January 29, 2014

Signature Style and a Wardrobe Update - Part 1

We all have personal style, we just don't always take the opportunity to show it, to reach for it, or to define it. I've done the mom thing now for over 13 years and I spent a good lot of time just wearing what was close by or buying the whole outfit that looked nice in the window because I didn't have time to figure it out in my head. I am very familiar with that role and there were times that I wished I could look on the outside the way I felt (creative and full of life, even while mopping up macaroni cheese) on the inside. Sometimes I would go to work and feel invincible in whatever I threw on that day. Other times I wanted to be invisible. A lot of days I felt like my clothes didn't match me and I wan't putting enough time into changing that. I'm not sure I knew what my style was until my 30's really. It was in my 30's that I lived alone (plus children) for the first time and could buy and wear whatever I loved without ridicule. Once I tried several things, I settled into the same "favorites."  

As I paid closer attention to my own habits and budget, I began to identify with the same things over and over again. I saw a pattern emerge that, honestly now that I look back, has been the same since high school. Vintage clothing, denim, leather and faux fur. Bohemian and suit separates at the same time... that's me. Lots of black with a pop of individualism somewhere. Structure that has been torn apart or softened somehow, that's me.

Many of us spend time on Pinterest looking at fashion because it is fun. It's like having a magazine at your fingertips all the time and I love that. But what I don't love is the idea of beautiful women living only through the images on their screen. That seems heartbreaking to me. In other words, we should all FIND A WAY TO LIVE OUR PINS. Find a way to work that outfit into what you can afford or what you already own. I don't care if you have a million bills to pay, you can still look fabulous with the items in your closet, if you learn how to wear them in new combinations. Wear heels to the grocery store! You'll feel like a badass and your butt will look perky! 

And who cares what you can afford? You don't have to buy the exact outfit you see - find something about it that you love. The layers, the cropped pants, the rolled sleeve - something. Then incorporate that into your existing outfit when you get dressed in the morning. Just try it! 

Don't ever be afraid to look different. You don't WANT to look like everyone else. You can be inspired by someone or something without twinning it out. Be yourself, an individual! God says that the world will try to sink its fingers into all of us, force us to compete and copy one another - but we are to look away from the world and toward Him, and forge our own path with Him beside us. If you like tie dye, then wear it even if your brother's cousin's friend tells you that it looks crazy. If you wear knits and sweats a lot, then look at fashionable types and maybe hit your local thrift for some new options to change it up - wear those stretch pants with a tee and a blazer! If you're like me, you'll wear a tie with your button down shirt while you're on a business trip in Chicago [I still remember that outfit and it was KILLER.]  Be different. Be WEIRD. And freaking own it!

Most of you have followed me for years - during the "alone" period I was referencing above - and have probably watched my style evolve. Here it is in greater detail:

Something I personally love to do is roll my sleeves.  

I found some tutorials on how to do it because a picture is far more amusing than listening to me all day.

I like wearing a rolled sleeve with some structure. A suit skirt or slacks and heels, for example. The juxtaposition of something undone with something crisp is one of my most favorite things.

Another thing I love is layering. I love shocking prints layered just as much as I love tone on tone layering. Layers make a look feel lived in, real, and comfortable. Effortless. Practical, especially if you live in a climate where the weather changes throughout the day. Pay close attention to how your clothing fits. If it's too baggy, YOU will look too baggy. Depending on the fabric, you can easily alter a shirt by flipping it inside out and sewing 1/2" in on each side to make the shirt fit closer to your body!

Madewell gives tips on how to recreate layered looks on their website - excellent...

If you are like me and visit the thrift store on a regular basis, then your closet is probably crammed like Carrie Bradshaw's, too. One of the best ways to identify your style and the things you love is to clean out your closet first. Here are some great methods for doing that. Read them all and try your favorite!



If clothing doesn't fit you anymore or only fits the "ideal" you then take it out of your closet. Most of us women hold on to "target size" clothes. That's fine, if you want to use that as inspiration. But these things don't need to clog your closet. They distract you from making the most of what you have in rotation. I suggest moving the target items to a storage bin in the attic, where you can pull them out when and if you reach that target. If you haven't in a few years, donate your storage bin.

Seasons change and so do clothes. If you have room to store a yearly wardrobe I am jealous, straight up. Because I do not. I try to stuff everything in there but then I can't find anything when it's 6:00am. One thing I plan to start this summer is storing my winter items in a storage bin in the attic. I'll pull them out in the fall when the seasons begin to change but until then, I'll have some free space in my closet! This small change feels super exciting to me!

If you are visual and appreciate a good diagram for wardrobe editing, voila:

Another thing to consider is limiting yourself to a specific number of items (whatever is realistic for you).  While I don't love every item listed, I liked the 17 looks that were created. Just think of that! If you limited yourself to (let's say) 13 favorite things... how many outfits could you come up with using only them? For me, that really highlights the EXTRA I have in my closet that I don't need.

Here are a few others to give you some perspective.

There are tons of tutorials for cleaning your closet online; these are only a few that I've Pinned.  .

Oh! Cardigan Empire has a great process for helping you find your signature style.

While you're contemplating your signature style, visit the thrift store. While there, be sure to check out the men's section. Many women look stunning in menswear. I mean, if you're up for that. Also be sure to check a size down and at least 2 sizes up. Be willing to try everything on right there in the aisle if need be (leggings and a tee are perfect thriftwear) and be willing to repair something if you love it. The worst you'll be out is what, $8?  And you can say that you are contributing to sustaining our environment by upcycling instead of buying new.

Here is my advice:

1. Do your laundry and put everything away before you begin - iron if you need to
2. Clean your closet; take everything out
3. Identify the pieces that you love and that you look great in - make a list! Edit and add your favorites back into your closet
4. Identify a few key pieces that you want to purchase - make a list and take it with you thrifting
5. Repair any favorites that need it
6. Donate anything that you don't feel FABULOUS in, doesn't fit, or that you haven't worn in a year - be ruthless!
7. Don't be afraid to be yourself - God made you an individual on purpose!

It's spring. Time to stop dreaming of your Pinned outfits and start putting them on your behind. Try some of the things you are identifying with - and if you're not sure what those are, look back through your Pins or through the magazine pages you've been dog-earing... patterns will start to emerge. When they do, write them down and go for it! Everyone has a signature style hiding in there, somewhere.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to start by cleaning my closet and making a list of the things that I love inside of it.  

And now:

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