Dress to the Nine’s

When my daughter was 2, she got a new dress. Specifically, she got a new dress for my sister’s wedding. A new dress that my mother made out of fabric that cost a very pretty penny. She wore that dress to the wedding and looked and felt like a princess. She then proceeded to wear that dress every Sunday to church for a year, and every Sunday she looked and felt like a princess. I didn’t have to worry about any perceived stigma of wearing the same outfit repeatedly, because that is how things were done in Senegal, Africa, where we were living at the time. Most of the women and girls that we knew had one beautiful, elaborate nice dress, and one or two older dresses (which at one time had been their elaborate dress).

When we came back to the States, our daughter was 4, still in the princess stage of dress. We bought a “poufy dress” for her to wear to church. We also bought her a couple of regular dresses for variety, even though we were financially tight. We could have saved the money. She wanted to wear her favorite dress every Sunday, and I couldn’t think of a good reason not to allow her to (because you wore it last Sunday, and people might notice and think we’re so poor we could only afford to buy you one dress just didn’t seem like a good reason).

Fast forward in time 10 years, and our daughter’s entire wardrobe fits into a very small wardrobe. She has 1 dress and 2 skirts and shirts that she wears on Sunday. She loves these clothes, and wears them stylishly with varying accessories. She looks and feels great in them.

Contrast this scenario with myself. I remember feeling “great” only when I had a new outfit. However, after the newness wore off, I usually realized that that outfit didn’t suit me in color or cut. I had just bought it because it was cheap. My feelings of confidence came from the newness of the outfit, rather than from any sense of style. It has taken me over a decade of research and poor purchases to realize what does suit me (pencil skirts and layers on top, shirts with a soft tailored feel). Now I have less than 30 pieces of seasonal clothing, and feel more confident than ever in my clothing choices. I wear my favorite things every day.

If you are struggling to define your own personal style, here’s my advice to you. Wear your favorite things. Every day. If you have no favorite things, then why not? Is it because you always put cost before fit or style (I was guilty of this for years!) Even if you end up wearing the same outfit almost every day, you still will know that you look great every single day in that outfit. And people really won’t notice/don’t care what you wear (especially if you look nice) because they are wrapped up in their own insecurities.

Wear your favorites, and your sense of style will emerge. As you define your own style, you will find yourself making fewer “regret buys”. Yes, if you wear your clothes more frequently, they will wear out sooner, which will then allow you to go back to the store (guilt-free) and buy a new (more stylish) piece to replace it. My sister and I were discussing this, and we both figured that we bought 4-5 new summer tops and winter tops on average every 2 years. My sister is really great about keeping her outfits stylish with just the right trendy accessory. (I tell myself my style is more “classic” as I put in the same favorite silver hoops every morning!)

Take home advice: Wear your favorite outfit and feel like a princess!

P.S.  The picture was taken 18 months after the wedding.  Still wearing her favorite dress!

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