Thursday, November 12, 2009

Look Cute Every Day: A Wardrobe Philosophy

There is an interesting thread on Pattern Review about how to edit your closet, and it got me thinking as to what my criteria are. Not that I am not, *ahem*, overdue for a major closet weeding. I pull random things on a regular basis and put them in the giveaway pile, but I haven't done a systematic cull in a while.

A couple of years ago I made the decision to Look Cute Every Day. I don't mean this in a "be decorative" or "attract men" or "be presentable because if you don't make yourself pretty you are a blight upon humankind" kind of way (please see this fabulous post by Erin at Dress a Day for a more coherent explanation of what I mean)--it has entirely to do with how *I* feel, and I am happier when I Look Cute.

Elephant enclosureI'm not 100% there, but I am much closer than when I started (now I feel cute probably 90-95% of the time, versus about 70% before). My solution--and this isn't for everyone--was to ditch "practical" clothes that were totally functional but I felt blah in--plain t-shirt tops, plain work pants, plain anything. I would rather wear a dress than pants any day...and now I do. I'm not talking about a straw man of frumpiness here--I mean even in well-fitting trousers and a good quality solid colored top I just don't feel Cute, so I don't wear them. Your mileage will vary.

Cleaning out my closet involves answering a single question: "Do I Look Cute (i.e., feel cute) in this?" Not, "Is this useful? Is this a staple I 'should' have? Is this in good shape? Does this fit well?" All of those questions get you part of the way there...but they don't guarantee you love the piece in question and that you Look Cute when you put on. It's silly to keep clothes out of an obligation--they don't have feelings and there is no Tally Sheet in the Sky that puts a black mark next to your name for getting rid of serviceable clothes you don't like--but I used to do it all the time. I'd keep a perfectly good item of clothing that I didn't like wearing just because it was perfectly good. Perfectly good is not good enough!

Trena and FoxI am not a mom, and I know that changes things (a lot), but when I hang out with my many nephews and niece I still look cute--adorable polyester knit dresses wash up just as well as boring polyester pants. When I met my twin nephews for the first time Fox spit up directly into my cleavage and then overflowed his diaper into my lap. I also crawled through a foul, disgusting playland with the older kids. The next day I played baseball with my other nephews in another cute dress. As long as you're not afraid to get cute clothes dirty, you can wear them every day. Cute Clothes are generally not more expensive (or more difficult to make) than "serviceable" clothes. It seems more of a tragedy if they get ruined, but it's actually not. Don't fall into the trap of Too Good To Use (which is a whole other rant).

Another aspect was finding a way to describe my style, which is "Retro Fantasy." When I'm contemplating what to sew, I can ask myself "is it retro? is it fantasy?" If neither question can be answered with a yes, I probably won't love it so I look for a project I will love.

There are issues.

Because cute clothes are more often distinctive I have a *lot* of them so I don't feel like I'm wearing the same things over and over. Acquisitiveness is not a virtue, even when you acquire all those clothes by sewing. Minimalist and low impact I ain't, and this disturbs me sometimes with all the environmental and consumerist implications.

Mysterious Alley, V1086There is also a concern about shallowness, and focusing too much on looks. This is a personal balance issue. You have to get dressed every morning, and you might as well Look Cute. Once I get dressed I don't think about it much for the rest of the day, although I might occasionally look down at what I'm wearing for a little burst of "I look cute!" confidence. The rest of the day my focus is on my career, my friends, working out, reading good books, etc.

You also can't Look Cute if you hate yourself (because Cute isn't objective--it's a subjective assessment of yourself by yourself). I wish I had some advice to offer here but I don't. The best I can say is that when I am depressed (the chemical kind, not the situational kind) I hate myself and nothing will make me feel Cute. I've tried medication but unfortunately didn't find one that worked, but exercise has been proven to be as effective as a mild anti-depressant so I exercise.

And adequate omega-3 fatty acid intake has also recently been shown to treat depression. I am allergic to walnuts and don't eat fish because I'm a vegetarian, and these are the major sources, so until recently I have NEVER had adequate omega-3 intake over the course of my entire lifetime. After reading Dr. Walter Willet's Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy I started taking flaxseed oil capsules (fish oil would probably be better, but there's the vegetarian thing for me) and sprinkling ground flaxseed on my morning oatmeal (also a good source of fiber!) a few years ago and it has made a huge difference in my mood. There have been confounding factors in that my life in general has improved, but I do think that giving my brain an essential nutrient of which it had long been deprived has made a difference (and a neighbor has had the same experience). I am not a pills and potions kind of person, but clinical research and my personal experience say that this is a pill that is worth it. Even better if you can eat the foods from which you can get it straight from the source.

1-16-09When I address my depression and don't hate myself it's a lot easier to feel Cute.

And of course we all have our body issues (everyone is well aware of my obsession with my belly). But I have seen evidence that any size, shape, and age can Be Cute.

But there is a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing here. You don't have to wait until you love every aspect of yourself to Look Cute Every Day. You can look cute without *feeling* cute...but eventually the feeling cute part will tag along.

Look Cute Every Day might not work for everyone, but for me it is a useful wardrobe philosophy, and contributes a great deal to my happiness.

57 comments:

Sewfast said...

Great post Trena! I do think you look "cute every day"...at least cute in every picture I've seen of you. As I have evolved, I am working towards that end as well...maybe cute is not the word I use (How "cute" can a 50 year old woman be?), but I try to only keep and wear things that make me feel my best. Thanks for the reminder!

Karin said...

Nice post. And I absolutely agree with you. I also like to 'look cute' and to 'feel pretty and feminine'. Just because it makes me feel good. Because I think it's fun.

And good point you had when you said that when you are not afraid to get dirty, there is no reason to not dress cute whenever you want. I posted on my blog a little while ago that I was surprised to see so many women say, about patterns for pretty dresses for example, that they don't make/buy those pretty dresses because they never have an occasion to wear it. I'd say: Create that occasion! I love to wear pretty dresses all the time, even when I'm just at home cleaning. Just because I like to. And that's all the reason I need.

Brooke said...

I love this philosophy. I am in the (bad!!) habit of punishing myself with not-cute clothes because I am not happy with my weight. This carrot/stick method (promising myself cuteness if I lose XXX lbs) has not worked, EVER, so I think I will try to incorporate more of your example in the future. Baby steps.

ELMO said...

You are too funny!! It's certainly worth undertaking, however I will need a new haircut. I love your fashions, you are dressing to your philosophy!!

Anne LO said...

Great post!

Little Hunting Creek said...

Excellent advice! I am cleaning out my closet right now, and getting rid of all the practical clothes that don't make me happy. Life is too short to be practical. Now you've given me an excellent excuse for giving away bnoring clothes.

AnaJan said...

Great post, Trena!

I've been practicing a similar therapy myself. My moto has always been - When I look good, I feel good (or at least - I feel better). And it works for me! Hence, I perfectly understand what you're talking about.
I have to admit that I was never worried too much about the amount of wardrobe in my closet, as long as it made me happy. I stopped wearing "perfectly good" but boring clothes ages ago. There's no reason for not feeling pretty every day. Furthermore - when I'm down, I heal myself with fancy, elegant appearance - as I said, looking good makes me feel better.

Ana

Linda said...

Well if your pictures are any indication - you have achieved supreme cuteness. I totally agree with your philosophy. I always feel better when I am wearing something I love.

tcarole said...

Thanks for this post. I appreciate the honesty and thought that went into it. It gives me a lot to think about since I have been dealing with some depression lately as well. I work from home so my motivation to Look Cute is less than my motivation to be comfortable. Aside from the gym in the morning, I don't see people all day, usually. However, not dressing for the outside precludes my ability to be spontaneous. I will try the Look Cute plan and hope it will improve my mood.

anotheryarn said...

Here Here to Be Cute. I heartily agree with your philosophy, but feel I'm only about half-way there.

Elizabeth said...

Very well said! I lived in France for two years, where it is kind of unacceptable to leave the house in a track suit or work out clothing, something done in the country quite often. You would see, for the most part, everyone putting their best face forward for the day. While the French where more conservative colors, they do jazz things up with a bright scarf. I really believe after living there, you must try everyday to put your best face forward! Your post says it all.
I really enjoy your posts over at Pattern Review, and like I said previously, so happy you have a blog!

Rachel said...

"You have to get dressed every morning, and you might as well Look Cute" AMEN!!! You always look so cute!!! I really enjoyed this post so much. I decided several years ago that I was going to look like a million dollars every work day--on the weekends, not so much. I also suffer from chemical depression and take an antidepressant that really helps me. I am happy you found something that works for you. I am going to check into those fish oil tablets. I also obsess over my belly. Most women worry if their butt is too big, but I have never worried about that. It is always my belly which is the first place my weight goes when I gain. My problem is that my fashion style is schizophrenic. One day I am into the preppy JCrew look and then I am into the girly anthropologie look. I need to settle on something because my closet is overflowing.

Lisa said...

How true I agree with everything in your post . I am on a mission to get more cute clothes that fit well in my closet . I hope to have as many great clothes as you one day .

Adelaide B said...

Amen!

Pamela said...

I really respect your openess - it demonstrates strength of character. You articulated superbly what had been a series of random musings for me. Think I'm going to develop a personalized action plan.

BTW, Dublin was great, I checked out the fabrics shops recommended by Fehr Trade then found one more, which turned out to be my favorite. Let me know if you want the addresses, etc.

Best regards, Pamela

KID, MD said...

Amen!! I am a Stay at home Mom, and for a long time I let that be my excuse to not look Cute. I'm working on that, and your post is totally inspirational. I'm heading to my closet now for some serious clean out!!

Lindsay T said...

Interesting post! My style mantra changes with the decades. Right now it's "Let's Look Like I Still Give a Damn About How I Look."

Carolyn (cmarie12) said...

I wish this was advise that more women would take to heart! Me, I'm a happy fat girl trying to look fabulous every day even in the midst of corporate America.

Great post!

Barbara said...

Yes! I used to not have a single pair of trousers in my closet, and I'm on the way again! You are such an inspiration. I guess it's true that when you don't think about what you wear, especially when you work from home or have kids, you are a step away from wearing a bathrobe the whole day long. So, let's look Cute, feel good and be happy - always!

Nancy K said...

Great post Treina!

Gigi said...

I see nothing shallow in wanting to look Cute Every Day. Sometimes when we don't feel so great, looking great can be a real pick-me-up. And when we feel good about ourselves we relate much more positively to the people we come into contact with. I won't even wear things around the house that I don't feel good in.

Venus de Hilo said...

Wonderful post! It's early morning here in Hawaii, and since I work at home I don't need to dress up, but I'm Looking Cute in a silly maxi dress I sewed up from a butterfly-print fabric that must have been designed with 9-year-old girls in mind (I'm 51; it's a little ridiculous on me and I love it). I love having a range of things in the closet to select from when I'm pondering "what do I feel like wearing today?" Wearing something I've made from a fabric I love does improve my mood, which needed a boost this morning (ailing family member back east = sad and worried this week).

I wear skirts and dresses every day, but am going to tackle sewing pants for upcoming mainland travel (winter, brrr! tropical cotton skirts won't cut it!). For a moment there you had me concerned that the dark olive and black twills en route from fabric.com were horrible, practical, boring, wrong choices... then I remembered the whole point to the basic/boring fabric was that on my bottom half they would fit (unlike RTW) and show off the Looking Cute print tops also on the "next projects" list. Phew! Crisis over, back to the muslins...

June said...

This is a great post and I agree with everything you've said.

Uta said...

What a great post! You know yourself very well, and may I say, succeed superbly at being Cute!

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's shallow at all. By looking cute you will be making other people's days as well. I like to look nice each day because I think it's such a waste not too. I mean, there are things I don't like about my figure; but it's the one I was given and I'm pretty grateful for it. I like being able to walk down the street feeling happy, smile to a stranger and make them smile too. Doesn't always work in London, but it's a great feeling when it does.

Enjoy being cute.

Shannon said...

Excellent post! I have always believed that if you don't think you're cute, why on earth would any one else? Self-appreciation is not a bad word!

Vicki said...

Great post. And I feel better now.....I was aware that I kept saying how cute you looked in my comments but always had in the back of my mind.."what if she isn't trying to look cute". Well now I know you ARE going for that look, and it suits you so well. I do try and look good everyday - it really does improve your mood when you go to the trouble and then everyone benefits, don't they? As to the depression thing I will follow your lead and make sure of those things in my diet. Lucky I am not a vegetarian..lol. And get back to exercising :)

Melinda said...

What a fantastic post! I agree with you totally. I am a Mum of 2 small kids and I don't feel cute a lot of the time. This is directly linked to my clothes and that I don't feel cute in them. Here in New Zealand we have the Mum 'uniform' of jeans, t-shirt, zip up top. Your post has made me realise that I don't have to wear that uniform and I intend to be the best dressed Mum at the playground from now on.

I also agree about the exercise/depression thing. If I go for 2 weeks without running I feel like crap and have a really messy house because I don't have the energy or motivation to tidy it. I'm a lot nicer person when I exercise.

I totally dig your look - you wear 'cute' very well :-)

Melinda

Sz said...

Trena - Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Your post came at a time when I feel most Un-Cute, and my sewing mojo has departed.

If I may borrow a page from your playlist, I shall try to at least Look Cute, and see if the feelings, and mojo return.

Gail said...

I got a lot out of this post. It is too easy for women to fall into a pattern of passionate self-loathing. I'm guilty of it. Fish oil caps help me, but probably would suit a vegetarian.

Meghan said...

Thanks so much for this post--it resonates with me on a number of levels!

Anonymous said...

Best thing you've ever written, and you've written lots of great stuff :) I plan to print it out and post it in my closet!

beangirl said...

"As long as you're not afraid to get cute clothes dirty, you can wear them every day."

This is my new mantra. Thanks!

Jacqui said...

Thank you for this post!

AllisonC said...

Great post, and lets face it as we all love sewing, what better excuse than to have a big closet of clothes that make you feel cute.

Mpressive Threadz said...

Fantastic post! It's the best way to evaluate your closet. Your clothes should make you smile and feel good!

gwensews said...

When I was a young woman (the sixties), I Looked Cute every day. At that time, pants were not worn in the office. I wore a dress every day, matching heels, matching bag. I think our attire has become wayyyyy too casual. Now I'm 61, and although I don't Look Cute when I'm working in the house, I do still Look Cute when I leave it. Make up, good hair, manicured nails and nice clothes.

marysews said...

Great post! I have a similar philosophy, and that is to wear "happy colors."

Dawn said...

Thank you for this. It's a great mantra.

ClaireOKC said...

Being a fellow red-head, I appreciate your colors cause I wear a lot of them too - they are happy colors...maybe this is a red-head phenomenon!

Trudy Callan said...

Trena, this post is my absolute favorite post that you've ever done. What an amazing concept. I am going to have to do a major closet clean out. I have far too many practical and frumpy "mom" clothes. I think the main thing that attracted me to your blog is just how darn cute you are. I look at what you've made and dream about how cute I would look if I wore something similar. And thank you for the Omega 3 fatty acids advice. That's a good thing for all of us to add in our diets.

Thank you again from the bottom of my heart for this post! You have an awesome blog, and you are the princess of cuteness.

Jay said...

Trena, really great post.

Reethi said...

This is a great post, and a great philosophy, but as someone who lives in Toronto, I have a boring but practical question - what do you wear in winter?

Because I hate winter clothes, and I'm looking for tips.

Heather said...

I have been reading your blog for awhile but don't think I've ever commented. I like all your posts but I really liked this one. You have a wonderful philosophy and really made me think. What you are describing seems more like a healthy self esteem not shallowness. I have a distance to go in this area myself even though I'm a lot older than you, and I still am not sure how to describe my style. But I have been trying to only wear things I love. I just don't have it all figured out yet. Like I said you have made me think. Yes it was a great post.

a little sewing on the side said...

You have a wonderful philosphy! I have been working on my style over the last few months and it does make me feel better to dress true to myself. As a fellow depression-warrior, I share your positive experience with vigorous exercise, nutritious foods, flax seed and fish oils. And creativity- expressing my creativity chases off depression. I daresay your creativity serves you well, too.

This girl said...

I think this makes everyone love you 10X more from the above comments! This is actually my first visit to your blog, and now I want to do it to!

Clio said...

Bravo! What a great post!

When you love everything in your wardrobe, it is easy to feel great every day.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for a while but haven't commented before. I *LOVE* your style and think you look great. Thank you for your honest post which really makes sense!!!

amber said...

Such a great post! I totally agree with you and have made more of an effort to extend the Look Cute philosophy to my weekend wear as well. :) My mom, who is in her 60s, has a lot of friends who have just given up on their look, something she just can't wrap her head around. I'm happy to see that she still puts a lot of effort into what she wears and I think it really does keep her general outlook on life sunny.

Edris said...

Trena,
I love this post! This is so timely because I am currently on the "Get Cute Mission". I have been in my sewing room matching patterns with fabrics for my "Cute Debut" in 2010 - meaning I plan to be cute on the daily next year. I am a wife and mom of 2 and I take good care of everyone. I don't do as much for myself as I should. I use excuses as to why I can't dress better but no more. I am tired of looking sad and sloppy. I can't wait - I am so excited!
Thanks for your honesty - you have touched people with this post.

HeathersSphere said...

Trena, this is such a cool post! I enjoyed reading about your invigorating philosophy. I see "Looking cute" is not just a philosophy, but embracing a very fun and positive attitude that comes from the inside and manifests on the outside, which is what people see immediately, especially in a very visual world. So "shallow" is out of the question. There is nothing wrong about "looking cute". It's also a matter of spreading sunshine wherever you go. That's the vibe I get from you and that's a breathtaking contrast to the "haters" that are just abundant nowadays....I adore your fashion sense and the outfits you post in your blog and especially in PR. The "fun" and the "cuteness" are admirable qualities in you. You are inspiration. I feel like wearing something funky tomorrow (my Beatlemania scoop neck blouse) and just celebrating life and being happy.... Don't change, lady! You rock!

Marie-Christine said...

Cute may not be exactly what everyone wants. But absolutely, you should aim for nothing less than looking great/glamorous/fab every day of the year. Then if you miss sometimes it's not a big deal and you don't end up feeling so bad about it. It's a bit like bargaining: if you don't aim high, you'll never make even the low goal.

Frankly, what makes the most difference to me is being able to wear something I made every day. Even if it's not absolutely smashing, at least I always love the color, and feel like I did my best at the time. It's worth a lot.

Karyn said...

I'm a little late to the party but I just wanted to thank you for your inspirational post. I completely agree with your "Look Cute Everyday!" philosphy and am working on that myself! (My outfit yesterday was so cute I couldn't stand myself!) But I also wanted to thank you for the tip on the Flaxseed Oil caps. After reading your post I did a little research and found that Flaxseed oil taken daily also helps with chronic headaches/migraines, which I have. I immediately went out and bought a bottle! Thanks again!

angie.a said...

Trena, this is an awesome post, and I"m WAY late to the ballgame in replying (I blame the Hinny flu, which has basically knocked me out for a month!) I love this philosophy and last fall I adopted a similar one. Then I got busy and forgot about doing it every day. You've inspired me to start again!

Thanks also for the book link and the flaxseed/fish oil capsule info. I'll be looking into that.

ps...girl, you're my tights inspiration! When I pull out my color tights I always think...what shoes would Trena wear? LOL.

Lina said...

Hello! Just delurking to say your blog is a fabulous read and this post is just inspirational. I'm attempting to start dress making (I'm a half decent quilting/crafty kind of sewist). The pledge to make yourself cute everyday is something that I have come to realize is important to me too!

Arya said...

I just followed the link from your "...Gym Pants" post (11/9/10) and I'm so glad that I did! I completely agree with - and share - your philosophy. Thank you for writing this and inspiring so many people.

In addition to the Omegas, I have to put a plug in for Vitamin D. Here in Seattle, we sort of expect to be deficient, but when I take my supplements, many things (including my moody blues) improve.

Miss Cleary aka Joie Chaos said...

I like Arya followed your link from your other post. I am finally going through my "I'm not 20 anymore, I am a mom now phase" and it was amazing to stumble across this. I have noticed lately that when I through a cute little outfit together I feel great all day and don't really think about it too much either. Love your blog. :)