Wardrobe 101

How Dressy is It?

What Are Levels of Refinement?

Hello again, dear reader!

I pray that today is a good one for you… Have you ever said “I have nothing to wear!” into a closet filled of clothing? You are not alone. Sometimes a client will tell me that she needs to buy something new, even though she has a closet full of clothes that fit. The problem is not that she doesn’t have clothing. She may have enough cocktail dresses to take her through a month long boozy bash, or jeans and tees to stock Old Navy. A closet full of clothes may not be the right clothes. It’s that the Level of Refinement of her clothes isn’t in sync with her needs.

So, how refined is your wardrobe? One thing I should make clear: Refinement has nothing to do with how much you pay for an item, who makes it, nor with how classy (I really hate that word!) it is.

What is Refinement?

The level of refinement of a garment is determined by its material, embellishment, cut and tailoring. Other issues play into refinement as well, but let’s these three are the most apparent factors. Look at a garment and its construction. Is the fabric denim or satin, knitted or woven, nubbly or smooth? In each of these cases, the first option is more casual, or a lower level of refinement. Is the item plain or embellished, embroidered or beaded? Is the design woven in, or is it a printed on pattern? Distressing or holes in jeans, even intentional, are not embellishment, and bring the refinement level down, even while bringing the price up! How sparkly is it? Often with jewelry, the more sparkly equals dressier. Exception: bedazzled jeans and tees. What is the fit like? Is it baggy and relaxed, or more tailored and body-skimming? Let’s look at the levels more closely…

Level 1: Evening Wear

Fabrics: Satins, Silks, Laces, Sheer

Body Skimming Fit, Exposed Skin (strapless or slits),

High Shine or Sparkle

High Narrow Heels, Delicate Thin Straps and Buckles, Thin Flexible Soles

Level 2: Business Wear

Fabrics: Smooth Woven Wools and Cottons in Subdued Colors

Tailored Fit, Covered Up (No bare shoulders, cleavage, middles, or thighs.)

Polished Metals and Stones

Smooth Leather Shoes, Mid-Height Heels, Structured Flats

More about different levels within Business Wear here.

Level 3: Casual Wear

Fabrics: Knits and Tweeds, Washed Cottons and Denim, More Texture and Brighter Colors

Less Structured, Most Relaxed Fit, Exposure Seasonal (summer)

Shell, Bone, Beads, Plastics, Leather

More Rugged Leathers/Suedes, Thicker Soled Shoes/Boots, Crepe or Rubber Soles, Lower Heels and Flats

Level 4: Athletic Gear/DIY Wear

Shoes and clothing that you would wear camping in the woods, for painting the house or gardening, or for athletics fall into this last category, and stay within their own level. Please do not combine these with higher levels, especially if they are stained, worn, or torn! Level 4 is special activity wear only. And yes, I know this likely to make me unpopular. Especially with those who go to brunch directly after yoga.

Athleisure is its own category completely. Athleisure is not PT gear with heels…

Even makeup can have refinement levels!

How About You?

So, now that you have a definition of Refinement Levels, how refined is your closet? If you were to take a count of items from each Refinement Level, what category rules? Does that level of refinement reflect your wardrobe needs? Let’s start a conversation! I love to hear from you…

Stylishly yours,

Many thanks to Catherine at Not Dressed as Lamb for the Link-Up!



    Liz, I find refinement levels interesting but I don’t always keep to the same refinement level in the same outfit. I wear Levels 2 & 3 the most but I mix in level ! within those outfits. It fits me and my lifestyle to a T!!

    • Liz K

      Some people are happier staying in one level and others are happy to mix them up! It’s ALL about personality, Natalie! Thank you for sharing… Wishing you a wonderful week!

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