Fail-safe looks for easy decision making
We’ve all had moments (days, weeks…) when it feels like we have absolutely nothing to wear, no matter how full our wardrobes are. I used to have this feeling all the time. These days, I rarely get that creeping sense of doubt that builds to being properly overwhelmed. Guess what? Nothing about my wardrobe has changed. Sure, I’ve bought a few more pieces, and said goodbye to others, but the basic material I have to build outfits from is much the same as it has always been. So if my closet hasn’t changed, then what has?
The difference for me was when I realised that this feeling had nothing to do with my clothes, but was in fact a symptom of anxiety and stress. I’ve come to recognise that the feeling arises when I’m lacking confidence, doubting myself in general, and having an anxious time. It’d be the same whatever was in my wardrobe.
This realisation has been key to how I view my wardrobe, and how I tackle this feeling when I do get it. Increasingly I take the approach that there are just always going to be some days when I feel rubbish, and it’s better to just accept this than rush to try to ‘cure’ these feelings in the moment. Sometimes we just have bad mental health days, we’re low on spoons, and there’s not much we can do about it. It’s not a sign that there’s something massively wrong with our lives, or our wardrobes, it’s just part of life as a human being inhabiting a body, progressing through time.
This new approach has really helped to lift me out of these moments. Despite having an objectively really tough year in 2021, I felt overwhelmed far less often, and felt much better able to handle the times when anxiety reads its head.
So how does this translate into my wardrobe? They may occur less often, but those moments do still happen, so how do my clothes help me deal with them? My main technique is to have a catalogue of outfits ready and waiting. Outfits I’ve put together on days when I’m feeling good, and that I know I feel confident in. They don’t have to be particularly exciting or cool, they’re just outfits that I feel uncomplicatedly positive about. It is vital that they feel physically comfortable. I don’t know about you, but my tolerance for physical discomfort is really low when I’m anxious, and I get very sensitive to how things feels on my body. So it’s comfy, easy outfits all the way. I really recommend taking a look at your own wardrobe and putting together some of these staple, go-to outfits. You could even take photos of the outfits, so that when brain-fog takes over you still have something to guide you.
The next step is to force yourself to just put one of these looks on when the times comes. That’s where the acceptance comes in – you’ve just got to realise you may not feel like wearing any of them, or anything in your wardrobe at all, but you just have to back yourself to have put the work in – past you has made the effort for present you. Even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment, you know that you do like these outfits, and if you just accept that ultimately what you wear isn’t going to transform the way you feel, you’ve set yourself up as best as you can. Later in the day, when things start to feel different, you’ll remember why you liked the outfit in the first place.
To get you started thinking about what your standby outfits are, here are seven that I’ve pulled together from my own wardrobe. It’s rare that I’ll feel crappy for more than a day or two, but it’s still good to have some choice depending on the season, whether you’re working from home or heading to the office, and so on. I think one of the things I like about these outfits is that I’ve got quite a few different silhouettes to fall back on, so there’s a bit of variety without really having to put much thought into it. I’d really like to hear what pieces you fall back on, so please do share them in the comments.
1. Breton stripes and blue jeans
Starting off with a really simple look. This is kind of my ‘Where’s Wally/Waldo’ look (especially when I wear my glasses!), but I can’t say I mind that. Wide-legged and high-waisted jeans prioritise comfort (these are my Levi High Loose Taper jeans), and a soft cotton Breton top finishes the look. I have this same style Breton from Boden in quite a few different colours, but this navy on white one is particularly easy to style. In the summer, I would swap the long-sleeved top for a sleeveless version, (mine is from CottonOn), for a style I’ve embraced as a way to get me through the Australian summer. In the colder months, I’d pop a black jumper/sweater over the top, or my chunky green number. Finish off with sneakers for a casual look, or as pictured with boots for a slightly more sophisticated but still comfy look. All things that are easy to throw on without a moment’s though, and feel cosy and comfortable.
2. Midi-dress with thick tights and a jumper
I’ve written before about how I think we should reclaim dresses as a comfy clothing choice. This outfit is probably my ultimate version of that. It’s long but not heavy, is an effortless fit, and pairs well with a black jumper or cardigan. Add a pair of thick M&S seamless tights, and some easy sneakers, and you have an outfit that looks pretty put together, but feels like pyjamas.
3. All black with jeans
It’s often said that wearing all black is the easiest way to look chic, and while I won’t say ‘chic’ is necessarily the vibe of this outfit, all black does lend a sort of subtle sophistication. These wide-leg jeans are quite new, but they’ve quickly become a firm favourite. Their high-waist sits in just the right place to give that sort of hugging feeling, and the length is perfect. When you’re sticking with one colour, it’s nice to play with textures, so I’ve gone with this silky-feel shirt with wide lapels, and would add either one of my two black knitted jumpers for colder days. One is a soft, fine knit, while the other is more open, but much thicker. So I can switch it up depending n the weather. The thicker also gives it a more masculine fee, which I often like to lean into. Pop my sneakers on and it’s ready to go casual, or as here if I’m feeling a bit more polished, I’ll go for heels.
4. Green leather-look skirt with black top and tights
This is a little bit more on the fancy end of comfort clothing, but it’s in essence a really simple outfit that’s easy to pull off. Those amazing seamless tights with the green skirt feel warm and cosy, and the long-sleeved black top and cardigan seems to tap into that teenage need (which I haven’t really grown out of!) to pull your sleeves right down over your hands. With my black loafers it has a slightly 60s feel, but with a dash of 80s power dressing. It certainly makes me feel ready to face the day.
5. Blue jeans and a printed shirt
This is one of my absolute favourite shirts. It’s from Princess Highway, and it’s just so lively and cheerful. It’s a really easy fit, and has little capped sleeves, which give it a nice feminine touch in spite of the otherwise quite boxy fit. It’s not really long enough to tuck-in, which is my usual go-to style for shirts. But I actually really like the way it sits untucked. It’s in a really soft, silky material, and goes well with some basic blue denim. Which shape of jean I choose depends on the day – sometimes I’ll go with super skinnies (as pictured), but it works equally well with those loose taper Levis. If I’m at work I’ll often put my black blazer on with this, and in terms of shoes it’s either sneaker or my soft brown brogues (really my two most worn pairs of shoes!). All in all it’s just a really simple outfit that always puts me in a good mood.
6. Floral midi-skirt
This is another quite new addition to my wardrobe, my second calf-length floral/printed skirt. It’s from French Connection, a brand I never used to enjoy, but there have been some great pieces there recently that have really caught my eye. This skirt particularly has really won me over – it’s a really slouchy fit without looking too sack-like, and fits with lots of different tops. My current favourite way to wear it is to pick out the white flowers with this creamy white shirt. Altogether it’s a really soft outfit, good for curling up on the sofa but also just smart enough for work-wear. As always, I can pop a black jumper over the top just to add an extra level of cosiness.
7. Black and yellow dress and top combo
This is another great option for when I want to feel, for want of a better word, pretty. It’s a simple black pinafore style dress with a black and yellow floral print underneath. The sleeves are so light and pretty, and the dress has an elasticated back so it feels snug without being tight. With a big drapey cardigan and almost any shoe, it’s just so easy to throw on and feel like a cosy witch. It’s such a great feeling when you find an outfit that imbues you with confidence, but is also so easy to wear!
So there you have it, my seven outfits to get you through ‘nothing to wear’ moments. I think more and more about the intersection of clothes and mental health – it’s really interesting and I think can reveal a lot about our own pressure points. Body image is so wrapped up in issues of mental health, and feminism, and how we choose to dress can mean a lot to us about how we face these challenges. Though it is hard to unpick all of these factors, and feel confident that we’re dressing just for ourselves, I think we have more power over clothes than they have over us. Ultimately clothes can be a positive force, to comfort and console us, and to inspire confidence. Clothes can open the door to self-expression, and truly loving ourselves, and really, there’s no greater comfort than the feeling that you can truly be yourself.
Thank you so much for reading this piece on a topic close to my heart. I’ve experienced so much anxiety and self-inflicted negativity about my clothing over the years, but I’m really starting to feel empowered about my clothing, and that I’m finally getting it to work for me and do what I need it to do. Perhaps this is a symptom of getting older? I also think coming off the pill has made me feel a lot more emotionally stable – but that’s a topic for another post. I’d really love to hear your responses to this post, both in terms of practical tips and suggestions, and how you feel about the intersection of clothing, mental health and feminism. Please do feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in a comment. I hope that someone will find this post helpful. Thank you so much again for reading!