Musings & Miscellany

All or Nothing Style

AKA: Where ARE you going in that?

Happy day, reader dear!

There’s something that’s been bothering me, so I thought I’d think it through here. I should apologize now. This may get soap-box-y.

In many ways, modern culture appears to be on an All-or-Nothing train headed toward a precipice. No middle ground. Anywhere. In many aspects of our lives, this All-or-Nothing attitude runs us ragged, or leaves us depressed. I’m pretty sure it’s related to perfectionism, but that “Take a job, big or small, do it right, or not at all.” seems to have left us in a sartorial muddle. “Nice” clothing hangs unworn in wardrobes, while outfits fit for cleaning out the garage go to the movies, shopping, to restaurants, and church. The general impression conveyed is I-can’t-be-bothered. “I can’t be bothered,” was one young woman’s response when she heard my profession.

Can’t be bothered to what? Put on clothing that doesn’t look like it was slept in last night? She was carrying a four-digit handbag and driving an Audi, so I don’t think money was the issue. Be bothered to care? The pristine bag, car, hair color and blowout told me she does care. Dressing (and grooming) is an act of respect. For yourself. For others. For the activity/event/occasion. I’m not calling for a return to white gloves and hats, but simply for thoughtfulness.

When others find out that I am an Image, Wardrobe, and Color Consultant, responses can get quite defensive or judgemental. “People pay you for that?” (Yes, they do.) “Nobody cares what I wear.” (Actually, not only do others care, your own self-image cares.) And my favorite “Image doesn’t/shouldn’t matter.” Sorry. It does. Our concern with image is biologically based.

Like it or not, when you leave the house, you ARE on display…
If you wouldn’t take a selfie in your outfit and post it on social media, why are you going out in it?

There is a vast sartorial middle ground between jammies or gym gear and walking the red carpet. Or gym gear and formal business wear. And yes, I do include yoga pants as PT gear. (Unless you are a yoga instructor… Then they are your business wear!) So why are there so many women (and quite a few men as well) who default to the clean-out-the-garage-clothes? I understand that comfort is important, and that everyone has a different perception of comfort, but if the only clothes you own that are comfortable are your jammies (and you don’t have a medical condition that makes you hyper-sensitive to contact), your wardrobe needs some help. Well. That did come out a bit rant-y.

Level 4 would be your Outdoor Activity wear and RenoWear.

I’m convinced that perfectionism plays a role here, but thinking it through, there’s another important factor at play… What do you think is beautiful? Artifice or Effortless? If your ideal of beauty is one of Artifice, that means a LOT of work goes into creating a look. Think about Dita Von Teese. She has no 5-minutes-and-out-the-door look. Even her “casual” looks take loads of prep time. If DVT isn’t your cup of tea, spend 15 minutes on YouTube watching makeup tutorials. Talk about Artifice! Social media feeds the Artifice-as-Beauty monster. (I’m doing my best to fight that one #nofilter post at a time!)

On the other hand, if your ideal of beauty is Effortless, that’s easier to manage day after day, and for different occasions. It looks like Effortless vs. Artifice is going to need to be its own post… In the new year, perhaps? Even if Effortless Style is a myth, style is a skill and a habit. With enough practice, it does become effortless! But the skill and habit require effort to acquire.

A quick change of accessories is all you need to go from morning to night!

So, how about you? Do you struggle with an all-or-nothing approach to style? Might it be connected with your ideal of beauty? Or is it perfectionism/worry about getting it “wrong”? Or not knowing what IS appropriate for the occasions in your life? Do PLEASE let me know in the comments below; I love to hear from you. And I might just be able to write some posts to help…

Stylishly yours,

PS: I expect this sounds old-fashioned, but if you are an all-or-nothing-dresser, I would challenge you to try dressing for the occasion for a week. Wear gym-clothes for the gym. Wear work clothes for work. For leisure time at home? Whatever makes you comfortable! And for leisure time out and about? Well, that depends on your activities!


  • Mae

    This article strikes a chord!

    I’m a stay-at-home mom of six. It is surprising to me when other moms ask, “Why are you so dressed up?” or “Why bother to try when you’re just going to the grocery store?”

    My answer: “This is dressed up?”

    Let me be clear. We live in the moody weather of the great PNW. It’s raining or about to rain most of the time between October to June. Jeans, tees, and whatever jacket REI had on sale make up the standard uniform of the region.
    I just don’t understand why a person can’t wear jeans that are tailored… without holes… that coordinate with an attractive top… and are paired leather booties… and maybe some lipstick. You know?

    Appreciate the article, Liz!

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