I’ve always admired women with effortless style. Women like Katherine Hepburn, or the Duchess of Cambridge, who seem to be able to just throw on the first thing they come to in their closet, shake out their hair and look amazing.
(Socks with sandals, and Katherine still looks glamorous)
I was stuck in the idea that effortless style was just that; effortless. These women had some magic, or genetic component that made their jeans just fit better, made their sweaters pill-proof and all of their t-shirts hang just right.
There was a woman of such easy elegance that I saw regularly it my daughter’s school and soccer games. She had something more than the right clothing, hair, and makeup. She had an easy confidence that I admired. It was the confidence that she looked good, was warm/dry enough, and could chase after a child, talk to a teacher, or encourage a midfielder in whatever she put on.
After several years of being totally impressed (and quite frankly, a little annoyed) that she always looked absolutely perfect for every occasion, her secret finally struck me.
She had the right gear for her life.
Yes, she was spending more money than I was on clothing, and yes, she had an undeniable eye for what would look good and move well on her body. But ultimately she bought the clothes that she needed for the life she was living. Unlike my closet, that had so much stuff but very little for the day-to-day business of being a woman.
And to create a wardrobe of the right things, rather than just things, took effort.
I realized that if I wanted to look effortless, I was going to have to start working a lot harder. Having no idea where to even start planning and creating a wardrobe, I hit the books. I read every blog and article on style I could find. For the four-sentence distillation of all that research, see my page Mud and Grace manifesto. Get Started
Ultimately, women with easy style all share one piece on knowledge: Effortless style is not about what you pull out of your closets, but what you put in your closet to begin with. Her closet is stocked with the right undergarments, t-shirts and hosiery before she even moves on to the stylish clothes to layer over these. She knows the colors and styles that work for her, and thus it is easy to mix and match the pieces she has. Everything in her wardrobe looks great because she never tried to cram the wrong thing in to begin with. If she does make an unfortunate purchase , she gets rid of it pronto, no guilt, no excuses. Her hair looks great because she has a style, and a stylist, that work.
A woman with effortless style is successfully rocking what she’s got. You think, “Well sure, if I had what Cameron Diaz has, I’d rock it too!” but take a closer look. Everywhere you look there are older women, younger women, tall, small, overweight, big boned, short wasted, who look amazing. They are not of the belief that some magical piece of clothing or new hairstyle is going to change everything. She doesn’t have a larger closet and more choices, she has fewer choices, because she already know what works and what won’t.
These women can try a 10-item wardrobe because they know which 10-items will work for their lives. Most of us? We’re not even sure what to wear to the back-to-school coffee with the principal, let alone every occasion we may face for the next 6 months.
These women can drop big bucks on “investment pieces,” because they have a sense of which sunglasses will work on their face. Everybody else? We can’t even find our sunglasses half the time.
I can’t beat myself up for not knowing what I was never taught. I was taught other things, like the fact that you really do have to brown a roast before putting it in the crockpot. But I knew I could figure this effortless style out. After all, I have a long history of learning (how to teach, how to parent, how to use my iphone.) I could learn this. We can all put in some time, front load our own style. We can be those women pulling one perfect ensemble out of her closet after the next, effortless at last.
But we must begin at the beginning, even if we are starting late. We need to front load style, creating a wardrobe that we love, that will never let us down. It’s going to take time, some soul-searching, maybe even a little Brene Brown. Ultimately we will build and nourish wardrobes that bring us joy and confidence.