Today’s post is a continuation of my “May 2014 Accountability Update.” Since I had so many realizations, insights, and tips to share in my last post, it ran very long. Thus, I decided to split the post into two parts. In this second part, I share what I wore last month, my favorite and less favorite outfits, some style reflections, and the changes I’ve made to my shopping priorities list.
I hope you find my ponderings on these topics interesting and that my process inspires you to delve deeper in your own style journey. I sometimes hesitate to post my outfit photos, as I don’t want to open myself up to criticism, especially since this isn’t really a style blog per se. I firmly believe that there is no one right way to dress. Sure, some people dress better than others, and there are objectively more flattering ways to dress for certain body types. But in the end, what matters most is that we are each happy with our personal style.
Why Clothes Matter
Our clothes are one of the ways in which we present ourselves to the world and can also be a means of expressing creativity. While some people will say, “they are just clothes,” clearly many of us do not ascribe to such a belief. The reason many of us struggle so much with shopping and our wardrobes is that clothes do matter to us. We want to look attractive, put together visually appealing ensembles, and feel good about our appearance for the various events of our lives. In fact, I believe it’s important for us to like how we look even when no one will see us besides ourselves and maybe our pets. I know I have a much better outlook on my day when I feel I’m well-groomed and dressed in colors and styles that make me smile.
The Value of Documenting Your Style Journey
With all that said, I have decided to share a portion style journey with all of you today. Hopefully this departure from my standard type of posts will be interesting and educational. I try to capture photos of my outfits to the best of my ability. The photos are not professional quality and I definitely don’t possess “mad modeling skills.” In fact, posing is not my forte at all, but I do my best to smile and at least look somewhat relaxed and happy. Some of the outfits are “winners” and some are more firmly in the “loser” camp, but I will present both groups and examine why some ensembles delighted me and others fell flat.
If you’re in the midst of a style transformation journey like I am, I encourage you to take photos of your outfits, preferably when they’re on you (although “flat photos” can work, too), and make notes about what did and didn’t work and why. No one need see your photos and notes but you, but if you’d like to share your insights with this community, feel free to do so in the comments section of any of my posts. We can definitely learn from each other’s journeys, so I encourage sharing as much as possible.
The Type of Feedback I’m Looking For
I’m not posting this outfit and style reflection in order to receive “constructive criticism” about my outfits, especially the ones that I count among my favorites. After years of listening to other people’s voices instead of my own, I’m working to tune in to my own inner style muse once again. Style is a very subjective thing and there will never be complete consensus about what looks good and what needs improvement. If you’ve ever watched or read the recaps of major award shows, you’ve seen this first-hand. What’s on one “expert’s” best list is invariably on another’s worst list; even the most informed voices are not in harmony when it comes to style.
I welcome your opinions on my musings, but if you offer feedback to me, please try to gear it toward what you’ve learned about me, my life, and my preferences, rather than on your personal preferences and what’s currently “in.” For example, I recently mentioned that I’m looking to dress more “edgy,” so if you have input on how I might achieve that without going on a shopping “binge,” that would be useful information for me.
We’ve all shopped with friends who have pushed us to buy what they like. While that sometimes results in our purchasing looks that refresh our style and make us happy, more often than not, the end product is clothing that hangs in our closets unworn. We all need to define and follow our own style muses, and the style statement we wish to present will evolve over time. I’m sure you’ve looked at old photos of yourself and cringed at what you were wearing, but you may have dearly loved the way you looked at the time. I know that’s true for me! The good news is that change can be exciting and once we have a firm handle on our desired sense of style, we can shop smarter, buy fewer items, and love more and more of what we own. That’s an end goal we can all embrace!
What I Wore in May 2014 – By the Numbers
Okay, enough introduction… Now on to what I wore during May 2014. For the past year-plus, I’ve kept track of everything I’ve worn each month in terms of clothing and shoes. I may start tracking accessory wears, too (I did that during my first round of Project 333), but I was already sufficiently overwhelmed by the sheer volume of my closet contents when I started this endeavor. While I’ve decided not to continuously follow Project 333 as an ongoing way of life, I do want to move more toward a minimalist wardrobe strategy. Tracking what I wear and what I do and don’t like is a good step in that direction.
During May 2014, I wore 54 items of clothing and 10 pairs of shoes. Yes, that’s a high number, particularly in terms of clothes, but I was purposely wearing more pieces in order to evaluate them. I still feel that I have too many clothes and I know that much of what I have aren’t “8”s or higher. Pushing myself to wear questionable items helps me to evaluate them. Just seeing garments on a hanger or shoes on a shoe rack can tell us if we like their general aesthetic, but won’t clue us in as to whether or not we like these pieces on our bodies. We have to take things for a “test drive” in order to make an informed assessment as to their value in our lives.
Here’s a photo of the 64 items I wore last month (click for a larger view):
How Do These Pieces Fit Together?
I know the images are small, but you may notice a “disjointedness” about my pieces. Part of that lack of cohesion is due to the seasonal changeover, as well as the fact that my trip to Tahoe necessitated my wearing more cold weather items. There are also a few random colors thrown in that aren’t part of my evolving color palette, such as the coral blazer and top and the leopard print dress. While I likely won’t purchase any additional pieces in these tones, I opt to keep items around as long as I still like them and feel good with them on. The remainder of the items I wore last month fall into my desired color scheme of black, blue, red, burgundy, purple, green, and grey. As I’ve mentioned previously, I also hope to add more white to the mix in order to lighten things up a bit.
My lounge and workout wear is not included in the photo, but some of my recently downgraded tops are pictured, as well as some tops that I wear around the house and for walks or going to the gym. Since last fall, I’ve been wearing more “regular” clothes at home and I’ve enjoyed doing so. That said, I sometimes still wear “lounge wear” when I’m working from home. It all depends upon my mood, how I feel, and what clothes “call” me on any given day.
I hope to wear fewer pieces overall during June and have more repeat wears. In May, there were only seven items of clothing and four pairs of shoes that I wore more than once. Eventually, I’d like to be re-wearing at least half (or more) of my items during a given month. I believe that will happen more and more as I pare things down to only those garments and shoes I truly love.
I was happy with the vast majority of the outfits I wore last month. I liked virtually all of the ensembles I wore during my Tahoe trip mid-month (scroll down in the post to see my outfit photos). Many of those looks were quite simple, but had enough interesting details so that I felt happy and true to myself in what I was wearing. In addition, I also felt good about most of the looks I wore back home in San Diego. Besides my travel outfits, the eight outfits below were among my favorites.
Why Did I Like These Outfits?
In the past, I’d look at my outfit photos and get a visceral reaction as to whether or not I liked what I was seeing. But I never really took the time to investigate why I either liked an ensemble or felt it missed the mark. As I believe in the tremendous value of introspection, I decided to write about my reasons for either liking or disliking particular looks.
Here’s why I liked the outfits pictured above. I’m listing overall impressions rather than look-by-look analyses. I will delve deeper with the less favored outfits, as I’d really like to understand why things didn’t work so I can avoid future mistakes.
- My tanks and tops are all fitted and include some type of interesting details, such as pattern or subtle ruffles and/or embellishment.
- My skirts are all moderately loose, hit about knee length, and have some sort of special pattern or detailing (however, I do wish a few of the skirts were a bit shorter and will keep that in mind for future purchases in this category).
- My shoes are all comfortable but stylish and don’t look “heavy” on my feet. I like metallic shoes and feel they look good against the pale tone of my skin.
- The jewelry is mostly silver-toned and of moderate size. I like my jewelry to be eye-catching but not over-powering.
- The pants/jeans are straight-legged and are fitted but not overly tight. At this point, all of my pants are dark colors, but I hope to add a pair or two of lighter colored pants into the mix at some point.
- I feel like “me” in all of these outfits. They are all fairly casual in keeping with where I live and my lifestyle, but I still feel put together and like there is something interesting in all of the looks.
A Few Less Favored Looks
Now for a few looks that I didn’t like so much and why… The photo below shows four outfits that I wasn’t entirely happy with, both while I was wearing them and in retrospect.
From left to right, here are my reasons for feeling less than stellar about the ensembles in question.
- While I love the tank and the shoes in this outfit, I don’t like the fit of the jeans. They tend to look wrinkled and baggy in the knees and thighs. They are comfortable, I like the color of the wash, and they are the right length to wear with many of my shoes, but I’m not happy with how they look. Also, I’ve grown bored of the open cardigan “uniform” that was one of my standbys of the past few years. I now prefer either a shorter and more fitted topper or a longer, more tailored coat like what’s pictured in my travel debrief post.
- I like this look more than the previous one, as the jeans are definitely a better fit (the legs looked smoother in person than in the photo). However, I just don’t love the open cardigan look anymore. I like it once in a while and with some outfits, but these first two looks just kind of fell flat in my opinion. I love the colors in this outfit, but the silhouette is not as much to my liking.
- I like the top half of this outfit, but the bottom half is not so great. I like the color of the top and the ruched sleeves are the type of special detail I enjoy. However, the pants are too baggy and the shoes are worn out and need to be replaced. I’ve been looking for a new pair of peep-toe metallic flats/low heels, but haven’t had any luck as of yet. Once I can find better pants and shoes, I think I’ll like wearing this type of outfit for casual days out and about.
- This was the least favorite of my Tahoe trip outfits. I like the black and I like the scarf, but the overall look seems too boring and somber to me. Perhaps I would have preferred having a bit more color in the mix, which I could have added by means of the top, scarf, or accessories. When I wore my cobalt coat with the outfit when outdoors, I felt a lot better about the way I looked. I think I need some “brightness” in my outfits to feel more true to my sense of style.
Style Reflections and Shopping Priorities
I’m definitely changing rapidly in terms of my preferred style statement. I’m moving more toward fitted silhouettes, special details, and a narrower color palette. Concurrently, I’m moving away from looser garments and my previously loved open cardigan “uniform.” In terms of jewelry, I now enjoy wearing larger pieces than the ones I used to embrace. With shoes, I prefer to wear at least a bit of a heel, although I still love the black AGL flats that I bought late last year.
My changing style preferences have caused me to modify my shopping priorities list a bit. I’ve also been going through my summer clothing and finding that some of the pieces I enjoyed wearing last year no longer hold my favor. In particular, I’m not happy with the poor quality and fit of some of my toppers. Since I run cold and it doesn’t get all that hot where I live, I pretty much need to have either a jacket or a cardigan on hand for all of my summer outfits. So new summer toppers have moved up in priority for my future shopping. In addition, I’d love to find a few shorter toppers for my pants ensembles, although that’s a lower priority since I’ll mostly be wearing skirts and dresses in the coming months.
My Revised Shopping List
Below is my revised shopping priorities list. Note that there are more items listed than I have spaces for in my item limit for the year. That’s because it’s likely I won’t be able to find some of the items in question due to current trends and availability. I may have to wait until next year to purchase some of my priority pieces. While I’m not necessarily happy about that possibility, I’d rather be patient (remember the triple “P” purchasing principle…) and find things that will truly work for me rather than settling for lesser versions.
In order to adhere to my 38-item limit for 2014, I may purchase no more than 17 additional items this year. Ideally, these 17 items will come from the list of priorities below, but I may end buying one or two “inspired pieces” along the way. In terms of the code used below, “R” refers to closet replacements, “M” denotes missing links in my wardrobe, and “S” points to items that I feel will help to evolve my style.
Tops and Toppers:
- Denim jacket (R) – medium blue, fitted style, not boxy
- Grey short jacket (R) – knit or woven, casual style, fitted
- White short jacket (S) – knit or woven, casual style, fitted
- Another moto-style jacket (S) – in one of my key neutrals or in a jewel tone
- White or grey tank/top to wear with skirts (R) – special style, perhaps embellished
- Short, tie-waist cardigan to wear with skirts and dresses (M) – white, blue, or grey
- Lightweight, bright jacket to wear with pants (S) – anorak or trench style, somewhat fitted
- Special tops in white, cobalt, red, and grey (R/M) – standalone pieces, modern styles
- Hound’s-tooth or black/white geometric print top or topper (S)
- Black/white stripe short-sleeved top (R) – higher quality to replace current two tops
Bottoms and Dresses:
- Black maxi-dress or maxi-skirt (S)
- Black straight-leg jeans (R)
- Summer casual pants (M) – preferably in black, grey, or cobalt
- Light colored pants (S) – perhaps white jeans
- Denim skirt (R)
- Bright skirt (M) – preferably cobalt blue
Shoes / Accessories:
- Black peep-toe low wedge heels (R) – current shoes are not very comfortable
- Metallic peep-toe low wedge heels (R) – current shoes are very worn out and need to be replaced!
- Multi-color low wedges or peep-toes (M)
- Nude/tan sandals (R) – modern, strappy, comfortable
- Bright (preferably cobalt or green) or black/white purse (S)
- A few “edgy” jewelry pieces that catch my eye
- 1-2 belts to wear with dresses and longer tops – black, grey, patterned
I don’t plan to purchase all of the items on the list above this year. That would require me to exceed my item limit! However, I feel the list will help focus my shopping and prevent me from making impulse buys. It will also steer me away from purchasing items that are too similar to what’s already in my closet. I will review the list often and update it as needed. It’s not set in stone by any means; it’s meant to be a tool to help me shop smarter.
If you find that you buy too much and make lots of purchasing mistakes, I encourage you to use a shopping priorities list. Read more about my rationale for using such a list and how to best create one for yourself in my April post on that topic.
I don’t plan to go into this much detail or even show my outfits every month. In fact, I may not ever do this again. But since I’ve been focusing so deeply on my style evolution as of late, I thought it might be interesting to delve into more detail this time around in order to potentially help those who have been similarly focused.
I hope you enjoyed this post! If you’d like to leave a comment about what I wrote or share a bit about your own personal style journey, please feel free to do so. I’d much prefer to hear more about your style evolution or what you’ve noticed about mine than receive lots of comments about my individual outfits. When I’ve posted outfit photos in the past, it seemed that was all people commented on and I kind of felt that my overall message got a bit lost in the process. So please keep this in mind if you decide to comment on this post.