Monday, February 08, 2010

Make It Work Monday*: A Wardrobe You'll Love

For most of my teens and much of my twenties, I didn't dress very well. This was partly due to lack of information, but in large part to a lack of confidence, not to mention that it takes time to know yourself and develop your own sense of style. I don't purport to be a maven of style or fashion by any means, but these days I find that I finally have a wardrobe that I feel good about. I can put together an outfit that I love to suit any situation. This wasn't always true in the past, when my wardrobe consisted mainly of heather grey shirts, turtleneck sweaters, and jeans which were mostly too large. It's taken time to get to this point, but I've found that there are some key steps I've taken to get this far, that I still rely upon to keep my wardrobe fresh and fun. No matter your budget, it is possible to build a wardrobe that will allow you to put together outfits that will suit your situation and that will make you feel pretty. Having a sizable clothing budget is nice, but it's not realistic for most of us. The good news is that with a little extra work (and it's easy, I promise--no DIY if you're not crafty and no hours and hours of searching unless you feel like it) we can all build a wardrobe of items we truly enjoy putting on. Here are the rules I've followed to create the wardrobe I currently have and love.

1. Let go of your body hangups, and find styles that fit and flatter you. This is the part that takes the most time and effort, but once you know what styles and shapes and cuts look good, you'll begin to recognize those and make a beeline for them in the store.

2. Decide what you like. This might sound silly, but it's key. Are you the girl who can rock the trendy clothes? Go for it. Are well-fitted trousers and blazers more your thing? No problem. You get to choose what you like; just don't make the mistake of confusing what you like with what feels safe to wear. It's okay to take risks!

3. Visit clearance racks briefly every time you're in a store that has them. That's the extra work I was talking about. That's it! Easy, right? My wardrobe is a mix of full price items that are well made and clearance favorites that I lucked into; however, I find my luck is better if I actually look at what is available. Even if I've got only a few extra minutes, I make a quick sweep of the clearance rack. If it's a store I'm in frequently (*ahem*Target*ahem*), I note which items I like at full price and watch for them to make it to clearance. (The same is true for online shopping sites, particularly Boden.)

4. Try it on. If you don't have time to try it on in the store, make sure the return policy is favorable and go ahead and take it home. If you're ordering online or from a catalog, find free shipping and free returns deals in order to ensure that you won't spend money for shipping on items you may or may not keep.

5. Evaluate. Does it fit well? Is there gapping or bunching that is unflattering? Does it look like I've put on a big sack? How do I feel in this item? Do not remove tags or toss out receipts until you are certain that you look and feel good wearing the item. If you don't feel good in it, you won't wear it. I don't care how cheap it was on clearance; if you won't wear it or it looks terrible, it's a waste of money. Period. Take your time with this step and the next one; most stores allow 90 days for returns, so take advantage of that.

6. If you're unsure of how to wear it or what to wear it with or if it looks good on you at all, ask a friend whose style you love to weigh in. I find this is also handy if I like something but don't feel confident in it. The kind words of a stylish friend can go a long way towards making me feel like I can pull of something I might have doubted, and more than once I've ended up wearing and feeling fabulous in something I previously would have eschewed in favor of something safe.

7. If you truly like the item, remove the tags and wear it! If you are unsure or think you won't wear it, take it back. There are cute clothes coming out all the time, and you will find something you'll like sooner or later.

8. Once you have a good selection of items you look and feel good wearing, start to eliminate the items that don't work. I still sometimes buy things I think will be fabulous and later discover aren't so much. My rule is this: If I wear it once and feel iffy about it, I'll set it aside but not eliminate it immediately. If I wear it twice and still don't feel fantastic wearing it, it exits the premises. There is nothing wrong with passing on something that doesn't work for you to someone who will wear it and love it.

9. Look in the mirror and feel good! You look amazing!

*Make It Work Monday is a new thing I'm working on every Monday. I'll cover topics that range from wardrobe to cooking to energy efficiency and beyond. The goal is to give you tricks and hints to make life work better. I find that even a small change sometimes does me a world of good, and I'll be passing on some of the changes I've made in my life that have worked out well. I hope that you'll feel free to use the comments section to add to what I've posted or offer tips of your own.

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