Does it Fit vs. Does it WORK


Figuring out form over function with your clothes

Below you see two outfits that never hit the blog. They’re both perfectly fine outfits, but their main players – the dress and the utility vest – have long since been donated. Because while they may have fit just fine, they didn’t actually work for me.

fit vs work

I had been searching for a magenta dress with sleeves for ages. I wanted one I could wear on its own without layers. And when this one arrived and it fit, I was filled with glee. But after a handful of wearings I discovered that half-sleeves are not nearly warm enough for winter wear, and that the deep V in the back was a very pretty feature but left me totally freezing.

Even in warmish weather. The sleeves were pretty thick, so layering a blazer or jacket over the dress made me feel like a sausage. And possibly look like one. I was so excited that it fit, I didn’t give much thought to whether it had all of the characteristics I needed for it to work.

The utility vest was bought on sale for a pittance, and was a piece I’d seen and loved on other women. Again, it fit, so I committed to it and removed the tags. And after several wearings I realized that it hit me right where my hips are widest, drawing attention where I’d rather it weren’t placed. But perhaps more importantly, it didn’t mesh with my style or wardrobe.

It didn’t work with the dresses and skirts that were my mainstay a year or so ago, and it didn’t really work with my badass looks, either. I tried it in both mixes, and it just looked goofy. This outfit was as close as I got to making it work … but it still barely passed muster.

I spent much of my childhood hating the way clothes looked on my body and now, decades later, I can still be blinded by decent fit. If an item I’ve been wanting and seeking out fits me well, I will sometimes buy it before thinking through exactly how and when it will be worn. Because it fits! When I’m wearing it, I don’t look at myself and see a potato sack full of live weasels! REJOICE!

It took me many, many missteps to figure it out, but now I try to seek a good fit and also think more carefully about how new items will function within my wardrobe. I still bung it up sometimes, but I’m learning. And if I have any doubts, I’m more likely to attempt to create at least three outfits around a new item before I remove tags.

Do you find yourself with items that fit but don’t work? Are you like me, and just over the moon when something fits and looks good?

Any tips for gauging whether or not a new piece will actually work?

main image: leather fashion fashionista // cc

Originally posted 2015-05-04 06:55:31.

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19 Responses to “Does it Fit vs. Does it WORK”

  1. E.W.

    It’s always so reassuring to hear someone say “I don’t have it yet but I’m learning.” In general! As for fashion – sure this happens to me too! Specifically with a utility vest – which I bought solely for the fact that I saw it and liked it in the blogosphere…and which I have worn twice in two years (and which, even more embarrassingly, hangs in my current Spring capsule wardrobe sort of aspirationally). I even altered it a little to fit my shape better proportionally, so it’s not fit. I just don’t wear it. I’m not sure if it’s that I haven’t figured out HOW to wear it, or if I feel self-conscious when I do wear it (but why? now that I think of it I lived in vests in high school when I felt actually very comfortable in my skin)…I just am not devoting much energy into trying the look out. Indeed, trying out a LOOK in general makes me feel self-conscious these days. I’m not sure what I’m saying: is it more that this look doesn’t work for me, or is it that I’m not working hard enough to expand my looks? Meh. Anyway this post is thought provoking as always. Maybe I’ll give the vest another shot today, and get back to you.

  2. San

    This is a difficult one for me. I sometimes buy things I am not sure about, especially when they are cheap. Some of these things end up looking and feeling amazing, and others are hardly worn and given away/thrown out after some time. I hope I’ll have more experience over time and make wiser choices from the beginning.

  3. Nebraskim

    Yes yes yes to this. As a formerly fat girl, who still sometimes thinks like one (sorry), I was often initially blinded by the “oh thank goodness it zips up, this it must fit” thinking overriding the “does it flatter” and “does it work?” rubrics. I’m much better at that now and can very critically assess a garment beyond “it kinda fits.” Now, it must fit well right off the rack or be easily altered and it must integrate across seasons and with multiple existing pieces in my wardrobe. I also am better about not reaching first for the XLs and reaching now for the mediums. But it’s an interesting journey.

  4. Ginger

    I have some tops that hit at the top of the thigh like that.
    One in particular has colors I love. I finally decided it does better with a skirt than pants.

    My biggest rule is that if I buy something that has some unflattering element -even if I love the colors- that I am not allowed to buy anything else to try and make it work. If I can’t make it work then it has to go.

  5. Lisa Wong

    Oohh yes, I’ve fallen prey to this “Does it fit vs. does it work?” conundrum before, but I’ve never been able to capture it in words as concisely as you have, Sal! I’m learning what works for me and what doesn’t through trial and error. The latest example is denim vests. I love the way they look on others, but after I bought one and brought it home and snipped the tags, discovered they don’t really work with the dress and skirt silhouettes I favour. Plus, when the weather is hot the last thing I want to do is layer another piece over a tank or tee anyway. Oh well, live and learn!

  6. JB

    This really hits home for me. Growing up, I was always very small for my age, and in the 80s it was nearly impossible to find teen-appropriate clothing in tiny sizes. So if something fit, I bought it, because almost nothing did. Now that I’m a fairly unremarkable height and weight, and with the added bonus of online shopping, I find plenty of things that fit – and it’s sometimes hard to remember that there are other criteria to consider before purchasing. Thanks for the reminder!

  7. Suzanne Carillo

    As an avid thrifter, vintage and consignment store shopper I fall prey to this too often. Sometimes one can be so happy just to find something that fits, looks good and isn’t ripped in the racks of clothes that you forget if it will actually work with your personal style and life.

    I am getting better though. Part of it is due to the fact that my closet cannot hold anymore clothes.


  8. Rachel

    What a great post. I have clothes that I’ve hung onto for YEARS because they fit, even though I really don’t like something else about them. (especially pants. pants are the worst) I make myself wear them, but I never feel quite right. I should pay more attention to the actual piece of clothing, not just the fact that it fits.

  9. Megan Gann

    And there’s the aspect of – both outfits look great on you. Amazing, in fact. But if they don’t make you fill with that glee every time you style it, it’s not for you. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Does it work versus does it work for YOU

    • Mia

      EXCELLENT POINT, Megan. I was trying to think of how to articulate this same thing.

  10. Fashion Forward 40

    I have a closet full of things purchased because I was thrilled they fit my body. But don’t fit my style, or with the rest of my wardrobe. Been working on getting past the excitement of something fitting and giving it a harder look. But old habits do die hard.

  11. Bridgette Raes

    Hi Sal, I was really surprised when I saw this post because I thought you looked great in both outfits!! It’s a bummer that the dress didn’t work for you because the color is so vibrant and gorgeous on you. You look fresh, bright and, not to mention, slim! I also like the way you popped in some other colors via the scarf.
    I think it’s funny how we focus on things that nobody else sees. I always tell my clients that nobody focuses on our body flaws as much as we do. Everyone else is too worried about what you think of theirs. That said, I didn’t even notice how the vest was hitting at the wider part of your thighs. In fact, I really liked the shaping at the waist a lot and thought it made your body look very proportioned. Anyway, just wanted to chime in in favor of these two looks. I thought they were both quite lovely.

    • Sally McGraw

      Thanks Bridgette! I totally agree that we’re all our own worst critics, myself included. In these cases, though, the design features and shapes made the pieces too tricky/annoying to style. 😉

      • Bridgette Raes

        I hear ya. Yea, it’s a bummer when things come so close but not close enough. But that color, a definite for you!

  12. Hazel Stone

    My rule is this: in the changing room I put on clothes facing away from the mirror. Then, when I’m sure it fits, I turn around. If it doesn’t fit I take it off immediately, this stops me from falling in love with something that’s a no-hoper. If I grin when I see my reflection then it’s a keeper. If I don’t grin then I don’t buy.

  13. Cela

    I will buy a good fit and then find that the item sits in my wardrobe because it doesn’t go with anything else, but I still like to bring it out and try it on!

  14. crtfly

    I adore the dress and scarf on you. I’m so sorry that it didn’t work. Too bad. But you know what’s best for you.