“Fashion you can buy, but style you possess. The key to style is learning who you are. It’s about self expression and, above all, attitude.” ~ Iris Apfel ~
You want to update your wardrobe because it sucks. You absolutely never have anything to wear. You struggle to find an outfit no matter how many clothes you have. You always wonder what others will be wearing and you rarely feel good in anything.
I feel you. I cannot believe I’ve been putting myself through this shit for 20 years. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to realize what utter nonsense all of this is. Maybe you figured this out a decade ago, maybe you never cared, or just maybe you still do this today and don’t even realize it.
Of course, what we wear is not as important as WHO we are, but the reality is people will make snap judgements about us based on our appearance. This doesn’t mean we have to become a slave to crafting an outward presentation to the world or put our best selves forward when dropping our kids at the bus stop, but when you are out and about in the world, your appearance has the ability to say something about you without saying a word. Rather than shrugging it off as superficial or unimportant, accept it as an opportunity.
Okay let’s back up a bit. First we need to agree on one fundamental, no joking, honest to God, primary question that will solve 99% of your wardrobe problems…
What do I want?
How often do you ask yourself this question when deciding what to wear? How often do you actually listen to the answer?
Why Your Wardrobe Sucks
Your wardrobe sucks because you ask yourself questions when deciding what to wear that essentially eliminates options and reduces the choices available to you. Our heads take in the inventory of the closet in its entirety and basically throws 80% out of the realm of possibility. Questions like….
What will everyone else be wearing?
Who is going to be there?
How will they most likely dress?
What will “fit” well with the crowd?
Every time we ask these questions our wardrobes get smaller and “wronger” and we get more frustrated and resigned to the fact that despite having a full wardrobe at our disposal, we absolutely “have nothing to wear!”
Somewhere along the way, probably in junior high and high school, I ended up believing that there was a “right” and “wrong” way to dress. No matter how hard I tried, I always felt “wrong” when comparing my outfit to others. I could go from feeling pretty good to awful in a matter of minutes.
In the pursuit of adolescent conformity I lost all sense of personal style and became fixated on fitting in and dressing “right.” Viewing style and fashion through such a limited lens made me judgemental, highly critical (of myself and others) and ultimately never happy with what I had or how I looked. A “good enough” outfit was never good enough.
How many carefree teen summer nights did I spend obsessing over my perceived lack of style and miss out on the fun and laughter? How many dinners with friends or holiday parties did I waste worrying about the outward presentation? How much energy did I put into buying and choosing my clothes that could have been far better spent on other things?
Your wardrobe sucks because you give it far too much power to determine your happiness. It sucks by comparison to every style blogger, Pinterest board, trendy friend, and magazine ad you are comparing it to. It sucks because you believe the lies that tell you if you buy more and more and MORE you will be happier than you are right now.
Why Your Wardrobe Rocks
Your wardrobe rocks because you already have most everything you need for most occasions. You really do! When you stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and expecting, your options will double, if not triple when it’s time to get dressed. The only question beyond what is appropriate for the situation and the weather should be WHAT DO I WANT to wear? Questions to help you figure out what you want include:
What makes me feel beautiful and confident?
What is comfortable?
What represents my personal style?
What feels most like ME?
The problem does not lie with our wardrobe. The problem lies in believing that our preferences don’t matter if they don’t align what we “should” be doing, what’s in style, or what others are wearing. The problem lies with the belief that we have to sacrifice our wants for what is expected of us.
How many times have you made a decision about what to wear based on what others were wearing? How many times have you texted a friend and asked her what she was doing before deciding? What would it feel like to wear exactly what you want without apology or fear of judgement? Can you even imagine showing up at a party and still feeling good when you arrive regardless of how others are dressed?
Cultivate Your Own Personal Style
Okay so this is all good in theory, I get what you’re saying and I’ll work on it, but really lady, I have nothing to wear!
It’s easy for me to tell you what you “should” do and that your closet will magically expand and poof you’ll feel amazing and walk around with confidence and all your problems will be solved. I know you can’t flip a switch and stop caring entirely or just toss decades worth of negative self talk out the window in an instant, but you can start thinking differently. You can begin to take baby steps in the right direction.
Small changes, done consistently over time, yield big results.
This applies to all areas of life, not just your wardrobe, but let’s discuss some real ways you can begin to build your confidence, find your personal style, and start looking and feeling amazing with the clothes you already own.
Figure Out What You Like
Start paying attention to what has your attention. Start to notice what colors, styles and fabrics naturally draw you in. What is a common thread throughout your own closet and Pinterest boards?
Mine are filled with black, grey, cream, white, and tan. Neutrals are my jam. I love them. I used to buy bright colored shirts out of guilt, feeling the need to round out the blah colors, but without fail I would buy the bright blue sweater and never wear it! I finally accepted I have a thing for classics and stopped buying stuff that is a waste of money and closet space.
A wardrobe stuffed with items you don’t really want to wear is messing with your head and contributing to the idea that you have “nothing to wear.” What are the pieces, colors, and styles you reach for most often? What do you feel just plain good in? What do you love? What will you never (or rarely) wear again?
If you don’t love it, feel good in it, or wear it often it has to go. Clothes you don’t actually love contribute to mental clutter, guilt, decision fatigue and serve no positive purpose in your day to day life. Ship ‘em out.
Once they are out of the way, your closet should begin to reflect who you actually are, what you actually like, and most importantly what you actually want to wear. Don’t overthink this.
If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no.
Your goal isn’t to have a huge wardrobe, your goal is to have a wardrobe you love full of clothes that make you feel and look your best. Quality over quantity ladies. I know getting rid of stuff doesn’t feel like you’re expanding your wardrobe but it really is moving you in the right direction. Trust me.
Seek Inspiration Not Imitation
How many of us look to style bloggers, Pinterest boards, Instagram peeps, fashionable friends, and the entertainment industry to tell us what to wear? Looking for outside inspiration is a great place to begin cultivating your personal style, but we have to be careful not to end up blindly following trends, believing others’ opinions as truth, or end up feeling worse about ourselves.
How often do you find yourself thinking…“That only looks good on her because she’s so tiny, I could never pull that off, I don’t have enough good clothes to put together great outfits, why do these people think $99 jeans are a bargain!” If looking outside for fashion direction leaves you more exasperated than exhilarated, it’s time to give it a break.
We all need to stop trying to copy looks that don’t connect with who we are, our body type, our personal style, and budget. Seek inspiration not imitation.
If following a size 0, 22 year old blogger who appears to have a $5000 a month clothing budget and fabulous social events to shop for every weekend makes you feel fat, boring, and poor, unfollow!
Put a Label On It
Consider putting a label on your style. Classic, bohemian, vintage, disheveled mom? Whatever you call it, figure out what connects with you and let that become your northern star when deciding what to wear or buy. Of course, rules are meant to be broken so by all means, shake it up once and while, but knowing the overarching look you connect with can help provide direction when shopping or putting an outfit together.
Wardrobe Basics to Update Your Style
Once you’ve narrowed down your wardrobe to the pieces that reflect your personal style, that you like, there are just a few basic tips to keep in mind when putting it all together.
Get a Perfect Fit
Nothing looks (or feels) worse than clothes that don’t fit well. I’ve never had a piece of clothing altered in my life (besides my wedding dress). While bringing items to a tailor is great in theory, the reality is I know I’ll never bother. If you’re like me, just get rid of the clothes that squeeze, are too long, short, or just don’t lay right. Do not concern yourself with the number on the label or let your ego determine what fits. No one can see the size, but they can see you struggling to breathe.
Stock Up on Staples
Make sure you have some decent, basic staples that support your life (and your boobs). Obviously what you need is determined by how you spend your days, but think of the foundational pieces you wear everyday: jeans, white and grey tees, simple shoes, neutral cardigans, sweaters and basic black pants. Don’t forget a good bra! Here you can find a few tips on how to choose the right bra for your size and shape.
Play With Layers
The most interesting outfits are always multidimensional. Try mixing layers together to take it up a notch. Cardigans, jackets, scarves, necklaces. Play around with what you have and see how you can put it together in a new and interesting way. Just don’t overdo it! It can be easy to get carried away.
Punch it Up with a Pop
Sometimes all it takes to elevate a look from ordinary to awesome is an unexpected twist. Work in a pop of color or animal print, a bright shoe, statement necklace, gorgeous earrings or wild accessory. Consider atypical pairings, such as a statement necklace with a vintage t-shirt or an exceptionally loud color with an otherwise demure outfit.
Incorporate a Variety of Textures and Textiles
I spent years as a photographer and loved nothing more than when families incorporated textures into their outfits; it brings such depth and richness to a photograph (and look). Silky blouses, worn denim and chunky sweaters beg to be touched. Mix and max different visual and tactile textures to achieve ultimate sophistication and style.
Remember, you don’t need someone else to tell you how to update your wardrobe. All you need is a clear vision, editing eye, intolerance for anything you hate, and the confidence to put what you like first.
Check out some fellow bloggers for more fashion inspiration and ideas:
A collision of parenting and fashion at The Motherchic offers honest, real mom reflections and tidbits of accessible, wearable fashion with a focus on taking the basic “mom uniform” up a notch.
After leaving her media career, Emily started Cupcakes and Cashmere, a fashion, food, and decor lifestyle blog dedicated to sharing things she loves.
Chriselle started her fashion career as a wardrobe stylist where she logged in years of editorial shoots with prominent fashion books and celebrities before starting her blog, The Chriselle Factor to chronicle her daily musings and personal style.
Mom to 4 boys, Kilee is a wife, mother and business owner who shares her thoughts, style, struggles, and family life at One Little Momma
Danielle Gray at The Style and Beauty Doctor claims to be the most fun and resourceful fashion and beauty guide for women of all races, ages, and sizes you’ll ever come across.
Emily at Something Gold Something Blue shares her love of curvy and plus size fashion, traveling, beauty and everything in between.
The Mom Edit, a lifestyle blog written by Shana aims to elevate the practical, everyday mom-uniform into something that inspires.
What do you think? Love fashion? Hate it? What are your biggest wardrobe challenges? Do you think any of these ideas are worth trying? Have any fashion or wardrobe tips to share?