Back in 2013, I wrote a post about putting together a whole new wardrobe from scratch. We talked about how to stratify your closet, allowing you to dress well even when you have to muster all your courage to make the effort, along with some strategies for better days.
However, back then I was working, and the ideas I presented included the office. What are the equivalent ideas for the non-office world? For truly, madly, deeply casual lives? Weekends, stay-at-home moms, or Tomboy Retirement? The numbers and outfits are different, the stratification concept similar.
Stage 1: Survival
You can barely dress yourself, but, needs must. Kids have to get to school, there’s food to be purchased, you’re out of soap. Guiding principle?
Just don’t go naked. Seriously. There is no requirement in this world that you look pulled-together, you owe no one style. If you want to slam on clothes and bam on out the door, it’s your right. And here’s some impunity from the High WASP magic wand just in case. Ping!
Stage 2: Humming Along
OK. You’ve slept reasonably well. Armed with that list of errands, you’re in the groove. But you aren’t yet ready to sacrifice comfort for A Look. By the way, we’re wearing flats. I know you might find a little heel more comfortable, now, but I posit the theorem that time out of the office or social soirees is well-spent in returning our bodies to more natural states.
On days of The Bare Minimum, AKA 2-25mph, I stick to one of these 3 modern silhouettes.
- Body conscious top (not tight per se) with loose cuffed pants
- A neat shirt (think athletic fit) with flared bottoms
- Long over lean
I realize I’m ruling out the full Eileen Fisher of loose shirt and wide pants, but, while classic, I do not consider that look modern. Besides, if I am to avoid looking rumpled and messy in all that fabric, I must pay more attention than I’d like. These 3 silhouettes also rule out camp shirt and cargo capris; let me go on record as saying that I do not find that widely adopted look terribly flattering on anyone.
I have also found 3 color schemes very useful in looking pulled together with minimal effort and money:
- Your best color augmented by tried and true subtle complementary hues (blues with a burnt orange, greens with a tobacco brown, etc.)
- Neutrals with a little pattern or texture
- Monochromatic (shades of red, green, all black, etc.)
What you don’t want to do is hop into black pants thinking, “Doesn’t black go with everything?” and then add a top in whatever color is on top of the drawer. If you’re adding anything, even to black, you want to mean it. The same principle holds true for jeans or khakis. All the colors you wear matter, they can’t be wished away, your pants are not invisible.
It’s really easy to fix this, by the way. Just choose a color set. It can be very, very small.
You will find style at the very outskirts of elegance by representing your intentions, by embodying your aesthetic. People with intention are assumed to be taking care of themselves, and that’s the first principle of extreme casual style.
BTW, some might pull out a maxi dress in this situation. Tomboys don’t like flappy fabric, so I save dresses for, well, dress up. However, I support your choice and perhaps you might share some ideas with the gang here.
Stage 3. Rev The Motor, Almost Imperceptibly
You want to step it up, just a tad. Maybe it’s lunch with Dad, maybe a trip to the elegant mall, maybe the city streets call you to style up, baby, style up. But keep your flats.
The 3 basic silhouettes persist. However, in the Extreme Casual world, as you dress up you add interest at every level. Oh, and dress wearers, this is when we shift to, well, shifts, right? Along with,
- Comfortable but well-designed accessories
- More adventurous color mixing
- More embellishment to shape
- More visually layered fabrics
- A tad more texture and spark to those flats
Stage 4. Blowing Out All Cylinders
And blowing it out? Here we converge with the world at work. The world of dressing up is its own, a bubble, without reference to where we come from or where we go next. Wear a little black dress. Or a long silver one. Or try budget black tie. And yes, this is the moment for heels. The only constraints are time, money and imagination.
I suspect you all have the imagination, in spades. That’s what matters most. In the meantime, I’ve added to my >25mph sneaker collection, with the Vince sneakers above, in Mushroom. They run a size small. See you on the speedway.
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