The Multiple Style Wardrobe

Multiple Style Personalites


Do you find yourself juggling multiple styles? Though my own sartorial swings were much more pronounced in the past, I currently tend to move between two style personalities which for the sake of brevity, let’s call Modern Classic and Minimalist Bohemian. For years I believed that I had to choose between one or the other, when in reality both are “me” depending on the day and my mood.

Or perhaps you work in an environment with a dress code that’s light years away from how you’d choose dress on your own time. Either way, the need to accommodate multiple styles can make it hard to build and maintain a cohesive wardrobe. By “cohesive” I mean a wardrobe without closet “orphans” (those pieces that never seem to be worn because they just don’t work with anything else) and that doesn’t require a quadratic equation each morning to get dressed and out the door. The individual pieces in a cohesive wardrobe relate to each other by style, color, and season.

It’s not necessary to have a cohesive wardrobe of course. Some people maintain one wardrobe for work, a second completely separate one for off-hours (and for those in a very strictly conservative workplace or who need to wear a uniform, this may be necessary). Some women love the imagination and creativity of putting outfits together from an eclectic collection of unrelated pieces. But I find that to maintain sanity I require a certain amount of order in my life, including in my closet. (I’ve joked that some mornings I need the grown up equivalent of Garanimals.) So over the years I’ve found some strategies for bridging my disparate style personalities and even finding wardrobe items that will work for both.

It helps of course that some of the old rules about what items “go together” have been tossed out the window. Currently we’re likely to be inspired by those who mix different types of styles: edgy with classic, tailored with bohemian, modern with vintage. It also helps that my two style personalities have a lot of elements in common: an avoidance of visual clutter, and a preference for a streamlined, often long-over-lean silhouette.

I’ve also learned to build my core wardrobe around simple pieces in neutral colors that can be closet chameleons. A black pencil skirt, for example, can lean classic with a blouse and pumps, or go edgy with black tights and motorcycle boots. So often, it’s how we style and accessorize wardrobe basics that really creates a distinctive look and expresses our personality. (And this is also a great strategy for those who are trying to build a work wardrobe on a budget: buy a few good quality basic pieces and use accessories to express personal style and keep your look up-to-date.) Sticking to a relatively consistent silhouette has also helped me merge styles. I can wear most of the tops in my closet with most of the bottoms, which also makes getting dressed in the morning less of an ordeal.

I’ve come to realize that this isn’t a quandry, but rather an opportunity to dress to express various facets of ourselves. Building a wardrobe that expresses our various facets can be challenging, but it can be done.

Do you find you have a consistent style or do you have Multiple Style Personalities? How do you build a wardrobe that accommodates all of your style moods?

_ _ _ _ _

Already Pretty contributor Une Femme is fifty-six, married to the same wonderful monsieur since 1995, the mother of a special-needs teenager and two hooligan dogs, a full-time administrative professional, a coffee-holic, Paris-obsessed, native Californian, and a petite and curvy femme d’un certain age. She believes that personal style is an essential form of self-expression, and started her blog, Une femme d’un certain âge, in 2007 hoping to start a conversation about style for women over 50.

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23 Responses to “The Multiple Style Wardrobe”

  1. Ginger

    If you have a lot of contacts in disparate social circles -camping friends, urban professionals, rural/suburban garners, starving artists, homeless advocates- you can end up needing wardrobes that are friendly to all. No fancy bags for camping friends, save the bling when out with your homeless advocate friends, creative with Artists, ready to garden with suburban types.

    • Karen

      That’s so true Ginger! you get it! We so often tweak our dressing for WHOM we keep company. That’s okay! That’s appropriate and makes your COMPANY at ease too, which is part of the equation.

  2. Krysta

    Most of my wardrobe is composed of items that are strictly for work, or strictly for casual. I have some overlap in that there are several blouses that work with bottoms from both sets, but I generally wear a lot more sophisticated clothes for work, and my casual style tends to be very casual (my default top combo is contrasting tank under a solid v-neck tank).

    Though one thread that ties both together is that I’m a huge fan of bold colors, and mixing said colors.

    • Krysta

      …Whoops! A contrasting tank under a v-neck fitted tee, not another tank! lol

  3. Kay Bug

    I am one of those that maintains two almost completely separate wardrobes. I have a tailored look of trousers, skirts, dresses for work; I mix punky with bohemian on the weekend. Although I do very occasionally mix some pieces from my weekend or work looks together, it’s challenging to do and not look disjointed. It may be because I want to look authoritative at work, which is pretty much never needed in my off time. Therefore, I also have a LOT of clothes, which presents its own challenges in maintenance and closet orphans.

  4. Lisa

    I feel like I have MPSD sometimes, so it surprises me whenever I gravitate towards something or style something in a certain way, and my friends or boyfriend will react with “That’s so you.” Go figure.

    • Karen

      This is the best case scenario! This means your identity and how others see you is in sync. Perfecto!

  5. Sue

    I definitely have a multiple personality wardrobe (which I’ve described on my blog as a schizophrenic wardrobe) not helped by the fact that I love so many different colours! On the whole my skirts and trousers are neutrals, but when it comes to tops and accessories I have a rainbow in my wardrobe. I prefer casual styles on the whole, but on occasions I like to wear more feminine and smarter outfits. I am trying to gradually bring more versatile pieces into my wardrobe. If I had to settle for one style it would be casual chic.

  6. Faun

    I’m surprised you consider yourself a “minimalist” in any way – can you perhaps link to an outfit which is minimalist? Perhaps I’m using the word incorrectly!

    • JJ

      Hi Faun: Just checking to see if you were directing your question to Sal or to guest contributor Une Femme, who wrote this post. While I wouldn’t consider Sal’s style to be minimalist (at least according to my own definition), I would consider Une Femme’s style — at least from what I’ve seen at her blog at — to be so.

  7. Angela

    I am similar to Kysta. I work from home 3 days a week. My fall back outfit as no one sees me, is jeans, tank, vneck long sleeve Tshirt.

    But work in the office, I go all out. Pants, skirts heels, camisoles, cardigans, blazers etc all classics but in my colours, with maybe a fun chunk of jewellery thrown in….neither of these cross well..maybe the cardi with jeans, if I have an appt. I have resigned myself to a large multiple personality closet

  8. Mimi

    I work in a public library where you have to balance professionalism with approachability and be prepared for various temperature ranges throughout the building. My joke is that I only have two kinds of clothes, clothes I wear to work and pajamas.

  9. Ruth

    I’m sure a lot of us feel that we have different clothing personalities, but when we look at our friends they are always recognisably themselves. So i think a lot of it is in our imaginations. I have only met a few people who can look really different from day to day and they usually have long hair, worn in flowing locks one day or tied back tightly and made close to the head another. That really makes a difference – but clothes, not nearly as much as we imagine.

  10. Debby

    When I worked at home, I was constantly fighting with my closet. I wanted soft blouses, skirts, dresses, heels, sparkly jewelry, but lived in jeans, V-neck long sleeved T-shirts, and older cardigans. Now that I’m back in an office, I’m making the transition to buying clothes I love, and trying to decide how many of the T-shirts and ultra casual items I can do without.

    I alternate between classic and romantic styles, and most things do blend together well. But those “what fashion type are you?” quizzes stymie me.

  11. Robin

    I am a very happy reader of many style blogs, and this is a wonderful one. That said, I don’t comment much (if at all), but I do want to say that I find the term “schizophrenic wardrobe” very problematic. I am a professor of psychology and a mental health professional, and I am sensitive to the language that is intended as amusing (perhaps) but is likely to be quite painful for those struggling with mental illness. There are lots of ways to describe a multi-faceted, multi-purpose, happily eclectic wardrobe without using terms that are inappropriate. Of course I believe that most people who use these phrases do so without intending to be hurtful, but we all need to be kind and accurate in our everyday conversations.

    • Sally

      Hi Robin, I need to take some responsibility for Sue’s comment. The original post also had some language that referenced multiple personalities, which another person pointed out was insensitive. So the post text/title has since been changed, but Sue’s comment came in before that. I should have caught that and discussed with Une Femme before the post went live, but it just slipped through the cracks. I appreciate you bringing this point to attention with such kindness and with constructive feedback in mind.

      • adelfa

        Robin and Sal, thank you so much. It is very common for bloggers and journalists to make mistakes like this, but rare for someone to address it with the gentleness and clarity that Robin uses, and rare for acknowledgement to happen a la Sal (though I know you didn’t write the post).

        Une Femme has a special needs teenager, as we read on this very page. She would be the last person to intentionally hurt people suffering from mental illness. Raising awareness is so important, and so is responding appropriately once the awareness is raised. Kudos to you both–this is a bright spot in my week!

      • Karen

        It’s so hard to always be appropriate and please everyone. Did you know the writer has a mentally disabled son? She would never intentionally offend anyone. Please have grace. Karen

  12. Aya

    I’m pretty sure I have at least 4 style personalities going on- bohemian, casual Steampunk, punk, and “whee! let’s try this and see.” One of the things I like best about blogging is I started seeing those patterns and being able to sort a lot of what I wear into categories.

    … there are not a lot of crossover items between those personalities. At all. -_-

  13. Eleanorjane

    Hmm… interesting post. I think I’m pretty cohesive in my style choices, but I do like to keep a clear difference between work and weekend clothes. I like slipping on a pair of jeans to signal ‘Time to relax now’ or some heels and a skirt to say ‘Time to perform now’. I also like having seperate formal outfits to make going out feel special. There are common elements across all three categories, but there are boundaries in my mind, too.

  14. karen

    Yes yes yes!!! Loving all kinds of stuff doesn’t have to turn into a quadratic equation! It can however, make for a more expensive wardrobe if you are inconsistent. But on the other had, we need to feed our inspirations or our wardrobes are soulless…It’s a tough call. What I do is buy a few complete “outfits” for my non-core style cravings. I have a few edgy chic looks, a couple of over the top whimsical things, but mostly I stick to my Core Style Roots (ref: interest).

    • karen

      That’s reference Pinterest! My Core Style Roots are on Pinterest so I can galvanize my style into my brain…..