Posts Categorized: reader requests

Reader Request: Reflections on My Style Shift

Reader Cleoxymore posed this question in a comment:

Your “style transition” (from this side of the screen!) felt more like a revolution than a transition, very sudden and complete; but in the past couple of months, I’ve felt that some of your “old” style was creeping back into the new (not submerging it, mind you, but more like the transition happened AFTER the revolution).

Would you consider writing a post of reflection on your style shift? What was and is satisfying about it, successes and mistakes, and plans moving forward? I think the look back/lessons learned could make a great post for many readers, though I admit that I have perhaps a greater than average interest in the question (I’ve been reading you for several years now, and I used to come here purely for the voice and way of thinking, since your style was MILES away from mine… and now you’ve landed right where would love to but don’t quite dare go!)

Background on the change here and here.

And Cleoxymore is right, this was more of a flipped-switch than a slow-fade as transitions go. Here’s what I wore in August of 2014:


And here’s what I looked like by October of 2014:


Then there was winter – long, dark, cold, and full of sweaters and jackets and pants. And once spring grew near, I got a few curious questions about how the philosophy of “would a badass wear this?” might translate into warm weather outfits. I didn’t really know myself. But I ended up with this:


As Cleoxymore points out, fall and winter were drastic changes from my previous style, but summer was a bit more of a hybrid. For one thing, although I still wore plenty of black and gray, I made a concerted effort to mix in more white, light denim, and brown leather accents. And for another, I came back to skirts and dresses.

After years of absolutely HATING pants and living in nothing but skirts and dresses, I found myself almost unable to bear tights last fall and winter. I just couldn’t think of any dress-based outfit that I wanted to wear so badly I was willing to put up with the mild-but-constant irritation of a pair of tights, so it was pants, jeans, and leggings for months. But as soon as it was warm enough to go bare-legged, my interest was rekindled. My old full skirts in bright colors weren’t exactly what I was looking for, but I found a few vaguely badass skirts to put into rotation, experimented with a few of my old dresses and bought some new ones.

As the season wore on, I knew that jewelry was going to play a big role in my warm-weather looks. During winter I relied on layers to keep things interesting and rich, but summer outfits tend to be more pared-down. I made a few Etsy runs to augment my collection, and really enjoyed letting my necklaces and earrings take center stage for the season.

In terms of lessons I’ve learned? Nothing earth-shattering, honestly. I think the main thing I’ve learned is that you really can’t make a drastic style switch without doing some shopping. I had high hopes of paring down my wardrobe and repurposing my old clothes for my new look, and could do that with a handful of pieces. But I couldn’t go from a wardrobe that was mostly heels, colorful fit-and-flare dresses, and cardigans to a neutral-focused, edgy, mostly dress-free look just by getting rid of stuff. I mean, I got rid of BALES of stuff – gave to friends, donated, eBayed, consigned – but I had to buy some stuff, too.

This is pretty specific to me, I’d wager, but I’ve also learned that I suck at slow transitions. I did my absolute best to keep a few of my old items around to see if they’d work with the new look, but even when they did, I just resented the crap out of them. They were relics of a past me, and I didn’t want them around. Here’s an example:


Perfectly fine outfit using a dress I’ve had for several years. Lots of black and leather and hardware in the look to balance the sweetness of the silhouette, and I think it works visually. But I just wanted that dress GONE. And now it is.

Perhaps the moral there is if you get a yen to completely make yourself over, it’s likely got roots in something other than shifting sartorial preferences. I talked about how comfort, practicality, and ease were all suddenly quite important to me, and they all played a huge role in my change. But I also just wanted to change. I wanted to look and feel different. And that occasionally made it hard to repurpose old items for new looks. Which frustrated me because it felt somewhat rash, but was really, really hard to fight.

I’ve also learned that confining my wardrobe to a smaller space is a fantastic way to keep it smaller overall. I switched closets with my husband and have been slowly working toward paring down my wardrobe until I’ve got absolutely nothing in off-season storage. I’m almost there, and it feels fabulous. And even in the smaller space, my stuff is less packed-in and actually has room to move and breathe!

I’d say the most satisfying thing about this shift is how I feel. I feel better. I feel happier. I feel interested in building outfits again. I know that virtually all of my wardrobe goes with itself, so when I build those outfits it’s far less of a challenge. I honestly had no idea, but I feel like this change must’ve been incubating inside me for a looooong time because even now, nearly a year later, I feel relieved. Like I was forcing it before, but am behaving more naturally now.

My mistakes included donating several items I should’ve tried to sell, out of pure impatience and a desire to make the change feel more real and permanent. Also thinking that sandals would be important for summer: I should’ve known better. My feet are always freezing, so I wear sandals quite seldom, even in the beastly heart of summer.

Plans moving forward: I mentioned doing away with off-season storage. I still have a rack in my basement with four groups of items:

  1. Emotionally significant things that I will never ever get rid of even if I never ever wear them again,
  2. Fancy clothes for parties and such
  3. A kind of “office archive” of blazers and sweater shells that I’m reluctant to ditch in case I ever have to go to court or something
  4. A tiny group of items I’m pretty sure should go but can’t quite donate yet

I’ll probably always have a holding area/purgatory for things I am considering offloading, but I hope to revisit the office archive. Yes, I should have a couple of sheath dresses and button-fronts for emergencies. But there are a few full skirts and girly tops that I should really let go of. It’s fear, ya know? Fear of fully committing. There are plenty of items in my everyday wardrobe that would make me look professional and respectable in court. Plus am I gonna get arrested or something? Doubtful.

I’ll keep up my “one in, one out” policy … which is really more like a “one in, four out” policy, if I’m being honest. I want to downsize and can often use the proceeds from my consignment sales to fund new purchases, so when I buy I often sell. Or donate.

And I’ll continue to experiment with my hair. I’m having too much fun playing with it to let it be any one thing for too long.

Thanks Cleoxymore for a fun question! And I hope this was interesting and maybe a smidgen useful for everyone else.

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Reader Request: How Does Your Hairstyle Interact With Your Outfit?

how hairstyle impacts outfit

Sources left | right

Reader Andrea had this request:

I would be interested in a post on how different hairstyles interact with outfits. How much does wearing hair down vs. in a bun affect the formality of an outfit? How much can the hairstyle you wear with an outfit change the overall look? I always seem to wear my hair the same way with the same pieces, and I’m not sure why I only ever visualize those things with those hairstyles. (I’m also contemplating a major hair change right now, so hair is on my mind a lot recently.)

When my hair was longer, I had the same experience: Certain outfits definitely called out for an updo, while others looked better with hair worn down. And even now with supershort locks, I occasionally wear something that looks slightly off with messy waves and much better blown dry.

I asked Wendy Nguyen of Wendy’s Lookbook to let me use some of her photos to illustrate how hairstyle impacts outfits. As you’ll see balance, formality, structure, and genre all play in. Let’s take a peek:

hairstyle volume outfit

left | right

Here are two outfits in which hairstyle is a factor in enhancing or balancing volume within the outfit. On the left, the volume within Wendy’s outfit is all toward the top, mostly from the waist up. Her hair, worn down, adds yet more volume but also works organically with the loose layers. On the left, the orange sweater is the only voluminous piece. With her hair in a high bun, she avoids adding more volume to her top half.

hairstyle formal casual

left | right

Here are two decidedly formal looks. Some updos and buns can read as casual, but paired with outfits that already give off a dressy vibe, they generally add yet more formality. Definitely the case with the bun Wendy did with her black dress, although the addition of the headband keeps her hairstyle from being formal to the point of stuffiness. The green dress outfit has a much more relaxed vibe. Although the dress itself and structured clutch are quite fancy, the open-toed shoes and loose wavy hairstyle overtake them to create a dressy but not formal look. Switch the hairstyles and the black dress outfit would be more “night on the town” and the green dress outfit would be more “black-tie affair.”

hairstyle structure

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Structure within the outfit is at play in nearly all of these examples. You can see how updos often align with structured looks, and hair worn down aligns with unstructured ones. But here are two more great outfits that show how you can juxtapose structure and looseness using your hairstyle. Wendy’s cropped trench and pencil skirt are decidedly structured, but wearing her hair down adds some soft, flowy lines. Her white trapeeze top is loose and breezy, but her headband and bun balance it out.

hairstyle genre

left | center | right

Finally certain hairstyles lend themselves to certain genres. At left, Wendy has on a preppy/classic look that could’ve come direct from the J.Crew catalog, and has chosen a bun/headband combo to match. The middle outfit has both Boho and preppy elements to it, and the loose ponytail complements them both. For the beachy outfit on the right, Wendy wore her hair down and loose to match.

Hope this was helpful! And thanks again to Wendy for use of her gorgeous photos.

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Reader Request: Wardrobe Diversity

wardrobe outfits same

Reader Monica asked this question:

I would like to hear your perspective on style or wardrobe diversity. Often I feel like I have a few types of tried and true outfits, but feel ‘boring.’ And then I think, well, Sal always looks great and many of her outfits have a similar flavor, maybe it’s not that important? It seems you may have an interesting perspective on this.

Monica’s got me pegged: Even back when I had a lot more stuff, I had my go-to formulas and I wore them into the ground. Above you see three outfits from earlier this year, all of which feature a jacket, top, slim pants, and ankle boots. I could live in variations on that outfit just about every day from October to April.

It’s been great to see the press focusing on stylish women – many of them working in the fashion and design industries – who opt to wear personal uniforms. And I think there’s absolutely no harm in wearing slightly tweaked versions of the same outfit every day of your life. UNLESS doing so makes you feel bored, boring, or stagnant. It comes down to the difference between a signature style and a style rut: A rut feels bad, frustrating, and difficult to get out of. You’re in a rut if you’re wearing the same things over and over again and cannot think of anything else you’d rather wear. A signature feels natural, aligned with your inner vision of yourself, freeing, serene. You’ve developed a signature if you’re wearing the same things over and over again and feel pulled-together and perfectly like yourself.

So the answer to Monica’s is a question: Is wardrobe and outfit diversity important to you? If it’s important to you but you aren’t managing to support that importance with putting time and energy toward your personal style, is there a way to compromise? Maybe create three main outfit formulas to work off instead of sticking to just one? Are you bored with wearing the same things each day? If so, what’s keeping you from branching out? Could mixing up your shoes and accessories be helpful?

And if anyone ever complains to you that you wear the same outfits over and over, I highly recommend mooning them. Or suggesting some other hobbies aside from tallying and cataloging your outfits!

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