Do You Have a One-Dimensional Wardrobe?

September 23, 2011

This summer I was shopping at Nordstrom Rack and came across an Alberto Makali top that caught my eye. The colors were beautiful and the design was sparkly, ethereal and just plain pretty! But I hesitated…just for a split second, but I made note of the hesitation.

My momentary uncertainty intrigued me. What was keeping me from running right into the dressing room to try it on (although I did ultimately do that)? Was I limiting my options or was it really not me?

Have you done the same thing? Have you admired something or been even mildly captivated by something but just walked on by – determining from past experience or some nebulous fashion rules you think you remember hearing somewhere that it isn’t right: women over 40 shouldn’t wear it, horizontal stripes are a no-no, or anyone with hips needs to stay way far away from that style… (you get the idea)?

Here’s something to ponder: There’s a fine line between “knowing” yourself (for instance, feeling genuinely confident that harem pants are not for you) and ‘limiting’ yourself, and your style when it’s not necessary.

Many women pigeon hole themselves into a prescribed way of dressing and thereby limit their options and often squelch their sense of delight. Their wardrobe becomes functional and one-dimensional — devoid of any personal style and their boredom level escalates.

What is at the root of a one-dimensional wardrobe?

  • For some it is a fear of stepping out and being noticed as opposed to blending in or trying to disappear.
  • Some worry they will make a fashion mistake and look silly. It’s understandable that someone would rather look and feel boring than silly, but it is rare that most women will push the envelope to the point of looking silly. Their worry is generally unnecessary. Unfortunately, anything outside the norm of what they usually wear feels so foreign that they lose perspective on whether it’s trendy, fashionable, cutting edge or none of the above. As a result, tried and true (or not so true but at least safe) wins out.
  • And some women are so bound and determined to “find their style” that they hyper focus on certain designs to the exclusion of all else – “knowing” that they can’t wear those things – although not always knowing where that knowing came from (and it has often been received second or third hand at best).
  • Still others try really hard but can’t quite seem to figure out how to make it all work and give up from sheer overwhelm and frustration.

I hear this from women all the time. “I can’t wear that,” or, “That doesn’t work on my body,” or, “I’ve tried that before, and it just doesn’t look good.”

Sure, sometimes it’s true but honestly, more often than not it is a self-imposed fashion rule. And, most fashion rules have an exception from time to time.

The next step is: How do you move into a wardrobe that has more personality and dimension without it feeling overwhelming or making lots of expensive mistakes?

Let me go back to the Alberto Makali top I eyed. I was intrigued enough to try it on. Sure, in general I am not the bohemian type but I also know that it’s all about how you interpret any given style, bohemian included.

The top is beautiful! I did buy it.

  • It fit me perfectly.
  • The colors are beautiful and great on me.
  • The top has that ethereal, slightly bohemian quality but in an exquisite, elegantly beautiful way.
  • I wear it with more structured pants to keep me from feeling swallowed up by too much airy fabric.
  • I wear it when my mood (and the temperature) is more relaxed, sultry and quiet.
  • And, I got it at Nordstrom Rack so if I had made a mistake (better to make an occasional mistake than feel restricted by too many self-imposed rules), it would not have been an expensive one.

How can you translate this experience for yourself?

  • Pay attention to what catches your eye. It never hurts to try something on. The worst case scenario is that it looks terrible or doesn’t fit right (and can’t be tailored) and you take it off and put it back on the rack. No harm done and often something valuable learned.
  • Complete the outfit before you decide. Tossing something on with a pair of sweat pants or sneakers and a skirt will not help you visualize (unless you’re very good at it!) whether the garment has potential. Try to complete the outfit as closely as possible in the dressing room to give you as much of an idea of how it will look finished as possible.
  • Listen to your heart and be practical all at the same time. Always imagine where you’ll wear the garment and how it will fit into your wardrobe and lifestyle. AND, if it is something you absolutely love, be adventurous. Hey, although mostly I wear the Alberto Makali top casually and socially, I might choose to wear it to a picnic or baseball game (not that I went to either this summer) if I felt inspired to and it made me feel good – who says I can’t!

Each of us has different parts to our personalities and part of the fun of getting dressed is not only liking the way we look (of course) but also expressing each part of our personality that desires to be expressed in a heart-felt, authentic way. Sure, there are parameters determined by your body type, your age (sometimes), and the particular occasion, but you get to put the spin on how you express your own individuality. Don’t let yourself get stuck in a rut or a hard and fast prescribed way of dressing. Exploring is part of what keeps it all interesting and fun!

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