Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Musings...Personal Style

I've been thinking a lot about Personal Style lately... how it affects the way you view yourself, the way others view you, your shopping habits, and above all how it is ever-changing. Over the past couple of years, I have actually felt a big shift in my personal style. Maybe it had something to do with my turning 40 last year, or it was just simply time for a change...whatever the reason, the 'makeover' began and so did the change in my clothing preferences. 

I have decided that I want to once again take a 'less is more' approach to dressing...classic and feminine silhouettes, clean lines, beautiful fabric and prints, understated elegance, along with a 'nod' to the trends every now and then. I want a simplified wardrobe consisting of quality pieces that will endure the test of time, not 'disposable' clothing that I can only wear one or two times before it is ready for the trash bin. I have become a lot more 'strict' about what I will allow to take residence in my closet, and if an item arrives that doesn't meet my expectations or criteria then back it goes immediately. I am also in the process of purging my closet of the items that no longer work with my personal style. This one is tricky, as I have let things go before only to wish I had them back a year or so later, but things feel different this time, so I am being quite relentless about what stays and what goes.

Photo by Lillian Bassman
So as my personal style has been and is currently evolving, here is what is on my list:

*Casual Day Dresses that I can wear at home while handling all of my day-to-day 'domestic duties'. These are well-made and comfortable to wear, but still relatively inexpensive so that I don't have a melt down if something happens to get on them during my daily routine. They are also hard to come by, and I continue on my quest to find them...let me know if you have any suggestions.  I do like this one from Topshop and am currently awaiting its arrival to my door in order to try it out. (This is my first Topshop purchase, so I'm not quite sure what to expect...hope it isn't a disaster.)

Now you may be saying, dresses during the day while you're at home? Why? Well you see, I made a decision many years ago that I would no longer spend my days in workout clothes and no makeup just because I spend the majority of my time at home. I felt that my husband and boys also deserved to see me looking nice on a daily basis, and still do, so I make an effort each day to do my hair, makeup, and put on a pretty outfit for them. After all...they are more important to me than the general public is! :)

Now, having 4 children myself (and fairly young ones, at that), I know how difficult it can seem to be able to find the time to fix yourself up, but when you really think about it, it's just as easy to put on a nice outfit than it is to put on yoga pants and a tee, plus the former makes you feel better about yourself all day (at least it does me), and as the saying goes..."If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy", so as moms and women it really is important to feel good about ourselves, which usually results in us feeling happy. We owe it to all the people we come in contact with...especially our families! :)

*Dresses for Church/Date Night/Occasional Party or Event: My favorite designers for these are Kate Spade, Nanette Lepore, and Milly. I have been able to find a few of my wish listed ones at great sale prices it when that happens!!!

*Skirts: I do not wear skirts as often as I do dresses, but have recently been reaching for my Sterling Skirts from J.Crew constantly. I absolutely LOVE them, and I think I will probably buy one in every single color they ever offer it in. It is one of the few skirts I have ever found that actually works with my figure and feels comfortable to wear.

*Tops: I am gravitating much more toward the basics, with an occasional printed or embellished top thrown into the mix for some variety. I prefer tops in solid colors and clean lines that are very comfortable to wear. I recently discovered the Skinny-rib Turtleneck from Vince and fell in love. I own the black one and the ivory is on its way to me as we speak. This top is extremely flattering and so very comfortable to wear. It looks lovely tucked into the Sterling skirt or worn untucked with a pair of jeans and knee boots. Another less expensive alternative that is made well and comfortable is the Organic Cotton Demi-Sleeve T-Neck Sweater from Athleta. I have it in the color 'Bone' which is a lovely cream/off-white that is substantial weight and not sheer.

*Jackets: I am a jacket person. I love to thrown one on with a pair of jeans and a tee or turtleneck for a casual chic look that is put-together and comfortable at the same time. However, I really do have enough jackets...too many, in fact, especially since I live in Florida and don't get to wear them as much as I would like. For that reason, they haven't been on my radar as much this year, other than the Schoolboy Blazer in Blackwatch tartan and this Leopard-print Jacket from Milly (which is SO much prettier in person than in the online pic).

*Jeans: I already own numerous pairs in different washes, cuts, and lengths, so I definitely am not on the look out for any more right now.

*Pants: I don't wear them that often (I am usually in a dress or jeans) so the ones I do have will need to look for another pair right now.

*Handbags: I have not purchased a new handbag in quite some time, even though I've been tempted by several from J.Crew and Kate Spade. When I find 'the' new one, I will know, but that hasn't happened yet. I would really like to eventually acquire a true investment bag such as a Birkin or Chanel 2.55, and that will take a LOT of saving on my part, so that is another reason I have not been handbag shopping in some time. Every little bit I spend on 'instant gratification' pieces eats into my 'large purchase' fund, so I am making a conscious effort to only purchase what I truly love.

*Footwear: This includes shoes, boots, and sandals. I have been practically living in my black Cole Haan Air Kailey knee boots that I purchased a couple of years ago. The quality on this pair of boots is excellent and they still look practically new after all this time. Every time I wear them I receive numerous compliments and asked where I got them. If Cole Haan offered the same boot again I would definitely purchase a pair in another color. I also wear my Tory Burch black Penny Loafers quite often, as well as my clogs from Indigo by Clarks.

I really think that investing in high quality and well-made footwear pays off in the end...that was the case with my Cole Haan boots. They were a tad pricey at the time, but I have worn them so much over the past couple of years that the CPW is in the negative amount by now. Not to mention that they are extremely comfortable and still in excellent condition after all this time. Recently I have been searching for a pair of suede boots, so taking my quality criteria into account, I decided to try the La Canadienne Passion Riding Boot (during's recent 25% off promo) because I have always read wonderful reviews on them. Well, I have to say that the reviews are absolutely true. The boots are beautiful, well-made, and extremely comfortable. Yes, they are a lot to pay for a boot, but if they last as long as some of the reviews state, then they will be a worthwhile investment.

I have plenty of flip-flops and sandals for the spring and summer months, but the one shoe I am lacking is a neutral mid-heel to wear with my dresses and skirts (when I don't want to wear my boots). The shoes must be classic, comfortable, and high quality...I want a pair that I can wear all day and that will last for several years, defying the trends. After several years of reading excellent reviews about Chie Miharas, I gave them a try (two times actually), but haven't been able to get the sizing right so far. I'm not giving up on them though, and will definitely try again when I find another pair I like.

*Jewelry: Smaller is better for me right now. There was a time that I really liked to wear statement necklaces and earrings, but now I much prefer them smaller and daintier (except for my hoop earrings). Pearls and diamond studs are always a favored choice, and recently I have been constantly reaching for my black Acorn Fireball earrings, as well. While I prefer smaller earrings and necklaces, I do still like bold watches and bracelets, plus my love for sparkle hasn't changed, either. :)

*Belts: A skinny belt worn at the waistline is a favored look of mine right now. I love the calf-hair skinny belt at J.Crew, especially, and wear it quite often such as in this look that I wore to a Ladies' 'Tea Party' at church.
9.24.11: The Gallerista and Jackie

My wardrobe is finally beginning to reflect the changes in my personal style, but definitely is not finished yet. As much as I would love to remove it all and start over fresh that just isn't feasible, therefore my closet 'makeover' will continue to be an ongoing process for quite some time. I have every confidence that it will eventually hold only pieces that I absolutely adore and reach for on a consistent basis. :)

What are your thoughts on Personal Style? Have you defined your own yet or is it still in transition? Do you find that you have certain wardrobe staples that you reach for over and over? How do you feel about purchasing investment pieces? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Have a lovely day!



  1. I am thinking along the same lines. I have no children at home and work full time so my needs are different but still thinking that I need to pare down and refine my style. I find myself wearing more skirts these days than dresses- partly because my top and bottom sizes are different and partly because it's easier to mix with different tops for work. I too rarely wear pants and have a couple options for winter and summer that are fine. My weakness is accessories, shoes and handbags. But I buy good ones and use them regularly so that justifies the expense. Keep us updated on your wardrobe progress!

  2. I really enjoyed reading about your journey of personal style. I think that's the great thing about it, it constantly evolves, so it's naturally that you would shed some items that no longer reflect the 'you'now. I've been thinking about this same topic as well lately, and have some plans for the new year on how to simplify yet maximize what I own.

    Thanks for the easy read!

  3. Great post. I can see that you've put a lot of time and thought into your style evolution. I also would love to re-do my wardrobe, but there is no good reason to do that. I have middle school aged kids and I work from home (part-time), so I'm home a lot too and have a hard time merging my personal style with my real life of jeans, boots and sweaters. My style aesthetic is classic "with a twist", great dresses, tailored jackets and pencil skirts. Trina Turk, DVF are just 2 of my favorite designers for their great dresses-of which I have a couple-but I need to wear them more often. FFM, you've got me thinking. I'll be 50 in 2013 and keep thinking I'll want a style overhaul-but first I need to work on the physical overhaul-a lot more working out is where I need to focus.

  4. Hi FFM,
    What an excellent post and as you know a topic top of mind for me too! I'm actually working on a post right now based on a reader question: where to buy everyday dresses and investing in basics. It's not as easy as it sounds as you know, dresses need to be machine washable and comfortable yet have a polished look. This reader is also a SAHM who wants to be well-dressed for her family every day.
    I am tempted to try the Sterling skirt again, I wish it came in colors that are different from things I own already!
    You and I have very similar styles and I love your thoughtful approach to dressing. I'll certainly be keeping a close eye on your recommendations as they've always been so excellent!

  5. Me again, but I had a question for you: have you tried Boden for day dresses?
    I never have as they don't ship to Canada.
    Any thoughts you have on the brand are appreciated!

  6. Great post. Thanks for writing it:) As a stay at home mom I live in my yoga and exercise wear so that at any given moment I can exercise if I have free time. I do my hair and make up each day but could not imagine wearing anything else during the day.

    When I do go out which is usually in the evenings I love khakis or a dress. I rarely wear jeans. I don't think I have worn jeans in about 2 years! (but I keep five very well fitting ones in my closet...just in case I ever go back to wanting to wear them.)

    I get lots of comments on my dresses when I am out and I love wearing scarves.

    Been dressing this way for over 10 years and very happy...

  7. Fantastic post! I love your thoughts and musings. It is so important for women to develop a personal style, no matter if they are professionals out in the workplace or SAHMs. I feel like I am slowly settling into my own which is quite similar to yours ;)

    In your search for a shoe you really should check out "shoes of prey". I received a pair for my birthday in sept and I could not be happier. I went with a 3" wedge D'Orsey pump in the light tan natural leather. They are extremely comfortable and the most well made pair of shoes I have ever owned.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

  8. Thank you all so much for stopping by today ladies and for all the lovely comments, as well!

    Angie: I think that a weakness for accessories, shoes, and handbags isn't necessarily such a bad thing! Like you said, they get more use than a lot of clothing items, so the CPW is usually even lower on them than your clothes. I do have a large selection already myself, so I am trying to refrain for now so that I can concentrate on overhauling other parts of my wardrobe. :)

  9. Dea: Thank you so much! I am really happy to hear that you enjoyed my post! Love your phrase 'simplify yet maximize'...what a great way to think about it. I'll be looking forward to reading about your plans on your blog. :)

  10. Thanks JulieStyles! Ah yes, the merging of 'real life' with your personal style...definitely not easy. I'm sure that your classic with a twist does come through your outfits on a day to day basis though, even if they are jeans, boots, and sweaters. It's just part of who you are, not to mention that it is a really great look to have. I also do the jeans, boots, and a tee or sweater on a semi-regular basis. You are right that it's a comfortable way to dress when at home.

    As for the physical overhaul. Last week I started the Classical Stretch series that Dani recommended on her blog and am really enjoying it. My posture is already better and my chronic back aches (from scoliosis) are lessening. I think I have even noticed some of my jiggly areas beginning to tighten up a bit. I would also recommend giving it a try. :)

  11. Hi Dani and thank you! It seems that there are quite a few of us on similar personal style journeys lately, doesn't it? You and I do have very similar styles and lifestyles, even...almost running parallel at times it seems. Too bad we aren't next door neighbors! I'm sure we'd have a blast. :)

    I have heard from a trusted source that there will more than likely be additional colors of the Sterling skirt. So if you feel the ones out now are too similar to what you already own, then you could give them a try the next time around. I've also asked that they consider offering a spring/summer version of the skirt so that we don't have to wait until cooler weather to wear this one. I honestly do just love it. I often have a hard time getting skirts to fit me without alterations, but this one fits perfectly as is...gotta love that! :)

    I have only ordered a couple of items from Boden and none were dresses. Unfortunately, I have a hard time finding the right size there, so I don't try things often. Plus shipping/returns takes quite a bit of time and that is also a deterrent for me. I will say though, that the items I did receive seemed to be excellent quality and their customer service is always top notch, as well. I'm sorry I can't be of more help regarding the dresses. Perhaps ask Dinagideon her thoughts on them?

  12. Hi anon@1:58pm and thanks! Thank you for bringing up the point that yoga and exercise wear can look good during the day. I think the main thing is to do your hair and makeup like you do. Plus, if that is your main wardrobe, you can invest in some really cute outfits that still look put together and ready for the public eye. :)

  13. Thank you Stacie...I'm so glad you enjoyed this post! The Shoes of Prey site looks fantastic! How wonderful to get a pair of shoes specifically designed and made for you, not to mention comfortable. I am definitely going to spend some time on there checking everything out! Thank you for letting me know about them! :)

    Btw, it's great to "see" you again! I hope you and your family are all doing well! :)

  14. Wonderful post!

    I actually just did the opposite - I am so dressed up at work that I actually just ordered a slew of j crew perfect ts and the saturday pants and the little crystal cardi in grey so that i had some decent cozy clothes for lounging around the house! It is so hard to get a balance and something is always out of whack!

    The older I get the less I am tolerating that feeling of not looking pulled together - I guess clothing is a journey, but I am ready for a uniform!

  15. Hi WMM! Thanks for stopping by...glad to hear that you also enjoyed this post! I don't blame you for wanting to find some comfy clothes to lounge in at home if you are required to dress up all week. It's been a long time since I worked in an office, but I do remember how tiresome it was dressing up every day. Finding balance would be great, but like you said it can be quite difficult to do. I find that having a couple of cute and comfy 'lounging' at home outfits, plus pretty PJ's for those times you just want to stay in them all day, are very beneficial. You get all the benefits of the comfort, and still get to look good at the same time. :)

  16. FFM, what a great post! This is something I've given much thought to myself. I started several years ago trying to find out what I wanted my style to be and how I wanted to look. That got me going on a great closet purge. It took a while I must say. I am also trying very hard to be careful about buying, and even more careful about keeping. I am ruthless with returns.

    I ended up with a smaller selection of things that I love. I'm happy waking into my closet :)

  17. That post was mine, Desert Flower! It's got me as anonymous for some reason.

  18. I've been thinking about this topic a lot lately. As you say, maybe it's getting to be "a certain age." Thanks for sharing your ideas with us.

  19. fabulous post!

    have you looked into kayce hughes for daytime dresses? i love them and they are affordable, well made and also she assures me they are made sweatshop free. she used to work for ralph lauren. she has a great american sensibility to her styles.


  20. Great post FFM!

    I can identify with much of what you said about investing in quality pieces. I used to be much more quantity over quality and I am noticing that with age, that doesn't appeal to me as much! I purchased a nice pair of Cole Haan heels for work and they got me thinking... wouldn't I rather have fewer pairs of shoes that look and feel (super comfortable) like this versus a million cheap pairs? I also am having a similar crisis with bags... trying to get rid of the excess ones I purchase willy-nilly and save for a few "nice" ones (Kate Spade!).

    I am also interested to see how my journey changes once this baby arrives! Thanks again for such a great post :)

  21. Desert Flower: I remember all of your closet purging. You did let go of a LOT! Doesn't it feel great to only own items that you love? I plan to downsize my wardrobe even more after the holidays, and I'm really looking forward to it, too. :)

  22. Hexicon: Yes, it could be an age thing. I feel like I am getting even more discerning in my selections the older I get. It actually feels quite liberating since I no longer feel the need to buy in quantity, or buy just because it's on sale. :)

  23. Janet: Thank you! I'm so glad you stopped by and appreciate the information about Kayce Hughes. This is the first time I've heard of her, but will definitely be checking out her site. :)

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  25. I so enjoy your blog and this post was great! I lost 35 lbs this year. I found when I repurchased items my style had really changed. I am purchasing much more classic shapes, styles and fabrics with a heavy nod to classic vintage styling and classic American and British styling. Most of my closet is J. Crew with a smattering of LE Canvas, Ralph Lauren, and the like. A typical winter outfit may be the Sterling skirt (THE most perfect skirt ever!), cashmere crewneck sweater, tights, sensible low heels, loafers or flats, beautiful silk headscarf, watch with a bunch of big bracelets, pearl or diamond earrings and expensive but very practical handbag. And red lipstick and nails. This is the look I always wanted. I don't do trends anymore or worry if other people think I look silly. I think I look great and I feel very pretty and put together now. And I applaud you for dressing nicely even if you stay at home. I believe there is a direct correlation between how you feel and how you dress. Bravo for keep America beautiful!!!!

  26. I love this post!!! I definitely changed over the past years as well. Today, I look for quality than quantity. No more junkies in my closet. Now 90% of my closet are clothes/shoes/bags that I love, I am still working on the last 10%, I'll get there.

  27. Anon@5pm: First of all CONGRATULATIONS on your weight loss! That is such a fantastic accomplishment! :)

    Secondly, you are my virtual twin style-wise! You just described me to a T when you shared your updated style. Doesn't it feel liberating not to feel as if you need to jump on every trend? To have confidence in what you choose to wear, knowing that your choices defy the trends and the test of time? I think it is just so wonderful that you now own a wardrobe that you love and that you look the way you have always wanted to. Bravo!!! :)

  28. The Outfit of the day: Thank you! I'm so glad to hear that you enjoyed this post. Isn't it such a wonderful feeling to look in your closet and see only things that you love? You are ahead of me at 90%, but hopefully I will catch up soon. :)

  29. What a great post! I am still catching up on blog reading (still recovering from end of term assignments and exam!!) so I apologize for the lateness of this comment, but just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading this. I have been thinking hard about my personal style over the past year and doing a major overhaul of my wardrobe. I also have a lot of time letting go of things and I am guilty of making a lot of "instant gratification" purchases (especially when J. Crew has a major promotion on!) But my husband has been really helpfully in editing my wardrobe and pointing out things which he thinks work best on me and are truly reflective of my personal style. I look forward to hearing more about the evolution of your personal style!

  30. FFM! Thank you for your nice compliments! I remember when I weighted more I would dream of wearing cute J. Crew clothes, but never felt comfortable enough to even try them on. All my beautiful new clothes are a great incentive to keep the weight off. I have been following you for about 6 months and LOVE your style. You have encouraged me to look at items I may not have. It's so much fun! It's does feel great to finally "grow" into a personal style. I think for me it was just getting older and accepting who I am and what I like regardless of trends or what magazines tell us to wear. Here's something I hope will make you laugh. The other day I dressed all up to do my errands. I was wearing low stacked heel leather loafers, heathered tights, a wool skirt, blouse with a cardi, silk scarf, big watch but small earrings and nice handbag. I looked in the mirror for a final check and said to myself...."All I need is a corgi and I'd be The Queen's twin!" Hee! I have always admired that moneyed country house look, but I didn't realize I had unconsciously created it for myself. It suits me to a "T" as they say. I've received more compliments on my outfits recently than ever before. I gotta get myself that corgi now!

  31. Louise: Thank you SO much! I'm so pleased to hear that you enjoyed reading my post. I completely understand about having a hard time letting things go...I struggle with that myself, but like you, have been getting a lot better at it. I think it is so wonderful that your husband is able to help you edit your wardrobe. It is always helpful to get someone else's opinion, especially when they are not emotionally attached to the clothing like us women tend to be. :)

  32. Anon@5pm/3:24pm: I love your 'Queen' story and the outfit you had on sounds fabulous! Yes, I can definitely relate. Like you, I have always admired the moneyed country house look and sometimes wonder how I ever ended up living in Florida.

    Thank you so much again for stopping by to share your story! :)

  33. Hi FFM,
    Would you mind letting us know how your topshop dress turned out? Was it a keeper or did it get sent back?

  34. Hi Anon@2:31pm! The Topshop dress finally did arrive and it was very nice in person. The length of the dress came to about an inch or so above my knee and looked really cute with tights and boots, as well as a wide belt at the waist. However, I ordered the size 2 and while it was a good fit in the waist, it was a bit too snug in the bust area and also in the shoulders, so I returned it. I didn't order the size 4 because I was concerned that the waist would be too big. This is a common problem for me though, because I have broad shoulders so the sizes that fit me properly at the waist don't always fit in the shoulder area. If you have normal-size or smaller shoulders then your 'regular' size should work in the dress.

    I will say that ordering from Topshop was a pleasant experience, even though the shipping did take awhile (like Boden does). The return was easy though, and I received my refund within a week or so after sending it back. I had snapped some pictures hoping to post them in a review, but they turned out sort of dark. If you would like me to send you one of the better ones so you can see how the dress fits, I would be more than happy to. Just leave me your email address or send me a note privately to HTH! :)