This Year’s Wardrobe

The other Ellen

The other Ellen

Once again I have taken stock of all my clothes. Four years ago, I started paring back my wardrobe in an attempt to cut it back by 50%. I am within two items of that goal!

I have long since done the earlier phases of the job, moving out things that were worn out, non-repairable, irredeemably out of fashion, unused for several years, not my current size, or unflattering. Since then, I have been weeding out things that were buying mistakes or haven’t been worn much in the past 2 years. I would say my main tasks now are to keep up with replacements, do some upgrades, and do some updates.

I can’t say I have a well-selected core wardrobe that meets all my needs, because it has grown and shrunk haphazardly (assisted by my cat who eats holes in my sweaters whenever they are unattended). But it really is functional. I don’t have a job interview suit or a summer wedding outfit lying in wait, but I have everything for my daily life.

A lot of readers have told me they dress like I do, which is very comforting! In my world, the way I present myself isn’t typical: practical, modest, and not very ornamented. I do try to stretch my tastes with clothes purchases that are different for me: prints and patterns, new styles or vintage. I keep reverting to my usual look. I can’t say I dislike change, or that I have a narrow comfort zone or I’m stuck in a rut, although I’m sure others think so. When I wear my usual style, I feel confident and I feel like I am being true to myself. I suppose I could “fake it to make it,” but I don’t want to be a different person!

I work as a library manager and do a combination of managing and hands-on work such as customer service. Most days call for informal clothing; neat and presentable. Off work, I like to dress more in tune with my interests (such as music and fitness). I think my only real clothing eccentricity is that all my vacationing is done in big cities, so I like to bring a stuffed suitcase and dress up more than I do in my hometown. Unless I go on a guided tour someday, I never want to look like a tourist!

Now that I’m down to 136 “significant” items, I’ll list them for you.

Work-Appropriate

Top layers (15):

  • Navy blazer, teal jean jacket, coral “dressy” jacket, 5 heavy weight (winter) cardigans, 6 light weight (all season) cardigans, 1 short-sleeve cardigan (summer)

Tops (34):

  • 2 heavy weight winter pullovers (1 turtleneck, 1 boat neck), 1 wool pullover (V-neck), 1 wool “Ellen” vest, 3 light weight pullovers
  • 4 short sleeve tops (3 new girly ones last month – see photos above)
  • 5 long-sleeve T-shirts (two are striped), 1 tunic, 8 short-sleeve T-shirts (6 plain, 1 striped, 1 print), 1 Library logo T-shirt, 2 polo/golf T-shirts
  • 6 long-sleeve button-up shirts (3 single colour, 1 striped and 2 prints)

Bottoms (14):

  • 13 pairs of pants/trousers including 3 black (pinstripe, skinny, leggings), 3 grey (twill, tech, and checked) 2 brown, 1 navy, 1 beige and 3 pairs of dark-wash jeans
  • 1 skort

Footwear (6):

  • 5 pair shoes (3 black, 1 brown, 1 burgundy) and 1 pair short boots

TOTAL 69 items

Non-Work Clothes

Top Layers (11):

  • 6 zip hoodies, 3 pullover hoodies, 2 warm-up jackets

Tops (20):

  • 2 long-sleeve T-shirts (prints/logos), 1 turtleneck, 1 polo/golf shirt, 2 tops, 4 rock band T-shirts, 10 other T-shirts (prints, logos, cartoons)

Bottoms (13):

  • 2 faded/distressed jeans (1 blue, 1 black), 1 cargo pants, 2 yoga pants, 2 workout shorts, 1 shorts, 1 sweat pants (lounge wear for house only), 2 short skirts (1 velour, 1 corduroy)

Footwear (11):

  • Boots (short winter boots, hiking boots and rubber boots), sneakers (2 athletic and 1 pair slip-on Converse), sandals (black, brown), flip-flops, garden clogs and 1 pair flats (shoes)

Coats and jackets (6):

  • Parka, light weight puffer jacket, wool coat, pleather jacket, snakeskin print coat, rain jacket

Special Occasion (6):

  • Sun dress, red sequin cardigan, black sparkly pullover, black semi-sheer button-up shirt, and 2 Christmas sweaters

TOTAL 67 items

I am very slowly coming to terms with changes in the way I dress because of body issues and ageing. The following is not a statement of self-loathing – rather an acceptance of how I look and the choices I make. I haven’t written about these things before because I am really not that obsessed with my looks or ageing, but it might help readers understand some of my wardrobe decisions.

I have always had a pear-shaped figure, 1 to 2 full sizes larger on bottom than on top. No matter how much weight I gain or lose, the proportions stay the same. I don’t wear short or cropped tops or jackets because they emphasize the weight below. I have a long neck and torso and a minimal bust, which has the advantage of giving people the first impression that I am quite slender when that is not always the case. I have shorter, curvy legs, which I always keep covered because of vein problems I’ve had since my 20s (I have had the “procedures” but not been able to maintain because of the necessity of wearing horrible surgical stockings year-round). I also have big feet which I am OK with because at 5’7″ I would feel silly with little feet.

I’m 52 now and I have noticed age-related changes accumulate in the last 3 years. I stopped colouring my hair and embraced the grey over 5 years ago and have no regrets about that. I haven’t deliberately suntanned in over 20 years, and when you add the skin tone changes that come with age, I am pale, and I don’t spray tan (wrong climate here) or wear make-up. I am still OK showing my arms (I will achieve Sarah “Terminator” Connor arms yet!) but my neck and shoulders are getting that stringy, scrawny look. Yes, I could gain weight, but I would need to put  20+ pounds onto my lower half before any would gravitate upwards! I have not been swaddling myself in scarves or covering myself up yet, but I understand the temptation. My hands and feet are not so youthful looking but I am willing to concede on those since they have served me well!

With those observations as “background noise,” I expect I will cover up even more in the years ahead, at least until I stop caring (which I suppose could happen at any time!) And I will be buying more tunics and longer jackets. It’s too bad I am not the right age for this trend which would have served me well a few years back!

I have done a round-up of outfit photos that have appeared here on the blog, which will give a consistent picture of how I present myself.

If you have any suggestions for adding new looks or modifying what I already own, I am all ears!

Do you have a consistent look? Has it changed in the past couple of years?

30 comments

  1. I really like your “Friday 2015” photo. The style, cut, and underlayer color are all very flattering.

    I have broad shoulders but am small busted, and my high waist barely indents. Essentially, I am built like a rectangle. Being made largely of muscle (covered in baby fat), dressing comfortably has become increasingly difficult with the ever-clingier/skinnier fads that have been popular over the past few years. I tend to wear dark solid colors because of my profession, but when I vary my wardrobe, I keep the darker colors on top to minimize The Linebacker Effect and give the illusion of, well, if not of curves, at least of a slim(ish) center.

    One thing I love about this time of year is the more relaxed approach to dressing. I have two pair of linen pants (one drawstring, one yoga-style foldover elastic waist) and a long knit pull-on skirt that are my work staples in spring and summer.

    • Hi Mrs F, Yeah, I think most of the clingy and skinny styles only look good on the 1%! What region do you live in? We don’t get relaxed summer dressing until the end of June 🙂

      • I’m in the US, Pacific Northwest. The temps are mild here, so my idea of “warm” is 70°F, which is about where the sunny day temps are in May. “Hot” is anything over 78°F. 😉 Having grown up in the Midwest, I understood “summer” to mean “over 85°F with high humidity,” but my body has long since adjusted to the milder clime. 🙂

      • I am on a coast too, with lots of fog and rain, and also consider 70 to be warm. I know a lot of people here who are so unaccustomed to heat that they think 75 is too hot!

  2. Your clothes look very stylish and comfortable, and perfect for your job! You’ve done a great job of putting together colors.

    My wardrobe changed drastically when I stopped coloring my hair. All sorts of colors I used to wear no longer looked good with gray, nor did any of my gold jewelry. So, I took everything out of my wardrobe except for black, white and gray items. I sold all my gold and started wearing silver. It was very dull for a while, but it let me grow accustomed to it, and slowly start to add other colors in that did work with my hair and skin tone. I realized I needed more color around my face and got bright red frames for my glasses – red is a great neutral (although I’m thinking of going with teal next time). I’ve never really liked patterns, and prefer to wear solid colors most of the time.

    These days my wardrobe is very basic – here in Hawaii I wear loose linen capri pants in neutral colors year-round and have about 10 different low-maintenance tops and t-shirts that I can mix and match with the pants. I can’t remember the last time I wore something with sleeves here. Shoes are $4.95 flip flops (in a few different colors) from Walmart. When I travel I wear black knit pants and have several tops in different shades of blue, or gray and white, to keep it simple. I’d probably have more clothes if I was still working, but the small amount I have these days is perfect for being retired.

    • Thanks, Laura. Since I had dark brown hair, I used to wear a lot more brown and “Fall” colours. I like them too much to give them up, but I won’t replace what I have. I have been gradually replacing the brown with navy, which went through a period of being drastically unfashionable, but seems to be called Parisian now 🙂 The arms on my glasses are red, too! Your wardrobe sounds ideal.

  3. I often think you’d look ‘prettier’ with longer hair, which I am LOATHED to say, as a former short haired woman who dislikes the same being said for me!! And I hate that it’s harder to keep longer hair looking nice.

    As such, I do like the more feminine outfits you wear, when there’s skirts or tunics (I think the tunics will speak to you more as you can still wear trousers and be under desk etc at work). I should post my sample of outfits, as I’m again the pot calling the kettle black – I close to NEVER wear a dress or skirt to work, and tend to keep it to city based work days (seldom to never) or church/weddings/weekends etc. In the past year or two, I’ve chosen to wear jewelry far more consistently, to add a little something to my look.

    • I am reminded of one of my colleagues. Upon hearing a “city” meeting was cancelled, she cried, “But I wore JEWELLERY today!” As you know, appearing feminine or pretty is not something I strive for. I go for looking active and competent, and if it occasionally crosses over into cool or contemporary, so much the better 🙂 I hope that any charms I possess come across in how I act – not that I would ever come across as coy or flirtative, just personable (I hope). I like long hair on other people but it’s something I can’t do. My hair is very thick, and turning grey has made it even coarser. For most of us with thick hair, it grows outwards as it grows longer, and our weather is humid 9 months of the year. See the photo with the over-sized dress here: https://anexactinglife.com/2012/11/25/my-fashion-journey/

  4. gk

    “I do try to stretch my tastes with clothes purchases that are different for me: prints and patterns, new styles or vintage. I keep reverting to my usual look. I can’t say I dislike change, or that I have a narrow comfort zone or I’m stuck in a rut, although I’m sure others think so. When I wear my usual style, I feel confident and I feel like I am being true to myself.”

    Yeah, same. Is this like the happiness continuum where good events/bad events end up having little long term influence on our seemingly innate set point?

    My fav look on you is Toronto 2012, you look so comfortable, but the tee is signalling that you care about your appearance. You look like how I imagine you would look IRL if I met you for coffee. I don’t consider work outfits to be a good proximation of personal style because most of us wouldn’t bother owning work clothing if we didn’t have to.

    • Thank you, GK. It is SO TRUE that we wouldn’t own work clothes if we didn’t have to! I have tried to make my work and home outfits as similar as possible (as Jamie says, work and play versions of jeans and Ts!) but given full choice, I prefer the casual. Hope we do meet for coffee eventually!

  5. I like dresses. I own heaps!!! (Started doing posts on my collection but got waylaid.) I like you in the dress in Paris 2015. It suits your shape and is very flattering.

    I know your weather is very different but I find dress more comfortable. Air gets to move around the legs and no rubbing on the groin.

    My other favourite outfit on you is the pink Tshirt and faded jeans. Yes, I like pretty colours. But the two colours suit you. I don’t do faded jeans on myself cause they just don’t suit me. I wear dark denim. Though I do own just a few pink tops. OK, heaps including a pink hoody, couple of Ts, heaps of singlets and sleeveless tops, patterns loose numbers, three or five or so cardigans and a shirt.

    I’ve been watching old episodes of Gok’s Fashion rescue. He gives woman a capsule wardrobe of 25 items with heaps of outfits. I kinda would like this but I like having so many options. Though I am on a wear it out mission.

    • I wore dresses much more when I lived in Massachusetts and the summers were long and hot. I actually do like wearing fuschia and I have several tops and scarves in that colour, and a new hoodie which is shown in one of the 2016 photos. Sounds like you have a few! Do you still have red hair, by the way? I am guessing not, based on the Lady Gaga artwork 🙂 I haven’t seen Gok Wan on TV for ages and I didn’t know he pulled together capsule wardrobes. Will have to see if I can find some episodes!

      • Back to blonde. Want to go rose gold but my hairdresser just can’t nail the tone I want.

        I only just discovered Gok on Fashion Channel and have recorded two series for when I am restless and procrastinating. Like being able to forward through bits. I like his motto. Shop less, wear more.

  6. I love that you have work T’s and play T’s, work jeans and play jeans. I’m still tempted to do a “capsule” wardrobe as a learning experiment, but I would want to start it in the summer, when there is less of a need to layer, and I wouldn’t need my entire range of fleece, down, and gore-tex jackets for every possible weather scenario.

    • Haha, yes, that is one way to keep my look as consistent as possible! I do find the capsule idea limiting because of having to plan for 4 seasons and all the in-betweens, especially the outerwear, as you noted. Rom is pretty close to having a functioning capsule wardrobe. It’s too bad he won’t move out any of the 300 or so pieces of clothing he doesn’t wear any more, but oh well!

  7. I still love that argyle sweater. Probably cause I have something like it. heh.

    I can’t say I have a consistent look. Sometimes I’m more professional. Sometimes I’m more goth. THough usually, my colour palette is always the same… Blacks. Greys. Whites. Then a splash of colour. Somewhere/somehow. I like mixing textures and I tend to dislike busy prints.

    Have you considered playing with more textures and/or prints?

  8. Fiona

    Finally (like, after years of reading your blog) I just realised what I love most about your look!

    The rimless glasses! They are really flattering. Now I want some!

    I am so blind to fashion that I think everything looks just fine if the person is happy, fit and healthy. As you seem to be, in all pics in all eras.

    The jeans-and-tee look is very flattering on you but for variety, I like the Tunic 2016 look! Like Lucinda, I can’t quite move on from the Paris Dress. It disturbs me. I keep hoping you’ll somehow adopt dresses if only on an infrequent, special-occasion type roster. That said, I don’t own any dresses that fit me at the moment. But I would, if my weight was in the Dress Zone.

    • Thanks, Fiona! I have worn glasses since I was 18 and aside from picking them out, rarely think about them. I have another pair that are very owly 🙂 I agree that I am much more likely to notice whether someone is pleasant to be with rather than what they are wearing. I do wear skirts whenever I am on vacation, and very occasionally at work. Besides the “overdressed” aspect of wearing them, it’s really a weather thing. The answer would be to buy a Fall/Winter dress that I could wear from October to April with dark tights – that would solve my dress issues 🙂 Back in the 90s I used to like jumpers, the kind of dress you pull over a shirt – I wish they would come back!

    • You are so in the dress zone, Fiona. Anyone can wear a dress. It’s about buying the right one for your shape and that fits you. I have several (OK four) dresses from one designer. One is a size larger because of the cut.

  9. Freckles

    First of all, I’d have to say the best accessory you have in all your photos is your smile. The second best accessory are those laceup boots – love them – haha!

    I think the black & fucshia colour combination is very flattering on you. Regarding the skort outfit with layers from 2013 with the white cardigan – have you tried switching out the white cardigan for your black cardigan? And with the black cardigan try both a white or a black shirt underneath. In the photos with the lighter grey tights (London Museum 2014 & Friday 2015) have you tried darker tights? And if you have keep the tights and the shoes the same colour as it usually elongates the leg.

    I love the edgy T-shirts (oh Rocky!). And depending on what look you are going for, the shorter hairstyle from 2012 or when it’s longer but the bangs are spiked up and off your forehead makes you look edgier.

    If you are on Pinterest there are many suggestions of wardrobes (ie. wardrobes for short legs, wardrobes for broad shoulders, wardrobes for pear shapes). That may be a source for inspiration.

    • Thank you, Freckles! Unfortunately the lace-up boots wore out and were too poorly made to repair. A replacement pair is due! Likewise I no longer have that black-and-white plaid skort, only a blue printed one. Yes, I do have some darker tights now! I did choose the spiked hairstyle on purpose to look “edgier” (my friends would laugh) and that is my default look. I grow it out for a few months now and then, but always go back to it. I just had a realization. I tend never to look at Pinterest or Polyvore for fashion, because I’m afraid I will become obsessed with things I want to buy. I wonder if I could train myself to just look, and maybe incorporate some of the ideas?

  10. I think you look great–and I still love your Paris dress. I dress very plainly, but always wear a scarf. It took a while for me to be comfortable in scarves–I just throw them on, no complex knots. I wear lipstick every day. And sunscreen.

  11. I wasn’t able to leave comments for a while–looks like one made it!

  12. I like your sense of style. I would hire you to pick out my clothes or just shop your closet!! 🙂

  13. Pingback: Wardrobe Report 2016 | An Exacting Life

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