Living in a sub-tropical coastal town, dressing down is very much the norm around here. Everyone dresses down ALL the time, which took quite a bit of getting used to when we first moved here 13 years ago. Dressing up around here is reserved for the local races, a theatre trip to the city or dinner at a fancy restaurant. Ladies have often been heard to complain, ‘I just want to get dressed up for a change’ and are adept at thinking up excuses to do so. I’ve happily embraced the local casual, comfort-dressing trend. Recently, though, I’ve found myself at home at lot. A week can easily pass without going anywhere more exciting than the gym, supermarket and petrol station. Paired with my forty-something ‘I don’t care what others think anymore’ attitude, this has made me a bit too complacent about my appearance. Not worrying about how I look has started to affect how I feel about myself in negative ways.
Enter Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcast challenge to wear ‘clothes’ every day in February. The challenge began with me ‘dressing up’ to do some Saturday morning grocery shopping. I added jewellery and a little makeup to my outfit and wore a pair of wedges instead of flats. To be honest, I felt a little overdressed even though my outfit was still very casual but I also felt more confident, having made an effort. I also simply needed to add a jacket and a little more makeup to attend a friend’s 50th birthday celebrations that afternoon instead of completely changing my outfit. So, a little effort early in the day not only made me feel better about myself, but also prevented potential stress later on. Bonus!
This weekend marks the halfway point in my clothes every day challenge and I’d like to share one major and a couple of minor discoveries made thus far.
“I’m nicer when I like my outfit.” (anon)
Nice is one of those boring, lazy, beige describing words us teachers strive to get students to replace with a whole range of more interesting alternatives. Today, I’d like to replace ‘nicer’ with ‘better’. It’s still rather vague, so let me explain a bit.
Going to a small amount of effort with my outfit results in me feeling more confident, walking a little taller (at 178cm tall, slouching in an attempt to blend into the crowd is all too easy), holding my head up higher and looking people in the eye, because I’m not trying to hide any more; I won’t let myself. I can chat confidently to the checkout operator at Woolies rather than avoiding eye contact or say hello to my neighbour as I get into the car instead of pretending not to see him. I don’t find myself wanting to hide or blend into the background because I feel bland and unattractive.
There’s a little bit of effort and a whole lot of growth mindset happening here. If I look good, I feel good and if I feel good, I can do good. It’s all about perception and acceptance. I know I can’t look like a society’s beauty ideal without major surgery, a miracle working makeup artist or some imaginative photo editing, but I can look my best on any given day. That is enough and I am happy with that. Again, it helps that I’m now well into my forties and far less concerned with what others think than what I used to be. What matters most is what I think and feel about myself and not how others perceive me; a little effort gently nudges my self-perception in a positive direction. Pretty basic stuff, I know, and not exactly ground-breaking or revolutionary, but nevertheless something I needed reminding of. Perhaps I’m not the only one.
“When you look good, you feel good. Confidence with what you’re wearing is very important. If you feel good, you will always perform your best without worrying about anything. ” Maria Sharapova
Minor discovery # 1: Even the cheapest, most basic item can be dressed up.
I have an Aldi dress which I love. It’s a straight black knit maxi with a cap sleeve and v neck which feels lovely on and cost me all of about $13 – what a bargain! It was advertised as a ‘beach’ dress, but around here, that makes it a ‘wear anywhere dress’. Pre-challenge me threw it on with my Birkenstocks and I was set to go. No jewellery, no colour, no effort. Not anymore. Clothes challenge me scanned the wardrobe and found a pretty blue patterned beach cover-up with bead and tassel trim, blue sandals, narrow black fabric belt, blue-toned crystal pendant, silver tear drop earrings and a silver Pandora charm bracelet with blue feature beads. The outfit was topped off with my ‘She believed she could, so she did’ Be. Bangles bangle. This was a combination I’d never even thought of trying before, as I had been stuck in my can’t-be-bothered-clothing-rut. The kimono-styled cover up feels so floaty as I walk and who doesn’t love that? (Picture a little girl in a twirly dancing dress.) The pastel hues in my favourite colour soften the harshness of the solid black. It makes me feel great! The funny thing is, I look bigger with the beach cover up added than with the dress alone, but still feel better. It’s not just about appearance but also about how your clothes make you feel.
Minor discovery # 2: changing earrings and wearing lipstick makes me feel good.
We have all heard the saying, ‘fake it ’til you make it’. Well, sometimes you don’t have to fake it if you feel good. I used to be a big fan of wearing the same pair of basic, practical earrings 90% of the time. Not any more. Since starting the clothes every day challenge, I’m wearing earrings which have been collecting dust for years and even wearing ‘dressy’ earrings for everyday tasks. And why not?
What’s the point of having beautiful things sitting in your wardrobe that rarely or never get used? [Remember, I already got rid of non-beautiful and hurtful items from my wardrobe before beginning the challenge. This means everything that’s left fits comfortably, is practical and makes me feel good when I wear it.] Get it out, wear it and enjoy it! Maybe don’t wear a formal outfit to the supermarket though, unless you’re feeling particularly brave that day.
As a young teenager, a close friend was shocked to discover I had ‘around the house’ and ‘going out’ clothes. All her clothes were worthy of going out in and she didn’t differentiate them. She couldn’t understand why anyone would own or wear clothes that were somehow substandard and unworthy of being seen in public. Of course, she had more and less dressy outfits to suit the situation, but all her clothes were for going out. I believe she had it right. If your clothes fit comfortably, are practical for your needs and make you feel good, surely all of them can be worn both around the house and going out?
I have a new saying, ‘red lips for writing’. When the lipstick goes on, I’m ready to work, whatever my work happens to be that day. I love red lipstick, but mainly on others. Red is a colour that works quite well with my complexion and hair colour. However, it’s such a BRAVE colour and I rarely feel brave enough to wear it, especially on my face, because it draws attention to me. I simply don’t like that, preferring to blend in rather than stand out in the majority of situations. Well, for the sake of this challenge and to push my comfort zone, I’m practising being brave and wearing red lipstick. Add lipstick and I am ready to take on the world. Well, at least my ordinary little everyday world.
Renewed effort has seen me go from being nondescript and unnoticed to suddenly getting some generous compliments. My mother told me I looked glamorous when she visited. I just so happened to be wearing red lipstick that day. Friends have told me I look lovely on a couple of occasions. As someone not used to getting many compliments, this serves as a further confidence boost. (So much for not caring what others think anymore.)
With renewed effort and energy, thanks to feeling good because I look good, I also find myself achieving more items on my daily and weekly to do lists than I have for a long time. Frumpy clothes and no effort leaves me lazy; whilst a little effort makes me eager to get things done and achieve something in my day, however small.
I’ve got a confession to make
I must admit though, as much fun as I’m having shopping my wardrobe, I have already broken one of my three challenge rules. Just to recap, my rules were: no new purchases, wear real bras and wear a bit of makeup.
I have, in fact, shopped outside my wardrobe and bought three items, two of which have already been worn. It would appear that I love to break rules as much as I love to make them! No more purchases allowed until March.
A challenge for you
Why not try dressing up one of your most basic clothing items? Let us know how you feel when you wear the dressed up version compared to the usual one.
Or, if you prefer, try wearing your brave colour and tell us how that makes you feel.
I’d love to hear about your experiences and feelings about your own wardrobe experiments. Please share them in the comments section below or on instagram and tag me #ordinarilyextraordinaryanna .
Sharapova quote from <www.brainyquote.com>
anon quote from google image search