In this episode, Katherine wonders if there’s a way to make her simple style more interesting, or if she needs to add “exciting” pieces to avoid a boring wardrobe.
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Read the full episode transcript below! – Ep 49 Office Hours Make a Basic Wardrobe Less Boring
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Everyday Style listeners can take 15% off their by going to mylivingwonder.com/style and using code STYLE15. As always you can visit our show notes for the link.
Welcome back to Office Hours–the weekly show of the Everyday Style School podcast, where we answer one question, submitted by you, you beautiful listeners to help make style easier, and getting dressed more fun.
Today’s question was emailed in by Katherine who emailed and asked – I feel like my wardrobe is boring, but I don’t like to wear a lot of accessories or patterns. Is there a way to make my wardrobe more stylish, or do I need to add more exciting things?
Great question, Katherine! Over the years, I’ve worked with lots of women who gravitate toward a more simple aesthetic, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
I’m going to answer the second part of the question first. If you’re a person who doesn’t like lots of accessories or patterns, adding quote unquote “exciting” pieces to your wardrobe isn’t the answer.
Most likely, you would add pieces you think other people would find exciting, and you’d end up with a whole lot of stuff you’d never wear. Adding things you think you should have is a terrible plan.
You’re better off making the style that comes naturally to you the best it can be. Once you do that, if you feel it’s still missing something, and you want to branch out a little, go for it.
You are absolutely right though, that it is a little harder to look put together when you don’t have some of those style extras, like pattern, accessories, layer, texture.
That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, it’s just trickier. I actually think this is a really timely question, though, since so many of us aren’t getting dressed the way we’re used to–I don’t remember the last time I put on a statement necklace or a stack of bracelets.
But, I still want to look stylish–so I think this is a great time to share how to do it.
Here are three things to focus on to keep your basic wardrobe from being a boring one.
First, Every piece needs to be in good condition. Let’s say you have a black t-shirt and you wear it under a cardigan, or with a statement necklace or a scarf.
The focus isn’t so much on that black t-shirt, because its partially hidden by the other pieces, and it isn’t the focal point of the outfit. It’s just a part. Now, let’s take away the cardigan, scarf or necklace–if that t-shirt is worn out, or faded or stained, or has those little holes in the belly, you’re going to notice.
So instead of your t-shirt and jeans outfit being basic, it looks shabby. The same thing happens when your knits get pilled, or your pants lose their recovery and are a saggy mess.
Adding polish to your wardrobe by making sure your pieces are in pristine condition can take your look from boring to chic. If you don’t know how to keep your wardrobe in good condition, listen to the episode on Caring for Your Wardrobe. The link is in the show notes.
Second, Every piece needs to fit well. It’s the same principle as the first lesson, If your pants are a little small, but people are looking at your fabulous earrings, it doesn’t matter so much, or if your shirt is too big, but people are focused on your shoes they may not notice.
But, if you strip all those extras away, all you have is condition and fit.
Every woman wants to look like a million bucks in a white t-shirt and jeans like we see celebrities doing, but they try it and look boring. You know why?
In large part, it’s fit. Those celebs have great fitting jeans. They have great fitting tees. Fit is another factor that can make a basic outfit look shabby. And when you look shabby, you’ll never look stylish. I have found through my years that most women don’t understand how their clothes should fit. Most women I’ve worked with are wearing their clothes too big.
They don’t understand why they can buy nice things, follow the Capsules, whatever, and still not look polished. In 5 minutes on Zoom, we identify the problem which is their clothes are too big.
Once their clothes fit, they instantly look more polished. And if you’re thinking, Katharine’s question was about looking boring, not polished, I urge you to go back to the jeans and white t-shirt example.
When we see that on Celebrities in In Style Magazine or whatever, we don’t think, that’s a boring outfit, we think “I wish I looked that good in jeans and a plain white tee”. When your pieces are nice, and they fit you well, it’s not boring, its minimalist and chic.
If you don’t know how your clothes should fit, we have an episode on that, too. Head to the show notes on our website to find it.
Finally, Look for beyond basics. Just because you’re a jeans a tee shirt kind of girl doesn’t mean you have to be a boring jeans and t-shirt kind of girl.
If you’re a Capsule Subscriber or an All-Access Member, you know that I always include “beyond basics” in my Guides. These are things that serve the same purpose as your basics but are a little more interesting.
For example, I love sweatshirts. I totally get that a wardrobe stylist is not supposed to say she loves sweatshirts, but I do. If you’re disappointed that you’re listening to a stylist who loves sweatshirts, I’m sorry, you’re probably listening to the wrong show, I apologize.
But anyway, if I could live in a climate where I could wear nothing but sweatshirts, I would. The love runs deep.
But, I don’t have boring, basic sweatshirts. We’re having an oddly cold day today and I’m wearing sweatshirt right now. It’s from Karl Lagerfeld and it has a big pink glitter cat face wearing sunglasses.
A sweatshirt might be basic but this one certainly isn’t boring. I have graphic sweatshirts, a gold polka dot sweatshirt and a leopard print sweatshirt–see what I mean?
So even if you’re like slow down, lady, those are all too crazy, I have a plain grey one that laces up on the side, and it’s one of my favorites. I’ve got one that’s super plain, but it has a little puff sleeve at the shoulder..they’re beyond basic.
The same goes for jeans, If you don’t want to add statement pants, or colored bottoms to your wardrobe, and you want to stick with denim, great, go for it.
But look for interesting denim. Don’t just buy 4 pairs of plain dark skinnies and call it a day. Mix up your washes, have different silhouettes.
A t-shirt and jeans outfit looks totally different if its a t-shirt and dark skinnies, or a t-shirt and light wash cropped jeans with a frayed hem.
Make your basics look intentional.
The easiest way to add interest to your basic wardrobe is to shop the racks, not the tables. Here’s what I mean by this. When you go to loft, or target, or wherever, and you see that big table of t-shirts, or sweaters—chances are, those are basics.
The beyond basics are usually hanging on the racks. These are t-shirts that have a little more drape to them, or sweaters that have more detail.
If you want an instant style upgrade, shop the racks, not the tables, this is a super simple tip that will serve you well. Once we can shop in stores again, that is.
Just to recap, to make your basic wardrobe more exciting, first, resist the temptation to put exciting things into your wardrobe because you feel you should. You’ll never wear them, and your style will be more confused than ever.
Next focus on the condition and fit of each item. In a simple, basic style, when each piece isn’t best, it shows, and often, people confuse “boring” for “not polished”. Think of the white tee and jeans example, and understand that the look you’re trying to achieve in that outfit is mostly about condition and fit.
Finally, look for beyond basics. These are items that serve the same function, but have a little something extra. Maybe it’s a long sleeve tee with lace detail at the shoulder, or a pair of jeans with a frayed hem.
Those items will add interest to your wardrobe while still honoring your simple style.
Thanks to Katharine for asking such a great question. I hope today’s show helps everyone have a little more style in this time of wardrobe minimalism.
If you’re listening, and have a question you’d like me to cover in Office Hours, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to Living Wonder for sponsoring today’s show. Head over to mylivingwonder.com/style and use code style15 for 15% off of your purchase.
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That’s all for today–see you next week!