have enjoyed the yearly wrap-ups on the forum a lot! You all were very thought-provoking, and here is the result…

Quite a while ago I asked the forum “When and how did your wardrobe ‘click’?” A very interesting discussion ensued! Although, I must admit, the recipe for “clicking” remained mysterious to me.

Well, I am here to tell you that somehow, sometime in 2023 my wardrobe appears to have ‘clicked.’ Around mid-November I started to notice a real ease in getting dressed. Like, I could go to my closet in the morning, pick an item, build an outfit around it, and get on with my day. If I had an event or occasion that was somewhat out of the ordinary I could generally find something to wear without too much stress. (I remember picking out an outfit for Thanksgiving dinner, I had about three possibilities that I thought of, tried them on and they all worked, thought through the practical considerations and picked the one that seemed to suit best. Received compliments!) It’s been wonderful.

So, we’ve covered the “when.” What about the “how”? I am less certain I know the answer here. But there are a few things that I think have contributed:

First, embracing the idea of having a larger wardrobe. I know this goes against the grain a bit on the forum and in the wider world, where there has been a strong strain of minimalism these past years. And, a tightly edited wardrobe *does* appeal to me in some respects. But, I think a larger wardrobe functions better for me, for several reasons:

  • Something about either my body or my style limits the mix-and-match-ability of my wardrobe. I admire people who can layer things in creative ways to get dozens of truly different looking outfits out of a handful of garments but I cannot. I find that items generally work best in one particular outfit silhouette for me. So if I want to wear more than one silhouette I need more items. Also I run cold so I need to layer! And I don’t mean layering a cardi over a sleeveless tank to “winterize” it. That’s a transitional outfit for me, not warm enough for real winter. So for the most part items don’t work across outfit formulas, nor do they work across seasons. All of that adds up to larger numbers in the overall wardrobe.
  • I am not very successful at “targeted” shopping — like, noticing a hole in my wardrobe and then going out and promptly filling it. Again a skill I admire in others! This might be down to some combination of being picky, being hard to fit, having a quirky style (what I like is not always widely available), and preferring to shop secondhand (for the record I am open to shopping retail but to be honest I’m just not that great at it!). But whatever the reason, I think it works best if I “stay ahead” of my needs and have multiple things that can serve a similar purpose in my closet. That way things wear out slower and if something does wear out before I am “done” with it and it takes me a while to find a replacement then my wardrobe can function ok in the meantime. My tastes change relatively slowly so I’m not that worried about tiring of something or things feeling “dated for me.” I do acknowledge that there are pitfalls to this strategy — I need to make sure that I don’t accumulate more than I can reasonably hope to wear, and I don’t want to run a clothing museum — but there are pitfalls to every strategy, so, pick your poison, right?
  • Getting more comfortable with said quirky style. Folks I have just turned 50 and have entered the proverbial “out of f***s to give” phase. Most people are not paying that much attention to what I wear, and no matter what I do wear someone will surely love it and someone will surely hate it so I may as well wear what I like. I just feel more at peace somehow with marching to the beat of my own drummer. I also want to give a shout-out here to Suz who in a comment at the end of my “week’s worth of Pinterest-inspired outfits” challenge offered the formulation “natural-dyed literati goes on an urban adventure.” Well! Reader, I loved it. I have really been enjoying playing with this formulation as a guide to getting dressed ever since. Something about it has felt looser, more playful than phrases I have previously used to define my style (Modern Land Girl and Girl on the Moors). I think it’s also been useful because for the first time it really acknowledges my city lifestyle within the style statement — and thus makes it easier to marry fantasy style with lifestyle reality. Finally, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on I think having a *verb* involved has been very useful. Maybe because it makes the style statement less static? I live a very quiet life but nevertheless it’s been fun to ask myself, “ok what urban adventure am I dressing for today?” It might be seeing a play with friends (Photo 1) but more likely it is just going to the grocery store (Photo 2). Perhaps this sounds silly but it has all helped me take more pleasure in these minor urban adventures, somehow!

Oddly, I only purchased about 10% more items this year compared to last. I don’t keep good enough records of discards to say whether I’ve gotten rid of less. But, I don’t generally get rid of things for the sake of reaching a certain number — so my guess is that a slower rate of discard doesn’t explain why my wardrobe has expanded. Which brings me to:

Second, I have lost some of the pandemic/perimenopausal weight that I have periodically complained about these last several years. I want to be really clear here. I truly believe that one can be attractive and stylish at any size. But I also cannot deny that it had been difficult for me to accept the changes in my own body! So, it’s a lot easier to be happy with my outfit when the body in the mirror looks like I expect it to and clothes do what I expect them to on my body. Also, from a purely practical point of view — now pretty much all of my clothes fit me, and fit comfortably. (So, this is where wardrobe size comes in — my wardrobe may not be all that much bigger in terms of numbers but it certainly feels more expansive now that everything is an option to wear.) How much of being happy with my outfit is simply being physically comfortable in my clothes? Well, quite a lot I expect! I don’t know how sustainable this weight loss will be of course but for now I am enjoying being able to wear more of my wardrobe again.

So, that’s the story of wardrobe “clicking.” Here’s my version of a top-five list:

  1. Best purchase: Dansko slippers/house shoes, on Angie’s recommendation. FINALLY, after years of searching, just the thing I was hoping for. Yes, they’re clearly slippers, but they make me feel JDE (just “dressed” enough) for at-home; are super comfortable; work across registers from loungewear to casual skirt outfits; etc; etc (You can see them in Photo 1 which I snapped before putting on my outside shoes). I expect them to wear like iron, but even so I’m tempted to duplicate to hold a pair in reserve. They are THAT good. Thank you so much, Angie!
  2. Best rediscovery: loafers, both black patent and nut-brown. (Seen in my recent Pinterest challenge series.) I hadn’t worn them at all in several years but this past autumn I’ve practically defaulted to them. Oh, and I’m wearing my tall black boots more than I have in a while too — bolstering confidence in my buy-and-hold strategy.
  3. Wardrobe achievement finally unlocked: Moor-tromping skirts! (Photo 1, and also Photo 3)
  4. Best unexpected workhorse: my silk foulard-print tee (Photos 4-5). This was one of those “I don’t really need it, but it’s a steal” purchases…and it proved really fantastic for slightly dressy occasions over the summer.
  5. Best new styling strategy: boho/block-print shirts with vintage-y cardis (Photos 6-9). I’m not sure quite where I got this idea? But I’ve really enjoyed playing with it. And I don’t think I’m done yet!

Priorities for next year:

  • Jeans refresh. (I think I’ve finally identified some skinny-alternative silhouettes that I want to wear and now it’s just a matter of making a few strategic purchases).
  • Pay attention to areas in which I tend to under-buy: outerwear, handbags, shoes. (Ok, I don’t *really* under-buy shoes, but I haven’t had great luck shopping for this category the last few years, burning out quickly on the buy-return cycle. So I need to pay some focused attention to footwear if I don’t want to end up limping — literally — along when it all gives out at once. Also, I think I’m due for a good shoe edit: time to admit that I have several pairs that I love the looks of but that aren’t comfortable and so I always pass over.)
  • BE DISCERNING. Cardiff Girl said it best, “don’t be afraid not to buy things.l have enough to wait for the perfect piece”
  • Make a dent in the mending/alterations pile. Oh, I know, I know! I say this every year. Maybe 2024 is finally my year!

And in the immediate term: I’m going to begin 2024 with a month-long no-repeat challenge. More on that shortly!

If you made it this far, you truly get a gold star -- and as ever I am interested in any thoughts, observations, or queries you care to share. Best new year's wishes to all!

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