Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The clothes I regret

I think of myself as a conventional, cautious shopper and dresser, but looking through my collapsing rails of clothes, there are so, so many mistakes. Years and years of expensive, and cheap, mistakes stare back at me, gaudy and ill-advised, a mammoth jumble sale of sartorial disasters, and that's only the ones that made it out of the boxes when I moved in. There's a whole other layer of unmentionably horrible things lurking in the basement. Sometimes you get let down by the quality, or the washing instructions, or you grown out of a garment, physically or mentally. But the regrets that sting worse are the ones of stupidity, poor judgment. I look at them and they make me wince.

There are the pregnancy hormones attributable Pleats Please dress and matching jacket that make me look like a Vulcan emperor. At least I could sell them though, there are nutters - not all of them even pregnant - who love that stuff.

Then there's the far too expensive ivory silk top with the knot detail neckline that was beautiful on and off, then shrunk the first time it was washed. No hope for that, I fear.

(I'm only glad I didn't buy the dress in the same fabric and pattern, at twice the price).

There's a black satin Jaeger dress that looked so perfect, that I obsessed about, stalked online that and bought when I couldn't afford it, perched on a hotel bed in Edinburgh for M's birthday party. It looks like a saggy, synthetic, '80s party dress. Jaeger! What have you done to me? I trusted you, and you have let me down. You were supposed to be my safe place, the place where nothing could ever go wrong. Now I look like a choral singer in 1987.

The Gerald Darel wrap dress that wanted to be DvF but wasn't. Especially because of the peculiar fringed neckline detail.


The one shouldered red silk Jaeger dress - not because it's not wonderful, it is, but because I'll never have the guts to wear it. I'm simply not the person - not brown enough, not confident enough - to wear that dress, sadly.

Never worn. That's one for Ebay, I suppose, but I can't quite let go of the idea that through some magical transformation I will one day become the woman who wears that dress. I won't.

The highest of high patent black Louboutins that looked like bandwagon jumping, and feel like a special kind of slow, toe-compressing torture.

The Anya Hindmarch heels in the crackled silver leather that I chased around the internet like a woman possessed. I've never worn them - too fancy, too sore - and the dog chewed the special crackled silver leather off the heels when he was little so I can't wear them until they're fixed. Unworn.

The Paul & Joe tunic dress with the pussy bow that makes me look like an emo Grayson Perry. Another internet find, obsession, purchase, disappointment, mistake.

And then there are the thin clothes. They aren't really regrets in terms of style, but everything I bought when I was really, cadaverously skinny makes me a bit sad now. There are some brilliant dark indigo jeans that barely reach my knee now, an Issa dress in a violent green stripe, a lemon yellow Vanessa Bruno top, a Paul & Joe dress, all Brick Lane sample sale buys, back in the day when I would run away from work at lunchtime and sneak over to Spitalfields to hunt for bargains. There are all the tops that don't work with cleavage, that look obscene with my chest escaping from them.

Especially sad is the exquisite simple Temperley black crêpe dress with the silver appliquéd flower pattern, most expensive thing I own, never destined to fasten around this body again (unless I can get it let out? Possibly). I'm not sure I'd regret this, even if I couldn't ever wear it again. It's beautiful, and the first of the two times I've worn it was at BMF's beautiful winter wedding at Claridges, which was wonderful, memorable. I tried to put a great deal of petits fours in my handbag, and hid some flipflops behind a lamp post in Davies Street, then reeled home. It was brilliant.

And so much other tat: shrunken Top Shop t-shirts, a wealth of bad black trousers, all of them nearly but not quite right, most of them from Reiss, white shirts that gape. I peer in, then shut the door, disheartened by the quantity of crap clothing.

What, then, are the successes? Gap has a pretty high strike rate, as does Marks & Spencer. Between my Gap shorts and breton tops and this M&S jacket (cotton, 3/4 length sleeves, another stalked and triumphantly located online purchase, but this time utterly successful)

.. many summer disasters have been avoided. That jacket is on its last legs and I despair of finding anything to replace it. Cos has a decent record too, and there are a couple of Uniqlo +J treasures.

Heading up the price bracket, Comptoir des Cotonniers (sale, usually) has rarely, if ever let me down and my 3 Maje discount outlet dresses are among my favourite garments ever. All my other best dresses - 3 of them - are DvF.

Ferragamos win the shoe competition. These geranium ones:

.. their violet twins, the hot coral peep toes and the forbidding Thatcherite patent pumps. Most comfortable heels ever.

What does it all tell me? That I used to spend too much money on clothes. That I buy lots of black jumpers, but it doesn't really matter because they're all I really wear. That I'll never manage to replace the fabulous heavy Margaret Howell black crêpe trousers that were so flattering I wore them to death, and I should stop trying and try and find another kind of trousers that don't make me cry in changing rooms. That I won't go to enough parties in the rest of my life to justify the number of party dresses I already own. That I don't really know how to dress anymore, now that I don't have a proper job to go to. I'm ripe for one of those women's magazine wardrobe makeovers.

I started writing this today because I was yet again spending the day in my purple tracksuit bottoms, a shapeless grey t-shirt that I have inherited from some relative, and Fit Flops. I am wearing no make up and it looks like something curled up on my head and died. I needed to remind myself I occasional wore other stuff, that I won't always be grubby and pink eyed and dressed like a long stay patient in a psychiatric unit. Perhaps.

What do you most regret buying? What have you never regretted for a moment?


l.edge said...

I love you. I have been having wardrobe dilemmas about what to take on a break to Munich. I don't think I know what my style is, which is why I loved this post. I, too, have more evening/party clothes than there are evenings left in the rest of my life.

I have a love/hate relationship with my Vivienne Westwood pirate boots. I love them but I think maybe they're too obvious and should be worn by nineteen year old Japanese girls and not someone thirty years older. I regret wanting to look like Ines de la Fressange but not being 5'11 and 115lbs. I regret the bonkers Mais il est ou le Soleil jacket that makes me look like a giant beetle.

Things I don't regret are anything I've bought by Ann Demeulemeester, my levis jeans, minnetonka ankle boots (even if they do give me an electric shock every time I touch the car) and the Proenza Schouler bag I was given because NO ONE has commented on it (like they did when I carried a Mulberry). I was once at the train station with a woman with the same(Mulberry) bag and patent boots and I felt like an idiot clone sheep.

A Girl, A Style said...

Ha! This made me chuckle out loud - mostly because it's so embarrassingly true for myself & 98% of women UN the developed world. I've managed to purge most of my regret purchases (the result of PMT shopping trips, trying to channel stylish women with completely different bodies to mine, or sale 'bargains'), but can't quite get rid of a few that hang unworn, still with the obsenely expensive price tags attached, in case they one day miraculously work.

As for the never regrets? A Chanel 2.55 (I had to restrain myself from vomiting at the price, but which is still the best purchase I ever made), several pairs of Marc Jacobs heels I found for bargainous prices on eBay, & white silk blouses which always seem to work.

Briony xx

spudballoo said...

Oh your gorgeous Temperley frock could be BFF with my similarly gorgeous Temperley top...pale pale pink...very see through...glittery bits.

I bought it for my father's wedding, not so long after my mother died. What was I thinking? Instead I made do with some glittery Karen Millen number accompanied with loud wailing throughout the day.

I've never worn it. Never will. I just like how it looks in my wardrobe. yes, I'm >>that<< shallow.

PS Word veri is 'unmod'....you couldn't make it up.

S said...

i have loads of high heels which i never wear- and dresses- "i'll wear them to a party" and when it comes time to go to a party, all i want to wear are my skinny jeans and a nice top. btw- shoes- i love your Anya Hindmarch ones. gorgeous. and really funny post. x shayma
ps may i add make up to that list- i have a thousand eye shadows and lipsticks ("i'll wear them at night, to a party") which i never, ever wear.

bbonthebrink said...

I am the bucket shop queen. La reine du bucket. Those huge troughs full of clothes that never sold in the sales. That's where I shop. We have loads of these places near us near Metro Anvers. My kids are pretty much entirely clothed in items found here.
They usually have a Petit Bateau bucket but I've become wary of the Small Boat stuff. Here is a T shirt I bought for my self. http://www.flickr.com/photos/bbonthebrink/5658665041/in/photostream Spot the anomaly.

bbonthebrink said...

Sorry that link I pasted above doesn't work. This should http://www.flickr.com/photos/bbonthebrink/5658665041/

Anonymous said...

at least you wear your regret shamelessly. That should be some consolation

Anonymous said...

Great post, always have adored party-dresses and not going to enough parties. Have calmed down on buying them though. It is nice to know that I am not the only one with unworn clothes and shoes in my wardrobe next to items worn out by wear.

Vic said...

I went through a "vintage dress" phase, which means I have too many dresses that make me look like Lucy Ricardo's dumpy sister from 1957.

So sexy.

("Vulcan emperor" made my entire day. Thank you.)

indigo16 said...

Yesterday I woke up and opened my wardrobe which is stuffed with carefully considered themed outfits, I froze and spent so long fingering everything I nearly missed my train, when in doubt my comfort blanket is COS, but like you GAP is OK and +J Uniqlo too is fine but getting way too pricy.
I am that saddo that has a scrap book, a look book of all the street style photographs I love, but at times it only hinders as I am paralyzed by choice and weather constraints.
I realised sometime ago that I work to buy clothes that I can only wear for work and that if I gave up work I would wear less and so would probably be much better off.
At home between getting splattered by cooking carnage and ripping things on loose pieces of the house as it fall apart, plus the bloody dog who has chewed not one but two of the zips on my boots I tend to repeat dress in absolute tat. Not for me the floating around in tonal cashmere separates which would end up dipped in cleaning fluid as I mop up dog mess again.
So yes, I feel your pain and give you long dresses. I have two and both look wonderful but how on earth do I float around work wearing a long dress? Plus a litany of patterned skirts that look good with nothing else I own they live in my boxes of shame ready to remind me of my folly.

Nickie said...

I think most women are like this! I managed to get a lot of the stuff I shouldn't keep into boxes in the loft. A win-win - I didn't part with anything but then for like, oh, a day, I had room in my wardrobe.

My fashion regrets are many, but currently it's high heels. I'm a big heffalump who can barely walk in pumps, much less big heels. Yet I buy them, put them on in the morning, and by the time I hit the pavement I'm in tears and putting on my 'emergency pumps'. My pretty heels go on all my nights out, just in my bag instead of on my feet.

livesbythewoods said...

Ha, this is timely. I spent a good deal of yesterday sorting through my wardrobe and ruthlessly consigning items to the "recycle" bags.

I have made the (possibly foolhardy) decision to get rid of all my "fat" clothes, and start with my current shape and size as the default. I am hoping this means I will be disincentivised from getting fatter again, and thus having nothing to wear.

Clothes I have regretted buying...not many, to be honest. The list of clothes I regret getting rid of due to increased size and/or age is almost endless though.

Top of the list is probably the original 1960s paisley floor-length Indian cotton dress (well, kaftan) I bought from a hippy dippy shop in the Lanes in Brighton when I was a much thinner woman. I wish I'd kept it.

And I wish I hadn't got rid of my hand-painted leather jacket now, too. Sigh.

Johnners said...

It doesn't seem to matter how much I love reading about fashion and admiring all the beautifully made clothes, none of it goes into my head when I shop for myself. I always look like I dressed in the dark, from other peoples' left-overs.

Biggest regret is about all those enormous baggy jumpers I wore when I actually had an amazing figure, as compared to having to wear them now because of the not-so-amazing figure. When will I learn...?

Sam said...

We really should have an online swishing party to swap all this stuff around...

Regret, like lots of people, has been a pair of ridiculously high heels from LK Bennett (reduced to 30% of original price). They looked so gorgeous when I was standing still and I really thought I could learn to walk in them. When I got them home I realised I couldn't even make it to the front door. Stupid mis-shaped feet.

My best buy isn't really an item of clothing but is having my colours analysed by the Colour Me Beautiful people. Working out exactly what colours I should wear has made shopping SO much easier, and if I stick to it I know everything will go with everything else. Best 60 quid I ever spent.

PS I too have far too many party dresses for far too few parties - a problem of living too close to an outlet place and being congenitally unable to resist a bargain. I limit myself to White Stuff now, where I do at least know I'll wear what I buy.

Unknown said...

i do not and have never suffered from wardrobe indulgence, however this post sent me to ebay in a Ferregamo frenzy. Have never bought anything that i have never worn and am now feeling somewhat bad about that...

Laura said...

My biggest regret is my ongoing refusal to spend the most money on the clothes I wear the most. Result: I look a bit shopworn when I'm at work every day but really excellent at formal events once in a blue moon.

Second biggest regret: Tedious, if mild, body dysphoria that causes me to buy practically everything a size too big.

Biggest triumph is a leather motorcycle jacket, practically unworn, perfect fit for me, which I bargained down to $22 at a garage sale years ago. It hung in the closet virtually unworn and I was always on the verge of getting rid of it, but now my husband has a motorcycle for me to wear it on and I feel like a total bad-ass in it. Win!

Mrs Osborn said...

Can I tell you about the clothes I regret I *didn't* buy - a lovely second hand Aquascutum winter coat in a nice blue/green colour (sounds gross because I know one should wear black black black, but really it was lovely) and it cost ONLY £2 at Camden Market in the days when it was possible to buy something of quality and value there. Silly me thought it would still be there next week.
The clothes that I have bought and that I regret are many, but mainly cheap, so the damage is not too great on an individual basis... but in total it is quite impressive.
I don't ever regret a pair of shoes bought in the sale from Hobbs. And I love my handbags from Mimi, and my jewellery.

Anonymous said...

The thing I most regret buying was some hair extensions(I know)that like a complete fucking idiot,I bought yesterday,from a little stall in the middle of a shopping centre... I say hair extensions but now I think about them it is more a half-wig. You clip it to the back of your head kind of underneath your hair. The thing is it COMPLETELY SHOWS through my hair and looks COMPLETELY MAD because you can see this wierd yellow net thing. It cost £75. £75!!!! I am mental. Does anyone want to buy it from me?

Anonymous said...

By the way you know what you should do with your excess clothes? Swish them. It is the answer. Have a look at my website to see how it works. www.myswish.co.uk
I am the half-wig person.

lauragc said...

I regret
- the 7ft high pile of shoe boxes, all shoes I have never worn. No doubt bought because they were on sale, I cannot resist a reduced pair of shoes
- the many many dresses I have bought because they were on sale, despite knowing deep down that I just don't look right in most dresses
- pretty much every sale item I have ever bought, I wish I could take myself shopping one day, and just whisper in my ear, 'ask yourself why it's been reduced, nobody else wants it and neither do you, put it down and walk away'
- the tiny tiny size zero jeans that I occasionally stumble upon in the wardrobe, there's a definite sinking of my heart when I consider trying them on to see just how tight they are

I don't regret
- that most of wardrobe is black with a bit of leopard print thrown in, whilst this admittedly makes me some hideous combination of Robert Smith and Bet Lynch. I probably should regret this but black is safe
- my beloved shoe boots, they were cheap yet incredibly comfortable, they have been worn to death

I have come to accept that my uniform outside of work is jeans, tshirts, pumps and shoe boots, I sort of wish it wasn't but I'm not brave enough to do anything about changing it, not really. Perhaps I should move into neutrals, you know, if I can take the excitement, or more likely if I spot something reduced in the sales that I can buy then shove at the back of the wardrobe without even bothering to remove the tags

Rhia said...

I regret the insanely fast turnover of my clothes. I move house a lot and I used to think clothes werent worth the removal space (stupid), so I used to just bin the majority of the cheap tat that I wore and buy more in the new place. Problem is you forget what youve given to charity in a fit of ruthlessness and are sorely disappointed when its not in your wardrobe anymore. Plus even buying second hand and cheapo, it gets expensive!!
I am definitely trying to graduate to the school of buying less, but better quality as opposed to cheap tat. its an ongoing battle.

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