Step Out of Your Fashion Comfort Zone and Spice Up Your Look

Whether or not we realize it, most of us have a uniform. By “uniform,” I mean a tried and true look we find ourselves wearing most often. If you feel most comfortable in jeans, a blazer, and a fitted tee (and frequently wear some version of this outfit), then that’s your uniform. If you gravitate toward a preppy, feminine look, then your uniform likely consists of lots of structured ladylike pieces. Or maybe your uniform leans toward the edgy and eclectic—or the bohemian. You get the picture.

Let me start by saying that uniforms can be great. They encapsulate our sense of style. They help us dress quickly which enables us to spend more time doing things we enjoy. They are (hopefully!) flattering to our figures. But sometimes, relying too heavily on one’s uniform throws us into a fashion rut. In other words, if we become too set in our signature look, our style stops evolving and we get stuck. 

This is why it’s important not to be too rigid in the fashion rules we set for ourselves. As you grow and change, your style should grow and change as well. So, while it’s perfectly fine to stick to what you like and wear what you know looks good on you, I always encourage people to periodically assess their uniform and make updates to it so it stays fresh, exciting, and current.

Here are some tips to help you take stock of your current look, and if you so choose, spice up your uniform.

Ask yourself, What’s missing here? Having a uniform usually means that you’ve got a lot of certain types of clothing and too few of others. For example, if you work remotely from a home office—as many now do—you might wear lots of denim and t-shirts but have few business casual clothes for in-person meetings, and few “going out” outfits. Or maybe your corporate job keeps you in tailored suits and you don’t have any clothes for the weekend (besides pajamas!). 

A 2-minute closet assessment can help you figure out what kinds of clothes you might be missing right now. Take a quick look at your clothes and figure out which pieces you wish you had more of. Or, think back to the last time you needed to dress for a certain event and had nothing to wear. These exercises can help you recognize the functional gaps in your closet and point to the types of clothing you might need to incorporate.  

Plug some color into a mostly neutral wardrobe. Many women build a beautiful wardrobe of all neutral colors. From blacks and greys, to creams and whites, to chocolates and butterscotch-hued pieces, there is obvious beauty in a neutral palate. But if you veer too far into neutral territory, your wardrobe could wind up looking a touch dreary. That’s why a few brightly colored garments are so complimentary in any closet’s color story. Look for a few well-made bold pieces to accent your existing style. A cobalt tank top is a perfect underpinning for layering beneath a charcoal blazer. Or try a bright cranberry cardigan to pair with a navy-colored dress—a perfect look for fall! 

Add flair to a casual closet. There’s nothing wrong with prioritizing garments that make you feel relaxed and comfortable. But if you’ve been living in your leggings and denim lately, it could be time to build out your closet with some dressier elements. They will come in handy anytime you want to feel more polished and pulled together. Here is a quick checklist of items you might consider adding to your rotation:

  • a dress or skirt in a non-knit material
  • a pair of well-fitting slacks with a zippered and buttoned waist
  • a jumpsuit (they’re on trend right now)
  • a pair of heels or dressy flats
  • a blouse with some kind of embellishment (eyelet, patterned, ruched, etc.)
  • a structured blazer or jacket

Accent your uniform with fresh accessories. If you like to stick to basic pieces most days, (think slacks and a shirt) you can still make an impact with of-the-moment accessories. For example, a statement necklace, a pair of bold earrings, or an interesting cuff can energize a simple outfit and help you make an entrance without pushing you out of your comfort zone. Carrying a great purse can also elevate your look; right now, you’ll encounter lots of petite handheld purses, fun fur-embellished bags, and oversized totes. And with fall weather just around the corner, there are countless opportunities to add interesting layers to your look with jackets, ponchos, and capes.

Keep your feet on point. Footwear is one of the easiest ways to update your look without deviating too far from your signature style. If you love pairing most of your outfits with boots, you can stretch your style with an updated boot shape. For example, instead of buying another lowcut ankle bootie, go with a boot that rises to mid-ankle. Or if you tend to buy boots in neutrals like black or brown leather, choose a pewter boot or a western style boot. You will still feel true to yourself, but at the same time you’ll update your look with a modern twist.

Stay openminded about styles that aren’t “you.” I applaud a woman who knows what she likes and what she looks good in. But if you always automatically reject clothing and accessories that fall outside the parameters you established years ago, you might miss out on new styles, colors, and silhouettes that could bring you so much joy today! So be sure to keep your eyes open to new fashion as you evolve and grow your look. Think about your current age, stage in life, and profession as well, and ask yourself what you want your clothing to convey. Upon reflection, you very well could discover that some of your favorite clothes no longer work for the person you have become. And without an open mind, you can’t make these kinds of discoveries.

Look for inspiration everywhere. People watching is a great way to discover unexpected new looks, so keep your eyes peeled! When you find yourself appreciating the style of a passerby on the street, consider how you could incorporate her look into your style. It’s also worth looking around Pinterest and Instagram, and your favorite fashion websites and magazines for new ideas.  

Above all remember that fashion is an extension of who and what you are: a complex and intriguing individual. Your clothing should always reveal who you are right now, make you feel your best, and share your point of view with the world. So wear your uniform proudly, but make sure it isn’t obscuring your unique essence. When your signature style is calibrated to reflect not the “you” of last year or six months ago, but the “you” of today, you will look amazing and feel it too!

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