Just because I’m packing a few extra pounds on my 5’4’’ frame, there is no reason I can’t be stylish and fashion-y and professional -- and on a budget. I am always on the lookout for good deals, and I do not follow or covet any trends.
Honestly, I’m not a huge of fan of random fads or trends in the first place, as the word fad implies that it is a temporary thing. I prefer to make sure to wear clothes that fit my body type, are flattering, are classic, and of course affordable.
Not classic like designer suits, just fairly simple pieces that can be easily mixed and matched and work in different outfits and styles.
Perfect example: I have a pair of black skinny pants with a white tuxedo stripe down the side. I wear them with t shirts or tank tops on the weekend and flip flops, and with work blouses and sweaters during the week to work, with ballet flats. They are super comfortable, flattering, and I got them for $25 from Kmart!
Trends come and go, popular fashion changes in the blink of an eye, but a well-fitting sweater and work pants never go out of style!
I have spent most of my life as a comfort-first girl. Shorts or jeans and T shirts, either flip flops or sneakers, and the same watch and necklace that I’ve had for years. Even in comfort-mode, I always attempted to be wearing well-fitting and body-flattering clothes, but still, it was casual at best.
At work, I have long had a similar theme. Work pants that are comfy but fit, and a blouse that is usually soft, plus a soft cardigan. Again, comfort has been at the forefront.
I recently realized that I don’t have a personal style. “Comfortable” isn’t really a style choice, and I feel like that makes it sound like I’m one pumpkin-spice-latte away from wearing yoga pants and a man’s undershirt in public (I’m not. I don’t even own yoga pants!).
Since that realization, I have been on a mission to find a style that works best for me. Mostly, that has been buying things that I always liked but never thought I’d wear, and then actually wearing them. My expanding wardrobe now includes dresses (I always thought dresses wouldn’t look good on my body type), skinny pants in tons of colors (great for work! Comfy but fitted, can have them in every color, totally work appropriate if they aren’t denim), and ankle boots. Blazers that are more fitted to my body, pants that are tighter than I used to wear, and even the occasional belt around my natural waist!
I still wear pants, ballet flats, and cardigans, but I’m figuring out how to pull it all together in a way that makes me look my age, and makes me feel good.
I think one of the biggest fashion crimes I ever committed was wearing clothes that were too big on me. I’m not a skinny-minnie, and I think that I thought larger or more billowy clothes were masking my tummy. But looking at them now, I realize that they just made me look bigger! Trust me. Try wearing a baggy top and taking a picture. Now simply tuck in that same top into your pants, barely at all blowse it, and take another picture. It’s hard to see the difference in the mirror, especially when you’re self conscious, but you’ll be able to see it when you compare the two pictures. Just by tucking in that baggy top and having it closer to your body, you’ll actually look slimmer -- exactly the opposite of what I once thought.
I buy some pieces from one of my favorite stores for work clothes, LOFT, almost exclusively from their semi-annual big sales, where they do 40 or 50% off of already-on-sale items, and I do my shopping from LOFT mostly online, as the online store has a lot more variety and sizes of the clearance items than the physical stores, and luckily, their sizes are uniform, so it always fits. Bonus is that if I don’t like the stuff I buy, returning them to a physical store is really easy and you don’t have to mail anything anywhere. LOFT is more expensive, so I don't really buy anything full-price there, unless I just HAVE to have it...which is not often.
I also buy a lot of more lower-end pieces from places like Target, Kmart, and TJMaxx. It’s often more hit-and-miss of finding the things you want at these stores, but the prices cannot be beat! And a great pair of pants is a great pair of pants, no matter where they come from.
I am definitely budget-conscious. After deciding I wanted to find more of a style and revamp my wardrobe, I didn't just go off and buy a whole new wardrobe! I cannot afford that, and neither can most people I know.
What I did was go through all my clothes and turned a critical eye to the actual fit. If it fit and looked good, I kept it, and if it didn't fit or was completely hideous, it was either right to the donation pile, or considered a “maybe.” If it was only a bit too small or large, I generally kept it, if it was something I just really loved, I might try to find a new use or way to wear it.
I kept a large amount, actually. And since I’ve always tended to buy things that can be mixed and matched, I had a great base wardrobe! Bright solid-colored tops, neutral bottoms, and colored cardigans are all very versatile, and each piece can be dressed up with a new pair of pants, a printed top or skirt, or just accessories.
When I started making purchases, it was with an eye specifically to fit and how it fit with my new style, never an eye to trends. I’d never really worn skinny jeans, wrongly assuming they wouldn't look good on someone who wasn't skinny. I now have several very versatile pairs! I own them in black, teal, hot pink, and a great gray. I found sales and only bought the things that were going to fit my new look and flatter my body, not just anything that was on sale and fit!
I kept an eye out for statement pieces. I found an amazing red blazer that was only $35! I found a great pair of flat ankle boots in a gray that goes with almost everything I own, including all my new work dresses (I bought 4 different dresses on LOFT.com during their big sale recently and got them for $9 each, in my size!!), my colored pants, and more. The boots were only $23 at Payless!
You don’t have to spend a fortune to find your style. I am 28 years old, and I am finally figuring out my style now, and it feels really good. It makes me feel very adult-y.
But it also makes me feel really confident. Instead of just feeling “meh” and comfy in clothes, I’m feeling more confident and pretty, and looking forward to getting dressed for the day, because I am dressing my body, not hiding it. I am totally embracing this. I’ve always felt really good and beautiful on the somewhat rare occasions that I would dress up for an event, or wear my suit for an interview, and I wanted to have that feeling every day. Confident in myself, happy with the way I look. This is all quite self-actualizing!
Of course, I still wear shorts and flip flops on the weekends!! Some things never change!