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A cornflower blue bodysuit, striped crocheted vest and black jeans was my go-to outfit for much of 1996.
And, oh, did the ensemble look like 1996.
Rather than begrudge the ill-fitting look, local boutique owners advise us to chalk it up to the times.
“You always look back from things years past and laugh,” says Susan Johnson, owner of Susan’s Fashions, 6430 W. Jefferson Blvd. “I don’t think it’s all wrong. At the time, it wasn’t all wrong.”
Jill Ueber, owner of Belyst, 6380 W. Jefferson Blvd., says she has always been a unique dresser and considers it a form of self-expression.
“Trends come and go,” she says. “Someone else was probably looking just as silly as you were at the time.”
If you are concerned about the sting of looking back, Johnson and Ueber offer these tips:
•Body conscious. Ueber says to buy classic items that are fitted to your body and flatter your shape.
•Think on it. “Sometimes it takes a little bit of thought before you find out whether it’s for you,” Johnson says. The purchases we regret might have been spur-of-the-moment, she says, and it is better to put some thought when adding items to a wardrobe.
•Know yourself. It’s important for a shopper to know not only what she likes but what looks good. “Just because it’s a trend, doesn’t mean it’s for you,” Johnson says. “There might be a version of it that might be for you.”
•Tone it down. While some people might want to be bold, Johnson says that a trendy look can be pared down when paired with basic black or white or with accessories.
– Kimberly Dupps Truesdell, The Journal Gazette
A popular look in the 1990s, overalls and a peasant top might not elicit a positive reaction today.
Trendy but tasteful

Don’t be a fashion victim

The year: 1987. My outfit: A pinstriped pink jumpsuit with cropped legs and a sort of Oompa Loompa-uniform bagginess. In the photo my mom snapped of me wearing it, teenage Jenn looks delighted and confident. But today, I cringe at both the clothes and my puffy, permed hair – was it styled by a pack of squirrels?

Many of us suffer from sartorial repentance, an after-the-fact realization that we were wearing the wrong thing or sporting a hairdo only attractive on a Pixar monster.

Often such regrets stem from falling for ill-advised, unflattering trends – 1970s leisure suits, 1990s overalls, neon anything ever – that only seem terrible in hindsight. “I recently saw a photo of myself at age 14, and I had this horrible wedge haircut,” says Silver Spring, Md., personal shopper Rosana Vollmerhausen. “It was really unflattering, but at the time, I thought it was amazing.”

Eliot Payne, one of the Washington-based designers behind the about-to-launch suit company Paul Eliot, shudders when he remembers his college wardrobe. “I wore all kind of strange pants – sweats, pajama bottoms – to class, thinking it was cool to do just what I wanted,” he says laughing. “And later, I had a visor with my fraternity’s initials on it. It was so bro-y.”

Looking back in horror comes, in part, from the fickle nature of fashion. “It’s just a natural part of styles coming in and out,” says Linda Przybyszewski, an associate professor of history at the University of Notre Dame and author of the upcoming “The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish” ($21; Basic Books). “We’re all complicit.”

Plus, today’s rapidly coming and going trends – camo-print jeans this week, plaid stilettos the next – are aimed at tweens and teens, “And they love novelty,” Przybyszewski says. “They’ll buy things just because they’re new.”

Still, if you’ve passed Lorde’s age, this might mean pausing before indulging in Forever 21’s latest hit. Having a good time with your wardrobe is OK, but looking like a fashion victim tomorrow on Facebook (or for eternity in your cousin’s wedding photo) isn’t.

As your sense of style matures, your missteps become less frequent. “Dressing well has to do with your taste level,” Payne says. “When you first try your hand at it, you suck at it.”

And the old adage about investing in classics – a black sheath for girls, a trim gray suit for dudes – is worth considering. After all, Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant never had a bad clothes day. “Many pieces from the past look beautiful,” says Betsy Fisher, owner of the Washington boutique by the same name. “Tailored things can be timeless. It’s when you go for silk parachute pants that you lose it.”

Still, even fashion pros like Fisher cop to regrettable closet moments. “In the 1980s, I had a Norma Kamali black, red and white skirt. It looked like she designed it for Snow White in a Disney movie.”

Well, at least Instagram wasn’t around then – or when I was rocking that jumpsuit.