What I love about working with clients is it gives me very real-life insight into what women deal with when it comes to their wardrobes. A recent virtual session with a client inspired this post. Her situation was one that I am sure you will be able to relate to when it comes to buying practical fashion. For protection of identity, I will give this client an alias fitting to her style and personality, Mrs. Tasteful. Her style is elegant, classic and feminine. She often shops for upscale clothing second-hand and favors classic lines over trend. She described her style as classically interesting, which I think is perfect.
Mrs. Tasteful is a cautious and practical shopper and not unlike most women, she could often visualize the end result of what she wanted to look like but often walked away from stores overwhelmed and confused by how to execute the look she saw in her mind. Getting an objective eye was exactly what she needed.
As a virtual client, I didn’t have the opportunity to meet Mrs. Tasteful in person. Instead, we used photography in place of a closet edit. While it might not seem as effective, sometimes all it takes are a few a few photos to identify the problems. Looking at some Mrs. Tasteful wardrobe pieces, I could see exactly what she was trying to achieve. She was so close and needed very little to get where she wanted to go. The biggest problem I identified — a big pile of black shoes. I emailed her immediately and said, “We have to address all those black shoes.” Thankfully, Mrs. Tasteful enthusiastically agreed.
When it came time to meet over the phone, Mrs. Tasteful and I talked about her mass of black shoes. No surprise to me, Mrs. Tasteful’s decision to primarily buy black shoes was for a reason why most women would buy them, practicality. It was in that moment that I scribbled down the title of this post and told Mrs. Tasteful that I would be blogging about this.
When Practical Fashion Isn’t Practical
By nature, I am a practical person. Unnecessary isn’t a word in my vocabulary. Yet, when it comes to fashion, being practical is often misunderstood. Using the situation of Mrs. Tasteful, her reason for primarily buying black shoes was driven by a desire to be practical, but by buying shoes in all the same color she wound up having too much of the same, limiting the variety in her wardrobe and making her outfits look repetitive and less interesting; not exactly practical. Expanding her shoe colors with more interesting colors would be a much more practical fashion choice for her. On the surface, colorful shoes hardly seems like the practical choice, but this is exactly my point. Often, the practical options aren’t the most practical way to go.
I am sure this sounds familiar on some level to many women. If it isn’t with shoes, it’s not uncommon to buy what are seen as practical items for the sake of a practical wardrobe. Here are some points to consider if you are wondering if your practical fashion purchases may not be as practical as you think.
Your wardrobe feels safe and repetitive
One sign that your wardrobe might be impractically practical is when it starts to feel safe and repetitive, like you are in a rut. You go to pull something out and it feels like everything else you own, like just a variety of the same. Instead of wearing one black sweater, you put on a different one, or that dress you own looks exactly like the three others in your closet. When you go shopping, you buy things that look a lot like what you already have.
One could argue that having multiples of the same is practical because you have already proven that if you own something and wear it often then having more is smart. On the flip side, however, how much more of this sameness do you really need? You’re clearly covered. It’s time to move on. The more practical repetition you have the less practical each item becomes.
You buy it simply because you heard you are supposed to own it
One of the most irritating things about fashion are these supposed “must-own” lists of things that every woman should own in her closet. These lists are bunk. There is no such thing as a universal must-have list of curated items every woman should own. If you have followed these lists like the gospel only to find these practical items just hang there then they aren’t practical for you. Practicality can’t be found in a list of must-have items that some person who doesn’t know you, your life or your style put together. Trust yourself, not these lists.
You become a fearful shopper and avoid risks
Risk-aversion is a common problem among women when it comes to clothes. Instead of taking a chance and potentially blowing it, a woman will often go the fail-safe route and buy what seems like the practical solution. I can’t tell you how often a client will buy something not considered practical only to find out that they wear this item more often than the so-called practical items. These are items like the yellow bag they are surprised to find go with everything, the fun red shoes that pop so many outfits or the metallic sandals that become their summer go-to shoes. It is only then that clients realize that practical fashion doesn’t always look practical at first glance.
You feel covered but keep on buying more of the same
You purchase one little black dress. It wound up being practical, so you bought another one and then another one, and so on. It’s not wrong to assume that if something is practical then more of it would be smart. That is until you have so much of the same that you wind up splitting your wears, which means to have the need for one clothing item spread across multiple items, therefore decreasing the value of each piece.
I’m not against having multiple items in your closet if you actually get wear and use from each one. More of the same stops being practical when you have more than you need.
You shop on autopilot
In preparing for Thanksgiving, my sister, mother and I have been on a text thread about who is bringing what to dinner. On this thread the question of who was bringing the shrimp for an appetizer was asked and I just rolled my eyes. It wasn’t a question of if we were having shrimp, this was assumed. My family runs on tradition. Case in point, every holiday we have eaten broccoli casserole since I was a little kid. I’d be hard pressed to remember a holiday when we didn’t have it. And while I’d be sort of bummed if it wasn’t there, the way my family clings to things simply because it’s “how we’ve always done it” does make me laugh.
Are you someone who has a pair of basic black pumps in your closet because you always have a pair in there? Do you always buy a black winter coat year after year? Do you buy things not because you need them but because it’s how you have always done it? This is what it means to shop on autopilot, similar to how my family always has broccoli casserole as a side dish for the holidays, we don’t even think about it, we just do it.
One of the easiest ways to fall into a rut when shopping for practical fashion is to do it on autopilot and not even realize that you are just buying things because that is the way you have always done it.
You’re wearing a uniform not a ‘you’niform
Remember I wrote that post about wearing a ‘you’niform instead of a uniform? A ‘you’niform is a signature style whereas a uniform is a boring repetitive look. A boring, repetitive look can be a symptom of shopping for practical fashion that is impractical for you. By going the practical route without giving any thought as to whether these buys are actually practical for you opens the door to falling into a rut of sameness and a lack of variety.
Avoiding practical fashion doesn’t have to mean being impractical
I want to be very clear, there is a difference between practical fashion and practical fashion for YOU. Everything you purchase should be a practical purchase otherwise it is a waste of money, space and time. The key here is to ask yourself, what is practical in your world? What do you really need? What give you your wardrobe more variety, more versatility and more personality? My guess, it isn’t that umpteenth pair of black shoes.