As longtime readers of this blog know, I have been maintaining an outfit journal since summer 2014. In this journal, I write down what I wore, where I wore it, my feelings about the outfit, and what I could change in order to improve the look. I also rate all of my outfits on a scale of 1-10, and I’ve noticed that my percentage of “9” and “10” ensembles have steadily increased over the months that I’ve been keeping my journal. It only takes a few moments each day, but the benefits have been well worth the effort.
The notes about what I would improve upon in future outfit iterations have proved to be the most beneficial part of the process. Sometimes just switching out one piece can add a point or two to an outfit’s rating and have me feeling much more confident in what I’m wearing. These changes generally happen rather organically, as I tend to remember what went wrong in a look without having to go back and refer to my journal. The simple act of writing down my feelings has led me to make subtle shifts in how I dress that have added up to increased satisfaction over time.
Occasionally, however, I will take the time to go back and re-work lower rated outfits based upon the notes I jotted down in my outfit journal. I thought it might be interesting and helpful for me to document this process in a blog post. For the outfit I’ll be focusing on today, I also solicited feedback in my private Facebook group about what could be done to improve my look. I received some excellent suggestions, many of which I tried out during my outfit re-work session.
A “Ho-Hum” Ensemble
I wore the outfit below to a doctor’s appointment last week. I was running late, so I didn’t have much time to pull myself together. As I often do, I selected one piece that I wanted to build my ensemble around. In this case, it was my grey boots, which haven’t received much wear this year, as I tend to reach for my black and burgundy boots far more often. I was also feeling bloated, so I grabbed a looser-fitting pair of boot-cut jeans in favor of my more fitted and slimmer pairs.
The resulting ensemble was what stylist Bridgette Raes refers to as a “chicken outfit,” in that it was rather bland and lacked excitement. While the sleeves of the cardigan are embellished and provide some visual interest, I needed more than that to prevent my look from being boring and uninspired. Also, if I got hot and removed the cardigan, the outfit was even less interesting. For that reason, I suffered through being too warm when I ran a few errands after my appointment.
Outfit Journal Entry
Here’s what I wrote about the outfit in my journal later that evening:
- I didn’t like my outfit as much as usual.
- I like the color scheme and the accessories and even all of the individual pieces, but I felt the resulting look was too baggy and conservative.
- I wonder if grey is not a good color for me and if perhaps it washes me out.
- I’m getting tired of open cardigans and don’t really like them with boot-cut jeans anymore.
I rated the outfit a “7” out of 10, whereas most of my recent ensembles have been “9”s and “10”s. I had quite a few ideas for how I could improve the look:
- Wear slimmer jeans with the cardigan (I knew that when I put it on, but I was bloated and felt the boot-cut jeans would be more comfortable).
- Wear a vest or a shorter jacket with the tee and jeans instead of the long cardigan.
- Wear a necklace so the outfit would look better and more “finished” if I took off the cardigan.
- Try my light striped cardigan instead of the grey one.
- Try my grey Mary Jane pumps instead of the boots.
Suggestions from the Facebook Group
As I mentioned above, I also asked for feedback from my private Facebook group on how I could improve upon my outfit. Although some of their ideas mirrored what I had written in my journal, here are some additional suggestions that I received:
- Wear a shorter cardigan, moto jacket, or mixed media jacket instead of the long cardigan.
- Wear a scarf so the outfit would look more exciting with or without the cardigan.
- Try a layered look by wearing an interesting piece under the simple tee (e.g. a lace-trimmed top that would peek out below).
- Try a textured solid top or a print that would look more interesting on its own.
- What about a field or anorak jacket instead of the cardigan?
- Try a light jacket that is a bit shorter than my top.
- Incorporate more color contrast between my top and the cardigan (the grey and the green are too close in tone and neither one “pops”).
- Try a shawl as a topper as an alternative to the long cardigan.
- Wear attention-grabbing shoes to add visual interest to the outfit.
These were all such great ideas! I also received some very specific styling options from a group member who is shaped similarly to me, which I appreciated as well.
The “Outfit Lab”
Armed with my own notes and the suggestions from the group, I spent some time in my closet last Saturday putting together alternate looks. I started by adding a necklace, switching the jeans or shoes for something else, or both. Here are a few of the outfits I created through those simple substitutions, all of which I liked better than my original ensemble:
I then got more creative and changed out additional items from the original outfit. In many cases, I eliminated the grey altogether in favor of my most loved neutral, black. Although I definitely could have switched out the green tee for another color as well, for the purposes of this experiment I kept the base of the outfit the same, the tee and jeans (although I did use a slimmer pair of jeans in some of the new looks).
I didn’t love all of the outfits I put together in the “outfit lab,” but many of them were a lot better than my original look. What’s more, I tried out some new silhouettes that I haven’t really worn before and found that I liked a lot of them. Here are some of the new combinations that I put together (please ignore the wrinkled tee in some of the pictures – I was making changes quickly and didn’t always straighten it out!):
I definitely like some of the above looks more than others. I prefer the outfits with the slimmer jeans over the boot-cuts and I like the other cardigans more than the original. I also like the vest ensembles, as well as the one which incorporates the mixed-media jacket. I look forward to wearing some of these new outfits soon.
What About Scarves?
While I didn’t try on any outfits with scarves, here are a few recent ensembles that I liked which included solid tops with scarves, three of which also feature wider-legged pants. The second outfit includes a jacket that’s a bit shorter than the tee, which was another suggestion from a group member.
The Problem of Oversaturation
My less loved outfit and the resulting re-work session in my closet confirmed that it’s not a good idea to buy too many of the same types of items. There are at least two important reasons for this. First, we can become tired of a particular style or silhouette and then not know what to do with the many such pieces we own. Secondly, we often end up with outfits that are too similar looking, which can lead to wardrobe boredom and dissatisfaction.
Another blogger, Mo of MOderate Wardrobe, came up with what she calls the “rule of three” to help mitigate the oversaturation that many of us experience. She suggests that for new trends or silhouettes, we stick to one dark neutral, one light neutral, and one color or pattern. In my case, I might vary that a bit and select one dark neutral, one color, and one pattern, but the basic rule is the same. I really wish I would have done this with my long waterfall-style cardigans, as I definitely have oversaturation going on there. Live and learn, but I’m sharing this tip here so that some of you won’t have to learn this lesson the hard way.
Conclusion and Your Thoughts
I know it can be hard to find the time to “play” in our closets like I did last weekend, but a little can go a long way. I think it’s valuable to invest some effort in shopping our own wardrobes before immediately running out to buy new pieces whenever we experience closet ennui. Although I did end up making notes of a few things to buy (e.g. an anorak jacket and a few textured or asymmetrical tops), I found that I already own many of the necessary components for improving upon a ho-hum look. I finished my “outfit lab” time feeling more satisfied with my wardrobe and less compelled to shop right away. As a result of playing in my closet, I feel better able to put together highly rated outfits and more prepared to shop for the right key pieces to vary my look moving forward.
Now I’d like to hear from you:
- Do you keep an outfit journal and/or take photos of your ensembles?
- If so, what do you learn from that process?
- Do you periodically take time to “play” in your closet and put new outfits together?
- What do you do in order to maximize your wardrobe and improve upon your style?
I’d love to get your thoughts on the above questions, as well as on anything else you’d like to share. Have a wonderful weekend! I’ll be back next week with my “useful links” for March (see previous installments here), as well as a fun guest post on an alternate approach to capsule wardrobe dressing.