how I learned to dress myself at 33

This post has been swarming around my head for a while as I think about what I need to purchase for maternity wear. When I received an email earlier this week from Alison that the Fall Style Me Challenge would be open for registration* today, I decided to buckle down (whenever I needed a study break, of course) and get to writing. 

Earlier this year I started following a few blogs in the hopes of looking more pulled together and to learn how to mix my clothes better. I’ve always had work clothes, a few outfits (pieces that I always and only wore together), and too many black tops. I didn’t often leave the house feeling pulled together and felt like a good portion of my closet was very underutilized.

I don’t recall which blog it was that I followed that linked to Alison’s first style challenge in spring but somehow I came across it and registered. I’m not going to say the challenge changed my life because it’s clothes, people. There are hundreds of things more important that your outfit. However, (most days) I leave the house feeling confident and put together, I spend less on clothes than I ever have in the past, and I wear almost everything in my closet in the course of a few weeks. Big wins and exactly what I was hoping for. Also, for the first time pretty much ever, I started getting regular compliments on my outfits.

The following list is what I learned from the challenge that has helped me change the way I dress myself. I started thinking about the list as I need to buy a few pieces to make it through my pregnancy and want to stick with what works for me, not get distracted by the overwhelming amount of maternity wear that is available.

1. Pick your base colors. I have a set of base colors (blue, olive, gray, white, black & white stripes). Yes, b+w stripes is a color. My blog, my rules. These colors make up the vast majority of my clothes. I feel good in all of these colors and they mix well together. On a day where I’m running late, I can pretty much select a top and bottom in any of these colors and they will work together.


2. Add a pop of color for fun. Wearing only my base colors everyday would be boring and I tend to wear a single pop of color with an outfit. I keep it easy though; my pops of color vary in type (jewelry, sweaters, pants, scarfs) but are only in a few colors – orange, bright pink, turquoise, and bright greens. These colors compliment my base colors well and I don’t have to worry too much about if they work with my outfit, as whatever I pick usually does.


3. Make shoes the easy choice. I used to buy a lot of shoes and wear most of them not very often. Then I found neutral shoes. Now I rotate through a handful of pairs and wear them all all the time. I have nude flats, leopard (yes it’s a neutral!) flats, tan wedges, nude heels, camel riding boots, brown ankle booties, silver and tan sandals, and navy Toms. It would be fun to add a pop of color flat, but for now the neutrals are working really well for me. I pick what type of shoe I want to wear and don’t worry about if it matches because it will (sensing a theme yet?).


4. Take it up a notch with pattern mixing. I was terrified of pattern mixing when it came up in the first challenge and went for it anywhere. I’m incredibly comfortable in b+w stripes and luckily that’s where we started with pattern mixing. I keep it simple and only mix two pattern combos: Stripes with florals and stripes with leopard. When done well, I find pattern mixing will really make your outfit look pulled together. Find a mix you feel confident in and try it out! Starting with patterns you already feel good wearing is a great start. Shoes are also an easier place to start if you’re feeling unsure.


5. Layer on a jacket. Before the challenge, I wore jackets when it was cold out and never really incorporated them into my outfit. I picked up a denim jacket and a military jacket for the spring challenge and now I wear them each at least once a week as part of an outfit. They work in almost every season and polish even the most simple outfit. As a bonus, they are great if you are in an office or other environment that might be warmer or cooler than the temperature outside.


6. Figure out what jewelry works for you. I used to buy different kinds of jewelry but in the last few months have figured out I should really only spend my money on necklaces. I wear a pair of simple diamond studs daily (a lovely gift from my MIL) and never wear bracelets because they drive me crazy while on the computer. I purchased a gorgeous Kate Spade watch a few months ago that is functional, doesn’t jingle when I type, and adds a little something to the end of my arm. Necklaces are another story, I’ve become obsessed! I mostly wear long ones and wear neutral (gold) as well as pop of color styles. I’m glad I realized that necklaces are my favorite accessory so I can use my funds on items that will be used more than others.


7. Scarf and belt it up. Similar to jackets and jewelry, belts and scarves really add a finishing touch to an outfit. I’ve followed my same rules (either neutral, a base color, or a pop of color) and add them when I think an outfit needs a little something extra or when I want more warmth. Both scarves and belts are perfect if you’re on a budget. Each season I fall in love with at least one scarf from Target, normally priced under $10. If you aren’t able to refresh your wardrobe for a season, try adding a scarf or two to change things up.


If you look through the pictures, you’ll notice I’m wearing the same pieces over and over but not often in the same outfit. This really has been a change for me and the reason I’m spending a lot less. Even though I’ve started the challenges and pay more attention to my appearance in general, I only buy clothes every few months and then work with what I have. I always get to “shop” my closet for new combos now that everything coordinates well, which keeps me out of the stores and off the internet.

I highly recommend joining the Fall Challenge* if you’re looking to update your wardrobe this year. I’ll be dressing the bump and am very much looking forward to seeing what Alison has put together. Each shopping list creates a capsule wardrobe that will easily get you through the entire season, and likely a handful of the pieces will transition to the next. If you’re still on the fence, I put together close to forty outfits with what I purchased for the spring challenge and incorporated from my wardrobe.

The bump is getting bigger by the day, it seems, and I’m excited to start dressing it. Once I figure out what works for me, I’ll put together a post. I’m hoping to only buy the basics for maternity wear and use my current closet (and borrowed maternity clothes from friends!) as much as possible. Since I’ve never done this I’m not sure how that will go, but I can try. I’ve already learned that flowy clothes make you look extra giant and not pregnant, but more fitted clothes make for a cute bump.

*Alison started an affiliate program and if you’re interested in joining the fall challenge I’d love it if you’d use my link above. However, you can easily join without my affiliate link at starting today, 9/26.

5 thoughts on “how I learned to dress myself at 33

  1. Shaunacey

    can’t wait to see you in the fall looks! I love the way you put everything together and I’m sure I’ve gotten a few great fashion ideas from following you in these challenges!! hope to link up again 🙂

    1. Beth Martin Post author

      I’m SURE you’re the first person who has even gotten fashion tips from me – ha! I’m looking forward to seeing your colors for fall. Love that you aren’t afraid of color!

  2. Pingback: Monday’s Mix – Black & White – A Lovely Little Wardrobe

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s