Wednesday, 23 November 2011

how to buy what you'll wear and wear what you buy: lessons learned from personal style blogging

Before I had a blog, I was a really bad analytical shopper. I'd buy things that didn't match anything else in my wardrobe... or that I had no place to wear. Now, "analytical" and "shopper" are not words that you would automatically put together, but there is a lot of discussion around the web about "finding your personal style," "being a smart shopper," and, perhaps most nebulous of all, "investing in the basics."

Finding your personal style can be more difficult than it sounds, but there's nothing quite like looking back on over a year's worth of posts in a personal style blog to make you start thinking about what has been working for you. Accordingly, I've looked back at the three items of clothing that have appeared in my life in the last approximate year, that have each been blogged a variety of ways, and that were overall stellar buys: the kind of investment that every purchase should be.

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The boat print dress, Topshop via ebay

Saw it on a blog, had to have it, ebay stalked it until victorious, all the while wondering "is this really what you should be spending your money on?" The answer was a resounding yes. It has astoundingly only appeared on my blog four times since I bought it in the summer... but I must have worn it about forty times... not bad for a very summery dress.

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The birdcage skirt, Snoozer Loser

If you break down a successful purchase by a cost-per-wear ratio, this isn't the best piece I own. I spent $120 on it (I can hear all your thrifters gasping in horror, but whatever, it's handmade and from an independent designer, and, as Aya points out, it's my money)! I don't wear it non-stop. But I find cost-per-wear limiting, because this is a skirt that I feel is so completely me that I automatically feel better wearing it. Wearing it too often might deprive it of its magic, which is that some person I never met figured out what I never would have: that my personality can basically be boiled down into a moody and faintly gothic birdcage print on an obnoxious mustard colour. Also, I thought this piece would be hard to remix... wrong. I've worn it five different ways already on the blog.

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The multicoloured gingham shirt, vintage

This one wasn't a purchase at all. I bought a few items from Veronika's blog shop, and she threw this in the envelope as a gift. Basically, my favourite shirt ever (I'm wearing it as I type). I've worn it at least twice a week for the last six months... and I don't see that changing.

Lessons learned

At first glance you might say: "So,she likes independent designers, high street brands and vintage... and has paid everything from $0-$120 for her favourite pieces, and either wears them all the time or only occasionally... what does that say?"

But there are patterns--literally. All my favourite pieces of the past year are patterned. Two of three are novelty prints. Also, they are all multicoloured, which I find extremely useful for remixing and layering... you can play up any of the colours they contain. I really like that they all contain a hint of red or orange, as red is one of my "neutral colours." They're all quite classic shapes: a poofy but not indecent skirt, a nipped waist dress, a boyish blouse. They're all made of nice but basic materials (cotton or linen). They're all my basics, but still a bit quirky.

What would your top three purchases of last year say about you?

52 comments:

Collette Osuna said...

I ADORE all three pieces....I can totally see where you are coming from as far as something making you feel better just by putting it on.
I have a few pieces as well that make me feel like that, its priceless if you ask me:)

A Funky Little Fashion Blog

Virginie's Cinema said...

Good tips! Finding your personal style is really hard and so is building a closet that works for you, so any advice is welcome!

I love that my favorite shirt of yours you didn't even chose, like destiny had a plan for your personal style!

Have a good rest of the week Em!

ps: I wore my rain boots with socks today for the first snow storm and they are definitely what you need for Christmas in Canada!
Virginie ♥

Emily, Ruby Slipper Journeys said...

Aww, thanks for the tip, Virginie! They'd better be enough because that's what I have!

Aya Smith said...

Hey, it's YOUR money! Maybe I say that because I'm guilty of spending too much on things too, but you have to think of it as what YOU are willing to spend... if you are happy with the purchase, then it's a fair price.

That being said, I LOOOOVE That skirt. AND the dress. AND the plaid shirt... they are all pieces I would invested in too!!! And you look GORGEOUS wearing them.

Aya ♥ Strawberry Koi

Jenni Wells - Stop Making Sense said...

I love that topshop dress! I actually tried it on at a thrift store once but it was too small.

I need to take this advice!! I always buy insane pieces that don't match anything I own. I have so much I've never gotten the chance to even wear because of this.

Emily, Ruby Slipper Journeys said...

@Aya: Haha, yes! Although I always seem to lie to my mother especially about how much things cost!

@Jenni: Oh, tell me about it. I used to buy things because "they looked good on me." I've finally realized that is much too broad a category (to say nothing of subjective and kind of dumb) to build a wardrob on.

Maria Elyse said...

I loved reading this... :)

I think unique items that really make you feel like *you* are the best buys. Even if you just wear them once in a while, like you said. My three favorite/most worn purchases from the past year are without a doubt my trench coat (I got it from Tulle for $8 bucks on Black Friday!), my satchel (on sale for $16!), and my "nerd" glasses for like really really cheap, haha. I guess what that says about me is that I really like things that I will use ALL THE TIME. Classic, pretty pieces for a good deal that I'll use forever. :)

xo
Maria Elyse
www.uneasyimpressions.blogspot.com

AngeliqueDama said...

Awww, wonderful! Love all the stylings:)

AngeliqueDama said...

Really love it! Wonderful!

Amber Blue Bird said...

I was the same way before blogging. I would just pile the most random things in my cart but now I try to be a bit more cohesive and put outfits together in my head. Cost per wear has really helped to justify some higher end purchases.

Isabel, Wake up & smell the azahar said...

Such an inspiring post, you make me think a lot about the concept of basic. It is something really personal. Maybe the key is to find garments you'll easily wear, although they would never be considered a "standard" basic.

Marie @ Lemondrop Vintage said...

I love novelty prints too. Blogging has helped me redefine my style, and it definitely includes whimsy pieces!

Marie @ Lemondrop ViNtAge
I'm having a giveaway...

Closet Fashionista said...

So true!! I agree, cost per wear is a great thing, but sometimes your favorite pieces will never live up to that ratio (like my new Miu Mius I just got XDXD)
I think my top 3 purchases say that I like simple clothing items but crazy shoes ;)
http://www.closet-fashionista.com/

Raquel, Black Sheep said...

I really love this post, it is completely true, before I had a "fashion" blog I bought these random things and my closet was a mess, now I can actually see a pattern!
I really like your top three, though I don't really know what are mine :S

Miss Tallulah Porkchop said...

Great post. Really interesting.

Sparks In Spring said...

Its wonderful how a gift became your favorites! I still couldn't figure out my style actually, some days pastels from head to toe, the next day fully black. :/ I'm working on it. I love the shirt a lot too!

Shybiker said...

What an interesting examination of your closet. We should all analyze our clothes this way.

Oh, and I've always found that birdcage skirt to be magical.

Katie said...

This is such a great way of analyzing your closet! I should really try this. :D

Hmm... my three best purchases are probably my pleather jacket ($25), my blue floral dress ($30) and my new Blowfish Shoes boots ($60). I wear all of them a ton and feel so happy in them. <3 Totally worth it.

Norbyah said...

i have to say i've blog stalked some of your pieces too. the boat dress i actually considered buying....but mostly the bird cage dress. i've bookmarked their website and someday, i will buy myself one of their gorgeous printed skirts....but for now, i will live vicariously through you.....wear it again, soon!
xo
n

Zane said...

great post, really enjoyed reading

Georgia Rose said...

I love this post! Blogging has definitely made me more analytical too.

My best purchases of the last year are:
1) The Topshop star-print dress that I lusted over for 5 years and finally splashed out on. It was $100 after shipping and the exchange rate, and is one of the most beautiful pieces I own.
2) A black 1950s cashmere cropped cardigan with a heart-shaped patch that says Vivian. Goes with everything, beautifully warm, and I get called Vivian a lot.
3) A purple and green floral cross-over 1950s dress. It was $130 inc shipping from Etsy, but is the most insanely flattering and versatile garment ever. I've never blogged about it but I wear it at least once a week!

Jul said...

Great post! I enjoyed reading it and I found it useful, not to mention that I love that skirt and I agree with you: I usually don't spend much on clothes, but if I have to splurge, well, I do. Sometimes it's good investing in quality items.
Life is a romantic poem

Enara Girl said...

Great outfits and great blog. Do you want to follow each other?
Thanks for your comment.
xoxo

Rachel, Cold Knees said...

I love that skirt on you, it's so striking I definitely remember seeing it on your blog several times and admiring it each time! Some of my basics are my H&M pleather skirt which I've worn loads, Topshop jeans that get worn about 4 times a week and my fur coat in winter which was about £7. I think blogging has helped me in the same way, seeing all the different combinations you can create with items!
xo

Inspiration partout said...

Nice post!I also have some pieces I love and wear all time with different combinations!

Ashley said...

I've always loved that birdcage skirt of yours. LOVE IT.

I never regret buying dresses as they are my favorite to wear :) Also, cardigans come in handy for me!

Tasja said...

aw that first dress is so cute :)

Annebeth said...

yessss I immediately think of these pieces when I think of your style, and they really represent so many other pieces you own as well: dresses that sit right between cute and quirky, color and novelty prints that pull vintage-y looks out of the twee department. berry nice.

Annebeth said...

oh and mine are probably:

-ankle boots
-tights that complete an outfit
-and prints/colors I pile on top of each other

Carrie said...

That's an interesting question/thought. Hmmm...

1. A pair of red heels - they've never been worn out of the house (yet), but they make me happy. I love that they shocked everyone who thought they knew me, but obviously didn't.

2. Cashmere sweaters - quality over quantity.

3. A red cable sweater and a pair of grey pants - I had been working long hours at the time and I had an afternoon off and found myself walking around a store. They were my first real treat to myself. I worked, I paid for them, I felt good in them. Success. :-)

Annabel said...

ahhh love this post! and that first dress is so cute :)

pepperandchips.blogspot.com

Emily, Ruby Slipper Journeys said...

@Carrie: I love your responses, especially the red heels!

Emily, Resplendent Tranquility said...

I really enjoyed this post, Emily. Very insightful. Blogging has helped me become a more analytical shopper, too. I still have moments of weakness and piles of clothes that should really just be donated already, but I'm not nearly as bad as I once was.

Your top three items are really fabulous and I've admired them all each and every time you've blogged them. It definitely goes to show that basics can have personality :)

As for my top three, I'd really have to ponder it some more. Perhaps I'll put together my own post about them.

Celia said...

This is such an interesting idea, your picks are great and both the shirt and the skirt are also my favourite pieces I've seen in your posts.
After starting my blog I'm trying to be more analytic with my shopping. My three best purchases this year have to be 1) crem/black saddle shoes 2) navy and white polka-dotted midi skirt 3) a japanese novelty print skirt. I wear them all the time and they have been well worth the price.

Nicole, Coco Maria said...

This is such a smart post! I am a terrible shopper. Or, maybe, I'm a great shopper, depending on your perspective. I'm just now starting to pay more attention to fit and versatility, though I definitely have a ways to go.

Monique said...

Emily, what a well written post. I saw that boat dress on you and others and also hunted it down on ebay. it was dirt cheap because it was a floor model with no zipper so I made it mine and got a zipper put on. Anyway, my top three purchases would have to be my bow flat ferragamos I got on ebay. I haven't owned patent leather shoes since I was like 5. Also this is a tiny purchase but well worn-navy blue tights. Also a pair of vintage oxfords. I'll have to look at my closet and do a proper assessment.

Maria Ramona said...

self-introspection through clothing purchases... i like it! i'm totally going to do this later. i'm with you on the love of patterns and color, that's for sure.

Shannon said...

Great post!
http://shannonhearts.blogspot.com/

b and e said...

let's see - at the moment my favourite peices tend to be things I've been given!

I absolutely adore your boat dress... and the skirt... okay I ADORE everything!
bxx

Sophi said...

I love all these outfits. This post is great. I'm following x

http://thechicmuse000.blogspot.com/

Fashion Tales.... said...

Good post! I think it's really important to support independent designers, so I am with you on that! What we wear, how we wear it or acquire it is our choice. That's what style is all about, doing it "your" way! + that birdcage skirt is just lovely! :)

friedenlinde said...

I LOVED this post! what I am trying to learn from blogging is to get better at remixing clothes I own rather than going out to buy more. I don't want to buy more as my closet is literally exploding! I am too being more self conscious about clothes and I am trying to own just loved, well used pieces. That's the goal I want to achieve. Your blog is really inspirational in this way! I loved your favourite 3 pieces of the year, quirky yet pretty and polished! That skirt is really stunning, not cheap, true, but sure an investment, expecially if you wear it all the time - and it makes you happy! :)

Michelle Lee said...

lovely outfits all :)

pinklemonincrystal.blogspot.com

Charmaine said...

I do cost per wear in my closet with everything, but I also find that you don't have wear the item, like your skirt, as much as possible to bring the price down. I think if you think you'll like it for years & it fit into your personal stlye, by the end of 10 years of occasional use the cost per wear will be reasonable. But if you think if you're buying into a trend that will go out of style in 2 years its best not to shell out the big bucks.

Emily, Ruby Slipper Journeys said...

@Charmaine: I definitely agree! Although to be honest, most of my stuff, cheap or expensive, is likely to be worn for years! I don't really do trends, unless by accident!

ricarantsandraves said...

i love this post! personal style isn't about the $$$. a gift, a thrifted item, an investment piece... it can be any of these. kudos to you for boldly being yourself and not being swayed by trends. it takes a great eye and confidence to develop that flair!

Stacee said...

Wow, this post really got me thinking!
My top three would have to be a navy thrifted tea dress with white flowers on it, a black pleated maxi skirt and a khaki blazer. Hm I don't know what that says about me I guess I'm still trying to figure it out!

Love your blog xxx

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Lulu Frances said...

absolutely loved to read this arzicle :) i am now ur follower number 500 :) finally someone who actually "shows" that one can wear things often without feeling "unfashionable" or so, cause it really seems as if so many bloggers just buy new things all th time and one hardly sees the same item of clothing twice on ablog! THANKS FOR THIS :) my bust buy..mhh..gotta be my brown promod shorts which have appeared on my blog very often ;)

Kailey said...

Absolutely IN LOVE with this post - very interesting read and swooning over the clothing you spotlighted! Especially that skirt - you styled it beautifully!

Claire said...

I absolutely love the boat print dress!