Wear Everything All the Time

Why you should wear everything all the time. Even the fancy stuff.

When I wear white, I eat spaghetti. Or drink coffee. Or munch on Cheetos. Or write with Sharpies or open cans of motor oil or serve grape juice to passing children or basically do any and everything possible to STAIN THE LIVING BEJEEZUS OUT OF MY CLOTHING. But I wear white anyway because what’s the point of owning it if it doesn’t get worn?

I am trying to apply this philosophy to my fancy and special-occasion garments, too. I mean, that floor-length, shiny, beaded, chocolate brown bridesmaid dress with the spaghetti straps? I’m not completely sure I can pull that off for work. But my my long thrifted taffeta skirt, my drapey vest, and my brooch necklace? Why should those languish just because they’re flashy, or dressy, or stylized, or a wee bit more delicate than my standard boots, jeans, and tee-shirts? As many have said before me, none of my clothes are “too good” for me to wear them. If I own something, it should be fair game. Period.

But how on earth can flashy, dressy, stylized, or delicate items get worked into daily outfits?

Don’t worry about them

I am an EXCELLENT worrier. Just ask Mike. Or Trinknitty. OK, or anyone who has spent more than 15 minutes in my presence. But I do a decent job of living my life despite my worries, and not allowing anxiety to make me a complete shut-in. I do my best to apply this philosophy to clothing, too. If I am so worried about ruining something that I won’t ever wear it, I might as well not own it at all. It’s relegated to closet candy and what the hell good is that? If something gets worn and damaged, it can generally be repaired somehow. If something gets worn and ruined, well, them’s the breaks. I realize that’s some tough love, especially when we might be talking heirloom garments or investment pieces … but you hear me, right? You might as well have set your money on fire if you’ve bought a garment or accessory only to let it gather dust.

Create balance

Whatever your super-special item may be, make sure it’s the only super-special thing about your outfit. This is particularly important if you’re dressing down a formal garment. Balance is created when you pair that sequined bustier with jeans and a black blazer, or when you wear your gigantic rhinestone bib necklace with a simple tee and black pencil skirt. Make sure there is plenty of casual and commonplace to counteract the jolt of formal and unusual.

Keep rotation light

Although I’m making a goal of utilizing my fancies more often, I’d say one a week is plenty. No matter how dressed down they may be, special, delicate, or formal pieces are BOUND to stand out a little. And I like to stand out, but not every day.

Layer, layer, layer

The more stuff you’ve got on, the more a formal or flashy piece just looks like part of the mix. And even in summer, lightweight layers can help tone down a loud item. A mondo necklace is much less mondo when it’s peeking out from a button-down shirt. A slinky formal dress becomes a sassy skirt when you pile a cowlneck sweater and cozy wrap on top. Those special occasion pieces will be far comfier if they have a wide variety of OTHER pieces to play amongst.

Remember that you’re worth it

Again, none of your clothes are better than you. Who exactly owns whom, I ask you? If you’ve laid down your hard-earned cash for a piece of clothing, it had better earn its keep. It’s something you liked, something that fit your figure and suited your personal style, and it’s something that made you feel good. So allow it to make you feel good more than just once or twice in your lifetime. YOU’RE gorgeous and special, beautiful and luminous. Why not wear the items you own that make you feel that way?

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  • The Patersons

    Excellent post as usual! I keep all my party/formal clothes separate and don't get much use out of them at all. And sometimes I'll see something lovely in a shop and think 'Where on earth would I wear that to?'

    I find it easier with jewellery and coats though.

    I think that might be the first step if anyone hasn't tried it – wear a special brooch or that gorgeous coat. I know wearing my vintage mustard coat really helps to brighten my day in winter!

    i'll have to think about how to incorporate dresses and the like…I think I could do it on a weekend but my office is ultra conservative!

  • sloth

    I just read your post Sally 😀 Itws 8 o clock and I should be going to work 😀 Since I am 5 motnhs pregnant my wardrobe is very limitted right now but still I decided to wear my perfect shirt I never wear, because tis so perfect and I am afraid to ruin it 😀 Thanks for the post 😀 I feel so special today !!!

  • orchidsinbuttonholes

    Oh, I love this post Sal! So well said, such fantastic points, too, for how to make those special items work every day.

    Because you're right – life is just too damn short to keep things for that perfect day without puddles or grape juice or pigeon poo or the million other little things that might get in the way.

    I agree with you that the idea of balance is key. Finding the seeming opposites in my closet is a fun way, also, to mix in those statement, big time pieces. Like a simple tee over an intricate, silky skirt or a pair of wowza heels and well-worn jeans. I feel like the extremes almost always play off each other really well. Too, I know I have on at least one super-familiar thing that feels really like my every day, and that always puts me at ease no matter what else I might have on.

    Also? As a lifelong spiller, I can attest to the power of the dry cleaner. They can work wonders.

  • Diana

    This is such a fantastic post that I think everyone needs to hear. When I got my first pair of Fluevogs, it was the most I had ever spent on a pair of shoes, and at first I hardly ever wore them, because I was so afraid of them getting messed up. But like you said, it's just wasting money to buy a really nice item and then never wear it. My 'vogs are all now in regular rotation. They may have a few more scuffs than they did before, but I'm wearing them and loving them and that's all that matters.

  • Angela Pea

    Hmmmm…excellent post! Today at work I'm wearing a very favorite burt-out velvet print shirt. It was meant to be "formal wear" but I love love love it, so I wear it!

    I have the same philosophy with bath towels. Growing up, my Mother had a stash of beautiful, fluffy towels, that were strictly reserved for company. We used scratchy towels with tatterd edges. I SWORE that when I grew up, I would have fluffy towels and use them every day, and never, EVER save them for company!! The same goes for the "good" dishes, the "special" wine, the "reserved" double dipped chocolate covered oreos. Rejoice in today! Enjoy!

  • La Historiadora de Moda

    I have to admit I laughed out loud when I pictured you opening cans of motor oil and passing out grape juice to passing children wearing white.

    A couple of months ago, a reader suggested that I not wear my Fluevog Bondgirls in the snow because they might get damaged. I responded to her that life is too short and Midwestern winters too long to not wear Fluevogs. I like to dress up for dinner or a girl's night and sometimes just to work at home.

    I'm going to the opera this weekend and I'm already plotting potential outfits that incorporate special pieces. I think I'm going to wear my vintage pearl cameo choker no matter what.

  • tigerteacher

    I love this post! And it's timely for me as a recent goal of mine is to wear my dressy/special items for daily wear more. Yesterday I wore a sexy black dressy dress to work…with a cardigan (mostly buttoned) and scarf and it just looked like a very cute skirt. Today I'm wearing a cardigan that's embellished with very jazzy beading…paired with "boyfriend" jeans and ballet flats. I feel great and special and it makes me happy every time I look in the mirror. 🙂

  • Vanessa

    I really need to follow this advice! Whenever I get something new, it takes me forever to start wearing it because I don't want to ruin it. Maybe today I'll finally wear the new skirt that's been languishing in my closet.

  • lopi

    Guilty as charged! I totally refrain myself from wearing stuff that I consider "special" so that they won't get worn too soon. Funny thing is, those clothes tend to be more on the casual side and not my "dressy" stuff. Meaning, t-shirt with cute prints that I don't want to see fading, cute wool sweaters I'd hate to pile and pants I don't want to get baggy knees. Stupid, I know, but I'm working on it.

  • K.Line

    Such smart advice. I totally wear what I want regardless. I agree with your philosophy completely.

  • Oranges And Apples

    I do have a tendency to 'save' special clothes, although i try my best to overcome it! I have a few dresses that I've only worn a handful of times, so this is great advice! Actually I decided just this morning to wear one of my dressy dresses I never wear at the weekend. Although we won't do anything for Valentine's day, it's a good excuse!

    This is maybe an additional piece of advice: make up occassions! Celebrate a new hair cut or the fact that you got out of bed in time. It's a lot easier to wear that special thing when you've convinced yourself that it's a special occassion!

  • Sal

    Oranges And Apples: I love it! Happy Six Inches of Snow Day – time to put on my biggest, sparkliest necklace to celebrate.

  • Charlotte

    Yesterday I really, really wanted to wear a new fancy ruffly little-bit-over-the top skirt to teach in, but I couldn't make it work. It kept screaming that it wanted to go to a party. I think I'll try it again with more casual pairings & see if it blends with the mix. Thanks for the ideas, Sal!

  • futurelint

    I don't really have pieces I "save" or am afraid to wear… I guess I don't have that many outright formal outfits though (not attending too many cotillions or balls these days). I have quite a few nice dresses, that I bought for summer weddings but I just wear them with a cardigan or blazer and flats to dress them down for everyday occasions. I do think I should bust out my fancy coats more – I have quite a few and never wear them so I'm going to have to do something about it!

  • BookGirl

    Great advice, Sal. I'm guilty of 'saving' special pieces for a special occasion. You've inspired me to add them to my regular rotation.

    I've always found it easy to throw 'special' pieces of jewelry into the mix, so why not clothing too?

    As always, thanks for the time you put into your blog.

    Clara

  • J.

    Not remotely related to wearing everything all the time, but this is a wonderful photo of you! It really shows the love between you and HM.

  • Rebecca

    I love this advice! I am always complaining that I wish I had somewhere special to wear my special clothes to. Recently I went to a party where I knew everyone would be wearing jeans. I wore my favorite dress: a homemade vintage brown lace dress, but i paired it with brown tights, cowboy boots, a tweed blazer, and a bright blue scarf, and a vintage leather and tweed purse. It was probably the most stylish outfit I've ever put together, and I didn't feel overdressed at all! (It actually looked very cool, too, when I threw on skinny jeans under the dress, tucked into boots, to walk to the party because it was so cold out.)
    I need to do this more often!

  • kpriss

    Hmm.. My way to dress down a formal affair is Converse it! If I can Converse it, then and only then, it's a worthy item! If I only get to wear a specific item for a singular formal event, it's not such a big score.

    And by "formal" I'm only taking the smart casual perspective into consideration. Cocktail elegance, summer weddings and/or laid back formal dinners, anniversaries, celebrations… And the Converse It slogan only applies to pants, of course.. When I'm taking my dress self to a formal thing, I mostly considerate flowery prints. They're effective both in dressups and dressdowns, depending on the size and the glitzyness of the shoes/accessories more than anything. And a long, summery, flower printed dress goes stunningly well with flats or golden stiletto sandals! add a great hair piece and you'll be the princess of the ball for sure!

  • Emm

    Like you, I have a "carpe diem" mentality about clothing, and also about those fluffy towels Angela mentioned, or good china and wineglasses.

    I can wear the gorgeous silk top I bought in Paris only a few times a year for special occasions and keep it in pristine condition. And for what–so I can wear it when I'm an old lady? Or, I can wear it every other week or so, enjoy it, make reasonable attempts not to ruin it (e.g., by wearing an apron when handing out that round of grape juice to my own young kids, even at the risk of looking like June Cleaver, lol), and probably get many, many wears out of it. It would be fun to hand down to one of my daughters one day if they're interested in it, but if it doesn't make it that far, so be it.

  • myedit

    I totally agree. I am naturally drawn to the shiny, sparkle and fancy so I sometimes wonder at how many 'evening' dresses I have, without a single option of where to wear them. I can't wait for my next wedding invitation to materialize so I've been working hard to incorporate more luxe items into everyday wear. A boyfriend blazer and some worn-in jeans tone things down everytime. Yes, I stand out sometimes but that's not bad…

  • Cedar

    I'm especially paranoid about this as it relates to shoes; I live in Seattle, where it rains pretty much every day from October to April (except it has been nice this week!). I also DID ruin a pair of my favorite orange suede shoes earlier this season. I usually end up wearing the same two pairs of shoes over and over again this time of year (and I don't own a car, so I walk/bus everywhere, and the idea of carrying around another pair of shoes to change into is just too much; I carry around enough as it is).

  • susan said so

    Between you and Audi, I feel like I've got two very stylish, caring, helpful sisters or girlfriends at my sides, encouraging me to step out of the black hole of safe-but-boring fashion and wear my feather cape (my personal metaphor for fun fashion – ore about that here: http://confessionsofasineater.blogspot.com/2009/11/cradle-of-true-art.html).

    Thank you!!

    xox,
    Susan

  • Rosie Unknown

    I don't really own anything super nice or anything, but I'd say the most expensive thing I own are my leather boots, and I wear them practically all winter. Great post though, I will definitely be putting some of my flashier pieces to use soon.

  • MichelleK

    Yes! THank you for this post, I need it. I'm a shopaholic and I love to acquire beautiful things…and then hide them away in my closet, forever awaiting the perfect 'occasion'! Meanwhile I walk around looking drab and frumpy as usual! Sooo sad 🙁 I'll think of this post and push myself to USE what I got!

  • lisa

    I'm definitely guilty of saving special dresses or blingy accessories for rare occasions, but it does make the occasions when I don these things feel extra special! I do use my nice handbags on a daily basis, though. Life is too short and I paid too much for my Chanel 2.55 not to!

  • Alexandra Crocodile

    Sal, You know just what to say to make a bad day seem better:)

  • Casey

    As I read this post, I started thinking about all the lovely, "good" vintage pieces I have squirreled away that haven't been taken out very often ('cause let's face it: I do not have the lifestyle that requires a cocktail dress! :p). But, after all your tips and ideas, I think I need to pull some of those other pieces that aren't as casual (I wear some "fancy" things like my antique corset covers a lot). Thanks for the wardrobe inspiration, Sal!

    ♥ Casey
    blog | elegantmusings.com

  • Kristen

    My Mother in Law gave me that same advice when I bought my 2 year old daughter her first real party dress…"let her wear it! everyday is special!"

  • SR@MyStyle

    Hi there-this is a fab post with great tips which I definitely need to follow, thanks for sharing and being so inspirational!!

  • Ecc3ntricCynic

    I definitely do that. Either I tend to wear something every day or I "save" it. I'm not sure what I'm saving it for.

    Although like most in my region, I'm saving for the snow to go away at this point. Brrr!

  • Make Do Style

    I have a small amount of clothes that I love and wear as much as possible. I really look after things and they last. As I'm too poor to buy a thing this is coming in very handy now!
    Never save anything for best – it might never come…xx

  • taylor

    I totally agree. I have a black taffeta ball gown length skirt that i had hemmed tea length so I could wear it anytime, anywear.

  • Jingle Bella

    I don't know, I think there's an argument for saving a few things for best … not many, just a couple. Like lisa, when I wear stuff that's saved it makes it feel more special!

    The things that I definitely save for special occasions are: 1) the pearls I was given by my parents for my 21st (and even then I will occasionally wear the earrings at other times, but not the necklace as well – they're quite dressy with gold bits as well as pearls), 2) my full-length taffeta ball gown, and 3) my satin elbow-length gloves. Everything else in the wardrobe is fair game.

  • daddylikeyblog

    Truly fabulous advice, Sal! I'm going to dig something long-forgotten and ignored out of my closet today in honor of this post!

  • Rad_in_Broolyn

    Thanks for another insightful post! I will make it my goal this week to wear something that I am always "saving" into an everyday rotation. So many clothes that I rarely wear. What's it going to be?

  • Shoeperwoman

    I totally agree with this! I have so many things that go unworn for one reason or another, and I just end up feeling guilty about them because I'm more or less permanently on a budget, and I really hate the idea of buying things just so they can sit in the closet.

    This year I'm on a real mission to try and actually get some use out of everything. Every time I wear something, I turn the top of the hanger the opposite way, so that I can see what's been worn and what hasn't, and try to avoid repeating the same outfits all the time. I've also challenged myself to wear every single pair of shoes I own, and am posting photos of each pair as I wear them, just to try to keep myself accountable. It does help me be a little more creative when I'm getting dressed: and it'll hopefully make me feel less guilty about hoarding "special" clothes, too 🙂

  • Beatrice

    What an awesome ost! I have to to especially applaud #5. It's something I definately have to remember when I look at a beloved piece and say "Oh no, it's too pretty to wear with this, etc.
    My dream is to one day get that Hermes scarf I always wanted and wear it with a ratty tee and jeans. Ha!

  • Nina (Femme Rationale)

    i started wearing more of my "special" pieces because i realized they were just sitting there and i never enjoy them. i'm a worrier, too, but i'm trying to ease up on it.

  • The Waves

    I'm so with you on this one, although I have to admit that I have certain pieces that are not all that easy to incorporate into daily wear (floor-length white chiffon gown comes to mind). My rule of thumb is this: if you love it, wear it. There is no point "saving" your clothes. Clothes are made to have a life, and it helps me to think of them as having minds, souls and hearts. They want to go out and see the world, just like people do. Also, it is no one else's business but yours if you choose to wear a 1950s silk taffeta gown while grocery shopping, right? 😉

  • Christina F.

    I LOVE this topic — what a great reminder to wear, use and enjoy all that we have. Like MichelleK, I love to shop and sometimes make the mistake of "saving" things which is silly — clothes look better on me vs. the hanger, right? And I enjoyed reading Angela Pea's comment about her mother's tatty towels vs. fluffy, new guest towels. It brought to mind my great granny's motto (one of many) about enjoying everything she owned rather than "saving" the china, towels or whatever for company. She'd joke that she uses everything because why should her husband's next wife enjoy it all? Very funny. Anyway, loved your suggestions Sally, especially the reminder that we are all "worth it" — wear and enjoy. ps When my children were small, I quickly learned not to fret about spills on clothing. Even today, when one of us drips or spills we say, "that's what the washer is for – no worries!".

  • Lady Cardigan

    For years I wore things I hated and saved all my favorite things so I wouldn't ruin them. NO MORE. I've gotten rid of the things I hate, and I'm talking myself into wearing the things I want to wear, no excuses. Today I wore a black sweater even though I knew I would get blond dog hair all over it. I enjoyed it a lot more than I would if I'd left it sitting for years in a drawer.

  • WendyB

    I wish more people lived like this!

  • closet365

    Love this philosophy. I constantly buy pretty things and then "save" them instead of enjoying them.

    Now I constantly try to ask myself, "what are you saving it for?!" and it seems to work okay. You're rules are an excellent addition to my thinking. I need to bookmark this post.

  • Kate Coveny Hood

    Love this one. Especially since I have so many pretty fancy things that I have a hard time working into my new life as a SAHM.

    Great advice!

  • Claire

    I absolutely agree that things should be worn! But I don't shy away from wearing more than one flashy item at once. I like luxury!

  • Audi

    Bravo! Gonna go dig out some of my fancies and wear 'em this week!

  • Chelsea

    Fan-freaking-tastic post! I loooove the outfit you illustrated your point with… that GORGEOUS fancy shmancy skirt looks so special, but unweird, paired with your strappy sandals and casual v-neck. I've gotta try this…

  • Laura Elaine

    Great post, great outfit, great picture of you!

  • Okay, I love your Greatest Hits. What a fantastic idea.

    THIS is the reason I started my blog. I lost weight after I had my daughter, splurged on all of this gorgeous new clothes, and let it collect dust. Babies come with mess, and I was terrified to wear my clothes… until I started posting it on the internet. But I’m still afraid of ruining it.

    This is a fantastic post. As of right now, my clothes owns me, but I suppose that has to change right now! Thank you.

    Courtney
    I Can Be Many Things

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  • I loved this! I’m going to go home and pick out my special pieces that I may have been hiding in my closet and bring them to the front, and try to incorporate them into some everyday outfits!