Already Pretty | Twin Cities Fashion and Style Blog
Already Pretty is a daily blog that provides tips and advice for regular women on regular budgets who want to look and feel fabulous every single day. Lots of helpful photos illustrate features on making your wardrobe work for you.
Reader Martha sent me an e-mail telling me about her recent style reawakening, and I just had to share:
I have begun working with a stylist here in Austin over the last year, as a part of my post-40, post-motherhood self care. Yesterday, when she sent me the digital photos of our styling session I had a huge shame reaction. We are “stepping out there” with my style — which, honestly, is a more true expression of my inner self. But I had this “You can’t!” reaction about it when I saw the photos and I think it’s about being seen. I used to dress to hide. The more I dress to express my true, colorful, audacious inner self, the scarier it gets. Especially as I am determined to love the body I have now, instead of wishing it were 20 pounds thinner or 10 years younger. So, the suggested topic is “personal style as a way of allowing yourself to truly be seen.” And how to deal with the fear that comes up sometimes.
A few weeks ago, I ran into a coworker as she was leaving for the day and we walked to the parking garage together. I was wearing some pretty wild tights and she complimented me on them. She said she admired my bold style, but didn’t feel compelled to wear such loud, attention-getting clothing and accessories herself. Not every day, anyway.
She said, “When I wear this one really bright, patterned sweater that I have, people comment on it all day long. And the comments are positive, but sometimes I think, ‘I can’t wear that today, I just can’t deal with all the attention.’ Most of the time, I dress to be invisible.”
I understood this sentiment. Completely.
In high school and college, I dressed to blend in. As someone who caught a lot of flak for being an overachieving, chubby, socially awkward kid, I wanted nothing more than to sink right into the wallpaper. And I dressed for camouflage.
Even now – when style has become one of my main passions – I can understand the urge to disappear, stylistically. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I often feel withdrawn and shy, and just want to be left the hell alone. And, like my coworker, I know exactly how to dress to draw minimal attention to myself. I can be invisible, and sometimes I am.
But more often, I want to express my tastes and highlight my beauty with fabulous clothes, want to reflect outward what I carry within. Does that take a lot more energy, forethought, and a bit of bravery? For sure. Do I run the risk of drawing snickers or nasty jabs when I dress to be seen? I do, indeed. But personal experience has taught me that the risks are worth the rewards.
Because very, VERY few people have the chutzpah to come right up to me and tell me I look awful. In fact, I can’t recall a single time. And even if they’re calling me a hot mess behind my back, I can quite cheerfully ignore that. So most of the attention I get when I dress to be seen is overwhelmingly positive. When I dress to express my inner drama queen, and when people see my playful confidence, they smile. It’s different, it’s interesting, it’s bold. And although most people don’t follow suit, many people long to. So they happily and vocally offer their excitement and praise.
This is not to say that dressing in a non-flashy, non-attention-grabbing manner is bad or wrong in any way. Everyone has different dressing goals and different dressing comfort levels, and that’s completely fine. I mean, obviously. The only women I’d ask to reevaluate their dressing habits are those who feel like they’re suppressing their inner snazzy dressers. Completely quashing a long-held desire to dress boldly and brightly may leave you feeling downtrodden and resentful. Not to mention lost. If you’re dressing to fit in with a peer group – leaving no room AT ALL for self-expression – then are you yourself, or someone else’s version of yourself?
Transitioning into a more visible stylistic persona can be scary, but it needn’t cause abject terror. If you dress in jeans and hoodies one week, pencil skirts and pearls the next, people will wonder. And they’ll comment, and it’ll be awkward. But there are plenty of ways to ease into the look your inner self yearns to sport. Many of them are tucked into this post, but I’ll highlight a few of my faves:
Amass pieces and tools that contribute to your look, but wear them in small enough amounts that it feels like your little secret.
Talk to a select few people about why dressing this way is important, so that you have some understanding allies.
Dress down Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and dress up Tuesday and Thursday. Gradually get your environment used to what appears to be an experiment until the time is ripe for full transition.
Wear one or two signature pieces at a time. Don’t go full Carrie Bradshaw, just tack a sparkly flower brooch to your blazer. Don’t wear a wiggle dress and bright red lips and a string of pearls, just strap on your Minna Parikkas with your simple sheath.
Take photos of yourself and look at them THE NEXT DAY. Get some distance and then evaluate. Learn how awesome you are one photo at a time until you feel ready to try out your new signature style in public.
Dressing boldly or distinctively is – as Martha so eloquently points out – a way of allowing yourself to be truly seen. You’re exposing bits of your inner self to the outside world, and that can feel vulnerable. But letting others glimpse your inner landscape, one little outfit-peek at a time, allows them to know you better. And if you want to do that and feel comfortable with it, you create the opportunity for them to lavish you with the praise you so completely deserve.
This comment has been rolling around in my brain since the moment I read it:
It’s much less socially acceptable for those of us who love our bodies to express it than it is for women with body image issues to do so. It’s easy for female friends to commiserate about their body image issues. If a girl wants to diet, though she probably doesn’t need to, her friends will sympathize and support her. If a girl genuinely loves herself the way she is, she is probably viewed with spite, derision, or at least suspicion. I guarantee there are more body-loving women around you than you realize, and they keep it to themselves because they feel the negative body image crowd will view it as bragging or doesn’t want to hear it.
Initially, I thought, “Nah, that can’t be right. I’m sure the women in my life would feel comfortable speaking up if they felt awesome about their bodies.”
And then I thought, “Well, OK, maybe they would around ME because they know that body image is kind of my deal … but would they feel comfortable lauding their own bodily awesomeness to other women? Coworkers, family members, acquaintances?”
And then I thought, “Hell, would I feel comfortable talking about how good I’ve come to feel about my figure to anyone besides my absolute inner circle of girlfriends?”
I’m not sure I would.
I work hard to make this a positive space, filled with support and inspiring messages. But I am still fluent in the language of self-deprecation, and comfortable with the rituals of body image commiseration. I can chat with a total stranger in a department store about frustratingly unflattering trends, or styles that work better on other body types. I feel endless sympathy when I hear women express frustration with their bodies, and boundless compassion for women who struggle to accept themselves. You can BET that I’ll be the first one to cheer when I hear a woman expressing pride over a hard-won battle with weight-related anxiety, or recovery from an eating disorder, or some other intentional shift in self-perception. And although a proclamation of body-love with no mention of overcoming body-obstacles might not prompt the spiteful response that the commenter described above … it would certainly stir up a little jealousy.
Admitting that to myself was difficult.
Admitting it to you is also difficult.
However, it’s one of those lazy, knee-jerk responses that I know I can mindfully adjust merely by recognizing its roots and cultivating awareness.
I have struggled with my body image since I was 11 years old, and although I’ve made great progress, I struggle with it still. So I relate easily to those who also struggle, and feel disconnected from those who don’t struggle. But instead of allowing that disconnect to perpetuate, I can CHOOSE to view those who don’t struggle as beacons of hope.
A woman who has learned to love herself – or who never gave in to self-doubt in the first place – is a woman to be admired and emulated, not derided and mistrusted. A woman who has learned to love herself has beaten back strong, unseen forces that attempt to gnaw at her confident core, or has wisely dismissed those forces as fabricated and unworthy of her acknowledgment. A woman who has learned to love herself could provide an uplifting example to those of us who still struggle, and I’d hate to think of that example being snuffed out by fear and negativity.
We mistrust open declarations of self-confidence and body-love because they are so rare. But they are so rare because social acceptance of self-focused body-snarking makes many women who love their own bodies reluctant to express themselves.
But it doesn’t have to stay like that.
Wouldn’t you love to hear more women talking about their amazing legs, fabulous shoulders, and flawless skin? Wouldn’t you feel empowered by overhearing a pack of ladies lauding their superior strength and sensual curves and undeniable grace? If such talk were commonplace, wouldn’t you eventually feel comfortable contributing a comment or two about your own body? We can encourage such talk by supporting women who come forth to praise their own awesome bodies, and by talking openly about our own bodies with tenderness and pride.
A woman who loves and accepts herself should never fear being ostracized for her acceptance. And a woman who struggles to love herself should never see a woman who already loves herself as a threat.
I constantly ask women to cast off their self-focused negativity and accept their own beauty. But it would be equally beneficial to encourage women who have ALREADY accepted themselves as gorgeous beings to say so. Aloud. Declarations of self-admiration and bodily-love are brave and inspirational acts, not indicators of conceit. And we who struggle should acknowledge them as such.
So if you’re proud of your body, speak up. If you’ve cast off doubt in favor of confidence, share your story. If you feel comfortable and radiant in your own skin, tell us about it.
When I was in high school, my dear friend Emily would address me by saying, “Hey, beautiful!” It always unnerved me back then, though I would never have been able to articulate why. With my 20-20 hindsight, however, I can quite easily tell you why: I didn’t believe I was beautiful.
I never mentioned this to Emily, of course, because sheesh, how rude would THAT be. And so she kept doing it. And so I kept cringing. But eventually the cringing lessened, and then subsided completely. And I still don’t quite believe that I’m beautiful. Not most days. But what I DO believe is that Emily thinks I’m beautiful. I believe that every day, and it is meaningful and helpful and a generous gift for her to have given me.
I’ve adopted this practice as my own. It is a subtle but consistent way to remind the women in my life that dammit, I think they’re gorgeous. Even if they don’t believe that they’re gorgeous.
Helping women recognize and accept their own beauty has become an important goal to me, and it’s a daunting one. But some helping is easy. I may not be able to reprogram the fashion industry to want a variety of body shapes on the runway, or convince clothing manufacturers that plus-sized women deserve to shop in brick-and-mortar shops alongside their straight-sized friends, or keep teenage girls from developing eating disorders. But I can say, “Hey beautiful,” when greeting all the fantastically beautiful women in my life, and slowly chip away at their disbelief.
I have always suspected that there are tens of thousands of women in the world who hate their bodies. Writing this blog has confirmed my belief, if not my estimate of numbers, and I want to do everything in my power to help those women embrace their gorgeous bodies.
But when conversations arise about truly changing the tide, the focus often turns to girls and young women – the generations that are just LEARNING to hate their bodies, the girls who are sensitive and malleable, the young women who may be able to not-learn or un-learn before those negative messages get ingrained. And I’ll admit that I feel less equipped to advise and help tweens and pre-teens.
So I wanted to pull together some resources for younger readers, readers who have young daughters, or really anyone looking to help up-and-coming generations improve on self-image.
This jam-packed site designed for teens and tweens has a body image section, active discussion boards on body image and other body/health topics, and loads of body positive content tailored to a younger audience. The site itself is owned by Alloy.com and there are some aspects of it that irk me – like giant animated beauty products ads on the body image section – but overall, the content is solid.
Although this online magazine touches on all aspects of teen and tween life, every article about body image, style, or confidence takes a decidedly positive and uplifting tone. I wish I’d had access to it when I was younger.
Teaching Tolerance lesson plan
This will be most helpful to anyone in a teaching or mentoring position, but is truly stellar material. It includes a PDF for use in the lesson, and a PowerPoint to accompany the learning session. It’s a long and detailed lesson suited to high schoolers that includes exercises designed to get students to dissect the current social norms about physical size and appearance. Click here to see the lesson plan.
This website puts its fabulous mission front and center: About-Face’s mission is to equip women and girls with tools to understand and resist harmful media messages that affect self-esteem and body image. There are galleries of good and bad ads, a section where readers can contribute and talk back, and a list of body-positive resources. Click here to visit About-Face.
Just how much clothing should someone own? All the style gurus say quality over quantity, and quote the 80/20 rule, but it seems like you and other well-dressed ladies have an infinite supply of clothes and accessories to put together fabulous outfits.
You’ll be unsurprised to hear that there is no simple answer to this question. Or if there is, I’m yet to hear it. It’s a little like asking, “How much food should I keep in the pantry?” or “How much furniture is necessary for a well-appointed home?” The answer will depend on several highly individual factors:
Clothing is steeped in social meaning, but it was originally invented to keep us warm, dry, and safe from the elements. We do, in fact, need clothing in order to function in most segments of human society. Which KINDS of clothing we need depend on our ages, jobs, hobbies, and climates. If you live in San Francisco, you may only need one heavy coat and a few jackets to get you through the year. Here in Minneapolis, you need lightweight, mid-weight, heavy-weight, and snot-freezingly-cold-weight coats to get through the year. If you are a television talk show host, you need a wide variety of clothing and accessories to keep up professional appearances. If you work on a loading dock, you may only need several incredibly well-made garments and pairs of shoes, but not much in the way of variety. You get the picture, I assume. We all have clothing-related needs, and quantity is partially contingent upon them.
Although clothing is a basic need, it can be procured for very, very cheap at charity shops, thrift stores, and even big box stores. Those whose financial situations force them to focus available resources on other needs – food, gas, rent, bills, etc. – may choose to spend any remaining income on items more vital than excess clothing. Those whose financial situations provide more disposable income may choose to accumulate larger wardrobes. And, obviously, people with scant money sometimes amass huge wardrobes and people with bales of money sometimes prefer minimalist closets. The point is that financial situation often impacts the amount of clothing a person may or may not own.
If you’re lucky enough to have cash to spend on only-for-fun clothes, your wardrobe size will ultimately be limited by your available square footage. Although some people stack and stuff excess clothing into every nook and cranny, most stop spending once the closet is packed to the limit. The more storage you have available, the more likely you are to fill it.
Body and social fluctuations
Pregnant women need new clothes. Women who have gained or lost weight often need new clothes. Women who have been injured need new clothes. Any change in the physical self is likely to prompt new clothing and accessory purchases.
Graduating from college and entering the workforce often prompts the purchase of a new wardrobe. Moving climates will require new garments. Even internal and emotional changes that affect how you feel about personal style are likely to spur some clothing-related spending. And in all of these cases, new clothing is typically added to the existing wardrobe. Seldom do we donate every last sock and shirt to start from scratch.
Changes in body shape or health impact clothing quantity, as do social and personal changes.
Some women prefer a small, well-edited wardrobe of gorgeous, versatile items. Some women prefer a large variety of styles, fits, and forms. Some women have clearly-defined styles, and seldom venture from their meticulously-honed personal standards. Some women are constantly exploring new avenues of personal style, or still in the process of discovering and defining their own.
All of these factors play into the question of how much clothing a person may or may not own. But the question at hand is how much clothing “should” a person own. And “should” questions make me cringe because they imply judgment and superiority. I can no more tell you how much clothing you should own than you can tell me which toothpaste I should use. Each person is different – in taste and in situation – and each person gets to decide for herself how much is too little, enough, or too much.
As for the subjects of wastefulness and excess, here’s where I fall:
Any person who has more than a few of each basic item of clothing – shirts, pants, skirts, shoes – has excess. The “need” category of clothing is quickly, cheaply, and easily satisfied, but very, very few people fill that need and then cease to accumulate clothing. Because fashion is extremely, undeniably social. It is also artistic, expressive, and deeply personal.
One could say that accumulating 30+ cookbooks is wasteful, or that owning multiple televisions is excessive. But people who collect cookbooks and own multiple TVs might argue that they regularly enjoy their possessions, that they use and learn from them. And that’s the key. In my opinion, if a person buys merely for the sake of buying, has a closet brimming with unworn, unacknowledged items, and still continues to buy new clothes, that is wasteful. Both of personal and natural resources. Clothing-related waste, to me, is contingent on accumulated but unused or underutilized stuff, not on sheer quantity or variety. One can have a large wardrobe that is worn and enjoyed from top to bottom and not be wasteful, and one can have a smaller wardrobe but only wear six items and be wasteful. Obviously, more items can lead to actual excess, but it doesn’t always.
So just how much clothing should someone own? I guess this extremely long post is my way of saying, “I really can’t say.” Or, more accurately, “We can each decide for ourselves.”
I love many of your outfits, but I’m larger than you with a not-flat tummy. Some clothes just make me feel self conscious because I’m not slimmer. Any suggestions?
So, I’ve talked about dressing around my particular type of tum, and how a figure like mine looks different from the side … but R’s question pertains to a body that is both larger than mine and possessing a more pronounced tum. And she’s specifically noted that she’s self-conscious about her tum and would prefer it be downplayed. So here are a few ideas to get the conversation started.
These cardigans? They’re EVERYWHERE. There are a million length, color, and shape variations to choose from, and while a few of them look best draped across a slender, tum-free figure, many more do a fabulous job of downplaying the midsection. Ideally, something with this much movement and volume should be balanced by a slim-fitting bottom – leggings, skinny jeans, or a fitted skirt – but the choice is yours.
When the winter winds howl, we tend to ball our scarves up into neck-warming wads near our faces … but once spring has sprung, letting our lightweight scarves flow long feels natural and chic. And a scarf, shawl, or wrap worn long is another artful way to distract from a prominent tum. You’ll have to go for a fairly large piece, of course – long, skinny scarves won’t do the trick. But a large rectangular scarf draped simply around the neck, a gorgeous shawl pinned over one shoulder, or a wrap with one end slung around the collarbone and the other falling freely can all help minimize without hiding.
Blazers really are marvelous. They add structure and polish to any ensemble, dress up or down, and come in such a huge variety of styles. For this purpose, the ideal blazer will have some seaming at the sides to give the impression of curves, and hit at mid-hip. I’d recommend wearing it unbuttoned, and pretty much as shown above – with a flowy top that has some weight to it, and slim-fitting bottoms.
Items and techniques I do NOT recommend for minimizing a tum
Empire waistlines: Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. And when they don’t, they can create the illusion of extra body mass where there is none. It all depends on your figure, height, and taste, but I don’t see empire waistlines as a foolproof solution for tum minimization.
Wearing loads of black: Black does not automatically make everyone in the world look smaller, slimmer, taller, smarter, more talented, or better in any way. And since black sucks the life out of many complexions, do not rely on it for all matters of tum minimization. Dark colors do have some slimming properties, but there’s an amazing world of darks out there: Navy, brown, forest green … pick your poison, but don’t fall back on black every single time.
Over-sized everything: So you’ve got a tum. SO WHAT? Do not feel like you must cloak your entire figure in enormous, over-sized garments to hide it from the observing world. You’re gorgeous, and you deserve to be seen. Downplay the tum if it bothers you, but be sure to highlight other aspects of your marvelous figure. OK? Promise me.
There’s a real art to caring for your wardrobe. Each item has its own needs in terms of cleaning and storage, and keeping track of it all can get overwhelming. Luckily, caring for your SHOES is relatively simple. While there are plenty of involved, advanced, and potentially preservative techniques you can engage to help your gorgeous shoes last a lifetime, these are the very basics:
Wipe them off if they get dirty
Unless you live in a network of carpeted tunnels, your shoes will meet the Great Outdoors. And that means they WILL get dirty. Water, mud, dust, sidewalk salt residue … shoes love to suck ’em all up and carry ’em all around. Before you put your shoes away at the end of the day, check for soil. Wipe with a dry cloth or slightly moist paper towel, depending on the shoe’s material. Easy peasy.
Treat them with water repellent spray
Of course, any shoe that will be regularly exposed to the elements should get more than just a nightly rub-down. Leather and suede shoes benefit from a spray treatment that will make them water repellent. These sprays won’t turn your pumps into Wellies, so don’t plan any puddle-jumping expeditions … but they will ward off minor water damage. I trust the Kiwi line of products with my leather and suede shoes, though I know much fancier products exist.
Store them upright
OK, I’ll admit that I don’t do this with my slouchy boots. But every other pair is stored upright – boots, pumps, sandals, everything. If you want your shoes to maintain their shape, don’t pile them, squish them, or otherwise mangle them. If you use an over-the-door storage system, limit it to naturally rigid pairs. Those pockets squish the heck out of soft leather and plastic shoes.
Store boots with rolled mags or wine bottles
To make the previous tip possible, you’ll need something to keep tall boots from tipping over. I roll up old magazines and stick them in my boot shafts, but I’m told that empty wine bottles can work well, too. Since I store mine on high shelves, the thought of glassware inside my boots makes me cringe … but floor or low storage would be ideal for the wine bottle system. There are also boot stays if you’d rather invest.
Store them out of direct sunlight
Common sense, right? Well, it still bears repeating. There are so many amazing wardrobe-as-decor ideas floating around out there, but the fact is that hanging your dresses on the wall and leaving your shoes on a living room end table expose them to sunlight and, therefore, fading. Just be aware!
A few folks have mentioned that they’d rather learn how to summer-ize black clothing than omit it entirely from the repertoire. So, here are my tips!
Bare a Bit
Every woman has her own comfort level with skin exposure, so I’m not gonna manufacture some dumb rule about how bare to get. BUT! Imagine if this dress hit at mid-calf and the sleeves weren’t scrunched. Even in lightweight materials, that much coverage might seem too heavy and dark for summer wear. Balance with your own preferences, but remember that black works best in summer when balanced by a hint of skin.
Show the Toes
I generally prefer to keep my feet covered, even in summer, but there’s no denying that black clothes look far less wintry when worn with open-toed shoes and sandals. If you’re going for coverage elsewhere in your outfit, try to make sure you’ve got some summery footwear going on.
Drapey Does It
Stiff, thick, heavy materials should be avoided in summer regardless of color … but stiff, thick, heavy black clothing may look downright weird. Fluid materials with tons of gorgeous drape – silk, rayon, jersey knit – will still look marvelously summery even in ebony.
I love pairing brights with black year-round, but during the summer they seem even cheerier. Throwing vibrantly colored accessories into the mix with a primarily black outfit makes it warm weather-friendly in an instant
Make Black an Accent
Putting black center-stage during the summer can feel strange, but utilizing it for accents is a breeze. Make the central pieces of your outfit bright, pale, or patterned, and go for a lightweight black wrap, a skinny black belt, or a cropped black jacket for your accent pieces.
Most days, this blog addresses one of two major topics: Style or body image. I might even say fashion or feminism. And although many posts attempt to meld the two, sometimes I wonder if readers who are primarily interested in one topic get frustrated when focus shifts to the other.
But I see these two ideas as inextricably linked. Style feeds off body image, body image fuels style. Fashion can illuminate feminism, feminism can influence fashion. At least on a personal level. And here’s how:
As you are no doubt aware, feminism encompasses a HUGE number of ideals, movements, and activities. Although many focus specifically on equality of the sexes (1), feminist causes range from desires to rectify political inequalities and secure prenatal care, to fights for equal pay and equal rights for women worldwide. (2) Under the umbrella of feminism, you’ll also find the struggle for “women’s right to bodily integrity and autonomy.”(3) Much of which relates to reproductive issues, sexuality, and protection from domestic violence (4), but some of which is linked to the simple need for personal, physical respect. All feminist movements are rooted in a desire to feel respected, empowered, and self-reliant. And this is where bodily knowledge, self-image, and personal style come into play.
Appearance is a fundamental component of identity. Every day as we prepare to engage with others, we make decisions about physical appearance that will influence how we are perceived.* And, like it or not, how we present ourselves can affect how centered we feel and how much respect we are given by superiors, peers, strangers, friends, everyone. Dressing well – in clean, properly fitting, situationally appropriate clothing – shows that we understand and respect ourselves. And self-respect is essential in garnering the respect of others.
Bodily knowledge – exploring your figure and understanding what is best for it in terms of activity, grooming, and clothing – can boost self-image. A strong self-image often leads to interest in cultivating personal style. But that system also works in reverse: Taking an interest in personal style can lead to accumulating bodily knowledge, which then boosts self-image. Regardless of the order of acquisition, all three elements contribute to holistic empowerment. Understanding your body, loving your body, and tending your body all build a strong sense of self, foster a defined identity, and encourage positive self-image. Courage, exploration, action, and decisiveness flow naturally from those who have learned to love and believe in themselves, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Know your body, know yourself. (5)
Modern life is full of pre-made decisions. We are born into certain geographic regions under certain political and financial circumstances. We are given certain genes, and ingest certain chemicals, and encounter certain diseases. We meet people based on chance and get jobs based on the global economic climate. But many modern women have the luxury of near-total control over appearance. We may be influenced by peer pressure, societal norms, outside opinions, availability, and even climate … but in the end, we decide. Personal style is an arena in which we rely solely on ourselves, in which we exert real control.
This is not to say that style IS feminism, that all fashion-conscious women are feminists, or that runway shows are acts of female empowerment. I mean, OBVIOUSLY. This is just to say that those who perceive interest in personal style as frivolous, shallow, or wasteful are failing to make some important connections between style and feminism: Respecting our bodies enough to treat and dress them well demonstrates that we respect ourselves. Nothing is more empowering than a strong self-image, which is directly linked to bodily knowledge and love. And many women rely solely on themselves for all decisions relating to personal image, making style a realm of self-reliance.
And so in the battle to secure “women’s right to bodily integrity and autonomy,” I believe that personal style should be counted as a part of our arsenal.
A disorganized closet can cause SUCH style woes. Feel like you’ve got nothing to wear? That could be because you can’t find anything in that muddled mishmosh of a wardrobe. At a loss for inspiration? Well, if you could see colors and textures spread out before you, your eye and imagination wouldn’t have to work so hard. Wearing the same combinations over and over? Maybe if you grouped your garments a little differently you’d be inclined to mix it up a bit more.
And it really is all about grouping. Yes, labeled storage bins and fancy hangers and neatly folded sweaters on well-spaced shelves are all grand … but many of us lack the money, time, and inclination to completely remodel our closets. If you’re looking for an easier way, here it is:
Group by type
Pants with pants, button-downs with button-downs, cardigans with cardigans. Seems ridiculously simplistic, but we’re starting with the basics, here. If you’ve got all your pants living harmoniously together in Pantsville, you know where to go when you’re planning a pants-based ensemble.
Group by fit
I keep all of my shorter sweaters together because they’ll only work with skirts. I keep all of my longer tees hung in a specific part of my closet because they’ll only work with pants. I keep all my too-tight-for-wearing-alone tops in a drawer specific to layering pieces. Organizing items by fit will force you to think about which items work together and why, and may even help you visualize previously unworn combinations.
Group by length
Miniskirts, knee-length, floor-length. Pants that only work with tall shoes, pants that work with flats, ankle-length, capris, shorts (if you hang ’em). Grouping this way helps determine shoe and accessory choices.
Group by application
Sequined, low-cut, satin, and anything else formal lives together. Hoodies, thermals, and graphic tees in a group. Work-appropriate dresses separate from dresses that only work on weekends. Now, I mix it up a lot and wear everything all the time … but I still separate my clothes by application. It helps me create balance in my ensembles. After all, I may be delighted to wear something super frilly and fancy to work … but I need to balance it with several items from non-fancy categories to make the outfit work as a whole.
Group by frequency of use
My wedding dress lives with all my other dresses. It is waaaaaaay in the back. Since I don’t wear skirts as often as I used to, they’re crammed in a corner of the closet. Keep the groups that get used most front and center. Attempt to keep EVERYTHING in view, though, so that lesser-used garments aren’t forgotten.
Group by color or pattern
Grouping by color is a dream of mine, but one I’ve yet to realize. I do, however, keep patterns with patterns and solids with solids. Either/both of these will aid in creating outfits that are visually engaging, but balanced.
I’d wager that most people group their clothes by type. But adding several more levels of taxonomy will help you keep track of what you’ve got, and focus on imagining new and better combinations. It’s hard to maximize your wardrobe without familiarizing yourself with your wardrobe. See if it doesn’t help you feel more creative and engaged when choosing your outfits!