My life is very casual; my style is more urban. Yet I HAVE to be comfortable to work." --- maybe not 'urban' so much as 'streamlined/body-skimming' in my case, but EXACTLY the same result.

    4. From Claire: "one of my biggest problems is having to have two completely different sets of tops, one set to wear with pants, and one to wear with dresses" --- I think she meant skirts at the end, but yeah, bane of my shopping endeavours too! That's where the Harper's list was so useful to me. At least two tops for each individual skirt or pants... going forward!

    5. I was jumping up and down in recognition of "Even though there are some items....that just call to me, either I haven't been in a financial position to listen, OR I didn't know where to find it. Or both." So frustrating. And just beginning to get a handle on it. It's reassuring, while I can completely and wholeheartedly acknowledge that it is of course tough for you, to know someone as stylish as yourself shares this problem. Maybe it means I'm not lacking entirely in style or sense either, that it's an issue of logistics---which is less disheartening. Not to make this about me, but wanted to thank you for the reassurance, however inadvertent.

    6. I need to frame Claire's comment, not just stick it on the mirror: "What am I waiting for? There is this woman I want to be and to dress like, so if I already have some of her clothes, why am I not wearing them? The transformation is a process, not an event."

    7. "it seems to take more effort that you think it should or that you are not as comfortable/at ease/confident with the process of putting an outfit together either from your closet or from the stores to build your closet." --- BJ could be in my head here! Thanks, BJ, for reminding all of us that it is a matter of habit, nothing more and nothing less.

    Thanks, Suz, for sharing your insights, and everyone else for furthering them. What a thread!

  • RoseandJoan replied 10 years ago

    Suz, I think you are fabulous example of using analysis for positive gain, you always implement what you have discovered.

    There is something which was highlighted during Una's statement thread by Gaylene and others about the attributes a wearer brings to a look. In you instance Suz the romance will always be present in your soft, low contrast colouring, there is no need for the addition of ruffles or bows because you already have this aspect covered. Secondly, you have a straightish body type which is complemented by simple straight cuts, therefore, there is a harmony between your new style goals and your body type

    Now, I have personally enjoyed reading your epiphanies and feel that I was on a similar road last year. Looking back at that process I have come to understand how the universal law 'every action has a reaction' applies to style. Every new job, move, birth or death will have an impact on how we think and feel and invariable leads to a change in how we express ourselves through style. I am really excited to see where your epiphanies lead over the coming months, you are one to watch for sure.

  • lyn67 replied 10 years ago

    Great thread, as usual, Suz! The most thoughtful for me was "trying to mesh your aspirational style with your actual life..." Now, that is a general problem to many of us....Just have to decide, step by step, one item at a time...(just answered on Jayne's thread this very same-about where to end increasing the quality on her clothing).

  • Suz replied 10 years ago

    Isabel, we posted at the same time! I hope your kids are better now!

    I meant to mention also in response to Claire - I do have two terrific aprons. And often forget to wear them! But I'm trying to remember more often. I don't so much worry about spoiling my things at home...but I tend to curl up on a couch or chair or sit on a saddle chair to work, so, for example, the pencil skirt I might be perfectly comfortable in to walk downtown (even though it is dressier than the environmental norm) simply isn't practical or comfortable. The reality of my work-at-home life is that jeans or at least trousers are the most practical clothes for me to wear. Wearing jeans is in no way in conflict with my style goal -- all I have to do is look to somebody like CocoLion to know that! Yet one does get tired of an endless uniform of jeans and sweaters, jeans and shirts, jeans and ts.

    I don't sew, Isabel -- but I do have a terrific seamstress. I agree that sometimes a small alteration will make an item feel so much better!

    Manidipa, so glad if some of my musings speak to you! And I, too, was struck by Claire's remark about toppers. This has been a shock to me; pre YLF it never occurred to me that this might be an issue because I had no idea about proportion at all. And now I am still quite confused about it - I guess because working out the proportions that please one is quite individual; there are general guidelines based on body shape and proportion, but it seems they have to be tweaked quite a lot.

    BJ is really onto to something....and Jayne, too. Who knew it takes so much thought and work simply to dress well? I certainly never did. I thought people either "had" it or didn't. Now I see it is like any other talent or skill. IF they "had it" it's probably because they spent long hours thinking about it and because they also made many mistakes and allowed themselves to do so.

    Julie, thank you - and you are so right - low contrast colouring "softens" what might otherwise be harsh and makes the need for romantic detailing superfluous, while my angular face/ body type makes it incongruous. On some level I have always intuited this...but could not articulate it clearly or put it into practice with my purchasing. And you are SO right - life changes definitely result in style changes!!

    Lyn, so true...item by item is, I suppose, the way to go....

  • anne replied 10 years ago

    Suz, another fascinating thread!!!

  • Mona replied 10 years ago

    Suz, i have been really scarce on the forum lately so I missed your original thread. but I always find your posts so insightful and invigorating.

  • Angie replied 10 years ago


    1. Well done, Suz! You are well on your way to honing your aspirational style through these reflections. It's the pricey purchase that will be the most stressful for you to make, yet those purchases will yield the highest return. Keep on remembering that, as well as remembering that your less expensive pieces complement these pricey pieces.

    2. Analysis is important, but please do not be crippled by it. Over analysis can take away the fun we have on our style journeys - which is the most important reason we are on the journey in the first place.

    3. These are your reflections now. They are fabulous! But they will change. And that's fabulous too. Fashion, body type, budget, lifestyle and style preferences are seldom static. Accept the changes in thought process as they come along. We always reserve the right to change our mind.

    4. Your last set of outfits, the ones that made you feel un-fab, were actually very much along the lines of your aspirational style. I think you just needed to get this all down on paper to feel better about it. Some people respond purely to visuals, while others need to reflect through words before the visuals make sense. You are the latter :)

    hugs and love xoxo

  • Ariadne replied 10 years ago

    I took a break from studying for my exam tomorrow to read this thread and a couple of others on the forum after barely logging in all month (sob), and I'm glad I did. I'm taking notes, because so much of this rings true for me (I've realized this year that the simple fact of my short hair dictates a lot about what feels "right" on me--romantic and boho looks that I love on others never translate well on me, and I swear it's at least 50% because of the short hair! I'm never giving up my short hair, so I'm OK with it dictating aspects of my stye), and I too am printing out ClearlyClaire's insight to paste on my closet door.

You need to be logged in to comment