Do Your Clothes Make You Smile?

I recently received an email from a reader, who commented that many of the clothes she’s seen in my accountability posts seem very “practical.”  She wondered if I had any garments that I feel are “pretty” or which make me smile when I look at myself in the mirror.   Although I responded to this reader privately, I decided this would also be a good topic for a post.  I often get some of my best post ideas from the comments and emails I receive from readers.  Your feedback can bring forth insights I would not have otherwise had, and I love the synergy created through our collective pondering.

Clothes make you smile

Do your clothes bring a smile to your face?

Today’s post explores the “happy factor” relating to our clothes, as well as the issue of balance in our wardrobes between practical items and pieces that warm our hearts and bring smiles to our faces.  I know I’ve struggled a lot in achieving such balance and I suspect that many of you have as well.  It’s my hope that the insights and questions I share in this post will help bring enhanced clarity for both you and me. As always, I welcome your thoughts on this topic.  Who knows, another post may arise from what you share!

My Sartorial History in Brief

For many years, practicality didn’t enter my mind at all when I was shopping for clothing, shoes, and accessories.  I was like a virtual magpie in that I gravitated to anything that was bright and shiny and knocked my sartorial socks off.  I didn’t care if a pair of shoes was comfortable or not.  If it was pretty and unique, I was “all in.” The same was true for clothing.  I loved all sorts of colors and patterns and was always looking for something special and different that no one else had.  I was definitely an individual when it came to the way I dressed and I didn’t care a whit whether what I liked was “in” or not.  I just cared about whether or not I loved it.

Of course, there are problems inherent to that type of shopping and I soon found myself with a very “schizophrenic” wardrobe.   I ended up with lots of orphaned pieces that didn’t really mix well with anything else in my closet.  I also wasn’t able to put together appropriate outfits for some critical life occasions and I struggled to get dressed for more serious events.  My wardrobe was undeniably creative and artistic, but it didn’t always work well for my real life.  In fact, I sometimes avoided social events because “I didn’t have anything to wear” despite my packed closet (yes, a large wardrobe has been a constant for me for as long as I can remember).

Coming Up on 40 Sparked a Change in Me

As I inched closer to the big 4-0, I began to care more about practicality and appropriateness in terms of how I dressed.  The bohemian style of my younger years no longer felt right to me and I started to crave a more sophisticated and mature image.  That’s when I started watching “What Not to Wear” and reading style books and worked with an image consultant to pare down my wardrobe and cultivate a new look.  I made a lot of changes and my style gradually evolved over the next several years.

Of course, I continued to shop too much and buy far too many new items.  One difference, however, was that I stopped listening to my inner style muse and started paying more attention to “experts,” trends, and fashion edicts.   I bought lots of things I didn’t really love but were what I thought I should be wearing for my age and body shape, as well as whatever job or career I had at the time.  I also focused too much on how much things cost and adhered to a “more is more” philosophy that stuffed my closet with lots of good but not great pieces.

Enter the “Recovering Shopaholic” Project

This year, I’ve been making a strong effort to turn things around.  I’ve been focusing on buying less (yes, I know it’s still too much, though!), filling real closet needs, and building a wardrobe that I can count on.  As such, I’ve geared my shopping more toward “practical” pieces than I did in the past.

Sure, I’ve still purchased a few whimsical items over the months, but a large portion of the garments I’ve bought have been “basics” for defined lifestyle needs.   I considered the shift to be a step in the right direction, as I was no longer shopping as haphazardly.  Instead, I was mostly shopping with a list and with target purchases in mind.

A Balance between Practicality and the “Love Factor”

But when the comment and question came in from my reader, I had to stop for a moment to consider the present state of my wardrobe.  How many of the pieces in my closet do I truly love?  How many bring a smile to my face when I put them on?  In truth, not enough!  Although I end up liking or even loving many of my outfits, I am not enthralled with that many of the individual components of those ensembles.

I don’t believe we need to unequivocally love every single item in our closets and there is nothing wrong with buying practical items, yet I do feel that a certain percentage of our wardrobes should consist of things that make us smile.   That percentage will vary from person to person based upon a number of factors, including lifestyle and how much the person enjoys clothing and style.

Is My Wardrobe Balanced?

As I am a person with a flexible lifestyle (i.e. no need to wear a uniform or follow a corporate dress code) and a deep love of all things sartorial, the “love percentage” should probably be on the higher side.  For those who view clothes merely as necessities for covering their bodies and being “acceptable” in society, the need to feel love for their garments is much lower.

I love color, prints, patterns, textures, and shine, and all of these things bring a smile to my face.  Yet, when I look in my closet today, I don’t see a whole lot of some of these elements.  My warm weather wardrobe is much “happier” and the love factor is higher.  That’s because summer is my favorite season and I enjoy shopping for warm weather clothes.  Bright colors and fun patterns are easy to come by that time of year and I see these characteristics being reflected in my wardrobe.

However, the cold weather section of my closet is a bit more somber, save for my few vibrant colored coats (which I adore).  Since I tend toward a gloomier mood during the winter anyway, what with the colder weather and shorter days, I could use a bit of a “pick-me-up” from my clothing.

Striking a Balance When Shopping

This realization does not give me carte blanche to shop with reckless abandon.  Rather, it’s more of a way to point me in the right direction for the targeted shopping I do in the coming months.  It would serve me well to pick up a few fun cold weather garments that make me smile – and then wear those items to death until the warm weather comes along.  At that time, I can “shop my closet” to put together lively summer ensembles based upon the “happy” pieces I already own.

It’s difficult to strike the proper balance between practical shopping and fun shopping.  Often when we’re trying to change, we allow the pendulum to swing too far in the other direction.  I’ve seen this happen with passive friends and relatives who are trying to be more assertive and end up becoming out and out aggressive for a time.  It’s human nature to overreach our marks when navigating powerful life changes.

It’s no different with shopping and clothing.  We try to “be good” and buy for needs instead of wants, but the end result may be a rather staid wardrobe filled primarily with bland, solid basics.  While this may be better than our prior haphazard buying, it’s still not the ideal for many of us, yet it’s understandable that such a phenomenon may occur.

Questions to Ask Ourselves

If you have fallen into a situation similar to what I described, a bit of “course correction” may be in order. But first, a brief peek into your closet can paint a clear picture of the current state of affairs.  Look at your wardrobe and ask yourself the following:

  • How many of my clothes do I truly love?
  • Which items bring a smile to my face when I wear them?
  • Do I wear these pieces often and enjoy them?
  • What percentage of my wardrobe is an “8” or higher on a scale of 1-10?

A word about the last question…  Some garments may be “8”s or even “9”s but still aren’t pieces that make you smile.  These items may fit you impeccably, adhere perfectly to your lifestyle, and be in a color that suits your complexion.   They may look great on your figure, enhance your favorite features, and play down what you consider to be your flaws.  However, they may be such basic items that they may not excite you in any way.  That’s fine, as we all need a good cross-section of stable, reliable basics, as long as that’s not all we have.

What’s Next?

If you find that your wardrobe is a bit “snoozeville,” so to speak, here are a few tips to turn things around.

  1. Determine what makes you smile – Look at the pieces you have that do bring a smile to your face. What do these items have in common?  Is it a particular color, pattern, or texture?  You may want to add a few similar such pieces to your closet. But don’t go hog wild!  I love stripes, but I ended up with a bit of “stripes overload” by following that muse a bit too exclusively.  Stick with just a few pieces in any given category.
  2. Find some inspiration – Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know.   It’s helpful to look around and find inspiration from a variety of sources.  Peruse magazines and catalogs and tear out pages that excite you in any way.  Also consider online sources such as Pinterest.  Create an inspiration bulletin board (real or virtual) or a style folder.  Determine a few areas of common ground among your inspirational images.  Perhaps it’s a particular shape or style or maybe a color or type of accessory that floats your boat.
  3. Buy one piece at a time – I’m a shopaholic, as are many of my readers. We have to be careful not to infiltrate our wardrobes with too many new items at any given time.  Not only can such activity be hard on our bottom line, it can also lead to a wardrobe that is too one-note and uninspired.  There definitely can be too much of a good thing!  So buy one “happy” piece at a time and start incorporating it into your outfits.  Wear each new item at least a few times before venturing out to buy another special new piece.
  4. Follow your own muse – Take inspiration from others but cultivate your own defined sense of style.  Trends can be fun, but they can also make us veer off track from who we truly are.  Don’t follow trends blindly; instead look within and ask yourself which of the current trends inspire you.  If you love the color of the moment (for 2014, “radiant orchid” will be all the rage), by all means wear it.  If you find it ho-hum or dreadful, then stay away.  Learning to trust your own inner voice is instrumental to bringing more style-related happiness into your life.

These are just a few ideas and I intend to take my own advice.  I will aim to buy a few new pieces that makes me smile over the next couple of months.  This will help to infuse some much-needed life into my cold weather wardrobe.  I will also shop the accessories portion of my closet to see what I already have that can up the happy quotient of what I wear.

Over to You…

Now that you’ve read my thoughts on the topic of the clothes that make us happy, I’d love to get your insights.  Do you have a lot of clothes that make you smile?  Is this something that matters to you?  Why or why not?  Whatever you’d like to share, as long as it’s respectful, I’d love to “hear” it.

Also, if you have any suggestions for future post topics, I’d love to get those as well.  Although I have a long list of potential post ideas, I often write about whatever’s on my mind when I sit down to write.  This isn’t the first time I’ve been inspired by a reader’s question or idea and I know it won’t be the last.  Feel free to add your ideas to the mix!

31 thoughts on “Do Your Clothes Make You Smile?

  1. I think I have only started to really like my wardrobe after I ruthlessly paired it down. Deep down I have always known that I look best in tailored, classic lines in both casual and work wear. But like most of us I experimented, in my case with prints, ruffles, sparkly (picture Chico’s). So I had a ton of clothes, but, like you, it was stylishly all over the place. Took me a while to learn that some women look great in dangly earrings, a necklace, and an arm full of bracelets, but I can’t pull it off to save my life. I also know women that successfully can look boho/artsy one day and feminine/elegant the next. Again, not me. But it sure was a costly road to get to where I am now. Getting rid of these clothes was not easy (they were in good shape, expensive, and ‘you-never-know-if I might-change-my-mind…) , but as well know, it had to be done. Now, I like my clothes a lot, and most days I feel pretty good about myself after I dress. And that is worth something in my book. Great post, Debbie.

    • Glad you liked this post, Cornelia. It seems we’ve taken a similar road in terms of style experimentation. How wonderful that you now know what works for you and what doesn’t and that you generally feel good about what you’re wearing. That is definitely worth something – in my book, too!

  2. Hello Debbie! I’m finally coming out of lurker-dom. I’ve been reading for a few months – I’ve been on a closet purging mission for 2 years at this point, and am still not where I need to be, although I’m definitely getting there. I’ve done a lot of work in defining my “uniforms” and figuring out what I like to wear. I’ve been finding your posts very thought-provoking and useful to me as I get down to a reasonable closet size. But anyway, I wanted to mention that one of my “uniforms” is to wear a very sensible, boring, dark colored pant, paired with a very bright and fun dressy t-shirt or shirt from somewhere like Anthropologie. I find that by wearing a dressy t-shirt, it’s comfortable for me, can be dressed up a bit for work (my work is not uber-corporate) or down for casual wear, age-appropriate (as in, not too revealing or tight), and I have a smile on my face. And it satisfies some of my need for variety and/or trendy pieces without needing too many garments – the same pair of black pants can be used with so many different tops, that nobody seems to notice the bottoms. I do try to pick tops that either have one of my “base” colors in the pattern somewhere, or that are based on one of my favorite “pop” colors, so that my wardrobe is still harmonious. I am having a lot of fun with it even while I’m cutting the numbers of garments down.

    • Thanks so much for de-lurking and sharing what’s working well for you, Sarah! I tend to follow a very similar outfit formula. It started out because I struggled so much to find pants that work for me, but I agree that people notice our top half much more. Congrats on doing so well with paring down your wardrobe and honing your style. It can be a difficult and challenging road, but it’s well worth it in the long run!

  3. This morning I bought 2 pairs of shoes off clearance on DSW while they were running their free shipping deal. A pair of very practical nude pumps with a low heel, and a pair of turquoise suede pumps with a low heel. Are those heels practical? No, because they’ll only go with 2 or 3 outfits. But I saw them, loved them, and I was still thinking about them 3 days later (power pause!). So I purchased them. And I bet I’ll feel fabulous when I wear them. It’s the same with a plaid shirt I bought from Banana Republic. It was nearly twice the amount I would normally pay for a button up shirt, but I’ve worn it 7 times in the 6 weeks I’ve owned it. There are just certain items that speak to you, and if they make you smile and happy, they are worth the cost.

    • Great to see you commenting again, Melissa! Congrats on using the power pause and making some excellent purchases. We all need the equivalent of your turquoise suede pumps and plaid shirt in our wardrobes. I agree that when certain items speak to us, it’s generally worth buying them (as long as we stay within our budget, of course). Sometimes it’s difficult to trust our instincts and judgment, but it seems it’s paying off well for you!

  4. Debbie you have given us some more great questions to ask ourselves when we look in our closet. I’m happy to say that my clothes do make me smile now that I have been through the reverse hangar/Project 333 and shopping my closet stages. My style is classic with mostly neutrals and if I’ve strayed from this type of clothing I don’t feel like “me”- as much as I admire colour and different styles on other people.
    Don’t know if you would consider it an idea for a post but looking back over the years I have realised that it was when I was shopping with friends with different tastes who influenced my buying that I made these “mistakes”. Thankfully because I’m now aware of this it doesn’t happen any more. I just say “The garment is lovely and would suit you better” or try to shop only with my friend who has exactly the same taste as me 🙂

    • I’m glad you’re making some great progress with your clothing and style, Megan. You make an excellent point about staying true to who we are. Experimentation can be helpful at times, but it’s important not to veer too far away from the personal style that works for us. Thanks for your topic suggestion about shopping with friends. I think that’s a great topic to explore, so I will add it to the list!

  5. I’m the opposite of you here, Debbie — my wardrobe has too many loves and too few workhorses. I never buy pants, tee shirts, blouses — I only buy things that really speak to me, and lately, the only thing speaking to me has been expensive Eileen Fisher sweaters, LOL! This past week, I opened my pared-down closet and found a handful of gorgeous cardigans and not one single blouse or tee to go under them. WTH? I realized I am going to have to force myself to buy the mundane, which, along with tires and mattresses, I hate spending money on!

    • Your comment underlines the importance of a happy medium, Bette. It’s really all about balance! I’m guessing that if you buy even a small number of those basic, mundane pieces, your wardrobe will work much better for you. I know that type of shopping isn’t fun, you have to have tops to wear under those gorgeous EF sweaters! I love your analogy to tires and mattresses – I am in need of BOTH of those things at the moment…

  6. I can definitely identify with the boho style you wore when you were younger. I was into that style, too, up until a couple of years ago. I realized that full, long skirts did not suit my body type. I also realized I looked better in structured jackets instead of flowy cardigans.

    Now I have a lot more basics and only a few items that make me smile. But I have learned how to accessorize and I have a lot of outfits that make me smile. I guess it is a case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts!

    I am really loving colored tights right now. They turn a basic skirt and jacket into a happy outfit. The other thing I do now that makes me smile a lot is paint my nails. Since I look at my hands a lot during the day, an awesome nail color can really make me happy.

    I think we do need to be happy in what we wear. I just don’t think it has to be an individual garment. For me, it’s all in the tights, shoes, scarves, necklaces, bracelets, watches and earrings. They are like the icing on the cake. You still need the cake but it would be pretty boring without the icing and all the decorations!

    • You are right on about accessories, Anne. They are often what truly makes an outfit and it sounds like you have plenty of those items that make you smile. As I mentioned, I often really do like or love many of my finished outfits and the accessories are the reason why. Although I would like to have a few more fun, smile-worthy garments in my closet, I agree wholeheartedly the the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The “icing on the cake” analogy drives your point home really well!

  7. Very interesting post Debbie. I think the last several years my closet has had a good balance of practical and love. I’ve never really cared for lists of must have items. I don’t think they always take into account personal preference, body type, and lifestyle. Pencil skirts look terrible on me and I never wear button down shirts so the white blouse would be a waste of money for me. Almost all of my bottoms are neutral and are denim,black, or white. I really prefer print tops though. I’d say about 75% are prints. I don’t know how practical it is, but I really like them a lot better. I know the styles that I tend to reach for again and again and try to focus on those. Tennessee summers are pretty brutal so I know I don’t want to wear a fitted top when it’s 98 and sticky humid. I think I have something in my closet that would be appropriate for almost all the situations that come up in my life. I feel like it suits my personal style and the life I actually live. I admire the beautiful silk dresses at Anthropologie or sky high heels, but I know I wouldn’t wear them in my day to day life. So I buy peasant tops and jeans that I love and I’m pretty happy with that.

    • I have never been a fan of those “must have” lists either, Tonya. When I was first overhauling my style, I paid attention to them, but I quickly came to similar conclusions as you did. Although pencil skirts and white button-down tops are wardrobe workhorses for some women, I am like you in feeling that such items really have no place in my closet and life. I think we have to come up with our own “must have” lists, as you have done. I veered too far off the path in recent years, but I’m making my way back toward having a wardrobe that works well for MY life!

  8. Another great post Debbie! I must say that I can see a little of myself in all of the above comments, especially the Chico’s phase where I quickly attained a lifetime 5% discount. I now have no Chico’s garments in my closet and yet I really liked them at the time. As I’ve gotten older my body shape has changed and now I want to hide my tummy/rolls. 🙂 At one point I really believed I had to have Oprah’s favorite white button down from Brooks Brothers. The fabric was nice and the fit was perfect. So I bought two, because you know us shopaholics tend to like multiples. I never wore either one and they hung in my closet for several years before I gave them away to a friend at work. I should have known that I prefer to wear knit tops that won’t gape open at the bust. I’m focusing more now on what actually works for my current lifestyle.

    But back to the actual topic of your post re loving your clothes. I think I only truly love a few items of clothing. I value comfort and color. I am like Sarah S. above who mixes things up with tops and keeps the bottoms the same. I find it easy to do and I like my top half better! It’s a journey though and I keep on trying…

    • I am really loving all the comments on this post! I have done similar things to what you did with Oprah’s favorite shirt, Kim. I think a lot of it comes down to trusting ourselves and learning what truly works for us. Other people, even the so-called experts, don’t know our lives and our personal tastes. We have to follow our own internal muse and that can take some time and effort. It sounds like you’re doing well overall. The Chico’s style may be wonderful for many women (my mother-in-law is one), but it’s not the right look for me, either. Comfort and color are really important to me, too, as are accessories and fun tops.

  9. I have run a parallel course. I went searching online for ‘dressing over 40’ when I was carded wearing short shorts and a cropped sweatshirt here in FL. I realized it was teen wear and I need a shift, but . . . the over 40 advice was WAY too conservative. Long story short, I ditched short shorts, flip flops, Jr. dept things and some other ‘questionable’ items for a 40+ year old. Problem was, living in FL, on sabbatical from my bartending career, I had absolutely no use for these conservative clothes deemed appropriate for me. Fast forward 3 years and I am now more than happy to have short shorts again (but 3.5″ instead of 2.5″!) and tees and jeans. I have better quality and fitting pieces. And I do have a lot that makes me smile. I do have to remember to think in outfits and not just piece by piece. A white tee is not so exciting, but with my knee high Frye Julia boots and cropped MuuBaa blush leather jacket, I feel like a rock star!

    • I’m glad you found your way back to short shorts again, Mo. I’ve seen your outfit photos on YLF and you look great in those, as well as the other items you mentioned. And I think very few people would guess you’ve over 40! The “dress your age” advice is very generalized and I agree that it can be too conservative. Age is only one factor in terms of determining what styles of clothing work best for us. I’m glad you have a lot that makes you smile and that you feel like a rock star!

  10. I certainly think a happy medium is important. I don’t LOVE everything I own, but generally really enjoy my outfits. I always loved Stacy & Clinton’s analogy of letting one thing in your outfit be the ‘star’ and the rest be the ‘backup dancers’- one awesome focal point mixed with great basics. To make those things that make us smile shine/be a focal point, the other 50-75% should be great fitting but nothing spectacular.

    • I’m glad you mentioned Stacy and Clinton’s analogy, Meli. I had forgotten about that wonderful advice, but it definitely holds true. I think I just need a few more focal points at this point, but that will come with time. The ratio you mentioned seems to be right on for many of us.

  11. Actually just about everything in my closet makes me smile. I don’t buy anything that doesn’t flatter my body or my coloring. I work very hard for my money and when I spend it on clothes each garment has to meet several rigorous tests, including the love test. Only stuff I really and truly love and wear frequently (nearly weekly, with some seasonal exclusions) make it home and stay in my closet. I have a small, hard-working wardrobe; each garment must work with lots of other garments, so the color palette is limited and the amount of prints is also very limited. Because I rely on solid colors for most of my clothes, these colors must be spot on and not “almost a match.” Fortunately, I have a great visual memory and can easily match colors of garments bought years apart. When “my” colors are not available in a particular season or year, I sit it out and wait for my colors to reappear. Because I love all of my stuff, I am happy to wear clothing over and over and over again. I’ve been following these rules for over 30 years, and they’ve saved me a bunch of money and gasoline for extra trips to return stuff.

    • Sounds like you’ve honed a great system that works for you, Dottie. I agree that there are many factors to consider in building a wardrobe, with the “love test” being just one of those but an important one.

  12. Interesting post. I like or really like almost everything in my closet (I purge those items I don’t like), but there are very few items I truly love. Truthfully I like to wear fairly simple clothing, and both my job and my life outside work are active and casual, so the really pretty items in my closet are the ones I wear the least. I do love some of my scarves and jewelry which I wear more often. I prefer to wear mostly very comfortable, flattering basics that have some small amount of detailing or style to make them a little more interesting. I like to accessorize but not too much. What I am realizing is that because this is the case, I really don’t need to continually think I need more clothing. I would not consider myself a shopaholic, but I think I am “on the spectrum” as they say for autism disorders, and I think a lot of other people are too, since there is such a focus on consumerism in our society. I don’t actually like shopping, but I spend more money than I think is necessary and especially more mental energy on thinking about clothing than I would like. I often think I need more clothing, both practical items and those more exciting items which I don’t wear often. The strange thing is, I am really not that “into” clothes. It’s like a mental habit, and I also think it’s connected to all kinds of issues about self-image as well as being a type of (not all that satisfying, for me) creative outlet.

    • Welcome, Heather, and thanks for your comment. I totally agree that there is too much focus on consumerism in our society and that can affect shopaholics and non-shopaholics alike. Shopping can definitely become both a physical and a mental habit. Sometimes it’s a default creative outlet or pasttime. Since the tagline of this blog is “trade your full closet for a full life,” I plan to continue exploring both sides of that equation. Often when we have habits, the right thing to do is replace them with a more positive habit rather than just try to eliminate them full stop.

      As for the “happy factor” in terms of clothes, that’s such an individual thing. It seems you understand what it is for you. “Pretty” items aren’t “it” for everyone and some of us prefer comfortable flattering basics with a whisper of detailing and unique style instead of a scream. I’m glad you’re figuring our what works best for you in terms of your clothes so you can focus more of your attention on other things that may bring you more joy.

      • The fashion industry is ironic. If you have already found your style, they will try to convince you to keep experimenting, updating and evolving. Attempting to sell new items, they keep inventing new must-haves – such as the sweatshirt and bright sneakers as workwear trends.
        Boyfriend jeans were all the rage last summer, but I’ve yet to see a 40+ woman who looks great in them. Sweggings is another trend that can go very, very wrong…

  13. This is a great post! I think the biggest thing I learned this year is that I shouldn’t expect clothes to make me smile or make me happy. Appearances, aspirations, looks, self-image – all these things are such fraught issues – and I seem to be happiest when I dress on autopilot and avoid paying too much attention to how I look.

    I have a decent amount of clothes that feel ‘me’. Those clothes make me happiest because they allow me to stop paying attention to what I wear and start enjoying other things in my life – people, places, experiences, shared moments.

    I think I’m on my way to an overshopping-free life. I haven’t bought any clothes – not even a pair of pyjamas – in the past two months. I took a look at the pre-Christmas sales, and while I half-heartedly put some items in my basket, I didn’t complete the deal. The urge to have those items shipped over to change my life in some way wasn’t there any more. (They wouldn’t change my life in any positive way – they would only add stress and clutter.)

    I thought I needed variety from clothes, but I seem to have a couple of favorite items every season that I repeat-wear (because they look good, suit my coloring, and are comfortable). The rest languish in my cupboards. I think what I really needed was a variety of people, places and interests. I’ve worked my way towards those goals and renewed important connections in my life.

    I went to a party with friends last weekend – I cannot remember what I wore, but I will remember for a long time that we had an impulse decision to see a late-night film together and that felt fantastic. I had a meal in a fine restaurant a week ago to celebrate the successful fall term with a great longtime friend. I will remember the champagne and the food, but it’s really hard for me to remember what I was wearing. And that’s the way it should be – clothes do not deserve a leading role in my life.

    • It really seems like you’re trading your full closet for a full life, FrugalFashionista! Congrats on all of the amazing progress you’ve made this year! You’re SO right that clothes don’t deserve a leading role in our lives.

  14. For the past year I’ve been thinking seriously about my wardrobe. I’ve thrown out a lot of things that were hanging in my closet because I had spent “good money” on them. It was hard to let them go, but knowing I never enjoyed wearing them helped. Many of these things were beautiful things that made me smile when I saw them hanging in my closet. However, the actual wearing of them was a different matter. Some were too fancy for my life in Lake Tahoe. Some were too stiff, tight or uncomfortable. Some were colors or shapes that didn’t flatter.

    The next thing I realized was that although I still had many clothes, including many beautiful things that made me smile, I didn’t have what I needed to complete outfits. I didn’t have a comfortable kick-around-in black boot to wear with my perfect black jeans. I didn’t have a purse to wear with my grey clothing. I didn’t have a really comfortable walking shoe that looked chic enough for my days in the city. I needed a grey jean and a camel jean. Etc. Many of these were things that are difficult to shop for. The old me would go shopping intending to buy these things, but strike-out and get frustrated. I would then shop for fun and buy more impractical things that made me smile. It took a lot of discipline to figure out what would really make my wardrobe work. (Actually cross out the word work and change it to sing.) Then it took almost a year to track down the missing items I needed one by one.

    Now that my wardrobe really works well, I find that I am smiling all the time. I have added the things I need to make my special pieces shine. I always feel comfortable and it is easy to find workable outfits that look great every morning.

    Thanks for your help with this. You have been one of my inspirations in getting this accomplished.

    • Welcome, Happy Forgiver, and thanks for your wonderful comment! I could really identify with so much of what you wrote. For one, I used to live in the Lake Tahoe area myself and now live in equally casual San Diego. Your point about needing a few missing pieces to make your wardrobe sing really resonates with me, as I’ve been in a similar boat. I also used to get frustrated when I couldn’t find such items and instead use my money on “fun purchases,” but now I’m taking the time to find what I need. My wardrobe isn’t “there” yet, but I agree that a workable wardrobe can really make us smile. Congrats on making it work for yourself and your life!

  15. A great question. I don’t recall where, but I know I’ve read that 80% of a wardrobe should be basics and 20% should be fun pieces. Or something along those numbers. I try to make sure that my basics have impeccable fit and quality. Since these are my true workhorses, fit and quality are the key reasons why I would or would not be happy with those pieces.

    The remaining 20% pieces, need to have a ‘pop’ factor to me for me to enjoy them. It could be from interesting draping of the garment, or having a print (I am a fan of stripes and dots), or a bold color (I have a kelly green blazer that has been a spring/summer workhorse for 2 years thus far).

    • That seems like a good rule of thumb, Lisa. I think the basic pieces can still make us smile, especially if they are of the impeccable fit and quality you mentioned. Those pieces may not have the “pop factor,” but they can still make use feel fab and happy. I am also a big fan of stripes and dots, as well as kelly green. Your blazer sounds great and I can see how it would be a longtime wardrobe workhorse!

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