Style and Styling

Wardrobe Tips from Military Life

When I appeared on the radio last week with John Patrick from Buzz on Biz, we talked about why I love what I do, and how it combines the creative with the analytical. He drew the connection between my time in the Navy, and my personal wardrobe philosophy. That has been jiggetting about in my brain since last Thursday. So, for your amusement (?), I share three things that my Naval service (re)taught me about dressing and image.

Uniforms Are Easy

Sure a military uniform is easy. You don’t have a lot of choices, and the work of the day generally determines what uniform you will be wearing. Civvie Parallel: Think about what your day holds, and dress accordingly. Have a “you-niform” (thanks Bridgette Raes) to fall back on when time is tight, all goes haywire, or plans are changed on you. My fallback is a simple dress, usually topped with a cardie (A/C can be brutal) and a scarf or splashy necklace. If I am in trousers, they are probably blue, with a white shirt, fun shoes, and some color by my face. No thought needed. Throw and go. Yours might be jeans and a colored tee with a cool stack of bracelets. Unless you are a yoga instructor, your “you-niform” should probably not be yoga pants…

Polish Your Shoes

One of the quickest hits during inspection was shoes. Scuffed, raw laces, not edge-dressed, or heels run down. We would put on freshly polished shoes at the very last second, and walk carefully down to line up for inspection. Civvie Parallel: Take care of your shoes. Find a good cobbler, not just one of the quickie shoe repair places (although they can be a godsend for heel taps in a pinch). Cobblers do still exist, but are becoming more rare than hen’s teeth. Find one, respect the craft, and treat him or her like the amazing gift he/she is. Buy shoes that can be improved. Care for them. Clean them. Polish them. Store them properly at the end of the season. (This sounds like it needs to be its own post, hunh?)

The Details Matter

Are your ribbons on straight!? Did you check with a ruler? Are they in the right order? Are your creases crisp? Is the edge of your belt buckle lined up exactly with the keeper? Yes, these details may seem trivial, but when everyone is wearing the same clothing, those little details stand out and shout. Civvie Parallel: Press clothing that should be crisp. Wear your trousers at the right length. Adjust your necklace(s) so that they hang at a flattering point. (Those are your balance points… That will be another post, too!) Change your shirt if it gapes at the buttons, or pulls across the bust. Look at yourself from head to toe (or even better, snap that full length selfie!) before you head out the door.

Bonus: White Chalk Hides a Multitude of Sins

We wore white uniforms from about March through September or so (depending on location). White trousers or a white skirt with a white shirt. Let me tell you, for me this was an enormous problem; I was (and still am) a walking food disaster. I learned the blessings of washing with bleach, and to carry a stick of white chalk in my bag to scribble on stains to hide them and absorb grease until I could get home and pop the poor garment back in the washer. Civvie Parallel: If you love white, try chalk, or just  carry a Tide To Go with you. At home, a damp washcloth to rub off stains (or baby wipe in a pinch) might just save the day.

Do any of these speak to you? Which one(s)? Please let me know in the comments below… I love to hear from you!

Playing Saturday Share Link-Up with the lovely Catherine at Not Dressed Like Lamb!


  • Andrea

    I nearly cried when our very elderly magician of a cobbler shut his shop. He resuscitated several pairs of shoes for my mother and I. This was 3 years ago and I still have only found a shoe bar to date. A dress is my “what shall I wear go to” with footwear depending on the season.

    • Liz K

      Ours has closed up shop, Andrea. (Sniff.) Some say he’s moved and others that he’s retired. I’m praying it’s the former AND that I can find him; he, too is a Shoe Magician!

  • Mary Jean Cunningham

    I used a black Sharpie a couple of times on black items that needed some help here and there! Glad to say it worked well.

    • Liz K

      I’ve made that work, too, Mary Jean! You just have to be careful… In some light black Sharpie can look purple!


    Everything pressed!! I love the white chalk idea!! Will use!!! Putting pins on correctly is an important to me!! Your always full of great idea’s to follow!!!

  • Roberta

    My husband served in Canada for 37 years (long since retired). Really enjoyed all three posts in “military life”. Thank you for sharing.

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