We're moving on September 30! We have a new domain and a new web site, so from now on, please visit us at our new address:


(Don't forget to update your bookmarks, too!)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Your Signature Style, Part II: Analyze Your Mistakes

Picking my favorite "go-to" pieces was fun and easy! I am not so happy-faced about the second step in Real Simple's series, Define Your Signature Style. As it reads:

Step 2: Analyze Your Mistakes

Like rehashing a bad relationship, this cringe-inducing ( yet cathartic) exercise helps ensure that you don’t go down the same dead ends again. Ready? Take out five things you wish you hadn’t bought and ask yourself the questions in step one, plus the questions below. Then let go of those items, plus anything else that’s not pulling its weight—even if it still has its tags or it will be perfect once you lose 10 pounds or you have friends who throw fancy parties. “Your wardrobe should reflect who you are now,” says Kendall Farr, the author of Style Evolution. “Don’t hang on to images of what worked for you 10 or 20 years ago.”

    Do you have anywhere to wear this?
    Is it high-maintenence?
    Does it make you feel old and frumpy? Or young and silly?
    Is it poor quality?
    Did you buy it for the thrill of the bargain?
    Did you buy it only because it was trendy?
    Was it a panic purchase for a big event?
    Does the color make you look pale? Yellow? Ruddy?

Your answers reveal: Your shopping blind spots. (Write down details about your mistakes so you never waste another cent falling into the same trap.) If your favorite pieces are tailored and crisp, that’s why you’re not reaching for the ruffled chiffon top. You will want to hold firm to your “likes” and “dislikes” lists.


I really, truly don't own five things I wish I hadn't bought. Oh yes, I have bought them - but they don't stay in my closet for long. So here are a couple of sad-sack memories, and why they were mistakes:

  • Polyester print 60's mini dress. Too short to feel comfortable at work, poor quality fabric, made me feel a little "young and silly", bought for the Thrill of the Bargain on eBay ("it's vintage!").

It was similar to this one, currently on eBay
Not a bad dress, but not good for me.

  • Ankle length camel corduroy skirt. Made me feel old and frumpy, bought for the Thrill of the Bargain at a thrift store.

Again, not heinous, but I felt so lumpy-dumpy in it.
But it was only $1.50! I had to!!

  • Floral print cotton blazer. Colors washed me out, construction was poor quality, bought for the Thrill of the Bargain at Target on clearance (before I took the Shop Secondhand First Pledge).

Some of you would look fab in this. But it just killed me dead. No amount of
lipstick could save me. But it was $8!

I see a trend in my fashion "mistakes", eh? I have fallen for the Thrill of the Bargain without considering if a piece is truly functional, good quality and a flattering color for me. I'm getting better at resisting The Bargain, and don't have a recent purchase to put on this list.

How about you? Care to share any purchasing "mistakes" and what you've learned from them?  Do you have a shopping blind spot?


  1. Pam@over50feeling40January 10, 2013 at 8:22 AM

    I am constantly analyzing mistakes...sometimes I just have to face the facts that some things don't work for me...for example, I love maxi skirts, but really they do not work for me (body shape) at this time of my life.  They age me...but, my friends can wear them at the same age and look fabulous!  You just have to decide what you want to communicate with your style and what works for you and not look at what others are wearing as much.  That is why I came up with the Foundational Five....five questions to ask myself before I purchase something!!

  2. I analyze my pictures--it has really helped me see what works and what doesn't.

    My mistake--the Mother of the Bride dress last spring. It looked ok in my post but the wedding pictures in sunlight were heinous!!1 I've decided it was the length (just a tad too short) and the color was too pale which made my pasty legs even pastier looking.

  3. I have one mistake that I still think about now and then. In 2007, I went to Paris for the very first time. While shopping for chic clothing to pack in my suitcase, I came across a funky coat that was double-breasted, had a plaid, pleated skirt-looking thing attached to the bottom and a huge, wide collar. I spent a fortune on it - then had it taken in for another small fortune. Looking back, I can't believe what a foolish purchase it was. Bulky in the wrong places, not flattering on anyone, and just plain weird! What I learned is to spend my money on classics and avoid bulkiness. 
    I am surprised that floral jacket didn't work for you. It looks darling! But just because something looks good on a photo or hanging in your closet, doesn't mean it looks good on any person - another thing I have learned the hard way! 

  4. I bought a crochet crop sweater last year that turned out to be an utter disaster!

  5. Thank you for this great analyzing tool!  I make a lot of my wardrobe, but fall for the same traps in the fabric store.  I tend to buy fabrics too glitzy for my very quiet life or make garments way too fussy for my bohemian laissez-faire self.  I'm getting better at being choosy so I'll end up with garments I actually wear, instead of clothing I donate because I'll never wear it.

  6. I have made to many mistakes to mention!  But I'm with Pam on the Maxi's.  I tried, oh how I tried.  I finally realized they make me look frumpy!  Thanks for the last two posts.  They are making me think about my long term style choices instead of the style-bargin of the moment.

  7. I'm fairly aware of what works for me, but I sometimes buy things too big, especially skirts or pants. I guess I'm afraid of having something too tight, but I should spend more time in the changing rooms and see how things really fit!

  8. I think you have to 'buy to try'!  You never know what works or what you can create without different pieces and at least your items weren't expensive.


  9. I love these posts.  I am currently living by this advice right now.  Editing my closet has been so long overdue that it feels like a bit of a nightmare right now at the beginning of the process.  Progress is hard work.  I hate to admit my shopping blind spot.  It's so stupid and embarrassing.  I buy stuff sometimes that doesn't fit :(

  10. Now I am not picking up every cute skirt just because it is a couple of dollars.  If I don't think, "I love it!" then I won't buy it.  


  11. I have definitely bought things, especially if they are super-cheap, which haven't worked so well once I actually put them on... I have learned a lot from looking at photos of myself rather than just what I see in the mirror. I know pale pastels don't do much for me, neither do pencil skirts. But I had to buy them and be disappointed to find that out! I have a bit of a cavalier attitude really - I rarely try anything on when I go charity shopping, and I often buy from Ebay, on the premise that I will sell the item on if it isn't right for me. I think this has made me more likely to take a risk, which has helped me expand my horizons! But I appreciate not everyone wants to sell on Ebay or Etsy, so that isn't a strategy for everyone.
    The dress and the jacket you bought are really lovely - but if they aren't right for you, then time for them to find new owners! xxxx

  12. LOL - no amount of lipstick could save this!
    I get in moods when I shop and my mistakes usually happen when I'm On A Roll. I try to give myself a 24hour test - go back the next day to see if 1) it's still there and 2) it still thrills. Sometimes this keeps me out of trouble.

  13. More good tips!  I have a bag of those experiments sitting in the closet waiting to be donated.  For me its usually the thrill of the bargain, or thinking i can try something new.  One thing I've found out is that i can sometimes refashion something to make it work (shorten the sleeve or the skirt length...) 

  14. Most of my clothing mistakes were the result of impulse buys.  I have to learn to wait and think about things before rushing in to purchase.

  15. What a wonderful post. Very helpful.

  16. I often fall for the thrill of the bargain. It's a common thread for me as a thrifter. I recently bought a suede jumper dress. It looked so cute and artsy in the dressing room. Now that I have it home - I'm not sure about it. I'm going to give it at least two wears before resigning it to craft projects (because it IS suede and a bunch of it). 

    I also buy a lot of heavy sweaters. It's 60F today. There are few and far between days where I need a truly heavy sweater. I just like the idea of snuggly slouchy sweaters. I've cleared out many of them time and again. 

    I also have a bad habit of falling in love with pieces made of fiber content I don't like. I buy it hoping to be able to stand it and it eventually winds up redonated.

    I agree with Tamera, I've begun analyzing my pictures to see what both looks good and I remember feeling comfortable in.

  17. I knew it!  The mini-dress is shapeless.  The lack of waist should have clued you in.

    In addition to falling for "thrill of bargain" and "trendy" I also fall to wrong place shopping.  I have the worst luck with Kohl's.  I go into the store and the combination of "thrill of bargain" and "trendy" conspire to make nearly everything I buy there,  a never-worn wardrobe item.  I can't begin to document the eventually given away t-shirts I've thrown into my cart at Target.  I have a list of stores I don't allow myself to shop at because I have such a bad track record.  It's weird, I love every tablecloth I've ever bought at Kohl's.

    I have better luck at Nordstrom, where I rarely experience "thrill of the bargain" because I buy very carefully.

  18. Oh yes! I've made a real effort to post even bad photos to my blog, so I can truly analyze what does and does not work for me. 

    The mistake I have not been able to correct yet, because I haven't had reason to buy new pants (like losing weight!) is that most of my pants are a little too short. I keep buying "average" length, when I really should buy "tall" and have them taken up. Ugh! 

    But my budget can't handle replacing all my pants, so I live with it for now....

  19. Patti - finding this series fascinating - for me it's been thrill of bargain every time!