Dress for your crazy, beautiful, complicated life

My guess is you are ridiculously busy. You’re so busy, in fact, I’m honored you’re taking the time to read this.

We are bombarded with messages to ‘simplify’ and ‘say no.’ But the truth is, I love this complicated life. Kids, parents, husband, friends, work, hobbies, I wouldn’t want to simplify one thing out of my life.

I just want to look good doing it all.

Dressing for your life can be a challenge when you’re life is full to the brim. We have to start by being completely honest about what our life includes. To that end, I would ask you to make a list of everything you do, everyday, for one week. Then sit back, look at that list and say ‘Dang! I am amazing.’

Because if you are caring for kids, working inside the home, working outside the home, volunteering, creating art, working out, entertaining friends and family, dealing with pets, making sure the fridge is stocked and keeping some sort or ornamental plant alive in a pot outside your front door, you are amazing.

So why don’t you have a closet full of clothes that work for your amazing, everyday life? A complex spell of advertising, body image issues and lack of respect for the work we do on any given day has bewitched us into buying impractical clothes. We open up a catalog, see a woman looking fabulous while vacationing in Rome and think, ‘great dress!’

But the truth is we are not, for the most part, spending our time vacationing in Rome. We are running the marathon days of our lives, getting everyone where they need to be, making sure our families are clothed and fed, and have maybe even brushed their hair. None of this is easy. Take grocery shopping. It’s a big job that takes planning, coordination and patience, yet it isn’t even considered work, it’s just something mom does. You would never open up a catalog and see a picture of a woman grocery shopping in the perfect ensemble.

I hope that this post will help you do two things; 1. Appreciate just how much you do on this earth. 2. Allow yourself to take the time and energy to look great while doing it all.

I have created a planner for you to download here. Dress for your life

I ask that you write down everything you do, and think about what you would ideally be wearing for it. Really think about everything you do, because if you leave something off the list, you may be stuck doing it in old and ratty clothes. Depending on the level of craziness in your life, you may need to print more than one copy of each page.

Did I say craziness? I meant richness.

There may be some activities for which you really don’t know what you want to wear. That’s OK. We’ll talk in a future post about how to figure out what you want to wear on any given occasion.

Beware the tendency is to dress poorly for anything that might get you dirty, or expose you to inclement weather. We think, ‘Oh, I have to work in the garden when I get back from the store, then cook dinner. I’ll just wear this ratty old shirt and stained jeans.’ Thus we are spending the entire day looking awful, and wonder why we don’t have the style of other women.

Is there any reason we can’t do chores in attractive clothes that hang well on our body? Cute ensembles can be washed just as easily as ratty old clothes.

The next thing I’d like you to do is keep an eye out for women who are dressed stylishly and appropriately for what they are doing.

I’ll never forget the time I saw a woman wear Hudson mud boots and an adorable rain jacket to her daughter’s swim lessons, so that when she was washing her daughter’s hair in the shower after the lesson she didn’t get soaking wet. Brilliant! I, of course, was wearing ratty old clothes, because I was going to get wet when I washed my daughter’s hair in the shower…

This work is the very foundation of the beautiful wardrobe you will build. Take these worksheets to a coffee shop, or print out a few copies and do them with a girl friend over a glass of wine or cup of tea. Have fun celebrating all you do, and planning how fabulous you will look while doing it.

Kick-start your wardrobe with one investment piece


So… when do we get to go shopping?

In the first few posts I’ve outlined all sorts of work for you and demands on our clothing. My guess is, if you’re visiting a fashion blog it’s because you need some help in refreshing / creating your wardrobe.


And while, yes, creating effortless style is going to take time and thought, I totally get that a woman still has to get dressed every morning on her journey to looking great everyday.

To start this journey, I’d like you to begin with one investment that will inspire you every day along the way.

Please invest your money, and buy one pair of high quality, everyday boots.

Anywhere, any time
Anywhere, any time

I’m not talking about modestly-priced, partially-leather, almost-right, on-sale-at-DSW boots. I want you to buy that good pair of Fryes, or whatever you’ve had your eye on.

Why boots?

They are natural for a woman celebrating the fact that she’d got a little mud in her life. You can actually wear them in the mud. But beyond that, a stylish, well-made pair of boots can take you almost anywhere. I can put mine on in the morning for farm chores, wear them all day as I teach, then go to dinner and the theater in them. I have worn them to church, to meetings, out on girls’ night. There is no other shoe that works as hard as I do, and is as versatile.

You can wear them with anything, from skinny jeans to a summer sun dress. They are classic and just a little bit funky, which makes you feel cool every time you slip them on.

There is also something in the confidence a well-made pair of boots brings to your day. Since there is literally nothing you can’t do in these shoes, you feel ready for anything. And in my experience, that’s generally what I get.

What holds most women back from a well-made pair of boots is the price. We will buy cheap, ill-fitting shoe after shoe, spending far more money than we would on a few good pairs that will last. If you calculate the price per wear, these boots are a bargain.

Good shoes are the Mud and Grace equivalent of the Fly Lady’s clean sink (see link below.) If boots honestly aren’t your thing, buy a high quality pair of shoes that work for your day-to-day life. My nursing friends swear by Danskos. A nice pair of driving shoes can get you a lot of mileage. Even cute (but clean, well made and stylish) tennis shoes can do the trick.

I bought my first pair of high quality boots several years ago. In 2009 I was in the midst of a very difficult (and very expensive) divorce, and was weathering the economic downturn with everyone else. I had two jobs, wore exclusively 2nd hand clothing, and had only few pairs of shoes, all of which were very cheap.

I was chaperoning a group of students at the Shakespeare festival in Ashland, Oregon, and we had some down time wandering around the quaint little town.

There they were; Eric Michael boots from Spain. I don’t know what possessed me to walk in the store and try them on. They were the first pair of really good shoes I had ever worn. The leather was strong and supple, the stitching precise. Walking a few paces in the boutique shoe store, I knew that the woman who bought these boots was a discerning shopper, one who knew quality and invested in herself.

And there was no reason that woman couldn’t be me.

I pulled out my debit card, and committed myself to making the economic sacrifice the boots would require. Then I wore those boots 2-5 times a week for the next five years. I got compliments every single time I wore them. If getting compliments 2-5 times a week for 5 years isn’t a reason to buy shoes then I don’t know what is. I bought a pair of Fryes a few years ago and they have largely surpassed my old Spanish friends, but I still wear them.

I love you, old boots.
I love you, old boots.

Every time I look at them in my closet I remember the moment I chose to be worth good shoes. There’s been no looking back.

P.S. Allow the Fly Lady to tell you to clean your sink: http://www.flylady.net/d/getting-started/flying-lessons/shine-sink/