As a little girl, some of my favorite moments were spent clothes shopping with my mom. A couple of times a year, we’d go on shopping sprees at Limited, Too! and I’d try on pretty much everything in the store while my mother waited outside the dressing room in anticipation. When I came out of the fitting room, my mom would excitedly check me out and make suggestions on how to wear certain items or what to pair something with. I can still distinctly remember the plaid pleated skirts, the ribbed poorboy sweater, the oversized white spring jacket emblazoned with “Sport 92” across the back, which I purchased with my allowance money because my mom couldn’t fathom that a white jacket would fare well for me in the longterm (it didn’t). I learned all my style rules, tips and tricks from my mother, but she was careful not to dictate, only to gently guide me, letting me ultimately decide what I liked.
When I was a teenager, she was the proudest mom to rest her rump on the pleather fitting room couch at Contempo Casuals, helping her daughter come up with different combos of cute affordable clothes that wouldn’t give my father a heart attack. The white baby tee with the red plastic smooch across the front, the thigh-highs and giant platform shoes- no item was off limits and my mom let me have fun as I was coming into my own with fashion while steering me in the right direction and kept my style age-appropriate.
Walking the line between having fun with trends and maintaining a classic dressing style is not always simple. I think of myself as a fairly classic dresser, but I sometimes find myself caught up in trends when they happen to work for my body type, and I find myself with some big ol’ fashion fails as I peruse my closet the following season. However, on the whole my body type keeps me in check- because of my large chest, short torso and long legs, I’m not even able to participate in a lot of the seasonally trendy items, which I think of as a blessing in disguise.
I thought I’d share a few of my tips to help you define your personal style and maintain a cohesive look through the seasons so you’re purchasing items that will last for you.
- Know your silhouette. Almost every time I try to go for a slouchy top or shapeless dress that looks amazing on a smaller-boned woman with a less prominent chest, it doesn’t get worn. Even if I love the look on others, I have to accept that not every style was meant for every body.
- Buy for you now. Purchase items that work with your current weight and your current wardrobe. If you buy it assuming it’ll look good once you find a good pair of wedges or once you lose 5 pounds, you’ll end up regretting it. Shop either for a special occasion that you have coming up or for right now. If I buy a random floral shirt that isn’t dressy enough for a night out but it’s too dressy for casual daywear, it’s going to still have tags on it next year. If you can see yourself wearing it tomorrow, or you’re purchasing with a specific event in mind, it’s probably a win.
- Shop mindfully. For me this means shopping alone- when I have two toddlers with me, I can’t try things on, and I can’t take a mindful moment to contemplate whether this is an item that will really work for me and whether I’ll actually wear it. I like to really consider the item and how I’ll wear it, and with my kids around that’s not realistic.
- Go outside your comfort zone, but not too far out. Try something different but keep it real with yourself. I have a few dresses I’ll never wear because even if they fit great, they’re too much a departure from my style and usually feel like I’m playing dressup.
- Stock up. If you find something you love at a doable pricepoint, buy a few, maybe in different colors. The most frequently worn item I own is a fitted gray v-neck t-shirt. It’s in extremely heavy rotation (wearing it now, I swear) and has held up to multiple washes and wears per week, and at least 5 years of major body changes and breastfeeding. The reason it’s such a staple is that it’s such a simple go-to: it matches virtually every bottom option I own, whether it’s pajama pants or jeans, and it’s flattering even without a bra when I’m lounging around the house. If I could go back to the moment of purchase, I’d have snagged it in multiple colors or even just another gray one. When you find a wardrobe staple that you really anticipate loving, seize the moment.
- Know what you’re missing. Keep a list of items your wardrobe is lacking so if you find it, you can jump on it. The Notes on my iPhone contain a list of the clothing items I’m in “need” of so that I can scan inventory with intent while I’m scouring the web or shopping in person (I do this for the boys as well). For instance, I love a cropped, fitted buttonless cardigan- I’ll wear it over dresses or bodysuits with pants or skirts, but for whatever reason, it’s a tough find. I’d been seeking one in navy since mine are all in neutrals and often, the top it’s going over is also neutral, so it sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. I found one for full price at the beginning of the Spring season this year at Banana Republic and though it cost a little more than I’d normally spend, I knew it was a worthwhile investment (and it has been). I’m in constant pursuit of a great nude heel- if I find a pair I love that isn’t expensive (I see you T.J. Maxx), they come home with me and I always wear them right away.
- When in doubt, selfie. A flat-footed dressing room snap will quickly tell you the truth that no amount of tummy-sucking or tiptoe-standing (yes, we all do that) will reveal.
- Know what worked. When you see a photo of yourself in an outfit that you love, ask yourself why you love it. Is it the way the color looks on you? The accessories you chose? Did you comfortable, not like an imposter dressing up, so you owned the photo? I’ve been trying to be aware of this lately and I feel like it’s helped me when I’m considering investing in new items.
- Keep the noise down. Wear a revealing top with a long skirt, a miniskirt with a high-necked blouse, do a big necklace or earrings but lord, don’t do both.
- If you’re a planner, plan. Some ladies plan their outfits the night before, and if that works for you, go for it! I can’t do it. I’m always mentally conjuring up outfits, but for some reason when it’s go-time, I check my reflection and if it’s not working for me in that moment, I ditch it. After I get ready to go out, there’s a pile of clothes and shoes left behind on my bed from options that I’ve discarded. Sometimes, something just isn’t working in the moment and you’ve gotta take it back to basics to figure out what’s going to make you feel good.
- Don’t take fashion seriously. Have fun with it. I can remember in the early nineties when my mom excitedly declared the news “They’re saying you can wear blue and black together now!” and I felt as if a weight had been lifted. The rules are there to guide us, but as I always say, “Know the rules, and then break them”. Not because you’re a big ol’ rebel, but because you can determine what you like and what looks good, and nobody can tell you it’s wrong.
Did I miss anything? What are your best style tricks?