Q: I love wearing one style of shirt, and in fact own three of them. What do you suggest I do to downplay my self-imposed uniform?
A: There’s nothing wrong with a uniform. International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde wears a suit, silk scarf and pearl earrings practically every day. Vogue editor Anna Wintour is virtually always in a sheath dress. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer loves cardigans with dresses, and designer Vera Wang lives in leggings and black tees. Stylish and powerful women the world over rely on uniforms to simplify their lives and define their personal styles.
Mixing up your accents will keep your personal uniform from feeling stagnant. Be sure to rotate in different necklaces, earrings and belts when you wear your favorite shirts, and try to bring some prints into play once in a while with scarves or patterned skirts.
Layering is also helpful, so try blazers, jackets and cardigans in various eye-catching colors. If you can layer the shirts under V-necked sweaters or sleeveless dresses, give that a whirl, too.
Finally, tweak how the shirt is worn: Scrunch the sleeves, pop the collar, wear it tucked sometimes and untucked others. Minor changes can make a big visual difference.
Q: I would love to know where to find good jeans for curvy women … and not “mom jeans.” Yes, I know that high-waisted jeans are popular, but they won’t look good on this real mom.
A: I’m a longtime fan of the tummy-flattening properties of high-rise jeans (if your top’s untucked, no one will know!), but I realize the style isn’t for everyone. Midrise jeans have near universal appeal and work for a wide variety of figure shapes. Most premium denim brands such as Paige, Joe’s Jeans and J Brand offer midrise styles, but if you can’t imagine shelling out $200 for jeans try Kut From the Kloth, Liverpool Jeans and Mavi. All three are a bit more affordable, and midrise is their staple. Find them online or at Nordstrom, Evereve, Macy’s or Corset Styling.
If you need a curvy cut specifically, then Old Navy, Gap, Lee and Levi’s all offer styles that are more generous in the hips and seat, but nip in at the waist to prevent gapping. This group is also more budget-friendly, and all four brands offer plus, petite and tall sizes.
Finally, I must put in a plug for thrifted denim. Buying off the rack means you can’t tell if the jeans will sag and stretch or shrink in the wash. Secondhand denim has settled into its final configuration, so what you see in the fitting-room mirror is what you get.
Q: Is it silly to keep clothes that are too big or too small, just in case you need them again?
A: Not at all! Bodies change and weight shifts, so hanging onto a few key pieces that don’t fit can be a lifesaver. Especially for Minnesotans, who often pack on a few winter pounds before slimming down for summer. I personally wear a range of at least three sizes during any given year.
I do recommend keeping clothing that doesn’t fit somewhere other than your closet. In the basement, under-bed storage, anywhere that’s safe but out of sight. This is key if looking at those clothes makes you feel upset or disappointed or as though your body is somehow inferior. Clothes that fit another iteration of you can be brought back into rotation as needed, but shouldn’t become a daily reminder of the size you once wore.
Dress for your today body. Let yourself look fabulous right now, just as you are.
Sally McGraw is a Minneapolis-based personal stylist and creator of the Already Pretty (alreadypretty.com) blog. Her fashion advice appears on this page once a month. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.