Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Style Question Wednesday: Mind The Gap

Well, I have a question and it revolves around seasonal shopping.  And identifying wardrobe gaps.

A few days ago, I mentioned Fabulous Florida Mommy's seminal posts on Planning Your Fall Purchases.  It is such an amazing series of posts and was very helpful to me last fall.  Except, as I said previously, I made a list but did not stop at the list. If you want to read my optimistic list and feel my pain by all means stop in here.  You can feel the enthusiasm and certainty in my writing....

In reality, ALMOST every lovely new thing that caught my eye came home with me (actually, worse still it came in the mail to me, until the UPS man and I were accused of having a tawdry affair!).  Some of them went back.  Some of them have stayed.  Some have already gone to the JCA exchange or to the consignment shop.  We will not discuss this egregious lack of judgement on my part.    But...here is the thing...I wasn't sure what a "gap" was in my wardrobe!  And thus today's topic/question:





Oh sure - there are some obvious gaps.  Don't have a winter coat and live in Canada?  Yes, you ought to get one.  Jeans no longer fit?  Ditto.  But was the yellow skirt/grey skirt/apricot sweater/whatever I bought a gap in my wardrobe or was it just because I didn't have a yellow skirt/grey skirt/apricot sweater or whatever?

When I look at my fall list, I see that I never did find a white/ivory blouse that I loved.

I did find a new dressy coat, which I got as a Christmas present, but of course it has been so cold, I haven't worn it much yet.  It will have its day!


I wanted a pea coat (I got two!) which I really loved. 


I got a nice day dress that could go into night.  Except it never did.  Someday it will though, so I can live with that!


 I found a long sleeve party frock.


The colourful shoes I bought fell apart in November (cheap is as cheap does - my new mantra!):

PERILLOUX

I got my green bag,


 I got nice boots, but not quite what I was looking for. 

So in general, I did well with the list.  But I got caught up in the bright shiny objects and sales.  And I still believe I have too much in my closet.  I know that in comparison with others, I have a middling-sized wardrobe at best.  But for someone who struggles to make it all work, it still feels like WAY too much.

And what did I wear a lot of?  My two cheap Joe Fresh dresses bought for a song, my Paige premium stretchy black jodphur pants, my black ca va de soie pullover, my tweed JC cafe capris.  My JC polka dot blouses.  My jeans.  My Nougat London knit/silk dress with the pattern and my tippi cardis.  My new Brora cardi is already in heavy rotation.  Anything blue...What did I wear a lot of: clothes that I felt COMFORTABLE in.  Okay, I am starting to see a trend...

So today's question is relatively simple: how do you determine what your gaps are?  Please don't tell me you just realize you need a new suit; THAT I understand fully.  Perhaps I am mixing gaps with trends or just sheer greediness?  Some of you amazing ladies with wardrobes and style to die for - how do you identify what your wardrobe needs to pep itself up or what your gaps are?

If left to my own devices I would think that my gaps for Spring would be the following:

1) a really comfortable dress that I could dress up or down and wear anywhere - I am actually looking at Eileen Fisher at Garnet Hill
2) a nice new pair of in-style shoes that are VERY comfortable
3) a light pair of jeans

I can't think of anything else my wardrobe REALLY needs besides losing 10 pounds!  So I throw it out to you all: how do you identify your gaps?  How do you decide what trends you will participate in or NOT?

One thing, I know for sure: I will NOT be partaking in all of the JCrew trends in 2013. 

This doesn't mean I won't pick up a few things along the way.  But I will be much choosier.  Almost everything that I chose that was a) beautifully photographed and which I really desired but which I either could not really pull off or did not have the lifestyle for or b) just plain trendy, did not serve me well.  I returned so many things these past few months that I realized that I could no longer keep up with it all.  It wasn't a financial issue; it was a fashion fatigue issue.  Or maybe simply a J Crew issue?  Who knows?  Regardless, I have resolved to be pickier about quality and what will work on my own body, even if it does look divine on someone with the figure of say our beloved Dani or A Bigger Closet.

But I really need your advice on wardrobe gaps.  What do YOU think?

As always, I love your advice and wish you the happiest of Wednesdays!  Stay Safe out there!



81 comments:

  1. I'll be very interested to see what your readers say - they always have such great insight into these matters.

    I tend to buy what I fall in love with, which means I have plenty of clothes for 10% of my life, but never enough for the other 90%. When I stare at my closet for 10 minutes in the morning and complain that I have nothing to wear, I know I have a problem and it's time to shop for real clothes.

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    1. HI Merry Wife! I think we could be the same person. Plus i think I have too narrow an understanding of my wardrobe gaps - I understand coats and suits, but the rest I have left to my whim, which has been less than productive!

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  2. WMM, if by light jeans you mean white, or denim of a light color variety, I say go for it. But if you mean light wash jeans, I don't know. It screams 80s to me, especially if they're acid wash :-)
    I think darker denim is much more flattering and sophisticated.
    My gaps are a pair of black boots (it's incredible how hard it is to find a pair of boots with narrow calves! Please chime in if you know a brand that may work on a 12.5 calf), black wedges, and black pumps among others. I guess I really like color, and know there is stuff that I need, but just don't want!

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    1. Hey Anthro Blogger - noppe just a slightly lighter colour than indigo. No acid wash here (unless I host an 80s party!) I have very thin legs and have done well with Franco Sarto over the years, but I never could find the fitted black dressy boots I wanted this year - they didn't exist around here and I am loathe to order boots on the internet because in Canada we typically have to pay to return them.

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    2. Anthro Blogger, my calves are just under 13" so I feel your pain. Aquatalia has the Rumba stretch suede boots that fit my calves and I've seen a style of theirs with a stretch panel in the back. I think they design for a thinner calf in general, maybe give them a try.

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    3. Thanks xoxo - I love my Aquatalia boots - I may have to take a look at these ones as well!

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    4. Anthro Blogger, I have the La Canadienne Stefanie boots in black leather and they fit my 13" calves very well (although I also have small feet - size 6 - so that probably helps). They are totally waterproof and are great in the snow/slush as well. Here is the link: http://www.lacanadienneshoes.com/us/stefanie-black-leather.html.

      The Stuart Weitzman 50/50 boots are also great for people with small calves.

      Hope that helps!

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    5. Okay - now I have to go measure my calves! I have no idea how many inches they are!!!

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    6. 13" - you learn something new every day!

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  3. How funny you should post this as I was just staring at my closet yesterday (stuffed full) and lamenting that I had nothing to wear to meet some girlfriends for lunch. Oh sure, I've cocktail dresses coming out of my ears and sparkly sweaters and silk shirts. I'm like a magpie, drawn to pretty. I need to remind myself constantly to shop for the life I have (and maybe a bit for the life I aspire to ;-)

    I am lacking in the every day, comfortable yet still stylish category. If you want to host a garden party, New Year's Eve party, Horse and Carriage ride through the country then I'm your girl, but invite me out to a museum and a day of shopping then I'm in a conundrum.

    I do love reading your blog and I also religiously read DaniBP. I find myself quite often saying . . .What would DaniBP think of this?

    Thanks for brightening up my rainy gray days!

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    1. Robin - I ask myself the DaniBP question on a number of issues - she is so elegant and stylish! And kind!

      I think we could have the same life! I was literally heading to the museum today (although that may be cancelled as we now are getting the freezing rain) and I have clothes, but I don't have chic AND comfortable clothing! I have been looking at the Garnet Hill Website at the Eileen Fisher clothing. I want fitted/skimming clothing. Is that too mucn to ask for?

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    2. Awww thanks guys you made my day!
      And WMM you've hit the nail on the head: COMFORTABLE, or "what are you actually going to wear". This is why I like to shop for outfits. I have too many clothes but I do see a gap when I try to put on an outfit but am missing a top or a good pair of tights or whatever it might be. I know FFM advises putting the outfits together when going through the closet process, I think that works really well.
      And in the end if it's not comfortable who wants to wear it! So fabric and fit are so important. For years I shopped for the look of the thing rather than thinking about how I'd actually feel when wearing it.
      Looking forward to reading all of the comments here!

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    3. Dani - the outfits are the key I think - the book I told you about offline, the Wardrobe Wakeup (I will do a post on this when I am all done!) recommends "tonal" dressing, which I believe you and FFM, GF and Fred are always telling me! That's why I am contemplating the silk tunic from Brora that matches the sweater. But maybe that is too matchy-matchy! The horrors of it all!

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  4. WMM, this is such a good question.

    First, you should give yourself some credit! You have filled some gaps in your wardrobe. Yes, you made mistakes, but honestly, you always will! Hopefully their frequency just goes down :) I read some minimalist clothing blogs and even those people buy things that they don't wear.

    Second, my strategy - I think I have gotten better at this in the last couple of years, since I find myself a lot more able to wear more of my clothes.

    I try to notice when I look at something in my closet that I like, and say "I can't wear that because I don't have x." And when I notice that I am constantly lacking x, I try to go buy it. And a lot of times I have the "wrong" x, so that helps me be pickier with shopping, since I know the compromise purchase will just linger unworn.

    I started a little table this year in Evernote listing the "if only I had..." items, why I think I need them, and a (very approximate) tally of how many times I wish that I had each one. I'm hoping this helps me fill some persistent gaps that I always forget to shop for.

    For me, I notice that I always need bottoms and shoes, as well as some flattering long sleeved things to wear on top of dresses (since cardigans cover my waist, which is one of my best features). That's no surprise, since good dress toppers are hard to find, and I hate shopping for shoes and pants because well-fitting ones are hard to find.

    I still buy plenty too many tops, which are easy for me to find (and want!), but I'm at least trying to buy ones that I know I'll wear right away because I have all the other right pieces in my wardrobe!

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    1. Abby - a list when noticing such a gap is such a great idea! I think that could be really helpful!

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    2. Thanks :) I was thinking about sticking a piece of paper up inside my closet door, to write things down right when I thought of them!

      I forgot to comment about comfort - it sounds like that is a gap for you. What do you have that you would wear (e.g. you like the look, it helps complete an outfit), but don't because it isn't comfortable? That's a good place to start too.

      I started buying more with an eye to comfort, largely because of some health woes that made certain styles nearly intolerable, and it has made a big difference to me. Weird how long it takes to admit that comfort is primary! Also, I stopped eating sugar and now my clothes are more comfortable (not because of losing weight, which I didn't)...??

      p.s. I feel like I am so chatty in your comments. I suspect I'd really like having a coffee with you :)

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    3. Thanks Abby - I may try to sugar elimination thing - I am about to swear off bread except in the mornings again - too tempting. ANd my wine consumption is now very low. I am the pillar of good of moderation these days as I work my way back!

      Well I am sure we would love having coffee together! I am home all day so just drop right on by! I just love getting up and hearing what everyone is saying - people are much wiser on most of these issues than I!

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  5. I found that by switching my category's up or down a notch, I had less gaps. In other words, rather than reaching for the less expensive piece in my wardrobe, I would put on the nicer one. If I wore an item to death last year, I replaced it this year with a piece that cost twice as much. I spend more money on my daily casual clothes than my dressy things as a rule. They get worn more often so need to be higher quality and I feel better wearing them. If I focus on buying what I absolutely love, and shop in more expensive departments, I seem to value the clothes more and feel better wearing them. The bonus is, I actually spend less in the long run because the "glow" of their purchase lasts longer, just based on their cost. I add small amounts of "on trend" elements to my wardrobe seasonally, but they need to be age appropriate and something I won't see a 25 year old wear. I take the trend and knock it down a notch. I'm finding J Crew tougher to shop at because they're focusing on a younger silhouette than I can pull off. Upscale brands do the same looks but usually in a more age appropriate way for me.
    Trends usually have a five year lifespan, so I'll invest in it during the first or second year, then get 4-5 years wear out of it.
    I tend to not have too many gaps because I have a sort of "look" I stick with. When I stray too far from that formula I end up buying orphans and imposters which waste my money and scream at me "who did you buy that for Jennifer?"
    Another pitfall is online shopping...it can be so attractive on a 20 year old 6 foot model and then look so bad on my 56 year old 5'4" body.

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    1. Bowing to your wisdom, Well Styled Life!

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    2. I agree Tabs - great advice Well Styled Life! If you don't me asking, which brands habe you turned to now? I agree completely on the casual clothes. I think i have not done that, except for the odd pair of pants (those paige jodphurs again, which were pricy but so worth it). My casual clothes tend to the trendy ones and the least comfortable and thus often avoided. It has been most striking right now where I am on the sabbatical and avoiding my really dressy clothes. I think if I go back I would stick to a work uniform of about 10 items - 2 suits, 2 other blazers and two pairs of lovely trousers (all of which I have) and maybe 4 nice blouses and leave it and start to focus on casual chic.

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  6. My biggest gap is a summer coat, it rains so much here and I don't have a light coat that I can wear with dresses or even over a t shirt and jeans, I don't like how jackets cut a dress in two so that's an obvious gap for me and I got rid of my jeans so they will have to be replaced - I'm sizing up. Also come autumn my cords will have to be replaced as they are just too too tight. I've had a revelation - my clothes are all too skintight and it isn't attractive on an older woman, it reeks of 'trying to hard.'

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    1. I am about to pull my too tights out of the closet and store them till next fall. My doctor assures me that as my energy returns and sleep gets all on track, I will easily lost the 10+ pounds I have gained, and I am loathe give them away before I know for sure - too much money!

      But I agree - I want things that skim in a flattering away over my lumps and bumps..

      How long is your linen slicker? or is it even rainproof?

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  7. I really like A Well Styled Life's strategy. And like most, shopping for the pretty is more fun than the basics. What I know I need for spring/summer is a dress for my daughter's high school graduation (sorry it's an opportunity for something new), shorts that I feel comfortable in, and two new bras (but I will have to get those soon). I have also been thinking about the gold sandals at j crew. They look perfect but I have been down j crew shoe torture path before..in fact I have given up on my Mona Patent shoes. I tried soooo hard to "break" them in.

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    1. Hi Blue Booby! I actually just ordered a new bra! And my son is graduating this spring as well, so that dress on my list is a need as well. I agree - for someone like me who loves the shiny object, the pretty is so much more interesting than the basic. However, I do have lots of good basics now so surely I have enough. Maybe I have enough of everything for awhile? I may be a candidate for the 3-33!

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    2. The 333 might be a good idea for you, WMM.

      I started to try it, but then I realized that I repeat outfits all the time, and that actually what I needed was a "variety" challenge!

      I took a page from AJC's book and started doing theme weeks - all dresses one week, all skirts the next, etc. - and that has been helping me see what I actually like and don't like in my closet, and encouraging me to make new outfits. It also helps me find gaps - oh, turns out that I never wear button up shirts because I don't like them with pants, and I have no comfortable skirts.

      I've also just tried wearing a different outfit every day of the week, same idea.

      Actually, I like repeating clothes/outfits, so I think I should jettison a great deal of my wardrobe!

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  8. About the shoes, I just got a beautiful pair in that bright blue suede, lower wooden heel, for $99 at Coach! They're called Zoee. The quality is really nice and they are SO comfy! http://www.coach.com/online/handbags/SearchResultsView?storeId=10551&catalogId=10051&langId=-1&quickOrder=yes&searchKeyword=zoee&cacheKeyword=ZOEE#109762

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    1. Thanks ELizabeth - I am going to check those out - Coach is such excellent quality!

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  9. Before I came to your page, I saw that J. Crew posted its new arrivals this morning and I filled up my fantasy shopping cart just for fun. I like to put anything I want in the cart and then look at the cart and see what the result was. The result was mostly practical casual clothes that I already somewhat have, with a few impractical beauties thrown in there. 5" chino shorts in new colors, sunglasses, the chambray shirtdress, fleece shorts and skinny sweatpants, merino sweaters, a couple of pretty blouses (Liberty & butterfly) that I have no place to wear, and a fun tee. Result: not a single "need" in the bunch. I apparently just like pretty colors and patterns and I find that I am "collecting" certain things such as 5" chino shorts and J. Crew sweatpants/shorts. I love it all, but not a single thing fills a wardrobe gap. That's the bad news. The good news is, aside from the butterfly blouse, these are things that I wear all the time and they would not sit in my closet with the tags on. So I've learned not to buy things that don't fit my lifestyle, but not when to put the brakes on when it comes to having too much of a good thing. This is great insight to have before shopping, thank you!

    My conclusion is that I don't have any wardrobe gaps. And that losing 10 lbs would expand my wardrobe.

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    1. Cate - you made me laugh out loud! I just went and visited and was surprised to see some things I liked as the lookbook was dismal for me!

      I have too much of certain things as well. I like pencil skirts, but I am finding they are completely impractical except at work. I bet way too many last summer! And since I am not working, they sit in my closet! As well, I was thinking they were making me look shorter at time as they were cutting me off at the middle. The good thing is that I can take some time to really decide what I actually need!

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    2. I've learned my lesson with pencil skirts, not one more may enter my house. I don't have many, but they are not practical for me and I don't wear the ones I have. They are for my aspirational life. Plus, they are unforgiving when it comes to my extra 10 lbs. I much prefer a dress or pants when I need to dress up and I am sticking to that as a hard and fast rule. I think they make me look shorter and cut me off at the middle too, if I'm not wearing them with the same tone on top.

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    3. I am with you on the pencil skirts. I have enough. (I reserve the right to change my mind if something fantastic comes out!) but I think that dresses, well-fitting, will be me plan from here on, along with some nice slim slacks!

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    4. WMM, those two dresses you posted above are just fabulous!!

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    5. thanks Cate - one of the few hits of my purchases this winter. Expensive, but worth it as they are timeless. Compared to some things sigh...

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  10. I think you already have a nice spring list going.
    For myself I can't identify "gaps" and stick to lists. I think that's just setting up for failure. I have decided to buy quality, quality, quality over quantity. I have always done that with shoes and it has served me well. Any time I stray and buy something bc someone else wore it well, or it just looks cute - I end up hardly wearing it and ease taille regret wasting my money.
    Evry season I try to figure out what items I simply need in order to complete the looks that I want. Sometimes I need a black sweater that will just got with everything from jeans to pencil skirts. Then I decide if its something that I want to last a long time, or just a season or two. I still try to buy a quality item, but if I only want it for a short while I try to find it at a cheaper price point.
    I guess basically for me it's more about specific looks that I want to be able to achieve during that season than it is about specific items. I want to have the items to achieve the looks.
    This spring I want a couple of new dressss for work and maybe 2 new blazers to freshen up the look. I also want a good pair of navy pumps and a good pair of dark purple pumps if I can find anything that I like. Otherwise, I might bite on a trend or two but only on sale. I also want a really good belt to wear with work pants. I am willing to splurge on that.
    I am always looking for a nice spring coat, but I never find one.
    Anyway, I think every season we learn something new about ourselves and our desires for our wardrobes. It's fun and I try to think of it that way. I had gotten caught up in the buy return cycle before and it's draining and absolutely not worth it. I now wait and think about every item and that has helped me tremendously. I also shop at places like nordies who allow you to return an item at any time and in reality I hardly return anything there.
    Can't wait until spring! Enjoy your day Wendy!

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    1. A! You are so smart about this! My new rule is also to not buy far in advance of the season. Spring will not arrive here until April. I have fallen prey to buying in January and then having it sit in the closet until late May! No good! I have decided to be much more disciplined and try harder. I will also think about the orphans in my closet and why they are orphans.

      One of the issues I struggle with is that when I make a mistake, especially an expensive one, I hate to backtrack, as I still really like the item. But there it sits and sits and sits....

      As you know, I am obsessing about quality and comfort these days and am looking around for other brands that can supply that!

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    2. Wendy, definitely don't buy too far in advance unless its something that you have been looking for like a killer dress or a hot par of shoes. And wear your nice clothes. I don't "save" anything for a special occasion anymore. I just wear it or don't buy it. I used to save it for some imaginary perfect time and by the time the event occurred the item wasn't so special and sometimes it wasn't even that in style anymore. Now I either decide that I am wearing it, or just leave it behind. And no regrets on anything that you chose not to buy. Something more beautiful is right around the corner. It's just clothes after all.
      Love your discussions. I am obsessing over purple pumps right now. This is a good reminder to cool it.

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    3. A - you are inspiring me to wear that damn cheetah skirt to do my housework in! It is still sitting in my closet, unworn! I may be the dressiest stay at home in my city!

      I tell myself constantly "there is always something better or newer right around the corner" - and the full price things I bought at JC last fall have languished on sale for bargain basement prices!

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  11. Great post! TODAY--rainy and windy--is my big closet clean out day; it's going if I don't wear it. Earlier this week, I got a boost from the homeless shelter when a call for anything warm prompted a sweep of the front hall closet and yielded a big bag of old ski gloves, hats. Even an historic JC roll neck sweater from the 90's I was saving for "gardening". My gardening wardrobe is massive so out this went.

    Dresses that are long enough, not too tight, and good fabric are my gap. I will need graduation dress as well which i will wear to a family wedding, all in May.

    I think the weight thing does encourage us to keep trying to get a look right; if we just got to the desired range it would save money. I am expert at weight loss in our 50's!

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    1. If you are an expert at weight loss in the 50s, by all means, do share! I am only now starting to get my energy up and starting to feel like exercising again!

      I am seriously thinking of another closet reorg - I found tshirts (albeit inexpensive ones) stuck in a drawer yesterday that I didn't even know I had. Yikes! Still had tags on them. How silly is that?

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  12. I filled what I think was my "last" wardrobe gap when I bought those Theory blazers this Fall, the navy double-breasted one and the black one. Technically I should only buy replacements (white tees, a new white pair of jeans) but as you know I am distracted by the beautiful clothes that I see everywhere around me in my everyday life! My real problem is that at this point I have clothes to last me a lifetime so my wishlist should consist of one of two pieces each season that should really make a difference. For example those Phillip Lim shoes would probably be the perfect pair for me to own but I can't push myself to spend $450 in a pair of shoes and be done with shopping for the rest of the season. The problem is, I will spend those $450 anyway even if broken down in smaller purchases that won't have the same impact in my wardrobe.
    Sorry if I am of no help!

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    1. But Ema - you are right on with your comments! That is what I have struggled with - I want the $400 shoes or skirt, but have been unwilling in the past to give up the other $400 items as well. I don't know how you do it living in NYC - I would always be shopping - so many nice things!

      FFM always says it is about choices and priortizing. I do neither of those things well!

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  13. WMM, what works for me is Polyvore. I will go to make a set and realize that I have no white tees, or no black blouses, or whatever. It at least gets me thinking. I have used it to make sets of say, all of my dresses, all of my long sleeve blouses. It was eye opening.

    That said, I also buy way too many crazy things when they go on sale (hello black tie silk capris!) that don't really fit my lifestyle, just because they are pretty. Not sure when I am ever going to stop doing that. I have at least curtailed it a bit!

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    1. That is the one thing I have not done yet - polyvore! I have picked up pinterest a bit but haven't tried that! I need to learn how to clip from other sources as some of my brands aren't there! Thanks for the advice! And I am sure you will find a way to make those pants work (to quote Mr. Gunn!)

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    2. Polyvore is intriguing, but how do you get your clothes in there? I feel like a) that would take forever (a sign I have too much clothing), b) I wouldn't know where to find my clothes, since a lot are pretty old!

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    3. That is my question, too! Okay ladies - how do you do it????

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    4. The main way is to use the Clipper, a browser bookmark that easily lets you import. It's at the bottom of the page under the Help section. A lot of old JC, BR etc. items are still available online if you search. I found it's a good idea to add new items as soon as you buy them. You can also try old (closed) EBay listings for the images etc. although this is not an ideal source. **To use your own images get a Tumblr or some other account that clips to Polyvore, download the Polyvore Clipper, click on the photo you want to clip on Tumblr and then click the button that says "clip to Polyvore".**

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    5. Thanks GF, that's helpful.

      I have an excel file of my wardrobe, but it's not very colourful :)

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    6. GF is Executive in charge of knowing this good stuff - don;t know what I did before she came into my life! And I mean it!!!!

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    7. I also have a blog called 'Polyvore Pictures' that I set up a couple years ago to upload my own photos of clothing from my closet that isn't on polyvore, so that is another option.

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    8. thanks FFM - great idea!

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    9. FMM that is a great idea. WMM it's lovely to be appreciated for my "geek who wants to be chic". Abby, I also have an Excel list now. It scared the pants off me to see all my closet written down and what of it was actually worn regularly. Particularly traumatizing/ shocking because I have only lived in a winter climate for a bit over a decade. When it was shorts, sandals, shift dresses replaced every couple of seasons due to wear it was considerably smaller, simpler.

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    10. I am going to make mine tomorrow. I will probably weep! Geek who wants to be chic! That is killing me it is so funny. I am fifty wanting to be nifty!

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    11. Oh Wendy wouldn't that be ...I am fifty wanting to be thrifty!
      Hey GETFRESH you're becoming my new Martha Stewart as I'm learning lots from you. Thanks

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    12. The fact that some of us have excel files is truly a testament to the "geek who wants to be chic" label!

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    13. It is too funny and so smart!

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  14. GAP YEAR WMM, so many excellent comments here already. As someone whose weekday style has evolved significantly, based on workplace and occupation, over the past year, my .99 never final sale cents, in no particular order:
    - GIVE IN & LIVE NOW Dress for yourself and the majority of your life now. I only recently got comfortable with reality that even in a home office I like to be a little bit more dressed up than many of my daily circle. My acid test for any day-to-day outfit is: does this outfit make ME happy (comfort implicit), would I be good answering the door in it, will I be grumpy if the cat sits in my lap or neighbour's daughter pastes me with biscuit goo? Like "A" said earlier and your peacock jacket reminds me, don't save stuff (other than a minor weight adjustment or tailoring) for "good", for "gardening" in excess, or for "someday far away".
    - FOCUS As part of your sabbatical organizing, I think it's a great idea to move formal work clothes your are not wearing right now to another closet etc. Concentrate on what your current uniform(s) are. Although I love black & ivory, I found them to sombre for my current life, so the curated "office & event collection" moved to one end of a spare room closet. I can still see them, and I have a detailed list of what's there, but they are not cluttering up my current mornings.
    SOUL-STIRRING? I'm trying to buy items that only make me feel like a million bucks psychologically and physically (regardless of price) or are the foundation for something I own that already feels that way. Do I simply think it's pretty, or lovely on someone else, or is it really part of my clothing personality? When I am online my gap questions are: Would I wear this today without having to buy anything else? What would I need to make a complete outfit? Does it fit with the faves in my closet?
    BASIC HAPPINESS Somehow in North America it seems like we often equate basic with boring, instead of satisfying. But the money I spent this fall-winter on gaps - a great mid-width belt, that Eileen Fisher skirt (the only pencil I can wear regularly in my current routine), a new non-black JC winter coat early in the season and DKNY legging style pants have made two dozen items in my closet more wearable and given them a fresh feel. Plus I really have been making a point to make a simpler look a great backdrop for scarves, bracelets, a special necklace etc. that were previously often neglected in my morning rush.
    SEASONING I tend to concentrate my gap funds on our dominant season and the one I like to shop in most, fall and winter. But I recently discovered this meant I had no informal summer dresses. I also have/ buy too many shoes I can't wear outside. So in addition to actual lifestyle, I think identifying seasonal realities, habits and gaps is key.
    BE KIND (to yourself) & HAVE FUN I've come to think of what I wear a bit like a balanced lifestyle elsewhere, a take-off of Michael Kors 70% (essentials), 30% (fun & trend) guideline. Mostly staples that are good to me, but earmarking a couple of trends, seasonal colours etc. I really like and then trying to do these relatively inexpensively - Zara, online sales including JC, ASOS etc. I do find blogs ("similar here", FFM's weekly post) really helpful for this. That way I don't get bored or feel too constrained by the "practical" gaps.
    WORK IT I also have to constantly remind myself that filling the real gaps usually takes time and effort - that just-right pair of jeans, comfortable and stylish boots, feel fabulous occasion dress etc. might not be found on my first foray to one retailer. But that doesn't mean I should stop or settle or skip going to the tailor.
    Hope you can glean something helpful from this closet confessional. And I appreciate the club's Wednesdays!

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    1. GF - this is so awesome - I don't know where to begin!

      Am going to pull all formal clothes out and put away from now - that is helpful on many levels not only re: closet space but also giving me emotional space and not putting my mind to work things by looking at my work clothes every morning when I go to get dress! Starting this morning, I am now doing the comfort test - I want to look pretty and smart while I am on sabbatical, but also feel comfortable. Yesterday I wore a VERY uncomfortable marc cain knit skirt. It is going away for awhile, perhaps to be seen next winter and revisited, if not consigned. Today, I put on my cheap monoprix dress that I have only worn twice, my tippi cardi and michael kors booties and feel like a million bucks - very comfortable and pretty. If I do not feel like that, things are not staying. Ilove your concept of basic happiness and in fact, put on two necklaces this morning on what was otherwise a simple outfit and it really made it all pop for me.

      Really great advice!!!! And I REALLY appreciate these wednesday club meetings!

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  15. Hi WMM - for a while now I have been filling some gaps in preparation for our upcoming cruise in March. I now have enough dresses for dinner, but need new white trousers and sandals. Otherwise, I pretty much wear a uniform of jeans/cords and tops, so I just add to that if I see something I like. One purchase I do intend to make - a couple more of the Lands End polo dresses for summer; they are so comfortable and practical and they look good.

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    1. Hi Patricia - I may try one of those polo dresses this summer - I know you swore by them last year! I am so excited for you for this cruise! ANd what I great thing to use for shopping for your gaps - will be great for your summer wardrobe!

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  16. Is there a perfect white shirt? I am always looking, as well as for that elusive pair of perfect jeans/black pants. I definitely default to the more comfortable items in my closet, but I also realize that if I feel confident and feel as if I am in shape I magically seem to have more wardrobe options. I recently made a personal goal of not buying jeans, but of making myself find a way(diet and exercise) to fit comfortably in the ones I own. Two months of deadlines and cold weather significantly cut into my exercise time, and I feel as if I was munching to stay awake. Sometimes, I don't think it is the clothes, but rather the person in the clothes that makes all the difference. And, I think an investment in a better smoother bra will make my white shirts look better too. But, I'd always prefer to spend my money on something less utilitarian.

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    1. I hear you! I ordered a new bra yesterday to replace one that was getting worn - a chantelle tshirt bra. Got it for a good deal, but still..I am feeling like that about a lot of my clothes - that I would prefer to lose the 10 pounds (mainly for health reasons) and fit back into my clothes perfectly!

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    2. Chantelle was my first "nice bra" :)

      A good bra is so very very worth the money. You need to get fit at a good place.

      This might be an odd confession, but one of the things I always notice on clothing blogs is if the person wears the right size bra or not!

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    3. Oh I am with you! I was fitted at a good spot downtown and buy my bras there usually, but they are so expensive and I can find them on Ebay, NWT, at a fraction of the price I pay here!

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    4. My perfect white shirt is the J. Crew stretch Perfect Shirt (Haberdashery). I have it in full length sleeves and 3/4 length.

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    5. I have that one too Cate, but not in the 3/4 sleeve. that might be a good try!

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  17. I am fairly methodical about identifying gaps. In some cases I need to replace something that I wear all the time, ie white t-shirts, or to fill a gap, ie, black pumps and sandals. I have 2 small closets to my clothes are divided by season and I have not even thought about what I need for spring because it is too cold to worry about it. Even though I need to be very disciplined in my purchases due to budget and the reality of my lifestyle, I allow myself some wiggle room for special things I didn't know I needed. For example, the new brocade top at J Crew-not a "need" but something that could work for me if it fits and feels great. I agree that comfort is key and finding the balance between style and comfort can be a challenge. You're on a great path. I can't wait to see what you find. BTW-I'm right there with you on the 10#, though I have more to loose than that :-(

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    1. Julie - we have excuses - your feet, my stress! We will get there girlfriend!

      Good idea on the splurgeworthy wiggle room!

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  18. Thank you for the lovely mention, WMM! What wonderful comments and excellent advice from all the ladies who have shared! I completely agree with all of them. :)

    I also think that building up the part of one's wardrobe for 'at home' daily life is important. I really like A Well Styled Life's strategy for day-to-day dressing, and have been doing it myself for awhile now, too. It really does make more sense to invest in quality items that make you feel wonderful and that you will wear repeatedly, then to buy items you like just so-so, that only get worn once or twice, IMHO. As I've said before, I find that I have actually been spending less money overall, but enjoying my wardrobe much more by doing this.

    For me also, wearing an outfit each day that makes me feel good about myself, (not to mention is very comfortable) is important. My entire day goes better when I take the time to fix my hair, makeup, and put on something nice. Plus I am ready to face whatever the day may bring with confidence. :)

    Besides using Polyvore to catalog your wardrobe and create outfits, you might also try taking pics of the outfits you love. This way you can easily put together a look on those days when you just don't know what to wear. All you have to do is look back at your pics and pick an outfit. (This also works using Polyvore).

    Remember that everyone slips up now and then, making a questionable decision, or even a mistake (or two, or three), so try not to be hard on yourself if/when it happens. I personally think you are making incredible progress in your personal style journey, and that you should be extremely proud of yourself! :)

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    1. Oh FFM - I do love you and your positivity! Today was a good day outfit-wise! Or I think it was - will put it in tomorrow's post for the feedback!

      I thought A Well Styled Life was brilliant - i am now keeping track of that. I am actually thinking of doing what someone else suggested - the list (I think it was GF)of what I own and what I wear - especially for a few weeks so I can see some patterns - might help me for next fall!

      I do agree on the slip-ups. I am trying to be really good and am hoping everyone will help me do so!

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    2. Btw, I wanted to let you know that your kind words about my post made my day today! They were a much needed encouragement to my week! :)

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    3. well I think you have a book in you!!! I really do!

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    4. Heehee...well, possibly someday. I do always have quite a bit to say, and am actually quite chatty IRL, but for some reason I just can't get it put into writing. I have written a kazillion blog posts in my head, but yet only a few of them have actually ever gotten published for that same reason. I did write quite a bit in my younger years, but once I had my boys it became increasingly more difficult for me to do so, and still is. Perhaps with practice I will be able to once again. :)

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    5. Oh I wish I had more brevity! I talk too much in real life, talk too much on the blog! But I am having fun and like to think others are, too, which is really all that matters!

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  19. Like others I keep a notepad in my closet and write down items I feel are missing. Sometimes they are vague like "more clean-front silk blouses for under suiting" and sometimes they are very specific like "Equipment Bret silk shirt in dark grape".

    Where are you going/what are you doing when you find you have nothing to wear? What would you like to be wearing there/then? If you can picture it you can put it together, if not with what you have then by sourcing it. For the museum visit you mentioned I would totally wear a wool pencil skirt with a sweater, tights and tall boots. Pencil skirts don't have to always be worn in an office setting. I know that is too formal for many women but it doesn't have to be if the rest of the outfit is casual. J.Crew tries to send this message with the styling of their pencil skirts and I jumped on that bandwagon long ago.

    I have been beating the drum on buying quality since JCA blog started in 2008 (I joined when Alexis had about as many members as you do now). Attention to quality is important but if it's not your style it doesn't matter how well-made it is. I wonder how many women out there would actually wear and be comfortable in a Chanel suit when there are so many comments about it being matronly (not here today but what I've seen). The proper fit is key as well. You want to look good and not be fussing with your clothes.

    One more thing - dress and shop for the size you are today. If you do lose the ten you can always adjust your wardrobe and many things will still be wearable anyway. It is defeating to have a number of too-small items in your wardrobe and they take up space too!

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    1. xoxo - great points! I may have a bit of the midwinter doldrums - we have so much snow here now and slush that sadly non-winter boots are not an option yet (although to be fair I do have lovely winter boots in many colours)

      Your questions are great and very probing. I think I may have many things, but they don't all feel comfortable. It isn't even the 10 pounds - I think it is about paring down some and really loving what is in my closet. In general, I find that the better quality items are more timeless for me - I do not regret them. It could be about entering another phase in my life and trying to decide how I want to present during that phase. I know I felt really comfortable today - style-wise and fit-wise and all ways-wise. So i am going to start keeping track and moving on from there. Thank you so much!

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  20. So much great advice out there. I've found over the years that I tend to reach for the same items in my closet, so what I've done, is just to pare it down so that I have only the usual stuff I'd reach for, in slightly varying colors. I wear either blue or black denim jeans everyday, so a variety of washes. Good tee shirts, good cashmere sweaters, Equipment silk blouses, short boots and I'm good to go. I have to dress down once I get to my studio! Put on my paint covered jeans, sweater, and boots, which I leave at my studio. LA is very casual, I like to be comfortable, and I think I know by now, what I look the best in, or in any case, what makes me feel my best. I don't push myself out of my comfort zone anymore, as it as inevitably been a waste of money. And I never buy for a "what if" occasion. If one happens, there are plenty of stores, and you never know what the "what if" is going to be anyway.

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  21. Great advice Kathy - I think my sabbatical wardrobe is allowing me to be my truer me, in that I am able to only dress the way I want. It is quite fun!

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  22. This is a great thread of comments! I have recently identified one specific gap based on the fact I am always trying to reach for such an item but own few: v neck cardigans which are not long. I want them to go over dresses and other outfits and let the outfit peek out, hence a v neck, not jewel neck. I have several long cardigans (hello JCrew) with v necks but not shorter ones. This is a super specific gap and now I am looking for that. Funny how I shop (and buy) all the time but when I am looking for a specific item, very hard to find!

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    1. HI Margaret!

      Oh now I am going to sound like a Dani/GF disciple, but I must say Brora has some that would fit the bill! The one I just got hits me at mid-hip and I am short 5'2" you could check the measurements!

      (see it here: http://onecantgetoverthehabit.blogspot.ca/2013/01/the-real-thing-as-written-by-late.html)

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    2. Margaret - FYI - I re-asked your question on Friday (today) post and folks had lots of good ideas for you - hope that helps! wendy

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