Back in July, I wrote about the benefits of keeping an outfit journal and shared that I had started keeping one myself. Now that I’ve been maintaining this journal for two months, I thought it would be useful to update you on how it’s going. In today’s post, I outline what I’ve learned about my wardrobe preferences and personal style through logging my daily ensembles.
My outfit journal has been even more helpful than I ever anticipated it would be. I’ve learned a great deal about what I like, what I dislike, what I need, and what I don’t need through this process. Along the way, I’ve also substantially increased the number of outfits I like. During July, I had one outfit I rated a “6” on a scale of one to ten and five “7” outfits, with the remainder of my ensembles being “8”s or higher. In August, there was still one “6” outfit (mostly a result of getting dressed in too much of a hurry!) but no “7” outfits. Every other look I put together last month I rated as an “8” or above. That’s some excellent progress in a very short period of time!
The Good – What I Liked About My Outfits
In reviewing my outfit journal recently, I discovered a lot of positive aspects about my ensembles.
Toning Down the “Church Vibe”
First and foremost, I was very happy to have toned down the “church vibe” in my skirt and dress outfits. The main way I did this was through wearing more casual shoes and toppers. Instead of completing my looks with heels and knit blazers, I instead wore flat or very low-heeled sandals and either short cardigans or moto-style jackets. As a result, I felt I was dressed far more appropriately for my casual lifestyle and I fit in a lot better with the people around me. My feet were also happier and I was able to walk for longer periods of time without pain or discomfort.
Dresses for the Win
I also found that I really preferred to wear dresses over skirts the past two months. I like the ease and comfort of dresses for hot, summer days. It’s very simple to just throw on a dress and a few accessories and get out the door, whereas it can take more time to put together a skirt outfit. I will always like skirts as well, but I’m finding myself leaning more and more toward dresses this year.
I was also very happy with the jewelry and accessories I wore. Since I didn’t push myself to wear “benchwarmers” and simply selected the pieces I liked the most, I found myself wearing many of the same accessories over and over again. True to my style, I enjoyed wearing silver and gold hybrids, as well as black and silver combination items. Long necklaces and statement earrings also received a lot of play, but I didn’t wear them together. Since I have more of a minimalist style aesthetic (though not necessarily a minimalist wardrobe), I usually prefer to wear only one statement piece per outfit.
Other July/August Wardrobe Wins
Here are some other things I liked about my July and August outfits:
- A few items that were “benchwarmers” in previous years have turned into wardrobe favorites this summer. Examples of this are my floral tank, black ruffled top, zigzag striped skirt, and pewter embellished sandals, pictured below.
- I have also resurrected some jewelry pieces from yesteryear that I’m glad I held on to. Even though I hadn’t worn them in a while, I kept them because I still liked the style. I don’t necessarily think we need to purge all items we haven’t worn recently, but I do feel it’s a good idea to review what we have and ask ourselves why we’re not wearing certain pieces. It never hurts to ask ourselves questions about the items we own!
- I’m starting to really appreciate dresses and skirts with asymmetrical or high-low hemlines. I have two of each and they have been among my favorites this summer.
- I love that I have narrowed down my color palette and I’m really enjoying wearing garments in my key colors.
- I’ve also tried some fresh new color combinations, including cobalt with either burgundy or deep orange. For some great color coordination ideas, check out Sally McGraw’s Pinterest board dedicated to that subject.
The Bad – What I Didn’t Like So Much
Writing in my outfit journal also helped me to discover the aspects of my ensembles that I didn’t like so much. While it’s not fun to dislike elements of our looks, such knowledge can help us to turn things around. In my situation, it was mostly a case of how I combined garments together, but I also learned it was time to pass some pieces along.
Fussy Garments Rescued Through Easy Alterations
I discovered that alterations were in order for particular items, including many of my tank tops. Even though I’m tall, the straps on tank tops and sleeveless dresses are often too long for me, probably because most of my height is in my arms and legs. After shortening the straps on a few tops and dresses – an easy alteration, I was able to turn “fussy” pieces into garments that I will love and wear frequently. Here are a few examples of items I altered in this way:
I also shortened two tank tops that had previously been combined with pants but weren’t being worn very often. These tops have now been given new life by being paired with skirts. One has already been worn several times and hopefully the other will become a closet favorite as well.
What to Do with the Knit Blazers?
Now that all seems like pretty good news thus far, but not all of the things I disliked about my outfits were so easy to fix. I still love my knit blazers but feel they often look too dressy for my casual lifestyle. Bridgette Raes suggested that I pair them with jeans instead, but I don’t really like the way this looks in most instances. The resulting outfits look good from the front, but the back view is less than stellar, as the jacket hem hits me in an unflattering spot. I may try wearing a longer top under the jacket to see if that helps, but if not, I’ll probably just save my favorite knit blazers to wear for dressier occasions with skirts and dresses.
Those Problematic Cropped Pants
I also tried to wear cropped pants (I currently own just one pair) twice and those outfits received low ratings (“6”s). The outfits looked okay in the photos I took, but I didn’t feel all that good wearing them. I felt my legs looked chunky and I found myself longing for the comfort of my beloved dresses and skirts. I would really like to find some summer pants – or even shorts – that I like because some activities really do call more for pants than skirts. I don’t have all that many such events in my life, but a couple of go-to summer pants outfits that both look and feel good would help a lot with my overall sartorial satisfaction.
Down with Synthetic, Fussy, and Flimsy Bottoms!
In regards to skirts and dresses, I greatly prefer those that are made from natural fibers. I still have a few pieces that are synthetic and they don’t wear well on hot days. I either experience static cling or the garment sticks to my backside when I stand up after sitting for a while.
I also prefer garments that have some substance and/or structure to them. I purged one flimsy skirt last month after having to fuss around with it too much. I’d really like to be able to put my clothes on and mostly forget about them while I go about my life. I’m done with fussy clothing! If something can’t be fixed with a simple alteration, it’s out the door.
What I Bought as a Result of the Journal
My outfit journal has also helped me to identify a few wardrobe needs that I’ve been able to fill over the past two months. These items were either shown in last month’s accountability update or will be featured in the one for August, to be posted soon.
Since I’ve been happier wearing flatter shoes with my skirt and dress outfits, I replaced my metallic Ecco sandals that had passed their prime. I also purchased a similar pair in black after returning the defective embellished sandals (the ones whose strap wouldn’t stay on my foot) to Nordstrom last month. These are the main two pairs of shoes I’ve been wearing ever since! I really don’t need a lot of shoe options now that I’ve been able to identify what works best for my lifestyle and style desires.
I also purchased a new pair of jeans last month that are identical to the pair I wore most often this past winter and spring. I hemmed the new pair for flats (the original pair has been mostly worn with boots) and I know I’ll be happier with my jeans ensembles as a result. I also plan to hem another pair of jeans to wear with flats, as they are just a touch too long at this point and wrinkle in an unflattering way when worn with my favorite ballet flats. This will give me a few jeans options for my fall/spring outfits. I’ll then be able to get rid of at least one pair of less flattering jeans (if not more).
I found myself wishing I had a white cardigan to top many of my outfits, as well as a better quality black cardigan. Fortunately, I was able to find good options for both during August, and at low prices, too! My final purchases made as a result of the journal were two low-profile bras in nude and black. I found that my bras would often show when worn with some of my summer tops and dresses. That annoyance decreased my ratings of the outfits in question. The new bras eliminate the fussy factor and I’m now much happier when wearing many of my ensembles. I was able to take advantage of the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale to purchase my favorite brand of bras, which are usually quite pricey. I probably would have bought the bras anyway, but the outfit journal alerted me to the need at just the right time.
My Shopping Priorities Have Shifted
In addition to the purchases I outlined above, I’ve also revised my shopping priorities list as a result of what I’ve learned through the journal (as well as my virtual styling session with Bridgette Raes). Most of the new priorities I’ve identified are not urgent but are things I can purchase when I find the right items and as my budget allows. I’m now more keenly aware of what works best for lifestyle, as well as my body and my evolving style aesthetic. Here are a few examples:
- Since I now prefer dresses over skirts, it would be nice to add a few more to my closet, particularly those that can be worn year-round (a definite possibility with the temperate climate of my home town).
- In the same vein, it would be nice to have a few warmer tops to pair with my skirts. As Bridgette told me, this would keep the casual look I’m after while allowing me to wear skirts more often when it’s cooler outside.
- Since most of my pants are quite unforgiving in the hip and thigh area, I would like to purchase a few looser pairs to accommodate water retention and small weight fluctuations. As it is now, many of my pants feel uncomfortable when my weight increases even a small amount, as it all tends to go straight to my lower region. I’d love to be able to feel comfortable in pants during those times when I’m not as slim as I’d like to be. This should be doable, as my weight doesn’t fluctuate that much!
- I’d like to have at least one pair of cropped pants or shorts that I feel good in. My preference would be for a pair of black sporty capris. I used to have a pair I really liked, but they passed their prime and were purged from my closet. The current styles seem to be pretty fitted in the legs, but I’d love to find a pair that is more forgiving for those of us who are not slight of thigh!
- My accessory needs were clarified by means of the journal and my work with Bridgette Raes. I’m looking for a pair or two of bright shoes, as well as a few non-neutral pieces of jewelry. I’d also like to find a handbag in cobalt blue, burgundy, or emerald green. I can see how these items would help to “pop” my neutral pieces and increase my outfit satisfaction.
Some Final Thoughts
As you can see, I have gained a lot of valuable insights from just two short months of maintaining an outfit journal. As a result, I now like more of my outfits and have made better purchases. I also feel that I’m dressed much more appropriately for my real life, not the imaginary one in which I attend lots of dressy events.
As the summer draws to a close, I plan to purge some additional items that I don’t feel fab in or don’t suit my real life. I’ll likely hold on to some pieces I still love even if I’m not wearing them right now, but I’m talking about a relatively small capsule, not a large chunk of my wardrobe.
I intend to continue my outfit journal at least through the end of the year and possibly for as long as a full calendar year (through June 2015). I’d like to see how much my wardrobe continues to evolve as a result of my style introspection, as well as the work I’m doing with Bridgette Raes. I will likely do another update on this subject later in the year. I will also share my August accountability update, a revised 2014 purchase analysis, and a wardrobe benchwarmer report soon, as well as continue to delve more deeply into subjects related to having a fuller life.
I know some of you have started keeping outfit journals following my July post on the benefits of this practice. If you’re open to sharing how it’s going for you, I’d love to read your thoughts and I’m sure others would, too. Likewise, if you’ve been using other helpful methods to improve your style this year, please comment on your progress and insights. While an outfit journal can be quite illuminating, it’s not the only way to go. We all benefit from the sharing that happens in the comments section of this blog, so please let us know what’s worked best for you!