Show Me What You’re Working With (Part 1)

A girlfriend of mine has gorgeous, large-scale paintings on nearly every wall in her home.  I’m especially captivated by one in particular – a Franz Kline-inspired piece that covers an entire wall in her dining room.  Each time I look at it, I see something new and beautiful.  When I expressed that to her one evening, she replied, “I’m sad to admit this, but I’ve grown so accustomed to it that I hardly notice it anymore.  It just recedes into the background of my daily life.”

I think the same is often true of our wardrobes.  Most of us have cluttered closets filled with noise: haphazard, uncultivated apparel.

Cluttered Closet

There are a handful of reasons why this is true.  First, many of us unconsciously limit the functionality of our clothes by labeling them as suitable for only one occasion: work clothes, casual clothes, loungewear, date night dresses and so on.  Also, women have a lot more options today then we used to have and – thanks to places like Zara, H & M, Topshop and Target – we can buy on-trend designs without paying designer prices.  Furthermore, while online shopping is wonderfully accommodating to our busy lives, it also makes it easier for us to make impulsive, thoughtless choices.

Between our consumer-driven culture, our access to well-designed, inexpensive clothes, and our sometimes hasty, impetuous shopping habits, it’s not surprising that so many of us have a closet bursting with clothes, but “nothing to wear”.

When we fall into a fashion rut or are suffering from a lack of inspiration, it’s easy to be seduced by the new thing.  The more practical, but more difficult, solution is to find a fresh combination of items from among the clothes we already own.  But much like my friend’s beautiful painting, the more we look at our wardrobes – no matter how lovely each item was to us when we purchased it – the less perceptible they become.

Learning to see your closet with a fresh eye takes practice.  Most of us would be well-served by an outsider’s objective opinion of our closets – someone for whom our entire inventory is new.  As such, I’ve asked a few women I know to let me into their closets with the goal of uncovering three to four new outfits using their “old” clothes.  Before doing so, however, I turned the challenge upon myself to see if I could come up with a fresh way to wear some things I already own.

When I’m dressing for work, I tend to overlook clothes I’ve unconsciously labeled as “casual” or “social”, so I challenged myself to put together three new outfits from clothes I don’t normally consider office-friendly, by simply adding a jacket and changing a few accessories.

Outfit #1

I purchased this dress a few years ago for a nautical-themed party I attended. I’ve worn it a handful of times since then, almost always on a summer evening out with my husband or with friends.  But it becomes instantly office-worthy with a few minor changes, like adding a white linen blazer by BB Dakota or this one by J.Crew.

This nautical, striped maxi dress by Charlie Jade is sold out, but this dress is similar. This dress and this dress are similarly multi-functional. Shoes by Vince.

Outfit #2

This jumpsuit – purchased impulsively and on sale at J. Crew last year – is perfect for an informal evening out.  I can dress it up easily with a little bling, the plunging neckline is sexy without being too revealing and I can wear it alone or with a faux-fur coat, so it’s wearable for all seasons (L.A. seasons, at least.)  By adding a modest vintage necklace, I’ve created the illusion that the neckline is higher, making this more appropriate for the office.  To complete the look, I’ve added a black blazer, switched out statement earrings for a more conspicuous pair and traded in my clutch for a more practical daytime handbag.

Outfit #3

Adding a jacket to this uber-casual t-shirt dress from the Prabal Gurung collection for Target takes it from slub to sweet instantly. Office-worthy pumps by Alice and Olivia and a nude satchel complete the professional look.

Add Jacket_C

By taking three pieces – a sundress, a jumpsuit and a casual t-shirt dress – that never would have made it into my workday wardrobe previously and making them multi-functional, I’ve doubled the value of my investment and expanded my options for the office.  All without spending a dime.

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