Homework That’s Actually Fun to Do

outfit homework
Audi plans all her outfits a week in advance and hangs them on a roll rack for easy morning access. Kimberly outlines style inspiration calendars that encompass an entire month’s worth of themed ensembles. And me? I make myself late to my appointments by pawing through my closet post-shower, scrambling to assemble a not-boring, seasonally-appropriate getup in the 15-minute window that I allow for dressing.

OK, OK, so I actually do spend some time planning my daily wearings. I have my inspiration workbook, and my outfit list. And instead of counting sheep to lull myself into slumber, I lay in bed and mentally assemble possible outfits. But sometimes those imagined ensembles fail, and I am left without a plan and without inspiration.

And that’s where Husband Mike comes in.

That’s right, HM styles me more often that I’d care to admit. Often enough that he practically INSISTED I pen this post. And while his guidance occasionally comes in the form of accessorization input (“This one needs a big necklace” or “That scarf is too much”), most of the time he simply assigns my dressing homework.

If I’m lying awake, attempting to dream up the next day’s outfit and drawing a blank, I’ll poke him in the ribs and ask, “What color should I wear tomorrow?” And, usually, his declaration of, “red,” or “lavender,” or “khaki” is enough. That single externally-assigned constraint gives my imagination something to push against, and my happy brain begins to whiz through my mind-closet pulling out options. Sometimes his assignments yield multiple options, and I am set for several days in a row. Sometimes he gets cheeky and when I request a color, he gives me a texture or pattern, which poses an equally fun challenge. Sometimes his demands are un-meet-able based on the clothes I possess or the following day’s weather conditions … but the goody-goody in me never forgets and keeps his passed-over assignments waiting in the wings for appropriate application.

A couple of months ago – when they lamented a lack of stylistic inspiration – I suggested to the academicchics that they assign each other dressing homework for a week. Unsurprisingly, they had a fantastic time dreaming up challenges for one another, and assembled some truly killer outfits in the process. Asking a close friend or sister to provide your dressing homework assignments can be even more rewarding than getting them from a spouse or coworker: Someone who knows your style intimately and is aware of your fashion fears is more likely to push you; Make you wear flats when you love heels, or demand that you try a dress instead of pants. And that’s valuable stuff.

On the flip side, the person handing out your assignments needn’t know a thing about fashion … and, in fact, needn’t even know that they’re GIVING you an assignment. Asking your bus driver’s favorite color is a truly random and slightly spy-like way to give yourself a dressing assignment for the following day. Fun, right?

We all lack inspiration from time to time. We stare, slack-jawed, at the contents of our bursting closets and wonder why the hell we can’t find anything in there that we want to wear. But sometimes all it takes is an assigned color or fabric or era or pattern – some simple requirement for the outfit we’re struggling to plan – and a world of stylistic possibilities opens before us.

Image courtesy BrittneyBush.

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  • Laura.

    i love this post! it's pretty adorable that mike helps to style you. and i love the idea of fashion homework. AND, even though i rarely let my creativity loose on my wardrobe, i am so glad that there are women in the world who do!

  • Imogen Lamport

    I dress for myself, for my client and for the weather (which in Melbourne is changeable, so you can't plan too far in advance).

    I decide what to wear each day by deciding 'what colour do I feel today?' and then going from there (and what's clean and ironed of course).

    And if I've got something new, then that will get worked into my outfit.

  • evanadine

    i love this idea, because this month, i "assigned" myself to follow Kimberlys inspiration calendar for as many days as possible. as you were saying, sometimes you just cant think of what to wear until someone points you in a direction and gives you a push. just over a week into the inspiration calendar, i have already paired items that i wouldnt have thought of pairing otherwise. sometimes we all just need to break out of our rut + try something new! (my dear BF is also my own personal stylist sometimes!)
    i love the idea of asking a stranger a "spy-like" question to get fashion ideas. i may have to steal that one next. 🙂

  • Christina Lee

    ha ha i am impressed with HM-my guy doesnt assign me anything but does give me honest advice when I ask for it. I think i would take an assignment from my most stylish friend and may ask her about this idea- good stuff!

  • Sher

    I like your idea of asking a random person what their favorite color is.

    But homework or a scheduled calendar….I tend to feel "forced" and I don't like being told what to do 😉

    That's terrible huh? You need to use child psychology on me 😀

  • Diana

    Occasionally, my boyfriend will give me dressing advice. Usually it revolves around how too much black isn't good for daytime, sometimes it's a suggestion for different shoes or purses. It does push me out of my comfort zone at times, but I often like the result.

  • pretty face

    That sounds like a fabulous idea, especially the bus-driver one!

    OOoh, give me a homework assignment please 😉

    Also, can I just say, this is probably the cutest post you have ever written. Especially the past about laying awake and having to poke Mike in the ribs for fashion advice 😀 xxx

  • Work With What You’ve Got

    I am very much a last minute outfit girl. Even for most big events. I do better under pressure. I sometimes ask "this or that" of my husband or a girlfriend, but outside of that I desire very little input.

    There is ONE friend. Lara ( http://fashionatelyyours.blogspot.com/ ) who I would LOVE to style me once or twice. But other than that I enjoy flying solo and by the seat of my pants.

  • K.Line

    I have a very chic friend who makes the occasional suggestion and it never ceases to change my direction indefinitely. Unfortunately she lives far away now so it doesn't happen very often. I do what you do – imagining the next day's outfit in bed, more often than not failing to come up with anything till the next morning when I'm rushing and digging through my closet. I like to think that my reasonably organized and colour coded wardrobe makes this more feasible than it otherwise would be. Audi is one together lady!

  • elena-lu

    ever since ive started blogging what yeah oh its been hmm let me think 4 months now 🙂 yeah ok im a newbie i know anyway i actually have been taking assignments from people i dont even know since most of the time bloggers have challenges and inspiration posts and all that
    and its been fun and ive totally gotten new wear from things in my closet! i havent posted the outfits on my own blog and so only have had coworkers comment (and they really have) on new ways ive been using clothes;
    the funny thing is i get this one most of the time: "oh is that a new shirt/dress/skirt?" when theyve seen it a million times cause no its not new but since its styled different they noticed it! ha!
    so yeah im not too creative on my own for fashion so i definately take a look around me and in the web world for inspiration! im glad You showcase bloggers such as audi and kimberly to check out! thanks

  • Sheila

    Ooh, what a great idea! I don't think I'd let my husband pick, though, since he's colour blind and I style HIM.

    I usually either plan out my outfits a week ahead or else I do them the night before. I like to pick theme weeks and then build all my outfits around the theme (this usually coincides with a shopping trip).

  • isleen

    I don't have anyone to help with styling myself and truth be told, I'm not sure I have that many clothes anyway. I definitely couldn't do the color challenge as there are some colors I just don't wear.

    I do a lot of fashion shows in front of my full length mirror, especially after shopping, where I try on everything in my closet in different combinations. I then hang my clothes up by outfit except for t-shirts and jeans which are hung up in groups (one of each = dressed). That way I can just grab something on any hectic morning and look as put together as someone can look who has obviously neglected her hair and forgotten to put on earrings.

  • Sharon Rose

    Hi there-thats so lovely how your husband inspires you, its great to have somebody who takes a real interest this way! My hubby is supportive of my clothes and buying in general, but I generally decide myself what I'll wear about 5 minutes beforehand!!

  • Christina

    I think I do this already with my close friends, but on a more casual level.

  • Kelly

    I assign things to myself (usually in the terms of "how many ways can I wear this before it gets too hot" or "I want to wear my new skirt TODAY) but I like when other bloggers give challenges, too. I don't want to ask my boyfriend for homework because I don't want to be "graded" 🙂

  • Bri

    Hahaha loved this, how great! I'm going to have to start doing that so I'm not wearing the same exact thing every day.

  • lisa

    What a fun idea! This morning when I was getting dressed all I was thinking was "Need. Coffee. Outfit must be tolerably comfy while sweatin' it out to salsa. No straps that fall…racerback bra. Need. Coffee."

    Now I want to try this with my friend MizzJ…it'd probably help me come up with more creative outfits (not so much with the caffeine addiction though).

  • Audi

    That's so adorable — I can totally see Mike assigning you outfit homework!

    I sort of have no choice with the advance outfit planning, because the truth is that I'm so profoundly NOT a morning person that if I don't plan in advance I'll either stand there dumbfounded in the closet for 45 minutes, or just throw together something completely dull. I think having some 'assignments' in my head would help with those days when I haven't got something ready to go, or when the weather won't allow me to wear the planned-out ensembles.

  • Nadine

    I use a little book: all looks that come to my mind are written in so I can just choose one. I also arrange all the clothes im wearing on two chairs the evening before: avoids stress in the morning.

  • Libby

    Wow, your husband helps you style yourself??? I'm amazed. My husband says he doesn't care what I get dressed in, as long as it takes me five minutes. Once I am wearing an outfit though, he will tell me if he doesn't like something in it… I inform him that his advice came too late.

    I think your idea of asking someone their favorite color or texture is a fun idea. I think I'll give it a shot.

  • miss cavendish

    Truly, I don't want any homework assignments, but am happy to accept a suggestion here and there (preferably when I'm not on my way out the door). I put very little thought into what I'm going to wear (b/c I've focused on buying pieces that are truly mix and (not)match of stand-alones that work with a good pair of shoes. It's when I start thinking about my clothing that I get into trouble.

  • Make Do Style

    I think its good to get someone to style you with your items for them to get creative and for you to be dressed differently.

  • a cat of impossible colour

    What a great post! I'll have to try this. Here are my tricks for when I feel sartorially uninspired: I plan outfits by drawing little cartoon pictures in my notebook of outfits I see that I'd like to imitate in some way, so I can leaf through later; I go through my contacts and favourites on wardrobe_remix; I pick one item of clothing and build the outfit around it.

    A xx

  • fashion herald

    What a great idea! I always ask my husband for dressing advice in the morning (no, I'm never prepared, and am in awe of the rolling rack full of planned outfits!), and he's usually dead on. I also like to take him makeup shopping for proper color advice.

  • Nadine

    I remember when Gala used to do "International Dress-Up Day" – I liked the 'Film Noir' and 'Alter Ego' ones. I get inspired by reading style blogs; I had a dress-up-as-Audi day recently. My main self-imposed homework challenges are usually used to bust me out of a rut such as wearing one of the same 4 dresses every day in summer, or jeans/T-shirt and one of the same 4 jerseys in winter. To escape the rut I'll try and go for 2 weeks without wearing the same thing twice. I'm a demon for wearing the same thing all the time – I don't know how some of you style-bloggers come up with something new EVERY DAY. Impressive!

  • rb

    I am influenced like everyone else by the media and what's available for sale. But I do get obsessed with certain people and/or looks. I spent a year trying to look like Miranda Priestly after The Devil Wears Prada came out.

    Currently, I'm obsessed with Michelle Obama – we are the same height, same age and same basic shape, though her shape is overall trimmer and more fit than mine.

    When I see Michelle in a new and unfamiliar look, it inspires me to try to emulate the look, with my own adaptations. For instance, I don't exercise my right to bare arms the way she does. And I don't have the budget for Narisco Rodriguez.

    Other than that, I usually only change by season or weather.

    Did I mention that I love Michelle Obama? Love her.

  • Sharon

    Glasses are by far my favorite accessory– I don't have a lot of shoes or purses or jewelry, but I have about a dozen pairs of glasses. They're all different styles, shapes and colors. Sometimes when I can't decide what to wear, I'll ask the Mister, "Which glasses?" and create an outfit around what he picks.

    P.S. The Mister gave each pair of my glasses a nickname based on what comic book character's costume colors they are– so the purple and silver ones are Magneto, the green and white are Poison Ivy and so on.

  • a cat of impossible colour

    This post inspired me to write my own: http://acatofimpossiblecolour.blogspot.com/2009/06/fashion-blocks.html

    Thank you!

    A xx

  • WendyB

    Sounds like that would be fun! I'll take an assignment from you!

  • Sunny

    ohhh man.
    I tried to let my man shop with/for me…it was a disaster. He'd prefer me in the plainest (not that plains always bad), t-shirt and jeans simple clothes, tennis shoes and no purse.

  • issa

    oooh great post!! i tend to waste so much time getting ready for work after i shower.. standing blankly in my closet trying to decide what to wear after exclaiming to myself.. i just have nothing to wear..

    fashion homework sounds FUN.. it would help with experimenting with things i already have.. usually i'll have to try to do a 'dress up' night in my closet and try to make new outfits

  • sabrina

    I've been doing this my whole life (because my mom used to help me and my sis do it when we were little) and when I got to college, my friends always made fun of me! Thank you for validating my neurotic behavior!

  • Lemondropvintage

    I think this is a great idea- I do study my really fashiobale friends (and cyber ones on their blogs) who would have thought, I could just ask them for some "assignments" to get myself out of the easy to do summer slump! I may try this…and I am sure the more opinionated ones will indulge me.

  • Casey

    Thank you so much for this post, Sal! I have been in a major style rut and feeling rather apathetic about my clothes. This is just the kick in the rear I needed to start climbing out of the little hole I dug myself into. 😉

    I daresay if I asked someone for dressing homework, it would be my younger sister. She isn't anywhere near me style-wise (she's more punk/tomboy, and I'm on the opposite side of the spectrum! ;), but she is an artist and draws some of the most girly and artsy outfits for her characters I've ever seen! So I'd definitely love to take any style challenges she gave me. Hmm… she's coming down in a couple weeks: maybe I can pick her brain! 😉

  • Anonymous

    I have always been a last minute girl…until 2 days ago. I got tired of always going for the same outfits time and again, so my daughter and I (she's 13, I'm 34)spent over an hour going through my closet. We put together outfits that looked fabulous…we chose tops, skirts, all accessories (I have a TON of accessories!), shoes and handbags for every single outfit and wrote them down in a binder. I realized that I have so many more options than I would have thought, by mixing and matching. So far I've ended up with 13 outfits cataloged in the binder…and we have A LOT more to do, but we got tired. Now, all I have to do is pull out the binder from the shelf in my closet and pick an outfit, rather than stand there mentally putting it together trying to remember everything I have! The work has already been done for me. AHHHHH…I feel pretty 🙂

  • Pearl

    As a busy academic apparently going through a life/style change now that I am "middle-aged" as well as "academic" (two kiss-of-death descriptors for women), I plan my clothes two weeks in advance. My reasons are these: 1/ then I will wash/dry clean/repair the stuff, 2/ I won't wear the same clothes day after, week after… 3/ I will be able to be lazy and well-dressed in the same day. Wow! I work on a color theme, as well as pants vs. skirt %age. This practice also helps me cull my closet, because I know exactly what I will not/can not make myself put on, whether or not it shows up on my list.
    Pearl

  • The Seeker

    I really can't do a homework for my outfits.
    I always dress each day in the morning acording to my mood, what I've available and according to the weather.
    Sometimes I ask Hubby what he thinks, he's a sort of conservative so he can balance my "experiences"… lol

    xoxo

  • Hanako66

    that would be awesome…love that idea!

    Hub always waits until we are in the car, then says that ____ looks rediculous, or ugly. I hate it!

  • Missa

    I mentally assemble possible outfits to lull myself to sleep at night too!

  • futurelint

    I try to plan mine the day before or I'd be late to work every day… however I love the idea of people having inspiration calendars/homework for those days when I'm just stuck… I usually have one piece in mind I want to wear, say a newly thrifted and washed skirt, then the outfit builds from there and usually involves trying on about 10-20 different things with it until I find "The Outfit"

  • dapper kid

    What a wonderfully fun system 🙂 I tend to think up outfits long before I wear them, because I wait for an appropriate time to wear them. Yet I find that sudden burst of inspiration the night before and the morning quite fun.

    I actually find I dress better when my brother tells me something fashion related. He might point out a piece of mine he likes, or comment on a certain colour, and I specifically work to create an outfit around it.