If you read personal style blogs, follow street style photographers and especially if you have a blog, it can be very easy to be swept up in the world of fast fashion and It-bags-shoes-and-stuff. When I first became an avid reader of personal style blogs in 2007, I developed a voracious appetite for new and unusual fashion that I couldn’t find in magazines or on my college campus at the time. I spent a lot of time and money coveting clothes that had no real place in my daily life and didn’t even really fit into my personal style. I had a good eye for what was going to be the next blogger must-have and the patience to troll eBay until I found just what I was looking for. There is, however, a useful and scary feature on eBay that tells you how much you have spent to date, and when I saw that number move beyond the triple digits I knew it was time to reassess my hobby.
Around this time I discovered a blogger who was documenting her pursuit of the 5 Piece French Wardrobe. I for the life of me cannot find her blog now (it has been 5 years since I read it) and I’ll continue to search, but her minimalist approach was the first of its kind that I had seen. Now I feel that the 5 Piece method is widely covered, but back then I found not only the concept to be innovative but her exacting, almost obsessive dedication to developing a short list and sticking to it to be a whole new way of looking at shopping. Rather than “here are this season’s trends, here’s where to buy them, here are the next season’s trends, quick get a jump start” it was curating your closet in a very calculating way. I can’t say that my system will ever be quite so rigid or structured as the blogger that inspired me, that wouldn’t be sustainable for me, but over the years I have developed a healthier way of living in the blog world. Having moved houses 8 times since I graduated has also helped me cull. These 5 questions are the checks and balances that I use before taking anything new home with me.
1. Can you think of at least 3 outfits and 3 occasions to wear this to?
This may sound extreme, but before I make online purchases I like to open up a draft email and type out as many outfits as I can with that item. It looks a little something like this:
- white dress, army parka, chelsea boots
- white dress, chambray shirt, tan sandals
- white dress, black tights, wedge heels
- white dress, navy blazer, leopard sandals
It has cut down tremendously on misguided purchase decisions. In the store, things aren’t quite so controlled. I know firsthand it can be easy to be influenced by the adrenaline rush of a new find, the flattering lighting of a dressing room, or a complimentary friend or salesperson. But I always do the mental exercise of 3 outfits and 3 occasions, and if I get stuck at number 2 then I can confidently put it back on the rack.
2. Will this make a noticeable impact on your closet?
I have happily come to a point in my personal style journey where I know what I like. That may sound simple, but it took years to discern what was better left to others and what I would adopt myself. That being said, I know that I like white button down shirts, thin stripes, gray t-shirts and black boots – therefore I have an unconscionable number of all of those things. So as a rule of thumb, I don’t allow myself to buy those items anymore, unless there is something truly extraordinary about it. So today for example, I really wanted to buy silk white collared shirt (hey, I don’t have a silk one yet) but I knew that even if I did buy it and wear it to work, no one would know the difference between that and all my other white shirts. Therefore that purchase would have made little to no impact, and I put it back on the rack. That’s not to say that we dress for the approval of others, but ask yourself if owning one more denim shirt in a slightly different shade of blue is really going to make a reasonable impact on your life.
3. Will you wear it in your daily life?
I used to buy high heels and imagine myself going to get Thai food with my friends wearing Alexander Wang heels. To be perfectly truthful, those Wangs have rarely seen the light of day (I don’t regret them, but those are the facts). It is too easy to imagine a fancier, more dressed up life for ourselves than the one we truly lead. “I don’t dress up for dinner now, but I can start. And maybe this year I’ll attend more cocktail parties.” But the truth of the matter is, even when I do have special occasions to attend I’m more likely to wear boots and a sharp blazer than heels and a sundress. Now I know that.
4. Will it unlock new outfit options for the rest of your wardrobe?
I picture this like a video game, where you can use your points to unlock new levels. Hear me out – we all have clothes or shoes in your closet that don’t get used, but sometimes they’re just missing that one crucial piece that is going to unlock all of their potential. Take for example my most recent purchase, a pair of distressed boyfriend jeans. I did the mental exercise (3 outfits, 3 occasions) and realized that all of my high heels and dressy tops (back from that time when I thought I was fancy) could finally be worn in daily life if I were to dress them down with these ripped, baggy boyfriend jeans. They were the missing piece to the puzzle. Other items can really only be worn one way, and for those I refer back to question #1.
5. Is the fit flattering?
It is not enough to ask “does it fit?” Just because something physically zips or fits onto your body, does not mean it suits you. Take in your body shape, age, workplace environment, and your underwear lines, then ask yourself again. Does it present you in your best light? If you’re unsure, here’s my solo shopper test for a flattering fit.
6. Can you afford it?
This is actually the easiest, most objective determining factor. Be diligent (do you know what you spend on clothes per month?), be honest with yourself, and be smart. Shopping is actually so much more satisfying when you can feel confident that your purchases are well-considered.
Have you all faced similar demons in the blog world? How did you come to terms with them?
Photo via Freunde von Freunden