The Bay in 3 Acts: Thanks to Angie & YLF

I was really touched by Ornella's year-in-review post the other day. I love how she called out specific voices and threads that stood out for her. I love how she quoted the posts that especially resonated for her as she went about dressing and shopping.

I'm afraid my memory for specifics isn't as good as hers, so I can't do quite the same thing. Besides, there have been SO MANY rich and helpful threads on this forum in the past year that it would be next to impossible for me to pick and choose just a few. But I did want to do a little year -end recap for myself. And I also want to say thanks! Especially after some of my recent panicky "what do I wear?" posts, it makes sense to stop for a second and think about how far I have actually come.

So: herewith, my play in 3 acts.

Act One: 15 months ago, I had a few hours in Toronto on my own to go shopping. I had been a member of YLF for about 6 months at that point, and still had not done a lot of purchasing of new clothes (though I badly needed new things after having changed size and shape).

On that particular (much anticipated) day, I hoped to find a few core pieces for my new fall wardrobe. Instead, I wandered around the Bay, completely overwhelmed. I didn't know any of the brands, so had no idea what I was looking AT, and I didn't really have a sense of my own style preferences or even my needs, so I had no idea what I was looking FOR.

Eventually I retreated outside to Queen street, stopping in a couple of boutiques. I ended up buying an inexpensive skirt that turned out to be a wardrobe workhorse last year. So all was not lost. In fact, I gained a bit of trust in myself when this purchase worked out so well for me. Which was a big win.

But that aimless hour in the Bay was a sobering and slightly demoralizing experience. How could I not know how to shop?? Aren't all women supposed to understand how to shop? I USED to know how to shop. Didn't I? But I didn't anymore. Twenty years of neglecting fashion had brought me to that.

Act Two: 11 months ago, I was back in at the Toronto Bay, just in time for the post-holiday sales. I was still overwhelmed and flustered in the store, but this time I focused more intently on one department. As a result, I came away with my very first premium denim jeans. Also bought (on sale!!! ARGH!!!) a cardigan that turned out to be a poor purchase (the colour was different than I thought and I consigned it after wearing it twice -- I just didn't like it). But the jeans were winners. All in all, a big improvement.

Act 3: A few days ago, I was back at the Bay again, trying on suiting. The same area of the store that had overwhelmed me a year ago was now filled with brands I recognized and styles I could interpret. I could walk around looking at things without feeling panicked. I could easily dismiss certain areas, and give deeper attention to others. And at the end of the hour I could walk away without having bought anything, yet still feeling as if I had spent the hour very productively.

Surely that is due to the time I've spent on YLF. So thank you Angie, and thank you all, for helping to turn me into a more comfortable shopper, which is a crucial step towards feeling more confident in my style.

Pics: Ironically - half of what I'm wearing comes from the consignment stores or sales! But at least I am feeling a lot more conifdent about what I pick out there.

1. Theory wool crewneck with asymmetrical cables, bought at my favourite Toronto consignment store. Theory trousers (free for me at consignment). BR noniron fitted shirt. BR scarf. SW booties (yay!!!) Michael Kors reversible belt, suggested at one time by Jeneva.

2. Same with the addition of my bag, and my Vince Camuto pea coat, bought at WInners. Plus my suitcase. ;-)

Funny. This feels very classic and verging on the too corporate or conservative for me, and in some ways it's more of a work look (if I worked in an office) than it is a weekend look. Yet I knew my mother would like to see me dressed this way (I was on my way to her place) and something about the fits and the quality of the fabrics helped to bring it closer to modern classic than simple classic, at least in my imagination. And so where I might have felt boring in it, somehow I didn't. Or didn't care.

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.


  • Jaime replied 9 years ago

    Suz I love this outfit! One of my favorites ever! And I love and totally understand your Bay Play in three acts. I could do my own version substituting consignment stores. Maybe I will try - but it won't come out as well.

  • Amy replied 9 years ago

    Wonderful, suz! It's great to really see just how much you learned, isn't it? I also feel panicky sometimes when shopping, but ylf has helped me gain some confidence when shopping. I've certainly been more pleased with my purchases over the last year or so, because I had the tools to evaluate items better.

  • Adelfa replied 9 years ago

    Suz, I didn't know you weren't always THE Suz! Wow!

    Also let me just say that you continually astound me with your tact, your kindness, and your ability to make constructive suggestions in a positive way! When I grow up I want to be like you!

  • Karie replied 9 years ago

    Your outfit looks fantastic, and I loved reading your post! I have only been here on YLF for a little over a month, hopefully my fashion sense will evolve as beautifully as yours has!

  • Gaylene replied 9 years ago

    You. Look. Fab.

    Your three-act play was a fun read, but the pictures at the end tell the real story. Fashion is in the items, but style is in the person. And you, Suz, wear the items in this outfit with style. You can use whatever labels you want to describe your look--classic, modern, simple--but what is so inspiring is that you totally own this look. It's how YOU are wearing everyone of these items that creates the style statement.

    Well done!

  • suzyq replied 9 years ago

    Wow. I feel so much better knowing I'm where you were. There's hope. Adelfa said it well.

  • Day Vies replied 9 years ago

    You look so stinkin' cute! It is hard to imagine that there was ever any struggle. But I understand your journey and feel myself learning something new everyday just by being a part of this community.

    Your efforts have more than paid off because you look so effortlessly stylish in a way I work hard to achieve every day. Very inspiring.

    Thanks for the post!

  • ManidipaM replied 9 years ago

    What a great outfit! I never knew black or grey could manage to look that comfy or downright cozy --- and you're right, I tend to think of them as 'work/corporate' in my head.

    Especially enjoying the way the peek of pale belt picks up your lighter hair colour and punctuates the darks.

  • Joy replied 9 years ago

    What a wonderful read! We have all gown and learned from your style journey, Suz, and are grateful for your presence on the Forum. Your insights help us find our own and give us hope.

  • rae replied 9 years ago

    Walking away and still feeling productive: priceless. :D

  • CocoLion replied 9 years ago

    Reading and understanding more about your relationship with shopping is interesting. Do you now enjoy shopping, even if you come up empty handed? Or do you still dislike it, as you did earlier in your YLF life? Maybe this is an incorrect assumption, but does a classic style make more sense for someone who dislikes shopping? That way, the perpetual need to add trendy or edgy pieces (which means more frequent shopping) isn't there. Where I'm going with this is if you have an urban-minimal style goal, that implies a certain edgy or trendy or even avant leaning. Yet if you do not want to shop to commit to this style, because you dislike shopping, it may be easier to keep a really classic style.

    (And I totally get editing your outfit for a meet-up with Moms!)

  • RoseandJoan replied 9 years ago

    Knowledge is power Suz.

  • Atlantia replied 9 years ago

    I loved reading about your YLF journey. I know 2013 is going to bring your more shopping and style confidence!

  • replied 9 years ago

    Loving "The Suz", big time! I think the ultimate penny dropping moment for you was your haircut, I adore that pixie!

  • Mochi replied 9 years ago

    Oh, Suz, your words totally resonate. (Though I think you're ahead of me in your fine-tuned understanding--and application--of style.) But I hear you on slo-o-o-o-o-wly shifting from overwhelm, taking those baby steps to the immensely satisfying point of speaking full sentences (as opposed to words and broken phrases) in this new language!

    I will second, third, fourth and fifth everyone else's comments. Your style is, even as a work in progress, enviable. The way you analyze it is also so helpful and fascinating. I personally relate again here....and as a fellow writer I have struggled also with overcoming the whole "this is superficial, why should I care about all these frivolous details, it's only clothes, blah blah yada yada" when I know for a fact that there's something to finding more of oneself through the image one projects outward.

    Anyhow, re the suit, it's interesting to see, again, your analytical take on it and your concerns. I know that as someone who's mostly at home, and attempting a certain spirited and "interesting", artistic persona, you're probably in a bit of conflict over the implications and conservative associations with a suit. But keep in mind how great Fernanda looks, and also read her comments about how Angie helped her find different ways to express herself with a beautiful suit. (I'm not trying to sell the suit here! I just figure if it's calling you in any way, you don't have to cross it off the list automatically. Hers is Theory, incidentally.):

  • replied 9 years ago

    The Suz rocks! I loved reading this post. It gives me hope, as I'm usually still stuck in "overwhelm" whenever I set foot in a department store. Maybe the thrifting ban will push me out of my comfort zone and into a mall. Thanks for sharing your journey with us!

  • Suz replied 9 years ago

    Thanks for the kind words and thoughtful questions, everyone!

    Mochi, I'm not in conflict about a suit's supposedly conservative associations. I don't really feel those associations.

    I like suits. I've always liked suits. Right from the beginning of YLF I kept wanting one, but thought maybe it was dumb because I work at home. So the only issue would be finding the *right* suit. I guess I've also worried about putting too much money into an item that would only get worn for a small portion of my life. Of course I would wear the pieces broken up much more often. So all in all, it would probably work out. I just need to be clear that I *would* feel comfortable and/or right wearing it for some appearances.

    Zap - you are right, getting my hair cut was the biggest shift. Brought me back to myself.

    Denise, great question. I don't dislike shopping the way I used to, no. I can't say it is my favourite sport, but then again, part of that has to do with the inability to *do* it in bricks and mortar stores very often, and the frustrations and high costs of online ordering in Canada.

    I think a classic style might make more sense for someone who dislikes shopping, but might be an even bigger risk for that person -- it would easily become calcified, moving away from modern classic into straight-out dowdy.

    I actually don't think I would *need* to shop constantly to meet my own style aspirations. Minimal and urban doesn't have to equal trendy. It can include some trends (and probably *should* include some trends, like any style - to be current) but it seems to me if I get to know the designers and companies that tend to make the shapes that typically appeal to me, I can actually reduce my browsing time (if I choose to do that). I don't have to look at *everything.* Does that make sense?

    If minimal urban means "a perpetual need to add trendy and edgy pieces" then maybe I'm *not* an urban minimalist, though. I don't know that I have that need. Obviously I feel it now, since I don't have many of the pieces the look would require. But once my closet includes a few more, I don't know that I'll feel a continual need to add, except to update as the seasons change and as things wear out and become unworkable. Ultimately, I don't really care about having the latest thing. I care about having the things I like best. If that gets me booted back into the classic camp, so be it. According to Kibbe's types I'm a Dramatic classic, and that makes sense to me.

    Great question - thank you for making me think it through.

    Joy, Manidipa, Rae, Atlantia, Julie, Suzyq, Day Vies, Karie, Amy, Shevia, Gaylene, Adelfa, Claire- thank you so much for that kind words.

  • Angie replied 9 years ago

    (I also think that your haircut paved the way to the new-style you).

    Suz, your style journey is full of memorable moments (and will continue to be), and the way you reflect on them is very meaningful for us all. Thanks for sharing them. You are SO humble, and don't give yourself enough credit!


    As far as the outfit goes - its killer. Not corporate, too classic and conservative to my eye. I wear this combination a lot! My version would have been a basic black turtleneck, animal print belt, snakeskin booties, no scarf, cream bag - and a red or ink blue coat.

  • Transcona Shannon replied 9 years ago

    Fabulous post Suz!

    You have come so far in terms of your personal style, in learning how to shop, knowing when to walk away...all knowledge that will serve you well. I can only hope to get to that same sort of mindset. Thank you for the inspiration!

  • Ariadne replied 9 years ago

    What a great post! I especially enjoyed the Bay as the setting since it's such a hallmark of Canadian shopping (and I still get overwhelmed in there on the regular, FWIW).

    I love this outfit, and the asymmetric cabled pullover in particular is slaying me. I'm practically drooling. That may be the consignment find of the year.

  • catgirl replied 9 years ago

    As always, love reading your thoughts and can I pin your unbelievably amazing outfit? I love that Theory is both conservative and edgy - it's like it goes all the way around the circle. It is the perfect brand for you.

  • krishnidoux replied 9 years ago

    Thank you Suz for posting about your formative shopping journey. You did change so much in a year. You are always learning and then, what I really appreciate, you write about it. Reading you is a delight. I can relate with your experiences. Here, at The Bay, how many times have I felt this way? But it sure helps to have the knowledge and confidence gained from participating in YLF. Once you know where you're going and what you're looking for, it's quicker.

    Lately a SA told me "Wow, I love the way you shop. You are like... the perfect shopper! You know what you want and don't waist time". I was very surprised, because I don't necessarily see myself that way. I immediately knew it was thanks to YLF.

    Your new style direction is clever and so inspiring. I love the outfit you are wearing in these pics. Perfect for the weather too. And chic!

    So you are off to see your Mom for the Holidays?

  • Vicki replied 9 years ago

    Suz, this is a fantastic post (which I'm saving) and you are an inspiration to me and so many around here. May I now address you as the new Theory Model? You shop with patience and have scored so many beautiful pieces along the way, by taking your time, and it's paid off for your. I have a long way to go, but your observations are helping me to shop with a discerning eye and patience. Gorgeous!

  • cobaltblue replied 9 years ago

    Suz, I think you look absolutely fantastic. To me, it's like the SW booties expanded into a whole outfit. Conservative, classic, urban, whatever, it's a winner!

    Thank you for sharing your development as seen through three very different shopping trips. I sure hope I get there. I can certainly relate to the early trips, especially, except that I've NEVER known how to shop! My dad can still do a really funny impression of me trying things on...


  • Suz replied 9 years ago

    Becky, when I saw your latest shoe loves (the ones that sadly, you can't wear right now) I felt pretty sure you had learned how to shop with some panache! I'll bet those look fantastic on you.

    Vicki, I would be honoured to be the "Theory model." And Una, you are SO right -- Theory is sort of a crossover brand, both modern and classic and can work for both. I think that is what appeals to me so much about it. And I would be SO thrilled if you pinned my outfit!! WOW!

    Krish, that is so wonderful, what the SA said to you, and evidence that you have really honed your own style this year. Brava!! (P.S. short pre-holiday visit to my mother's - I will see her again later in the holidays.)

    Krish, Ariadne, you are right - the Bay is sort of iconic for us, isn't it? Ariadne, the sweater WAS a great consignment find. I like it a lot. This place always has some little gem.

    Shannon, to inspire my own inspiration would be a thrill!

    Angie, thank you so much, and I would love to go shopping with you!! Some day it will happen.

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