Stepping Outside the Box

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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 Maybe it’s because we’re still following outdated fashion rules, maybe it’s because we feel our age or our size reduces our options, maybe it’s because we feel if it’s not broke why fix it… there’s many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.

alison gary 004From 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.

miss sixty jaiden booties on wardrobe oxygenThose 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.

PicMonkey Collage 3I 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!

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. I loved this post, thank you. I think stumbling across the photo of you in the gray skirt and mustard sweater, which I love, is how I started following you in the first place.

  2. Those booties are soooo “you”. I love all of the outfits you post with them because they reflect your style. You look confident when you are wearing your signature looks. I love your personal style and I am so glad that you break the rules. I am usually not a fan of your sponsored posts because they seem too conventional, unlike the outfits you construct from your closet. But I have to say that when you wear colors for your winter coloring, you look your absolute best. Thanks for the fashion inspiration.

  3. I forgot about those booties!! That top left hand picture with the chambray shirt, leather skirt, bare legs and booties is my JAM! Now you’re inspiring me to try a leather skirt!! Love that you have so much fun with fashion – all of these photos are awesome and bursting with personality.

  4. I remember those booties like an old friend! Hope you found something equally as inspiring and go-to in your shoe wardrobe! Altho from what I can see, the booties are still in style (if that matters). I can’t wear heels anymore because of knee replacement surgery, but I sure do still admire them from afar, in my flats! 😉

  5. I truly love how you share your journey. Huge kudos–what a lot of growth you have shared, so eloquently! Thanks for all the inspiration (again!)

  6. I too love your blog for your sincerity in not only talking about body issues that the average woman has but doesn’t talk about. All the fashion magazines show women tall, lithe and probably a size 6. I can’t even recall being a size 6 in my life time. I’ve been an 8 at my smallest and crept up to a 16. Your blog has helped me realize that it’s not about being skinny, but being comfortable in my own skin. That I can enjoy beautiful clothing, accessories, and footwear, and still look as polished and ‘put together” as someone smaller than me. Thank you for being so candid and showing that beauty comes in all sizes and shapes. By the way, I do recall you wearing those Miss Sixty booties quite a bit!

    1. Thanks Lindsay! I wore them maybe twice post-arm drama and one time I tripped in them and it freaked me out. My style’s changed a bit where they don’t work as well with my current style, but I kept them because I very well may change my mind. In fact this post is inspiring me to dust them off and see how they work now!

  7. LOVE this!!!!!! I broke one of my steadfast style rules last night by wearing sneakers instead of heels to the Dirtwire show at the High Watt in Nashville. I have acute social anxiety and am extremely self-conscious. Normally I wear heels to feel beautiful. Confident. Sexy. In control. But right now, when I’m looking backwards at 250 lbs on the scale, suffering from fatigue due to heart issues, and having to do a great deal of walking due to uncertain parking at work, heels just do not work. It’s not sexy when your feet hurt. It’s not fun to have to sit down all the time. It’s dangerous to navigate uncertain city terrain at night in five inch platform.
    So I wore stylish black leather hightop sneakers with my ripped jeans & black tank. Danced for two hours straight. And enjoyed the hell outta the event!!!!!

  8. I love this post. . .”flattering to my soul” how true this is. I love your miss sixty bootie days as much as your no spank days and you look so happy in your skin. Kudos!!

  9. This post is great. I LOVE the three pictures in the middle of the bottom row. They are all types of looks I can imagine trying, but wouldn’t, without seeing how cute you look in them. 🙂

  10. I loved reading this! I am definitely in a rut (thus my skinny jeans and tall brown boots comment from yesterday). Try day Friday is a great idea. I am going upstairs to change right now.

      1. It was a pretty weak effort, actually!! I ended up getting sidetracked digging through my closet and ended up with a 2 trash bag purge. My outfit was meh, but I did add in a choker and my Chinese embroidered canvas mary janes. Those shoes make me smile, but I rarely wear them… and that is changing effective immediately! Thanks for the inspiration!

  11. Time and time again you write posts that are thoughtful and inspiring. I have been slowly seeing my style change, mainly due to my work but more just me. I loved skirts and dresses and now can barely stand to put one on. However, I am really worried about becoming bored with how I am dressing. It is nice to see and read about your changes and thoughts on your style evolution.

  12. I always enjoy your fashion posts–what can I say, I’m a visual person, but this post really resonated with me. My life and my body seem to always be in flux. I’m not at a good point now but I am trying. Trying not to judge my body based on what it used to look like, be able to accomplish etc. Aging isn’t for sissies on so many levels. Your post today really has given me food for thought. Thank you!

  13. Man. I have been reading your blog for a long time. Before I scrolled down, I KNEW you were talking about the Miss Sixty booties. You always look fantastic and your smile shines through your pictures.

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