Three things happened in mid-2012:
1. I realized I was broke.
2. I realized I was exhausted.
3. I tried on a simple dress that made me feel gorgeous.
Double-knit ponte cotton. Black and white stripes. Flattering 3/4-length sleeves. Just-above-the-knee length, perfect for my 5’0 frame. Knowing that it was necessary to drastically reduce my spending, (I was also building a new business, Hello Holiday, at this time), I bought that dress reluctantly, promising myself that it would be my last major purchase for a while. In any case, that purchase had a gigantic psychological impact on my style philosophy ever since. Before I realized it, I had a favorite dress, and there was nothing else I wanted to wear.
I wore the dress that night on a date with magenta tights and black platform wedges. I wore it the next day to the office with Keds. I wore it the next day around the house as I cleaned, barefoot. I washed it, hung it dry, and wore it that night to a networking event with a black blazer from my store, black tights, and Mary Janes. Before I realized it, I had a favorite dress, and there was nothing else I wanted to wear. As each day went on, I found new ways to style and wear it, and I made the challenge official: How long can I go with one dress?
As days went on, I watched online auctions for my dress and bought a few more for under $10. As each one arrived in the mail, I would hang it in my small bedroom closet on a matching hanger, smiling with satisfaction at the neat row of identical dresses, all of which I felt perfectly beautiful in. As weeks went on, I realized that my confidence and self-image were on the rise, and I spent less time each morning in that productivity limbo between holding clothes up in front of the mirror and rejecting them in a heap on the bed, and finally embracing the real potential of my day. When I gave up my anxiety about dressing and spending and styling, I found so much more time for positive things. I was living every day as the best version of myself, because when I gave up my anxiety about dressing and spending and styling, I found so much more time for positive things that truly fed my passions and priorities.
I’m the mother of a toddler, the head of two thriving businesses, and an outspoken civic activist. There are so many “real” things to communicate and shine light on as a blogger, and having readers and fans who follow my work and engage with me as a writer is an enormous gift. I know that I can offer more than shopping, fauxtoshoots, and sponsor reviews. But it wasn’t until I looked away from the mirror and out into the world that I was able to communicate that.
Today in my closet there are seven identical striped and solid-colored cotton shift dresses–red, black, and striped; in short, 3/4-length-and long sleeve lengths. Next to them are leopard-print and coral patterned coats, and three or four of my favorite scarves to wear around my neck. On a tray on the floor are my dalmatian print pointy-toed flats, black Dansko clogs, and black patent Mary Janes. It’s using fashion to make every day more celebratory of my work, my accomplishments, and my relationships. I match these staples with a rainbow of colored socks and tights pulled from my dresser drawer that complete my signature look: Utilitarian fabrics, geometric silhouettes, and bold color details. It’s using fashion to make every day more celebratory of my work, my accomplishments, and my relationships. It’s using style to erase the obligation to impress. It’s rejecting the pretension and cost of beauty and fashion standards. And I’ve never felt more like myself.
I can’t tell you that buying one style of dress and wearing it every day made me get over my materialism, (it didn’t– I still love everything at Kate Spade and Topshop and Target), or [that it] brought me out of some pit of self-obsession, (I promise I’m still there–have you seen the selfies on my Instagram?); it’s about how taking a drastic step to simplify my routine helped me become a more diverse and confident individual.
I invite you to take inventory of your clothing and ask yourself what makes you feel like ‘you.’ What do you feel your best in, and what do you always put back on the rack? Challenge yourself to do more with less, and at the end of your experiment, consider donating your not-so-favorite pieces to a women’s shelter or nonprofit that offers nice clothing to underprivileged young women. Lots of places will even come pick your donation up. A simpler approach to style feels good, and the self-awareness and confidence that came from it are things I bring with me every day as I walk out the door in my striped cotton dress.
Photography by Jess Ewald
This month, we’re serving up bite-sized advice from experts in different fields to help us all make life a little brighter, more creative and more efficient for 2013. Think of this month as a chance to connect with yourself on a deeper level, get closer to what makes you happy, and take control of the balance in ‘work-life balance’ for yourself this year.