Change Your Style, Change Your Life

Most people are unhappy. Have you noticed that? I’m beginning to believe that it’s just part of the human condition to feel constantly restless, dissatisfied, and envious of others. We hang so much of our self-worth on comparisons: How do we measure up to other people in our income tax brackets? Neighborhoods? Social circles? And, when we’re feeling particularly vulnerable, how do we compare to the fabulously wealthy, tremendously successful, and impossibly beautiful? And that paradigm sets us all up to feel slighted and dumped-upon and unlucky.

And yet unhappy people are often terrified of change. The current situation may seem boring or difficult or unfulfilling, but doing something to alter that situation? That’s just opening Pandora’s box, right there. Changing a bad situation opens up possibilities for even worse situations.

As you may have guessed, observing this vicious little cycle makes me about as happy as stepping in a steaming pile of dog poo. I often feel the urge to take chronic complainers by the shoulders, make my eyes go all big, and say, “BUCK UP OR SUCK UP! Grow a spine and change your situation, or learn to appreciate what you’ve got!”

But I don’t. And here’s why:

Sometimes change does make things worse. Sometimes leaving your horrible, soul-sucking, dead-end job means you can’t find more work and have to live on Ramen for nine months. Sometimes ending a toxic friendship makes you feel so lonely that you cry yourself to sleep every night. Sometimes hiring a repairman to fix that long-broken light fixture leads to the discovery that your house is infested with termites. I get it. Change may be the only way to improve your lot, but it is fucking scary.

Nevertheless, change is what powers life, and I believe that embracing change slowly and mindfully can be beneficial in a thousand indescribable ways. Finding small, manageable ways to change yourself and improve your outlook builds confidence, creates peace of mind, and opens you up to the possibility of, someday, undertaking larger, more daunting changes. For instance, I believe that making relatively small changes to your appearance, body, grooming, and personal style can utterly transform your outlook, attitude, and self-image. Such a minor-seeming, insignificant-feeling alteration can have a huge impact, setting off a slow but far-reaching domino effect of positive change that will continue for years to come.

If you’re feeling constantly restless, dissatisfied, and envious of others, change your look. Changes to career, relationships, geography, and finance may have huge, terrifying repercussions, mainly because those changes involve other people. But changing your look is singular, self-contained, all about you. It may elicit some curious comments from friends and coworkers and family members, but mostly it’s a change that is entirely within your control. YOU are the only person who decides how you dress, what you wear, how you wear it, when, and why. That’s a lot of power, and it can be used to shape your feelings about yourself as a participant in the world’s events.

See how confident and relaxed I look in the picture at the top of this post? That is not an act. I am confident and relaxed. And sure, that’s partly due to the fact that it’s my husband behind the lens and I’ve been doing daily outfit shots for nearly two years now, but I attribute the main to the changes I’ve made to my personal style. I used to be ashamed of my non-lingerie-model body and slunk through life in clothing that didn’t actually appeal to my tastes and preferences, but hid my supposed flaws from public view. I hated what I wore, but couldn’t see any other options. And although I could project an air of confidence back then, I didn’t feel it. I felt insignificant, boring, wrong, out of place. After years of attempting to change my body through crash diets, I finally realized that my body was what it was and I might as well work with it. My exploration of personal style made me more aware of my body and my health, showed me that there isn’t a single type of gorgeous body, provided me with a previously untapped outlet for artistic and creative expression, led me to blog which rekindled my love of writing, introduced me to a huge new world of stylistic thinkers and influencers, provided me with several new streams of income, unlocked untold amounts of personal confidence, and connected me to YOU.

I’m not saying that it’s the only answer or the perfect answer. I’m not saying that switching from heels to flats will transform you into Michelle Obama or Oprah. I’m saying that there is such a thing as gateway change. That tweaking your external appearance can, amazingly, inspire the courage you need to make more substantive changes.That something as simple as honing your personal style can, eventually, lead to actions and choices that will alleviate those nagging feelings of restlessness, dissatisfaction, and envy. That investing time and energy in creating a style that makes you feel joyful, confident, and entirely yourself can only lead to good, good things.

Changing your style can change your life. Take it from me.

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  • Typically, we tend to get better at what we practice. And without realizing it, many people practice being unhappy, and get pretty damned good at it. Being happy is also a matter of practice. Of course there are other factors, and everyone has setbacks and sad times, and some people are just naturally happier than others. It’s weird to think of happiness as being like golf, or knitting … but I think the principle is not so different, I think.

    • beautifully said!

      • Trish

        I second that!

    • Sal

      SO true! If we don’t practice being happy, how on earth can we get good at it? Love that concept.

  • This read like it was written especially for me, loved reading this and it makes great sense to me. I am going to make some changes and embrace what I have and (try) not to worry about what I don’t. You are truly gifted 🙂

  • Inspiring post and I totally agree. Small changes can make a huge difference, even in the worst of times. Love the jacket with the boots!

  • thankyou, sal.
    it’s like you wrote this post specifically for me.
    im not UNhappy, but im not truly HAPPY either. i love myself as a person, and i love my husband. but i dont love my job, i dont love my body, and i tend to be a pessimist in general — sure, i can SEE the good side of things, but it is my natural tendency to notice the annoying/upsetting/imperfect things in life.
    this post just reminds me that the power to change what im not happy with in my life lies within ME and me only.
    i think its time to join weight watchers and start working out.
    invest in more produce, local whenever possible.
    make date nights with my husband.
    take classes in my field and maybe even start a real search for a new job.
    im amazing, and i can do these things. the only person stopping me is me.
    and the only person who can DO these things is me.

    thankyou, sal.

  • well, i needed this today. “YOU are the only person who decides how you dress, what you wear, how you wear it, when, and why. That’s a lot of power, and it can be used to shape your feelings about yourself as a participant in the world’s events.” the world’s events! that’s breathtaking! thanks for the great post.

  • Sally, this is so brilliant! I’m going to keep this in my back pocket (metaphorically speaking) for when I work with clients. So many need to make changes are afraid. What a great way to ease into it, it get the energy flowing. “I’m saying that there is such a thing as gateway change.” Brilliant, my dear beautiful friend!

    PS I just bought the spring editions of InStyle and Vogue. Winter is getting old and I totally need some inspiration!

  • Sheila

    Amen sister! This is the message I preached everyday of my life to all who “complain” to me….that you are in control, you have the wheel…and that even small changes can make all the difference!

  • eek

    I agree with you so much! I believe that if you feel like you look good, you feel better about yourself and that’s just the first step into making your life better. Well said Sal!

  • Jen

    Can I print this out, in big giant all caps letters, and distribute it to everyone I work with on giant poster-sized paper? Working in a school, it seems this time of year staff & students alike come down with a bad case of the Februaries that bleed right into wretched cases of Marches. It is particularly bad among our staff, considering the political winds this year. As the counselor round these here parts, my office is a never ending parade of the “woe is me” track. I’m right there with you Sal; I want to grab those sad sacks by their shoulders and say BUCK UP OR SUCK UP! There is so much we cannot change about our job, our current situations here at school (trapped indoors with hundreds of miserable teenagers this time of year), and the bashings we are taking in the press. However, we can change things about ourselves that will help us feel better. Taking a good long walk outside when the sun is shining. Getting a new haircut. Picking up a few new necklaces or a new shade of lipstick. All help me feel like a new person. I’ll try to share your wisdom with my down-on-their-luck co-workers and hope to spread a little self-esteem cheer. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Lisa Z

      Thanks for your work in the school with kids and teachers! I’m married to a teacher, and am probably more down than he is right now…feeling like a mama grizzly wanting to protect my beloved. I’m usually not an unhappy person, but lately watching what’s going on in Wisconsin, oh vey! Sal’s words are great, and I hope your passing them on will be helpful to some.

      • Jessica from Wisconsin

        To Jen, I echo Lisa’s comment- THANK YOU for working with kids & teachers! And to Lisa- I thank your husband for being a teacher! 🙂

  • You’re so right. I’m still “in transition” from a much less confident, more self-effacing style and every now and then (like now…bad case of the Februaries and Marches right here) I wobble back into wanting to hide. And it does impact my mood, and my mood impacts my style.

    I am going to spend some time on the weekend picking out five totally fabulous outfits for next week and that’s what I’m going to wear.

  • Bubu

    Terrific post! And perfect timing, this is definitely the worst time of year, I think, when it is so hard to keep a positive outlook or feel we are in control of anything as the weather whips us around, we are housebound so much of the time, and work goes on and one with no real vacations in sight. For me, spring brings a lot of relief when I can get outside and running and feeling the sun on my face. But your blog and inspiration have helped so much this winter – even days I don’t feel like it (like today) i threw on a skirt and scarf and boots and lipstick and feel worlds better for it. Silly example: for years I was self-conscious about my lips, which are quite full and made me feel like bozo the clown if i tried to wear lipstick. But a few months ago I decided to embrace them (hey, if angelina can, why not me?) and got some more appropriate colors to wear, and now I’ve come to feel naked without lipstick and love how i look with it – it really brings my whole look together and i feel so much prettier! and that gives me a lift each time i catch a glimpse in the mirror. Your doing amazing things for us Sal, thank you!

  • anonymous

    Thank you for this… I love reading your blog first thing in the morning with my bowl of oatmeal… it’s like a mini shot of happy-go-lucky to start my day. Have a great day everybody!

  • siri

    Especially the last part of this post resonated with me. I’ve been wanting to explore my personal style more, but I’ve felt like I shouldn’t “waste” my time on such a frivolous thing, like i should be doing more “worthy” things with my time. So thank you Sally for this post and for reminding me that it is not wrong or superficial to want to learn to dress myself better.

  • Amen. I love confident women! They are so much fun to be around. And… we can move mountains when putting our heads together.
    My sister, who works in retail, can tell – women that are compulsive shoppers are not happy. I say, what they need is a place, a party, a function, to wear those clothes that they buy. And half the time what compulsive shoppers purchase is NOT something they need, or looks good.

  • Martha

    This is TOTALLY true for me. My style exploration over the last year and a half has been nothing short of revelatory and revolutionary for me. I finally GET IT — I wear clothes that make me feel good, happy, loved. Period. I dress for nobody else but me. But it really, really matters.

    My mom died a month ago and I am going through a big work change (working from home again, on a freelance basis) and I am still dressing up because it makes me feel better. My daughter asked me this morning “Why are you wearing your fancy clothes if you’re going to work from home?” And I said “because it makes me feel good!”

    I so wish I’d known this at 13. I hope I can teach it to my daughter — who currently feels best in giant boys’ t-shirts, sports gear and tennis shoes. The dirtier the better.

  • Brava! Well said.

  • Stephanie

    Thanks for the post. A friend recently turned me on to your website and it has been so inspirational for me. Wearing a shirt dress and leggings with boots. Something I would have never thought to do before seeing you. Also thinking I should embrace who I am and what I look like which is not perfect but I’m learning to be okay with that.

  • i love you never change

  • so happy i found ur blog – i LOVE the way u think! – n u look adorable!

    I’m hosting a give-away and would LOVE for you and ALL to
    Join Custom Sign Give-Away

    *kiss kiss*
    Erika
    ~Tiptoe Butterfly~

  • Yes. I’ve accepted that I don’t wear heels regularly, that my style is typically casual, and that I don’t really care to describe myself as “chic” or “elegant” most of the time. I’m happy.

  • This is a truly amazing blog post!
    It sums up what I am going through in such a wonderful and loving way. And your outfit is way cute! Your blog is giving me so many ideas on how to bring more color into my life.
    Keep it up!

  • I love that photo of you, Sal. It’s so YOU!

    I feel like every change I’ve ever made has worked out for the better, because I believed it would. I left my last job because I was unhappy and didn’t have a job lined up but found one I adore! I left my idiot boyfriend and now I’m so much happier being single and starting to date again. I can see what needs to change and it’s scary to change it but I just tend to believe that things will work out, Same thing when trying out a new style or an outfit outside my comfort zone. I just believe I look good and rock it with confidence all day and everyone else believes it because I do! You’re so awesome, Sal!

  • “Gateway change.” I’m going to borrow that phrase and concept.
    You’ve hit the nail on the proverbial head here- change is essential but big change can be scary, and rightly so, as it can be so destablizing. Baby steps. Baby steps in the “right” direction, which would be in the direction you’d want to go.

    It seems you are showing by example what a powerful medium of change self-acceptance can be. That we can’t truly “better” ourselves until we accept ourselves as we are, then go from there. I pretend sometimes my life is a bonsai tree, I can trim and prune, but it’s not to change my essence but to showcase my essence, to pare down to the gist of me. Now I know, it time to initiate some “gateway” changes to get further in my journey- non-stressful (or less stressful) baby steps. -Bella Q
    Enter to Win My Shabby Apple Dress Give-Away- the Citizen Rosebud

  • Sal, this is beautiful (as are you)! Always good to have the reminder that we already have what we need to change some aspects of our lives for the better, and that we have control over our own self-presentation and style and enjoyment of that self-presentation. I believe that clothing and style do have the power to give us confidence and satisfaction (and I can certainly use a dose of confidence). I agree with other commenters that this comes at a good time too, right near the end of winter when everybody is frustrated with just about everything!

  • SE

    Beautifully written. Thanks for this. It was needed.

  • Tab

    Sal, this is totally what I needed. Found out today my friend passed this weekend, one of my mom’s students died last night, my bf’s mom’s house caught on fire, my car broke down, and I have no job….My biggest fear? Just a little change right now! THAT is why I’m so unhappy. *facepalm*

    I know style helps so much, when I was able to start fitting into cute clothes it was ammunition to keep going. (Now there is such a thing as affordable, cute, plus sized clothing for girls my age, there wasn’t just a few years ago! If there had been, I’d probably gotten the confidence boost then.) You know if we would just exercise, not to lose weight, not to tone up even, but to move we’d be happier. Just a simple change of maybe going for a walk after dinner! Just a little, or even more to get more endorphins, we’d be happier.

    That’s why I kept running, even though I wasn’t losing weight from it, for the high of it! Do something that makes you happy! That’s why I scrounge up the money to go dancing sometimes, because it puts a HUGE smile on my face. And stop sitting in the dark! Go prance in front of your mirror and look at how gorgeous you are. Just little things.

    Years ago I wrote on my passenger side visor mirror, “You’re gorgeous darling,” I rarely sit in that seat but when I do, and I see it, I light up. Just little thought changes go a long way!

    • Sal

      Tab, you’re such a star. To have such an amazing attitude in the face of all that strife? Seriously. You’re a superhero.

  • i think i did things backwards–i quit the job and ate ramen for nine months, and *now* i’m working on changing my style, ha! but it’s still so true: people are unhappy! and afraid to do anything about it! i agree with andrea that we can practice being happy, just like we practice being good company to ourselves so even when we are alone we don’t have to be lonely. a huge part of surviving scary change for me was exercising. after quitting the soul-sucking job, i had lots of time on my hands and was able to try out lots of different classes at the gym. not only did i grow to be more strong and fit than i have ever been, but i’m happier and less crazy than ever, too! all of this has given me the confidence to start *having* some style, which is more fun than i ever thought it could be.

  • LV

    What an amazing post! I just found your blog and I LOVE IT! I can see your confidence and happiness radiating through the photo. This was just what I needed today. Thank You!

  • I love this post! It’s true, change is scary and sometimes bad stuff happens as a result. But it can be so wonderful and helpful too. Loved this line, “Nevertheless, change is what powers life, and I believe that embracing change slowly and mindfully can be beneficial in a thousand indescribable ways.” I agree 100% – better to pinpoint the little ways we can change then try for a complete overhaul. The little things are more manageable and usually more rewarding. Overhauls get tiring and it’s so easy to become depressed at how long it takes. Thanks for the post! – Katy

  • Hi Sal. Love this post. Its so important to live positively, however you’re right – it doesn’t come naturally to most people.

    I’ve always been a very positive person. Always been a cup half full, see the brighter side of things. A part of that is just my personality, another part is the effort I’ve always made to be positive about things. I’ve always figured its a waste of time to feel unhappy!

    The last 3 years though have knocked me and my usual happy state about. I’ve been feeling unhappy living in a foreign country (America!) (I’m Australian) and tried my very best to give it my all, to find happiness in the little things – and be grateful I have my freedom and a good job. Just recently its been getting me down, bigtime. I have been feeling defeated by my homesickness which I can’t seem to push aside anymore. We’re staying here another 6 months and then moving home. I plan on giving the next 6 months 150% though and not wasting those 6 months feeling unhappy. I keep telling myself “not many people have this experience – leave with a bang!”

    You’re right – to be happy, we have to make the effort!

  • Marsha Calhoun

    Okay, I put on a scarf I never thought I’d wear, but I’d always liked too much to throw away. Step one!

    (By the way, I disagree that most people are unhappy, or rather, I think that most people are unhappy about some things and happy about some things, and indifferent about some things – it depends on what we focus on. I feel sad when people make the mistake of being unhappy about a few things and concluding that they are therefore generally unhappy; it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.)

  • i love so many of your posts- i always walk away with some relevant advice. but this one is particularly hitting home for me right now. i am the WORST person at change- i hang on to things for comfort in every aspect of life. but you’re right, there’s no point in staying one way when you aren’t satisfied.

    i just gave my students an assignment a couple weeks ago, where every hour they had to stop and record the ways in which they were collaborating with other people. i tried it too, and a lot of our realizations were kind of eye-opening. like, how often i say “sorry” in a day, or how often i say “no” to things. even if i’m not feeling sorry, i have begun thinking just repeating that word can do something subconscious. anyway it is an interesting activity to try, and is at least leading to some little changes in the ways i respond to people.

  • Amen, Sal! This is a great post, and I hope it encourages a few people to make those small changes in their appearances to make a ripple-effect in their lives. I know that having a style blog has changed my life and how I see myself – in a hugely positive way!

    I’m currently out of work, having been laid off (thank you, economy), and the very act of maintaining my blog and putting together outfits for minor occasions has helped keep my outlook positive and kept me from spiralling down into depression (which is what happened last time I was out of work, pre-blog).

    Thank you so much for this valuable post!

  • Amy

    Posts like these are what make me keep reading your lovely blog. So positive.

    Like you, I get a little frustrated with what I call “idle bitching”—I wish more people would use their frustration to help propel themselves into change. That said, I’m really, really with you on the whole style thing. I used to ignore my style but the more I do things like use a face mask, paint my nails, wear attractive accessories, etc. the better I feel. I guess it’s like that old wisdom that if you are feeling sad, you should wear bright colors: when you look better, you feel better.

    This is a lovely post!

  • Ada

    This is a beautiful post! Thanks so much for sharing such heartfelt words about the scariness/necessity of change. Here’s to being happy!

  • Huzzah! You’re always an inspiration, Sal.

    I do want to say, wholeheartedly, that sometimes making a BIG change is totally worth it, even if things do suck for awhile. You said “Sometimes leaving your horrible, soul-sucking, dead-end job means you can’t find more work and have to live on Ramen for nine months” and I thought, “WHOA. Been there!” In June of 2009 my husband and I left our horrible, soul-sucking job and moved back home. We spent almost 7 months unemployed and by the time we finally got jobs and paid the deposit on a new apartment we had less than $150 in our savings account. All the time we spent living meagerly taught us a lot about budgeting, what’s important, and how to have fun on the cheap. Being broke sucked, but we’ve never regretted leaving that job!

  • Beautifully put, Sal. I actually got goosebumps from reading this!

  • Cindy

    Why on Earth would anyone want to be Michelle Obama or Oprah? Two of the most clumsy looking unattractive women I have ever seen.

    • Sal

      They’re also two of the most powerful and respected women in the world. You’re entitled to your opinion, of course, but I used them as examples because I happen to think that in addition to being smart, savvy, and influential both Michelle and Oprah are stylish, elegant, and poised.

  • Barb in Minn.

    “Get down off the cross, honey. Somebody needs the wood.” – Dolly Parton in movie Straight Talk.

    Acceptance is dead on. Choose to change or not. But if you choose not to change, stop complaining and find a way to be content.

  • Anon

    Thank you for this reminder, Sal! It was just what I needed.

  • were you in my brain today??
    i wrote about something similar today, but you said it better 😉
    and by the way, i’m the type that loves change, that way if i don’t like something i just move on…can be good and bad.

  • Cate

    Sally,
    Thank you for this posting. You were talking right to me in some ways, especially about the compulsive shopping (which I am doing less of and getting happier as a result) Lots to think about.
    On another note, I love that you’re wearing a Prairie Underground cloak hoodie in the photo! I am a huge fan of Prairie U and have collected an embarrassing number of their long hoodies because they suit my body so perfectly. Their stuff is expensive but it holds up really well. I look forward to their new colors and styles each season. The red looks fab on you!
    Best wishes, Cate

  • Sal — I love your writing. Seriously, you’re amazing.

    The last few times I’ve gotten drastic hairstyle changes were prefaced by big life moments — getting engaged, changing jobs, getting into grad school. Part of it might because I want to celebrate the new by doing something new to my appearance. Or it might be that I felt so great in the moment, I felt impenetrable to the fear of change and just went with it.

  • Reading this

    “I used to be ashamed of my non-lingerie-model body and slunk through life in clothing that didn’t actually appeal to my tastes and preferences, but hid my supposed flaws from public view.”

    was a little hard for me because I think and I think most of your readers think that your body is great. And if you aren’t wearing lingerie then who is? Seriously.

  • Pingback: Five for Friday :: 4 March 2011 | Nourishing the Soul - A forum on body image and the effects of eating disorders()

  • Lynn

    Thanks for this post. I’ve been through a life-changing journey for the last two years. I was morbidly obese and decided that no one could make me happy but me, and if weight was the big issue for me, I needed to fix it. I’ve lost 137 pounds and while I’ll never be thin, I’m healthy. Dressing my new body has been a challenge (not to mention expensive) and I read your blog every day to get ideas. You’ve given me so much inspiration and so many ideas about what I can wear. Looking good = feeling good. It just takes so much effort to be unhappy. I choose to be happy.

    I just wanted to say that for me, the daily outfits are awesome. They help me get an idea of what looks good together and what works.

    Your blog rocks!!

    • Lynn, you rock! I don’t know you and I’m proud of you for all that you’ve accomplished.

  • Great post — thank you!!

  • I love what you say here, Sal. Your honesty always moves me, but I love the very tangible idea of making smaller changes to bring about bigger ones. This post has stayed on my mind since I read it (though I’ve just now gotten around to commenting). Thank you for writing it.

  • LOVE this post. I heard a phrase a few weeks ago that has stuck with me. “If the grass is always greener somewhere else, tend to your OWN grass.” I’m takin’ it to heart! Happy is where it’s at.

  • So true! Even one fab garment can change your life, really. I’m still waiting for that new Helmut Lang jacket to work its magic, as I’m certain it will. 😉

  • eveange66

    Well thank you sally for that post and putting your finger on the right spot. I am trying to change my look bit by bit to really feel like what I am. But more often I treat myself whenever I feel sad it exhausted or dissatisfied. I buy snug creamy hot chocolate ( this is a rare occasion so I do enjoy), I look at the sky and see the clouds when sometimes they have funny shapes, I listen to birds, I always rejoice when i see butterflies: they not so common nowadays in the city unfortunately, I am happy to watch worms in public gardens as worms are good for the ground. So many little things and millions if other like that. True we are talking on look and clothes and you are do right, but there are too other path. Sorry again for my english.

  • Excellent post! And I really think you are right. Here are some small changes I have made since I started reading your blog.

    In Sept I started running — not every day and not real hard, but I do it when I can and I love it. Over the winter it’s maybe once every 2 weeks, when the weather cooperates, so it’s not like a big work out plan. I bought running shoes and a spots bra and running clothes, all of which motivate me to get out there. Now that I know I do something for myself like that, I no longer feel like an out of shape blob when I walk around and catch a glimpse of myself in a plate glass window. What is super relevant — i haven’t lost a pound. Or an inch. In fact my new pants are all up a size. I look the same! But I FEEL differently about myself. When January came, I didn’t have that internal dialog about getting off the couch and getting in shape bc I am in better shape now than I have been in years, no matter what size clothes I wear.

    So in Oct, after reading a post where you said it, I bought my first full length mirror. Now I look at my whole body, not just the upper part of it that actually happens to be the chubbiest part. Looking at my whole leg with my body makes a difference and I never thought it did. I now look at my whole outfit, including shoes, and that also makes a huge difference.

    In Nov I got a pashmina as a gift and started wearing it every day as a scarf bc it was so lovely. I loved it, and bc of a photo someone happened to take of me, I realized a scarf at my neck doesn’t draw attention to my dreaded double chin but away from it (you can see said pic in my most recent blog post). That’s why I had never bought or worn scarves, necklaces, etc. I thought, why draw the eye to a place I don’t want to show off? But it turns out, the scarf makes a difference. And bc of the full length mirror I was able to see how the shoes and scarves I wore created a “finished” look, as if I had actually “gotten dressed” rather than “pulled on clothes.” Even when I wore the same jeans and knit t-shirt and just added a $2.50 scarf I bought on clearance at WalMart, it made a difference.

    At the same time I had to buy a dress for a wedding and I tried on an expensive (to me) black cocktail dress, at least twice what I had planned to spend. And horribly impractical, bc I cannot make it casual to wear to less fancy occasions. But I looked so fantastic, and I didn’t have to look “smaller”. I didn’t have to cinch in my waist or hide my chubby arms in order to look fantastic. Wow. I got pointed in the right direction from comments on your blog here that led me to this dress.

    So then, when I got a job interview and I knew I would be presenting to a group, I went shopping and actually bought a scarf and dangly earrings to wear with my plain black suit. Things to draw the eye, rather than discourage it. I didn’t wear what was handed down or chosen for me or laying around from 10 years ago. I actually went looking at and for accessories to wear to the interview. I looked great and I got the job.

    When I was offered the job I decided I was not going to make do with the same clothes I wore all thru grad school. Even if they were “still good.” I am not tossing them, but I needed a refresher. So I went shopping. I bought 5 more scarves, a statement necklace and earrings, 2 pairs of boots, 2 pairs of shoes, and of course pants, tops, and a blazer that makes me feel uber sophisticated. I looked in at least 50 stores for a work tote to replace the old WalMart beach bag I carried in school and bc was in the stores, I tried on clothes and shoes and bought them too.

    Then I brought those clothes on and I tried them on with things I already have. And I looked in my full length mirror.

    In fact, in 2 different stores on 2 different days, I was mistaken for a store employee and asked questions, bc I looked so put together.

    Particularly thanks to your blog, I have bought things that I LOVE but normally would not consider to look good on me … and I wear them with scarves, which completely changes not just the one item, but my whole look.

    I don’t know if this change is what helped me beat out 70 other candidates and get a full time job with benefits in a market where others are literally looking for years for a job, but it didn’t hurt.

    I start my job Monday and I have a closet full of thrifted and new clothes. I had to buy a scarf organizer. I have a new tote and a new purse. I got my hair done and bought new make up.

    Not that I was a total WRECK before; I wasn’t. But I only turned it on for special occasions or events where I knew I ‘d be taking pictures. Not for daily life or just running around. Now even when I am literally “running around” (the park) I wear a “running outfit” with the right shoes and tops and jacket.

    Sorry for the long comment, but I have kept meaning to tell you some of the ways in which your blog has helped and inspired me. Due to clearance sales and thrifting I have bought really super nice clothes for $3-20. I am wearing some fantastic Sketchers riding boots with these awesome punk rock zippers up the side that were on super clearance for all of $11.97. It’s not so much that I look good now and I looked bad before — it’s more that I look like I CARE now. Somehow that comes across to the rest of the world as, I value myself. It’s hard to explain but I bet you know what I mean.

    • Sal

      Michelle, I’m HONORED! And so, so happy to hear you’ve experienced such positive change. Good luck at the NEW JOB!

      • ~Michelle

        TodayI am wearing the most awesome-est satin-y black mini dress with a very graphic pattern in white/grey/orange/hot pink — as a tunic. With leggings. And previously mentioned kick ass punk rock boots. I took the self tie belt off the dress and tied it as a tie and wearing it around my neck to draw the line.

        I don’t look “thin” but I look cool.

        Most of my ideas I have gotten from your blog! A few from Audi, a few from Kim at FabFinds. I am layering! And wearing accessories!

        I can’t wait to wear my sparkly purple glitter shoes. To work. I have the exact outfit in mind….

        Sally, your blog and your ideas make a difference. They do.

  • Sal, I love your sane wisdom. It’s like taking a deep, calming breath. Your blog came along when I was beginning my own journey of change. I’m sure that as time goes on, I’ll be mentioning your blog on my blog.

    Your example is so inspiring! And I love your clothes and boots. A little closet envy is a great motivator!

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  • Diana

    Lovely post! I totally agree with you – I dislike listening to others complain when they aren’t willing to do anything to change their circumstances. In my case, getting laid off (along with most of my company) reminded me of what is most important: my family and friends and loved ones. Not my job. Long-term, I think that what I learned this year will make me a better person.

    Fear often does figure into it. One consideration is that some people really don’t have a safety net, financially. But that shouldn’t stop them from looking if they are in a bad situation. To quote Tim Gunn, you don’t realize how much the monkey house smells unless you just enter it or exit it. After a while, the monkey house starts to smell normal.