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Wardrobe & Image Planning for Clothes Fashion Shopping
Pauline's TICKS Rule

By Pauline Weston Thomas for


Wardrobe & Image Planning for Clothes

Pauline's TICKS Rule for Shopping

I always find clothes shopping is easier for me when I apply my TICKS rule.  I invented my mental TICKS rule to make me stop and think when I buy a new item of clothing.  The letters make an easy-to-recall acronym, although the order is not that important.  If you can think through each letter and tick it you may have a winner of an item.  Try applying my TICKS rule the next time you go shopping.  Don't worry too much that you can't shop in a focused way like a man does and don't worry if you go home with an item you did not intend to buy.  Just enjoy shopping for the wonderful female time wasting activity it can be - a break from chores and a concentrated couple of hours on yourself.
And for more tips read my page - Top Ten Credit Crunch Fashion Tips.


Pauline's TICKS Rule

T - Trends & Timing

I -  Invitation - Interview - Individual - Impulse - Instinct

C - Colour - Cut - Cloth - Creativity - Cost

K - Kudos - Kick Yourself - and a Sneaky one here - 'Quality'

S - Shape - Slender - Slim - Silhouette - Spouse

Mentally tick each thought process, then buy or leave the item after you weigh up the positives and negatives. This is what my TICKS rule means to me.  You can add or subtract words that mean less to you or are less important.

T - Trends & Timing

Coming or Going?

Is the item a trend going out or coming in?

Is trendy what you seek, or for this item, do you need to lean toward classic?

You will already know if you are a classic dresser.  You'll also know if you have been dressing the same way for years and are beyond classic, slowly having moved into frumpy and dated.  If so, you need urgent self help.  Is it time to opt for something more funky rather than safe and classic?   I keep typing this on other parts of the site such as in this older trends page, but do avoid buying into a trend that is on the wane.  So if you read the previous sentence make sure you are in at the start of a trend, if trendy is what you truly seek.  Classic can be trendy if you look for the little details that make the difference.  Weigh up the T in TICKS for the next item you consider.

I - Invitation - Interview - Impulse - Instinct - Indispensable - Investment

Is the item for an invitation event, an important interview or intimate (in the house) personal occasion?  Is it an investment piece destined to become a workhorse item and quite indispensable.

Where will you wear it?   Is it totally inappropriate or appropriate for your needs?

Impulse Buy?

Do you just adore it to bits and does it just feel so good on because it seems so individual.  Fashion writers will often tell you to avoid impulse buys. Not me!

Some of our very best buys are bought on impulse and instinct because we just know, in our bones, that this garment has our name written on it.  We know that it does more for us than any garment ever did before.  We find ourselves walking around the rails perhaps chatting to the shop assistant, feeling as if the garment is already ours.

You may be even feeling below par, perhaps feel ugly and bloated that day, but impulse buy garments usually also look good on such 'off days' - so buy it.  Think how wonderful it will look with freshly groomed hair and make up when you have scrubbed up!

If it is an investment item that will become truly indispensable, go the extra mile and pay a bit more for the garment or accessory. 

Typical investment items include great black skirts, black trousers and cashmere and mohair knits in basic neutrals.  Colours such as black, grey, navy, cream taupe or camel can be teamed with a wide range of other colours and can tone down bright hues to a wearable everyday level.  Such neutral items are often the items to hang onto when you blitz your wardrobe of dowdy trends on the wane.

One year I especially recall my investment dressing items paying off I was off to a funeral and scoured my wardrobe before shopping. I teamed a 3 year old classic shawl collar short jacket from a good trouser suit, with a new 'investment' fashionable black skirt and an indispensable basic black V neck cashmere sweater. 

So weigh up the I in the TICKS rule. 
Invitation - Interview - Impulse - Instinct - Inappropriate - Indispensable - Investment

C - Colour - Cut - Cloth - Creativity - Cost - Cleaning


It's not just a diamond that has colour and cut, cloth does too.  Look at the cloth.  In my opinion cloth falls into just 2 categories - good cloth and poor cloth.

If you want wrinkle free garments, check the cloth - crush the fabric in your hand by making a fist of the cloth and see how it springs back.  I never buy anything without a garment passing my stringent requirements of this test.  A little creasing is acceptable as time dependant creases will drop out, but major crumple creasing should be avoided.

Wrinkle fabrics are great when they are intended to be worn creased and crushed as in roll them up wrinkle skirts, tops or grunge looks.  Fabrics that crush easily are a disaster if sleek and bandbox fresh pressed is the major requirement of the material.

How the cloth is cut and the silhouette contours are created, is also important.  Badly cut clothes do no favours even for those with good figures.  A good cut helps create good fit, but many women don't even understand what good fit is, they are so used to sloppy jogging bottoms/tops and easy jersey wear.

Finding clothes that fit well takes time and you have to be fussy.  If it doesn't flatter your body then keep trying on garments and in different sizes until you find a cut or size that does flatter.  Women with less than good figures can improve their silhouette with well cut clothes.  Better cut clothes invariably cost more.  An overlong sleeve being shortened, the insertion or removal of a shoulder pad or the addition of a discreet a minor back neck dart is sometime all an item needs to move it into the perfect category.  However, if an item needs too much in the way of alterations, then just look at different brands that may cater better for your physique.

Colour is a major factor.  The right shade or tone can make you look gorgeous or gruesome, so that you can either bask in the colour or fade away in it.  If you don't know the difference between a shade and a tone - a shade has black added to it, so it gets greyed and a tone has white added to it so it is more luminous.  Some people fare better with clear bright colours, others look far better in sludgy dirtier shades.  Know your skin type and which colour range suits you.  If you are still hazy about colours that flatter you, have a Colour Me Beautiful or similar image assessment or style assessment at a makeover studio.  Even the cheapest looking garish colours look much better in quality materials, but garish colours in cheap or shiny fabrics mostly look quite nasty.

Anyone who sews will always recognise a garment that has special creative elements and this trend has been more prominent in recent years.  Ornate embellished garments are on offer in even low cost stores.  But creativity looses its edge if you see a row of 30 identical garments on the same rack.  Creativity is great in small exclusive doses.  However, if you see many rows of identical garments, ask yourself how you would feel walking into a room where someone else is wearing an item so obviously the same as yours. You are reading an original article about Wardrobe Planning and Image Planning with Pauline's TICKS Rule.  Author Pauline Weston Thomas at Copyright 2009 ©

Cost of course is very important.  Everyone has to fit their purchases to their own personal budget.  But we have all made mistakes.  We buy what we initially think is a bargain because it is low cost and then every time we go to wear it, we slip it off to don something that makes us feel or look just that bit more expensive.  Therefore, the low cost item sometimes languishes in the wardrobe and eventually gets worn just around the house, or not at all.  Sometimes we don't even care and just find ourselves adding it to a charity bag.  But if you stop and think before you buy, you will do that less often.  And for more tips read my page - Top Ten Credit Crunch Fashion Tips.

Certain items repay their worth over and over.  Consider good well fitting dark jeans, grey, taupe or black trousers (preferably lined); a good black or taupe skirt.  Great basics include a cashmere knit, a winter coat, a well cut jacket, a few camisoles or plain tops that suit your figure, winter boots, a leather handbag, quality spectacle frames.  These are the basics which can have this season's edgy touch.  You can always add items to expand the combinations as the season moves forward. 

Don't forget cleaning.  Ask yourself if the item is easy to clean with quick and easy basic laundering.  Or, will you need to have it specialist dry cleaned every time you mark it or feel it's soiled.  Having items dry cleaned is fine if you can take the cost, but irritating in that there is a longer wait factor.  Always check the labels for the cleaning instructions if it really matters to you.  Always check the cleaning/laundering instructions on white, cream and pastel clothing.  A beaded pastel dress can be very expensive to have dry-cleaned.

So remember the C in TICKS is for Colour - Cut - Cloth - Creativity - Cost - Cleaning

K - Kudos - Kick Yourself - and a Sneaky one here 'Quality'


Some designer brand names have recognisable kudos.  This may or may not be important to you.  Designer names have never bothered me, but I do know some people have to have 'label' goods.  Sometimes you literally are paying for the label.  You can decide if this is important to you or not.

Not all designer labels offer the same kudos as they once did years ago.  Too many ready to wear designer brands have over reached into the mass market and so now to get real exclusivity if it matters to you, then move up a level to demi-couture.

Kick yourself is another feature to think about.  If you are a size that sells out quickly and you love an item, then you will really kick yourself if you don't purchase the item and find it gone when you return the following week.  This is often the case for top of the standard size range in UK of size 18.  A lot of people want that size, but in good up to date ranges it flies out of shops when an item is appealing or flattering.

Kick Yourself also applies to trying on garments that you pass not once, but several times and think to yourself that garment is to die for.  I urge you to try that garment on.  Why?  Because when it looks awful and often it does, you'll kick yourself you wasted so much time lusting after it as you tried to drop off to sleep every night for a week, but had thoughts of the garment invading your restless brain!  This rule is one I learnt way back about 1975 when for 2 weeks I longed for a then very fashionable forest green velvet jacket in a store window I passed daily.   Eventually payday came and I decided I would buy it.  But when I tried it on, the fit and cut was hideous on me and I had totally forgotten about it 5 minutes later.

Ok, I do know that Quality does not begin with K, but we must look at it here.  Just remember that K sound to remind you of the word quality. Quality is important for items intended to be wardrobe work horses.

'Never mind the price, feel the quality', is important for items intended to last.  For a one-off event this may be less of a necessity.  But sometimes the only way to get something a bit special for a one off event is by paying a bit more.

However, use the divide by the number of wearings rule.  The equation goes like this:- Expensive evening dress worn just twice is just that - Expensive - 50% of the cost per wearing.  So if the evening dress costs 199.99, then each wearing costs 100.  But an average price decent high street brand winter coat or jacket perhaps with cashmere and worn every other day for 4 months for 2 seasons is much better value for money.  So if the coat costs 360 at 120 wearings each wearing costs 3.

There is nothing wrong with wearing the evening dress just twice, just know when you buy it that is all you may ever wear the item.  Do not try to justify the purchase with 'I'll get lots of wear out of it'.  You won't.  Everyone will recognise it next time.  But when you do wear it, you may well feel very special and surely that's what matters at the special event. You can always wear the dress again on holiday, or for romantic dining occasions with one special person.

So Kick Yourself if you forget the importance of the K in the TICKS rule.

S - Shape - Slender - Slim - Silhouette - Spouse


Generally, clothes look better on slender or slim people, and most of us when we buy clothes, are always pleased when garments make our silhouette look slimmer or shapelier.  You may notice that in some shapes you look much better than in others.  Try to observe the shapes which get you compliments and ask yourself, why you buy garment shapes which do nothing for you.  Believe me, no one looks good in a shapeless fleece artist cut top.  Comfortable maybe, but not a good look that will enhance your appearance.

Dependant on body shape, princess seams, empire lines or even dropped waists will all emphasise an individual's good or bad points.  Just learn to recognise your best features.  There is another S you can add if the previous criteria have been filled.  S-E-X-Y.  If this is how you want your clothes to be I am sure you will know when you have succeeded, but do remember there is also a hidden vibe in understated clothing.  The most obvious clothing is not always the most alluring.

Finally in the S of TICKS, I spare a thought to consider my spouse - for you this maybe a husband or partner who has opinions about your clothing.  Frankly I don't take too much notice of my husband's opinion on the clothes I select.  After all it's my body and physique they have to fit and not his.  But I do care that he likes how I look.  However, if there was the 'odd' item where my husband was non-committal, I would wonder about it and maybe take it back - for 'odd' read one in 20 items.   But I have to say that if I loved the item, I really would keep it and just wear it when I am not in his presence.  If he said he disliked every item, I really would think he was talking through his hat.

Any husband or partner who is dictatorial about what you wear is not worth worrying about.  Obviously you want your significant other to like you in your clothing selection, but if such a person repeatedly rejects every fashion purchase you make which is your choice then think seriously about your judgement in your choice of him.

S will probably be the easiest letter to remember, think Shape - Slender - Slim - Silhouette - Spouse.

So next time you go shopping for clothes ask yourself can you put all the ticks in Pauline's Rule of TICKS.

T - Trends & Timing

I -  Invitation - Interview - Impulse - Instinct - Inappropriate

C - Colour - Cut - Cloth - Creativity - Cost

K - Kudos - Kick Yourself - Quality

S - Shape - Slender - Slim - Silhouette - Spouse.

And for more tips read my page - Top Ten Credit Crunch Fashion Tips.

You are reading an original article about Wardrobe Planning and Image Planning with Pauline's TICKS Rule.  Author Pauline Weston Thomas at Copyright 2009 ©

Page Added October 23 2005.

Page Updated January 9 2012.

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