Many of you may be reading this for entertainment. You are stylish, you are hip to trends. You know what looks good on you and what is positively ghastly. You wear your shape with pride and class. You don’t need assistance, you’re just cruising by.
Others, you care, but you don’t know where to start. You have been wearing the same pieces for over a decade, even though your shape, lifestyle and tastes have changed. Clothing has been something you use to not get arrested for indecent exposure, not something you care about. Now for whatever reason, you have started to care. And this terrifies you. Where to start?
First things first, fashion does not have to be scary. Let’s scratch the word FASHION. It evokes 3-inch thick Vogue magazines, stiletto heels, clothes you cannot sit in and designers one’s name cannot pronounce (or ever be able to afford). I like the word STYLE. Style does not disappear when a hemline goes out of the limelight. It does not waver from season to season. It does not offer free advertising for brand names and it spans generations and waistlines. Style is available for all, no matter your shape, your age or your budget.
I am going to ask you to do a very terrifying thing. Purchase a full-length mirror if you do not already own one. They are available for less then $20 from Big Box retailers like Kmart and Target. This can be most anywhere – the back of the bathroom door usually hidden by your robe, on the inside of your closet door, in your hallway closet in the foyer I even have one in my office/gym/spare room (which explains the Bowflex in every picture on my other blog). Place it anywhere you want and what works with your home. Now USE IT. So many women do not own a full-length mirror. This must explain why so many women walk around in too-short trousers, clunky shoes with trim pants, and panty lines visible a mile away. Each day before you leave your home, LOOK AT YOURSELF. Do you like what you see? Now you can’t remove the hips, the wrinkles, the breasts or the nose with a flash of a wand, but that is not what you are looking at. Are you “wrapping the package” in a flattering way? It doesn’t matter what you like and dislike about your figure or your face; you do not have immediate control over that. What you do have control over is how it is covered.
Do those trousers dig into your midsection causing the dreaded “muffin top?” Is that skirt hitting in the middle of the widest part of your calf, causing your legs to look shorter and thicker than they really are? How does that turtleneck REALLY look with your round face? Is that skirt really work appropriate or more dance club appropriate? Does that baggy sweater cover your bumps or accentuate them?
Once you have become comfortable with said full-length mirror (at least two weeks of daily views) you will see your wardrobe will change slightly. The pleated pants will be worn less, and possibly donated to a charity. The beloved dress that is “a little tight but not bad” may take a place farther back in the closet until you again reach goal weight. And those tunic sweaters that you feel hide all your sins? You will see that they really don’t achieve much at all. This is a good thing. A GOOD wardrobe is based on quality, not quantity. So you only like two pairs of trousers in your closet now. Who said you can’t wear the same pants twice in a week? Unless they are lime green with fuchsia polka-dots, I highly doubt anyone will notice. What they will notice is the stained, threadbare too short chinos that you are sporting in the sensible trousers’ place. If you don’t like something on you, you should not hang on to it. You will not miss it after a short period, and if you keep it, you may actually wear it again. Even if you end up with only three bottoms and four tops, you will survive. Slowly you can add to this collection with pieces you love and that love your body.
Now how does one go about buying new clothes? Malls are scary places, sensory overload of sights, smells and sounds. Online shopping is a game of Russian roulette and can be quite costly with returning those items that are not right. Boutiques are quaint but often costly and have a minimal amount of sizes and selection.
As I have mentioned before, I find malls to be the best for the new to wardrobe building. Clothing is something you wear every day and effects every aspect of your life. You would take a half day for a doctor’s appointment, why not schedule a wardrobe doctor appointment. Malls are lovely before the lunch rush. The stores are pretty empty and the salespeople are bored. Bored salespeople equal helpful salespeople and less frantic of salespeople. They will take their time with you, bringing you other sizes to the fitting room and giving you advice and opinions. Managers usually work on Monday early shifts and they usually have the most experience and the best sales skills. If you cannot take off a morning to shop, consider early on a Saturday or later on a Sunday.
Go to the mall with a list. A pair of black trousers, a new pair of brown boots, a couple of business casual tops. Then stick to that. If you need work clothes, do not even walk by the yoga pants, the jeans or the hoodies. They may be safe, but they are not necessary right now.
Consider solids. Solids may seem drab and boring, but they are the most versatile. A solid top will most likely match your solid bottom, and it’s less memorable, meaning you can wear it more often without anyone noticing. You see when your neighbor wears that floral skirt again, but when she wears a blue dress, you only notice the color, not the date of when it was worn. Find your personality through scarves, jewelry, shoes and handbags. No clue what colors go with what? Here is some assistance. This is not all-inclusive, but a simple list to help with those crazy colors shown in stores this season:
Complimenting Accessories (shoes, belts, bags)
Most any color except a medium brown or browns and navys that are almost the same shade as the black
Black is a safe bet. You can go with a contrast color (anything but brown, tan and navy) as long as the top is also black or a dark basic color (red shoes with a khaki sweater and black skirt)
Ivory, brown, tan, red, pink, lighter shades of blue, dark orange/rust/terracotta
Again, safe to go with the same color and only use a contrast if the top and bottom are both neutral (ivory sweater, brown pants and green pumps)
Brown, pink, black, ivory, plum, dark greens, navy, French blue, red, dark purples
If you have camel already, great! If not, consider the top. If it is a warm color (red, ivory, plum) brown is a nice compliment. If it is cool (black, purples, French blue) consider black. Navy is a shade that can go either way, though I think darker shades look better with black and lighter shades with brown.
French or baby blue, pinks, white, camel, ivory, dark red, lighter shades of green
Again, if you have navy shoes that closely match the bottom, wear them. I personally find navy bottoms hard to match and just never wear them. If you like navy, consider the rules above. Darker navys with black and lighter with dark brown or camel.
White (no matter what the fashion mags say, should only be worn from June through August unless you are a true expert fashionista)
Most any color except beige, ivory or a very pale shade of a color.
I do not believe white shoes should be bought by anyone except nurses, brides and true expert fashionistas. Since these white skirts and pants are being worn in the summer ONLY, consider a neutral like a tan shoe. If you are wearing a bright colored top (colbalt blue, hot pink, red) consider black shoes instead.
Black, brown, medium to dark greens, pinks and blues, red, navy, tan, purples and oranges
If it is a warm shade (orange, brown, tan) consider brown. If cool (black, blue, green) consider black. No one needs to own a pair of ivory shoes.
When you are shopping, consider your lifestyle. If you are reading this, you are probably not the type to have 40 pairs of shoes. Try to build your wardrobe around one shoe color. If you are fair haired, you may feel better in browns. If you are a brunette, you may be like me and prefer black. I only own one brown pair of shoes and no navy; I shop and think, “would this go with black shoes?” If it won’t go with a pair of shoes already in my closet I will not even try it on. It is far too expensive and complicated to buy a pair of pants and then have to search for matching shoes, belt, top and accessories to match it. If you like black shoes, consider only buying bottoms in black, ivory and tan or camel. If you prefer brown, consider only brown, khaki and camel. Personally, I find navy too difficult to match and blend into a wardrobe. If you cannot think of at least two things and one pair of shoes in your closet that an item will match, don’t buy it. It will cause you too much strife.
As for WHAT to buy, check out the sidebar. I have some suggestions as to what basic items every woman could use in her wardrobe. Also consider your lifestyle. If you are a stay-at-home mom, you may not need a pantsuit as much as quickly as a woman who meets with clients at work on a daily basis (though trust me, once you have a new wardrobe and a new look on life, almost all women will find needs for all the items on the list!).
Start off slow. A pair of pants to replace the ones that accidentally got washed and now don’t hang right. A new sweater to replace the baggy tunic you have sported for a decade. A dress for that upcoming wedding that will also be appropriate for your company holiday party AND your niece’s christening. A pair of simple black pumps that will go with your work pants AND that dress for the upcoming wedding. Go slow. No one is keeping a tally of how many pieces of clothing you own. Scour sale racks. Once you are comfortable with your size and what styles flatter you, venture to the online vendors and boutiques for variety (and often for better prices). Note the designers that fit you well and be loyal to them. Also be loyal to the shops that fit you and treat you well when you visit. Good salespeople will take down your information and notify you of sales and special events in their shops. This can save you money and time when adding to your wardrobe. Try to stay away from malls at holidays and on Saturday afternoons until you feel very strong and comfortable with shopping – these times will make you want to crawl back into your home and cover yourself with fleece.
And finally, believe in yourself. Wearing flattering, well made and fitting clothing is something you DESERVE. You work hard, you care about others, you are an important person on this planet. You deserve to feel good, to look good, and to present yourself to others as the wonderful person you are.