I have had a few emails about what to wear for Spring and, do you know? I genuinely don’t know if it’s really that different from Springwear last year.
I had a kind of epiphany at the end of last year about clothes: I have too many and I keep buying things that I won’t wear, like dresses. I feel like I’m in drag in dresses and always have done. But I look at other people wearing dresses and think “I ought to be wearing a dress.”
So I bought two or three dresses but every time I look in my wardrobe I thought “not today”, just because the actual calls for dress-wearing in my life are basically zero. During the day I wear jeans and a sweater. At night I wear black jeans and a sweater. On the rare occasions I have to actually go and interview someone in person for work, I wear my black trouser suit from John Lewis.
I don’t count myself, or you, as particularly being the mega baddies in the fashion-waste crisis – it’s those fucking hellholes like BooHoo, Pretty Little Thing, Peacocks and Primark or whatever, from where people buy dresses for £9 and then literally throw them in the bin. And although, no, I don’t subscribe to the notion that people have to be saved from making bad decisions by the state, I do think the outlets are to blame.
But I’m not absolving us, either. It’s a lesson that we all need to learn that you need to buy new clothes with your eyes open, if that makes sense. Yes, absolutely, you need a good wardrobe of clothes that fit and are appropriate to your lifestyle – but “It” shoes or sweaters or dresses are not going to make you thinner or change your life.
With that thought, I am only buying clothes from now and forevermore that I will actually wear all the time, or refresh staples that I know I will reach for regularly if the current incarnation is tatty. White t-shirts. A black blazer. At the moment I’m on the lookout for a white peasant blouse. I have had my Stan Smiths for 4 years now and I think I might swap them out for a pair of these white platform Converse. I will not buy clothes to wear in some fantasy life that I don’t live.
The most expensive thing I bought last year was a pair of Gucci track trousers in a charity sale. There are very few days of the year I won’t or can’t wear them and have worn them about a hundred times already.
My most recent purchase was a particular pair of jeans, which I have been looking for for about a year. If there is one thing in your wardrobe that you do need to update every now and again, (if looking modern is important to you), it’s your jean shape.
And the new jean shape has a higher waist. I have high-waisted jeans that are flattering but monstrously uncomfortable, which I tear off in a tetchy state at the end of the day, and high-waisted jeans that are super comfortable but make my husband’s face crumple with unspoken distress at how they make me look.
The hunt was for a pair that were high-waisted, a light wash and reasonably flattering to my legs, (which are not my best feature). I must have tried on 30 pairs until I found the Mile High Cropped Flare from Levis. I then had to go to three different stores before I found a pair in a 28, which is my size. They are soft and light and ridiculously comfortable without being bum-saggy boyfriend monstrosities.
I’m never taking them off. Which is how it should be! Which is how it always used to be, do you remember? We always used to only have one pair of jeans. Maybe two. Not 25.
Emily K says
As ever you have really hit the nail on the head. I am a month post (last ever) birth and starting to look at my wardrobe in despair at the mountain of jeans and tops I never wear. I realised I only ever pull out a few things to wear from my over-flowing chest of drawers. In between feeds and nappy changes I am resolving to have a proper clear out and only buy things I will actually wear. Last summer I lived in the same five v necks from hush and was perfectly happy with that.
Angela O'Donovan says
I’m clearly out of touch. Aren’t classic Levi Jean’s always stylish??
Sadly, I cleared our my Jean’s. Due to Hashimoto’s I put on 5 stone. Two down, two/three to go, but will not be back in those, or any, jeans again…
I have four pairs of jeans and that still feels dreadfully profligate …
Great advice and hey it’s me too .. buying cheap shite, buying gorgeous dresses that I might wear once and buying too many of the stuff I wear a lot … but buying cheap . So they look rubbish …
Danielle Sidders says
If you’re after some platform plimsolls I highly recommend the Victoria ones. I found the Superga and the Converse ones incredibly heavy and they kept slipping off my feet. Victoria look identical and they’re super light and comfy!
Thank you! That is a top tip
thank you for writing this – I love it.
Sheila Duncan says
Love this article, but can you find me a perfect white shirt to wear with jeans ? It has to fit these criteria:-
Not look like I’m going to work in it
Not fitted but not too big
Crispish material not oxford weave
Not too long in the body
I don’t need contrast piping that’s visible
I’ve been looking for at least a couple of years
Good heavens. Not sure… I wear white t shirts from Arket and Uniqlo, I find them to be … fine…
@Sheila Duncan. I also love a white shirt and am quite particular about them. Esther says Arket is good for white T shirts and my favourite white shirts are from there (no breast pocket, tight weave, collar perfect popped or not) too. I also saw but could not bring myself to buy an excellent one from Theory (it was SO expensive) and have often wondered whether Margaret Howell white shirts would be worth the splurge. I also have lots of Gap shirts, but they have a breast pocket and oxford cotton. Have you tried men’s shirt shops? Probably they have stiffened collars, but the fit might work. Good luck!
Sheila, try the Gap shrunken boyfriend shirt (I think they still make it) x
Jane Harrison says
So pleased to know it’s not just me who dresses for a lifestyle I don’t live. I also love dresses but rarely wear them being also a jeans, jumper & boots person – what I am wearing right now. No more dresses! Great post, thank you.
it’s the shoe requirements that get me with dresses plus I have what passes for gay hair in the states right now and feel like I need to wear an alice band if I’m in a dress or alternatively get a much nicer leather jacket than I would otherwise own to make the whole thing coordinate. We’re at the same latitude as Tunisia so the breeziness is nice in the summer but making the whole thing into an ensemble gets tedious.
Excellent as usual Esther. What is your opinion on the Stan Smiths (Velcro version obvs) for the office, with nice, smartish trouser and top combo (from mint velvet or hush for example)?? Office not v smart but don’t want colleagues to think I’m taking the piss.
I think absolutely fine and perfectly smart – as long as you are reasonably dedicated to keep the trainers clean – just bleach spray and a kitchen cloth every now and again will do… it’s the advantage of leather trainers if you’re going for something white. Canvas white plimsoll just soak up dirt
I fully agree with this. I’ve been trying to replace some jeans though and no matter how many I’ve tried I always look better in the ones I came in with and I’m starting to lose my mind. I tried those M&S jeans the other day and they didn’t do anything for me. Along with buying clothes for a lifestyle I don’t have, I also have a bad habit of trying on clothes for a body I don’t have and get really annoyed when the mirror shows the same legs in the new jeans, and I realise what is great on another shape is horribly unflattering on me, but only until the next shop. I’ve ordered those Levis as I think they might work on me too. I also found a similar style in the Boden sale which I’m going to try out too, they look potentially more flappy but only cost a pony so giving them a go. I also need trainers. I only need a close relative to get married to complete the unholy trinity of frustrating shopping expeditions.
What about a new bra Cindy? Nothing like bra shopping to send you actually potty
Yes I did an involuntary shudder reading that. Last time I bought a shit-ton and stored a couple like canned goods to call on in an emergency. How did bras ever catch on, really?
Can I just say the new Beauty Light wireless bras from Uniqlo and SO COMFORTABLE. They’ve recently added more sizing options and this is has done the trick for me. I seriously keep catching myself thinking ‘this is such a comfortable bra’ (my head is full of such wildly interesting thoughts). x
ARE. ARE so comfortable. grrr. x
You may recall I lost four stone last year, languishing on a starvation diet for medical reasons. I have put a little bit back on, since I can now eat delicious fat, but not much. Anyway, all my old winter clothes are TENTS and I am wearing the fuckers anyway because I didn’t spend £45 on a JUMPER for ONE YEAR’S WEAR.
Oversized clothes are very in at the moment Dex you are bang on trend
Esther, I really loved this post! I stopped buying clothes last year really due to pregnancy and breastfeeding and I suppose it’s sort of carried on now due to being back at work part time on a much lower salary than before and having the dreaded childcare fees to pay blah blah blah. But do you know what, it’s been strangely liberating and made me realise how much I used to just buy things for the sake of it! I think having this break from shopping, even though unintentionally, has changed the way I will buy clothes from now on. Fast fashion is a real problem but I was also seriously horrified to hear on a podcast recently that some designers burn the clothes that don’t sell each season so they won’t appear on sale anywhere and de-value the brand which is BEYOND ludicrous and just as much as a problem in some respects.
Awesome articulation! Thank you Esther!
I had a stylist friend go through my wardrobe with me (I paid her but it wasn’t much) and got rid of all of that detritus that clogged up my wardrobe. She said I needed some new belts and a denim skirt but otherwise I had great clothes. Since then (last summer) I have only bought three things – a navy blue cord blazer (bloody love it), a faux fur coat (worn a handful of times) and some new skinny jeans (but only because I’ve got a bit fat on French food – we are living here for a bit). It really does feel good to wear the clothes you already own and only buy to replace or something you really, really love. I have such a clear memory of some of the things my mum wore when I was growing up (button down long denim skirt, a stripy summer dress, an entire outfit my dad bought for her from a shop window one birthday) and suddenly had this thought that my kids won’t remember anything of mine as I only wear each of them a handful of times.. Xx
Chloe Byrne says
I feel the same about my kid remembering my clothes! I vividly remember a few staple things my mum and even my grandmother used to wear. It’s shameful really how frivolous we are with them nowadays…what’s going on, why do we all feel the need to buy, buy, buy? *opens the H&M app*
*buys all of it*
I’ve started to do this thing where on Sunday evenings I put my outfits for the week’s work (I work in a semi-smart office) all at one end. Not only does it save me HOURS in the morning but it’s made me realise very quickly that I only wear a few of my clothes and quite a lot are gathering dust at the other end. I’ve bought so many dresses in the past year that I thought I’d wear with trainers and be all chic and French when in reality they look bloody awful on me and all I ever wear is trousers and tops. I also have at least ten pairs of jeans and only ever wear one of them so I really need to do a cull.
Can I also say that once you know which jeans suit you best and the size you take, you can pretty much always find unworn/nearly new pairs on eBay or Vestiaire or similar sites. A couple of years ago I had a lucky find in Traid – a pair of Current Elliott jeans that are probably the most flattering and comfy I have ever worn. Only snag is that they cost about £300 new. So now I stalk eBay etc and snatch up any pairs that appear e.g. have just bought an unworn black pair for £25. This makes me happy not only because it makes them affordable but also because the environmental impact of denim is extremely high so it’s much more environmentally friendly to buy preloved.
Annabel I can see how this would be immensely satisfying.
Annabel if I ever discover what jeans suit me, and even what size I am, I would do this (tears madly at hair)
I was one of those that emailed you begging for S/S shopping inspiration. I’m (marginally) embarrassed to admit that I am obsessed with new clothes, but that’s because I had a baby two weeks ago and am desperate to buy something that doesn’t make me look like one of those orangutans in the zoo with the flabby belly and boobs.
Please can you do an instructional post on shorts? My legs are not my best feature but I fear childcare and global warming with two under two will require them this summer. Thank you!!! Xx
Dear Mills, if you can’t bear shorts I recommend culottes. I got a pair from Whistles in the sale at the end of last summer and you can do any kind of small child manoeuvring that might be required and still look stylish. I was skeptical at first about polyester but they’re not sweaty or clingy. Failing all of this try a pleated midi skirt with pockets – they hide a multitude of sins (and stains). Hang in there.
I’d love to see more bloggers give inspo on items available from the growing number of clothes hire companies. We all get bored of our wardrobes and these seem like a sensible solution to wanting to mix it up.
Hi Emma – have you personally used any of these companies?
I have the opposite problem – I hate shopping so most of my clothes are out of date & falling apart. Case in point: I went shopping for jeans today for the first time in about 5 years & had a typically demoralising experience. NONE of the styles in shops at the moment suit me. I really just want to go back to the 90s when I could wear low rise bootcuts.
Hang in there… they will be back in due course xxx
I’ve been trying to get over what I call “paralysis of choice.” I have the opposite to the problem that’s often talked about (buying too much) where I struggle to buy enough. It’s as though I can’t commit to a particular item that I know I need because I’m afraid of something better coming along. So I end up not buying and then feeling the lack. I wonder if it’s partly because of all the emphasis now on buying less, buying better, capsule wardrobes, sustainability etc where you feel as though you can’t buy anything that’s not created to such a standard of quality that you will wear it for the next two decades minimum. I feel the pressure of that.
Yes Alice, completely agree. My husband finds this infuriating.
Best post on clothes I’ve read for AGES.
O Helen I do love you x