I am not a clothes person. I’m just not. I like to look nice, but mostly I’ll settle for just getting out the door looking like an adult every morning. So it was startling to find myself in the middle of a moderate sartorial crisis a few months ago. I hated my clothes, hated how I looked in them, and hated how I felt in them…and it was really bothering me. Semi-drastic action was in order, and I felt oh-so-smart when I realized my local Goodwill would be a great place to start changing things up.
To be clear: the fail was mine, not the store’s. It had everything I needed; it just had to teach me a few things first. My initial shopping trip turned out to be a fact-finding mission, and I left empty-handed but with lots to think about. Course correcting began with the acknowledgement of some basic truths:
- I’m heavier than I used to be. I’m not happy about it, but it’s reality, and I can either keep sucking in my gut or (wiser choice) metaphorically suck it up and buy some stuff that fits properly.
- Pressure is not my friend when it comes to clothes shopping – if I feel rushed or like I HAVE to find something, it never goes well – but an actual human friend combing the racks with me makes all the difference.
- I’ve been wearing variations on the same five or six outfits pretty much every week, for the better part of several years. No wonder I’m not feeling jazzed by my current wardrobe options.
I took my epiphanies and my very stylish sister on my next shopping excursion. Around this time, I also found out I was getting a promotion (yay!) which provided even more motivation to look adult-y and put-together. So we knew we were going for comfortable yet professional, flattering, and a change from my go-to look.
It took some trial and error, and there were a LOT of things that made us squint at the mirror and say, “…nope.” But as predicted, she provided both feedback and motivation, and before too long…
Radical change? No. But a little more polished, a little more interesting, and a LOT better fitting. For the first time in a long while, I was happy getting dressed the next morning, and I felt good about how I looked all day.
More! I wanted more!
Wearing my new pieces a few times, mixed in with my old wardrobe, got me noticing what – specifically – made me happy. And if something didn’t make me happy, I no longer had to wear it just because I didn’t have anything better.
Nice structured waistband that cuts off my circulation when I sit in a desk chair? Forget it. Fabric that just looks too casual, even with good accessories? Save it for the weekend. Blouse that’s flattering in the full-length mirror AND drapes nicely over the tummy pooch when sitting? WINNER.
Now that I knew what I was looking for, shopping was much less overwhelming, and I felt more confident about the choices I was making. And that’s when the final piece of the puzzle fell into place: know thyself. I had learned that design details like neckline, drape, length, and pattern made a much bigger impact on me than colors or sizes.
I discovered I had plenty of nice skirts and dresses I never wore because I didn’t like how any of my shoes looked with them (hint: need more shoes). I accepted that there are some things I’m just not comfortable wearing at this size and shape, but if and when that changes, I know they’re just a Goodwill trip away. I also owned up to the fact that, despite my best intentions, buying something that just needs a little TLC – letting out a hem, getting out a stain, patching up a hole – will probably result in that item getting donated right back. I’m DIY-handy about a lot of things, but… know thyself.
And that’s the thing, really. Know what you like and what you don’t. Know what you’re willing to live with and what’s not worth the discomfort. Know what makes you feel good and that it’s worth having.
And know that, if you’re really honest, nobody would be happier than you if yoga pants and a loose t-shirt suddenly became the height of office chic. But in the meantime, know what will make you smile in the mirror before you have to go out and adult all day.