Remember Who You Are

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I am a huge fan of shopping online. Many women hate it because you can’t try before you buy, but I love it because it helps me keep on track.

Lately I have been shopping in stores to find proper clothes for my upcoming vacation. It will be hot so I am trying to find lightweight sundresses. I will be attending a music festival, so I have been looking for hippie-esque florals, embroidery, gauzy fabrics. This isn’t my norm. To add to this, my figure is still in flux after having a baby last year. The breasts are a different shape and size, the arms are smaller and firmer from hoisting a toddler, but the tummy has yet to return to its original size. Shopping outside my favorite online brands and retailers, trying on in fluorescent-lit cramped fitting room and searching for a style outside my personal norm is making me feel a bit like a fish out of water.

And it is making me get very close to a couple retail mistakes.

Today at lunch, I stopped by Filene’s Basement. I grabbed a handful of sundresses, a few pairs of Bermuda and city shorts, and a couple breezy summer tops in fun prints. I got into the cramped, smelly, dirty fitting room and tried on their first top. Hideous – too tight in one place, gaping in another. I looked at myself in the reflection, and hated what I saw. This morning (and even in the office rest room before heading out) I saw a pretty woman with beachy waves in her hair, soft pretty makeup, a feminine figure. In my own white trousers, but paired with this wardrobe monstrosity, I felt old. And fat. And saggy. My shoulders slumped.

I tried on a navy jersey tunic with embroidery at the wrists and neckline. The colors were a bit subdued, but it didn’t make my body look terrible. The embroidery was dark red and ivory; I don’t own any ivory pants to make it a nice work outfit. Guess I could pair with jeans. I don’t need any tops to wear with jeans but it’s kinda cute and only $19.99. I put it on a separate hook, planning to purchase it.

Next, I tried on a purple jersey dress – it had a surplice neckline, elastic at the empire waistline. It sort of looked like a night gown, and actually resembled the silhouette of my navy dress that I wore in this post. However the shoulders rouched and had ties which added interest. The purple color was not my favorite, but it was flattering. I could pair it with a wide belt over the elastic waistband… it’s only $29.99. I could wear it on the drive down to the music festival and be comfortable in the car. I could wear it to work with the belt and some heels. I could jazz it up… it was put on the hook with the navy tunic.

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Then I tried on a dress from Calvin Klein. It was black with a round neck. Sleeveless, fit and flare with a self belt and origami-like folds at the hem which added interest and a bit of stiffness to enhance the fit and flare silhouette. The fabric was a slightly textured cotton, the dress fully lined. It was one size too small – I could zip it up but it was way too tight. But this dress… it was me. THIS is my style – clean, simple, modern, classic with a touch of interest. I am not a faded navy bohemian tunic with jeans. I am not a grape-colored nightgown that I struggle to make sassy.

I should have known – I have other pieces from Calvin Klein in my wardrobe that are just as flattering to my figure as well as my personality.

I returned every item to the fitting room attendant. I went back and searched for the Calvin Klein dress in the next size, but it wasn’t there. But that too-small dress reminded me of who I am.

Don’t get lost in the sales, and remember that crappy lighting and poorly fitting clothes do not mean you are any less beautiful. There is nothing wrong with having some brands or retailers that you shop at exclusively. It’s better to have a small collection of pieces that love you, respect you, and tell your story correctly, than a large collection of pieces that require work to fit you – be it your body, your lifestyle, or your soul.

There are clothes out there that can work for you. Don’t settle. If things are almost right, consider a tailor or seamstress to get them to perfect. Buy that item and then try it on at home in proper lighting with proper undergarments and footwear. Variety is not the spice of life when it comes to a hard-working and reliable wardrobe. Style comes from knowing yourself and your body, not from having a rainbow in your closet. If you don’t know who you are, take a friend or relative shopping with you. Search online for celebs or fashion bloggers who have similar figures to you. You can also refer to this post for some help in finding your personal style.

Don’t sacrifice yourself for a sale; don’t choose quantity over quality, and never forget who you are inside.

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. I am actually hate buying online, you will never know the texture of the fabric. but when comes to item like for example machine, gadgets, fragrances. i think this thing are im capable to buy without fear.

  2. For a while, I think 90% of my wardrobe came from Ann Taylor. Every time I entered their store a salesperson would joke, “great dress!” or, “Where did you get that necklace?”

    It is a bit crazy to think you practically own one store’s entire line, but then… who would know it’s all from one store except you, a salesperson for that brand, and any other woman who loves and frequents that brand as much as you? If it works, do it!

  3. This is a great post. I recently realized that two stores make clothes that I both like and that fit me well. So I decided that there’s probably nothing wrong with just shopping at those two stores. I’m very glad to have you justify that decision, as I admire you tremendously.

  4. This is actually why I donate thousands of dollars of clothes every year. I can’t even tell you how many times I donate things I wore once (and hated myself the entire time I wore it) or never wore and it just hung in my closet forever until I finally admitted I’d never wear it. I will definitely keep this in mind next time I think something looks cute on the hanger but it’s totally not me. Or it’s on sale, but I don’t really have a use for it….

  5. Remember Who You Are is such great advice, particularly for older women who get caught up in little-girl fashions. I’ve never been a frilly person, being too petite to carry off ruffles, etc. Also, not my personality. I see loads of clothes I love to look at and think I’d love to wear, but as soon as I put them on they feel wrong. I know better now. Wear the silly-fun stuff when you are very young! Middle aged and older has to be more…sober. Great post.

  6. How did you know know about my inner dialogue in the fitting room? I’m beginning to learn that “remembering who I am” increases my confidence AND wallet. Furthermore, when I am secure in my clothes I am more patient with others and controlled in my eating.

    Keep preaching, sister! If you wrote a book, I would buy it. If you published a magazine, I would subscribe! You are famous to me.

  7. Thanks, this is a reminder I definitely need. I still don’t know my own style at 50+ but I am starting to know what it isn’t. I am starting to realize it won’t matter how much is in my closet if I am not happy with my weight (and I am not), so I am mostly not buying until I get motivated to lose the fluff.

    Have fun at Bonaroo! I live in TN so I have heard lots about it, sounds great but probably not for me – my loss, lots of great music there this year!

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