The Garden Party: a drama in 4 acts, and a YLF tradition

If you haven't checked out Amiable's challenge to Neel -- and Neel's amazing response, please do it now! A YLF experience to go down in history! 

Neel's fashion transformation will blow you away. And her personal transformation was even deeper. 

In that thread, Neel kindly said she would like to hear about my fashion journey.  Just by chance, this request came on the day of an annual garden party that I attend -- for which I have taken photos during all four years of my involvement on this forum. So, I am able to provide some real pictographic evidence of my style evolution. 

Most of you already know this, so at the risk of boring you:  I lost a substantial amount of weight just before joining YLF. And once the weight was gone, I realized that I knew nothing about fashion or how to dress my new shape. YLF was my entry point for information and inspiration. And I got that information and inspiration in abundance. But I stayed for the community (that's all of you!) and for Angie's incredible example of all-round brilliance, beauty, and grace. 

Neel, I was a much slower learner than you, as you will see here. It has taken me a long time to develop a sense of my own style. Partly it was ignorance; partly it was a lack of funds to buy many things for a long time. Yet, even so, I do see a development. 

The occasion: A "Bergman Brunch" -- strawberries and wine (with other food) on the lawn of my husband's colleague. We are asked to dress in whites if possible. Here's last year's thread.  The photos are the same (just updated) but there are interesting comments about style evolution there for those interested. 

Photo 1: Taken just after I joined YLF.  Happiness factor: Mid-range. Felt a bit awkward.
Photo 2: One year on YLF. I had cut my hair, embraced white jeans, and found fuchsia and blues. But I didn't have a clothing budget so most of what I owned came from consignment, thrift, etc. Happiness factor: Mid-range. 
Photo 3: Last year -- J. Crew Tee, Mexx shorts, Ralph Lauren tote. I was really happy with this outfit except for the footwear (Clarks -- shoes were a poor fit for my foot and too clunky).  
Photos 4 and 5: Today's outfit. J. Crew linen pants and tee, denim jacket from The Bay, Sam Edelman sandals. Necklace a gift from my sister in law. Happiness factor: Sky high. 

Looking at the photos, I definitely feel that each year has brought me closer to my true style. I have simplified, streamlined, and figured out the silhouettes that work best for me. 

:) :) :)

Thanks, YLF, for patiently teaching me! Thank you, Angie!!  

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 8 years ago

    First off, thank you for pointing me to Neel's challenge thread. I almost missed it and that would have been a terrible shame.
    Secondly, Suz I have now had the wind knocked out of me twice in a row. Of course there was nothing at all wrong with how you looked four years ago, but good golly the transformation is stunning. Amazing. I absolutely love this year's outfit. One of my favorites on you ever. 
    Suz, thank you for being such a thoughtful, wise and stylish part of YLF and such a big part of what makes this forum so special!

  • SarahTheWhite replied 8 years ago

    What a great post! I was reading Neel's challenge thread and was really hoping you would post this because I have only gotten to know your recent style. It's so neat to see how your style has evolved. You look beautiful in every photo, but I can really see why your happiness factor is sky high this year! I really admire your style in every post you do...

  • MsMary replied 8 years ago

    Wow, Suz!  You look like the younger, chic-er sister of the lovely lady in Photo 1!  This is so fab!!  I cannot imagine how on earth you are ever going to top it next year, but I am sure you will find a way!

    And yes, thanks for the link to the Amiable/Neel thread!  That is one for the ages, for sure!

  • replied 8 years ago

    Great post -- you look fantabulous. Neel's post is super too.

  • Peri replied 8 years ago

    I can't help it, I like all 4. The first one is cute and you just grow more sophisticated from there. 

  • Karie replied 8 years ago

    You look beautiful in #1 and #2, fantastic in #3, but #4 and #5 totally rock my style world! You absolutely have figured out what works for you. It is quite a process, isn't it? A long journey but a fun one. I recently looked back at the first outfit I ever posted and thought, "Good heavens, I actually wore that?" 

    Constantly evolving, constantly changing, constantly growing. But then that's the best way to do things all around, isn't it?  

  • Gaylene replied 8 years ago

    Wow, just wow!

  • Dee replied 8 years ago

    Thanks Suz for posting this! It was really interesting to see you narrow down your ideal style over the lat few years, and it makes me realize that it's not something that is necessarily automatic or happens overnight. And while you look fine in all the pictures, you look so comfortable in what you're wearing today that you can see the high happiness factor.

    And now I'm off to read Neel's challenge response, since I haven't seen it yet!

  • Firecracker (Sharan) replied 8 years ago

    Well, Suz, looking at the first photo, I thought you looked fantastic but like a different person. Someone related to Suz, definitely. These photos are so fascinating, because kind of like what you said to Neel (thanks for the tip--I had to go read that one!), I kind of assumed you always had that "style gene"! Your sense of your own style has seemed well-developed since whenever I became aware of you here on the forum. It's so informative to see that your style has really evolved just in the last several years. I love what MsMary said--so true!

    Your outfit for the garden party is stunning. Just perfection.

  • Beth Ann replied 8 years ago

    I remember all of these "stages" except the first.  It's striking to me to watch you  become more uniquely "yourself" than before.  More confident and purposeful in your presentation.  This transformation is even greater than the injection greater fashion sense:  the attention to trends, flattering fit, color and proportion.  Do you know the bolder, more relaxed pose and gaze?  Personal style takes time -- kind of like finding a true writer's voice.  What a beautiful style voice you have, Suz!

  • lyn* replied 8 years ago

    Wow, I remember (I think) the days of your longer hair, which was so pretty, but now you definitely have a chic edge that goes so lovely with your stylish you ...

    Love the transformation!

  • deb replied 8 years ago

    I like them all but your sophistication has definitely increased. It is a very defined style.

  • Gigi replied 8 years ago

    Thanks for sharing this with us, Suz! I agree that your transformation has been amazing, even though you still looked really good in pic 1.

    What these pics really drive home for me is the importance of a hairstyle that fits your overall style. When your hair was longer, there was more of a soft feminine influence, and with your hair shorter, there is a more outgoing, dynamic influence. I don't know if I'm using the best words, but I hope you get the idea. :)

  • Nebraskim replied 8 years ago

    Fantastic and inspiring.

  • Suz replied 8 years ago

    Thank you all for your kind words. 

    Gigi, you're correct. I really like your choice of the word "dynamic." I think that's absolutely right. The longer hair was quite simply too soft for me. So I never felt completely myself with it. 

  • cciele replied 8 years ago

    Very cool -- it's neat that you have the photographs to share. You've definitely been honing your style and it's been great to view the evolution. As Gigi mentions, the hair makes a big difference too!

  • Jeanie replied 8 years ago

    Wow! I have heard many of you speak of your style transformations over the last almost year but this really puts things into perspective for me.  I love this post!  Glad you are feeling closer to your true style.

  • Caro in Oz replied 8 years ago

    Suz I remember last years outfit so well. I also remember your comments on various posts about style journeys & what works & doesn't for you. All I can say is that, like Neel, you have SO nailed it.

    You are a wonderful inspiration Suz, thoughtful, kind & beautiful inside & out :) 

  • Neel replied 8 years ago

    Suz - Thank you so much for sharing this! Last night, I went back to your oldest threads (May 2012 in your blog) and saw for myself how you have changed. I couldn't believe you had long hair! The pixie suits you so well that I wouldn't have imagined you had longer hair ..... ever! Silly I know ... But that's what I thought!

    The first pic really does look like a softer version of Suz. I actually love your skirt in that but the Suz I know now .... doesn't go boho :). I truly love all your outfits but 4 and 5 are just perfection! Love everything about it!

    Beautiful transformation! And yes, I agree with MsMary. How are you ever going to beat this the next year :)

    ETA: Suz, you might be a slow learner (I doubt!) but you know exactly what you want and how you want it to look. I still suck at it and still make shopping mistakes. That is one skill that I am sure only experience like yours can teach. Slow and steady. Even then I am not sure if I would ever love everything in my closet.

  • AJ replied 8 years ago

    Suz, I remember when you cut your hair and how the new style just suited you perfectly!  How fun to go to a white theme party each year.  I just adore this year's version.  The quality of fabrics and the beautiful drape just makes it so FAB!  Thanks for sharing this and your post has inspired me to go dig up some old outfit pics!

  • Lyn D. replied 8 years ago

    How fantastic to see these pics again Suz!
    I remember all but #1. You nailed it then, and I think I was a bit like you in years gone by-  attracted to fashion but didn't yet 'get' what I was aiming for or what suited me best.
    Consequently/ some outfits were accidentally 9/10, but all the hard/fun work in putting together a great ensemble was yet to come.

    May there be MANY Encores in your future :) :)

  • carter replied 8 years ago

    What a great journey! Have to say, I would never have recognized #1 as you. "That woman" looks just as lovely but so totally different from "you".

  • Deborah replied 8 years ago

    Suz, this years event outfit took my breath away!  I love seeing how you have honed your style.  It's as Lyn D said, it's so easy to look at fashion and not consider what actually suits us, reflects our personality and makes us feel good and like ourselves.  This is where your journey has taken you. 

  • Suz replied 8 years ago

    Thank you all for your kind words. And AJ, thank you for joining in with your own posts! 

    Deborah and Lyn D, I love what you said: it's so easy to look at fashion and not consider what actually suits us, reflects our personality and makes us feel good and like ourselves.

    I think the forum is such a great place to learn this because in taking photos we can examine them later at leisure (not like a quick glance in the mirror as we are rushing out the door) and ask ourselves why something felt "right" or not right to us. 

    Denise pointed out in another thread that somehow, the very trendy Zara tops I tried last week didn't look "modern" on me. She is absolutely right. I have to get my modern from cut and from simplicity. Who knows why? Someone else the same size and colouring as me might look and feel sensational in some of those items, just as someone else would have worn a boho skirt with more confidence and higher happiness factor that would have showed, or another person, like Deborah, would feel happiest in all black. It's only by experimenting that we can find this out, which is why your experiments, Neel, are never failures, even when you think they are! I am flattered you went back and looked at my blog, by the way -- although I shudder at what you found there! Oh well...all part of the process, right? :)

  • Sveta replied 8 years ago

    These retrospective posts are so informative and educational. Your style refinement is so clear from this pictures, Suz. No wonder you feel the happiest in the latest version - it also feels the most you. 
    These 4 years on YLF were very productive for you! 

  • Mona replied 8 years ago

    Ahhh! 4 wonderful years of style transformation. Seeing this thread Sunday morning just made my day. Although, I have to say half of it was Neel's thread that you forwarded us to. 
    Goodness, gracious. Every passing year you are becoming more confident and at ease with your clothes and style. Thanks so much for taking us along your style journey. 
    I have a few quetions also, Are the J.Crew linen pants not see through? What about the tee? I have never ordered anything from J.Crew as I find their prices a bit out of my range but this year I am thinking about taking the plunge. Also, how would this outfit have felt with white bf's instead of linen pants? 

  • Elizabeth P replied 8 years ago

    Thanks so much for sharing this Suz, it really is quite illuminating.  As are many of the comments that have followed. 

    I've been doing a LOT of thinking recently about my style, and what is working/not working and this has added yet more food for thought.  I just wish I could sit down and start a post and be as eloquent as you are!

  • Suz replied 8 years ago

    Thank you, Elizabeth. Your own style has skyrocketed this year, so whatever you are doing, it's working! Same for you, Mona! 

    Mona, J. Crew is a bit high end for me, too. Not beyond my budget (although many of the Collection items are, unless on sale) but at the price point where I have to feel really confident before I order. I've had to send a few things back, too, which was disappointing and costly. That is because it is hard to try things on with no local store. 

    If you're thinking of ordering from them, I would highly recommend a "scouting" shopping trip in Toronto. There are stores in the Eaton Centre and at Yorkdale. Trying things on to determine your size will be key. You might have to do some guestimating because they won't have all sizes in stock in the store (esp. petites) but you can get a clearer idea of fit this way. 

    Their clothes are typically cut for a rectangular body. That doesn't mean they can't work on anyone else -- it just means you may have to pay special attention to cuts and might face alteration in some items at the waist in pants. Tops should be a pretty good fit for you, and also knits. Quality is typically excellent and there are often some nice design details. But not all items are created equal, as with any maker. 

    These linen pants are amazingly not terribly see through. True, I was wearing nude undies. There is a tiny bit of pocket show through in the front, but very minor. I think it is to do with the cut -- there is some pleating in front and this helps to disguise -- the pants are very loose. Anyway, I did not find them too sheer for casual wear and I didn't catch anybody staring at me in an inappropriate way at the party.   :) 

    Would I wear them to an office? I'm not sure I would do that -- although I do intend to take them with me on a work trip next week.  I think I'd freeze if I wore them in the air conditioned meeting rooms, but I might wear them to an evening or late afternoon social event with colleagues. 

    The linen tee in white is  a bit too sheer for someone to wear alone to work, I would think. The flash does emphasize the sheerness, though, and it is way less obvious in person. In the photos, I have a cami on for modesty. I might wear it at home with a nude bra, assuming that I would put a topper on if going out (or put a cami under). 

    In the other colours, this linen tee would not necessarily need a cami underneath assuming you wore nude underwear. And especially not if you were wearing a topper (in an air conditioned office). Then again, in an air conditioned office you could wear a cami or tank underneath without overheating. So it would work. 

    This outfit would have felt good with BFs also, but a little less in tune with the garden party vibe of relaxed elegance. I have already worn a similar outfit with my Kut skinnies rolled BF style and it was great. 

  • kkards replied 8 years ago

    thanks for sharing your evolution with us, sometimes the journey is better than the destination.
    looking forward  to the next 4 years. 

  • MuseumGal replied 8 years ago

    Thanks for posting this Suz.  Interesting to see how, while you look fabulous in #1, you just don't feel you.  Seems like you pretty quickly figured out the basics of your look (years 2 and 3) but it took you until this year to get all the details just right.  I feel like I'm still in stage 1 - wearing stuff that looks fine, but it doesn't all feel ME. 

  • Runcarla replied 8 years ago

    Fascinating how a great hairstyle can tip the balance of a style transformation.  Your pixie, Sarah the White's colour, Deborah's evolving A-line, Elizabeth's contemporary wedge and striking natural colour, Ceit's signature fringe and there are others.   

    Love the 'wear white' party theme!   

  • Mo replied 8 years ago

    Love this step by step progression!  I will come back and read the replies later when I have time to ingest it all.  
    Funny how the first round of improvements look so much more like the 'you' style we are used to, but aren't quite there.  Still, 100% turnaround from the long hair and boho skirt.

  • Angie replied 8 years ago

    Each year is better than the year before, DARLING Suz. I LOVE the last linen outfits. This is what I think:

    Killer to the power of Killer

    You are beautiful inside and out. xo

    (Have you collected the linen top? I want to collect it too). 

  • Suz replied 8 years ago

    Thank you so much, everyone. And wow, K to the power of K - I am floored, Angie!! 

    I have collected that top, yes. It's just one of their linen tees -- and I have it in my finds. I can add to the post.) :)

  • Joyce B replied 8 years ago

    Wow, Suz, you always looked fabulous and you managed a transformation to more than fabulous!
    I never thought short hair could look better than long hair but you proved me wrong here. What was your thought process when you decided to go for the new hairstyle and how did you make sure it was the right one for you? I would like something a bit different from what I have but with no fuss and I don't know where to start.
    Thank you for sharing your style journey, you are always an inspiration to me.
    Also, thanks for pointing out Neel's fabulous challenge. That is an inspiration, too.

  • Suz replied 8 years ago

    Thank you so much, Joyce. You are very kind. 

    Cutting my hair short was really an easy decision: Angie told me to do it!! And when Angie speaks, I listen. :)  (Note - we had not met in person at that point -- it was all from forum pictures.) 

    There is a backstory. I actually had worn my hair short for most of my life (with occasional short periods of shoulder length) and Angie was aware of this. So she knew that I was already prepared mentally and emotionally for short -- and I guess she saw that it would suit me better. I had always felt more "myself" with short hair (since the age of 6 or so). There was no emotional angst in letting it go. Short = freedom, to me. It's just the easiest way to wear my hair, among other things -- it's basically wash and wear.

    I just looked at photos and picked through them and brought them to my stylist. I knew a pixie of some kind was the way to go, and I knew a fringe or bang would suit me because of my high forehead. I also knew I couldn't have certain styles because of my low hairline in back, and I wanted to work with my hair's natural texture, not against it, so that also ruled some styles in and others out. I love the look of a good bob, for example, but because of my rectangular jaw line and low back hair line it looks awful on me -- too blocky. I need to get the hair up above my jaw area to emphasize the eyes. 

    If you start a thread about your hairstyle musings you are sure to get some great suggestions. So if you are up for a change, I say, begin! 

  • Joyce B replied 8 years ago

    Thanks for sharing the process, Suz. I think your hairstyle is like a match made in heaven for you, plus with a recommendation from Angie nothing can go wrong.
    I have always had long hair except when I was a little girl so for me it would be very difficult to go short plus I don't think it would be a good match for my features.
    I will do some homework and then start a thread to see what suggestions I get.

  • Janet replied 8 years ago

    Suz, thanks for sharing this! I remember your pre-haircut style, and it was perfectly lovely, but you really have elevated your personal style into something that transcends mere attractiveness. It now seems so much more YOU. You can see it in how you hold yourself in photos and in your smile. I don't think you give yourself enough credit -- slow learner or not, you have skyrocketed in your style!

  • jackiec replied 8 years ago

    Oh wow, Suz! I wasn't planning to log on this AM but so glad I did! You look lovely in all photos but the last absolutely blew me away. The part that strikes me the most is your face - it really glows. You look so relaxed and comfortable in your style. What a great place to be! You are such a role model to me - I really appreciate how well you articulate your style journey (and all of your well-written posts). I learn so much from you. Seeing those pants again and that tee is making me want to check them out! Perhaps I need to take a "scouting" trip to the local JCrew. I have lots of catching up to do around here and will check out Neel's challenge (and all challenges for that matter). Thanks for making my Sunday morning. You look way more than FAB!!

  • Vix replied 8 years ago

    Hi Suz --

    Always fun to see progressions! 

    I still love #1* and think you look gorgeous in it and the rest -- but yes, of course -- #1 is Suz in Costume, not Suz.

    That's what's so annoying and intriguing about developing our personal style, isn't it? How do I convey who I am through what I wear?

    It's been so fun seeing all your analysis and gut instincts merge into the choices you're making today. Thanks for sharing your challenges and triumphs!

    * Funny how at least a few of us love that skirt and would take it off your hands if you still had it! ;)

  • Transcona Shannon replied 8 years ago

    So fantastic Suz - the white linen outfit is positively spectacular on you! You never looked bad you know but cutting your hair really seemed to be the turning point in defining your style and adding a missing element somehow. You have never looked better :)

  • Joy replied 8 years ago

    Your and Neel's style journeys give hope to the rest of us. Success stories like this started my posting outfits and it has helped in that I am learning from the comments as well as what is working on others. Today you have given hope to many more.
    I remember when you had longer hair and what a difference that haircut made. The white linen outfit is to die for. I can hardly wait until next year's party.

  • replied 8 years ago

    How fun to see the "garden party" snapshot of your style evolution! I also loved your first look, but that's because it's more "me" than you. Now I understand how important it is to wear clothing that feels true to oneself, instead of merely looking okay or presentable. And you have accomplished that, even with all of the obstacles you faced along the way. Just look at how radiant you are in outfit number four. Everything comes together there. Kudos! I'm off to read Neel's thread, thank you!

  • Aubergine replied 8 years ago

    Seriously, wow! And so encouraging to know you've gotten this far in just three short years.

    Like other people have said, #1 is pretty and flattering, but just doesn't look like "you." (And it's hard to even wrap my mind around you with long hair because your current cut is so incredibly perfect for you.) So it's fascinating first to see you go from there to a recognizably Suz outfit the next year, then to watch how you've refined your signature look to take it from good to amazing.

  • fathenry replied 8 years ago

    You're a style inspiration!

  • CocoLion replied 8 years ago

    I love these kinds of looking-back threads.  You look great in all of these, beautiful Suz.  The styles are just different.  The first is more mainstream, and also feminine.  In years 2 and 3 your style becomes more tailored and classic, which is a look that will always suit you.  The final outfit's emphasis is on the modern which gets my top vote because it seems the most you.  However I think the classic is good too.  Most of my days feature classic attire as well, I just don't show those looks to you (dark wash jeans -- shorts today -- neat pony tail, crisp white shirt = my work look).I think classic will always have a place for me because it's quick, affordable (you can find well-made, sturdy pieces from brands like LL Bean, Lands End and Costco), and neutral so an excellent choice when dealing with the public. 

  • Mona replied 8 years ago

    Thanks for the suggestions, Suz. I am not going to order any bottoms from J.Crew as I figured from reading other threads on YLF that those are not made for curvy bodies but I am willing to give their tops a try this year. I will see if I can make a trip to Toronto and visit the store. (It will have to be without hubs and kids as they are never eager to go to the malls). I have to try on the tops before ordering because if I am spending a lot on an item, it should fit me well and hopefully lasts a long time. 

  • rachylou replied 8 years ago

    That first pic always freaks me out a little, Suz. It's really a very pretty, nice look. I guess maybe it just seems a little timid on you, to me.

  • pastrygirl replied 8 years ago

    Oooh, I love this! I saw Neel's thread over the weekend but didn't get a chance to post about it. That thread and this one give me hope that I will be where I really want to be style-wise in another year or two! It also makes me excited to know that I might actually be able to ditch my blah tendencies once and for all, once I figure it all out.

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