I am always harping on about buying better and buying less, because I believe it’s the only sustainable way forward when it comes to well, anything, but in this case, style and fashion. That said, even I fall prey to either “wanting what she has” (whomever she happens to be at a specific time, and it’s usually someone with envious style, and yes I am constantly looking for inspiration from other women and men–it’s the editor in me), something that is “of the moment” but still teeters into that classic category so I feel I can justify it, or something that is wildly out of my comfort zone, because sometimes you think you want to be someone else for a moment.
How to avoid those traps? It’s not easy. In fact, today I am returning one of those types of items. I am not going to specify what it is, but it is expensive, falls into the “of the moment” category but is also something I’ve seen on some very chic women. This is the third and final time (!) I’ve bought and returned it. And I had to wait months for it this third time around, because it was sold out. I checked my Wish List on the site where they had it obsessively. I mean borderline ridiculous obsessive. Because of course once it was available, it sold out again immediately. I felt liked I won the prize when I managed to snag one again.
But I knew every time I put it on, it wasn’t me. I wanted it desperately to be, but for various reasons, it never made me feel amazing. Sure, every piece of clothing and accessory you put on can’t make you feel “wow”, but if you’re going to invest, it should. I wish I handled this better and not given in the third time. You’d think at my age and with my experience I would be more adept at ignoring the noise. Most of the time I am and now, more often than not, I am able to recognize it in time to remedy the situation (meaning return said item). As I continue to learn to live with less, how do I tune out the desire for the wrong things (and too many of them)?
- Make Wish Lists and Seasonal Clothing Lists. Each season, I create a list of the key items I want to wear and build a wardrobe around them. It is exactly like the Ultimate Packing List I talk about in my Wardrobe Project series. My list isn’t a bunch of new things, but mostly pieces I truly love, already have and can’t wait to wear again and then a few items I feel that I am missing. I will share my Spring List in a later post, but what’s missing from it right now are a good pair of black pants, some loafers and a navy sweater. Separate from this, you might have a Wish List. These can be long-term items you want, but that typically are expensive and/or hard to come by and therefore aren’t easily checked off. My Wish List included a classic black Chanel bag, which I now have. I don’t really have anything else on it, though some day it might include an Hermes Kelly and a couple pieces of jewelry. What you want to train yourself to do, is when you are about to make an iffy purchase, circle back to these lists and see if you should instead put that money towards checking off those items. Frankly, that said piece above would get me a lot closer to a Kelly bag, if I could just hold off for a while longer (and it might be a long while)–it would also more than pay for the black pants, loafers and navy sweater. All places where my money would be better spent.
- Stick (in a rather hardcore manner) to a Color Palette. I touched briefly on this in my last post, but really, the less all-over-the-place your wardrobe is when it comes to colors and styles, the more cohesive and sharper it becomes. Can you have the occasional wild piece? Of course. You can also exclusively wear floral prints. But create a repetitive palette and focus on certain silhouettes that make you look your best. All style icons stay narrowly focused in what they wear.
- Only Buy Iffy Items with a Return Policy. This one is self obvious, but if you’re unsure and you can’t return it, don’t buy it. Even if it’s a T-shirt. Stuff piles up. Plus, if you need to wean yourself off impulse shopping, return policies are key to helping get that under control.
- Forgive Yourself, Let it Go + Move On. We all make wardrobe mistakes. But don’t decide that because you bought something you don’t like or doesn’t work on you that you must keep it and wear it. Send it to a resale place. Give it to a friend. Donate it to charity. And if it’s one of those “but I spent so much money on it” items, well, lesson learned. Don’t beat yourself up about it, but next time try to be more conscious and thoughtful about what you bring into your life. Don’t hold onto things you don’t love, because there is someone else who will appreciate them. I remember Sarajane Hoare, a brilliant British stylist who worked for Bazaar under Liz Tilberis used to say any time someone was having a fashion fit over some Prada dress or the like, “It’s only frocks, for God’s sakes.” Amen.