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Over the past couple of years, my life has changed drastically. New job, new work responsibilities, new baby, new addition doubling the square footage (and amount of bathrooms) to clean in my home. With these changes, it has been hard to maintain personal style.
Hard, but not impossible.
You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make time.-Charles Bruxton
We have the time to do what we want, we just need to prioritize things. I know for me, the weeks where I feel as though I can’t get everything done are the weeks where I watched a lot of TV, spent a lot of time surfing the Internet. When I don’t actively consider how I am using my time, I find it can slip through my fingers, leaving me stressed and overwhelmed.
Even weeks where I feel I have a grasp on my schedule, I can still find that I don’t have time to accomplish that which is important to me. And for me, fashion is important. This isn’t just because I write about it, but because I honestly love it. To me, fashion is a form of art, a form of expression, a way to share myself with the world – a sartorial business card. When I make effort with my appearance, I feel more myself. I am more confident, calmer, more in control of my day. To be able to make time for fashion, I have created some systems and shortcuts to ensure it always fits into my life.
Many of you email me and leave me comments stating that my advice isn’t realistic for your lifestyle. I can’t imagine what your life is like, but I can share my systems with you, and maybe they can help you create time for achieving personal style.
Just 30 Minutes a Week
It’s hard to get dressed if you have to weed through a bunch of clothes that don’t fit, don’t work for your life, aren’t in the best condition. After Emerson was born I had a closet full of maternity clothes, clothes in my pre-baby size, and then clothes that currently fit. I would spend half an hour each morning rifling through hangers, varying between near-tears and hyperventilating trying to find something that would pass as appropriate attire.
After having a baby, the way I got a grasp on my wardrobe was to use 30 minutes a week to work on the closet. Often this was at 2am after a feeding when I just couldn’t sleep. Instead of getting on the Internet or watching a rerun of The Real Housewives of Orange County, I went into my closet. I pulled from hangers anything that no longer fit. I boxed up the clothes I hoped to fit in the future, bagged the too-large clothes for donation, and had a box for that which needed to be dry cleaned or repaired. I would also use this time to put away laundry, and also gather clothes to be washed. I never let it go past 30 minutes, because then I would be overwhelmed and I just didn’t have that sort of time to invest in this project.
Now, I still do this. I usually do it on Mondays after putting Emerson to bed. From 8:15 – 8:45 I put away laundry, put clothes back on hangers, shoes back in boxes. I’ll iron pieces that are wrinkled, mend fallen hems or start a load of gentle cycle pieces that my husband fears. Of course I don’t get all of this done each week, but every little bit helps. I probably only iron clothing every four weeks or so, I have yet to take clothes affected by the hurricane to the dry cleaners, and this week I finally washed delicates that have been patiently waiting for three weeks. But every bit helps mornings be simpler, and my personal style more achievable.
Plan in Advance
Many of you tell me that you plan out your outfits in advance. For some, it’s the night before; for others you tell me you plan out the week each Sunday. My mom has a file box, and on each index card is an ensemble – she lists everything from sweater to shoes to scarf. She notes when the ensemble is worn so she doesn’t repeat too soon. These are all great ways to shave time and stress off getting dressed each day.
I rarely plan my outfits that specifically, but I never buy anything without imagining how I can wear it with pieces already in my wardrobe. Usually when I get a new piece, I spend about 15 minutes in my closet trying it with different items to see if it really works the way I envisioned. I think of my sleeveless bow blouse from White House Black Market – I bought it in Delaware when on vacation. In the fitting room, I imagined wearing it untucked with dark jeans and booties on the weekend, tucked in with my blue or yellow pencil skirt, and under a black blazer. When I got home, I tried it with all these pieces – I didn’t like it under the black blazer or with the blue skirt, but I liked the other two looks. When the dotted blouse caught my eye that next week, I paired it with the yellow skirt since I already knew the two looked good together. The next time, I tried my pleated black skirt because I knew that the blue skirt didn’t look good because it was too thin and tight for the blouse’s fabric. The black skirt was lined, pleated, shorter and a bit fuller so it did all the blue skirt did not. Tried it, liked it, wore it.
As soon as I know I am going to a special event (wedding, high school reunion, etc.) I start contemplating my outfit. When I have a free moment, I play with my existing wardrobe to create an ensemble. Sometimes this is two months in advance. This gives me time if I don’t love my outfit – time to try something else, purchase the missing accessory. This also gives me freedom when I get closer to the date – I don’t have to stress about what I am wearing, I can save my energy for other aspects of the event.
Trim Down the Closet
The fewer pieces in your wardrobe, the easier it is to get dressed. When I find my closet rails filling up, I find myself struggling to get dressed each day.
The front and center should be your daily wear. To make it easier to find things, separate by style (all dresses together, all shirts together, all skirts together). Have similar styles of hangers so a piece on a skinny dry cleaning hanger doesn’t get lost behind one on a molded wood one.
When you put away your laundry, you can do a bit of paring down. Again, if you have a box on the floor of your closet, it’s easy to toss “to be fixed” pieces in there and not have to find a special place for them. Keep it simple, keep it clean.
Toss Half your Makeup
If you’re a busy woman, you don’t have time to rifle through various highlighters and powders each morning. Create a daily face – a combination of cosmetics that are flattering, reliable, and easy to apply. Who cares if you wear the same taupe shadow and same pinky-brown gloss every day of your life?
I have a daily look that is in a shallow bin in my dressing table drawer. In there are my essentials – my concealer, foundation, highlighter, blush, shadow compact, lash curler, mascara, brow powder and gel. This way, I can practically do my face in the dark. I have another bin for lip colors, another for eye products, and one way in the back for random things like face shimmer and bronzer.
After having a baby, I realized I don’t have time for cosmetic upkeep – this is having unusual looks for every outfit, as well as replacing expired products. Instead of fretting over this, I tossed the metallic blue liner, the purple mascara, the red lipstick that never looked quite right, the body glitter. The fewer beauty products, the simpler the application each day.
I also did this with nail color – before having a baby I was a monthly pedi addict. I often bought the bottle for at-home touch-ups. Now, I am lucky to get a pedicure once a season. I have narrowed down my nail colors to two – a clear pink for a natural shine, and OPI’s I’m Not Really a Waitress, a classic dark red with a hint of shimmer. Both colors work year-round and with any fashion trend. Too many options means wasting too much time.
You can wear a simple v-neck sweater in black or gray, or you can wear it in hot pink or tangerine. It’s the same sweater, but the colorful one will brighten your face and make you appear to be more vibrant, happier, and more concerned about how you look to others.
Before I had Emerson I wore a lot of black. Since having her and seeing all the changes to my body, it was tempting to hide all my lumps and bumps (and stains) in black. The thing is, if you are exhausted and stressed black only exacerbates the situation. It makes dark circles and spotty complexion more pronounced. It actually showcases stains far more than colors. And while it’s a chic color, it’s not really a shade to brighten anyone’s mood.
Feeling overwhelmed? Try wearing green. Tired? Consider a top in pink. You will be amazed at how a pop of color will improve your mood, your complexion, and how the world relates to you.
Spend More Time on your Hair
Say what? After all these tips on how to shave time off the routine I now say to use that time for your hair? Well not exactly.
Right now my hair is a hot mess. Roots, gray hairs, damage, bangs at a weird length. I haven’t been to the salon in far too long. Instead of sucking it up and going to see my stylist, I create work-arounds to make my hair be “presentable.” I buy more products to seal split ends and control the frizz. I end up spending more time in the morning with hot tools trying to tame this mane. And yes, I often end the day with my hair in a messy ponytail or updo out of sheer frustration.
The thing is, when I go to see my stylist every other month, I don’t have to deal with such hair drama. My hair is free of split ends and damage, my roots aren’t as noticeable, I need less product, my hair is happier and therefore I am happier. It can seem that it’s too costly to visit the salon, but when you consider the $5.00 here and $7.00 there spent on conditioners, styling lotions, end menders, and fancy flat irons, you probably make out better with the regularly scheduled salon visits.
And regularly scheduled is key. The only reason I see the dentist twice a year is because they schedule my next appointment when I am there for my current one. When you get to the salon, schedule your next appointment when you are paying for your current cut and/or color. Treat it like a doctor’s appointment and plan it into your schedule. Get to know a stylist, so he or she can get to know you, your hair, and your personal style.
I only shower every other day. One day, I wake at 5:15 to shower before the rest of the house is up. The other day, I sleep in until 5:45. As I figure out my week, I also figure out my shower schedule. If I know I have to get to work early, I plan ahead so that is not a shower day. I remember in the first couple of months of Emerson’s life I would shower at 2am after a feeding because I knew there wouldn’t be any other guaranteed time in the day for me to get clean.
Knowing which days I shower means I can plot out my outfits (sleeveless on shower days, sleeves when I have stubble), my hair (Day 2 means hot tools and/or dry shampoo to get a decent look), and my morning (I don’t exercise on shower days because I know if I go downstairs before the shower, I will get off schedule, end up late, baby will wake before I have bathed, etc.).
I know my friend takes her showers at night so her son doesn’t wake during it, and she can let her hair air-dry overnight. I have another friend who takes her showers right after work when her husband is off getting the kids from day care – by time they are home she is finished and even got a chance to blow dry her hair. For you, a shower may be a daily (or twice daily) necessity; whatever is best for you – just make these personal care routines as important a part of your schedule as work, doctor’s appointments, and meals. This will ensure they take place, and don’t put the rest of your day off schedule.
Create a Signature Look (AKA Uniform)
I wear a lot of pencil skirts. A LOT of pencil skirts. I do this because I know they are stylish, flattering, and work-appropriate. If you scroll through my outfits, you will see I rarely veer from my favorite styles and silhouettes. Partially this is because it fits my personal style, but mainly it’s because it’s EASY. Switch the color of the skirt and top, it’s a completely different looking ensemble but with familiar silhouettes.
If I like a pair of shoes a lot, I will buy them in more colors. My leopard pumps I also have in black; I wanted them in patent but couldn’t find them so I got almost the same style of shoe but with a peeptoe. After Emerson was born, I lived in wrap dresses – they flattered my postpartum body and were great for breastfeeding. I found one I liked at Talbots – and then bought it in every color available. A month later I found a different wrap dress at Ann Taylor and bought it in solid black and a blue print.
No one notices I wear the same things over and over and over. They just see that I am wearing flattering silhouettes and colors. This makes life so much easier each morning, and also when shopping for new clothes. No need to reinvent the wheel each morning or on each shopping trip – keep it simple, keep a uniform until you have time to develop your look in more detail.
Not all these suggestions will work for everyone, but I encourage you to try to create little systems in your every day to make time for your personal style. You deserve to feel great and look great. Caring about your appearance shows the world that you are important, a person to respect. Taking time, even if it’s 15 minutes a day for just you can make a world of difference in how your day plays out. Remember, you can’t take care of others unless you first take care of yourself!