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Clothes for the life I actually have

October 13, 2009

I woke up this morning to find this lovely image on Banana Republic’s website, along with promises of 15%-20% off and free shipping.  The same dress, styled two very different ways!  What a great deal!  (Uh….)

DressThe dress alone is $150, not to mention the cardigan, shoes, accessories, turtleneck…  There must be over $1000 worth of clothes in these two outfits!  (I obviously considered the idea of this dress much longer than necessary… though I do have a $25 gift card.)

I really like the style of both the outfits.  They are chic and put-together and accessorized in a way I can rarely manage to pull off on my own, but really is quite simple.  But where on earth would I even wear these?  I probably could wear them to work (the one on the right would be a stretch… and they are too short I guess) but it is in no way what most people generally wear to work in my office — much more casual.  Hanging around the apartment?  Going out to eat?  Perhaps an afternoon at the museum? Shopping?   The model looks like she is going out to do something interesting!

So.  I really like the style, but it just doesn’t fit into my life.  So that got me thinking — can I create a similar look that does fit my lifestyle?  And can I do it for way less?  So far, the answer is no.  But maybe I can learn?

This is a really random post.  But  I think this is what I often do wrong with my shopping.  I don’t buy enough accessories to make an outfit special.  I fall in love with things that really don’t fit well into the life I actually have.  I don’t really have a sense a “personal style”.  I finally think I have enough “basics” for my work wardrobe that maybe I can branch out and try things that aren’t quite so basic. And maybe try to find more pieces that can transition well from work to play.

Do any of you actually have a clothing strategy?  I always say that I’m going to try to be more focused in the clothes I buy, but I never can seem to pull it together.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. sfordinarygirl permalink
    October 13, 2009 11:29 pm

    Personal style takes time to develop. You should have a rough idea of what you like to wear for what occasions ie work, school, fun, parties, dinner dates and such. Do you enjoy getting dressed up for dinner at a restaurant? It helps if you can pin down what you wear on certain occasions and how much of those clothes were from your basics or ones that didn’t suit your lifestyle. That’ll give you some idea of what you like.

    I like what Jessica of Whatiwore.tumblr.com said about buying clothes. She prefers not to plan her wardrobe for a possible occasion or buy what everyone thinks you should have stocked in your closet, but shop for a particular event she’s definitely going like a party.

    Just a few thoughts. I don’t have a clothing strategy except I know my lifestyle is always on the go and therefore heels and dressy items are not practical especially living on a hill and because I like to walk around with my camera shooting people and need to be comfortable getting on the ground with the subject. But I do plan to buy at least one dress (kinda like the BR one but much cheaper) because that’s the one thing I’d like to wear to work or going to meet friends or family.

  2. October 14, 2009 12:34 am

    I think I share a very similar problem. I fall in love with pieces, or pieces from someone’s pulled together outfit, and pay nearly no attention to the details that made that outfit (and piece) special. ie: my need for help with figuring out what on earth boots could be worn with. I’ve wanted ankle boots for two years, and yet had zero conception of how I’d wear them.

    Jewelry and belts, and some layers, seem to be the key to this styling business. I just need someone else to put me together. Shall we go halfsies on a stylist? 🙂

  3. October 14, 2009 7:03 am

    Wow – you basically condensed my lifetime fashion dilemma into one nice post. I totally feel this way ALL the time. I think ohhh that dress looks cute, but where am I going to wear it? My BF would think something was up if I donned a dress for dinner out versus my normal jeans/cute top/high heels ensemble. I, too, struggle with my clothing identity! I wish there was a website that could help with that! A lot of times I look to celebs to see what I like – Jennifer Aniston is probably my of my favorite dresses: simple, yet chic; classy, but not over the top.

    Also, sometimes I feel like buidling the perfect wardrobe just takes too much time – so then I give up and decide I’ll never really have a true fashion personality. LOL.

  4. October 14, 2009 8:11 am

    I really have a similar struggle. I often think to myself, “This year I’m going to buy quality! It may cost more, but I can wear the pieces for years to come!”…but that’s not the kind of life I have (one where pieces of clothing actually get sent to the dry cleaners, and where clothes don’t get ridiculous stains on them). Sometimes I still think I should invest in a few nicer pieces, but on the whole, I continue to purchase really cheap clothing (hello Target, Old Navy, and Kohl’s!) but I have to replace them fairly quickly.

  5. October 14, 2009 9:58 am

    I love these outfits! I never realized until I read your post today that the missing component in my style are accessories. If I were to buy the dress and cardigan, I would forget the belt even though it really makes the outfit stand out.

    I’m 39 now and am still finding my style. I tend to dress simply (classic) but with a few bolder touches (like prints or a bold color) to add some drama. Someone once told me I have a slightly European style. I’m not sure what that means but it was a compliment.

    I’ve been trying to ‘dress up’ more lately but then I get in the dilemma you mentioned – buying clothes that don’t really fit my life. If I were a Spice Girl, I would be the sporty one, not the glamorous one!

  6. October 14, 2009 1:23 pm

    Very good post. I have been building a wardrobe over the last few years, but I tend to completely leave out the accessories (tights, belts, hats, even boots) that would really make the quality pieces I’ve invested in into quality outfits. I always just pick up another skirt or another dress when I want a change – rather than figuring ways to actually create a unique and self-expressing outfit.

    But then again, who do I think I am? Carrie on SATC? A Banana Republic Model? Sure I COULD wear some chic, carefully pulled together “outfit” to brunch or the mall or dinner. Or I could just wear whichever sweater/top and heels/flats and skirt/jeans I pull out first. Less hassle, less money, same experience. Right?

  7. October 14, 2009 5:51 pm

    The first thing I did when I was trying to develop my personal style was to save a bunch of pictures of outfits I loved. I tried not to focus on things that were clearly piece-of-clothing based (e.g. no saving an outfit with a fur capelet because I was delighted by the idea of a fur capelet), and I tried to think up a time when I would wear it. Then, I focused on the silhouette, e.g. in the picture on the left above, it’s just a long cardigan belted over a pencil skirt. I then take that silhouette and apply it to clothes I actually own. So maybe I don’t have a sheath dress, but I do have a pencil skirt. Or what I really like about it is the belted cardigan, so I wear skinny pants with the cardigan.

    If I notice a common theme or object, I’ll add that to my shopping list. One time I saved about 16 pictures from a runway show, and later realized that every picture had a long cardigan belted over something – a dress, a skirt, or pants. I went out and bought a new cardigan and a skinny belt.

    The hardest thing, still, is overcoming feeling awkward when I’m more dressed up than anyone else. In CA, every time I dressed nicely for work, my boss would ask me if I was going on a job interview. If I wear a skirt to go out to a party, I’ll get comments all night. And they’re complimentary (usually), but as a person who tries to avoid attention, it makes me wish I was just wearing jeans.

  8. October 14, 2009 6:10 pm

    @sfordinarygirl – I think my issue is the things that often catch my eye don’t fit in well to my life, except perhaps a dinner date, and I really have a hard time justifying purchases I can’t at least wear to work. I like the idea of shopping for particular events. Does “going to work” count as an event though? That is my most frequent event. I finally think I have enough covered there that I can branch out into more fun stuff.

    @revanche – yes, a stylist is just what I need. Belts and layers and jewlery. not expensive, but I never seem to feel like buying them.

    @carrie – I just found a new site (via paranoid asteroid) http://www.fabfindsunder50.com/. She recenly had some contest where readers sent in photos of what they had, and she suggested additions and created a million outfits. I like to look at celebs too, but their lives are a bit diffent than mine (ha, understatement!) so they often wear stuff that just would get funny looks at the office

    @Meg – I agree, as in, I do pretty much the same thing. But I also think that it could actually be cheaper to pick up a new accessory or two than buy a new dress.

    @paranoidasteroid – your comment was really helpful. I 100% agree about the extra attention. I don’t mind if people admire me and think I’m stylish (haha) but I don’t want to actually have to talk about what I’m wearing!

  9. Chloe permalink
    October 15, 2009 3:37 pm

    I definitely feel you on this one! I love looking at J.Crew and Banana, but can’t afford their jewelry let alone an entire outfit. Lately I’ve been going for pieces that look good on me and flatter my figure, regardless if they’re from Target or Neiman Marcus (in my dreams).
    My boyfriend suggested getting one piece that I truly love and fits me well once a month from my favorite stores, and use that to bulk up my wardrobe slowly but surely. I think it’s a good idea, but also want to set up a little savings for that.

  10. October 16, 2009 10:27 am

    Very cute outfits… I’m planning to do some serious clothes shopping in the coming months too!

  11. November 2, 2009 2:54 pm

    I’m still developing a strategy as I move from hand me downs to college (broke!!!!) chic to casual working professional. The one rule I’ve come up with is this: I only ever buy basics or things I love. It only takes one or two fabulous pieces/accessories to make an outfit. Everything else just has to make those shine.

    Layering also seems key. It sometimes seems a little weird, but I also wonder why I never did it before because I’m always cold!! Right now I’ve got a blue toned purple under a red toned purple shirt. I didn’t think it would work until I saw it in the mirror. In other words, experiment. I think it helps a lot to take a little extra time dressing on occasion to just play around with what you have already. I often find an outfit that almost works but needs something. Then I can go out and get that thing I’m missing and have something new to play with. It’s a nice organic way to grow your wardrobe and you’re a lot less likely to end up having that one top that doesn’t go with anything. I generally won’t buy something unless I can come up with an outfit using it from what I already have.

    Like someone else pointed out, there’s nothing crazy weird about these outfits, they’re just well put together. Take what you have and experiment a bit. And ditto on saving pics and looking for common themes. That’s a fantastic idea!

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