One leg at a time.

I am notoriously uninterested in fashion, and the fact that I’m writing a post about it is probably amusing to a few people.  What can I possibly have to say when I pretty much wear the same black shirt and khaki pants every day?  But recently I’ve decided that dressing well is a skill like any other, and I’m determined to get better at it.

I’ve made similar declarations before, but I’ve always been scared off by seemingly everyone’s insistence that I get myself a wrap dress and some high heels to wear to work.  (Now there’s a thought that should amuse some people who know me.)  Or I’d become discouraged by the rarity of comfortable shoes for the wide-footed.  And I won’t even get into the festival of horrors that is shopping for women’s pants.  So because the things I’m “supposed to” wear are unappealing and / or uncomfortable, I always assumed fashion in general was not for me, and I absolved myself of having any interest in it.

Of course, after a certain age, one’s wittiest t-shirt and “good” jeans no longer serve for all occasions.  I’ve been in pleasant denial about it until now, but apparently business casual waits for no man.  At the very least I want to learn the theory behind the so-called experts’ recommendations, so I can select nicer black shirts and khaki pants.  But can someone with no innate “sense” learn to understand fashion?

As always, I believe a question like that can only begin to be answered by mounting an expedition to the nonfiction section.  Here’s what I’ve found so far:

What I Wore: Four Seasons, One Closet, Endless Recipies for Personal Style by Jessica Quirk

Jessica Quirk’s book (named after her influential blog) is what she calls “a cookbook for your closet.”  She uses fashion sketches to suggest a core wardrobe for each season, and explores how individual pieces can work together to create a wide range of looks.  Her personal style is well-developed, but not too far out of most people’s workday comfort zones.

Style Clinic: How to Look Fabulous All the Time, At Any Age, for Any Occasion by Paula Reed.

In the introduction Reed declares that “fashion is a fleeting pleasure.  Style is like an enduring affair with someone who loves you back.”  This small volume is packed with photographs illustrating the finer points of those enduring classics, what is flattering to your unique shape and why, and dressing your age without “floating off into a fashion wilderness, never again to emerge from a shroud of tweeds and sensible shoes.”


Nothing to Wear?: a 5-Step Cure for the Common Closet and Work It!: Visual Therapy’s Guide to Your Ultimate Career Wardrobe by Jesse Garza and Joe Lupo

Nothing to Wear? and Work It! are the enthusiastically-punctuated work of Jesse Garza and Joe Lupo, the duo behind Visual Therapy.  (They also wrote Life in Color, which might still be on more shelves if the title had included an ampersand.  Who can say.)  Work It! demonstrates how small changes can have a dramatic impact on an “ordinary” style.  And I’d already heard the advice from countless books and TV shows, but Nothing to Wear‘s approach to “editing” a wardrobe finally motivated me to empty my closet and start over.

The process of filling in gaps is going to take time and effort, especially since I still refuse to wear that dress.  But after my exploratory mission to TT 507, I think I might be able to identify some alternatives… eventually.



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5 responses to “One leg at a time.

  1. Love it! I believe in comfort as well but work is, well, work and I, too, like to look professional. I recently pared down my wardrobe considerably to only things I love to wear (nothing that doesn’t flatter or feel comfortable) or I’d be willing to be photographed in (!). My key is one neutral color (mostly black or gray) and I only own black COMFORTABLE shoes. Everything goes with everything else and, with a lot less clothes, it’s much easier to get dressed in the morning.

  2. bibliotessaria

    festival of horrors… that’s the best way to describe pants shopping, ever.

  3. As someone who knows you AND shares your disinterest in fashion…good luck! No, really, good luck. I hope your treks to the store become more fulfilling than mine. I’d recommend going during a Steelers game, but unlike me, you’ll actually be watching it! Shopping for clothes is so far down on my list that I’d quite frankly, rather get a root canal. Really.

  4. What they all said, above!!! There is something to be said for the monochormatic wardrobe. Also, those witty t-shirts? Look just as good with the right dress pants (if you can find them) and a cardigan as they do with jeans / khakis.

    Also, I am going to read all these books now. Thank you for a great post, D.!



  5. Joelle

    It is funny that many librarian types really identify with your view of fashion. I always defined myself as “fashion unconscious.” High heels? Nails? Make-up? NEVER!


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