A little while back, I spotted this book at the library. I was just going through the stacks when the title and gorgeous colors sucked me in. The concept of clothes changing your life is an eyebrow-raiser for some, but I’ve experienced this first hand.
Because I attended Catholic School for most of my education, I didn’t have to worry about my personal style through grade school. I knew what I had to wear, so my taste wasn’t of importance. I think this was why it took a little while for me to build a style of my own. I think it’s pretty common in high school, but I basically wore whatever most people were wearing and shopped at the stores most people were shopping at (there was a particular style of top from Express, with lace under the bust with a bottom that swung out a bit, that comes to mind). I didn’t have to worry about my wardrobe outside of jeans, t-shirts, and comfortable summer wear.
When I went to college, it dawned on me that I had to pick my outfits out. I also had to make sure that I had a decent amount of clothes so I didn’t have to spend a lot of money doing laundry every week. This opened a door for me. Not only was I able to do some real wardrobe shopping, but I also got to discover what I liked, and not just whatever was popular in my class.
It was in those 4 years that I found myself over and over again in my style. It was a way of expressing myself, and I relished every bit of it. I bought things I wanted to wear, I tried new things (layering, colors, tons of plastic jewelry), and I figured out what worked along the way. If I think back to the bright My Little Pony tees and large plastic hoop earrings I wore in my freshman year, I cringe a little. But I know that’s what I loved at the time, and it defines who I was then. In my sophomore year, I discovered skinny jeans, and they changed my life. I also discovered ballet flats, another game-changer. While the trends I tried came and went, I also found things that I’ve carried with me, wardrobe staples that will last a lifetime.
Knowing that expressing and discovering personal style is a lot like discovering yourself as a person is reason enough to believe that clothes can change your life. But that’s not really how I learned. That happened when uniforms were brought back into my life through my first (life-sucking) full-time job. At first, I figured I could work around the khakis and monogrammed oxford shirts. I’ve learned that that isn’t true. I guess it wouldn’t have been so bad if I didn’t hate the job as well. Unfortunately, I really, really hated that job. I deteriorated from the inside out. The worse I felt inside (and I can’t blame all of that on the job as I had actual issues, as well), the worse I looked on the outside. I simply did not care. I wore my hair in greasy, sloppy ponytails (which I would only stop doing when I finally made a hair appointment and lobbed all of my hair off, making ponytails impossible) and I always had my glasses on in an effort to Clark Kent myself. I didn’t want to be recognized outside of work. I wanted to be gorgeous and stylish and fancy. But that didn’t really happen, either. I lost track of all style, personal and otherwise, and lived in sweats and oversized tees from the Salvation Army.
When I left that job, I guess I had hoped that I would find myself again. That it would come quick and easy. I was wrong. Even after getting a part-time gig at Old Navy, I had lost track of what I liked and what was worth spending my paltry earnings on. And then I got the job at the library.
Getting the job at the library rejuvenated me in a way that I very much needed at the time. It also had an effect on my style, which I found surprising. At my job, it’s completely fine if I show up in a pair of jeans and a sweater, as long as it looks clean and put together. But it’s also okay to wear a nice pair of trousers or a skirt and a blouse. I can dress up or dress down. In other words, the possibilities are varied and plenty.
Around this time, I was watching a lot of Once Upon a Time and found myself completely inspired by Mary Margaret’s wardrobe (tons of inspo here). Her classic cardigans, plaid pants, and delicate details were a huge jumping off point for what I wanted my wardrobe to look like. I loved that the look was classy enough for work (which, in her case, was a teacher), but completely comfortable and relaxed enough for any situation.
After accumulating a few basic pieces that I had wanted, I had fun mixing and matching what I had. I looked forward to putting an outfit together, picking out shoes I hadn’t been able to wear in a while (either too nice for Old Navy or not comfortable or warm enough for my previous job at the credit union), putting on a little extra makeup. My outfits inspired me to look my best, which led me to feel my best and, ultimately, strive to do my best.
Whether clothes are everything to you or just another necessity of life, there’s no denying the power of a great outfit. When you’re comfortable and you love what you’re wearing, you carry that with you. The confidence and joy you get from feeling your best allows you to shine. You’ll have a good day, simply because you’re wearing the pair of jeans that accentuate your curves or the sweater that makes dressing for winter a little less painful.
Speaking of winter, this post served a reminder of the power of clothing. The cold, dreary weather has a negative effect on my mood (I’d love to meet someone who doesn’t feel that way…) and options for cute clothes become limited due to potential frostbite, wet feet, and being covered in a big puffy coat anyway. As I started rotating the same few things, I felt the lack of confidence creep in again. Knowing that all it takes is a good pair of jeans, a pretty blouse, or my favorite shoes to make me feel like me again is something I’m forever grateful for.
Do you think your closet reflects your life? Maybe it has, and you didn’t even know it. I’m sure that, just as I feel a little embarrassed sharing the first few collages on here because my style then seems a little silly now, things will continue to change as I get older. It’s actually fun to see, and a really great reminder of who I am, who I was, and who I want to be.