But wait! There’s more!
My realization that there was a disconnect between how I was dressing and how I wanted to dress is actually a fairly recent one. A month old now, maybe two. And I’m pretty certain it was spurred on by my hatred of polished nails. Not on you or anyone else, on me. Polished toenails work for me all summer: They’re easy to do well, easy to refresh, and don’t generally chip. (At least not on me. I don’t kick things very often.) My hands are a different story. Despite weekly polishing sessions, I still suck at doing my fingernails and more often than not either smudge them within an hour or chip them within a day of application. Also? I actually LIKE the way my unpolished nails look. My hands feel more like they are my own when they’re naked, or sporting a quick coat of clear. But two forces were at play that made me feel like polished fingernails were important: I worked in a style-related profession, and I dressed in a pretty traditionally feminine way. Either force on its own might not create sufficient pressure, but combined they had me painting my nails every week, cursing all the while. And I found myself wishing for something, a change or an excuse that would allow me to do bare nails without degrading my credibility.
As I mentioned yesterday, I have also shifted to a flat footwear-centric lifestyle. Working at the boutique has me on my feet and walking for seven-plus hours, closet consults and personal shopping trips have me walking for three-plus hours, speaking gigs and teaching and workshops have me on my feet, and on days when I’m running from meeting to meeting heels make me absolutely miserable. And although I still love how they look, heels make me physically miserable even when I’m NOT running all over creation. They pinch my toes and make the balls of my feet burn and cause my back pain to flare up. And I stubbornly dealt with all of those irritants for years, but I just can’t anymore. Heels are great for occasional wear – and I will definitely still wear various styles of heeled shoes – but flats are my new everyday style.
And then there’s my hair. I started wearing it messy and vaguely rocker-ish in January, and both it and I are happier for the change. Although my new hair sometimes played off my fit-and-flare dresses and ladylike heels fairly well, giving off a slightly rockabilly vibe, I eventually began to sense a disconnect. And although I still loved my hair and the unruly, curly, punk-tinged look it lent me, I realized I had become weary of the dresses and heels. Again, not so weary that I ditched them all and swore them off for eternity … but weary enough to make a conscious change.
So. I decided to change my style because of my hands, my feet, and my head. For starters, anyway.
I also began reevaluating my relationship with color. I am susceptible to the collector mentality and the fallacy of the “complete” wardrobe, which means I often felt compelled to find and buy the things I loved in every color. Which is expensive. And, as it turns out, wholly unnecessary. At least in my case, this practice created a wardrobe full of fabulous possibilities but little cohesion. When I had time to do some outfit planning, I’d find myself pulling out the same things in the same colors every time, and failing to build outfits around them. And when I lacked time to do outfit planning – which has been the case for what feels like eons – trying to cobble together a colorful outfit that didn’t look slapdash was just too hard. I either wore outfits I’d worn before and knew worked, or I reached for neutral mixes.
Many of my style consult clients express feelings of guilt over their black-heavy wardrobes and expect me to chide them. But even when I was dressing like a color wheel, I never did. Black is chic, versatile, and timeless. It may be harsh and it may not look fabulous with everything, but there is nothing wrong with it being the platform upon which your wardrobe is built. Many of my style clients also express a desire for outfit formulas and interchangeable pieces. “Garanimals for grown-ups” is a phrase that literally DOZENS of women have used to describe their ideal styles to me. And for the first time in my life, I want that for myself, too. I still love playing with clothes and will still try to carve out time to workshop interesting and unusual outfits, but most weeks I have neither the time nor the energy. My stuff needs to go together. And an “all colors welcome” palette makes that virtually impossible. I want lots and lots of black, with side orders of gray and olive and burgundy. I’m finally at a point in my life and style evolution where I want a limited palette.
So I’ve been culling out anything that isn’t a neutral, a jewel tone, or a cool bright. I may ditch one of the last two groups eventually, but I want to give myself a little leeway to play and experiment. Right now, it’s been nothing but neutrals for weeks. I’ll be interested to see when and if I feel like wearing colors again.
And, amazingly, I’ve found that I want to wear more pants. If you’ve been reading this blog for many years – and huge thanks if you have! – you’ll remember that I’ve posted multiple anti-pant rants, describing how uncomfortable and unflattering I found them on myself. You may have noticed, though, that more and more pairs of jeans and pants have crept into my wardrobe over time. And although absolutely zero pairs of low-rise pants look or feel good on me, and very few pairs of mid-rise pants look or feel good on me, many pairs of high-rise pants both look and feel good on me. And since those styles are now readily available, they’re what I’m wearing. We’re moving slowly but steadily toward the long, brutal Minnesota winter, and I’m sure I’ll bust out the tights and skirts on occasion. But since I’m craving change and loving my jeans and slouchy pants, I’m betting they’ll dominate my looks.
Other ways I narrowed my focus: I overdyed some of my bright tee shirts and dresses to make them more muted. I sold and donated bright bags, necklaces, scarves, shoes, and clothes. And the main thing I did while culling and honing? I looked at each item and asked myself, “Would a badass wear this?” If the answer was, “No,” I got rid of it. Possibly the most helpful tactic I’ve ever used to focus my personal style. Husband Mike has pointed out to me that a badass can wear absolutely anything she wants since badassery is more of an attitude than a look. And I agree. But the question still helped me because “rocker” is too specific and “cool” isn’t specific enough. The badass in my mind has rocker and trendy and Boho and casual elements to her. You can see some of the images I collected throughout this process over on Pinterest. I add more almost daily.
I think many of us feel like personal style is a project that we will someday complete, that eventually everything we own will look and feel great and we’ll just be done. But in the vast majority of cases, this is untrue. Because our lives change, our bodies change, our needs change, our tastes change. And it’s only natural that our personal styles will change right along with them. Although I’m a creature of habit who often fears change, this particular shift excites me. I feel like I’m going in a direction that is both familiar and new, and making choices that are far more specific and narrow in focus that have already helped me feel more grounded and calm. Three years from now I may take my style in a totally new direction, or it may have settled and shifted organically into a different version of my current vision. But whatever the case, I’m glad to have arrived at this particular stop on my journey. It feels like a good place to pause and rest, then explore a while.
Originally posted 2014-09-09 06:23:40.