Fashion Facepalm

by Elizabeth on September 10, 2012

All this clearing out has had me thinking in some strange ways.

See, I’ve been starting on my closets and drawers.  Going through and finally tossing out some of that stuff that I’ve been keeping around just for when I’m painting (eight tee-shirts covered in paint and glue splotches?  really, self?), or things that I loved so much that I really intended  to fix when they got holes or lost a button…that kind of thing.

And after surveying what is largely just a sea of black, punctuated with the occasional white and/or odd green item here or there, I’m realizing something:

I suck at this whole getting dressed thing.

No, really.  I mean it.  Suck.

For years now, I’ve had a kind of a self-imposed uniform.  It’s there, above.  Black jeans (I have five of the same pair), black button-up shirt (or black, v-neck, 3/4 sleeve tee-shirt, also black), and either clunky mary janes (casual) or bootlike heels (dress-up).  If I have to be all corporate for something, swap the jeans for a short-ish black skirt and maybe a shawl of some kind (hand-knit, or one of the paisley ones from India).  Dress up = add some silver jewelry.  At home = remove the pants and hope no neighbors come to call.  Or add a long, frumpy skirt.

99% of the time, that’s it.

To be fair, it worked for Steve Jobs.  And it makes getting dressed easy.  And doing laundry easy.  (No pesky sorting.)  And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that being Quaker didn’t have something to do with it.  That whole simplicity/modesty thing.  (This, from the girl who routinely admits to being pantsless on purpose.)

Thing is, though, there’s actually another reason for my decided lack of variation.

I have no idea how to do anything different.


I’ve tried.  And I always kind of look like perhaps a blind, crazy bag lady picked my outfit for the day.  People hand me change.  This is just not a skill I possess. At least with the “uniform” I look reasonably presentable.

Recently, I had dinner with a high school friend and his wife.

(Well, actually, it’s been almost a year ago.  Time flies as you get older.)

At one point, I mentioned how different he looked, but his smile was still the same.  He said, you look exactly the same…you even dress the same.


And since I’m not, in fact, anywhere near being in high school anymore (the fact of which my knees are happy to remind me after an hour at the gym), I’m thinking this may, finally, need my attention.  I almost hate admitting it, since girls are, traditionally, supposed to be good at this stuff, and I’m full of resounding Fail.

Problem is:  I have no idea where to start.

So I’m calling on you folks for help.  I figure you’re all probably better at this than I am.

(Actually, I know you’re all better at this than I am.  You’d have to be.)

What resources would you recommend to start building an actual, workable wardrobe that doesn’t make me look like a frumpy gothchick throwback?

I’ve got several challenges:

  • I’m shaped funny.  I have tiny little legs and bewbs of doom, so those cute little things with fitted waists don’t ever work for me.  Of course, that’s the style I’m drawn to, despite the fact that that style makes me look like a sausage in a too-tight casing.
  • I’m on a severe budget.  This means no hundred-or-more dollar pieces.  Unless/until I’m working outside the house, there’s just not much of an excuse for it anyway.  I’d rather save the money and use it to do Fun Things than get all fashion-victim-ish.  It just doesn’t excite me like it does some people.
  • I have limited closet/drawer space.  Our house is small, which I love.  But it means that unless something is multi-functional, there’s not much room for it.
  • That whole Quaker thing:  flashy stuff makes me uncomfortable.  No bling, thankyouverymuch.  Simpler, the better.

So if you’ve got ideas, I’m open to them.  After flipping open the drawers last week and seeing a sea of perfectly identical black shirts and pants, I’m more open than I was before, in fact.



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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Boursin September 10, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Putting together a wardrobe takes time. I had do to just that after I lost that 50 pounds. There are whole seasons where what’s out there just isn’t anything I would wear or come in colors that make me anemic looking. (Melons and yellowy greens, I’m lookin’ at YOU!) And you have to try on a ton of failure before you find something worthy of buying. So finding one or two good things isn’t necessarily failure.

A lot of my wardrobe comes from the end of season clearance sales since I don’t have a ton of money to blow at once on clothes either. Just last week I spent a couple hours in Younkers pawing through their yellow dot racks. (They emailed me a one day coupon for an extra 40% off) I ended up with a purple cotton tiered skirt, a green tank top with some sparkle, a blue and white print pair of shorts, and a necklace/bracelet combo. All totaled it was $40. The previous week I found a blue Calvin Klein dress that was originally $130 that made me look smokin’ hot and will hang in my closet til my anniversary next year. Clearance price… $27.


Cheryl September 11, 2012 at 2:35 am

Simple shirts with some color are no more expensive than black shirts, and almost all of them will be fine with black pants. Heck, even the Amish are allowed to wear blue.

Then, gray pants, or even light khaki, will look okay with the black shirts, AND with the more colorful ones, and you still haven’t had to get new shoes.


Hex September 12, 2012 at 5:22 am
Seriously, they have so many lovely styles which amazingly enough flatter just about every body type. I have seen their clothing on very petite all the way up to super large women, they all looked fabulous.

Layers can do a lot. Shells or modest tanks can be paired with shrugs, wraps, shawls, over shirts, heck some of them look cute over button up dress shirts, or just about anything you like and it can totally change the look of an outfit. Also makes them multi-seasonal. Another fun thing is to do to jazz up a plain button up shirt is to wear a pretty pattern scarf (silky style) as a cravat. Fun, funky, and just the right burst of color. I find these at thrift shops constantly for next to nothing. A plain black or white shirt is completely transformed when you add a floppy bowed scarf around the collar.

Even simple things like different belt styles/colors can make an old outfit pop. Sometimes it’s the subtle little things that can make a world of difference. Colorful chunky necklaces, broaches, bracelets and the like…there really is no limit.


Laurie September 12, 2012 at 3:55 pm

I’m a thrift store shopper. I refuse to pay huge amounts of money for “fashion”. I have my own style, which boils down to skirt, tank, cardigan or jacket. Sometimes I go pants/top/cardigan. But Hex is right about layers and using accessories. Your black shirts will be fine if you give them a pop of color. Unfortunately I tend to like white shirts, but have dogs and paint and chickens and whatall, so they usually end up not so white. Today’s seems to have a spot of wood glue on it, but it tucks in. The doggy footprint I got just as I left goes very well with the long white fuzz on my black skirt.

A couple weeks ago I found a black silk velvet blazer from jjill in my size (tall, even, so the arms are long enough!!) with the tags still attached ($149) but it was only $5.79 (as all blazers are) at the Goodwill. I think what it takes it going back regularly. I have developed an eye for the finer fabrics and now a lot of my wardrobe is jjill, Coldwater Creek, Gap, etc, but at prices that don’t make me hyperventilate. Find a thrift store you like and make it a regular destination and you can end up with lovely things at very lovely prices that allow you to enjoy yourself without being a slave to your closet.

And then there’s the cashmere collection.


Liberty September 12, 2012 at 5:06 pm

I bet we could swap closets and not even notice. I live in black yoga pants and 3/4 length-sleeve black tops. I have worn all black since high school…the thought of wearing color scares the beegeebees out of me. Every time I put on anything with color or a pattern, I feel huge and MUST take it off – like NOW.

The hubster has encouraged me to dip my toe into dark colors…and red. So far red is the one color I can manage. Patterns are probably not ever going to happen. Instead I look for unusual shapes, flattering cuts, and funky (little) accessories. Yoga clothing site (while not cheap) have really inspired me with their simple, ‘everything goes together’ feel.

I would like to add that whenever I leave my hole to interact with the outside world, people always ask if I’m from New York. I guess people in New York wear a lot of black. LOL


minnie September 15, 2012 at 3:51 am

i’m no help, lol. i go the opposite way. i’m all ab out the wild, bold colors. i do know yellow makes me look anemic, so i skip those choices. do what you love colorwise. if you hate green, wearing it, even if it looks good on you, isn’t going to make you happy. i ADORE blue. particularly the deep royal, almost-purple blues. fortunately i look good in them. i hate brown. i look good in brown, but i hate it. so you won’t find much brown in my wardrobe.


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