The workhorse you weren't expecting...

We've talked endlessly the wardrobe workhorse. In theory, these should be easy to spot, but sometimes an item surprises us. Who doesn't love a Wild Card Workhorse? It's the fun thing that moves our style forward in an unexpected direction. Like a scarf in a new colour or something in a new silhouette. 

Then there's the supposed wardrobe essential that we put a lot of time and thought into purchasing, in the firm conviction that it's going to be a foundational piece for us. It may even be a HEWI. Flash forward, and for all our planning and forethought, we end up hardly wearing the thing. (Tall heeled boots, I'm looking at you.) 

Apart from the Snow Queen consignment coat and a couple of gear items, I've made 4 purchases since arriving in Vancouver. All were spontaneous and unpremeditated.

Yes, I needed a belt, but I wasn't considering a western style belt. True, I wanted a new bag, but in fact I wanted a structured blue or red bag, not a pale grey knapsack.

Meanwhile, I had no intention of buying black waterproof booties! I have tall waterproof black boots (2 pair, one flat and one heeled), a mid-height waterproof black boot -- and no great love of black footwear! I thought I could do very well without a pair of black booties, thank you very much. 

As for the jeans, yes, I'd been considering the purchase of a pair of black jeans for about a year. But had a flash sale not coincided with a gift card burning a hole in my wallet, I never would have tried these particular ones. 

Well, guess what? The western belt that I didn't think I wanted because I didn't care for the western trend is a workhorse. The pale grey unstructured bag that is nothing like the bag I thought I wanted has not been off my shoulder since I bought it -- it works with everything and has turned out to be extremely practical for my needs and easy to use.

The waterproof black booties are fantastic for all day wear and have been my footwear of choice since I bought them. The black jeans are super comfortable and I've worn them twice a week. 

I'm coming to think that it's the intuitively driven purchase that marks a workhorse more than anything for me. The item seems to call you somehow. 

I saw the bag and the booties and examined them in store...did not buy but kept thinking...two days later was back in the store to purchase. 

Have you had experiences like that? Maybe this is Angie's "organized emotional shopping"? 

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.

60 Comments

  • Wise Shopper replied 3 weeks ago

    Great look and color pattern! Love the bag. Congratulations!

  • Opaline replied 3 weeks ago

    You look amazing & the bag & booties are great. I also covet your Snow Queen coat! These booties I purchased a few months ago turned into unexpected workhorses.

  • Opaline replied 3 weeks ago

    Or boots. I keep using those terms a little too interchangeably, I think.

  • Mirjana replied 3 weeks ago

    Great outfit Suz, I love it very much, I do the same very often, look something in the store and think about that and when I decided go to buy, but sometimes like the last cardigan not to think just suddenly buy.

  • Jane replied 3 weeks ago

    I like the term organised emotional shopping! And may be tuning into your intuition is the key skill for great shopping. These items look great!

  • La Pedestrienne replied 3 weeks ago

    The light pearly greys are spectacular on you! No wonder you were drawn to the RM bag. I'm feeling excited about unstructured bags too. I don't have any, but I like the idea of adding a softer element to otherwise structured outfits. 

    I have a hard time identifying workhorses from a style perspective. The things that see the most wear are, somewhat inevitably, the things I trust not to get damaged. Anything slightly fussy -- loose knits, gauzy fabrics, soft suede -- I have to think long and hard about whether or not I will have sufficient opportunities to wear to justify the purpose. 

    The last time I stumbled upon an unexpected workhorse was a couple years ago when I found a gorgeous long black wool coat at the manufacturer's annual tent sale. I'd gone to the sale intending to snag a cropped plaid coat that had looked cute in photos, but it turned out I didn't like the way it fit once I got to see it in person. Then I tried on the black coat and had complete strangers coming up to me telling me how good it looked. So I went with that one instead! 

  • Jules replied 3 weeks ago

    I find my “spontaneous” purchases are just way more likely to be good purchases since spending a few years hanging out here. Our ‘intuition’ is just better with informed background knowledge. Things I think about too much still don’t necessarily work out as planned, but I probably have a better success rate there as well. I’ve actually learned to fixate less on the idea of things because what I thought was a HEWI may not be by the time I find it, or I get so fixated on my list of requirements that I buy something I don’t actually love. I try to focus more on the available options in front of me rather than the search.

  • Christina F. replied 3 weeks ago

    I am all for planning, but my best purchases are often spontaneous. I think you really need to get an item into your wardrobe to see if ti's workhorse or if there will be some problem with it. This is especially true of shoes. Anyway, these sneakers are my #1 all time unexpected workhorse.

    For planned purchases, sometimes HEWI's languish on my list so long that they no longer work for my wardrobe and tastes when I find them! So it's good to re-evaluate the list every so often.

  • AviaMariah replied 3 weeks ago

    Suz - I think it's a fine balance between sticking to your list and intuitively shopping.  I find that if I do too much of either I end up unhappy with my purchases.  Finding that balance is many times illusive.  I'm always amazed when Angie writes out her thought processes while adding items.  Your black pants and boots would be a workhorse in my wardrobe as I have similar items.

  • nemosmom replied 3 weeks ago

    I love when"the item seems to call to you somehow". I recently went to a thrift store to look for pants and shirts for my kids' Halloween costumes and stumbled on an odd grey women's blazer. I tried it on "for giggles" and it fit like a glove - I fell in love. I was torn because I don't wear grey (or black), and had no real planned use for it at the time, I've but ended up wearing it several times a week since I bought it.

  • jussie replied 3 weeks ago

    Yes I totally agree these items are often workhorses unexpectedly. Recent examples for me are charcoal stitched knee leggings, and pink platform sneakers.

  • Suz replied 3 weeks ago

    That's the wild card workhorse, nemosmom! Those are the very best kind. Yay!

    AviaMariah -- so true. Veering too far in the direction of analysis or emotional shopping can be a mistake. 

    Christina, I can imagine why those sneakers became a workhorse because I have a similar pair! That you've seen in probably 100 WIWs. Ha! But the quilting on yours adds another special touch. 

    Jules, that's a really good point. Educated spontaneity is quite different than flailing around in the dark. YLF has tutored us well! 

    LaPed, when the people in the store stop to say WOW, you know for sure you've got a winner. That happened to me with the Snow Queen coat and also (long ago) with a (now worn out) military coat. I'll bet that black coat has been incredibly useful!

    Jane, that's Angie's term and she deserves the credit! She teaches us well. 

    Mirjana, you have unerring instincts and fabulous style!


    Opaline, those are really fun boots! I have found that patterned footwear can be unexpectedly useful and fun to wear. These probably go with half your wardrobe or more!

    Thanks, Wise Shopper. 

  • Suz replied 3 weeks ago

    Jussie, pink platform sneakers!! Of course they're workhorses!! :) 

  • smittie replied 3 weeks ago

    As Jules mentions, I think it actually takes practice to recognize the things that will be workhorses. I think you might just be getting better at it!

    My LaCanadienne tall boots ended up being a surprise workhorse. I thought they would be too uninsulated for every day use. As it turns out, they are an excellent snow boot for a car commuter like myself. They work through the winter. My snowboots, otoh, didn’t get much use.

  • texstyle replied 3 weeks ago

    I often don't realize something will be a workhorse until I start wearing it. I try to plan various fashion purchases and those so often just don't work out - it's weird. It's like I almost *have* to buy based on intuition or it won't make me as happy. These are two examples - the UGG slip ons just seem to go with everything and make me happy to look at and the handbag turned out to be so perfect that now I cannot seem to find a replacement! Neither was particularly well planned but I think the color has a lot to do with my satisfaction in both cases.

  • Sal replied 3 weeks ago

    I can see why these are all workhorses Suz - and I agree - it is best to stumble upon one sometimes.

    For me recently the following pieces have been workhorses.

    1) Black tee dress - bought on an impulse and worn regularly (once a week) when weather is suitable.  It is comfortable, works with a variety of shoes and casual.  Purchased April

    2) Blazer.  There was mixed opinion on this when I showed it to the forum but I think now I have learnt how to style it - it really works for me.  Great to dress up jeans and a good neutral for me (so much so I have added a similar coloured summer jacket) Purchased March.  I don't wear it every week but when I want to look put together it is my go to piece.

    3) Rollies shoes.  A newer addition but just a super comfy addition that I prefer to white sneakers in some instances (especially with a dress).

    One thing that I purchased to be a workhorse but sadly is not is this knit top/jacket.  I do wear it but not nearly as much as I thought.  The crop length is a little hard to style.  I should have gone with my intention which was a long cardigan.  I will keep it though as with wider leg pants and jeans it will work and I expect to wear more of those next year.

  • Joy replied 3 weeks ago

    Yes I've had this experience several times. The most recent was a pair of print and sequined flats spotted in a consignment store. (Photo 1). I certainly did not need them but loved them they were probably worn a dozen times their first month with me. At the same time I found tomato-red loafers, a HEWI for me, that have maybe been worn twice. (Photo 2). Photo 3 is a bonus shot taken on a walk this week.

  • Suz replied 3 weeks ago

    Joy, Sal, Texstyle, it is amazing how often interesting, patterned, or otherwise detailed footwear can become a workhorse item, especially for those who wear a lot of solids, I suspect. I never knew until I joined YLF how terrific a patterned shoe or handbag could be. 

    Joy, I wonder what keeps you from the red loafers? 

    Sal, I can see why the cropped sweater might have turned out less useful than you'd hoped. But I predict it will still see use. And I love your beautiful blazer! 

    Texstyle, those shoes make me happy to look at, too. 

    Smittie, it's probably true that I'm getting better at spotting winners, although I still make the "found a HEWI/ now it will be a workhorse" assumption more often than I would like. SO glad you are getting use from the La Canadiennes. My shorter ones are billed as "fall" boots but they were definitely warm enough for me (walking in them a lot) for full on winter. To the point where I wore out the inside lining. Looking into getting that repaired. 

  • lisa p replied 3 weeks ago

    I love it ! It’s great when a handful of new pieces are hits right away . I know I  mention it  ad nauseum here on the forum , but I could not get that backpack to work for me at all . Anyways , not the point and I’ll stop mentioning it ;) I find my best purchases are lucky finds, and not ones I’ve decided I must look for . If I try too hard , it never works .

  • SarahD8 replied 3 weeks ago

    What a fab outfit, Suz! I love that it is almost entirely made up of Wildcard Workhorses.

    I have acquired two Wildcard Workhorses in the past year.

    One was the fancy sweatshirt (gray with a flocked black flower on the front) that I bought at Anthroplogie about a year ago. It both filled and made me aware of a wardrobe hole. I wear it a lot on weekends when I find myself wanting fewer visible layers, a simpler silhouette, and softness/comfort. It continues to be a workhorse to this day and in fact I wish I had 2 or 3 more options in this category.

    The second was a pair of flat silver tassel slides (Kate Spade Coby) that I coveted all summer and bought at the tail end of the season -- then proceeded to wear for a month straight! It will be interesting to see if I remain as enamored of them when next summer rolls around. I hope so!

    I purchase most of my clothing secondhand, but I'm more likely to obtain those Wildcard Workhorses at retail. I think there are two reasons:

    1. Retail prices are higher than secondhand, so I tend to hesitate more over the purchase and don't buy unless I am REALLY sure about it. (Those sandals for example, I mentally wore them in about 30 outfits over the course of the summer so I was very confident they would work with what I actually wear even before I owned them.)
    2. I do a lot of my secondhand shopping online, e.g. via Ebay. So, I am shopping based on specific search terms. Anything I find on Ebay is thus less likely to be a Wildcard. Similarly, my Ebay purchases tend to be in categories that are already somewhat well represented in my wardrobe (precisely because they are central to my style) -- so any individual item has less of a chance of becoming a workhorse, since there are multiple other options in that category.

    The usefulness of those two items that I would usually dismiss as impractical, unnecessary, or "not me" has made me a lot more attentive to when an item that's outside my wheelhouse tickles my synapses. Sadly, these things don't always work out. I got really excited a few weeks ago about J. Crew's rose leopard-print velvet. I do NOT wear animal print, at all! But I loved this stuff! I ordered a skirt and tank and had fantasies of wearing them both as a two-piece dress (like your Liberty ensemble from this summer) and as separates, and sort of building my dress-up capsule around them. Sadly, the fit of the top turned out to be kind of kludgy and in person the color was less pink than brown, and made me look like death. So back they went. Next!

  • Runcarla replied 3 weeks ago

    I overthink everything and walk away from lots...but the black Zara bomber with embroidered flowers and birds was love at first sight...and has been an unexpected work horse.

    I really like your 'western lite' belt!

  • UmmLila replied 3 weeks ago

    I do most of my shopping online, mostly with a particular idea in mind, or an item I have seen and liked. So it's not the slow perusal of a hands-on poke through a boutique.

    Unsurprisingly, it's often the pieces I pick on my infrequent real-life shopping expeditions that I like best.

    A bright yellow flowered scarf displayed at a boutique with a striped shirt sparked an entire new color direction for me this summer. A crazy little black "pet-me" faux fur jacket was just the thing for a YLF get-together, but I keep finding reasons to wear it with with just about anything.

  • Angie replied 3 weeks ago

    YES. Makes sense, Suz.

    I think that with an already well curated and fully functional wardrobe like yours - such spontaneous and unpremeditated purchases can work really well. THAT'S the key. You're adding that next layer of trendy fabness, excitement and lustre to a strong foundation, and it works with everything you have so seamlessly. You put in the planning and thinking upfront - for years - and now you can TRULY have fun with fashion and reap the reward. 

    These are my unexpected new workhorses - the others, like the white Naturalizer booties (just duplicated) - totally expected. 

  • Suz replied 3 weeks ago

    Ooh. Love that faux fur jacket, Lisa, and I can see why it is becoming a go-to item. The scarf has such pretty colours. I'll bet it's great on you. 

    Carla, that bomber is the bomb on you! :) It was a wild card workhorse. 

    Sarah, that's a shame about the J. Crew "rose" leopard. Sometimes online photos don't represent the true colour. And fit is paramount. If the fit is off, NEXT. 

    Lisa, I'm curious why that backpack *didn't* work for you. Too hard to find stuff in it? Too slouchy? I put kleenex in one side pocket. (Yeah. My nose is running all the time it seems -- some kind of allergy.) I put my little nylon shopping totes in another side pocket. I put my bus pass in the back pocket. I hang my keys on one inner pocket, and tuck my phone in another. I leave my wallet, sunnies, cosmetics bag (and often sweater, umbrella, scarf, and water bottle) in the main compartment. I admit it can take some hunting to get to the wallet. ;) 

  • shiny replied 3 weeks ago

    Suz, I have that backpack in white and I love it too, though I wouldn't call it a workhorse. It is great for traveling or when I need to bring more stuff than a cross-body can fit. 

    I also have a western belt I bought in Nashville or maybe Austin (can't remember now) that has very much been a workhorse for me! Mine not only has the buckle but also furry b&w cow hide print. It used to be the #1 belt I'd wear, it's now #2, supplanted by the invisi-belt, as I often do not tuck or semi tuck. 

    As for the black booties, I am trying to replace my favorite pair which I think are hitting 5 years. I think they were Eric Michael brand but I'm not sure as the logo (as well as size) is all worn off now. YES those are workhorses. I just keep taking them to the cobbler. 

    Otherwise I can think of a lot of unexpected workhorses that I've had for years and/or I had to retire, things like a leopard print clutch (retired because the fur wore off), AT white pleather jacket (do you remember that one? had to retire when the pleather around the neck cracked), cobalt blue Jcrew swing coat with thinsulate (RIP, I still miss you!), pleather nine west wedge tall boots (so comfy and so great in wet weather, still have these, the snip toe dates them, so I didn't wear them last few seasons, but those dang boots still look brand new), a black Theory cascading cardigan (still have it, still wear it), silk long johns from Lands End (for layering, for travel, for sleeping), LOFT ponte knit pants. 

    More recent acquisitions that are proving workhorse status: white booties. Jcrew Merino sweater jacket. Aforementioned invisi-belt. 

  • Jenn replied 3 weeks ago

    This is definitely true for me. That leather jacket I engaged in a multi-state manhunt for last year has been worn five times. The tank dress I bought after trying it on a whim has been worn seven times in the past month. Both of them had the potential to be workhorses, but only the impulse buy succeeded at it.

  • Suz replied 3 weeks ago

    Jenn, so interesting! So there is something in what Angie says about planning and then reaping the rewards of an impulse purchase. Do you know, I rarely wear my leather jacket, either, after a years' long search for "the one" (and several failed purchases, and one gifted one that worked out better till my hair colour changed -- I subsequently passed all but my blue moto on, and I still rarely wear it!)

    Jennifer, I do remember that white pleather jacket -- it looked so fab on you (sob!). I love a patterned belt so I can see why a cowhide one would get a lot of wear. 

    Angie, yes -- you're so right. The work I put in for years has made a difference -- it gives me more confidence in my choices. 

    I love your unexpected workhorses! What's nice is that sometimes these items are unexpected because they haven't been available at retail for so long that we've basically forgotten our previous love for them -- the looser jeans, the A-line and full skirts. It's falling in love all over again. 

  • gryffin replied 2 weeks ago

    My three latest purchases.  1. The coach drifter was bought even though I don't like smooth leather because it scratches, I didn't like the top dowel.  But it was the perfect size, perfect interior, top handle and crossbody.  I thought I'd never wear it, but I bought it anyway.  My coach annabelle gave out and I sucked it up, put all my stuff in....and something happened....it was so perfect I fell in love.  I am obsessed with this bag.  So much that I bought not one but 2 duplicates.  So happy.  2.  The frye shane tipped booties.  I've searching for short cowboy boots for so long.  The shaft was not wide, there was no tonal stitching and I was not sure the silver detail on the front would look tacky.  I adore them!  Sophisticated, elegant, subtle, uber comfortable.  I have to stop myself from wearing them everday.  3.  The Madewell 9" berkley skinnies.  I did a post of bought, return, rebought.  I love them!  I will wear them again this weekend.  Wow, who knew.  The little voice in side knew!!

  • Opaline replied 2 weeks ago

    Suz, you’re so right, it’s crazy how versatile patterned shoes can end up being.

  • shevia replied 2 weeks ago

    Although I am drawing a complete blank regarding what I wear every day (it's early), I must say again how spectacular that outfit is on you. The boots look perfect.

  • rachylou replied 2 weeks ago

    Such great pieces! I think Angie has a point about having a thought-out FRAMEWORK. I bought some pants for the bakery... and yes I plotted out outfits in my head... but I don’t wear them. And I think it’s because they - the whole outfits - were totally outside my usual framework, which I’ve developed over time and takes all sorts of factors into consideration. But I buy random things within the framework and that’s never a problem.

  • Suz replied 2 weeks ago

    Random things within the framework -- that makes sense, Rachylou. The "random" is the fun part but the framework is familiar and is there to shape the choices in the right direction. 

    Gryffin, your purchases illustrate Rachy's point perfectly and are very similar to my own that way. With the bag and the booties, they seemed to be lacking something (or to have something you didn't care for) but once you tried them out you discovered that they had something you liked even better than what you thought you were looking for! That's pretty much my experience with my new items, also. By the way, I already drooled over that bag but now I have to say those booties are perfection -- no wonder you are in love!! 

  • Cardiff girl replied 2 weeks ago

    Interesting thread.l often walk away from purchases and if I’m still thinking about them days later go and get them but if they are forgotten I regard it as a sign that I wasn’t that bothered about them in the first place.lf they have gone in that time ,it’s a sign that it wasn’t meant to be !

  • FashIntern replied 2 weeks ago

    Opaline, those are great boots! (No correction on vocab intended--"booty" is more strongly associated with your booty to me than with footwear). They look like they'd go with everything, jeans and skirts, in a wide range of colors.

    Suz, my Call It Spring loafers are like that. I got them to see what I felt about patterned shoes, loved them, and wore them way more than I'd expected. I wear my white skinnies a lot more than I would've guessed, but seeing as I went through 3-4 batches of 3-4 pairs before finding them, I can't exactly call them a surprise.

    It makes perfect sense to me that buying what calls out to you would work out well, assuming you're not completely all over the map. Putting together our living room at our apartment in Tampa, I realized I was pulling out pieces from many different stages from my life. I know what I like, so although there are permutations, there is a core that's pretty consistent, so it all goes together in the end. Trouble comes when I start looking at things I think I'm supposed to like.

  • lyn67 replied 2 weeks ago

    Well, I  miraculously often feel the same with my wild card purchases, and Angie have said it probably so well: "that with an already well curated and fully functional wardrobe like yours - such spontaneous and unpremeditated purchases can work really well. THAT'S the key." The hard work is getting more and more sense.

    Mine this season are the pleated midi, the wide legs and the angled block heel patent pumps(not shown here yet).

    Loved this thread and everybody's stories, so meaningfull!:-)

  • Staysfit replied 2 weeks ago

    I find the items that have drawn me in with the least amount of thought are often the best and most frequently used in my wardrobe. I have a natural affinity for them, so I wear them. It the Marie Kondo effect. It means I truly love them.

    Currently the item that took me by surprise were my J Brand wide leg crops. I instantly knew they would be good, impulsively made the purchase, and wear them at least one or two times a week.

  • La Pedestrienne replied 2 weeks ago

    FashIntern, EXACTLY: "Trouble comes when I start looking at things I think I'm supposed to like." I run into this too. It's why certain categories (dress shoes for example) are a continual challenge for me.

  • gryffin replied 2 weeks ago

    Suz - that’s a really good point. The best I can figure it is those items were each perfect in ticking every functional box. Whether dimensions and compartments for the bag, heel and shat height and toe shape of the booties, color, fit and rise of jeans. Each piece had an element that made me unsure, but the functionality, utility, quality and craftsmanship when experience catapulted the item to favorite. This happened when long blazers were completely unavailable and I needed to try spring/fall toppers as blazers. The better I can elucidate and fulfill the needs of an item the higher the chance I will come to love it even if it’s not what I expected. Necessity pushes my boundaries and I often embrace what works. If that makes any sense!!

  • Janet replied 2 weeks ago

    Suz, I know exactly what you mean, and Angie's point about how this works especially when you already have a good solid wardrobe to build on, is also astute. I've labored to find the "perfect" whatever classic item, and then failed to wear it much. But I'll chance upon something like that long BCBG jacket that I wore to death for years, and even though such a thing was not on my radar at the time, I came to feel like my wardrobe could barely function without it! I can see why all those pieces work so well for you. Your intuition is good!

  • RobinF replied 2 weeks ago

    This is a great and thought provoking discussion. I do have some of those purchases that I wasn't sure I was going to like but ended up as workhorses. But I also have duds that don't end up working out. I need to figure out how to tell the difference.

  • Bijou replied 2 weeks ago

    My best wildcards have been items that have pushed me in a different direction. All my wildcards I have liked, but given they were statement pieces I worried that they may get worn or used regularly - how wrong I was with each of these.

    Summer 2017/18 wildcards were my orange playsuit, lilac bag and cape jackets

    Winter 2018 wildcard
    Gold velvet dress, black dress and grey ankle boots.

    The bag and boots would have hit the 30 plus wears easily, the others are well on their way if not there too.

  • Sisi replied 2 weeks ago

    Great score, Suz. You look fab as always. Such experiences happen to me but rarely. More often I have the opposite experience: I buy something  thinking it will be a great workhorse and then it turns out to be a great flop. I echo Robin F: I have not understood yet how to tell the difference. :)  

  • Christina F. replied 2 weeks ago

    On the flip side of this question, I thought this tee might be a workhorse. Fortunately, I was able to see that it wouldn’t and return it rather than let it languish in my closet. I love the look of it and am sad to return it, but the material is a bit too soft and wrinkly, and the stripes just don’t lay right on me, though they should. (Except one even looks painted on crooked.) I think the tee would need a more substantial drape in the fabric to lay better. I am VERY SAD, but I know I’d aways be fussing with it. This is why I said above that I don’t know until I wear something a bit. In this case, I saw it while wearing around the house to make outfits.

  • anne replied 2 weeks ago

    My unexpected one was this top, which I bought for $10 when doing an online order maybe 6 years ago. It works tucked into skirts, untucked with pants, casual and for work. Not considered long and hard when purchased!
    Eta. For a workhorse, I had to go back a long way to find a photo!

  • FashIntern replied 2 weeks ago

    Christina, you dodged a bullet! I think I did too in returning that blazer and skirt recently. If, in the next couple of months, I get to a point when I can actually wear them, they will probably still be available (& maybe at lower prices). But for now, I think I was falling for them without any plan of how to make the relationship work. If only I was that smart with men, lol!

    Bijoux, your wardrobe continues to amaze and inspire. So many times, we say it isn’t the individual pieces, but how you wear them, that counts. But the more I pay attention to what’s in your wardrobe, the more interesting, fun pieces I see. It might be more of a challenge to combine them, but the results you get must make it worth your effort. I’m trying to keep that in mind as I make choices.

  • Christina F. replied 2 weeks ago

    FashIntern, I did dodge a bullet, for sure. I just wish I could find another tee with as pleasing a combination of colors, to my eye. I'm tempted to order another and see if I find one where the stripes lay better, but that's a crapshoot and probably a waste of time. NEXT (but said with a deep sigh). It sounds like you made good choices about the items you were considering - for now, as you said.

  • suntiger replied 2 weeks ago

    My burnt orange cardigan for sure was an unexpected workhorse! It goes so well with my coloring and the things in my wardrobe. Im wearing it again for probably the 30th time this year and still love it :)

  • Suz replied 2 weeks ago

    Thank you all for your thoughtful replies. It's interesting to hear that for some of us, like Bijou, "statement" items tend to become surprise workhorses. Whereas for others it is more likely to be something closer to a wardrobe "essential."

    For me personally, it's split between statements and essentials. I don't expect all my statements to become workhorses, but some of them do turn out to be. Recent examples the scarf and top in Finds. But a lot of my workhorses are "trendier" or "more current' versions of my old favourites. Those might surprise me in the way Gryffin describes. I might worry initially that they aren't quite the thing I want, but then their workmanship persuades me, or the slight difference turns out to be a huge benefit, either practically speaking or as a way of evolving my style in new directions, allowing me to see the beauty in some of my older pieces (in new combinations) etc. 

    Christina, good call on returning that (admittedly fun!) shirt. Same to you, Fashintern. The right suit will appear when you need it. 

    Janet, Staysfit -- both your purchases fall into the broad category of items you typically love to wear (jackets, jeans) and in each case find relatively easy to fit (jeans for Staysfit, jackets for Janet). They sound like the "evolving your style forward" items that become workhorses in my closet. 

    Suntiger, I can imagine burnt orange being a real winner for you! 

    Cardiff Girl, I use that strategy too. I walked away from booties without trying on, and bag (though on sale) and went home and thought for a few days. They were still in mind so I went back to investigate more thoroughly. I tried on. I bought. 

    LaPed, Fashintern -- I'm curious about this "things I'm supposed to like" comment. What does that mean? Things you feel you have to buy to fill certain holes, but never really like? 

  • JuniperGreen replied 2 weeks ago

    Such a fun question!  It can be so hard to predict the winners, right?

    This summer a TH sleeveless button down became a workhorse, and this fall a random grab from a rack of belts at Anthro has been invaluable.  I love both these pieces (and am noticing that it pays off to follow my magpie instincts since these pieces both have gold elements!)

  • lisa p replied 2 weeks ago

    Reading along with interest...and I did fix my initial response that was laden with appalling autocorrect typos etc. Never do YLF on my phone - note to self.  My reasons for the RM backpack not working were myriad - the least of which was that when I carried by the top handle, the bag hit the ground. Weird.  Also - it was too soft and big and open inside and the side pockets were useless for how I want to use them (easy access without having to put the bag down) . Anyways, glad you love yours! I'm just annoyed I paid SO much for it and was unable to recoup much when I sold it.  This entire thread makes me feel I need more clothes, which is ridiculous. I'm in a definite stand-off with my wardrobe at the moment.

  • FashIntern replied 2 weeks ago

    There are different reasons I might feel like I'm "supposed" to like something. Maybe the SA or my mother or YLF or someone else in my life said it was good on me, even though I don't feel comfortable. Maybe I think it seems like something a person at my age and stage "ought" to wear for whatever activity. Maybe it's the latest thing, but not really my thing. Maybe it checks off all the boxes but I'm just not feelin' it.

    If I get something for any of those reasons, I might wear it a few times, feel "off" in it, and then let it linger in the closet, too guilty to get rid of it because I'm "supposed" to like it, and would be letting someone down if I didn't keep it. (That last bit is spurious, I know. My mother has even commented with surprise that I still have/wear something she's gotten me. Another time she criticized a top I had on; when I said we'd gotten it together, she wondered what we'd been thinking. Thanks, Mom, lol. But I still feel guilty getting rid of things given to me by someone else.)

  • rachylou replied 2 weeks ago

    Anne - that is such a great top!

  • La Pedestrienne replied 2 weeks ago

    FashIntern's comment resonated with me because there are a quite a few things that I've ended up with over the years just because they felt like "what you're supposed to have": classic pumps for job interviews right after college (thank goodness I spent all of $6 on them at the thrift store); tights/leggings for running (give me loose-fitting track pants any day); skinny jeans (I've told that story a thousand times); supportive bras (I'm all bralettes, all the time); and probably plenty of others I can't think of right now. White sneakers would be on that list except every time I try a pair on I laugh at myself and then send them back. The unifying theme is that all of these are pretty common essentials for other people, just not for me. Sort of like how we all have to learn not to take those "Every Woman Must Have" lists too seriously...

  • SarahD8 replied 2 weeks ago

    Yes, exactly. Beware of Other People’s Workhorses.

  • Suz replied 2 weeks ago

    SarahDB: One person's workhorse is another person's stuffed giraffe?  

    Thanks for explaining, Fashintern and LaPed. I get it. I've had the experience of hanging onto something because it was a gift, for sure, so I know what you mean there. 

    I've also had the experience of laughing at myself in something. I tried for years to buy a black leather moto but the whole idea was just so hilarious whenever I put one on. Who am I trying to kid? 

    On a positive note, I've become much better at avoiding the SA- prompted purchase since YLF. I've never really been at risk of the "age and stage" purchase because I'm so out of sync with my age group in pretty much every way! 

    Lisa, I wonder if my bag is smaller than yours was. I think mine is "medium." It definitely does not drag on the ground when I hold it by its top handle, and while large inside, it's not as large as my RM hobo. I would still love a more structured bag, though. I had to retire my RL shopper at the end of the summer and I miss it. 

    I got it on substantial sale so that also made it more attractive. It's no longer trendy but it's still (I hope) somewhat current. But for me, a bag that works is the main thing, and they are hard to come by. Especially with silver hardware, lately -- gold's the thing these days. 

    Anne, you look great in that top both ways. And Rachy, you're a mensch. 

  • Angie replied 2 weeks ago

    Suz, I think you're dead right. As much as I LOVE the items I wear all the time and forever, I CRAVE CHANGE. The newness of the roomy tailored jeans, A-line midis, body con tops, cape coat and shooties are rekindled loves. 

    With your wardrobe and style in place and sorted  - Janet, Jenn and Tanya's wardobe's spring to mind too - the spontaneous wild card fun purchases work 99% of the time. You get back what you put in :)

  • Jenni NZ replied 2 weeks ago

    This can happen to me. But I do like Cardiffgirl's approach of going away then going back, and if it's gone, it wasn't meant for her. I've used that strategy for about 10 years. I remember these most amazing slouchy red booties which I saw in a younger person's surf- type shop on display outside. I went back a few days later- only the display pair left, my size, and half price $110 down to $55. My best friend called them my puss-in-boots booties ( meant as a compliment). I wore them into the ground. It felt like the universe gave them to me.( Bit OTT, I know, but expresses the wonderful feeling of it). The going away part is because I can overbuy and get attracted to more things than I can realistically use.

  • JAileen replied 2 weeks ago

    For me my latest workhorse has been the Sak guitar strap bag. It perfectly matches my lifestyle and color scheme. I also love that it’s not precious. My cost per use is probably a couple cents by now.

  • lisa p replied 2 weeks ago

     I relate SO MUCH to the "things I'm supposed to like" issue.  So much. And frankly, a lot of it for me  comes from things here on YLF.  

    And yes, I bet you're right about the size of the RM pack. Mine was definitely the large size.  And regardless of currency or not - yours looks so good, and so organically in sync with your wardrobe already.  Kudos for a good purchase.  

  • The Cat replied 2 weeks ago

    Yours seem to be perfect for your style, Suz.

    I have had similar experiences. Wrote a long comment (on this subject) to Bijou's recent post about workhorses, and that comment might be even more relevant here. For some reason, I'm not able to copy it, but here is a link:
    https://youlookfab.com/welookf.....workhorses

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