Thursday, August 6, 2015

Fashionably Unfashionable

Hey everyone! I thought I'd try something a little bit different today. I recently started a new job, and out of all the new-job Googles I did, the most unsatisfactory one was "how to build a work wardrobe with clothes you already have." I didn't switch fields or anything, but my new job is a little more fashionable than the old one, and to be honest, I've been in a major wardrobe rut. My clothes are boring, I didn't have a huge budget to replace them, and even if I had all the money I needed, I still had no idea how to do it. Since I had so much trouble finding tips that worked for me in any kind of practical way, I decided to chunk together what I did find (blogs like Fab Fatale and Corporette were useful, and I fell absolutely in love with Putting Me Together's simple tips, multitasking pieces, and great pictures) with trial and error to give some real girl advice on revamping your work wardrobe.

Accessorize for YOU
The advice to spice things up with accessories is always part of the standard "on a budget" wardrobe advice, but my best friend once joked that she hasn't seen me swap out of the same few pieces of jewelry in a decade...and she's kinda right. I'm getting more comfortable with big necklaces and trendy belts, but statement accessories aren't very me, and I usually feel goofy in them. The key to utilizing this advice for me was picking the right accessory to focus on. For me, I am always cold, but when I wear sweaters outside of the dead of winter I get hot and spend all day taking them on and off. The magic accessory for me was scarves. They come in a ton of weights to wear all year without getting too hot or cold, make any outfit look delightfully deliberate, are functional and inexpensive, and don't look over the top, even with bold prints and colors.  And they're great for when I spill something on my shirt. Which is often. Scarves are my perfect accessory, so I bought or found several and played with a few different ways of tying them to mix it up. Easy easy! These infinity scarf two packs are my favorite (and it looks like they're on clearance!). If you always wear earrings, or love cardigans, or have an extensive shoe collection, use that accessory as your jump off point. Or do like I did and fill a need. If your pants are always slipping, invest in funky belts. Headscarves could be a good fit if you don't like your hair. I've learned that fashion that meets a need is almost always a good choice.

Choose Your Splurges Wisely
Before I was very reluctant to wear dresses because I wanted to avoid the inevitable "what are you so dressed up for?", but I always envied people who wear a dress like it's no big deal. I bought a dress for an interview and spent more than I really wanted to, around $30, and oh. my. gosh. Dresses are easy to wear (one piece, just add shoes!), are easily accessorized, and are really, really comfortable...if you buy good quality ones. Poor quality dresses, like I've bought in the past, fit poorly and leave you tugging at them all day to look just ok. Good quality dresses are amazing. I also am willing to buy only 1 or 2 pairs of jeans a year (if that) and spend more to get a perfect fit. I thought shoes would be another good splurge, but I quickly found that I didn't notice a difference, even when I spent more on shoes. I think I'll try good quality insoles and keep buying cheap but cute shoes. Likewise, my scarf obsession does not extend to $50 scarves. Yes, they feel nice, but when I can get them at good prices and look the same, do I need cashmere? Nah. When you buy new, pick the things that make you feel or look noticeably better at higher quality to buy, then go cheap on the rest.

Pay for Classics, Skimp on Trends
A rule I adopted quickly from the blogs is pay for classics and skimp on trends. My interview dress was a plain blue sheath dress in a stretchy fabric that I got at an outlet store, worth way more than the $30 I paid, and I wear it all the time, accessorizing it for the occasion. I have another dress in a bold print and trendy cut that I only paid $7 for. It's cute, but has a limited shelf life, so I wouldn't have paid full price. Something that will still look good and feel good in 5 years is worth it, even if it means you can't buy as much. Caveat-it needs to be something you'll actually wear. Pay for your classics. For example, I read that a blazer is a wardrobe staple, so I grabbed one at a thrift shop-and promptly discovered that my lifestyle does not require a blazer on anything close to a regular basis. I was so glad that I didn't buy a great one to never wear. I avoid overly formal pieces because I rarely attend formal events. I have an LBD, everything else needs to me more everyday. Likewise, I consider heels a wardrobe essential, but my go-to shoes are flats. My K-Mart pumps will be sufficient for occasional wear, thanks. When I'm in the market for something new, I go to discount places like TJ Maxx and Burlington Coat Factory or hit the clearance racks at department stores for good quality finds at prices I can stomach, then shop cheap for trends I want to try.

Make Color Easy
A ridiculous amount of my wardrobe is neutrals because of one of my own rule: before buying something, I try to figure out what I'd wear it with. It's still a good rule, but led to me playing it safe. To break out of that, I bought a ton of $2 camisoles and tank tops in different colors and started layering like crazy. Right now I have a bright coral cami under a black henley, and my outfit is infinitely more interesting than it would be with a neutral. If you lean neutral with clothes, buy a few pieces and lots of well chosen accessories in colors you like. That's it-just buy it because you like it. Then pair it with your neutrals, and you're insta-stylish. Makeup is a fun and cost effective way to insert color, too. I have so much lipstick. Color has always made me nervous, so buying colorful low commitment items has been a great fashion gateway for me

Over time I bought a lot of items because I loved them, but they ended up not being very me in practice. My goal of upping my wardrobe game made me reexamine these items. Would the gigantic belt that came with this dress look better with this one? Can this dress be a shirt, or vice versa? Would this necklace look less gaudy as a bracelet, or even a belt? When did I buy these earrings? Repurposing ad revising things I picked up here and there because I liked them helped a lot with developing a sense of personal style without having to buy a new wardrobe.

Love (Or At Least Like) Your Body
Another personal rule is that I never buy things that don't fit. Even if I love them. Even if they kinda almost fit. If I can't wear it and like it right now, it stays on the shelf. For clothes I already have, I either get rid of things that don't fit or keep them separate from my regular wardrobe if I can't stand to give up on it yet. When your clothes fit, they're easier to match with other things and to just throw on without too much work. For me, if clothes are a lot of work to like the effect, I don't wear them. I'll spare you the self love blah blah, but being honest with yourself about your body, including and especially what you like, narrows the field a lot on what to wear. I know I have a defined waist but a mom belly, so yay to my flared dress with a high belt! I like my legs. Maxi dresses make me feel short and awkward, so knee length skirts/dresses or pants are my favorites. I get me. I know what makes me feel good. I do not want to spend all day thinking about my clothes, so I find things that fit and just...wear them.

So, short version-I buy only things I really like, know my style and needs and stick to the script, and I take calculated risks, but I also know my limits and follow rules that have made sense for me. Whew, now I know why so many re-work your wardrobe articles are terrible-this is hard! How do you expand your style repertoire? What piece can't you live without?

All that being said, confession time: I guess you could say I've been on a bit of a blog break. With everything I've had going on, and continued issues with getting good quality photos from my camera to my computer, with the added fun of a nail art slump, breakage, and cuticle issues (don't worry, guys, I'm back on the oil and have a fresh supply of TamTam's body whip), I just haven't felt driven to post in waaay too long. I also have a Julep Mystery Box review written from May that I just need to figure out how to add photos to, do you still want to see it? I figured it could help with the eternal "should I try a mystery box" debate, but it's not exactly relevant, so it's up to you, dear readers. I can't promise that my break is over, but this has never been a super regimented blog, and that helps me keep it fun and bring you only things I love.  I love sharing my thoughts and nail art with you, and your being cool about letting me do my thing takes off the pressure to do anything but have fun. Sometimes I pressure myself and I see the difference in the quality of my posts, which I don't want, so thanks for sticking with me and going with the flow during these down times.