How do you want to look?
he summer before I started university, my mom took me shopping. I was ecstatic. I had so many dreamy visions of what I wanted to look like, and had thoroughly convinced myself that I would finally be able to dress & look the way I wanted. I wanted to look artsy and pretty and cute 100% percent of the time.
My mom, however, had other plans.
She took me to the store and told me to get some basic, plain t-shirts, sweaters, and pants. On the one hand, I knew I should be grateful for my mom’s generosity. But on the other hand, did she say basic and plain!? Those were horrifying words that crushed my wardrobe dreams. To add insult to injury, my mom told me to get a pair of loafers. When she said that, Steve Urkel suddenly flashed before my eyes, cackling maniacally. I was screwed. But I ended up getting the clothes.
I fought them for one semester, and then I got tired. Tired of trying to make outfits, tired of cute outfits that were also very uncomfortable, tired of waking up early to get dressed. Really, who cared anyway? This was university, not Vogue.
My wardrobe fatigue ended up in a lot of “off” days. I looked bad. One day in my second year, I remember spending a long time trying to look effortlessly cute, and then looking in the mirror at my failed attempt. I decided then that I was going to do better.
That summer, I started taking care of my hair and skin. When September came around, I embraced the basic, plain clothes my mom had gotten me. While I had given in and worn them (read: thrown them on with no effort) on my abundant off days, I did something different with the this time: I tucked the front of my shirt in. And suddenly, I looked more put together. I looked more like I had style and less like I had carelessly put on something and called it a day.
That one simple action made me see that simple clothes could look good, and look good on me. Coupled with learning to take care of my hair & skin and my new found love for lipstick, I felt good. And more than that, I looked good and felt good about it!
What I learned that day when I saw what a partially tucked in shirt could do for my whole look was the value of styling:
It wasn’t so much the pieces I had that made a difference (although they had their place), but how I put those pieces together on my body that made the difference. I realized then, less consciously, and over time, more consciously, that I could look good, put together, and even stylish in simple clothes.
I also realized that I didn’t need a lot of clothes to do so. And the simplicity, the plainness, the timelessness of those clothes made it so easy to do every day. It was an aha (or shall I say, a my mom was right) moment. I learned, and am still learning to celebrate these qualities.
Since then, I’ve really fallen in love (and continue to fall in love) both with a simple, classic wardrobe and with finding different ways to style it. I’ve gone through my fair share of experiments in finding my own perfect wardrobe (with many misses, some of the truly tragic variety), but I still have a lot to learn about the art of dressing myself practically, classically, and well. Over the past few months, I’ve put my fashion experiments on hold and switched my focus to wardrobe building. Getting my staples in order, looking more grown up, paying attention to details, finding affordable pieces, and other things.
In my next post, I’ll write about my adventures in wardrobe building.
Have you ever had a time when your wardrobe suddenly started to come together? What’s the best (or the worst) lesson you got from it? (and your mom was probably right, wasn’t she?).