Fashion Failures: Why ‘Single Event’ Outfits Never Work

Posted by Jill Chivers in Fashion, Style and Shopping, Shop Your Wardrobe Strategies

I recently attended a fashion festival with my mum. It was a chance to have some together time, and was a very girly day with three fashion shows, each a ‘composite’ event showcasing five or six designers’ work.  We saw a wide range of clothing (all in stores, available for immediate purchase) from swimwear to bridal wear.  Sometimes it wasn’t that easy to tell the difference.

Two interesting things came out of this experience.  The first was it got me pondering about the difference between fashion and style.

The second thing was the post-event survey that we agreed to complete.  When a delightful young woman approached us after the first show to ask our opinions about the fashion festival, I said yes.  I’ll skip past the boring questions she asked, which were quite a few, and get to the two that really jumped out at me:

  1. Did we go shopping prior to attending the fashion festival so we would have something new to wear to the events?
  2. Are we inspired to go shopping after the events, based on what we have seen at the fashion shows?


Being tuned in to shopping messages as I am, I was intrigued by both those questions.  Perhaps I am too far gone in the “fashion” stakes (I don’t believe in fashion, well I believe it exists, but I don’t follow it or believe it has anything really interesting or relevant to say to me on a regular, ongoing basis) but the thought of going shopping with the express purpose of acquiring an outfit for a particular event simply doesn’t occur to me.

I have literally retrained my brain to think “shop your wardrobe”, which is what I do when a new event comes up.

I can’t imagine heading out into the stores to seek out an outfit for a new event, unless it was a cartoon character costume party perhaps.


Shop your wardrobe before you shop the stores

And of course this is something that I advocate for other women, too.

Shop your wardrobe before you shop the stores – it’s a winning strategy!

You  can often be amazed at what hidden gems are lurking in your closet that can be combined in new and exciting ways and pressed into an entirely new service.  Extending both the life of the garment and your enjoyment of it.  Not to mention it costing you nothing!

Here’s the thing: buying a new outfit for a particular event can be a risky strategy.

Why special event outfits rarely work

  • The ensemble often isn’t fully road tested before it’s worn, so it can wear in unexpected, and uncomfortable, ways.  Such as it’s hard to sit in, or drive wearing, or it pinches or rubs or crushes or it performs so poorly in some other way that you end up wishing you were wearing almost anything other than this thing you have on right now.  Which can be especially tough if it’s an important event where you are on show, like an interview or you’re giving a presentation.
  • The outfit isn’t worn after that single event. That’s because it was purchased with the sole intention of being worn at that one event, and so all those “versatility” questions weren’t asked about it prior to its purchase.  Which can mean it isn’t very versatile and goes with nothing (including your lifestyles and personality) now that the event for which it was purchased is over.  This makes it a very high “cost per wear” item, and therefore not a very sound financial choice.
  • We can feel especially guilty about these “single purpose event” outfit for the above reasons. We often hang onto these outfits often long past their usefulness (which may have expired immediately after the event) and they hang in our closets, silently mocking us.  (Yes I believe clothes can mock us.  Please don’t unsubscribe just because of that – there are more strange things about me you’ll miss out on finding out about if you do).
  • You can feel especially self-conscious wearing it, especially if it’s also failing in ways outlined in the first point above.  You can feel especially aware of yourself, the wearer of this New Outfit, and it can make you tune out to the experience of attending the event and the people who are there.  You can be so caught up in your own internal experience of wearing this New Outfit, that you don’t enjoy the event – you can’t get comfortable, you can’t be you, because your attention is constantly being drawn back to how awkward you feel in this New Outfit.

So from a practical, emotional and financial perspective, these ‘single express-purpose event’ outfits can be poor buying choices.  They let us down long-term (and sometimes even before that).

I advocate the shop your wardrobe before you shop the stores approach, even for (and sometimes especially for) special events. It just makes so much more sense.

And don’t forget the beg, borrow and steal approach as well.  If it’s a special occasion and you need a sparkly evening purse and you don’t have one – why not borrow it instead of buying it?  (Begging can also work, although as a long-term approach it has certain downsides.  And stealing is not advocated at all – just for complete clarity).



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