Layered Looks, Part 4

I’ll have to change the name of this feature once it gets too warm to layer. Much as I love creative layering, I am REALLY looking forward to days when I needn’t bundle up. Sigh.

Red scarf a gift
Black sweater via ARC’s Value Village
Gray miniskirt via TurnStyle
Gray herringbone tights via Marshalls
Red knee-high pull-on Flosand boots via Aldo

These are they: The INFAMOUS BOOTS OF BAN CHEATING. See why I did it? I love them so and still don’t regret my trespass.

Black blazer via Gap
Pink sequin tee via Ann Taylor Loft
Black skirt via Banana Republic
Black opaque thigh-highs by Hue
Black knee-high pull-on Flosand boots via Aldo

Toldja I love black with brights. I also love being able to wear sequins to the office. I’ve found that pairing sparklies with tons of black is a great way to make them day-appropriate.

Faux fur vest via Boden
Heather brown long-sleeved tee and sweatshirt J.Crew
Denim mini and heather gray tights via Gap
Fur-trimmed Earth boots via Zappos
Crown necklace via Etsy

Boy, I sure do tend to go monochrome with my browns. I bought this long-sleeved tee and sweatshirt during LAST year’s annual J.Crew sale binge, and just love them together. The boots are just fab, and don’t get nearly enough use. And that crown necklace set me back a whopping $3 and is one of my all-time faves.

Camel colored cowl neck sweater via ARC’s Value Village
Woven brown suede belt via Gap
Flame orange skirt via Banana Republic
Brown tights via J.Crew
Brown Nine West Earnest boots via Zappos

I love me a cowl neck. LOVE. Something about this style of sweater makes me feel so ladylike. Classy. Sophisticated, even. This camel colored number is a thrifted purchase that hasn’t been worn yet this season, and I’m so glad I remembered to haul it out. Also fun to pair it with something less expected than my usual ho-hum brown pants.

Black sweater via ARC’s Value Village
Black skirt via Banana Republic
Scarf stolen from my mom
Magenta tights via Target
Purple Melissa Vinil shoes via eBay

I would’ve preferred to do this outfit with a black dress, but it was -5 degrees and my brain just refused to deal with sheath-related-layering that morning. My shoes had arrived from actual Brazil the day before, and my awesome eBay vendor CLEARLY burns a lot of incense. These are the sweetest smelling shoes evar.

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What Do You Want to Look Like?

What style of dressing are you most drawn to? Boho? Rockabilly? Classic? What style of dressing is the one you’d adopt if you had unlimited cash, unlimited time, a completely nurturing environment, and the ideal body shape to pull it off? Arty? Girly? Rocker? What style of dressing have you wished to emulate for years? What do you want to look like?

Now. Why can’t you look like that?

I’m not being cheeky, I swear! I want you to think about the barriers that stand between you and your this longed-for personal style. Consider what is keeping you from dressing, looking, and feeling the way you’ve always dreamed. Jot down a list. Seriously.

Then take a look at these workarounds. I’ve applied these, in one way or another, to the barriers that I’ve encountered on my personal stylistic journey. At this point, I’ve figured out how to live and dress around the roadblocks, and I look almost exactly the way I want to every day. But I’m sure there are obstacles I’m not thinking of, barriers I didn’t encounter myself, and I’m counting on you to shout out the ones I’ve missed.

But first!

“Wrong” body shape
You want to dress like Joan from Mad Men, but you’re built like a granola bar. You want to dress like Agyness Deyn, but you’ve got curves galore. You want to dress like Michelle Obama, but you’re a shortie.

  • What key pieces can you appropriate? If you can’t go all-out-all-the-time, are there accessories, dresses, shoes, even styles of makeup that you can utilize so that you feel connected to this look?

  • What colors, accessories, and textures are key? Can you incorporate those into your daily wear?
  • Can you adjust this style’s signature silhouettes to your figure? Use belts to create waists, shorten hems to better suit a petite figure, pair specific bottoms with looser tops to accommodate a plus-sized figure?
  • Can you focus on details like necklines, footwear, hairstyles that fit into the style without adopting the look in its entirety?

You want to dress like Gwen Stefani and Posh and Madonna. You want designer styles and loads of bling and everything of-the-moment. You haven’t a penny to your name.

  • Can you shop thrift and vintage, with a list of styles in hand? Seek out pieces that look just like the designer duds currently sashaying down the runway, but for a fraction of the price. Very little is actually “new.”

  • Can you DIY? Learn to sew, bead, embellish? Can you rip out pages from mags, create an inspiration board, and figure out how to recreate some of the simpler stuff yourself?
  • Can you stomach knockoffs? Can you shop Forever 21, Go Jane, and Aldo and be happy sporting a STYLE you love instead of a label you covet?
  • Can you borrow from girlfriends who own the duds you lust for?
  • Can you make do with wishlists and very slow accumulation of key items?

Conservative/intolerant environment
You want to dress like a rock star, a pin-up girl, a circus performer, a mermaid. You want to do your hair big and wear monstrous combat boots and pile on bangles from wrist to elbow. Your parents or teachers or boss or officemates or friends or lover will be scared/disappointed/angry if you do.

  • Can you amass pieces and tools that contribute to your look, but deploy them in small enough amounts that it feels like your little secret?

  • Can you learn to deflect biting comments by laughing with the commenter? “Hahaha, I know! Isn’t this WILD?”
  • Can you talk to a select few people about why dressing this way is important, so that you have some supporters amongst the dissenters?
  • Can you dress down Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and dress up Tuesday and Thursday? Gradually get your environment used to what appears to be an experiment until the time is ripe for full transition.

You want to dress like Sarah Jessica Parker, Tilda Swinton, Sharon Stone. You want to break out of your rut, your shell, your feelings of boredom with how you look and dress and feel. But you don’t know who you’ll be if you do that, or if you’ll still like yourself, or if you can pull it off. You don’t want to be laughed at, or be disappointed in yourself.

  • Can you be gradual about trying the new style? Make your bedroom the testing ground. Get up 20 minutes earlier each morning and just PLAY in front of the mirror. Make yourself branch out just once a week.

  • Can you start by just wearing items from your coveted style around the house? Make sure you feel comfortable, love the look, have it honed so it feels like your own.
  • Can you wear one or two signature pieces at a time? Don’t go full-Carrie, just tack a giant flower to your blazer. Don’t wear a wiggle dress and bright red lips and a string of pearls, just strap on your Minna Parikkas with your simple sheath.
  • Can you take photos of yourself and look at them THE NEXT DAY? Get some distance and then evaluate. Learn how awesome you are one photo at a time until you feel ready to try out your new signature style in public.

Not enough energy
You want to cultivate your boho side, polish your prep, rock out with the studs and leather … but you’re so danged tired all the time. School, work, the kids, your pets, your lover, the house, the car, and your social life suck up all your time and there’s nothing left for a makeover.

  • Can you talk to the important figures in your life about how important this is, and get their buy-in? That way, they’ll be more understanding when you aren’t around as much. They might even help!

  • Can you make this a priority? Something that you carve out one hour per day, or two hours per week, or a weekend a month to focus on? Every little bit helps. Spend that time making wishlists and inspiration boards, reading blogs and magazines, picking out the key items you need … and then, shopping!
  • Can you admit to yourself that changing your look might not take as much energy as you fear? Can you figure out what else might be preventing you from transforming your style? (See above.)

Don’t know how
You’d love to change. You know exactly what you want to look like, have the time, energy, money, and desire to make the change. But how will you put the pieces together? How can you keep your new, unfamiliar look consistent and true? How will it all WORK?

  • I felt like some of the advice was a little wonky, but have heard many stylish ladies sing the praises of the Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style. This book outlines some iconic styles, recommends key pieces, and shows how to mix and match.

  • You can always ask your friendly neighborhood bloggers! Ask ME! Ask Imogen! Ask Angie! Ask Doe Deere! Ask Omiru! Ask absolutely any blogger who writes about style and fashion. We love you for reading our blogs, and the vast majority of us love to answer reader questions.
  • Trust yourself: Read, draw, take notes, experiment. No matter what anyone or any publication may lead you to believe, there is no wrong way to dress. There is no wrong way to interpret a style. Go with your gut. You’ll be surprised how much your gut knows about fashion.

So, back to you. What is keeping you from dressing the way you want to in your heart of hearts? What have I omitted? What other obstacles can stand between a girl and her dream style? Tell me so I can tell you how to dress your way around them.

Images (left to right) Free People, Stop Staring, J.Crew.

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ManFashion Interlude: Effective Wardrobe Mediation

And while we’re on the subject of HM

Husband Mike is FAR more diplomatic than I. He gives the best, most thoughtful, kind, and helpful advice of anyone I’ve ever known. So I asked him to share his wisdom on a sensitive subject: How to convince the man in your life that it’s time to let go of that beer-stained sweatshirt/pair of horrifying oxblood brogues/moth-eaten hat and move into a more clean, refined, adult look. And more importantly, how to do this without hurting his feelings or making yourself look like a shallow, conniving, intolerant harpy. Here’s his advice.

– – – – –

Maybe your significant other needs a total makeover or maybe he just needs to get rid of one stained and holey sweatshirt that he wears every day. Either way, you are hoping for a change. How do you facilitate this change? After all, the holey sweatshirt might be a holy sweatshirt to him.

The picture above shows me in my favorite boots. (And, yes, I am wearing a Volkswagen Bug hubcap on my face. I am no stranger to fashion risk-taking.) I luuuuvved these boots. I found them on a rainy day at a garage sale for $1, they fit perfectly, and they provided me with a little dress code rebellion at my government day job. I wore them with everything from jeans to shorts to suit pants. Yes, they were the perfect boots.

I say “were,” because I had an ex who never wanted to see those boots on me again. She convinced me to get rid of these boots the old fashioned way: By nagging me. I still resent it 10 years later, and I am still looking for a replacement pair. Clearly, she chose the wrong way to change her man’s wardrobe.

The right way involves many subtle steps and a lot of consideration. But before you even start thinking about changing his look, consider the reasons behind his fashion choices. If you’re not sure what those reasons might be, let me give you a short cheat sheet. Your man probably wears the clothes he does because:

  • They are comfortable
  • They go with every thing else he owns
  • They were cool once
  • He hates shopping with a passion and won’t be bothered with the activity

But since these are not the only possible reasons, I suggest you begin with a discussion about clothes with your man. He may be totally unaware that his striped, banded-collar Garth Brooks shirts are out of style and a bit embarrassing. He might think he looks awesome, or he might think that how he looks is of no concern to anyone. Or the single offending item – like my work boots – might have strong emotional value. If this is the case, you have a tough job ahead of you.

Ask your man what his favorite clothes are and why he likes them.
Ask him what he thinks about those items in his wardrobe that you like, but that he never wears. You’re accumulating research to help you with your future goal of getting him into some new clothes.

Personally, I am drawn to clothes with interesting textures. Wife Sally knows that if she is picking something out for me, she’ll have a better chance of getting me to wear it if it is combed cotton, or if it is made from really heavy fabric that makes it hard to wrinkle. I don’t remember thinking about clothes very often before Sally’s spike in interest, so just talking with your man about clothes may facilitate a change.

Once you know what interests your man about his favorite clothes, then you do your pre-shopping research. Go to the stores, go online, page through the catalogs to see if you can find things that fit his criteria.

Once you’ve got some likely shops picked out, try these statements when you approach the subject of purchasing new clothes:

(Store name) is having a sale and I want to pick out a few things for you. Is there anything you want me to try to find for you?
If he really does want to get something new, he might tell you, then there you go.

I’d like to get you another sweatshirt like your favorite. Is there a certain color you want?
You have already found out why that nasty old sweatshirt is his favorite so now you know what to get.

Let’s stop in here. I want to show you something that will look fantastic on you.
People need to see how things look on them in order to decide if a new look is one that they like. It might be hard to convince your guy to go shopping, but if you are already out somewhere together, it is much easier to make a stop someplace. Perhaps you have pre-shopped the store so you know exactly where you are going and what it is you want to show him.

What to do at the store:
Remember, most guys have low tolerance for shopping, so it has to be enjoyable (or as enjoyable as possible). I recommend going to a store with fantastic service – someplace where a perky sales lady is going to tell him he looks fabulous and bring out additional shirts and stuff that she thought would be great on him.

What to do at home:
Positive reinforcement is the key. Compliments are important. Show him off to your friends so they can compliment him, too. If you need to break out some spontaneous affection, that’s not a bad idea either.

What Not To Do:

  • Do not throw things away without permission. He may be your man, but his clothes are his, and how he looks it ultimately up to him.

  • Do not criticize him in public, don’t call him a slob, don’t tease him in front of his friends. There’s no reason to be mean.
  • Do not withhold affection. Again, mean.

Final Thoughts:
Consider not doing anything. Do you really want to mess with replacing a nasty sweatshirt when it makes him happy? Ask yourself why it is so important to change your man’s wardrobe. The more selfish your reasons, the more you should let your guy replace items in his own time. If you wish to act as a resource to facilitate change that he is unable to make on his own (but wouldn’t mind making), go to it and pick out a couple of things you hope he might like.

Top image courtesy megnut, Husband Mike image courtesy Husband Mike.

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