Stepping Outside the Box

personal style

Dia & Co, the plus size styling subscription box company has this fun tradition in their offices called Try-day Friday where the staff challenges themselves to step outside their sartorial boxes and try new styles, colors, and silhouettes. I love this idea.

So many times, we put ourselves in a fashion box. Maybe it’s because we’re still following outdated fashion rules, maybe it’s because we feel our age or our size reduces our options, maybe it’s because we feel if it’s not broke why fix it… there’s many reasons why we stick to a very specific set of silhouettes, colors, styles, or even brands.

In my decade plus of blogging, I’ve gone from being one of those who had a very structured wardrobe uniform to one who has become open to trying new things. When I started Wardrobe Oxygen, I was all about figure flattery and appropriateness. I penned typed long pieces about hem lengths, sleeve styles, and heel heights to make the body look as slim, tall, and curvy as possible. But then I got pregnant, had a baby, and lost control of the shape and structure of this body. I didn’t have as much time to obsess over sleeve styles and honestly, if I had the time it wasn’t something that interested me anymore. With so much of my life dedicated to another, the time I had to spend on myself and my wardrobe I wanted to be enjoyable. I slowly started leaving my old style rules and making my personal style less rigid and more enjoyable.

My first blogging event was in 2010 to promote the opening of a new Last Call. This event was major for me in many ways. It was the first time I went out in public as Wardrobe Oxygen, business cards and all. We were asked to live tweet the event, which was the push I needed to get my first smartphone and download the Twitter app. It was the first time I met other bloggers in person (like DWJ and Dina, two I still keep in touch with today). And it was the first time I bought ankle booties.

From being a toewalker as a child, I built up unusual muscles in my legs giving me not just large calves, but thick shins and ankles. An ankle bootie would cut my leg off at its slimmest point, making my legs look even shorter and thicker than they already are. But with the support of my sister (I had her as my date for this event for moral support) and fellow bloggers, I had the confidence to use the gift card received at the event to buy a pair of peep toe stiletto ankle booties from Miss Sixty.  This photo is from the event in the booties.

Those of you reading the blog for a long time know I wore the heck out of those Miss Sixty booties. In fact, I made an eBay alert for them and replaced them at least twice, wore them probably a hundred times on this blog, and even wore them to my 10 year blog anniversary party. These booties were my Try-day Friday gateway into dressing for me, instead of old style rules that took all the pleasure out of my closet.

I still love a garment that whittles the waist or makes me look a bit taller than my five feet and three inches, but not if it’s not enjoyable to wear. When you’re not naturally tall, or lean, or with a traditional hourglass shape clothing can already feel limited. When you add rules and fear of sticking out onto it, your wardrobe can end up pretty frustrating. I think back to my post-baby wardrobe. So many wrap dresses, so many pairs of pointed toe pumps with a slim heel even though I was dealing with sciatica, so many pairs of high-powered Spanx…. And then I went in the other direction with so much black and shapeless clothing. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t inspiring, and it wasn’t me.

I started branching out, wearing things that I normally wouldn’t. I tried skinny jeans though the rules said I should wear bootcut. I tried longer hems on skirts and dresses though the rules said that would make me look stumpy. Color Me Beautiful said I was a winter, yet I wore mustard and pumpkin and gold jewelry. I even wore outfits *gasp* without Spanx!  My wardrobe slowly became fun again. Sure, I got plenty of comments on the blog and message boards that what I was wearing wasn’t as flattering to the body, but the thing was these pieces were flattering to my soul, my personality, my life.

But not only did I end up enjoying getting dressed again, I found things that were flattering but broke every old school rule. Things like midi length skirts, ankle pants, and flat oxfords really looked great.  And now orange and gold jewelry are quite common in my wardrobe.

But trying something new didn’t just change my wardrobe but my whole life. I came to terms with this new body, this new life. My outlook on getting older improved, and I think this blog also improved. By being more open with my wardrobe, I became more open minded in other ways and life, as well as my closet, became more colorful.

Clothing is a heavy topic. For some it’s just a way to prevent being arrested for indecent exposure. But likely if you’re reading this blog, clothing is much more. Body acceptance, dress codes, work politics, age, size, shape, lifestyle, health, personality, femininity, feminism, budget, trends, minimalism, culture, the past, the future… likely one or more of these affects your clothing purchases. If you feel there’s more rules than you in your closet… consider a Try-day Friday. Step out of that box, bend a rule, try something new. You may be surprised by the result!

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