Adjusting the Uniform

Tastes change. Suddenly you like Thai food, when a couple years ago you didn’t like it. You used to love soda, but now you find it too sweet. The pink bathroom you adored is now irritating you and you are considering repainting it taupe.

It happens. Life happens, and with it experiences. You grow, you change with each event in your life. It makes you a fuller and more experienced person, and your wardrobe should adapt accordingly.

The staples I have should be basic enough that they can work year after year, no matter how your interests lie. However the rest of your wardrobe – the pieces and accessories that complete your wardrobe and add your personal spin on the clothes… they will change. They SHOULD change.

Yesterday I was putting away clean laundry and I realized my pant/jeans drawer seemed unusually full. I pulled everything out and realized under my regular worn trousers and denim were a couple denim skirts. I have a dark one with a hint of stretch, an ivory one with tan stitching, a black one I got for $4 at Old Navy and a “vintage” one that I distressed myself. Last summer these were wardrobe staples for me; worn to work with a blazer and tank, to run errands with a tee and sandals, out with friends with a fun top and heels. No matter the season, I wore a denim skirt at least once a week. Now? Now they are getting creased from the weight of other regularly worn items in their place.

What changed my taste? Denim skirts are still popular and versatile. My body shape hasn’t changed drastically, I have the same job and the same social life. However something in the past couple of months has made me less of a denim skirt person. Now I favor lightweight trousers and flowing skirts to rigid denim lines. Not sure why, but it happened. Two years ago I lived in blazers and now you only see me in one for a client meeting. Now I am wearing fuller skirts that were practically collecting dust in the back of my closet the past couple of years. I used to be known for my fingers full of chunky silver and stone rings, but once I got engaged, I felt only the need for my wedding set on my hands.

Tastes change – one year you believe your signature look is red lipstick, a year later you find it too harsh. You have worn blonde highlights for a decade, but now crave something warmer and more subtle. You get married, you move, you have a baby, you get a new job. As with all other aspects of your life, it is important to adjust to change, let your life experiences help mold you.

So what do you do with the blazers, jade earrings and denim skirts in your wardrobe?

  1. Keep Them. If they are in great condition, you still find them attractive, but they don’t seem to be “you” right now, then pack them away for a bit. Hang them at the back of the closet or put in the attic for a season. Often you will fall for them again. I had a large green stone ring I bought in the late 90s and used to wear daily. Once I got engaged I didn’t think it looked good near my “good” rings and it ended up taking up regular real estate in my jewelry box. Suddenly this past winter, I desired a ring on my right hand. I had a lot of green clothing, and this ring seemed to complete my looks. Out came the ring into regular rotation. I recently did this with a navy blazer – it fit, it looked great but didn’t seem to fit my style for a while. I hung it in the back of the closet and one day when I was feeling a bit more preppy, pulled it out to make a great outfit. However if it comes to be a year and you still don’t “feel” the item, consider giving it a better home.
  2. Donate. Sure, there are Goodwills and Value Villages in many towns, but sometimes it’s nice to give to lesser-known charities that may need your garments more. Dress for Success (http://www.dressforsuccess.org/supportdfs.aspx) is a charity that helps disadvantaged women get the right wardrobe to help them find jobs and take charge of their lives. Organizations such as The Princess Project (http://www.princessproject.org/princess/) and Operation Fairy Dust (http://www.operationfairydust.org/) will take your old bridesmaid and formal dresses and give them a new life to a young girl who may not be able to enjoy her prom without it. My friend donated a few Little Black Dresses and her first wedding’s gown to the local high school’s theater department and saw two different performances where the garments were put to good use.
  3. Hold a Garment Swap Party. A pitcher of mojitos, a little bit of finger food, and a garment rack is all you need. Invite your girlfriends over, and ask everyone to bring five items that are in stellar condition but just don’t seem right for them anymore. It could be clothing, also could be purses and other accessories. One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure! One night with your friends can end up transforming your wardrobe for the better!
  4. Visit your Tailor. This summer, I have been shortening a ton of my dresses. I get sick of something, I have a few inches hacked off. Suddenly a conservative work dress has a second life as a flirty sundress for weekend outings. I have made ¾ sleeved pieces sleeveless and taken boring pieces and put them back into regular rotation with a slight adjustment. Add a grosgrain ribbon to the outside seam of black trousers for a tuxedo look, have some ornate black lace peeking out of the sleeve hems and the back of the collar of an old ivory blazer and switch up the buttons with something glitzy. Cuff your boring old jeans and pair them with some red heels for a pin-up look, use contrast stitching and crop an old jacket and shorten the sleeves. Amazing how some bric-a-brac and thread can make old things look new (and often times more expensive!).
  5. Don’t Freak Out. Losing one item temporarily from your wardrobe will not cost you a bundle. Adjusting your wardrobe to your personality will not put you in the poor house if you go about it the right way. We all get sick of black pants, the same boots, the same coat but often our desire for new is not about the garment, but something else in your life. Do you NEED new clothes, or do you just desire change in your life? We often use clothing as a reason to hate ourselves, and berate ourselves. Yes, people do see what you are wear and whether we like it or not, judge you by your appearance. However the only one who knows those black pants are three years old and worn twice a week is YOU. If you are “over” a certain garment, then give it a mini vacation. Put it in the back of your closet and give it a couple weeks of rest. Then try it again. You may be amazed at how differently you will feel when you try it on again with a different perspective.

Now, if you still feel it is wrong, then consider removing it from the collection or replacing it. This does not mean you have a Fashion Emergency and need to rush immediately to the mall – take your time in finding a worthy replacement. The world will not end if you wear the same pants three days in a row, a faded sweater with a hole in the hem, or shoes that just don’t have a “now” heel. It is far worse to spend your money thoughtlessly and end up with more wardrobe mistakes.

You know how sometimes you go in people’s houses and it seems they are stuck in the 1970s? Cheap wood paneling, shag carpet, avocado-colored appliances and mirror tiles with gold veins through them. You wonder why they haven’t made small adjustments over the years to keep up with the times. Well your wardrobe will need occasional updates as well. This doesn’t mean you need to go out and grab the same exact thing that Victoria Beckham is sporting (please, no) but to be aware of your surroundings, your life, your feelings and interests and as your mind and outlook adapts to them, so should your wardrobe. And like a home from the 70s, it is far easier to make tiny modifications over time as things catch your eye, then to do a major overhaul all at once.

4 Comments

  1. manasvi
    July 2, 2007 / 4:41 pm

    haha, I love when you said please no after you talked about posh. lols

    I love changing my clothes up. Its fun to change your old staples into new staples.

  2. June 27, 2007 / 5:46 pm

    Great ideas 🙂

    I’ve gone through that too. Now I have full suits, waiting to be worn, with plenty of oxford button ups in varous stripes and colours.

    I think the weather is just really holding me back from wearing this stuff, but maybe my taste for plainer clothes has changed to more pattern/colour (my new rule for buying clothes = patterned or a good strong colour.)

  3. June 26, 2007 / 11:14 pm

    I love the idea of giving things to a lesser known charity or a high school theatre department!

  4. June 26, 2007 / 2:11 am

    I really appreciate your blog posts!

    This is great advice. Now, if it were only so simple and relatively inexpensive to adjust one’s home decor over the years.

    *sigh*

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