The Guise of Variety

I was contemplating what a ‘good’ buy was after reading Debbie’s recent post over at http://recoveringshopaholic.com/best-purchases-of-2014/#comments.  My mind drifted to the conclusion that these days it’s just two main types of purchases for me.  Needs and loves.  Anything else is just wasted money and time at this point.  Gone are the days of, “oh this looks fun and is flattering” without further thought put in.  I have more than enough of that stuff.  Sure, some of that is okay.  I’m at a point where I want to improve my wardrobe, not just add to it.  More of that isn’t going to help me.

In the past, a main driving force for picking up that kind of stuff was a need for variety.  I still have a higher desire for variety than a lot of folks.  I’ve said before, I can’t do neutrals only, or a select number of items (10 a year or 33 a season) and be happy with it.  BUT . . . I’m becoming ever more aware that the subtle things we see as variety within our own closets, the casual observer does not.

Let me explain.  We all know of basic fashion formulas.  Tunic over leggings with boots would be one. A pencil skirt, blouse, and jacket or cardigan with pumps would be a common work wear formula.  Jeans, tee, and a jacket might be another for more casual lives.  Most of us find a formula or two that we like and stick with it.  We vary the colors, or the cuts a little, or maybe the fabrics and patterns.  But it’s the basic same formula.

If I buy 10 cuts and washes of jeans to vary my look, I am still, at the core of it, just wearing jeans.  How many pairs does it really take to satisfy my need for variety?  And just how different does one pair look from the other to the person I pass in the grocery store?  Same could be said for white knit tops, or black boots, or whatever your fancy.  You might see all the subtle differences, but that’s from your own, probably self-centric, viewpoint, sorry to say. Sure, a high heeled boot looks different than a flat and dark wash jeans are noticeably different than distressed with holes.  But I bet we can all bring to mind a bunch of ‘in between’ items in these categories that get collected but don’t really pack a visual punch.  That is fine if you want a ton of stuff.  I don’t.  I want what I can and will wear.  Not much more.

So, for me, buying different versions of similar items is dangerous territory.  I used to find a thing I liked – casual cotton blazer for instance – and then hunt down every color or weight I could find.  For ‘variety’.  Sigh.  This is partly why I began to try and stop at one light neutral, one dark neutral, and then one color or pattern.  The rule of 3.

You are free to shop however you want.  I’m not here to say what is ‘right’ or wrong.  Just be aware that the 12 grey cashmere sweaters you have don’t really look any different to the average Joe or Jane!   If they make you smile, great.  If you are like me, and want to control the excess in your closet, think twice about the variety you are seeking.  It may be a bit of a fallacy.

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9 thoughts on “The Guise of Variety

  1. Hi Mo, Happy New Year! I love and always look forward to your posts. I am very guilty of buying in multiples, in fact it is probably my worst shopping habit. I’m one of those who buys two pair of the exact same jeans, not to have one for heels and one hemmed for flats but just because what if something happens to them? Stupid really bc so far in all these years I haven’t irreparably ruined anything.
    I am going to try to apply the rule of three this year. I had read on the unfancy blog to have one statement, one plain and one in between of each item but i also like the rule of three that you mentioned..
    In reality I do love my uniform of skinnies and big sweaters or drapey Ts and really don’t care if I mix it up too much. I need to cut out excessive shopping however so am drawn to “rules”. Guess I just need to be strict with myself:)

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  2. It sure is easy to shop without thinking. Nothing wrong with liking and sticking with a formula – but, yeah, buying multiples can be detrimental in the end. Best of luck in the coming year with smarter buys!

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  3. Mo, this really, really resonates with me, and it’s something I hadn’t clicked on to until I read this… so thank you 🙂 Apart from one skirt and two pairs of summer track pants I *only* own jeans. No exaggeration. I know this limits my ‘formulas’ seriously but I can’t bring myself to feel ‘like myself’ in anything else. I do try and vary my tops but again, to feel like myself I end up with the same fluid silhouette again and again. I suppose I try and get variety with accessories, but that’s a bit of a vicious circle when the novelty wears off and I am back to the same old outfits. Thinking about it now, I’m pretty sure my classmates at college must think I wear the same thing day after day!
    You’ve really given me a lot of food for thought and I need to ponder on this a bit more to figure out how to break the cycle… xx

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    • I think most of us have a formula or two we wear most. Nothing wrong with that! Heck, Steve Jobs wore the exact same black turtleneck and jeans day in day out. For me, the trouble comes when I’m spending time and money on more, more, more and yet for all intents and purposes, the look is the same LOL.

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  4. There is a blog (no longer updated) called sewingplums that had some interesting posts about wardrobe variety. One of the writer’s points that really helped me was that we all have different levels of variety that we like as well as different kinds of variety. For example i like my wardrobe variety in the form of color, but prefer to stick to just a few silhouettes/proportions. If I wear skinny jeans or cords, a long-sleeve tee, and a hip-length cardigan almost every day, you could argue that “the look is the same” but if I am mixing and matching different colors as I do so it really doesn’t feel “the same” to me. Yes, there is a point of diminishing returns, but I guess I would say that if you are adding more items and don’t feel like you’re getting more variety then it is worth thinking more specifically about what sort of variety you are craving.

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  5. I completely agree with this. I tend to wear the majority of the items in my wardrobe together and consider everything mix and match because I follow a few basic uniform formulas. I’m always amused by people who feel the need for multiple pairs and colors of jeans (for example) to go with every single different heel height because someone ‘important in fashion’ once said that was how it works. Maybe if your livelihood depends on fashion, but for 99% of us no one will ever notice. Or care if they do notice. It is just more stuff that I have to wash and keep organized and pay for when I could be doing something fun. In the same way, anything that I consider a neutral is a neutral. If I want red to be a neutral it is. I can then wear it with anything else in my wardrobe that I choose. It allows me to have more fun with my wardrobe instead of worrying about meeting expectations.

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    • I just re-read your reply today and the last sentence is a biggie – Have more fun with my wardrobe instead of worrying about meeting expectations. That’s gold right there! When did what we wear become so important that it pass some imagined test?? I remember tossing a handful of items I actually truly loved because of outside opinions. Opinions of people I had never met in real life, and may never meet. Silly.

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  6. This post really resonates with me as well. It seems that I have been on a journey for the last few years to figure my wardrobe out. I have read about so many wardrobe plans, capsule wardrobes, focusing on neutrals, limiting your color palette, etc. until my eyes glazed over. Even though the logical side of my mind agreed with what I was reading, I never could make it all work for me in my closet. The thing is… it really comes down to personal preference. There is no one else that can help you figure out the best plan for yourself. We all have certain things that are more appealing to us, whether it be a style of jean, wardrobe formula (or “uniform”), or color. This past year, I broke the vicious cycle by having my colors done. After learning that I was a Bright Winter, it made sense to me that all of the conservative, monochromatic wardrobe plans I had been looking at were never going to work. I need and crave the variety of bright color in my closet, whereas I tend to stick with a few clothing shapes that I know look good and that I feel comfortable wearing.

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