Since I work in retail and what I wear on a daily basis is heavily influenced by whatever colors, silhouettes and trends are available in store, most of my non-work outfits grow out of the desire to wear a particular old favorite that is not "in" in the store, but is cute and seasonally appropriate. But when I have an actual event to go to, that slapdash approach doesn't cut it- I want something that feels more deliberate. I have two events coming up--the BlogHer'13 conference here in Chicago in two weeks and a wedding in August--that will require a handful of outfits that are event appropriate, reflective of my personal style and, of course, comfortable enough to spend the entire day in. This can seem like a tall order, so here are my tips for choosing outfits that fit your personality, not just your body:
1. Be honest with your comfort level. This includes both physical comfort and emotional comfort. For example, I won't wear skirts that are shorter than ~1/2 inch above my knee and I strongly dislike vents in the back of my dresses and skirts. I find short skirts and dresses with vents very stylish on other people, but since I know that I will spend the whole evening adjusting, it makes more sense for me to wear something that I feel truly confident in. Many women also feel pressured to wear very high heels to "dress-up" events because we associate stilettos with glamour, but if your feet are hurting within an hour, then it will be difficult to enjoy yourself and you won't feel very glamourous. Instead look for a lower heel, a less precarious wedge or a truly snazzy flat. Maybe you wouldn't be caught dead in a dress or skirt most of the time, but feel like you have to wear one for a special event. If Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz can wear pantsuits on the red carpet, then there is no reason for you to drive yourself crazy to wear a dress so that you match the other female guests. If you feel comfortable and confident, then you will look 100x more fabulous than if you forced yourself into the status quo- don't be afraid to be you!
2. Every dress code has a spectrum. Aim for the middle and you'll be dressed on point. Since this is my first year going to the BlogHer conference, I've spent a lot of time reading other people's blogs to answer the million little questions I have racing about in my head. Of course, as a style blogger I am thinking a lot about what to wear so I turned to the blogosphere to get a sense of the BlogHer dress code and it seems like it is anything goes. Some women show up in jeans and some show up in their best interview suits! While this is an extreme example, you will see a spectrum at pretty much any event (with the probable exception of a black tie soiree).
The wedding I am going to in August is in the afternoon and the ceremony will be outside. I can almost guarantee that I will see a range of dresses there, from little cocktail numbers with a hint of sparkle to structured sundresses. My goal is to find a happy medium; when your outfit falls right in the middle of the spectrum, you end up looking like you nailed a difficult dress code. While my outfit is not yet finalized (I promise pictures when it is), my dress will be a colored/patterned knee-length number in a satiny fabric and a little bit of swing in the skirt that is paired with metallic pumps or wedges (but not sandals!) and sparkly earrings and bracelet(s). The dressy parts of my outfit are the accessories and the satiny fabric but they are balanced by the color & pattern of the fabric and the extra swing to the skirt. If I wanted to dress this down, all I would have to do is swap the pump for a flat sandal and skip the flashy jewelry.
3. Accessorize it in a way that is uniquely you. I always worry that I will show up to an event wearing the same dress or outfit as someone else, possibly because that is exactly what happened at my junior prom! This is why it is so important to accessorize and also to dig through your own closet looking for an old gem. Lots of guests want or feel that they need a new dress for every wedding they attend, but if everyone is buying their dress in the couple months preceding a wedding, then everyone is shopping from the same small pool. Choosing something old not only saves you money, but also frees you from the current selections and trends.
The best way to ensure that your look is completely you is to accessorize it. I have definitely fallen into the trap of thinking that my dress was so fabulous that it didn't need anything else and then later feeling liking my outfit was unfinished. Add a colored, skinny belt around the waist, layer on the bracelets, choose fabulous shoes, anything that will make your look feel like you. After all, it's not about showing off the dress (that's what catalog models are for), it's about showing off you!
What other style challenges do you face when dressing outside of your normal formula?