In my last monthly recap, I briefly alluded to some things that were happening in my life on the sartorial front. I suggested that those things deserved their own post and, well, this is that post. If your tolerance for navel-gazing is on the generous side, read on.

So, just what is going on? A couple of things.

One, I’m going through some sort of style evolution. I know, it sounds super lame, but here’s the thing: I’ve started to notice an interesting pattern. There are certain outfits I love in the abstract but not necessarily in action (i.e. on me, going about my daily biz). Conversely, there are certain outfits that don’t seem especially thrilling in principle, but which I love wearing. Basically, there is an internal conflict going on right now between what draws my eye, and what makes me feel good – or, put differently, what makes me feel like myself. Things I love, like bold colourful prints and feminine/girly details, often end up feeling not quite right when I actually wear them. Anthropologie is a perfect example of this; I love so much of its aesthetic (especially in older pieces), but a lot of its clothes just end up hanging in my closet, to be lovingly gazed at and touched from time to time, but not worn.

What it comes down to is that my style, which used to be a lot more dichotomous, is becoming more cohesive. There will always be a boho streak in it, but it’s moving closer to the minimalist end of the spectrum, where it will eventually meet the other side of my style personality. I’m still working on pin-pointing the precise outlines of the emerging picture, but a couple of things seem to be clear:

  • Pieces that combine bold prints with extra girly/embellished silhouettes are (mostly) out. (I’m keeping some of my absolute favourites, because breaking up is hard to do, okay?) Going forward, I think I will be sticking to one, or the other, but not both at the same time. The bolder the pattern, the more streamlined the silhouette. In time, I expect that I will move away from girly/twee silhouettes entirely. (Think Joan versus Betty, to borrow a rather out-of-date Mad Men reference.)
  • Mixing bright colours is mostly limited to accent colours. I love looking at the outfits of colour-mixing masters like Elisa Nalin, but I just don’t feel nearly as sophisticated when I attempt that sort of look myself.

Two, I have reached peak thrift. Which is to say, I have become so good at it (through a combination of perseverance and luck) that I need to change my approach if I have any hope of maintaining my wardrobe at any sort of manageable level. I need to stop buying so many things! There are two ways to go about that. I could go thrifting less often. This is not my preferred option; I enjoy the process of thrifting as much if not more than its end result, and I would miss it (as a hobby and stress reliever) if I cut down on my visits. The second option is to become more discriminating in my buying. By necessity, I have to make this option work, but it’s not easy.

Believe it or not, I have actually become a LOT more discriminating than I used to be. I used to buy a lot of mall brands when I started thrifting, simply because the items were cheaper than retail and plentiful in supply. But as I started to become a more dedicated thrifter, I came to realize that finding high-end pieces was relatively easy, which made mall brands look like a far less attractive proposition. As my wardrobe expanded, and all its “gaps” got filled, I turned to “upgrading” existing pieces instead. Now, my closet is made up of probably at least 50% high end designer pieces (with the balance being mostly mid-range designer stuff) and there is increasingly little of it left to upgrade. So, what now?

I’ve been toying with a few new “rules” (even though I’m the kind of person who only likes to create rules not actually implement them) for my thrifting, such as:

  • No fast fashion/mall brands unless the item fills an identified closet “gap”. My Banana Republic Sloan pants are a good example — when my current pairs kick the bucket, I will probably be looking to replace them with other new-to-me Sloans.
  • One in, one out. I may make exceptions for items that are “special” (due to style, colour, fabric, etc.), but only if they made in the US or Europe. I want to make a concerted effort to focus on ethical clothing to the extent I can.

  • Only buying things that meet my new style criteria (see above). This one is a no-brainer.

    It remains to be seen how well I accomplish either of my goals (refining my style and thrifting fewer things), or I will to continue to (a) buy all the frilly things, and (b) treat thrift shops like my personal Rent the Runway service. If you’ve got tips to share, or want to commiserate with me on my “struggles”, drop me a line in the comments.

    23 Comments on Style Musings

    1. Great post! I really appreciate your intellectual approach to your wardrobe. This type of style evolution is familiar – I recently moved from lots of color to more monochrome – and it just feels better. With your excellent thrift skills have you ever thought about a resale shop of your own? Maybe spread the bounty via the Internet?

      • I’ve been thinking of different ways of doing that (in addition to the blog shop) and I’m definitely open to suggestions!

    2. Oh Adina, I feel your frustration at having reached the peak. I did last year and I had to really have a hard think about what to do. Somewhere I read about airline attendants and the fire risk of synthetic clothes (especially stockings) – and just like that, ALL of my new purchases are natural fibres, cotton, wool, silk, linen and modern ones like viscose, bamboo and lyocell. It really isn’t difficult (although some polyester knits are deceptive) and I feel much better about the biodegrability, sustainability and fire resistance of my clothes.

      • That’s a really interesting way of thinking about it! Thanks for sharing. I do try to stick with natural fibers as much as possible, but some of those poly prints are just too cute.

    3. Of all style blogging posts, these on personal style evolution probably interest me the most. I feel like I’ve noticed this transition in action over your last few “capsule” recaps, especially in regards to what you look the happiest in and record as your favorites. I hit a long snooze on thrifting over the last year (almost to the day!) after realizing that I was buying a large volume of things that I was excited to find, but not actually excited to, as you put it, put into action. My closet is much more cohesive and I’m more pleased/proud looking back on my purchases each month since the thrifting has taken a major back seat. But, I can’t say I don’t miss it. A lot. It’s such a great stress reliever! And I do notice that I’m missing out on the pieces no one else is likely going to have, the pieces that make my outfits my own instead of a recreation of a J.Crew/Ann Taylor/etc catalog.

      All of this said, I wonder if you might should open a shop? Or sell on eBay? You find such incredible stuff! Even if it’s something you bought and wore once or twice, Rent the Runway style, you could make your money back from selling your best finds. It certainly helps that you’ve got a following who love your style and would want to shop your closet, per se. Just a thought!

      xo nicole

      • I second this notion of selling your “old style,” if it appeals to you! I actually love a more girly/young silhouette, as it better fits my personality and my field, and I think I’m not alone in coveting a great deal of your wardrobe. I really appreciate your thoughts on “fast fashion” — I would love to move more in this direction myself, but find it especially challenging on a tight budget in an area with essentially no thrift stores. I’ve had good luck with a few Everlane pieces as well as a splurge or two from the Reformation.

        • That would definitely be tough when you’re on a budget and thrifting is not an option — sorry to hear that! I do sell my clothes through the blog shop (link at the top of the page), but it can be a bit of time suck and a hassle because of the shipping aspect. I try to keep my prices reasonable, but shipping costs are getting so high these days that it makes it almost not worth it to even bother selling. I do organize a big clothing swap every year, but I’m looking into other ideas for swapping/trading/upcycling locally.

      • I do wish I could find a way to make the most of my turnover … and I feel like I’m close to hitting on a great idea, if only because there is a trend now towards greater awareness and more interest in sustainability, etc. The stigma for secondhand clothing is slowly starting to fade, so I think more people are becoming open to the idea of incorporating it in their lives. I don’t know if a shop is the way to go (I hate all the admin work that goes hand in hand with that) but I definitely want to find a way to connect people (on a tight budget) with clothes that make them feel and look great.
        Thanks for the encouragement! xx

    4. I can definitely identify with this – I’ve totally been there and am still working on it. Some things that have helped a bit: Keeping a list of wardrobe holes on my phone and shopping for them. Tracking what I discard and noticing what hasn’t worked out well (for me, it’s thrifting colours that I don’t love even if I love the piece or it’s expensive – no more pink or brown for me ever; or buying things that aren’t comfortable). Setting a weekly budget – if I don’t spend it I can roll it over to the next week and spend it on next week’s thrift or save it up for a splurge. However, if I only buy one thing on a thrift trip it’s ‘free’ i.e. not counted in the budget. This is meant to help me focus on quality, not quantity. It also helps me to keep a list of wardrobe holes and focus on them. I tried one in, one out for a while but it felt a bit contrived. Now I mostly just know that when my drawers get hard to close, I need to give some stuff away. I actually think you sort of eventually do reach an equilibrium in which you love the stuff you have so much that you aren’t as tempted to spend on something new. I’m not saying I don’t still make some mis-steps but it has gotten easier. Maybe you are just on the cusp of this once you get through your style evolution – maybe you are ‘working through’ something right now.

      • Thanks for sharing! I have reached plateaus in the past, but I find it really hard to resist inexpensive thrift finds. It really is a lot like a Rent the Runway or other similar service — I might only want to wear a piece once or twice, but for under $10, I have a hard time leaving it behind. And then, from time to time, one of those impulse buys turns into something I love and wear for years.

    5. I third or fourth the idea of setting up a shop. (EBay? Poshmark?) I’m always envious of your finds.

      I have to say, I’ve also felt my style recently shifting to something more streamlined and, at times, more androgynous. I think it’s a function of being younger than most people at my job and the youngest woman by a solid 15-20 years. The guys just wear button downs, sweaters, and dress pants but it’s not clear what the equivalent is for me. My style has always been much girlier but it feels too vulnerable to keep that up given the other ways I’m at the bottom of the totem pole. I’ll never stop wearing skirts, but it’s a lot more skirts + boatneck sweaters or button ups instead of skirts + ruffles and cardigans. More oxfords and blazers, too. I’ve noticed a fanatical modesty taking over as part of this general response to my place in the office. I’ve started wearing necklines like crew neck that I never really did before because I really don’t want to deal with the hint of a possibility of a wardrobe malfunction. The ideal outfit for me is something tailored, so I still have a shape, but maximally covered. Which is fine in the winter but a real problem trying to figure out how to navigate this time of year. :/

    6. I love reading posts like this! I’ve noticed your style evolution a bit in your outfit posts, and I can relate to what you describe. I’ve also moved away from brighter colors and prints in my own shopping, though I think the biggest factor in that shift for me is that I’m shopping for full-time office life now, rather than the student and summer intern lifestyle I had before. The colorful prints just aren’t as versatile or useful for me now, especially when I’m trying to be very frugal with my shopping.

      As people mentioned above, I imagine that you would do well with an eBay or Poshmark type shop, if you were so inclined and felt like letting go of pieces that you no longer see yourself wearing as much. I feel like you must have a lot of good pieces that would do well enough resale-wise to justify the time and effort. (That being said, I personally think the time and effort required is very large. Having done a little bit of casual selling on Ebay when I was still a student, I’m not sure I reliably have time or energy to keep on top of sales while working a busy full-time job.)

      • Totally agree with you on the effort required to run an online store. The blog shop is enough for me, for now. I have talked about opening an online shop with a friend, who would be running all the admin stuff. Haven’t finalized anything and it may never come to pass. As I mentioned, I’m also considering other options as well.

        Being frugal is relatively easy, and my office doesn’t have a super strict/formal dress code, so neither of those things help to rein me in. Being in a hearing for an extended period of time has given me a reason to try out a more minimalist approach (although even here, the dress code varies from person to person). We’ll see if it sticks in the long run. So far, I’m enjoying it a lot.

    7. The very best shopping advice I was given by a fellow shopping-addict for practicing self-control?

      “You can truly love and appreciate something without needing to own it. Leave it in the store if it isn’t perfect.”

      This is something I remind myself on every thrifting adventure (and, like you, they happen OFTEN) to help keep over-purchasing to a minimum. It becomes too easy to approach the register with a handful when dresses are less than a latte! Mindfulness is key.

    8. Commiserating here. I am really seeing thrifting being a big black hole.. I need a job first so that it becomes a stress reliever.

      My style is very minimalist with wild jewellery. That’s my thing. I have to learn to stick with it.

      • It works well for you, so definitely. Having a defined style aesthetic does help a lot when it comes to controlling thrifting.

    9. My style is also evolving. I turned 30 earlier this year and am balancing my professional work wardrobe with my love of fun wild youthful clothing. I also do a lot of out of office travel that requires casual wear so I’m always tempted to thrift jeans or comfortable trousers. My lovely collection of girly dresses doesn’t get the love it should, but I agree with other commenters who have mentioned the love of seeing/appreciating outfits I don’t necessarily wear. I’m struggling with a closet purge and will hopefully be able to let go of all the lovely clothes I dislike the fit, fabric or comfort of. I also love thrifting and playing dress-up with different styles I wouldn’t necessarily consider in stores.

      • I feel ya. For years, I bought all kinds of random things because I liked how they looked, and LOVED imagining the different personas I could adopt when wearing them. Totally dress-up for grown-ups, you know? But I’ve slowly come to realize that, day to day, I really just want to feel like “me” (not a character, however fun that might be).

    10. This post really resonated with me. For years, I think I have wanted to live the life Anthropologie has for sale: feminine but confident, next to an unheard-of retreat with the ocean wind blowing my hair just so. But two years ago, I realized that many of these clothes were too twee for me and didn’t make me feel like my strong, confident self. I decided I needed a very simple guide for myself when I go shopping, so I don’t buy things I won’t wear. I decided upon three adjectives: elegant, polished and chic. This is how I would want people to describe my style. So far, it’s been working really well. It’s so simple that I can always remember my adjectives when I go shopping. Good luck with your style evolution!

    11. Another dedicated thrifting blogger I follow seems to look at her thrift purchases not as wardrobe additions, but almost as wardrobe rentals – she’ll buy something, wear it a few times, and pass it on to someone else. She gets the joy of the hunt without the ever-increasing wardrobe, and also gets to continually try new things. Maybe a shift in mindset, away from filling wardrobe gaps, will allow you keep enjoying the experience of thrifting?

      The other thing that occurred to me while reading this great post is that you could potentially offer up your services as a personal thrift shopper – that way you could enjoy the hunt without taking anything home!

      • That is totally how I’ve come to look at it as well! Like my own personal Rent The Runway. I kinda feel guilty about “throwing the money out of the window” but I’m trying to look at it as paying for an experience, rather than a thing. So that, even if the thing is gone within 6 months, I still had fun finding the piece and wearing it a few times.