Who are you dressing for? Although you might immediately answer this question with “myself” and that may be a spot-on response for you, it’s not the case for all of us. Many people dress more to please or impress others than to make themselves happy. This is a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and I will share some of my thoughts in today’s post.
On Fashion Forums and Lemming Behavior
A few years ago, I used to spend a lot of time on fashion forums. Some of the participants on these forums post outfit photos and are given feedback on their looks from people all around the world. The feedback usually centers on whether or not the ensemble is in line with current trends and fits the accepted definition of what is “fashionable.”
After a while, I started to notice a lot of lemming-like behavior among participants. They buy a lot of the same items and style their outfits in very similar ways. If you look at such a forum today, you’ll see a lot of rolled pants hems and half-tucked tops, as those are some of the things to do these days. I’m personally not a big fan of either look and sometimes wonder if those who are adopting such styles are, either. I wonder if they are dressing for themselves or to gain approval from people whom they’ve probably never met and likely never will meet.
Of course, I don’t know the fashion forum participants and am not aware of their motivations. For all I know, many of them are thrilled to wear the current styles and feel they look damn good in them. But I do have to question if some of them have fallen prey to tendencies that I myself have struggled with. There have been many times that I have dressed for other people more than for myself and I’m not necessarily proud of it. In fact, I continue to engage in this behavior, which is part of why I want to “out” myself here today.
Buying Clothes to Shop In
One example is when I dress to go to the mall. I’ve often mentioned that I live in an ultra-casual town, and I do. But even in a place where shorts and flip-flops reign supreme, many people dress up to go shopping. Whereas I feel overdressed in almost every other place that I go, I often feel underdressed at the mall. When I used to shop pretty much all the time, I came to realize that I was mostly buying clothes to go shopping in!
The irony of that was pretty much lost on me at the time, but I get it now. All I really had to do was stop shopping so much and then I wouldn’t have had to shop so much. If your head is about to explode at my logic there, you’re not alone! My mind boggles at my past behavior, too, but I know I’m not the only person who does it. In fact, when I asked my local shopaholic friend if she wears certain clothes for activities other than shopping, her answer was “no.”
Now that I’m shopping less, I have a lot of clothes in my closet that don’t really fit the activities of my life. When I was dressing for the mall audience, I had a whole separate wardrobe for that purpose. I actually still like a lot of those clothes, but I don’t really need them anymore. Now when I consider buying something, I have to stop and ask myself if it’s something to wear shopping or for my real life!
Dressing for an Online Audience
I think that many of the fashion forum participants were dressing for an online audience, and the same is true for a lot of style bloggers. I often wonder if some of them buy clothes simply to photograph for their blogs, only to promptly return those items shortly thereafter. When I see a lot of their ensembles juxtaposed against what I know about their lives, I seriously question if any of those looks are worn for more than the thirty minutes or so it takes to capture photographs. Sure, there are some bloggers who have more down-to-earth and accessible styles, but they seem to be more the exception than the norm.
Although I am not really a style blogger, I still sometimes feel like I’m dressing for an online audience. I don’t post outfit photos all that often and when I do, it’s usually more to illustrate a particular point than to showcase my personal style. In fact, the past few times I posted outfit photos was mostly to share the advice I received from Bridgette Raes on looks that I didn’t like all that much. My hope was that some of you would be able to translate Bridgette’s advice for me and apply it to your own ensembles. In these instances, however, I still worried what readers would think of my outfits – and of me, even though I didn’t really like the looks I posted!
Worrying about what other people think has long been one of my Achilles’ Heels and is something I’ve written about more than once on this blog (like here and here, for example). Not only do I worry about what the people in my day-to-day life think, I worry about what all of you think, too. In fact, sometimes I censor what I write for fear of the comments I may receive. I’d really like to stop doing that, which is part of the reason for this post today (although I’m also writing about this because I’m sure some of you also struggle with the issues I’m discussing here).
Wearing the Trends vs. Wearing What We Love
I remember a while back when I did my latest purchase analysis for 2014. One of the items I was questioning was a pair of slim-fitting jeans I had bought earlier in the year. I have to be honest and admit that I bought those jeans because they were more “in style” than the looser-fitting jeans I was used to wearing. I bought them more to please other people, including the readers of this blog, than because I really loved them. When I posted photos of myself in those jeans in the purchase analysis post, I was virtually flooded with comments and emails from readers, who told me how great the jeans looked on me. Some of them even told me I should only wear those types of jeans from now on.
I may look good in the skinnier jeans, although a flat photo doesn’t tell the whole story, but I don’t feel all that comfortable in them. I feel “acceptable” to others but very self-conscious about showcasing my lower half so much. Of course, if I continually push myself to wear the jeans anyway, I may eventually get over those feelings. But I have to wonder if I should really do that, especially if I have other jeans that I feel happy and attractive in right now. While it’s true that I may not look as good in those other options, at least in terms of the current trends, whose opinion is more important than my own?
Changing Based Upon the Opinions of Others
I will likely never meet most of the people who comment on my blog. They aren’t the audience for my real life, but I find myself wanting to dress for them anyway. I care about what they think and I have taken a lot of their input to heart. Over the course of this year, I have shortened a number of my skirts in response to readers’ comments. I also tried narrowing a few of my skirts, to mostly disastrous results. I won’t be trying that again!
Sadly, my skirts still aren’t short enough for some readers, as I received the same sorts of comments about skirt length a couple of weeks ago. That was frustrating to me, as it reinforced my insecurity and my fear that I will never be good enough. However, those who made such comments may well be right. After all, Bridgette Raes also recommended that I get some shorter skirts, particularly if I want to wear flatter shoes and not look frumpy or “churchy.”
Our Feelings and the Views of Our “Audiences”
I don’t really think there’s an absolute right or wrong way to dress, but there are ways of dressing that are more in line with one’s personal preferences and goals. There are many bloggers who post outfits that I don’t really like, but they often rave about how much they love their ensembles.
One blogger in particular loves to wear really quirky and “out there” outfits. She often wears very bright colors, lots of large accessories, and eye-catching footwear. I wouldn’t wear most of her looks, but she loves them and that’s what’s most important. She moderates all of her comments, so I don’t know how many negative responses she receives, but my guess is that she takes all of them with a grain of salt. Because she truly loves her crazy get-ups, she likely doesn’t care a whit if others share her views. I really respect her confidence and resolve even if I don’t necessarily share her style aesthetic most of the time. I think I continue to follow her blog because I admire how much of an individual she is and how much she seems to dress for herself.
I think if we’re not totally happy and satisfied with the way we’re dressing, we’re far more susceptible to the opinions of others. In such cases, the feedback we receive may help us to hone our style such that it will feel more in line with how we want to look. In the case of my skirt outfits, I wasn’t really happy with a lot of them, which is why I spent so much time discussing these looks with Bridgette. I think I will ultimately be happier wearing shorter and narrower skirts (as well as maxi-skirts, which I’ve embraced this year), as my style aesthetic has shifted and I no longer love the midi-length, fuller silhouettes that I had worn for a number of years.
Learning to Dress for Ourselves
I’m still learning to dress for myself and I feel a bit like a baby bird that is learning to fly for the first time. Years ago, I dressed almost as quirky and individual as the blogger I mentioned above. Deep down, however, I wanted to look more acceptable and mainstream but just wasn’t sure how. Over the past 8-10 years, I’ve read tons of books and watched countless makeover shows, all the while searching for clues for how I could be more stylish. In some respects, I achieved my goals, but I also lost myself a bit in the process.
At this point, I’m trying to rediscover my own personal style, which lies somewhere in between the quirky ensembles of yesteryear and the mainstream looks I frequently wear to please others. I want to be able to unequivocally say that I dress for myself, but I’m still trying to find my own voice amidst all of the other voices out there in the world and in my various audiences. Perhaps I will learn to love skinny jeans, shorter skirts, and other such styles, or maybe I’ll discover that I really do prefer wider-leg pants and fuller skirts.
I’m not really sure what my style preferences will be, and I’m sure they’ll continue to evolve as the months and years go by. I’m also not sure how often I’ll continue to feature my outfits on the blog (although I do plan to finish the Bridgette Raes series). I know that virtually all who comment mean well, but I sometimes find all of the input both confusing and overwhelming. Perhaps when I have a firmer sense of how I want to dress, it will be easier to assimilate a multitude of feedback. Until then, I’m going to continue with my outfit journal and style discovery process and leave the outfit blogging to those who do it far better than I.
How about you? Who do you dress for? Do you dress solely for yourself or do the opinions of others influence what you wear? If you feel like you dress for other people at least some of the time, who are those people and why do they influence you so much? I’d love to get your input on this important topic, as I’m sure I’m not alone in being confused and swayed by others’ points of view.
If you’ve learned to dress mostly for yourself and have words of wisdom that might help the rest of us, please share your thoughts. How have you been able to hear and heed your own voice in the midst of so many opinions? What do you recommend for those of us who are still struggling to find our way?
Oh Debbie, this is a fabulous post and a topic I think about quite often. As a personal style blogger I regularly catch myself buying and dressing for my audience, and have to rein it in and watch my spending. I also have to watch dressing for me vs. positive comments. This year I was mentioned on a forum where they criticized many of the outfits I felt most me in and had strong opinions on what I should wear instead and which outfits I had featured (often ones I felt the least myself in) that I should wear more often. It really made me question my personal style and gut instinct. But with some meditation and discussion with those who know me IRL I was able to see the light and continue to dress for me. As for dressing for the mall, I too used to do that but because of that and more impulse purchases I only go to a mall maybe once a year. Who cares what I’m wearing when shopping online! Thanks for continuing to provide sartorial food for thought and encourage people to think before they shop!
I was so happy to see you comment here, Alison, as you are one of my favorite bloggers! I don’t even read many style blogs anymore, but yours is one that I kept and will continue to read. I remember when you blogged about being criticized on that forum. I was very impressed by your ability to turn lemons into lemonades. Congrats on being strong enough to continue to dress for yourself even if others don’t like it. We’ll never be able to please everyone, so we should concentrate on pleasing ourselves! I’m glad you like my blog and I appreciate your commenting here today.
You will be continuing to blog, though, won`t you ?! Yours is my favourite blog, it is very helpful, encouraging and well written.
Yes, I will definitely continue to blog, Fiona. I feel privileged to have an audience filled with people like you and I thank you for your kind words! What I write about may shift a bit, as it’s done since I began the blog, but I have no plans of stopping anytime soon.
Oh I am so guilty of doing this too! I purchased boyfriend jeans because of online blogs and I just never could make them work for me. They looked fine, but I am not a fan of the rolled hem. So I eventually just donated them. And although I own and sport plenty of skinny jeans, I have never given up my bootcut jeans. I adore the style too much even though it is not always ‘in style.’ And I also always wonder about style bloggers and how many of the pieces they truly own and how many of those outfits they actually sport in public.
I tried the boyfriend jeans, too, and thought that maybe I just wouldn’t roll them, but they weren’t long enough on me 😦 I sometimes like the rolled hem on others, but not on me. As for your jeans, it reminds me of the old song about making new friends but keeping the old. I think new trends can be fun, but we don’t need to give up our tried and true favorites just because new styles come along!
I agree with you about the rolled cuffs and half-tucked shirts. I often think these looks seem too studiedly nonchalant– especially the shirts. Just for fun though, when it was still warm outside, I tried spontaneously rolling up the cuffs on a pair of ankle pants, and I rather liked the resulting casual look.
Dressing to shop, now that is a novel idea– one I have never considered before! Since I became a parent, shopping for me became an event, carried out quickly, sandwiched in between work and family commitments. I might have an hour to shop, and so I wear what I wear for my regular life, because time is of the essence. It never occurred to me that the salespeople gave any thought to how I was dressed.
Several years ago, I worked for a few weeks during the holidays at a major department store’s jewelry department for a few evenings a week. A lot of my customers were women were like me, they came in to shop after work, sometimes their children in tow.
Twenty years ago, when I first started my business and wanted to appear established and prosperous, I dressed for to impress my clients and mostly neglected my leisure wear. Then as I became established, people started gradually becoming more casual in business, and I began working at home more, my wardrobe followed suit (no pun intended!) with fewer “formal outfits” and more spontaneously matched quirky ensembles, usually involving pants or leggings, unless its summer and then I still love my skirts over pants.
So, I would say that today I dress for me, because I don’t actually interface with that many people in person vs. online or on the phone. I can actually dress any way I choose for working at home, but I don’t enjoy lolling about in pajamas because it makes me feel slothful, like the day hasn’t really started unless I’m dressed in clothes that one can go out in.
I think that new trends are worth trying if the speak to us, Deby, or even if we just want to dip our toes in the pool. I tried the half-tuck and rolled pants at home because I was curious, but didn’t like it on me. I do like those looks on other people sometimes, but the most important thing is that THEY like it and aren’t just blindly trying trends. Of course, what they do is their business, though!
I think a lot of women dress to shop, but they’re probably not the ones who are the busiest. It’s kind of a luxury, but not really something I want to do anymore! It sounds like you know who you are and how you want to dress. I agree that staying in pajamas when working from home is a bad idea! Even my husband will change (he starts working at 6 am so he’s in pajamas at first) after a while because he says he feels like a “schlump.” You and others here have encouraged me to dress nicer when working from home and I like it. During the major heat wave, I lapsed back into lounge wear because we don’t have A/C, but now that it’s cooling down, I’m going to start stepping it up a bit again.
Ha ha! That’s what I say all the time, “I don’t want to look like a schlump!” I don’t know very many people who use that word in daily parlance.
I began reminiscing about shopping with my grandmother and great aunt when I was a little girl in the ’60’s. THEY would dress to shop–because shopping was an eagerly anticipated and planned-for event that was special. My great aunt worked full time in a bank, so she didn’t have time to shop during the day. My grandmother worked at home as a seamstress and didn’t have much time to shop either. But when they did, it was an afternoon-long break from the normal that required the proper attire.
Both women were in their early 7o’s at this time, and neither drove, so they took the bus downtown, which was our main shopping destination. They were born in the 1890’s and lived through a time when our downtown was the most vital place to shop, unlike today when everyone heads to the mall.
Their shopping attire consisted of a nice dress and sensible leather walking shoes with court heels. They always wore a hat that coordinated with their dress, and it usually had a bit of a veil. They carried large purses over their arms containing folded up shopping bags to hold their purchases. Sometimes if my grandmother knew she was going to have a lot to carry, she would bring along a folding metal grocery cart, and fill it up as she went along. No one ever complained that their feet hurt, although we walked quite a bit on these outings.
Both women were expert at sewing most of their own clothes (they had done so their entire lives), so their forays into the department stores were to research what was in style and to cluck their tongues over what they considered shoddy tailoring. Then they would go and purchase their own fabric and patterns to recreate a look. Back then, most department stores had large fabric and sewing departments.
I think over the last year or so I’m starting to dress more to please myself. I like casual, comfy clothing and shoes for my very casual lifestyle. I don’t mind paying higher prices for it either as long as I know I’ll wear it and it’s good quality. I only wear Hudson bootcut jeans as they have those little triangle flap pockets that do great things for my flat rear, lol. My husband loves them on me. As much as I like the look of boyfriend and skinny jeans on other people, I don’t like them on me and thus own none. I hope you continue to find your way Debbie and dress for yourself. I believe the older I get the less I care what others think of me. Quite a freeing feeling!
Thank you for your kind wishes, Kim. I think I’m on the cusp of starting to dress more for myself. Perhaps I’ve had to come full circle a bit. I think that as I get closer to the big 5-0, I’m thinking a lot more about how I ultimately want to be in the world, including how I dress. I’ve wasted so much time and energy worrying about what others think. It really is time for me to listen more to my own voice more often!
Sometimes I feel like I should dress more womanly because ‘the society’ says so… But I can’t just wear skirts and high heels ALL the time, it would be impractical! Many magazines and style experts swear that if you’re a woman you have to dress in determined way, no matter what you personally like, and it took me some time to understand that yes, I wanted to dress in a feminine way, but with clothes/outfits that I like! So I said yes to skirts but no to uncomfortable shoes for my everyday life, yes to jewels but no to the heavy statement necklaces that should make your outfit ‘unique’ but instead just make me feel like I’m dressed up for a tea with the queen…
I’m still learning my style of course, I’m none the wiser about what I’d like to wear in many aspects of my life, but I’m learning that in the end if I dress for myself I’m happier, because I’m fulfilling my expectations, and if someone criticizes me I just don’t care, cause my main aim is to make myself happy, that’s the key for finding my style, at least in my opinion!
It sounds like you’re finding your way, Maria, and that’s wonderful. I think there’s a way to find a happy place for those of us who want to appear feminine and womanly but don’t want to experience pain in high heels all day or look like we’re dressed up for tea with the Queen (I loved that line!). I agree that we are happier when we dress for ourselves. Good for you for putting your own opinions first!
Thank you for an honest and insightful post. You are so brave. And you are also most certainly “good enough” just as you are. You were good enough the very first time you posted a blog entry. Good enough when you repeated some of the same old mistakes. Good enough when you triumphed. Good enough–period–full stop.
Your post reminded me of shopping once with my mom, who after trying on several duds in a row said through gritted teeth, “I hate, Hate, HATE doing this!” “But Mom,” I replied, “there’s nothing wrong with you, there’s something wrong with the clothes.” She shook her head as if I was teasing. But I made sure she knew I really meant it.
Just as a body is the envelope for the soul, clothing is just a wrapper for our bodies. Some of it flatters–some of it doesn’t. But none of it means a thing compared to the infinite variety and beauty of each of us.
On one level, I know, this is just a blog about shopping. But almost every entry contains a subtext that causes us, your readers, to respond in such large numbers: it’s about this feeling of having enough, looking good enough, being enough.
I hope you don’t let the personal comments get you too down. Just post the items themselves perhaps? That’s very effective. Remember, it’s Your blog. Be kind to yourself. Set the boundaries and limits that suit you–you need not apologize. And most of all, please continue to let us look over your shoulder as you continue on this fantastic journey!
You’re so right about why people come here, Amy. I find myself drawn in to each and every post!
Debbie, I know you have a lot on your plate right now, but if your blog ever “dwindles down” to a point where you feel you’ve reached all your wardrobe goals, it would be so cool to add a message board where people can discuss amongst themselves issues related to the blog, without you feeling that you need to respond to each comment.
I’m not sure how soon I’ll reach all my wardrobe goals, Sarah, but I plan to continue blogging for the foreseeable future. After all, my tagline is “Trade your full closet for a full life” and I have along way to go on the full life part. I like the idea of having a message board on the blog and it’s something I’ve thought of. I’m not sure how to implement it, but it would be nice to have. I’ve considered starting a closed Facebook group, but worry that people will be less likely to share if they have to be there under their real/full names. A message board would be better, so I’m going to look into it. If it’s not too expensive or difficult to implement, I will see what I can do to make it happen.
A facebook group would be amazing! As long as you made it “private” – people can comment on it (yes under their real name) but all of facebook and our friends/family can’t see any of the comments unless they are also in the group. Please consider it! It would be a wonderful tool to allow us to communicate more freely with one another and to discuss the inevitable hard days as they are happening.
I really love your comment, Amy, and I thank you for your kind words! Your thoughts about my being good enough actually brought tears to my eyes. I’ve struggled SO much with that, but I’m really ready to love and accept myself more. I think I’ve placed FAR too much importance on my appearance, which is why the comments get to me so much sometimes. I have to really look within and realize that there’s a lot more to value about me beyond the way I look. I’m glad that you see a lot more to this blog than it being about shopping. I’ve really tried to have it be deeper than that, although I feel that all of the topics I address are important. I’m definitely going to continue to blog and there will probably be more posts like this in addition to the more practical types of posts. Thank you again for your kind words. Please know that I really appreciate what you had to say!
What a great leap forward in self-discovery for you, Debbie! It is a long process of discovering your style with a lot of inevitable “oopses”, but I know you have helped a lot of us along the way. You are part of the rising tide lifting all our style ships!
I was just thinking last night how frustrating every label’s adherence to trends is. Emerald green was the pantone color of 2013, so that means it’s essentially impossible to find this year. And yet it is one of my main colors for my palette (which I finally decided on halfway through this year). It’s so frustrating– why not have a little originality, designers?!
Interesting point about outside influences as well. I sometimes feel like I should rebel simply because everyone else is doing a trend, but I actually do love some trends, like heels with jeans! I do try to only participate in trends that use items that can be repurposed later. For example, the big trend now is split back sweaters and tops. Personally I think it looks ridiculous, but more importantly it will look dated very quickly. However, the heels with jeans can be swapped out and worn with other items. Same with the half-tuck, you can wear the shirt a different way. As dottie always reminds us, classic items are super versatile and never go out of style, but you can style them with accessories and other pieces. So I’m trying to head in that direction for now. As far as your pants dilemma goes, either straight leg or trouser cut/wide leg can both be classics (as long as they’re not made of polyester and covered with sequins, lol), so I wouldn’t worry about being “stylish enough” if I were you! You’ve got some pretty good stuff going on already.
This is a great post Debbie! I think that now I dress for myself about 90% of the time, but that wasn’t always the case. When I was young I had to wear hand me downs from years before and boy’s jeans. I got picked on a lot. I started working when I was 7 (yes really) picking blueberries, paper routes, cleaning houses etc. until I was old enough to get a real job. I spent almost every cent I made on clothing because I wanted to fit in. After a while I discovered how much fun clothing could be. I used to wear wild animal prints, leather, and skulls in high school that later turned to biker chic and then bohemian. I’m sure that I looked more bizarre than stylish, but I didn’t care and I was enjoying myself. Somewhere along the line I had enough people tell me that I should be dressing in a different way. I started taking what they said to heart and set about trying to become someone I wasn’t. This continued through my 30’s. I had many people tell me what I should be wearing. I think because at the time I was very thin I was given suggestions of what others wanted to be wearing, but didn’t think they could. Now that I’m not so thin no one ever tells me “Oh you could wear this”. It was more about them and less about me, but I took it as I wasn’t good enough. I spent thousands of dollars on clothing that I didn’t even really like. I went to great pains to cover my tattoo because I had rude comments made about it. I cut my waist length hair to my chin to look “age appropriate”. I got many compliments, but I wasn’t happy and I didn’t feel like me.
Now I wear what I like. I’ve toned it down from what I used to wear, but it feels very me. I love it when someone describes something as “very Tonya”. I know that I’m being true to myself. I think the thing I had to realize is that self worth will never come from an outside source. Clothing is meant to keep you warm, provide some modesty, and keep you from getting arrested. I think that it can be fun and provide a creative outlet, but I’m the same person if I’m wearing yoga pants and a tee or dressed from head to toe in designer clothes. I hope that you know that the same is true for you. Wear what makes you happy and know that your worth comes from being Debbie, not your closet.
Just wanted to comment on hair – about cutting it because of other people but you didn’t feel like yourself. I have had this happen all my life. I’d grow it long then literally everyone would tell me to cut it constantly. Eventually I’d cut it in a bob, everyone “loved” it but I hated it and never felt myself. I have gone through this cycle over and over again. I’m in my forties now and still do it a bit (I cut a few inches off recently but it’s still long) but not as extreme. I don’t care if a bob would be more stylish but I feel so much more at home in long hair. Oh, and I never put it up either, which seems to annoy just about everybody!
THANK YOU for this post, it is brilliant!
Debbie, I have found in my personal experience, that when you resolve to be true to yourself, and your own personal preferences and your own personal artistic vision…. that’s when you find you are really at peace with yourself. And when you resolve to stop worrying about what other people are doing, or what they are thinking, and go with what gives you the greatest joy, *that* is the day you realize your own authenticity and uniqueness, and how wonderful it feels!
Even better, other people will recognize it – and a handful of appreciative followers is worth scores of passers-by who feel they have the right to judge or hand you snark, from behind the anonymity of an online handle and a keyboard.
I think that while you have held yourself to greater and greater accountability, you are not being completely and entirely truthful with your own self, about allowing your secret inner vision you are, who you want to be, how you want to portray yourself to the world.
Quit worrying about what the rest of us think, and dress yourself to reflect the secret inner vision you have of yourself. The day you do that, the world will be amazed! And you will be more amazed at your own self. 😀
I think what you do here is just wonderful, and you cannot begin to know the impact you have made on my life, especially recently. At some point, I will write and tell you about it 🙂
Much love and thanks to you 🙂 xoxoxo
I love reading your blogs as they are so real. I feel like I am being drip feed a book, lol. Your comments make me question some of my choices, which is good. I advise clients all the time on how to dress to really reflect who they are. Colour and wearing clothing to flatter your unique body shape are 2 areas we cover but spend more time discovering their style personality as it is now. I warn them that this will be like shifting sands, constantly evolving, sometimes subtly and sometimes rapidly. It is important to try new trends to see if they flatter you and you feel great in them. Sometimes those trends need time to evolve into your unique style but then become the basis for your new style direction. I resisted leggings for so long as I could not get my head around the “dress with pants, yes I know they are not pants” look. But then I was forced into trying them and have not looked back, love them! I have always worn wide leg pants and boot cut jeans because I like how I look in them. Wear what you love to wear and if you think it flatters you, looks good on you and you feel great then it does not matter what others think.
I don’t know if we can really judge what looks best on us. After I hit 45 or so, I began to have trouble figuring out what looked good. Luckily for me, I have a very blunt 23 y.o. daughter. She is a tremendous help. I was among those who thought you looked great in the skinny jeans. Sometimes it takes a while–and an objective set of eyes–to be comfortable in something.
This is not to say one should follow style blogs. Many seem to push overshopping nowadays.
Very, very thoughtful and thought-provoking post. I didn’t think I dress to please others, but you point out that “others” can be a pretty abstract concept. I’ve tried the rolled hem jeans too! Mostly, I have tried for several years to put together interesting and flattering outfits, with multiple pieces and accessories (like many bloggers I admire). On days when I put on a nice top, skirt, and earrings, and left it at that, I felt I was letting the side down. Silly me! It’s just as satisfying to love your clothes every morning as it is to do masterful pattern mixing or radical color combinations.
I think I dress for myself most of the time. Although I have sought help recently in the form of an image consultant. I had my colors done and some guidance on the best shapes. I have found both pieces of information to be so helpful. In the past I read fashion blogs and watched makeover shows to glean the information I was looking for: How to make myself look the best, and fashionable without being a slave to trends. I really miss the original “what Not To Wear”. Trinny & Susannah really seemed to guide people towards what would look best without sticking them in things just because they were trendy.
I too, think that many of the fashion bloggers and those who post outfits on forums are not practical. In many instances, they are wearing shapes and colors that do not make them look their best, just to be fashionable. I never comment. Surprisingly, many of the minimalist fashion bloggers do the same thing, but for the opposite reason. In the name of simplicity, they pick a basic color like black to unify their limited wardrobe, without ever considering that black may not be their best neutral. Or they wear something in a season that it really doesn’t belong in or a dress for an event that is really not quite appropriate, all in the name of simplicity.
I really like reading this blog because it helps me to simplify my wardrobe, and think more seriously about my purchases, without going overboard. Thanks for writing and I hope you keep it up.
Debbie, I hear you on Buying Clothes to Shop in. At least in SoCal you find the trendier and more dressed up women in the mall. If we measure up to these “shopping dress code” we probably end up being over-dressed for the casual, laid-back west coast life style. Also those fashion chasing people shop much more frequently than the normal, practical consumer therefore impose more unrealistic peer pressure on us. This is another good reason to not spend too much time in the mall. My friends and a few colleagues have the most influence on me. My three best friends seem to have natural good taste and always look put-together. And the two coworkers just pay too much attention to my outfits. I have learned the hard way to appreciate other people’s style without having to emulate. It used to serve as a constant stimulus to acquire more clothes, only end up being frustrated because that same thing just don’t work on my body. I have to tell myself: they look chic, but I am properly dressed to my needs and preference as well. I am not inferior if I am not wearing the distressed jeans or chunky scarf that are “in” now. As for my coworker I created a few nice work outfits for each seasons and repeated them over and over again so that they don’t have much new to comment on. This strategy is starting to de-stress myself and see a peace with shopping and clothing.
Ah, yes, the online audience . . . I, too, found I was falling prey to dressing for those invisible masses. I did like my outfits, but more than once I let ‘them’ influence me. Maybe I kept an item I wouldn’t have otherwise, or listened to a comment about high contrast not working with my coloring, etc, etc.
I actually posted about this as one of my first few blog entries. This is THE main reason I stopped visiting some other places and decided to say what I wanted to say, whether I had a listening audience or not. I’m pretty confident in my style choices overall, but we can all become susceptible to the majority opinion.
The other factor to consider is that a lot of online interaction does not take into account one’s own lifestyle and environment. I’m pretty sure what is ‘hot’ in Houston is not in NYC, and what’s the thing in Miami would make one feel ridiculous in Colorado. It’s way too subjective to have a common ideal of what’s hot and what’s not.
I do dress for myself and have a very defined style. I wore a plaid J Crew blouse today for Veteran’s day spirit today and everyone commented on it as it wasn’t my usual severe black or grey. I dress up a lot compared to everyone I know and I am a teacher which is a really casual job so my style really stands out. I just don’t do casual and I’m fine with that but it does make others uncomfortable. People feel most comfortable when everyone around them is just like them. I get questioned often about “why I wear high heels” or “why do you dress like that.” I tell them I wear high heels because I’m the boss and I dress like I do because mediocrity doesn’t appeal. That usually quiets them up quite quickly ;). After teaching middle school for 22 years I have a rather thick skin so I don’t really listen to others. I will say that I have almost zero issues with parents and most of that is because I’m a good teacher but I know some is that I look like I know what I’m doing.
I think I have mentioned before that you should ignore the comments about how to tailor your clothes. Obviously you know what you like and you are working with Bridgette who has done this work with many women and is well aware of what translates from a photograph to reality and what will work for women in their day-to-day lives. I find that most fashion bloggers dress for the photograph but don’t stand out in real life. I have met many fashion bloggers in real-life and I’ve seen a few around L.A. by chance. Although all of them are lovely, very few look like they do on their blog. They look like everyone else.
I think it was the Into-Mind blogger (Anushka?) who said that we should find our “superhero” outfit(s) and really think about why that outfit in particular makes us feel at our best. We each have our own superhero outfit that helps us get through the day. No one else can know or understand what makes you or me feel our best – our most comfortable. Wonder Woman would never feel comfortable dressed as Bat Girl so she should never take advice from Bat Girl on how to dress. That was pretty random so I hope it makes sense :).
Leah, I am also a person who cannot dress casually and work in a similar “casual” profession. It is torture for me! I am just not comfortable in casual clothing when I’m at work. Whereas most people put time and energy into how to dress up, I have to do the exact opposite – how to dress down without completely feeling uncomfortable with myself. I started a new job a few months ago and really felt my dressier style was a barrier to getting to know colleagues and affected how they perceived me. Over the weeks I have deliberately softened my clothing approach. Often I do a mental edit in the morning – how can I make this more casual. I do feel it has helped to open up the communication among my co-workers. But it is a dilemma – I am definitely dressing more for “them” or the environment than I am for myself.
Greetings from Beijing, dear Debbie! I think this will be one of your key posts. You are really moving in the right direction, good for you!
I dress for myself I think. Even during the Evolve Your Style process, I dressed solely for myself. I love dressing every day and sometimes I dress in what I know will challenge my co-workers. Dressing for shopping means a black camisole and nice panties underneath and shoes that are easy to get on and off… The best thing I’ve done has been to write down the proportions, materials, details and colors I like or dislike, but always be open. So say I loved the look of rolled up jean and tucked shirt, I would probably try different ways to roll, different jean types, different shirts’s to tuck etc., until I found a combination that would work for me. I hope this makes sense. I’m a bit (very) tired, so I’m probably just rambling. Anyway, key post! Dress for yourself, stripes are ‘so Debbie’ :).
Yes! Dressing to go to the mall! Haha. That resonates with me a lot. When I was in my late 20’s, I had a fabulously well-paying (to me) tax free job, with free accommodation thrown in. I shopped a LOT back then! But I was young enough to still go out sometimes looking like I rolled out of bed in jeans and a t-shirt, with no makeup and messy hair. I will never forget going into a fancy boutique one Saturday and being treated poorly by the staff, and going back during the week in my work clothes only to have them absolutely fawn all over me because I now looked the part. It quite turned my stomach. But your post brings to mind that we don’t only dress for other shoppers, but also for the staff, to show them that we “belong” in their store. It’s all seeking approval.
The other thing I just noticed is that I bought a new top yesterday which I am wearing today. I’m away staying at a hotel this weekend and when I went down to breakfast, I kind of felt like I wanted approving glances. I was thinking how nice it would be for some random stranger to make an admiring comment about my outfit. I REALLY thought I was over such things, and honestly, who needs approval from people in a Hampton Inn, lol. I think that part of it is that I am a bit insecure because this purchase was not normal – this is an expensive top that I bought in my effort to improve the quality and sustainability of my clothes, and which uses up my October AND November clothing budgets. I don’t have my boyfriend here to “approve” of my choice and tell me I look nice (again that approval-seeking), although I told him about it over the phone, and he said I made the right decision to buy it as we are both trying to be more sustainable. It’s funny how being insecure about ONE choice brings back some of the old behaviors.
Sarah, I don’t think wanting to be noticed is a bad thing overall. I think the need to interact with other people and be acknowledged is human. How we dress is communication and sometimes we want to dress to have others interact with us (by wearing a pretty blouse, not a dress that is three sizes too small – that is a bad kind of interaction :)!)
I do find that the more money I spend on something, the less attention the item gets. More expensive items are usually more understated. The things I love wearing the most get the least attention but make me feel confident.
This by far is one of your best posts. I think people don’t think very critically about this topic. For the past 4 years, I’ve been bing buying and bing purging my wardrobe to attain my version of the perfect wardrobe, all the while denying the fact that I was really dressing for other people. When I did my recent purge of 30 items, I really felt like I was at the end of this cycle, dressing for other people that is. Even though I have less than 85 items in my wardrobe now, I still have items that I’m hanging onto to for those imagined scenarios. Even though I’ve always bought things that are 100% my style and my style has not changed much the past decade, I bought things that are really too nice for my lifestyle, so I end up not wearing them. The only reasonable explanation is that I bought those things for other people to see. I’m not a blogger and I don’t participate in fashion forum discussions but I do look at fashion blogs and have certainly been guilty of buying trendy items to try and usually end up selling or donating them. Some items influenced from fashion blogs have worked out though and they ended up being some of my favorite pieces. But if we didn’t have people to dress for and truly only dressed for ourselves, would most of us end up wearing sweatshirt and track pants? I can’t speak for others obviously but the answer for me personally is yes.
Thank you for your continued honest & genuine posts. They are a breath of fresh air. I recently fell down the rabbit hole of overshopping again and during that period I did not purposely neglect reading this blog or other materials, like Jill Chivers’ information, but now I realize that the shopping consumed the little free time I had online, and I didn’t read anything that questioned my choices with shopping. Right now I am trying to re-start a shopping hiatus & complete Jill Chivers’ 6-week program and reading your blog several times a week will be a big part of me staying on track.
As for this topic, I find everyone’s comments helpful and interesting. I have tended to dress down because I am a mom of 2 small children and it’s practical because I get messy, but also because I feel a little odd dressing nicer because other moms seem to dress down so much where I live (like sweats). I realized lately that dressing way down doesn’t make me happy & I need to feel good about what I am wearing – when I don’t I probably end up browsing (and then buying) more new stuff online. I have clothes I really love already in my closet and I want to “shop my own wardrobe.” I also am in a process of purging a lot of things – clothes, but also old sentimental stuff. I thought I only had a problem with too many clothes but now I realize I also save too many things due to the memories they have attached. With 2 small kids the house has become way too cluttered and I realized that saving not only clothes that are a decade old (and that I never wear) but also tons of “sentimental” things was making me really stressed.
Your post about dressing for myself or others has helped because I have lately realized that I enjoy wearing simpler styles than I used to, less funky & bohemian, just more simple but not boring either. I could rarely combine my accessories, like a scarf, or bag, with my outfits, because everything had interesting patterns & colors but nothing seemed to match. The few purchases I’ve made over the last few months have been neutrals and while I haven’t been so excited when I buy them, I’m actually wearing them, ALL THE TIME. I’m happy I’m wearing what I buy and not just collecting things. I’m figuring out some of the old stuff has to go and I don’t have to hold on to “my style” forever, that my style can evolve and I should wear what makes ME happy, not some imaginary chic image I have of what would make me unique. I hate many of the trends, some of them are just bizarre to me (like ridiculously tall platform shoes that make me think someone will break an ankle) but some I did seem to “love” at the moment – like colored skinny jeans, I own too many pairs, and now a couple of years later, they seem gaudy & I don’t wear them… lesson learned. Maybe should have just bought one pair…
Thank you for letting me post this lengthy comment. Your post and others’ comments have really made me think and I need a place where I can go read what others have to say that supports my current goals of de-cluttering my life and enjoying my life more by shopping less, and I feel like I can express honestly here what I am hoping to do. Thanks everyone, C.
This post also resonated with me, 100%. I realized this summer that over the past couple of years, I’d been buying things to mimic what I saw online, while sticking out like a sore thumb IRL or just plain uncomfortable in what I was wearing. I felt embarrassed by that realization, actually, like I’d woken up out of a trance.
Dressing to fit in with the tribe is such a strong primeval survival instinct in women I think few women are unaffected by this. There are things I would love to wear, but don’t because people would make assumptions about the sort of person I am that are not true. Balancing other people’s expectations and assumptions, fleeting fashions and the pressure to keep up with trends, advice – good and bad, and your own personal preferences is so complex it is dizzying. With the help of your blog and a few others I feel I am getting nearer to finding a good compromise style, a balance between my circumstances, physical characteristics and personal preferences. It’s trial and error, and I find observations on what suits me useful as it can be difficult to see myself objectively, especially when trying new styles, and it can help to my clarify style choices. Negative comments can also be useful, but not when they involve something I love wearing and feel is my style. Logically I would say that their personal taste and fashion may be influencing their judgement- but it can still totally knock my confidence. I suspect I will never feel ‘stylish’ but aim to feel comfortable and fairly confident in my style.
This is an interesting question. Part of me feels that yes indeed, we all dress for others if we care about what we wear. We use fashion as non-verbal communication and use it to give an image or impression of ourselves to others. I personally use it to boost my self confidence, which is very pleasant and empowering in some ways. However, in the past, I allowed my lack of understanding of what I liked or what I wanted to express about myself confuse me to the point that I allowed other people overly influence me. I only realized what I was doing (blindly following blogger trends that weren’t right for me to feel ‘in’ and for the praise I got on my blog) when I really defined my style for myself and worked to acheive it.
This post is right on. Although I have a very defined personal style, I still fall victim to this type of influence! My issue is not buying stuff to “try out,” but buying more and more clothing that’s harmonious with my personal style so that I’m not seen in the same outfits so often on those shopping forums. Crazy, I know.
So the Internet makes me want to buy more bulk, not different stuff.
That’s a realization for me.
I’ve been doing a lot better since deleting shopping apps from my phone and also ebay… Perhaps now it’s time to “defriend” my shopping forum pages and disconnect. I find that on days where I am otherwise preoccupied and am not commenting on those forums, I wear whatever I want without worry of repeating an outfit or not having the “in season” version of the latest dress.
In addition, personal style is … Well “personal”. And who cares as long as your own confidence is happy with your look 🙂
The process of developing a personal style is difficult (but interesting) and I agree, if I was more certain and confident of my personal style, I would worry less about other’s views (and need less shopping and fewer clothes, as less need for very different outfits for different occasions – it would all hang together as a cohesive whole). I’m still at the beginning of my journey, but it seems to me you have made a lot of progress. Moving towards simpler shapes in bold jewel tones and black/white graphic prints is definitely a long step away from the ‘church vibe’ that concerned you.
Such a great post!! I think that finding clothes that you REALLY love is exactly the point. It is very hard to be yourself in a sea of information, images, publicity, fashion and pressure to look good. I have realized that I have taken a huge detour from my true self in the last few years. I have felt overloaded with variety and kind of “punished” by the wealth of information out there. I like your truthfulness!
At the risk of being slammed again, I will say one more time — that finding your personal style and knowing what looks good on you (colors, cut, etc.) is fundamental to purchasing clothes. Once you know AND internalize these concepts, you can shop on auto pilot and still (generally) buy only what works for your own body, lifestyle, budget, etc. Why would someone shop for an invisible “audience”? The audience that matters most for me is me (and a few select friends and family members). This means loving and believing in one’s self. It also means committing to buying and wearing only the clothes we love — and that love us back. This isn’t being smug (clear-eyed, yes) but walking in one’s truth. Fortunately, I learned these lessons decades ago (pre-Internet) so haven’t been drawn into the siren song of on-line shopping, blogging, pinning, and so on. “Fashion” is mass produced; style is a personal choice.
Dottie, I only wish I knew this a few years ago!! Please don’t let that ‘slam’ hurt or affect you or your comments- I feel that the person who made those remarks was feeling insecure and inadequate- that is not your fault.
I think this is a very complicated topic. For the past several years, I have been on a journey to perfectly express my inner self through my outer self. I have to admit that I have been largely frustrated and unhappy as a result.
I am now at a place where I am asking myself, “Does this item/outfit bring me joy?” This stems from a statement I have embraced from a 12-Step program, “If you please yourself, at least you know one person is happy.” I deserve to be the one who is happy with my choices.
For every person who thinks I look nice, there is no doubt someone who thinks I look boring/dowdy/unstylish. I am tired of trying to please everyone or really anyone. If I feel I look good, that should be enough. I think this approach is going to bring me more joy and peace than what I have been trying to do.
What a thought-provoking post.
I feel the same way about trends, although I can’t say that I want to ignore them completely. I want to look modern, so I try to stay aware of subtle changes in silhouettes. I’ve experienced times when my favorite clothes were looking dated, and I didn’t realize it. For example, it took me ages to embrace the “skinny jeans” look, even though I wore it and loved it back in the 1980s. But now I’ve been wearing my skinny jeans for about a year and I love them again! (I think it’s useful to note that I do NOT have issues with my hips or thighs, so this style is actually figure-flattering on me.) I feel more current but I still feel good in my jeans.
Then again, I tried embracing the voluminous blousey look that’s currently in style, and I think I’ve decided it’s just not for me. I’ll be sticking to my fitted tops (and they won’t be half-tucked). But I’ll continue to shop seasonally for new tops, to ensure that what I’m wearing has a modern cut within my desired fitted-top realm.
I never thought I had a knack for fashion, but I realize now that a lot of fashion trends that I’ve seen throughout my life were simply not suited for my personality. So even when I was “in fashion”, those looks often just didn’t look good on me.
More recently, I’ve been tending to look back in fashion history, to find looks that appeal to me, and then I’m seeking out elements of those looks in modern clothing, as I shop to build my own wardrobe.
I just wanted to add that I don’t have a too many clothes, so I’m not trying to curtail my shopping. But I have made my share of shopping mistakes, so I’m trying to be smarter about what I do buy.
I have definitely been guilty of dressing for others in the past, mostly girlfriends. Impressing each other with our new items and designer brands. Having to have certain brand jeans. All of us wearing similar looks. But I think this is normal in a certain age group and marketing targeted our insecurities perfectly.
Well, this is a thorny topic, isn’t it? I agree that we should dress for our bodies, our lives, and our joy as much as possible, but I also think there are so many external considerations and that sometimes, part of our joy comes from feeling current. The reality is that styles change and what most people view as flattering in 1988 is not the same as what is flattering in 2014, even if our bodies have miraculously defied gravity and weight creep. Further, I may be perfectly happy in leggings at home, or jeans when I’m with a friend, and may be able to style those things comfortably and attractively for those environments, but it doesn’t change the fact that I need a suit for court, or a cocktail dress for my husband’s business-related holiday events. And for my part, I can pretty well stifle MOST of the voices that tell me that X shape is in and Y shape is out if it really doesn’t work with my body (at 36, and as a professional, the need for stretch skinny cropped jeans with artificial tears everywhere is just too limited to convince me to hand over cash for a pair), I enjoyed pulling out some plaid tops and scarves to embrace the plaid trend that is hot this fall (and the things I already owned are free). For me, rolling jeans, as another example, is kind of a relief, because at 5’3 (on a good day), too-long hems are often the bane of my existence, or limit me to heeled-shoes that don’t always feel good. So to the extent that they create a fun European vibe when cuffed with my clunky flats (eg, Danskos) or make a more current, flat, ankle boot look more up to date with skinnies I already have (and usually wear with ballet flats or tucked into tall boots) by rolling, I’m all aboard. I think the difference is to pay attention to what makes you feel good and attractive, and ignore the “just keeping up” part that gets us into hot water with our credit cards and our self esteem.
Excellent topic Debbie! Love this post and can identify with nearly all of the comments, especially yours Rebecca. I feel the same way. Also the older I get the easier it is for me to dress appropriately for the occasion and still retain my own personal style preference with the outfits I select. Must be all those years and years of trial and error and my more recent discovery that less is more.
Self-discovery is where so many of us are right now. As I’m just journeying into what I consider my ‘second spring,’ the closet has gotten restocked where it has been seriously neglected in the past. I think a healthy balance is always a good choice, at least for me. Keeping up with the trends is just to overwhelming! Ah! A little here and there is enough to satisfy me these days…it’s more about finding a look that reflects who I am and what I’m feeling on the inside, if that makes sense. I’m mainly bringing back some color where years of black, white and gray used to linger.
I’m so glad that this post resonated with so many people and I thank you for all of your insightful and heartfelt comments! I love when I’m able to write something that strikes a chord among so many of my readers. Since there are too many comments for me to respond to individually (although I read and appreciated them all!), I’d like to touch upon some of the very important points that were brought up by many of you. I suspect this will be a topic that I will revisit at some point, possibly with a different twist, so stay tuned!
@SarahE brought up the lack of originality among brands and designers. This is SO true and a source of frustration for me, too! I understand that there are trends and that trends push people to buy new things, but some more variety in terms of color and silhouette would be nice, especially since there are so many body types and personal preferences out there. I think that some of us would buy MORE if we had more choices!
@Tonya said something really profound that is very true: “Self-worth will never come from an outside source.” I have known that intellectually for years, but haven’t really gotten it “in my bones.” Every bit of self-worth I have has been hard-won, as I didn’t grow up with much of it at all. I even think that writing this post will help me to gain more self-worth, as it was a bit scary to put it out there. Growth often happens through doing things that scare us!
@frugalscholar and @Lynn both wondered if we can really judge what looks best on us, which is a good point. Often we cannot, which is part of the reason I opted to work with Bridgette Raes. But what I appreciated about Bridgette is that she tailored her advice to what I said I wanted, how I wanted to look and feel. Much of the advice we get from others is based on THEIR version of what looks good and/or what they would choose to wear, but they may have different goals, lifestyles, body types, etc. than we do.
@Nichole agreed with what I wrote about fashion bloggers, but also mentioned how minimalist fashion bloggers may fall prey to similar issues like wearing black for the sake of simplicity when it doesn’t suit them and wearing seasonally or event inappropriate clothes for the same reason. I have noticed similar things and wonder if there is peer pressure among simplicity bloggers just like there is among fashion bloggers. If they love wearing black and feel good in the clothes they wear, great, but sometimes it might be better to have more than a certain number of items if they need to attend a particular event.
@Meghan wrote that we are not inferior if we’re not wearing the items that are “in” at the moment. I agree, but I’ve often felt the need to keep up. Even if we love fashion and style, what we wear does not equate to our worth as human beings. I have lost sight of that too many times, but what Meghan wrote is very true!
@Mo mentioned that what fashion blogs and forums fail to take into account is the vast differences among people’s lifestyles and environments. I used to think that when I watched “What Not to Wear.” Much of how they dressed people reflected a NYC style that just wouldn’t fly here in San Diego. That’s part of how I ended up with the “church vibe,” but following the advice of such shows too literally!
@Leah recommended that we identify out “superhero outfits” in which we feel our best and look at why. What a great idea! I may have to write about this concept. She ended her comment with “Wonder Woman would never feel comfortable dressed as Batgirl.” That’s the problem with “lemming dressing.” What’s a superhero outfit for one probably isn’t for many of the others. We have to know ourselves well enough to identify which trends work for us and which ones we’re better off sitting out.
@Mette has a list of do’s and don’ts to guide her style and what she buys, but she also remains open to new options. I like this method because it’s good to know ourselves but not get into ruts.
@SarahS wrote about being treated badly by retail store staff when she was dressed down. That reminds me of the scene in “Pretty Woman” where the store clerks wouldn’t help Julia Roberts. I’ve noticed a difference in how I’m treated, too, based on what I’m wearing. I’ve read that clerks look at watches, handbags, and shoes. I see a lot of dressed down women in my area who still wear designer shoes and carry Louis Vuitton bags. I wonder if they are getting good service?
@Wendy wondered if we could all end up in sweatshirts and track pants if we had no one to dress for. That’s a very interesting question! I think some people feel more like themselves when they’re dressed down and others feel more true to themselves when they’re more dressed up and that would likely govern behavior. I know that I don’t feel good when I dress in the common San Diego “uniform” of jeans/shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops, so I don’t dress that way even though I’d probably fit in perfectly if I did. But I wouldn’t be true to myself and that’s what I’m working towards now.
@Cristina used to mimic outfits she saw online but stick out like a sore thumb in real life. Her real life is very casual like mine and she recently reclaimed her authentic style. Check out her recent blog post on this topic, which I read and found myself cheering her on: http://unshopping.unravelingblog.com/?p=822
@Dottie’s comment that “Fashion is mass-produced; style is a personal choice.” is spot on. This reminds me of when Michelangelo created his famous statue of David. He said that he carved away everything that was not David. We need to carve away all of the trends and “noise” that are not us and only buy and wear those things that are. That’s where the personal choice comes in.
@Anne asks herself, “Does this item/outfit bring me joy?” That question is brilliant and fits right in with my simplicity and joy theme for the year. I’m going to add this question to my outfit journal, which is already helping me SO much with dressing more true to myself and my style. This question will only make it more helpful, so thanks, Anne!
@Rebecca mentioned that external considerations matter sometimes, such as when she needs to wear a suit to court (she’s an attorney) or a cocktail dress for holiday events. I was going to mention these types of points in my post, but I didn’t want it to get too long. Rebecca is absolutely right and some of us have more leeway in terms of dressing for ourselves than others. Even in terms of company dress codes and the like, we can still heed the great advice that Rebecca offered, to pay attention to what makes us feel good and attractive. Even if we have to wear a suit, we will feel better in some than others. If we have to wear a uniform for work, we can still dress for ourselves in our off time. And I think we should feel good and attractive as often as possible!
I love what everyone wrote, so please don’t feel bad or slighted if I didn’t respond to your individually or mention your comment here. I am thrilled that my blog has grown so much, but one downside is that it’s hard for me to interact with each and every commenter as much as I did in the beginning. So please know that I appreciate all of you and what you have to say and I thank you for contributing to my blog!
Great post, Debbie, and I know just what you mean. On the one hand, I think a lot of us have certain hangups about our bodies or other aspects of our physical appearance, and it can be useful to have others point out that what we see in the mirror isn’t always what others see in the world. On the other hand, yes, there is often a dominant style or approach on fashion blogs/forums/etc. and it can be difficult to feel pressed into a mold that doesn’t fit.
I think Rebecca’s comment above that our notions of what is flattering changes over time is also right on track. A lot of us have been responding positively to skinny jeans on you because we look at those pictures and see the skinnies as flattering — but our notions of what’s “flattering” are certainly influenced by predominant fashion trends. In some ways that’s appropriate, most of us don’t want to look “dated” (and I don’t think your looser jeans are dated in a specific way, just that the skinnies are a MORE current look). But again it’s tough to feel pressured into a trend that we’re not sure about.
You know what people say opinions are like (everybody has one, etc.). 🙂 I think Internet fashion feedback is often inconsistent — some people will say a look is great, others will say it is not so hot. And people are apparently looking at the same picture! That can be very confusing, I have experienced that myself. But I think it also means that you can’t please everyone so you might as well please yourself and in most cases there will also be others who’ll give a thumbs-up too.
(I also think that Internet fashion feedback is FAR more detailed than any kind of analysis that is going on in real life. It’s easy to feel picked-apart, but then again the whole point of Internet fashion feedback is to analyze a look in detail — but most people aren’t doing that in real life.)
When I try out a new look I sometimes have trouble telling the difference between “I feel uncomfortable in this because I’m not used to wearing stuff like this” and “I feel uncomfortable in this because it doesn’t suit me.” I think you just have to think it through, maybe consider outside input but don’t put too much stock in it, and then rock what genuinely appeals to you.
You raised a lot of great points, Sarah. Our notions of what is flattering definitely change over time, both because of trend shifts and due to the evolution of our personal style. I think that for most of us, our preferences will continue to evolve and I actually like that. I tend to be a very slow adopter of new trend such that sometimes they’re on their way out by the time I jump on-board. As such, I try to have a mostly classic style and just add a few trends here and there. I am warming up to the skinny jeans, but still don’t like the back view (which none of you saw) as much as the front. I resonated a lot with your last paragraph. Sometimes it’s beneficial to stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zones a bit, but we don’t need to wear things that don’t appeal to us at all. I usually at least give things a try if they seem like they might suit me. My eye can take a long time to adjust, though, even when I see a look on other people. I have warmed up to the rolled pants on others to some extent, but still think “Yuck” when I try it on myself. I think I’ll sit that one out…
Another thoughtful look at what one’s closet says about life!
I often find myself thinking, “oh I’d wear that to book group.” Now I love my book group, but we are not all that active and meet about 6 times a year. Often times when it’s actually time to go I wear whatever I already had on. Yet I make purchasing decisions based on the idea of it all.
Perhaps this is my inner me suggesting that my social life could use some extra events. Compared to organizing a social event clicking on a “buy” button or driving to the mall is so much easier.
I don’t have a big issue with the idea that I care how other people think I look. I think my issue is more that I should focus more on expanding that circle so it lives up to the wardrobe I’ve assembled to be seen in.
I can totally relate. When you have too much good clothing that you like suitable for irregular occasions it makes it more difficult to get dressed/decide!
Ginger, me too! Once upon a time I had a far larger social circle than I have currently, which means much of my (small) wardrobe is not worn near as often as I’d like. I share your issue – I need to focus more on expanding my circle so it lives up to the (wonderful, small) wardrobe I’ve assembled to be seen in. And I’m willing to bet that lots of us here feel this way!
Add me to the group who can totally relate, Ginger! But I love the way you took it away from the clothes and back to your life. I really need more life for my clothes instead of more clothes for my life, and you helped me to realize that. Perhaps THAT should be a blog topic! I get SO much inspiration from all of you 🙂
Until very recently I thought I was suppose to dress differently than my own personal style as 50 snuggles up to me. I realized that I’m still the same strong confident person I’ve always been and there is no need to drastically change what works for me. It’s not like my style is so far out there or has ever been based on fashion (except when part of my style is in fashion, and that’s when I shop). Who says anyone else’s concept of what’s right to wear as me at my age is right anyway?!?
^^^ That lightening bolt moment (and many more) is courtesy of the estimable Bridgette Raes, btw
Welcome, Mare, and Amen to what you wrote! I am also snuggling up to 50 – or vice versa – so I get where you’re coming from. I’ve had a lot of lightning bolt moments courtesy of Bridgette Raes, too. Isn’t she the best? I think your approach is great. Fashion always circles around, so what we love (be it colors, patterns, silhouettes, or whatever) will be back in style again at some point. I look forward to buying some looser-fitting pants when they cycle back around, that’s for sure!
I found this post and all the comments really interesting. I generally feel fine about my clothes each day, but personally, I would get really insecure if I posted my outfits online; I think for some people who are really into fashion, that kind of feedback is interesting, but for myself, I would rather not know what others are thinking! Plus, in my life, I’m pretty sure no one is paying that much attention so I might as well dress more to please myself than others. As other commenters said, it’s complicated because part of dressing for yourself still has to do with being comfortable with how you are seen by others. I’ve been imagining how I would dress if I were a hermit living in the woods, or if my life was the same but everyone else in the world but me was blind. I guess I would want to look good for myself to some degree but I’m sure I would not dress exactly the way I do now, even though I’m pretty casual.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the fact that the friends whose opinions I care most about are all either frugal or concerned about too much consumption for environmental reasons. They all look good, but I don’t think they’re consuming very much. These are my values too (especially the environmental concerns – I’m not naturally that frugal), and it reinforces my desire to buy less. I don’t really want to seem to have tons of clothes!
Thanks again for the food for thought!
Maybe I didn’t really want to know what others thought, either, Heather! Posting my outfits has definitely heightened my insecurity, especially as I’m in a place of style transition. I actually didn’t feel fine about some of the outfits I posted, but that’s part of why I posted them, to share the lessons I was learning. Perhaps I would feel more secure to post the outfits I love, but I worry that I’m still not secure enough in myself to withstand criticism. But when I think about it, opinions vary SO much that I don’t think everyone will ever agree upon what looks good. We really have to determine that for ourselves I don’t think we should close ourselves off completely to outside input, but in the end, we have to decide what we love to wear and what we feel good in. I’m still working on that, but I’m getting there…
I am/was very guilty of dressing for others. I live in a fashionable city and I sometimes enjoy walking in the shopping streets and watching the people all dressed up – I think a lot of people actually dress up for shopping! Nowadays, I have more or less found my style (accepted that I prefer rather classical and even bland outfits) so that I can walk among those shoppers feeling confident but without having to shop for or wear the latest fashion. I have to admit though, that it helps that my personal style is at this moment pretty well in tune with the comfy / casual fashion trend :p.
Also, I may be more confident than I used to be, but I still have to watch out not to get caught up. Watching fashionable people sporting the latest trends like blanket scarves can still make me long for items that are not on my wishlist and that I know would not serve any need. It can also at times still make me feel ‘less than’. My personal remedies for these problems are:
a) avoiding those situations (I don’t go to the shopping street all that often or for a long stretch of time)
b) focusing on what I have and what style goals I have wholeheartedly set for myself
c) thinking of inspirational people, in my case my younger brother who has always been style-conscious but never one to care about trends or what other people think.
And I’m proud to say I have made some progress in letting go, of obsessing about particular fashion items and of other people’s opinions about me.
Thanks for sharing your experience and personal remedies, Liesbeth. I think a lot of people think about avoiding the tempting situations, but they may not think as much about focusing what they have and their goals and looking at inspirational people in their lives. I think it’s easy to look outside at what we don’t have and what we want and harder to be happy with what we have and postpone immediate gratification for larger goals. I am doing better at going for quality over quantity, but still have to basically pinch myself sometimes so I don’t get caught up in sales, FOMO, and thinking the grass is always greener on the other side.