By this title, I don’t mean buy clothes that are too big for you. I don’t advocate buying clothes that are either too big or too small. Instead, I mean this to encourage buying clothes that allow you to move normally throughout your day (whatever activities your job entails) without excessive restriction, discomfort, or exposure.
It’s best not to buy clothes that don’t live up to trials and tribulations of everyday life. In other words, try something on in a store and walk around in it or sit down or shake a bit and see how it shifts and moves. Maybe bend forward to see how the top falls when gravity takes its course. Will you be pulling the skirt down or pulling the neckline up all day? Will you be adjusting the piece throughout your meeting because it’s too tight or twists oddly with movement?
For some time, I never considered this concern. I tried something on in a dressing room, stood perfectly still in front of a mirror and assessed the result, and made my purchase decision. I often regretted these purchases (especially impulse purchases that may not have fit me perfectly) by about 9:30 in the morning or half way through my commute when I spent more time fretting the functionality of my clothes than focusing on the task at hand.
Before truly curating my closet, I held on to these items and occasionally wore them despite the high maintenance. But over the last six to twelve months, I have donated substantially all of these items in hopes that they fit someone else a bit better. Not carefully considering how each article stood up to the test of real-life office execution cost me many purchases not utilized to their fullest before finding a new home.
If an item already in your closet or waiting on your wish list does not stand up to the “walking, sitting, shaking, bending” test, consider if a cardigan, camisole or other accessory or layer might solve the difficulty. I wrote a bit about this when I detailed how I dressed up a casual, comfortable dress for the office. On its own, the dress failed the “bending forward” test (and it needed a little touch of sophistication to make it proper workwear). But I expect most people have a camisole or cardigan hiding in their closet already that could be a good team player and help out another item that did not make the corporate chic cut.
Curate your closet over time. Styles and preferences change, budgets aren’t typically limitless, and it just feels great to find an item that perfectly fits a gap in your wardrobe when you’re not expecting it. It’s tough to find exactly what you’re looking for at a good price when specifically searching for it on short notice. Patience can pay emotional dividends but also literal cash savings as well. Wait for an item to go on sale or maybe you can wait until next season or you might just find something you don’t need right now but would make a great addition perusing through a thrift shop on a random afternoon. I find that when I buy ‘in bulk’ I often end up buying too many of one type of item or things I don’t end up wanting or needing (but maybe that’s just me).
I have a running list of gaps that could be filled when I’m thrifting or when I get a great sale email in my inbox, so I’m not buying more of what I already have and know what to keep an eye out for when an opportunity does arise for the perfect item at the right price. It’s unlikely you will find exactly what you need right when you need if you have something in mind. And certainly, it’s even less likely to be discounted. Some of my favorite pieces I have acquired by being patient include this Kate Spade dress, this Elie Tahari dress; this JCrew gray dress, and this Kenar dress, all of which I love and stumbled upon during a relaxing “window shopping” excursion. (Apparently, I love dresses in general…)
As I mentioned earlier, this is much easier on the budget, more fun, and you can pace your progress to match your available funds. If a month is tighter financially, you may not make any progress during that month on building a wardrobe and that’s perfectly ok!
This also gives you time to continue defining your style and determine what works and what doesn’t. Although those cute button downs or those fun pencil skirts may look great, after a few wears, you may realize it’s not the perfect piece and you’re glad you didn’t buy two or three in day one.
This is the last in my series and hopefully you have found something here or there helpful in continuing to build your professional wardrobe and define your sophisticated style. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you so shoot me a note at btcorporatestyle[at]gmail[dot]com.
Cheers to looking good and feeling great at work!