Transitioning to a new aesthetic (details here and here) meant getting rid of LOTS of stuff, and also meant doing some very fun shopping. A group of beloved and versatile items made the transition, but I was a little optimistic in thinking that I could go from a style that focused on pumps, cardigans, and fit-and-flare dresses to a style that focused on jeans, sweaters, and drapey tops without adding anything to my closet. Or without adding anything much. In most cases, I sold or donated several items when I bought a new one – often funding the purchase with consignment proceeds – and brought in lots of secondhand and new items that aligned with my vision of badassery.
But I also had to shore up an ability I’d been trying to cultivate for some time: Admiring a fashion item from afar without needing to own it myself.
This was especially relevant in transition since I still LIKED the look I was leaving behind, but no longer felt compelled to actually wear it. Also generally relevant because, although I was building, I wanted to keep my wardrobe smaller and more focused than it had been previously. And although this tactic is especially helpful when something is out of your price range, it’s useful to anyone who has limited storage space or a limited budget. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered loving things from afar, but I’ll share what I’ve learned and ask you to chime in with your experiences and tips.
Be honest about style and fit
Exploring new cuts and styles is an important and valuable practice. After all if you stick to the same things forever, you’ll stagnate. BUT. You likely know that certain cuts and styles don’t work for your figure and needs, but you’re still drawn to them. This becomes especially dicey when you see one of these items styled exquisitely on a model who may or may not have a body shape resembling your own. It fits her well, but will it fit you like that? If not, is it still a smart buy? Be honest with yourself about which styles and fits will actually work on YOU, and which ones are fun to look at on others.
My weakness in this area: Boxy Eileen Fisher stuff shown on tall lanky gals. (As shown above.) Oh how I love that look, and oh how it doesn’t love me back. Even though it fits into my new style, wearing it doesn’t make me feel my best. So I drool from the sidelines.
Be aware of inventory and use patterns
Let’s say you’ve got your eye on a pair of ankle boots. You love this style of shoe, and already own three pairs. Is this new pair significantly different than the others? Is it different in ways that work for you? (If your other pairs are flat and this one has a 3.5″ heel, that makes it different … but not necessarily in a good way.) Do your other three pairs get worn equally, or are you wearing one into the ground while the others collect dust? If the former, adding another pair might make sense. If the latter, there should be a specific reason the new pair is a good candidate for frequent wear. Otherwise, perhaps they’re better admired than purchased.
My weakness in this area: Used to be handbags. Now it’s sweater dresses. The first group of tops I bought for my new aesthetic were lightweight and drapey with big, open necklines. And then it became fall, and then winter, and I realized I was gonna freeze, and decided sweater dresses were the answer. And they’re great, but I have one that’s a go-to and the rest are occasional. And even though my initial thoughts are always, “Warm! Cozy! Cute!” I force myself to remember the tidy little stack of sweater dresses already in my closet.
Be a stickler for versatility
There will be items in most wardrobes that can only be worn one way, but are still loved and worn. (For instance my tunics aren’t especially versatile, but they are in constant rotation.) So, ya know, grain of salt. But ideally most items – including new purchases – should have multiple applications. A handbag that works with office outfits and weekend outfits is a better buy than one that’s strictly casual. A pair of pants in a fabric that can be worn three seasons out of four is a great buy. Heavy, lined wool and cropped linen have their place, but if you’re looking at cost per use a more versatile fiber is the way to go. If you’re pining over something that doesn’t work across seasons or formality levels, consider seeking something more versatile.
My weakness in this area: Slouchy pants. Especially cropped ones. I have figured out how to make cuffed, boyfriend-esque pants work for winter by hiding my socks inside slightly taller booties, but my truly slouchy, drapey pants are lightweight and fluid by nature. They wouldn’t slouch or drape done up in thick ponte or stretch denim. I live in a place with 6-month winters and exposing my ankles makes me freezing. I am now attempting to ogle cropped, slouchy pants from afar.
In terms of the actual loving from afar? In most cases you’ll just do that when you’re shopping around and come across an item you love but shouldn’t buy. But it can also be helpful to actually stash images of these things somewhere, both so you can admire them aesthetically and so you can “have” them in an intangible way. Collages and inspiration boards will work – use magazine and catalog pages, printouts from websites and blogs, anything you can cut up or print out. Of course, if you’re a Pinterest user, you can make a board for your Imaginary Self and stash images there. If this practice is just going to make you pine harder, skip it. If you think a stash of eye candy might hold off unwise purchases, give it a shot.
Sometimes the things we want to wear are different from the things that we actually will wear. And learning to think, “I ADORE that … just not on me,” can help you differentiate.
Which items or styles do you absolutely adore, but only when someone else is wearing them? Other tips for figuring out what should be admired and not bought?
Images courtesy Eileen Fisher