Posts Tagged: fashion

Reader Request: Style Maturation and Individuality

mature style

K emailed me this question:

At least for me (I guess all of us dealing with the time continuum), we are all getting older so many of the style shifts coincide with wondering if what I need now is a more mature style, but not wanting to lose the youth we still still feel, no matter our age, but wanting to dress appropriately for our bodies, career positions, and body size and shape in a kind, gentle way. Sometimes I feel this fear that I can’t identify about my shifting style-wanting to hold on to the old me yet let it go, and worry that I won’t get it back when the unknown new style is an unknown thing. Then I just throw on some jeans and a cardigan (my default) and I’m OK. However, after a stint in a more formal work environment I find myself wanting a blazer instead of a cardigan…I somehow feel older (jaded?) in a way I wasn’t expecting that makes me both sad and happy.

I remember the day I yanked open my bottom drawer and realized I was never gonna wear those bright pink tights again. I was just too old. It wasn’t my birthday, no one had made fun of me for having blazing pink legs, it was just an internal shift that took place overnight. And, like K, I felt a bit sad and worried that episodes like this would become more and more frequent until I’d lost everything fun and unique about my style. But I didn’t let that happen, and K doesn’t need to either. Here are some actions to consider and paths to ponder.

Don’t donate, store

I have experienced donator’s remorse fairly recently, so I’ll admit that I don’t always stick to this one. But when I went through my massive wardrobe purge, I did remove a number of items from my closet and stash them in the basement instead of actually getting rid of them. This allowed me to live without them for a while and see if they were actively missed. They weren’t. Not a one. But it still felt less overwhelming to know that they weren’t permanently gone, and that I had the option to work them into my revised style if I wanted. And this technique will be helpful regardless of the motivation. In this case, if you want to move toward a more mature, sophisticated style, you can stash your quirkiest garments out-of-closet, dress without them for a few weeks, and see how you feel. If you miss them desperately, it’s worth finding ways to keep them in rotation. And speaking of …

Wear one personality piece at a time

Eye-catching, funky garments and accessories can be made more subdued when they’re worn one to an outfit. So if you used to do a large-print cardigan AND leopard booties, try just doing one of those and making the rest of the outfit solid or neutral or otherwise quiet. A single unusual, conversation-starting element will make you look interesting while the rest of your ensemble helps you appear professional.

There may be some pieces that just won’t pass this test: For instance, tulle skirts and novelty prints will be hard to work into outfits that feel buttoned-up and über-professional. That doesn’t mean they should be nixed or that women over a certain age can’t wear and own them. Just that they aren’t stellar candidates for featuring in more formal groupings.

Lean on your fun accessories

If garments from your former style feel too disconnected from the style you’re moving toward, keeping a few accessories in the mix can be a great way to preserve your visual personality. Necklaces and belts, scarves and earrings in unusual shapes and bright colors can be worn in otherwise conservative mixes without disturbing the overall aesthetic too much. And even if no one else actively notices them, they’ll remind you that you haven’t completely jettisoned your old style.

In terms of the emotional part of this question, I think it is natural to conclude that your style needs to grow and mature, and it is natural to mourn that transition. Our society has taught us to fear aging, and feeling too old for bright pink tights is a very concrete reminder that YOU are aging. But continuing to dress in a more youthful way that no longer aligns with your desired aesthetic won’t stop you from aging, just as creating outfits with fewer funky items won’t make you a dullard.

I do believe it’s true that once you let go of a previous style, it’s incredibly difficult to revert back to it. But that’s a good thing. Style should evolve. And if you find that you miss aspects of a previous incarnation, think about how you can revamp and revisit them in the context of your current style. Some people say you should never wear a trend the second time it comes around, but others say just wear it differently. Tweak it, shape it, make it as new as it is old. That will feel more like progress anyway.

Anyone else mid-transition and feeling apprehensive? How are you hanging on to aspects of your old style while still moving toward a new one? Have you ever opened a drawer and thought, “I am officially too old to wear [some item] ever again”?

Images courtesy Boden

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Reader Request: Style Evolution and Transition

cowboy boots

Fabulous reader Rebecca sent me this question:

I’ve been thinking a lot about my personal style. I’ve always adored vintage styles, and as a country musician, I’ve totally been able to pull off my signature style of vintage dresses and cowboy boots. Lately, though, I’ve been pulled in a more streamlined, sophisticated direction. I feel strange looking in my closet and seeing these clothes that I LOVE but just don’t feel like wearing. I feel almost costumed in my signature style! I also hate to give it up…

How many of you have suddenly found yourself in a new phase of life, facing a closet full of clothes that suit your previous personality? I know I’ve been there. And it’s overwhelming and disheartening, and makes you wonder who the hell you really are; The person you feel like, or the person you look like. Realizing that your style has shifted so drastically that your former signature pieces feel stale or wrong can prompt minor mourning. You loved those things once and you loved the version of you who wore them. But you’re someone else now, or on your way there.

As always, there is no single cut-and-dried way to tackle this challenge. But I’ll share a few of my suggestions and ideas, in hopes that it might help anyone currently struggling to realign how she looks with who she is.

Sort and purge

Spend some time sorting through your current wardrobe. Depending on your storage capacity, consider just stashing things that you feel you’ve outgrown. When you’re in transition, you can’t be sure where you’ll end up and a giant purge may just leave you full of regret once you’ve evolved a bit more. Those items that feel wrong now may just be wrong because you haven’t figured out how the new you is going to WEAR them. So, if you can, hang onto them.

Be sure, especially, to hang onto basics. If you’ve moved climates, you may have to embrace layering, or adjust which items fall into heavy rotation. Tees, sweaters, pants, and skirts in solid colors and classic styles will likely form your foundation. If they fit and flatter, keep ‘em. You’ll find a way to use them even if your signature style has shifted.


Most of our dressing decisions take place during the 10-minute window between showering and leaving the house. And if your style is shifting, you may feel even more Morning Wardrobe Panic than usual since your clothing options will feel simultaneously confusing and limited. So set aside some time to experiment. Give yourself a few uninterrupted hours to just create outfits from what you already have. Only items that are decidedly singular in purpose – ornately embellished, daytime-activity inappropriate, etc. – are truly confining. If you’re struggling to love a wardrobe that once worked, you may be thinking of your pieces as only “going” with certain other pieces. Mix and match, experiment, play. See what you can come up with.

Don’t shop

And here’s the reason it will be worth your while to devote some precious free-time to experimentation (and even hire a sitter): The temptation to buy new stuff can be very strong when your style is in flux. If mainstay pieces no longer feel like “you” when you wear them, you may decide that you just don’t have enough available, reliable options and need to get more items into the mix. This can work. It can also backfire spectacularly. Try to do the experimentation first and really evaluate your resources. Many items that seem utterly not-you in a quick visual sweep of the closet may prove useful on more careful consideration. Experiment, live with your current wardrobe for a couple of weeks, and see if specific holes in your wardrobe emerge.

Add new pieces, mindfully

Make a prioritized wish list based on your financial situation and stylistic needs, and whittle it down gradually. Once you’ve really determined how workable your current wardrobe is, start bringing in new pieces that will complete the puzzle of your new personal style. And if, like Rebecca, you don’t want to completely let go of your previous style, try to buy new pieces that will work well with your new looks but also potentially complement your old looks. Balancing contrasting styles can be tricky, but it can be done.

Be patient

This transition could take a year, or two, or three. Personal style takes time to cultivate, so don’t get frustrated if you have some false starts and bum purchases. If you have the time and energy, snap photos of your outfits as often as you can. Look back at them every couple of weeks and note what’s working and what’s not. Keeping a visual journal like this is incredibly helpful in transition because it allows us to analyze in retrospect and really process our decisions and preferences.

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Are you in a period of stylistic transition? Have you gone through one in the past? How did you cope? What were the greatest challenges? Does this multi-step plan sound helpful to you? Any other tips for navigating a drastic change in personal style? Or one that descended unexpectedly?

Image courtesy

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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