Is your style still working for you? Are you sure?

A friend recently complimented my style. It was nice to hear, because I really admire her sense of style as well.  The compliment also meant a lot because after declaring myself a shlumpadinka in 2008, I was nice to see how far I had come.

One reason I was the perfect schlumpadinka storm was because my style in my 20’s had been effortless. I could roll out of bed in college, throw on a white t-shirt, jeans and a ponytail and look pretty good.

Over time, I kept up the habit even though it was not having the same effect. A twenty year old can look slightly sloppy and still be cute, a thirty-something looks washed out and disheveled. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not lamenting my age. I love my 30’s way more than my 20’s, I just had to get real with the sloppy, tired mom staring back at me in the mirror.

This is the first of a two part series on style. After the jump, I’ll talk about how I figured out what wasn’t working with my wardrobe and the few small steps that made a huge difference. Part two will focus on how I went from lost to found. That is, how I found my true style to the point where my look is pretty effortless again, but now I look a WHOLE lot better all of the time.

Are you a schlumpadinka?

Oprah uses shlumpadinka to describe a woman who dresses like she has completely given up…and it shows. She uses it to refer to the women you see at the grocery store, shopping in their flannel pajama pants. The schlumpadinka phase typically sets in with the birth of your children. For me, I was annoyed by my ever changing body and didn’t have time to take care of myself. I wasn’t committed to the size I was at, but also not committed to trying to get my old body back. The exhaustion killed any hint of a sex drive I may have had, which just left me looking and feeling completely asexual. My uniform was sloppy ponytail, white t-shirt and jeans. (Man I LURVED my white t-shirts, more about that later.)

Start with a hard look at your wardrobe

My reality check started innocently enough. I set the computer screen saver to just randomly pull up pictures from the last ten years of our lives. Many of the pics are from special occasions, so I put thought into the outfits I’m wearing for most of the pictures. And I am a clothes girl, I can remember my outfit from pretty much every major (and most minor) events in my life. But in viewing all the pictures, I didn’t look as cute as I felt. And as time went on and I saw the pics over and over, I started to see where things weren’t working. So that’s where I started.

This outfit is a great example. I LOVED this dress. The color! The lovely hem-line! What whimsy! But the cut of this dress never fit me quite right. And as you can see, it’s clinging in an unflattering way. The cardigan is dragging the whole outfit down and those shoes were thrown on because I had nothing better, and it shows.

Patching your personal suck

Usually when something is not working, it’s because of a few big things, not a bunch of little things. When patching your personal suck, you are looking at where you are going wrong and how to fix it. The ability to step back and assess  your weaknesses and making the proper adjustments is life-changing. Making some small, simple adjustments has saved me countless hours and tons of stress and anxiety.

For example, I used to be terrible about overpacking for trips. I would take cute stuff for nice dinners and fun outings and then throw in all my favorite  comfty clothes because I loved them so. Fast forward to the trip, the cute stuff stayed in the suitcase because I am always going to pick comfy and casual over taking the extra time to look nice. The solution? I patched my personal suck. The comfy casual stuff stays home so I can only wear the cute stuff. Now I look twice as good and don’t schlep all the things when I travel,  a simple solution to a deep-seated problem. Or as Merlin Mann puts it “Find the fastest, easiest, most elegant solution that could possibly work.”

No more white t shirts

There were a couple of glaring issues. I did not need to see one more picture of me smiling happily while looking totally washed out in a white top. The love of the white t shirt runs deep for me. As a girl from a hot climate, white t-shirts feel cool and crisp. And Gap and Old Navy has supplied and endless parade of white t-shirts, all slightly different while always being pretty much the same. If you aren’t a white t shirt person, I’ll bet you know one. Jennifer Aniston is a white t shirt girl, so are all my cousins:

Me and my cousins rockin the uniform

Getting rid of the white t’s has completely changed my wardrobe. I still love my t’s, but now I wear ones that match my style and interests. My shirts now give people a much better sense of who I am, they reflect my love of music, art and beauty. There is not one single white shirt left in my closet and all I can say is, I really don’t miss them.

And slow my roll with the cardigans

Man, I have always loved my cardigans. Partly because I am always cold and partly because I’ve long considered them a classic. But I really started abusing them and they took on a new level of cheesy when I started teaching. I just looked so vanilla and boring, they had to go.

I began by acknowledging that no-one needs that many cardis and I found new homes for the most boring ones. I still rock sweaters over stuff  but it has to be done  in a new or interesting way. I have also invested in light jackets and other ways to keep warm when I’m dressed up, so I don’t grab an overly casual cardi as I’m running out the door.  And I haven’t put a total ban on cardis. Every time I see Michelle Obama wearing one (belted no less!),  I want to rock that look, too. So my policy on cardi’s is judicious use. And that boring, plain white cardi is living on a farm with a family far, far away.

Ban on Old Navy and Gap

I shopped at these stores too long and I knew it. Back then, I could look down and realize I had on head-to-toe Old Navy. Fine if you are 12, but  what 30 year old wants to realize that? I’ve long been annoyed by the poor quality, but both stores are really good about letting you return stuff that doesn’t hold up, so I overlooked that for a long time. I continued to shop there because their clothes are cut for my body type. I could always find jeans that fit me well and I like their denim skirts.

But Gap’s prices were always high in relation to the quality and their pieces got trendier and more expensive over the years. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at a price tag and yelled in my head, “Don’t you know you are the GAP?!” And Old Navy’s prices stayed low, but somehow their low quality got  worse. It is unacceptable for a garmet to not last more than 2 washings before you find holes. It began to feel irresponsible to shop there.  Clothes are not tissues, meant to be worn once and thrown carelessly into a landfill. It was time to end the bad romance and I knew it.

The heart wants what it wants

I think we all have certain styles we gravitate  to. How many times have you found yourself at a store looking at something for a few moments only to realize you have virtually the same item at home? In addition to the white t-shirts and cardis, I found myself naturally attracted to jean skirts, polka dots, pencil skirts and hoodies. One day years ago, I came home from shopping and the Mr said, “I’ll bet there’s a jean skirt in there.” He was right, there was. I was surprised I was so predictable, I felt edgy in my head.

It’s okay to like what you like, but be honest when you need to slow your roll.  At one point in my closet, I had a polka dot skirt, dress, suit and a sheer shirt. No one needs that many polka dots,  I put myself on time out. Yet after  two years of no polka dots, I still find myself drawn to them anytime I see them in a store. It’s not a problem to like something, it’s a problem to keep buying the same stuff over and over again.

Check back for part two which will focus on defining your style.

Related posts by Bonita Applebum

Return it!

A little bit, every day

The journey of the cosmic colonic begins

Clearing space


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Amanda McClung Hand
    Sep 24, 2011 @ 07:21:19

    Getting my hair cut was the best thing I could have done for my looks in so many ways. Now I can look more put together in a jeans and t shirts (my faves are dark with some reference to local music). It has also forced me to assess clothes that don’t fit right or that don’t really help me feel like me, if you KWIM.

    I lurve your style posts! More please!


  2. The Mayoress
    Sep 25, 2011 @ 09:22:22

    Ha ha, I also can remember what I was wearing at any given event in my life. It’s uncanny.


    • Bonita Applebum
      Sep 25, 2011 @ 13:17:15

      Right? I can track the phases of my life by what piece of clothing I’m wearing in a picture. xo


  3. Ophelia
    Sep 26, 2011 @ 22:34:35

    Would you mind sharing some examples of what does work for you? Or will that be a part of Part II? Also, I’m curious where you shop now. I avoid the Gap because I find their clothes embarrassingly cheap (both price-and-fabric-wise), but miss sometimes the ease with which their off-the-rack talls would fit. If you have tips on high-quality, well-cut items, I’d love to hear.


    • Bonita Applebum
      Sep 26, 2011 @ 22:43:23

      I will talk about what works for me in part two, which I plan to publish on Friday. But my favorite stores to shop at now are Buffalo Exchange, Crossroads, Goodwill and other such used stores. I get tons of high-end stuff there, because people shop so much nowadays, that they barely wear what they have. Used stores are a great place to get status denim as well. I get $150 jeans for $30. And the selection of everything is much wider because they only have one of everything. When buying new, I go to the Nordstrom Rack or Macy’s. The good thing about Macy’s is EVERYTHING goes on sale eventually, and I’m a patient shopper. I used to be a Ross/Marshall’s girl, but I actually like the selection better at the used stores. Thanks for the comment! Hope this helps! xo


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