Where have all the colors gone?

By Mir
November 2, 2010

I’m going to a conference next week. As is my wont when I have a business event coming up, I carefully get all my ducks in a row: First I book my travel, then I organize the calendar to make sure the kids are covered while I’m away, next I make a hair appointment (lest you think I’m terribly girly, it’s generally only because I have 3+ inches of gray roots which need to be beaten into submission), and finally I commence freaking out about my clothes.

Sometimes I sort of want to punch myself in the face. That feeling generally comes on right after I either think or actually say, “I have nothing to wear.”

It is simultaneously aggravating and delightful to me that I work from home and only have to dress up a few times a year; on the one hand, I enjoy spending 95% of my life dressing like the sloth I am, and on the other, I really do kind of dig dressing up in my nicer clothes now and then. And heaven knows I love an excuse to shop. But lately I’m feeling like this just isn’t going the way it’s supposed to, dammit.

For one thing, I DO have a stable of business-ready clothing, albeit a small one. As my business appearances increase I am beginning to realize that many of my staple items have been worn to several events already, and I find myself wondering if it’s gauche to, say, wear the same top (which I love) next week which I wore on The Today Show two and a half years ago. It’s not even that I think someone’s going to see me and be all DIDN’T YOU WEAR THAT BEFORE?, because it seems really unlikely to me that I will run into ANYONE pretty much EVER who’s committed that clip to memory, but I still feel like there are reasons not to. Like, that I will likely be filmed again next week, and then when I put stuff on my clips page, THEN someone might watch the two clips in a row and think to themselves, “Poor Mir. She apparently only owns one blouse.”

Also, I somewhat strongly suspect that amongst women much girlier than I (read: almost all of them) there’s this weird unwritten rule about how we’re supposed to always have new clothes for business/fancy occasions. Like, I am probably being kicked out of the Appropriate Girls Club for even ADMITTING that I still have a top I wore two and a half years ago. OH NO!

Okay. That foolishness aside, let’s say I’m willing to put in a little time and energy to buy something new. Because I am. I’ve been shopping around a bit, and can I just tell you how excited I am that sweater dresses seem to be making a comeback? The conference I’m headed to is in Chicago, which—I don’t know if you know this—is Someplace Cold. Sweater dresses are basically society-sanctioned fuzzy nightgowns, both warm and comfy while still giving the appearance of giving a crap about what you’re wearing. (I am referring here, of course, to ones that are well-made and fit properly. I do not sanction the shapeless, droopy sweater dress on anyone.)

So I figure, a new sweater dress, a pair of tights, my nice boots… bam, I’m done.

Except. Look; I already own a lot of things in black. And a few things in brown. And some navy, and increasingly I’m enjoying gray as a neutral. These are all good and fine as clothing colors. But I’ve got all my neutral staples now, thanks, and I would like to buy something in a COLOR. I am not going to a FUNERAL. Colors tend to make people look nice and as if they have the will to live.

GUESS what my options have been, as I’ve shopped.

If I want a sweater dress, I can have one in black. If I’m willing to really work at it, I can also find one in brown. At the third store I tried, they also have one in gray. Now, there’s an argument to be made that I can go with the neutral of my choice and then punch things up with colored accessories, sure, but I already own a closetful of neutral-colored items. When did clothing for women in actual colors become passe? Was there an official announcement? DID I MISS IT?

I like blue. And teal. And purple, which is supposedly “back” this season, and by “back” they apparently mean “present in select accessories.” I do not like animal prints (except on shoes or other accessories) and I certainly don’t want anything that looks like a clown puked on it. I’m not asking for kaleidoscopic rainbow wonders, here. Just a few more options, really, is all I’m after.

In the meantime, my name is Mir, and I am still wearing quite a few pieces of clothing I purchased years ago. Mostly because many of them are my very favorite color—NOT BLACK.


  1. elz

    Get it in brown and get a fun colored belt- like this one on sale at Anthropologie http://www.anthropologie.com/anthro/catalog/productdetail.jsp?subCategoryId=&id=19134097&catId=SHOPSALE-FRESHCUTS&pushId=SHOPSALE-FRESHCUTS&popId=SHOPSALE&sortProperties=&navCount=60&navAction=top&fromCategoryPage=true&selectedProductSize=&selectedProductSize1=&color=050&isSubcategory=&isProduct=true&isBigImage=&templateType=E
    I have it in the brown & olive & purple. Throw a colored scarf on top or a bright necklace, maybe a longer colored cardigan-Boom! Instant color and a cool neutral for investment dressing.

    Sweaters hmm…maybe it wil get cold enough for those again in February. Seriously, what is with the weather this year?!

  2. elz

    I forgot, all the colored sweater dresses are at Boden, but alas, still full price. Drat!

  3. Amelia

    THANK YOU. I would like to purchase a dress (any dress! not just a sweater dress!) in a color other than black. (I know they are out there, but I shop in a discount salvage store that sells mostly returns from other stores. Judge me if you must :).) I have had good luck with pairing a plain dress with a red tank (because I also am not a fan of showing Very Nearly Everything to Everyone, and necklines these days are deep), red shoes, and red jewelry (earrings or necklace, not both). I like to do the color in at least three places (especially as earrings, for example, don’t make a huge impact).

    It doesn’t have to be red; I just have a deep and abiding love for red shoes, so that’s what I do. Teal/turquoise and brown is another good combo, and if you don’t want to spring for shoes/tank/jewelry in one color, then scarves are also big right now. I’ve seen some beautiful ones at Target (yes, really).

    HOWEVER…I don’t think anyone would notice if you wore the same blouse twice. Seriously.

    (Why did I just give you advice? You didn’t *ask* for advice. I think my neuroses are showing. Sorry about that. It’s just that I’ve been frustrated by the same problem.)

  4. Jenni

    I don’t know if you have a Kohl’s where you live, but they have a few sweater dresses that come in colors other than black and gray. JCPenneys has some too.

  5. RuthWells

    Oy to the vey. Perhaps a grey sweater dress with a lovely tie-dyed silk scarf at the neck?….

    (And, for the record, you are not alone. I am still wearing sweaters I bought 7+ years ago and long-sleeved Ts even older. I totally fail at girl.)

  6. Megan

    Hmmm… this makes me think that continuing to count brown as totally a color, and thus describing my wardrobe as ‘colorful’ is possibly denial of Cleopatrian proportions. *looks down. Is wearing brown sweater. Again. sighs*

  7. karen


  8. Tracy B

    You are not alone, Mir. I think everyone has clothes at least 2 years old but don’t admit it. lol

  9. Erin

    I have tons of clothes that are 2+ years old. The only reason they’re not older is because I accidentally lost a lot of weight & had to buy new clothes about 3 years ago. AND, I have to dress up & go to work almost every day…so I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.

    I, too, would love a great sweater dress – but would really like one in grey. That is my current favorite sweater color. Since they’re so wildly popular, perhaps I should go shopping!

  10. Beth R

    Anyone who laughs at you for still having – and wearing – a shirt that you like from 2.5 years ago isn’t “more girly” than you. She’s rich. The rest of us wear, rewear, and reaccessorize everything we have for YEARS.

    That being said, I’m big on the colorful accessories thing. Neutral dress and fun accessories. Much cheaper than buying a new dress each time and much more flexible.

    Oh, and Amelia? If your earrings aren’t big impact, you’re wearing the wrong ones! :) (yes I love statement earrings and I always have)

  11. Julie

    True confessions: I wore something last week that predates the child…who is 13.5! If I love it, it’s in the closet forever. I’ll just be over here fighting the everlasting fight against the librarian stereotype…

  12. Anna

    Try Chadwick’s, I think.

  13. Mare Martell

    You’re not supposed to rewear clothes for more than how long? I have many clothes that are at least 8-12 years old. I even have a sweatshirt hoodie that is 16 years old. I love that thing.

    I don’t think I qualify as a woman if that’s the criteria.

  14. Nelson's Mama

    I rewear a lot too, but I’m into basic colors – black is probably my favorite and I can’t live without a good white shirt (the possibilities are endless). I have an awesome black sweater dress from Banana Republic that I’ve been wearing for nearly four years now -with heels and hose it’s pretty dressy, boots and a scarf it’s perfect for a casual night out.
    That dress is one of the best purchases I’ve ever made!

  15. Nancy R

    Have you consulted Susan? She probably has a link at her fingertips, don’t you think?

  16. Little Bird

    You will want to consider adding a jacket to that packing list. It’s a wee bit on the chilly side up here in Chicago. And while you’re here, check out H&M for some more colorful (and not too pricey) clothing options. I live in black, denim and the occasional colorful sweater or accessory. I see nothing wrong with colors only being accessories at all.

  17. Brandy

    I don’t qualify for Girl, either. I have clothes that are older than 2.5 years old that I still wear. As a matter of fact, being a SAHM I bought exactly ONE nice new shirt this year.

  18. Burgh Baby

    Dude. I wore the same t-shirt to two different bloggy type things and SOMEONE COMMENTED ON IT. “You must really like that t-shirt?” Yes, yes I do because I already paid for it and I’d like to get some use out of it. ::headdesk::

    Have fun shopping. Oh, and Modcloth has some fantastic stuff.

  19. Sheila

    Know who’s not as excited about the reemergence of the sweater dress? Me. And my lumps. And anyone who might catch a glimpse of me in one, I suspect.

    But on cute you? It will look great, I’m sure, no matter what the color.

  20. 12tequilas

    I’m going to a conference next week too, and I could have written this post, or at least the first half of it (I’m not sure a sweater dress would look good on me, but maybe…). Sometimes I think you are me. I was just this morning perusing jcpenney.com and dressbarn.com to see if there was anything in a pantsuit I could afford and get away with. I’ve been to this same conference a bunch of times and I know I’ve repeated myself clothing-wise. The one time I went while pregnant was great because I had a whole different (handed-down) wardrobe to work with!

  21. susan


  22. laura

    I am not a shopper. Unfortunately, we are in the middle of 7 famiily weddings. I found the perfect black dress and have worn it to 3 of the 7 weddings. I am planning on wearing it to the next four weddings. Why? Because I can! The younger nieces think it’s a hoot, my sisters-in-law think its weird. No matter, I’ve taken the worry out of the wardrobe selection and hopefully de-emphasized the thought that you need to purchase something new every time.

  23. Nimble

    I went shopping earlier this fall and was surprised by the dark dim color palette. I think it’s a reflection of the economy two years ago. Give it another two years and some pretty colors should be back. I hope I hope.

  24. pam

    Do you need to try on? If not get thee to Amazon. I saw a plethora in purple, burgandy and other colors.

  25. Jessee C.

    Before I got to the end of this post, I was thinking that a sweater dress in an eggplant color would look stunning on you. Shows how much shopping I’ve done lately!

  26. JennyM

    I want an excuse to buy a sweater dress, to wear with tights and boots and a cute scarf! But the conference I’ve got coming up this week (tomorrow, oh horrors, I haven’t packed anything yet) is in Miami. And I have nothing to wear.* And I’ve got some weird, insanely itchy rash on the backs of my knees. (What, my knees are suddenly allergic to what? My detergent? My soap? Life?) So I’m going to be sticking with the long pants — in Miami — like a giant, pasty white loser — while everyone else is in cute skirts for the day seminars and slinky dresses for the evening parties.

    *Oh, of course I do.
    **Hmmm, that comment turned out to be All About Me, didn’t it? I meant to say, “Oh, I’m going to a conference too!”

  27. Katie in MA

    If fluorescents come back from the dead (where they belong), I’m blaming you. Just so you know. ;-)

  28. Half Assed Kitchen

    Yes, beware the snug sweater dress. They don’t hide much.

  29. Joshilyn

    I got a gorgeous purple sweater dress at AnnTaylor.Loft…If they still have them, THEY WILL BE ON SALE. WHich you like.

  30. Vera

    I’m unlurking for the first time because I had to respond to this post. Hi there!

    I live in Seattle, Land of Neutral Fashion, and I wear tons of color all the time. (I think color frightens Pacific Northwesterners a little. I’m from upstate NY.) Good sources:
    * Coldwater Creek
    * Simo Silks, local store which sells Asian clothes in washable silk
    * Pike Place Market and the Portland Saturday Market (I love me a good peasant skirt)
    * Street fairs–I’ve found great wraparound skirts and blouses

    If I like it, I wear it into the ground, and no, I do not fail at girl. Girls know how to stretch a buck while looking fabulous!

  31. Veronica

    I want more red. I want a red shirt, or a red jumper (sweater) and do you think I can find anything in ANY colours? Nope. All my clothes aside from blue jeans, are black, grey or brown. Occasionally I can find something pastel pink, but come on, I’m not 2.

    Colours are apparently not ‘in’.

  32. Gigi

    Did you try Old navy? They seem to have them in colors! and stripes! at least on line…

  33. KMayer

    If you can wear a sweater dress and not look like an overstuffed sausage, I say bravo. Doesn’t matter what color it is, somebody would throw me on the grill.

  34. addy

    I was wondering the same thing? Where is the color? Any color would be terrific. Just sayin’…

  35. erin

    they have colored sweater dresses at old navy. or, you could wear bright tights and carry a cute bright bag.

  36. Sarah

    They don’t have Cleo in the states to they? *(and people who live in the US don’t call it “the states” … or do you?)

    I got their email for “50% off all sale stuff” ,, my favourite … and dragged a fellow teacher out of school before 4pm to shop tonight.

    I got a lovely deep purple dress – sleeveless – for $25. (She bought the same one).

    She went home with 4 dresses – all pretty and fun (teal, pink, red, black, purple) and perfect for parent – teacher interviews next week.

    Luckily we don’t teach at the same school anymore … we might get weird looks if both grade 8 teachers wore the same dress. . .

    Good luck! (and I love the sweater dress too – I own my first – dark grey, cabled, and looks like a long cardigan over a sheath dress) – now to track down boots to go with it!

    enough bragging … good luck!

  37. lizneust

    Talbots has two ($149 and $159) in several non-neutral colors. Expensive, but that stuff lasts. Ann Taylor Loft has some, and I’m sure Ann Taylor does as well.

    I bought one at H&M the other day in burgundy that I LOOOOOOVE. Good luck.

  38. Jean

    What I want to know, is who decides what’s “in” each year? I want more variety in general, every year. One year I went in search of white blouses. Couldn’t find one. I mean, that’s a staple, right? Should be able to find one any time? They can’t be responding to market forces, because it all comes out at once, sticks around for a few months, then it’s on to the next season. So who decides, and how, that this year will be the year of the {whatever}?

  39. Julie

    Okay, we can forget color, I think we will all be wearing black (for mourning) for the foreseeable future.

  40. Grace
  41. Crisanne

    You’ve got some dedicated readers doing serious research for you, Mir! I was thinking people pick neutral colors for items like dresses and save the color for smaller items like shirts or sweaters. As I recall, you looked stunning in the top you wore on the Today Show. “Stunning” overtakes “worn before” every time.

Things I Might Once Have Said


Quick Retail Therapy

Pin It on Pinterest