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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