If you read my thoughts on letting go of who we used to be, you’ll know that in my minimalist journey I’ve confronted feelings that have come up about the person I was but no longer am. While I feel I am now heading in the direction I really want to be going, it’s still difficult to say goodbye to previous versions of ourselves. It’s hard to realise that the person we worked so hard to be wasn’t the person we wanted to be after all.
I recently looked back on 2017 and feel that I have a fairly clear vision of where I want 2018 to take me. I’m putting the wheels in motion to change the course of my career, I know the areas I need to focus on emotionally to improve my self-perception, and I’m clear about my intention to continue exploring minimalism and sustainability. A lot of this is focussed on my life direction and values but, interestingly and unexpectedly, one thing that has come up since publishing that post was that I began wondering what kind of physical image I would like to project into the world in 2018 and beyond.
I mostly wear colourful A-line dresses to work, and while I love their flattering cut and the vibrant, cheerful look they create, I also feel to a degree that my current style may be projecting an image of myself to the world that I no longer align with. Let me explain. I’ve always had a bit of a complex surrounding youthfulness and (im)maturity. At school I always resented being told off by teachers and hated having to put my hand up and ask to go to the toilet (which I found somehow humiliating). As I grew up in a single-parent household with less financial resources than my peers, I took on responsibilities like cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping and budgeting long before anyone else I knew. I worked at the local bakery on the weekends and after school, using the money to buy clothes and to save up for my first car. I somehow felt I was an adult in a child’s body, and I resented everyone for treating me as if I had no knowledge of the world around me.
Fast forward to now and I’m still struggling with this issue. I still get mistaken for a high school student or as “work experience”. I loathe the phrase “Good girl!” but hear it much more often than I can tolerate. And I’ve been told in a number of different contexts, either directly or indirectly, that I’m young, foolish and don’t have any responsibilities like “real” adults do. As someone who is mature, independent and has been continuously employed since the age of 13, this is not cool. Do I look young? Do I sound young? Do I act young? I keep asking myself these questions and can never really come up with a definitive answer to any of them.
Alright, I’ll come back from my (rather long) tangent now and back to the topic at hand: my recent secondhand closet revamp. Back to my flowery and feminine dresses. While I love wearing dresses, I feel that going forward I would like to steer away from being “cute” or “adorable” – especially at work – because I just don’t feel that describes who I want to be. I have mixed emotions about this. One the one hand, I like to think I’m not easily swayed by others’ perceptions of me, but isn’t that exactly what this is? On the other, though, I feel genuinely excited about refreshing my look and I know that if it wasn’t right, I would have an instinctively bad feeling about doing a closet makeover – which I don’t. So I feel positive about moving forward with a bit of a twist on my wardrobe, keeping some of my favourite dresses while incorporating some pants and more sleek, modern-looking pieces with fresh but not overly “girly” colours.
This desire for change, combined with my Nothing New Project (ie. buying nothing new from February 2017 to February 2018), meant that I hit my local op shops this week to do some bargain hunting. In keeping with my policy of maintaining a minimal wardrobe, I also decided to donate an equivalent number of items to charity from my existing collection of clothing. This was difficult because, again, letting go can be hard, but I feel refreshed now that I have followed through with the process and know that I won’t miss those items.
I came home with five tops, three pairs of pants, one pair of shoes, one pair of earrings and one brooch. Whilst shopping, I was mindful to make sure all the colours and cuts of the tops matched all the pants for optimum interchangeability. When I got home and tried on all the 15 different tops/pants combinations, I was pleased to discover that everything did indeed work well together.
So let’s have a look at my closet revamp!
First, the tops. From the left:
- Cream-coloured lace cropped shirt (to be worn over a plain singlet I already own) $2.50
- White patterned sleeveless top with overlap below the waistline $7.00
- Light chambray trumpet sleeve top $4.00
- Blue and white striped button-down cotton shirt $2.50
- White with navy spots button-down cotton shirt $4.00
- Blue cropped chino pants $8.00
- Red cropped pants $5.00
- Beige high-waisted and flared wool pants $2.00
Shoes and accessories:
- Brown T-bar loafers $5.00
- Rose gold look round earrings $2.00
- Pearl brooch $5.00
The total cost for all these items came in at a mere $47. I’m so impressed with this, considering I got three weeks’ worth of new head-to-toe work outfits for under $50. I don’t think I could do much better than that! Secondhand shopping is well and truly a win-win when it comes to both sustainability and personal finances.
What are your thoughts on the connection between style/appearance and the ways others perceive us? I would really love to hear of any thoughts you have to share on this topic or challenges you have faced.