This is the first post of the month, which is usually when I do my accountability update for the previous month (see previous months’ reports here). However, those posts take me a while to put together and I’m still working on it, so I’m going to do a short post today that I’ve been meaning to do for a while. Stay tuned for my April accountability update later this week and my LIWI Challenge update early next week.
When we are working to overhaul or refine our personal style, it can be helpful to take some time to consider and write about what we like and what we don’t like. As you know, I’ve been honing my style for quite some time now. My work with Bridgette Raes (see the series beginning with this post), as well as my outfit journal (see the two most recent posts here and here), have been integral parts of that journey. I’ve become more and more aware of how I want to present myself to the world and what does and doesn’t feel right to me.
Since I’ve been meaning to come up with “Do’s” and “Don’ts” lists for myself for quite some time, I thought today would be a good opportunity to formulate this information and share it with all of you. I encourage you to take a few moments yourselves to jot down some notes about what you do and don’t want in terms of your wardrobe and style. You may learn some new things that can help to guide and target both your future shopping and your wardrobe management.
My Wardrobe Do’s
I’m sure this list looks a lot different than it would have a year ago. My style has been evolving quite a bit in recent months and many things that I used to like no longer hold my favor. Here are the characteristics I’d like my wardrobe and style to contain moving forward:
- Quality over quantity! Buy the best I can afford and don’t buy something only because it’s on sale!
- I prefer to have some structure in my clothes. I don’t like overly baggy or flowing looks.
- Natural fibers strongly preferred, especially cotton.
- Aim to buy from ethical and sustainable brands and manufacturers whenever possible.
- Comfort is key! I want to be able to easily wear my clothes all day long and feel good in them.
- Be open to new styles and silhouettes; try on new things to see if I like them instead of immediately dismissing them and only sticking to the “tried and true.”
- Neutrals: black (key neutral), charcoal grey, silver (accessories), pewter (accessories).
- Other colors: cobalt, burgundy, purple, teal, turquoise, cool red, emerald green, fuchsia.
- Patterns: stripes (my signature pattern), polka dots, geometric prints, leopard (preferably grey-toned).
- Fitted styles to show off my slim torso, but not overly tight.
- Prefer short or long-sleeves with pants.
- Prefer sleeveless or short sleeves with skirts.
- ¾ sleeves are good but need to be long enough for my arms.
- Semi-fitted tunics.
- Fitted or semi-fitted silhouettes.
- Prefer moto style over blazers – better suited for my casual lifestyle.
- Knit fabrics for comfort and ease of movement, also read more casual.
- Tie-waist or shrug style cardigans for skirts/dresses.
- Prefer darker colors (black, denim, maybe navy or charcoal).
- Like more fitted styles, but the material needs to include some stretch for comfort.
- Straight-leg cut is my current favorite (close to skinnies, but looser in the lower leg).
- Boot-cut is also good or slight wide-leg (not too extreme).
- Mid-rise preferred (1-2” below my belly button).
- Pants must be long enough (generally at least 34” inseam).
- Mid-knee or maxi length.
- Narrower cut (straight or slight A-line rather than pencil silhouette).
- Wrap-style dresses.
- Fitted torso on dresses.
- Knit material preferred.
- If there is a waistline on the dress, it needs to hit at my waist (this is often a problem for me due to my height).
- Must be comfortable and walkable for at least a few blocks!
- Need appropriate support for toes and arches. I have “fussy” feet! Platform styles work well.
- Prefer black or metallic (silver, pewter), but would like to have a few pairs of colored shoes, too.
- Aim for either a minimal or edgy vibe to my footwear.
- Minimal or slightly edgy styles.
- Prefer medium-sized jewelry – nothing too big or small.
- Prefer silver or gunmetal over gold, copper, and bronze.
- Aim to buy more colorful jewelry (I have too many neutrals at present).
My Wardrobe Don’ts
This list is actually easier for me to write than my “Do’s” list, as I have a much clearer idea of what I don’t want to wear and what just doesn’t work for my body, lifestyle, and personality. This list will not only help me to shop smarter, but it will also assist me in paring my wardrobe down further.
- No wool next to my skin (too itchy – fine cashmere is okay).
- No acrylic (also itchy).
- No cheap polyester (some polyester or blended fabrics are okay).
- Nothing too tight or binding.
- No uncomfortable clothes! It is possible to be both stylish and physically comfortable!
- Nothing “fussy” – I don’t want to have to adjust my clothes all day long.
- Prefer not to have too many “girly” details like ruffles and flounce.
- Don’t buy multiples – no more than two of any one type of item (and aim for “one and done” like Bridgette Raes recommends).
- Don’t be too set in my ways! It’s good to be open to new styles and silhouettes.
- No beige or brown (I look horrible in beige and I don’t like brown).
- No pale pastels (I look very washed out in these shades).
- No overly warm-toned colors (I look better in cool tones).
- Stay away from “busy” patterns or anything that is too “girly” (not my vibe).
- Stay away from synthetic fibers (they don’t breathe and lead to excessive sweating).
- Nothing strapless or with spaghetti straps (I need to be able to wear a supportive bra).
- Sleeves cannot be too short – ¾ sleeves cannot be ½ or 2/3 sleeves on me!
- No crew-necks that are too high-cut (less extreme crew-necks are fine).
- No turtlenecks, mock-turtlenecks, or cowl-necks (I don’t like them).
- No more long-sleeved tops (I have too many and don’t wear them often enough).
- Nothing too stiff (I want to be able to easily move around and raise my arms).
- Nothing too baggy or boxy.
- Nothing double-breasted (I don’t like the way it looks opened and I don’t want to have to button my jackets/coats all the time).
- Sleeves cannot be too short – don’t settle or compromise here!
- No side pockets – or sew them shut.
- No high waists.
- No pleats.
- No ankle pants (I just don’t like them!).
- No distressing, whiskering, or fading on jeans.
- Nothing too long, unless it’s a maxi style (bottom of the knee-cap is as long as I want to go otherwise).
- Nothing too flared, flouncy, or “girly.”
- No “churchy” skirts! I want my skirts to look more modern and youthful, not “old lady.”
- No strapless dresses or spaghetti straps.
- No “taxi cab shoes” – I need to be able to walk at least a few blocks in my shoes without discomfort.
- No more black shoes unless they are replacements for existing pairs – I have too many pairs of black shoes already.
- No more blue or green earrings (I have too many at present).
- Jewelry – nothing too big, flashy, or shiny.
- Don’t buy any more scarves unless they are absolutely extraordinary. I have a lot of scarves now and don’t wear them very often.
I’m sure if I spent more time on the lists above, I would come up with additional characteristics to include, but I think I summed it all up pretty well. I’m going to use these lists to pare down my wardrobe a bit more and I will keep them in mind for any future shopping that I do. I think these types of lists are a good complement to our shopping priorities lists (see my thoughts on that topic here).
Having all of these lists on hand when shopping can help us to target what we buy and avoid purchasing mistakes. With today’s smart phones and various types of apps, it’s easy to keep lists like these with us at all times. Taking a few moments to check in with our priorities before we buy anything is a good habit to adopt as a smart and conscious shopper (which is what we all want to be, right?).
Now I’d like to get your thoughts on the subject of wardrobe do’s and don’ts. Do you see anything that I left out in my lists above? Have you created do’s and don’ts lists for yourself? If so, what’s on there? And how have these lists helped you with your shopping, wardrobe management, and personal style? I invite you to share your insights with me and your fellow readers!
I think this type of exercise is super valuable in controlling your wardrobe. I’ve been working on the same thing and finally have my color palette nailed down.
Grey/black, warm off white to beige (no winter white for me!), navy, cobalt, emerald, teal, coral and berry
Right now I’m craving more color and am looking into experimenting with it in places that I haven’t before- shoes, necklaces, scarves and pants. Since I have so many neutral items already, punching it up with an unexpected color brings me joy in the morning! And I am not a morning person! Avoiding colors like winter white and brown was a big breakthrough for me, especially when all the “must have” lists say you NEED a white blouse. I think I’ll be turning mine in for a nude silk blouse. Crisp collars aren’t my style anyway.
I am struggling with the balance of seasonal items though, as basically my whole wardrobe has turned over in the last couple of years, and I live in an area with extreme temperatures. Just a few weeks ago I was buying sweaters and now I’m looking for sheer blouses. It’s hard to predict what I’ll need even though I’ve lived with this weather for quite some time. I am trying to exercise restraint and just buy one thing at a time, slowly, till I feel that I’ve reached my “set point.”
I agree that this is a super valuable exercise, Sarah! Like you, I’d like to add more color in different areas of my wardrobe, including shoes and accessories. I may even get brave and add colored pants if I find any that work for me. Sadly, manufacturers often only offer basic pants in tall sizes, but I could get lucky. I can imagine it would be hard to have to shop for a full four-season wardrobe. There are really only two seasons where I live – summer and “not summer.” I wish you the best of luck in working all of that out. I’m another one who doesn’t like crisp collars and tried the basic white shirt and didn’t really wear it. Your nude silk blouse sounds like an excellent replacement.
This was easy for me – I already had it prepared. 🙂
Must-haves and other keywords:
Thin strap sandals
Tall suede boots
Lines should caress the body, not dissect it
Anything that wraps the body
Anything where fabric is manipulated on the body like ruching and simple ruffle
Rustic (embroidery, wooden buttons, toggles, thick cable cardigans)
Boat-necks (hard horizontal)
Straight shift dress
Pants or skirts that aren’t either full length or 1-2” above knees
Shoes or sneakers that lace
Jersey, silk in particular
Chantilly lace, overlay only
Heavier drapes, not wispy like chiffon
Ombré, light to dark
Ribbon-like without end point
Florals (relaxed and flowing, much better than Gerbera daisies lined up, that doesn’t work. Laura Ashley florals are too languid)
High contrast within my palette colors (mostly jewel tones)
Monochromatic fine but must have a pop or some contrast against it
No hard horizontals at waist
Wrapping around body
Mini mockneck for warmth
Ruffle in portrait neckline, in a soft fabric
No V-neck, not even soft V-neck
Angled short but above bust line
Just off shoulder, angled
Wider sleeves at 3/4 length
Tops, Sweaters, Jackets
Anything that wraps or ties
Need to end below the waist
No hard lines
Waterfall sweaters cut at an angle
Peplums if only on sides and back of garment, especially good if peplum is shorter on the side and then longer in the back
1-2” above knee
Short wrap skirt
If the wrap style forms a V shape, wear a cami to soften
One that skims through the ribcage and doesn’t end at the waist but more at the hip is going to be better to hide excess belly weight. Elongate the body.
1-2” above knee
Hollywood pants that zip on side or back
No belt loops or zippers
Trouser pants with slight flare and cuff, 1940-ish
Jeans- only in super fine wale corduroy, velveteen or twill
Fabric on the larger side, patent leather on ends
Structured handbags made of something slightly soft so it’s not rigid
Wider at the bottom and tapered at the top
Flap over the top
Hidden zippers, if any
Straw beach bag with canvas trim
Soft quilting with patent trim
Patterned bag with tassel
Wrap style, with self-belt
Hood that comes out to the collar, not just attached to the shoulder, so that it’s more framing the face. “Little red riding hood.”
Down puffer coat with self-belt
Support and comfort foremost
Slip-ons with low vamp
Tall suede boots, slouch ok for casual boot
No cuff bracelets
Teardrop shape earrings
Necklaces longer than collar-bone
Something weighty at bottom of a necklace like a tassel
That’s an amazingly comprehensive list and I’m absolutely in awe. Can you explain how you came to these ideas? I’d LOVE to be able to have a set of such guidelines.
I’m a classic style personality and can’t do manly stuff or ruffles. My look is quite tailored and can seem a bit too prim and buttoned up. Debbie would call it churchy 🙂
I’m trying to fashion a more relaxed style but that remains chic and elegant. Yours sounds just perfect.
I’m with Saltbox – how did you arrive at this list, and what is its purpose?
I join Saltbox and Susan in being in awe of your list, Kim. I may have to update my list because I saw some things on your list that apply to me, too. I especially like how detailed you were about fabric types. I need to delve deeper there myself and familiarize myself more with the type of fabrics I like and don’t like. I also need to look up some of the terms you mentioned to see if I want to add some of your criteria to my list.
I’m wondering how long you’ve had this list and how it’s helped you so far. If you are open to sharing about that, I’m sure lots of people would want to read about, in addition to the answer to Susan’s questions.
Thanks, Saltbox, Susan and Debbie! My list of do’s & don’ts comes from my recent appointment with stylist David Zyla, so I can’t take credit for coming up with all of it. I did already have a good list going but he helped me really nail it down. Saving up the money to be able to meet with him for a color and style consultation was probably the most worthwhile thing I’ve ever done just for me. The style portion involved holding up various necklines, sleeve lengths, skirt lengths, etc., to see how they did or did not work on my body. I was able to see when something didn’t work and if I couldn’t articulate exactly why, David was able to explain it to me.
It’s only been a month since my appointment and so far I can say that it’s far easier now for me to shop productively. It’s simple to look at something and say, nope that won’t work on me. Or YES, that’s the garment I need. I’m loving it so far. The only thing I’ve found that I don’t like are waterfall cardigans. I need to try on more of them, in different fabrications and lengths, as maybe I’m just not used to seeing myself in them and so they look “off” to me. I am still a work in progress and will be for a while as I slowly build a new wardrobe of quality clothing.
Fabulous! Well done you! I think it’s a great list. I’ve had a personal style and colour consultation but nowhere near as detailed as this. I do hope you find a waterfall cardigan you love Kim.
Your appointment with David Zyla seems to have been SO worthwhile, Kim. You really have a VERY clear idea of what does and doesn’t work for you. I will be interested to learn if you ever warm up to waterfall cardigans. Sometimes it DOES take a while to warm up to seeing ourselves in different styles, like me with the slimmer jeans. Now I like those a lot better than the jeans I used to wear. Who would have thought?!
I’ll have to work on my own list, but in the meantime it’s interesting that you have too many long sleeve tops, yet struggle to find 3/4 sleeves that are long enough. Is it possible that some of these long sleeve tops could be altered to be perfect 3/4 length sleeve tops?
I should have been more specific, Carter. I was including 3/4 sleeves in with long sleeves in terms of having too many of that type of top. It’s been warmer where I live and I find myself wearing short sleeves most often. I have, however, altered some long-sleeve tops where the sleeves weren’t quite long enough to 3/4 sleeves. I missed the mark on a few by going TOO short, but in other instances, I was able to salvage tops that I would have otherwise passed on.
This is very interesting. I have a mental list like this but have never put it down on paper. I’ve just started Evolve Your Style, and, not surprisingly some of my “do’s” and “don’ts” are changing. It could be valuable to try to write them down.
I definitely think it’s valuable to write it down, Kayla. I had the list in my head before, too, but I’m really glad I finally took the time to encapsulate it all. I’m glad you’re doing Evolve Your Style and look forward to learning about how it goes, too. It’s on my list to do it and blog about it, so stay tuned…
Great idea. I love your carefully defined list, and especially like your maxi dresses! I’m definitely with you on natural fibres, comfort, no frills/flounces. Here are a few rules I’ve developed over the last year, but its work in progress1:
Colour: neutrals – navy! (emerged as the winner), + khaki/light olive/stone etc, + light grey; other colours – green, aqua, blues (warmer versions, eg sapphire, light moss), pale lemon, (no: black, white, fuscia/red)
pattern; mostly none or small, I like tweed (herringbone, Prince Wales), checks, marl
texture: something I need to pay more attention to!
Uniform: casual blazer + top + trousers + flat shoes (no skirts or dresses). Alternatively for cool weather: fitted coat + jumper (eg cable knit, short sleeve turtle neck) + trouser; for hot weather: sleeveless shirt/top + tailored knee length shorts.
Trousers: lots of variety! – to make up for very restricted uniform and limited palette I need plenty of variety in shape, fabric, texture, etc. Hate skinnies but nothing else is ruled out
Blazers: again lots of variety. I prefer some structure, no blousons, or draped tops, also dislike cropped/boxy.
Accessories: shoes and bag are key, + watch and scarf. Hardly any jewellery.
Style (the hardest bit to pin down): Simple, minimalist. I like 60s/70s ‘luxe’ (eg Jackie O in bootleg trousers and cashmere jumper) and ‘utility’ (denim, cargo pants, Vans), and mixing the two (mixing two styles un-fancy suggested, it gives individuality). Also like colour blocking very plain pieces.
Great list, Alice. You seem really clear on what does and doesn’t work for you. I should have included a category for “Style” on my list and I may go back and amend my list based upon all of the great lists I’m seeing here from you and other readers. Your colors seem to be very opposite from mine. I’m guessing that maybe you are blonde? I like how detailed you are with everything. I’m sure it will serve you well.
Well guessed – yes, blonde/grey with blue eyes. I wrote the list very quickly, and was surprised at how clear it was. However even a few weeks ago it would have been different, for example I probably would have included black (there is plenty in my wardrobe), so we will see what happens next. A very useful exercise, though!
My list continues to evolve, too, Alice. I can imagine the colors you chose would look nice with your coloring. I thought your coloring might be opposite from mine since those colors don’t really suit me. I’m sure I will revisit the do’s and don’ts list at some point. I know that if I did the list even a few months ago, there would have been differences from what it was this week.
Wonderful that you did the list! I have my own from a year ago and there are so many similarities between yours and mine except for the colours: http://theyogasticshoppingplanner.blogspot.dk/2014/05/a-list-of-dos-and-donts.html
I know you have been meaning to do it for a long time, good for you for compiling it! It is so helpful to actually sit down and think about these things.
I did a follow up for that first Do’s and Dont’s list when I did 7 Steps to Style, it is here: http://theyogasticshoppingplanner.blogspot.dk/2015/01/my-body-shape-step-2b-in-7-steps-to.html. In that one I went through the recommendations for my body shape and noted how I felt about them.
I love your lists, Mette, because they are so detail-oriented (and you know I like my details). You were so brave to post a photo of you in a leotard and tights, too (but you have an amazing figure, so why not?). Yes, I was going to do my list a long time ago, but like many blog post ideas, it fell by the wayside. I’m glad I resurrected it, though, as it was really helpful for me to create my list. I’m sure I will end up amending it at least somewhat, but I made a good start of it and I’m sure it will help me with my wardrobe and shopping.
Loved reading this! We’re very similar in a lot of things debbie- here’s mine:
Overall Characteristics: Classic, simple lines but feminine, not too many ruffles or overly ‘sweet’. Lots of structure. Most or all garments that have special detailing to them that make them feel like a ‘step up’ from a regular item.
Colors/Patterns: Neutrals are black, gray (not near face), navy, white or cool off-white/ecru, some tan (not near the face either). All tones of metal but copper. Colors are cobalt or sapphire blue, teal, berry/raspberry, kelly green, rich purple, burgundy, coral pink (cool-toned, brings out my natural flush). Accessories can be any color, but tend to stick to the color pallet. Love patterns except really large florals. NO pastels of any kind, no beige or nudes unless in shoes. I don’t look good in warm colors, most greens, yellow, most oranges, and the wrong red can really make me look ill.
Tops: Love 3/4 sleeves, almost any sleeve but some cap-sleeves are not flattering and I don’t like raglan sleeves on me. Scoop and V necklines are best for me, but higher necklines can be offset with a necklace (as long as it’s not too loud a pattern to wear a necklace with). I have a large chest so have to be careful not to get a neckline that is too low. No boat necks or square necks, they look terrible on me. No turtlenecks but some cowls are good. Fitted or flowy is good provided the silhouette skims and does not add bulk or suction-cups in an unflattering way to my midsection. No ruching down the front (ok on sides)- I’ve tried many iterations of this and it never looks good. Any top with a line/seam under the bust is probably a no-go, as my bust is larger than what tops typically are made for.
Toppers: Anything EXCEPT boxy styles, must have some waist definition or be fitted.
Pants: Any style except baggy/loosey-goosy styles. My bottom half is larger than my top half, but I like my curves and I feel I have good legs/shape to pull off skinny jeans.
Skirts/Dresses: No baggy, shapeless dresses (especially no mod shifts/straight dresses). I look great in sheath dresses with waist definition, wrap styles, etc. Flared dresses are great provided the flare is not TOO large in the skirt. My hips are very wide already without extra width! Same with skirts- A-lines can sometimes make me look TOO hippy, but many pencils are too ‘scandalous’ with my curves. Straight lines from my hips down or slight flares are best. I stay away from skirts because I find I don’t wear them as much and have more trouble with them than dresses.
Shoes: Anything but very casual or chunky? I know what I like when I see it, it’s hard to put down! I stay away from flip-flops, sneakers, keds, laces, bohemian, mod, mary janes, and overly sexy (lucite, stripper shoe/very strappy, glitter) styles. Colors in my color pallet.
Accessories: Always willing to try something new, but I stay away from bohemian styles. I like elegant, classic, or glam. Nothing that is overwhelming or overly trendy/quirky, no neon colors or childish details. Can choose accent colors outside my color pallet.
You’re right, Meli, that our lists are quite similar. I think I will actually add some of what you wrote to my list! We seem to like a lot of the same colors and styles. You were very detailed in your descriptions and I can picture what you like and don’t like very well. Did you ever write about this on your blog? I think you did. I know you order a lot of things online, so it’s probably even more important to be clear about what does and doesn’t work for you. You seem to not have to do too many returns, but I think it also helps that you buy the bulk of your wardrobe from one store. If I could find a store that works for me most of the time, I would do the same.
I totally agree with you on the fabrics. I stay away from synthetic fabrics which takes out a lot of fast fashion. I thrift and may one hard and fast rule is that I must try it on and be honest with the fit. I like Eileen Fisher, but some of her things don’t fit me quite right. I am long waisted and that is one of my check points, is the top/blouse long enough. I
Your one hard and fast rule for thrifting has probably saved you a lot of trouble, Kathy. If I would have had that rule with all of my resale shopping, I wouldn’t have made so many mistakes.
Glitch alert. I have pulled my summer wardrobe out and got brutally honest. I am consigning 20 pieces that were my fantasy life holdovers. I did this with my winter wardrobe and the removal of these garments made me happier to get dressed in the morning. I could wear everything I touched and even though it’s a smaller collection I didn’t have the angst of not quite right garment failure.
(one note about fabric too, I can’t wear wool either, even the fine merino wool so only cashmere will do.)
I think it’s very important to get rid of the things we just don’t love and don’t wear, I need to do another closet audit myself very soon (and I’m sure I will blog about it – I may even take the plunge and use the KonMari Method with my closet! ). I’m glad you are happier with your wardrobe after getting rid of items for your fantasy lifestyle. Such things usually just make us feel guilty when we see them and life is just too short for that!
I’m amazed at the level of detail you all were able to go into in creating your lists!
Colors: Everything but brown, beige and army green. Only reds with blue undertones. I generally gravitate toward blue, green, purples and yellow and black/navy/slate gray.
Silhouettes: Looser on tip, fitted on bottom if separates. Anything goes with dresses except for babydoll style.
Tops: Solid colors, button downs, v-neck or ballerina/scoopneck. Boatneck only if it’s not wide enough to show bra straps. Occasionally stripes or polka dots. Every sleeve length but shell-style sleeveless if that makes sense. (It reads too matronly for me) Almost always need to be in Tall sizes.
Bottoms: Solid, or crazy graphic pattern. No pinstripes, herringbone or other subtle details. Mostly fitted; wide-leg only for very causal wear. Favorites = ankle pants, bootcut, pencil skirts. No high waisted pants.
Shoes: This is the one category where I really try to buy only ethically produced items so I don’t have very many. The only style I cannot find ethically produced is running shoes.
Accessories: Any metal color goes but I don’t mix metals. No heavy earrings; usually only 1-2 pieces of jewelry at a time. I’m not a bag person but no cheap fake leather for work totes.
High five to my fellow tall girl, Sara. Your list is good and has some things in common with my list. I think it’s great that you try to buy ethically produced shoes. If you’d be willing to share some brand names, I think that people would be interested in that type of information. I need to do more posts on that topic (sustainable and ethically produced items), but it takes a lot of research to put together. You have a good amount of detail in your list and I’m sure it has served you well or will do so.
First, a quick disclaimer: when it comes to clothing ethics, I’m most concerned about the way that the person(s) who made my shoes were treated. I’m not opposed to leather and I’m not familiar enough with enviro issues to weigh in on what is and isn’t ethical in that regard. So, here are the brands that I have either bought from or seriously considered
Sandals: Birkenstock, Everlane.
Casual flats, boots: Poppy Barley, Rancourt and Company, The White Ribbon, Nisolo
Winter boots: LLBean (Bean makes it very clear when something is Made in Maine/USA)
I also have one pair of dress heels for work that are Ferragamo. Expensive, but made in Italy and I haven’t had good luck finding proper pumps from smaller indie shops.
Thank you so much for sharing your list, Sara. I’m glad you added the disclaimer so we all know what criteria you’re looking at. I haven’t heard of some of the brands you highlighted, so I will have to check them out. I have heard good things about Birkenstock, Everlane, and LLBean previously, though, as well as Ferragamo. I will add the brands you mentioned to my “quality clothing” page that I still need to put together.
My list isn’t quite as extensive, as I’m still trying to figure everything out but here’s what I have so far (it overlaps a lot with Debbie’s)
Overall: Buy in smaller quantities 4 times a year. Versatility and comfort are both key. Remain open to different styles throughout evolving style.
Colors/Patterns: Neutrals-black, charcoal grey, heather grey and ivory (in small doses, I have learned not to trust myself too much white or ivory clothes. As careful as I try to be, somehow ink, coffee or garlic butter always attempts to do these in). Colors-lilac, various shades of blue, olive or deep green, burgandy, and candy pink. Patterns-stripes, animal print (cheetah/leopard), camoflague (not hunter style).
Tops: Longer tops, fitted cotton tops of various sleeve lengths, limit of one button down per season, tank tops or beaters over camisoles. Nothing too revealing.
Toppers: Prefer cardigans or jackets over blazers. Comfort is key. Sweaters have to be warm. Leather jackets are a staple here. Vests with personality in the colors or patterns listed above. I like my vests/jackets to be the statement piece of my outfits so this is an area I’m willing to experiment in.
Shoes: Versatile and comfortable. Sneakers, flats or wedges, though as my legs are improving (I have medical conditions with them), I’m opening up to different styles. I also like a minimal or edgy vibe to my shoes.
Colors: Browns, reds, yellow or oranges, patterns: Polka dots or hearts
Tops: Button down collar maximum, I also hate turtlenecks and cowl necks. Also nothing over the top, I prefer to save details like lace or crochet to toppers.
Pants: No skinny or boyfriend jeans. No pants that fall above the sole of my shoes. No colored pants or pattern pants (would consider pinstripe or camouflage an exception. No sweats for everyday wear. No sparkles anywhere or back pocket detailing.
Shoes: No shooties. No stilettos. No heels above two inches. No flip flops or sandles that support stockings can’t be worn under
Accessories: No more hats (I have enough and don’t use them),nothing with rhinestones or other bling, nothing multi-tiered moving forward.
As I said at the beginning, I’m still trying to figure it out. But as I’m continuing to try to keep things minimal, I think I’m beginning to identify what’s me or what isn’t. Hopefully by this time next year I will have a list that is as concise as some of the others presented here.
You have a very good list for someone who is still trying to figure it out, Angel. I’m sure you will refine your list over time, as will I. In fact, I got some great ideas from reading other people’s lists here. We have a very smart group! I like how clear you are about what type of details you want on your clothes and on which pieces within your wardrobe. Over time, all of our lists will evolve, so I think this is a good exercise to re-visit at least once a year.
Now that I’ve found my style and rhythm, and my wardrobe is in pretty good shape for my current lifestyle. I have three Do’s and three Don’ts.
Do wear my favorite pieces often.
Do drop my acquisitiveness.
Do keep my wardrobe small.
Don’t wear less loved pieces in order to protect my favorites.
Don’t buy anything without first hitting the pause button.
Don’t remove the tags off of anything until after I’ve worn it for at least 30 minutes at home— sit, bend, reach, stoop, and make sure it works with other pieces in my closet.
I love that your minimalist list mirrors your minimalist wardrobe, Terra! I am curious about “Do drop my acquisitiveness.” If you are open to explaining what that means to you, I’d love to read about it. Your do’s and don’ts really resonate with me. I need to put your third don’t into play immediately! There are a lot of things that seem to work well when we’re just standing in front of a mirror in a fitting room, but it’s a whole different ball game when we wear things for our real life. Moving around in the fitting room helps, but I think your rule of wearing something for 30 minutes at home before removing the tags is brilliant advice!
Acquisitiveness—my greed, greediness. It is widely known that about five years ago I had a rather large, wonderful, work-wardrobe. The majority of what I owned was high quality, corporate-appropriate clothing. I had a delightful collection of (way too many) work outfits that fit, and looked great on me, and I over indulged myself all in the spirit of “thinking” I needed it, and that it was acceptable for me to buy pretty much whatever I wanted for work because I spent at least 10 hours a day wearing those clothes.
But now I know better. In 2010 I began changing my ways. And as you know after I began working at home I needed to completely overhaul my style because I didn’t need those work-clothes anymore. Most of all, I had to find “my” style, and figure out what was me. Back in those days I needed to make lists (like y’all are doing now) in order to keep myself on track and discover what I liked and didn’t. Then after I figured out what worked best for me, I discovered that I’m leaning toward minimalism, to own less, and only have good quality items that I wear regularly. I’ve reached that happy place. My current wardrobe is good. At the moment I don’t need anything. In my heart of hearts I know I have plenty, and it’s great stuff. If I’m perfectly honest I know that I have more than I need, and I’d like to set my closet point a bit lower within the next year. BUT every so often I fall off the wagon and the wants and greed begins. I want this, I want that. Then the whining voice in my head begins, “But you need it, and you deserve it.” Ugh. Enough. What I really want is less clothes. Currently I wear Patagonia serenity maxi skirts, Eileen Fisher, petite, close-fitting (not slouchy) Tees. Paige dark wash and white jeans. I can dress my jeans up with one of my two EF collar-less, fabulous, comfortable, jackets. I want a small wardrobe so that I will wear my clothes frequently, and when I’m done with a piece after 2-3 (or maybe more) years, and ready to move on and update my look, so that throughout my 60s and 70s I will always be evolving, and not stuck in a style rut.
What? Not 2-3 years, I wear some things for lots of years, as long as they are not worn out, and still look smart. Yet I also want to be able to evolve and not be dated looking as I grow older.
Thank you so much for clarifying what you meant by acquisitiveness, Terra. It makes perfect sense and is an excellent “Do” to have (to DROP your acquisitiveness). As you know, the desire to acquire is a problem for me, too. I have made improvements, but it still rears its ugly head too often. I really do want to get to where you are now with your wardrobe. I believe I will get there, but there may be some more “two steps forward and one step back” for a while. As long as I am gradually moving forward, I will get to where I want to be eventually. Congrats on the amazing progress you have made over the past 5 years.
There is the big must-have that clothes can be washed at home. I try to stick to this for all items other than my suits, wool jacket and 1-2 fancy dresses. I live in Hawaii and it would be too expensive to dry clean most of my wardrobe.
I love the no side pockets rule for pants. After having a 10-12 inch difference between my waist and hips since puberty, I am only just realizing this one.
And I’m the other way. I love pockets for keys and phone and small credit cash carrier.
Great “DO” about washing things at home, Sara. That one is big for me, too. I can’t remember the last time I had anything dry-cleaned (well, maybe a coat here and there). Yes, the no side pockets rule is good for those of us who have a larger waist/hip difference (mine is 11 inches). It does create a smoother line not to have the pockets. Kathy, different strokes for different folks! I’m glad there are different styles of pants available so we can all get what we like most.
I just had to chime in because, like Sara and Debbie, I have a large waist/hop difference (12-13″) and I always sew side pockets shut. 🙂 Sure they are useful but also oh so unflattering because they jut out making the hips appear larger and shaped differently than they are. I actually appreciate the difference between my waist and hips but side pockets ruin the nice line or curve created by the clothes.
I totally agree, Emmy… I never put things in my pants pockets anyway, so I don’t care if I have them or not. I put everything in my purse. I actually try to get pants WITHOUT side pockets, but if I find a pair I like that has them, I take them to my tailor to the pockets cut out and sewn shut. It’s an easy and inexpensive alteration that makes a big difference (at least for me).
I have never really articulated my Do’s and Don’t’s. I think I have become a lot more selective since I’ve cut down to buying only 1 item a month, and since I’ve been streamlining my wardrobe so my main goal is to buy things that work well with many other pieces already in my wardrobe, for maximum versatility. If I had to put it into words:
Fit in with the rest of my wardrobe.
Greys, blues, greens, purples, creams, burgundies, some pinks
Lots of pants (easier for work)
Short sleeved tops (easier for work)
Longer length tops (no crop tops!)
Browns, reds, yellows
Too fussy or not comfortable
Good list, Sarah. I hope it was helpful for you to put it all down in writing. I like that your list is simple yet powerful. I agree with “not fussy or not comfortable” as a Don’t. That one is huge for me now after many years of suffering for the sake of fashion. No more! It is definitely possible to look stylish and feel comfortable at the same time.
I am buying so few clothes lately I don’t really have such a list, but I probably should make one. My main goal is functionality in my clothes now as I transition from a car-based office life to a pedestrian urban lifestyle. No more shoes that I can’t walk at least a mile in for sure! That is rule number one. I went through a period about 15 years ago where I massively overbought work clothes and I am just now wearing those out, believe it or not. I could wear them all this time because they were classic styles from Talbots, but they are now ready to be discarded in favor of things that fit my new lifestyle in a place that has four seasons which is a challenge in itself.
I look forward to continuing to reduce my wardrobe through attrition and refining my style to clothes that fit comfortably yet have some panache.
‘I look forward to continuing to reduce my wardrobe through attrition and refining my style to clothes that fit comfortably yet have some panache’ – so well put! I too have a lot of 15-10 year old work clothes. I’m keeping them for now as they fulfil a need while I develop other areas of my wardrobe.
Thanks for your comment, Tara. I love the rule about not buying shoes that you can’t walk a mile in. I wonder how many of my shoes would pass the test… I am gradually getting rid of all of my “taxi cab shoes” and definitely don’t buy such shoes anymore. I think it’s great that you have quality clothes that have lasted for as long as 15 years. Sadly, I don’t think many of the clothes bought today would stand that test of time. I think your plan to reduce your wardrobe through attrition and refining your style is a good one. I wish you the best with your upcoming transition!
Yes: natural fibers like cotton, linen, silk and cashmere, as well as rayon knits. I make exceptions for blends with non-natural fibers if they fill a need, such as ponte career wear, nylon slips, bras and panties, and nylon trouser socks. No polyester blouses no matter how cute, no acrylic sweaters no matter how soft, and NO WOOL (it tempts me every winter, but it bothers my skin and inevitably is too hot for my climate, although I love the look and style of wool sweaters). I also say no to rayon, acetate and ramie wovens (remind me of the 80s too much).
Yes: A couple of good leather shoulder bags in black for everyday career wear, a straw purse for summer, a hemp woven purse and a couple of casual nylon bags for weekend wear, and a small black leather bag with a long strap that can be worn shoulder or crossbody for trips to the city. No: Faux leather bags no matter how cute or tempting–they just don’t wear well for me. No (more) adorable Vera Bradley printed bags. I have too many of these and never wear them. No (more) quirky fabric totes—I’ve got way too many as it is.
Yes: Black leather or suede wedges, flats and loafers for work. black leather boots or booties for nighttime wear. Yes to quality espadrilles in black/white/nude for weekend dressup. Yes to Birkenstocks, flatforms and a well worn pair of TOMS to wear with jeans. Yes to one cheap and trendy pair of summer sandals. NO to cheap shoes in general and NO to shoes in any color but black (exceptions for nude wedges or metallic sandals if I ever find the right ones.) NO (reluctantly) to heels over 2 inches tall. I’ve spent so much money on shoes I’ve loved but never worn….lessons learned.
Yes: Straight leg or slightly flared black trousers, black jackets, black cowl or v neck tops…..this is my daily self-imposed uniform for work along with bright scarves and interesting jewelry. I occasionally stray into a jewel toned, or leopard pattern top with my black jacket and trousers but I dislike anything bright or flashy. No bling, beading or metallic stitching, no ruffles, and no puffy sleeves or anything overly feminine. For casual Fridays I skip the jacket and wear a black sweater over a blue or white button down. I work mainly with men and my office is very conservative. Anything girly would not be good for my professional image. On weekends—I love jeans and have dark wash ankle jeans and straight legs, as well as a favorite pair of boyfriend jeans. I wear them with boho tops and sandals. If I’m going even more casual I throw on linen culottes or pedal pushers with an oversized top over a tank. For nights out I stick to black jeans, high heel boots and a leather moto jacket with maybe a lace blouse to give it a feminine touch.
Thanks so much for sharing your do’s and don’ts, Kim. I love how clear and detailed your list is. You seem to really have a clear grasp on what does and doesn’t work for you. I definitely identified with some of your criteria, especially the no (reluctantly) to heels over 2 inches. I am always drawn to heels, too, but have learned to pass them up because they either just sit in my closet or I end up limping if I wear them out. No fun! Your uniform for work sounds quite striking and beautiful. I like black with bright scarves and interesting jewelry.
I definetely have a YES and NO list.
Overall Style – minimalist, chic, feminine but not fussy, scandinavian design aesthetic.
Shapes – emphasize long legs, de-emphasize short waist and broad shoulders.
Colors – neutrals= black, pearl grey, white, denim + accents = mid-tone blues, pinky reds and pinky corals (NO beige, brown, navy, burgundy, green. NO pastels or garish fluros)
Patterns – small scale in medium contrast colors, grey based leopard, preferably geometric, florals only if abstract or like a watercolor painting. (Absolutely NO floral grandma prints or polka dots.)
Shirts & Tops – semi-fitted in silk, fine cotton, sleeves. NO stiff cottons, shirts with collars as already own a few and don’t feel comfortable in them much, plunging necklines, spaghetti straps. NO voluminous shapeless boho type tops, NO frills or horizontal details and absolutely NO T-shirt jersey fabrics that cling to my stomach. T-shirts only for workout wear and I already own enough of those
Pants /Jeans- fitted, slim cut, low waist, some stretch. No faded denim or whiskering or embellished jeans. (NO high waists, mom jeans, baggy bottoms – my derrière and long slim legs are my best feature)
Skirts – A-line or straight, soft flowing fabrics, low waist and above the knee (NO stiff fabrics)
Dresses – I love them. The simplest way to dress whatever the season – with sandals, ballet flats or tights and boots. Simple tunic or A-line shift styles in beautiful fabrics.
Jackets/Coats – Well cut in quality fabric, A-line shape coats fitted in shoulder, fine wool blazer style. Fitted denim jackets in dark denim. (NO boxy, wide shoulders, too short or stiff fabrics. NO excessive details, eg NO trench coats, no cheap coats or jackets – these are the backbone of my winter and transeasonal wardrobe as I live in a cold climate)
Shoes, Boots & Bags – Love them!!! Neutral or Colored, edgy in design. (NO skyscraper heels – just can’t walk in them anymore) Quality bags only (Longchamps.) I think that high quality shoes and bags make cheaper clothing look luxe but cheap shoes and bags cheapen the look, even if the dress was a million bucks.
Jewellery – quality silver, silver bracelet stacks, Tiffany necklaces, diamond studs are my go-to pieces. NO cheap costume jewellery junk. I already have loads which I rarely wear and I prefer to save for something that will last for the rest of my life.
Scarves – essential. Only quality and beautiful fabric. I prefer now to buy one outstanding scarf per season than a bunch of cheap ones.
Knitwear – cashmere preferred.
Thanks so much for sharing your lists, Carolyn. I love how very detailed you were. I think I could actually shop for you given these lists! I agree that high-quality shoes and bags can make an entire look seem more expensive, while the reverse is true for their low-quality counterpart. Your plan to buy just one outstanding scarf per season is a really good one. I used to buy a lot of cheap scarves (and cheap lots of things), but most of those are gone now. They don’t last, plus I now appreciate quality items so much more. I still falter with buying quantity over quality sometimes, but thankfully I’m getting better…