Locating Style in the Doldrums

When it comes to fashion, does excitement have to run parallel to feeling good?

11.20.14

Women tend to believe that when it comes to fashion, there is one saving grace — an article of clothing or pair of shoes or depending where you live, a decadent scarf — that changes the course of your wardrobes and its narrative forever. So we search. Aware that the pursuit can be long and tiring, we convince ourselves that this grace must exist to keep the wheels of exploration in motion.

And there are rules about this item: it never gets old and thus is worth of any (vaguely reasonable) dollar amount. It doesn’t go out of style or barricade your creativity. Like a good partner, it shines The Relationship Flashlight on you, making you feel like the best version of yourself in perpetuity. If you’ve never known companionship like this, it can be likened to your mother, or best friend — an individual you’ve never grown tired of knowing.

But the thing about the grace is this sense of impossibility. That many of us might go through life and never really find it. We may think we see variations of it but upon ownership, it is often determined that it’s never as magical as we thought it would be.

Once the novelty of proprietorship wears off, there is chance you will continue to wear the item in question but frequently what you’ll find is that you let impulse dictate the purchase. You confused your excitement-in-conjunction-with-a-relentless-pursuit-of-the-new for investment and what you’re left with is a hole in your wallet and possibly too, a closet full of stuff that you really, really don’t want to wear.

So I ask you to consider a point that runs counter to a tempting case Kayla made for impulse investing yesterday. If marrying the “right kind of man” is like investing in a bond rather than a stock with little risk but guaranteed reward, it might pay to apply a similar tenet to our shopping habits. Last year, I bought a pair of brown boots on sale. They are attractive in the predictable way that a pink rose is but similarly, too, fairly quiet. If you saw them immediately post purchase, I’m sure you wouldn’t notice they were new. If you saw them today, I don’t think you’d notice them at all. They didn’t excite me then and they don’t excite me now but they have both quelled several bouts of wardrobe anxiety and seen the best and worst of New York. Heretofore, they’ve made it out with great aplomb.

Around the same time, I bought another pair of shoes. They were black patent leather, 6-inch wedge boots that looked like a pair of mary-janes stuck in a white sock, which was actually a patch of white suede. I’d ordered them from overseas and waited eagerly for their arrival. It took three days and when they came, I congratulated my feet on the new comrade they had just achieved. I wore them out that evening. I haven’t worn them since. I still look at them admirably but in the grand scheme of feeling my best, they’ve provided little worth.

So maybe there’s value in waiting — for excitement to subside, rationality to set in and the sparkle of what’s familiar to prove itself worthwhile enough to make you comfortable with the fact that there is no saving grace. It’s just you and your clothes.

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  • Lua Jane

    I can totally relate to that. I can’t exactly say I have super expensive stuff I plan to wear for decades, but I do have types of things that are the closest thing to the “best” version of me, while at the same time being useful. I’d say simple gray cashmere sweaters I have in few shades of gray, black pointy suede pumps, few pairs of ankle length slacks define that. I wear those when I can’t plan a specific look. It’s easy “me”. My uniform. So those together with dark wash jeans and crisp white shirts are the things I buy and replace regularly. I don’t get too excited about them, because there isn’t much to be excited about, but frankly they are more valuable then any super colorful designer shoes or a funny blouse I use occasionally when I look up a thing they can be worn for.
    I think french ladies, like Charlotte Gainsbourg herself or Emmanuelle Alt are perfect example of why simple understated pieces work.

  • Amelia Diamond

    I want 2 4 5 6 7 8 and 10 NOW.

    • Kandeel

      i was looking through the pictures at first and totally thought “Amelia” before i read this article

  • Yes, the items I most want to wear are usually the boring non-impulse ones. The impulse ones lose their luster fast.

    http://www.FashionSnag.com

  • Lulu

    I have a whole walk-in closet full of clothes, shoes and accessories I haven’t worn in years. I look at it all and think, “Who is the girl that bought this stuff, and why!” Everything I wear on a daily basis now is in a big pile on a chair in my room or hanging on a clothes rack I had to start using because of overflow.

    • Kelsey

      aaaah yes the chair pile, my trusty go to sweaters and pants right there where I left them. I know it well

      • Leandra Medine

        That’s my improvisational underwear drawer — all the clothes in rotation somehow end up in there and nowhere else

  • lavieenliz

    I’m definitely more simple and classic.

    giveaway on my blog!

    http://hashtagliz.com

  • I love this post because I can totally relate & feel the same way! The items of clothing I’ve loved the most and feel best in are the simple ones that accomplish their duty without letting the world know that they’re fabulous. In my case, I’d much rather “invest” in a simple sweater that will become my go-to comfort item than invest in some sky-high shoes that I will just stare at in admiration but never wear.

    http://www.littleblackshell.com

  • dustUP

    Fashion lately abuses word perfection.
    Perfection is individual and highly relative, not a universal criteria, not a default. Average looking brown boots are as useful, practical and comfortable as 6 inch heels are exciting. They both have value to you, both do it for you in their different ways. So right, there is no saving grace! They say that perfection exists only while you are searching for it, therefore, they are both “perfect”.

    There is just profit driven industry, you, your clothes and glorious process of search. Sometimes I refuse to know myself and buy into me with new and strange sounding adjective (make sure it’ll never be “perfect”), hoping I’ll possibly become that fresh new me, especially if i know I can afford to fail.

  • I firmly believe in the ownership of a few pairs of good jeans (good meaning appropriate for my figure, of colors I like and the material that won’t fall apart just because I am looking at it). I cannot imagine myself being anything else than a jeans lady. I guess I never will be.
    And since I have felt satisfied with my jeans these few years (don’t care much about jeans trends, either), I allow myself to dabble with some other narratives on the side: it is fun and exciting, if I want excitement, and I take care not to assume too much. But there’s no need to change the basic narrative, that of a jeans moose.

  • rosy

    … “Heretofore”… wow! 🙂

  • Love these simple and cool looks! #5 and 6 are so inspiring!

    http://www.sassique.com

  • alex

    i have totally come to this realization within the past few months. I put close to 200 pieces in my basement, shoes, clothes, you name it. I didn’t get rid of them because what if do need them. (I wont, but I’m just not ready to part with my beloved sequin blazers and short dresses. lol) I have kept all the things I wear in my closet. But, even today when i was getting dressed, I said, I haven’t worn that in a few months, and I don’t want to. It’s a horrible feeling really. lol

  • What a conundrum, some clothes, shoes or whatever make me incredibly excited because of their elaborate decoration but some clothes make me excited because they’re ridiculously comfy and soft!

    http://tostylewithlove.com/

    Daphne

  • Hmmmm. I go both ways on this one. Every now and then my safe purchases (a navy cable cashmere sweater, for instance) never get worn as they bore me. But then, an impulse purchase of faux-leather skinny overalls get worn to death. A silver sequin skirt, I’ve also worn so frequently that I bought a second in black. There is no rhyme or reason!

    http://www.thestylopedia.com

  • Sasha Leon J

    Story of my life. I still miss my 100 dollar Zara booties that my roommate borrowed and lost… as opposed to my Givenchy pairs that are now owned by someone else thanks to Ebay.
    http://www.styleworm.com

  • kfb

    Excellent writing. Great closing paragraph

  • Marianne Ronsse

    I get the point of the author, and I agree, except for the part on “marrying the right man”. Although I get where you’re going with it, I think there’s more to finding “the right man” than just settling for a rational sense of compatibility. And frankly, I also think that one can get excited about a really beautiful but basic item of clothing, even if other people might even fail to notice it’s a new purchase.
    Anyway, loved the article, and the writing.
    (I always second guess myself on posting anything because I’m a bit ashamed of how I put my thoughts to words after reading your articles! but whenever there are spelling/syntax errors/weak writing style, I’ll blame it on english not being my mother tongue 😉 )

    • Leandra Medine

      never would have guessed English was your second language. plus, this is avery safe place!

  • Julia Fuller

    You are such a joyful and fluent narrator of emotional narratives that normally only happen in our heads! thank you for this one.