I think I know the reason…
I’m sorry to make assumptions, but I’m guessing that as you are reading this blog, you are over the age of 40. (If not, I apologise, but perhaps Zoella would be more your thing? Fewer mentions of Spanx.)
There are plenty of truly rotten things about being over 40 – skin and metabolism are the two main offenders. But, one GREAT thing about being over 40 is that you can be confident that you know what to wear for certain events. You know what to wear for a wedding. You know what to wear for a country walk. You know what to wear for a club night (as if). And, generally, you pitch it about right.
Problems start when we enter into the territory of ‘events with an undisclosed dress code’. In other words, anything goes. These types of events include: ‘a Christmas party’ (no clue whether it’s smart or not), or ‘a work event’ (should you overdress to impress or underdress and look like you aren’t taking it seriously enough?) and even ‘a bike ride’ (lycra or not?).
I’d love to be able to help you with this, but that’s not where I’m heading today – in fact, I sometimes get it wrong too and have on occasion felt the need to check-in with a friend before getting dressed for a tennis lesson.
My attention today is on those of us who constantly feel either underdressed or overdressed. Is that you? For some people, the idea of wearing smart clothes is a nightmare. Others, find it really difficult – and even feel uncomfortable – wearing casual clothes (ironic, I know as so many of them are made of stretchy jersey).
Why is this?
Well, it’s all do with clothing ‘style’. Which, coincidentally, happens to be one of the four areas under which I teach my clients how to find the clothes that ‘love them back’.
I work with four clothing styles : Classic, Dramatic, Girly and Natural – Two of these styles (Classic and Natural) correspond to how smart or casual you prefer to be.
A key component of my client process is to evaluate how much of each style the person should have in their style ‘prescription’. The amount of each style that you have in your prescription could vary dramatically. You might be 100% one type – though that is unusual or an exact split between all four. What is most likely is that you have one main style with varying amounts of the others mixed in. The more ‘Natural’ you have in your style prescription, the more comfortable you feel in a casual outfit, the more ‘Classic’ you have, the smarter you prefer to be.
My two boys are a perfect example of this theory: Sam is always neat and smart, even after a whole day playing outside. It’s not that he takes better care of his clothes, or that they fit him better, it’s just part of his [style] personality. George, however, always looks relaxed (I say ‘scruffy’ when no one else is listening) in his clothes, even in his school uniform. This comparison is even more stark when I remember that George is wearing the exact same items of clothing that Sam had two years ago, and yet still they look completely different on his body.
So, how can you know which style you are, and what on earth is the use of knowing?
Ideally you could come and work with me and we’ll figure it out together. But, if you are in more of a hurry, there are clues that you can sniff out.
For example, if you find it easier to be neat and smart you probably have a large amount of classic in your style. If you HAVE to dress down for an occasion crowbar yourself into a pair of jeans, but to offset the casualness, add a smarter element, such as a blazer, [or a silk blouse] to your outfit and you’ll feel more comfortable.
If your comfort zone is casual and formal wear is a real headache, it’s likely that you have a large amount of the ‘Natural’ style (like George). You might find that the classic women’s ‘power suit’ makes you feel like Angela Merkel chairing the UN (you heard it here first). Instead of opting for this traditional women’s formal attire, take a classic shape, such as a shift dress or a jacket and choose softer, more natural fabrics and textures to make it more comfortable for you. It’s perfectly fine to soften a smart outfit with more casual elements even when you are speaking on the stage.
The most important thing to remember is to avoid dressing just for the occasion and focus on dressing for you. Take your style and make it work for the setting, rather than the other way around. And, if you ARE Angela Merkel, get in touch, I think I can help.
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Thanks for this fun and helpful post! My main style is natural and since my day with you I have re-discovered how much fun it is to shop and explore outfits (I’ve found a Phase 8 autumn wrap! Love it!). May I also say that I love your sense of humor. Angela Merkel could definitely do with a visit to your abode. 😉
I’m glad you liked it – and the gag!
Enjoy your cosy wrap! Its definitely time to start digging out some warmer clothes.
Great post Helen! I am pretty good at casual and pretty good at smart but I struggle with the bit in the middle. Smart casual is my nightmare! Help!
Ah! You are NOT alone Alice. This is where many women become stuck. For you, an nice idea would be to either choose a smart outfit and add more casual footwear (flat boots for eg) and a casual scarf OR wear a simple day dress in a comfy jersey material and add patent shoes or boots with a small heel and a jacket. Accessories are a great way of smartening outfits up or ‘casualing’ them down. Think I’ve just invented a word?! Think heels and sparkly jewellery for smart and chunky boots and scarves to ‘casualise’. Hope that helps…