Wear it Now

Get DressedHands up if this ever happens to you: You’re standing in the closet, trying to get dressed for the day and you pull out something super cute — a blouse or dress or pants that you just love. And then you think, “I’m not going to see anyone today, so why waste a good outfit?” And you put on something less cute. And certainly more blah.

Anyone? Everyone? I thought so.

We all have those days, the ones where we’re not going anywhere special (or, in the case of those of us who work from home, not going anywhere period). Sometimes, it just makes sense to throw on a pair of yoga pants and take care of business — but I’m talking about something different. I’m talking about that impulse to conserve your stylish outfits as though they were a special category of endangered species. I’m talking about feeling like there’s no reason to look nice unless there’s a specific reason to look nice.

Those days.

The whole point of having a carefully edited and curated wardrobe is so that you can wear something fantastic, every single day. If you’ve done the hard work of cleaning and sorting and restyling, everything in your closet should work for you, at any time. I’m a big advocate of organizing your closet by color or style, not by purpose, because when you start to segregate your clothes by the places you wear them (work, weekend, date night, only to fancy after-five functions that require special tickets) you don’t actually wear most of them. When you think about your clothes in terms of broader, generic categories — shirts, skirts, pants — you’re more likely to wear them broadly — to the office, to a playdate, to go downstairs and sit in front of your computer until it’s time to pick the kids up at school. Just for instance.

There’s no rule that says you have to look schleppy just because you’re not going to see people all day. Or adult people, at least.

Get DressedBut it’s not just that we steer clear of fancy clothes for everyday — I will admit that very few of us can pull off a sequined mini skirt on a regular old Tuesday (although I will also admit to wearing a sequined tank top in the car pool line just because I could). We start to really thin slice our wardrobes and pass by even the most casual pieces, because they’re new or they’re nicer than some other, similar piece. What’s the point of putting on a brand new skirt to spend the day staring at a spreadsheet by yourself? Why break out a cute new tee if you’re just going to be playing with LEGOs all day?

Here’s why: Because the whole reason you bought those new, spiffy pieces was so you could wear them. So do it — wear them! Today!

I had a friend, years ago, who used to say that if it was on your ass, it was not an asset. What she meant was that clothes are only an investment if you are wearing them — with very specific exceptions, like certain high-end vintage couture pieces, they have no intrinsic value of their own. Once the money is spent, it’s spent. Saving that dress or jacket or blouse isn’t going to help you buy a new house or finance your retirement; it’s just going to leave you with clothes that you never wore.

So how do you break out of the saving-it-for-later rut? Like this:

1. Stop thinking about getting dressed in terms of spending or saving. There’s no number of times you can wear a specific piece or outfit — if it works for you, repeat and repeat and repeat. Just because you wore something today and didn’t see people doesn’t mean you can’t wear it again next week when you have a full day of meetings and play dates. It’s still the same cute outfit.

2. Stop imagining some better day or place to wear the things you love. Face it: This is your life, and there’s no reason not to look nice for it, every day. Wearing something you love makes this day a good day, in a way that tossing on those sad yoga pants just doesn’t. Don’t wait around for something style-worthy to pop up on your calendar — get dressed for each day as though it really mattered. Because honestly, it does.

3. Force yourself to wear the cute stuff. Don’t even give yourself the option to throw on that jeans-and-tee outfit one more time. Move the pieces you’re saving to the front of the closet, or — my favorite reader suggestion — stop doing laundry until you quite literally run out of things to wear. If you can’t grab your safety blanket outfits (we all have them, people) you will be compelled to take a chance with something else, something you’re waiting for the right opportunity to wear. Well guess what? Today is the right opportunity! Because it’s that or go naked.

Finally, there’s this: Think about all those no-one-will-see-me days as a chance to experiment. Not sure you can pull off head-to-toe color? Do it on a day you’re not leaving the house. If you wind up feeling like a clown, at least you can remind yourself that no one saw you. And that’s a good thing.

What’s your strategy for getting through the days when no one will know if you’ve even put pants on? Are you a wardrobe saver, or are you dressing up just for yourself?

Get Dressed with Susan Wagner

Find more pragmatic style advice at The Working Closet.
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