Last week, my client, Mrs. Wonderful, who is now living in Paris, was in town to do some shopping. As always, we stopped by one of our favorite shops, Meg. In the past, I have written about our shopping trips to this wonderful store that is owned by the designer, Meg McKinney who creates comfortable, unique clothes for modern women looking for something different, flattering, and practical.
As many times as I have been to Meg, I hadn’t bought anything for myself. This is primarily because I have a policy that prohibits me from shopping for my own needs when I am with a client. The problem becomes, however, when I am not with a client, the last thing I want to do is visit a store. However, in situations where I have a developed familiarity with a client and it’s something I can easily try, I might break my own rules. Basically, any personal browsing I do must be a situation where it in no way detracts from my main purpose for being there. Through frequent shopping at Meg and the delightful rapport both Mrs. Wonderful and I have developed with the owner and staff, I felt comfortable enough slipping on their shirt I had been coveting called The Biggie. This season Meg made it in flame orange and, as you know, they had me at orange.
The Biggie Shirt is dramatic. It is basically a super large, smartly cut, button-up rectangle with sleeves. The fabric pitches towards the back which is also longer than the front. There is a luxe ease to the style that I really appreciate. I wore it to see a client last weekend and I loved the billowy carelessness in the back. Is it the world’s most flattering shirt on me? By conventional standards, no. I have a big chest, curves, a defined waist, larger hips and thighs. Every “fashion rule” in the book would tell me this is not the shirt for me. Do I care? No, not really.
Obviously, if the shirt was God-awful on me, I wouldn’t have purchased it. Meg’s prices are more than fair given the workmanship, quality, and design of her clothing, but at $219 for a shirt, I certainly wouldn’t buy it if I looked absurd. In fact, another style I love that Meg sells is their Wide Strap Dress (Mrs. Wonderful is wearing it in the post I linked to above) that I also adore but fits me terribly. Despite Meg recently releasing this dress in a gorgeous deep teal, a color that is unbelievably flattering on me, I had to pass it up.
After this appointment, I checked in on the discussions going on in my Facebook Group to see a post by a member who shared a recent bag purchase. It’s a vintage basket-style purse with dried fruit and leaves on it —sort of like the plastic fruit you saw your grandmother keep in a bowl as a centerpiece in the 70s. In the post, she said that she knew the bag wasn’t a practical purchase and despite not liking handheld bags that don’t have shoulder straps she bought it anyway because she loved it. There was nothing in her post that implied regret. In fact, my guess is she would have regretted it more if she didn’t buy it.
In this same post, the group member also made reference to how I often recommend that wardrobe purchases be sensible. She wasn’t wrong, I’m not big on buying things that don’t make sense, however, given what she said, which seemed to indicate she was concerned I would call out the impracticality of her purchase, I commented on this member’s post and said, “in healthy amounts, we all need stuff like this.”
PASSION OVER PRACTICALITY: WHEN PASSION SHOULD OVERRIDE PRACTICALITY
On a journey to getting a wardrobe in order, many women will swing the pendulum too far towards sensibility and practicality. In this attempt, the efforts become too controlled with the fun, personality, and passion eked out, similar to how someone will strictly diet to lose weight, over-organize their schedules, or restrict themselves from certain things. There becomes no healthy moderation. But, as I like to say, “You can only hold a beach ball underwater for so long. Eventually, it will need to rise to the surface again.” Nobody maintains restrictions forever.
So how do you create a sense of balance between passion and practicality and also know when it makes sense to perhaps go a little nuts with a purchase and have some fun or when to step away? Unfortunately, there is no black-and-white answer to the question of when passion should override practicality because that would, obviously, miss this point by a galaxy because the whole point is to let go and loosen the reins a bit. However, what I will give you are some thoughts on how to navigate this so that you can create a workable balance that fits your and your closet.
YOU CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT IT
Even if there is passion, it should still make sense to be in your closet I’m sure you’ve heard the wise advice that you should sleep on a big decision before making it. If you can’t get something out of your mind you should at least consider it. You have to really want these things in your life and this desire should stay with you until you know for a fact it’s not going away until it’s been explored. Maybe this means going and trying it on or buying and testing it out, provided you could also return it. Take for example the Meg dress I tried on and upon seeing how badly it fit. As much as I was coveting that dress, now that I know for sure it’s not for me, it’s firmly out of my mind as an obsession. The bottom line is, find a way to satisfy the urge, even if in the end this satisfaction proves it’s not for you.
Let’s call it practical passion. Using the Biggie shirt that I purchased, regardless of it being, by “fashion rules,” there were still elements of the shirt that made total sense for me and my wardrobe. I loved the look, enjoy wearing a button-up shirt and I love orange. The look was right for my wardrobe.
Clothing and accessories that color outside your norm still have to make sense living in your closet. You have to feel like yourself when you try them on, not like you are wearing a costume or somebody else’s clothes.
IT FEELS LIKE YOU
To my last point, clothing has an incredible ability to connect our inner selves to our external appearance. When this happens, the message that you communicate to others feels authentic and comfortable. it’s that feeling we get when we put something on and feel that spark of recognition or joy or just like what’s been living inside is finally visible. It’s an amazing feeling. This is what passion for the clothing or accessories you’re considering should feel like. You should see yourself, and feel energized, alive, and more fully expressed.
PASSION DOESN’T JUST HAVE TO MEAN CRAZY OR DRAMATIC. YOU CAN HAVE PASSION FOR PRACTICAL THINGS
We often see items that evoke passion as impractical or outside the norm of what we normally wear and while, yes, this can be the case, having a passion for clothing is not limited to these items. I own a navy Stella McCartney blazer that I coveted and chased for years. After a few clients purchased it the season it was released, I needed that blazer, I would have that blazer. My passion for it was real and longstanding. I finally found it resale last year and took a chance when I ordered it online through Vestaire. Not once have I regretted putting a fair amount towards not just the blazer but the tailoring. All in, the blazer cost me about $750 which is a far cry from what it retailed for, but, all the same, my passion for it, I would have paid double for it.
Passion for practical items should give you a ‘done’ feeling as if the only way you’d purchase a similar item would be because the current one fell apart, doesn’t fit any longer or it’s just time to move on from it. I don’t need another navy blazer because I found the one I am most passionate about.
EVEN IF IT ISN’T THE MOST FLATTERING, IT SHOULDN’T BE THE LEAST FLATTERING EITHER
Like with my shirt, some passion purchases will break all the so-called fashion rules. While my new shirt is hardly going to make me slim and taller than I already am, It’s also not the very worst thing I’ve ever tried on. Regardless of the fact that something might not work with every curve and angle of your body, it should still have elements that are flattering.
Don’t sacrifice your wardrobe by not adding things that you enjoy but work against fashion the fashion rules you have read. Fashion rules should be meaningful to you and the ones that you have chosen to follow. These rules are meant to help you make informed choices, not to create restrictions. I speak about this in-depth in this post, but, to summarize in order to know how and when to break the rules, you have to know what does and doesn’t work for you first.
What fashion rules do you consider worth following? I break fashion rules all the time and it’s my conscious decision to do so every time because I know what the rules say and despite that, I have chosen that some just aren’t that important to me. For each person, this is individual and should be treated as such. I, for example, haven’t put ankle straps on my thick ankles since the late 90s, but I often ignore the rules and wear crew necks and turtlenecks despite having a G-sized chest.
MINDFULLY HAVE FUN
Items that evoke passion in your wardrobe are what give your wardrobe enthusiasm and joy. It’s not shallow or unimportant to allow your clothing to bring you pleasure. It’s striking the balance between the two that is important.
I’ve seen closets filled with all basics and no novelty and closets that have been filled with novelty and no good basics. In the latter situation, without basics, there is no glue to connect all the novelty. In the former, a closet filled with all basics can easily start to look dull, generic, and pedestrian. A balanced wardrobe has both because one essentially supports the other.
I often liken novelty items and basics to friends. If you haven’t heard me use this analogy, imagine your basics like your tried and true friends. The ones you can call in the middle of the night when you need help, or the ones you know you would bail you out of jail. Sure, maybe these friends weren’t voted personality plus in high school, but when you need these friends they are there. Your good, solid, evergreen, workhorse wardrobe pieces are these friends.
Your novelty pieces are like your fun friends. The ones who guarantee that being with them will be a good time. Perhaps this is the friend you were with when you got put in jail in the first place. This friend is fun and crazy but not always reliable. These friendships can be fleeting and sometimes frustrating. You can’t always count on these friends, they probably won’t be around for that middle-of-the-night call, and getting them to show up anywhere on time can be a chore. Look at your trendy items, your fun novelty pieces as these types of friends. They may cycle out quicker, and you may not hang out with them as much, but they certainly have a place in your life.
Neither friend is good or bad, however, having more solid, stable wardrobe items brings you a lot more stability and peace than the flighty, fleeting ones.
THESE PIECES BRING YOU TREMENDOUS JOY
There is a reason why we can’t get enough of the Advanced Style ladies who wear their clothing with reckless abandon or look at others who dress eccentrically with a tinge of envy. We want what they want because they look so free. We don’t want to dress exactly like them per se, but we do want the joy and zest they have when they wear what they love. When we feel that free in what we wear, the rules fly out the window. No amount of fashion rules can match the absolute joy that can come from leaning in towards and wearing things that are an absolute pleasure to wear.
If that joyous pleasure has been zapped from your closet, look to see if the fun has been sucked out through being over practical.
BE OKAY WITH THE FACT THAT THESE PASSION PIECES MAY NOT GET AS MUCH USE
Maybe you will wear the items that you are passionate about all the time, maybe you won’t. I don’t believe that all things need to get equal wear in order to be worthy of remaining in your closet. Some things, like that Facebook Group member’s eccentric handbag likely won’t be dusted off and taken for a spin nearly as much as the other things she owns. But when this member does use it, she will use it with a sense of happiness and joy.
It’s okay if your favorite fun shoes get dusted off once a year. I bet that one opportunity you get to wear them makes you incredibly happy. Maybe you only have limited occasions to wear that stunning, luxurious wrap you got for a song, but when you do, you feel like a queen. I have a pair of Loro Piana block heel sandals that I still haven’t had a need to wear yet, but there is no way anyone is prying them out of my hands unless I am dead. When I need them they will be there waiting for me.
The key, however, is to be sensible with just how much of these types of items you purchase. If the majority of your entire closet is filled with things that aren’t useful on a regular basis, you’ve essentially created an unusable wardrobe. You don’t need a lot but, for the sake of wardrobe pleasure, you need some.
Passionate wardrobe items are the flavor that separates your wardrobe from someone else’s. It’s the personality of your closet and the items that bring you that delightful pleasure when you do have the chance to use them. As the saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Well, all function and no pleasure makes a wardrobe a dull place.