New Series: Rut Busters!



We all fall into style ruts sometimes.  I’m especially prone to them, as I discussed in detail here.  In summary, my primary rut-producing issues are these:

  • My shopping budget is limited,
  • My time for shopping is even more limited,
  • I don’t think I have a flair for accessorizing, and perhaps more importantly, I’m reluctant to spend for accessories because I feel like I’m not getting “real clothes,”
  • Colors often throw me — I have trouble predicting what will “go” with what, so I tend to endlessly repeat fairly obvious (and safe) combinations.

Meanwhile, at the moment, I am trying to get by with the following everyday wardrobe:

  • 2 pairs of work trousers (only 1 of which is in really good shape);
  • 2 skirts (1 is quickly getting worn from overuse; the other doesn’t seem to go with anything.  Sadly, my third skirt just died an untimely, violent death).
  • 2 pairs jeans (1 light wash, 1 dark wash)
  • 3 good jackets (so I’m doing well there)
  • 2 jacket substitutes (long-sleeved, cardigan-style layers)
  • 4 long-sleeved shirts (only 1 really looks good; the other 3 are a little worn, a little frumpy)
  • 2 vests (neither of which is quite right, but both can enable me to get different “looks” from the long-sleeved shirts)
  • 6-8 sleeveless tops to wear under the jackets

As always, I do feel like there are a few gaps in my wardrobe.  I have to struggle to assemble enough viable outfits to get through my work weeks.  I feel like I wear the same clothes over and over.  I stand in the closet for a long time in the morning, and not just because the coffee is slow to take effect.

I’ve tried to fill a few of my wardrobe gaps, but recent forays to my local stores have not yielded any new basics.  And right now I really don’t have the time to go further afield to do some serious shopping.  (I haven’t even had time to follow up on my “Boutique Challenge” idea from two posts ago, and probably won’t until spring or summer, when increased time off and better weather allow me to make more day trips to prime boutique locations).

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading all these awesome style blogs.  And what I notice again and again, surprisingly, is that these blogs aren’t just making me want to buy new clothes.  I mean, sure, of course they are making me want  to buy new clothes!  But first and foremost, they are making me want to be more creative with the clothes I already have.

Because let me tell you, these fashion bloggers out there  — regular women, many over 40, busy with life and work, just like me — are putting themselves together much more artfully than I am.  Sometimes it’s just their skillful use of accessories, in combinations that never would have occurred to me.  Sometimes it’s the unexpected pops of color that they throw in there.  Sometimes it just that they pair two items together that I never would have thought to combine.

In short, they are giving me all kinds of ideas for new things to try, and not by purchasing a whole new wardrobe.  In some cases, I can simply make a slight adjustment to how I’m wearing what I have right now.  In other cases, there might be a simple, not-so-expensive accessory that I can purchase to breathe new life into my outfits.

Hence the new series.  With each post, I will try one new thing, no matter how simple, to see if it can pull me out of one of my ruts.   After I try the new idea, I will share with you the results — how it looked, how I felt, and whether anybody noticed.   I may even post a few photos, which would be a rut-busting bonus, since I’ve been mighty shy about putting my mug (and body) up here for others to view.

Baby steps.  Baby steps!

In some cases, I might not even have to shop!  In many cases I will, but I hope to be shopping differently.

When possible, I will try to give credit to those style blogs that have especially influenced me.  It’s tough sometimes because I glance at so many, and all the images start to kaleidoscope through my head, and I forget where the inspirations originally came from.  But I will try, and if I slight anybody, I’ll try to cover myself by just urging all readers to look at the blogs in my blogroll.  I’m adding new ones all the time, and there’s some really great stuff there.

I do know that, at the outset, a few major influences will be front and center:

  • Already Pretty and Academichic:  because these blogs are chock full of workshop-style, how-to posts — and you get tons of photos showing how the ideas look in practice.  A few of the ideas on my Rut Buster to-do list are coming directly from them.
  • Paula at Fashion over Fifty:  because she blends colors, patterns, shapes and textures in such creative and exciting ways.  To put it bluntly, this woman couldn’t fall victim to a style rut even if it bit her on the ass.
  • Terri at Rags Against the Machine and Pam at Over 50 Feeling 40: because they both work in a similar work environment to mine, and they both are especially skilled at enhancing very practical, classic wardrobe items with the artful use of accessories.  And skillful styling.  That’s right: “style” is a verb.  I only recently learned this.

So watch this space carefully — the research phase is already underway!  Just as a teaser, I’ll tell you what I’ve done so far:

  • browsed for colorful hosiery,
  • bought a new belt (I never wear belts),
  • shopped for a new style of handbag,
  • tried styling “going out” shirts for work

I’ve also been thinking about:

  • expanding my repertoire of scarf-tying techniques (I have one, basically),
  • wearing my necklaces differently,
  • tackling the skirt-that-goes-with-nothing problem by breaking some old color rules.

I’m hoping that new ideas will present themselves all the time, too, especially as I keep reading those blogs.  Inspiration is a marvelous thing.  And by letting myself be inspired, and daring to take a few baby steps, I hope to dig myself out of those ruts.  Stay tuned!

* Drawings (scouting uniforms) by Arnaud Ramey, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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About Anne @ The Frump Factor

Reflections on beauty and style, for women who weren't born yesterday. Bring your sense of humor and "Fight the Frump" with me!
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14 Responses to New Series: Rut Busters!

  1. Nice post, you’ve inspired me too!

  2. Terri says:

    Anne–this is exciting! I credit Academic Chic with getting me into colorful tights and Sal at Always Pretty has inspired my first pair of dress boots. Paula is the one who got me out of my skirt below the knee and too many neutral colors. Pam has inspired me to start paying more attention to scarves. Thank you for the mention…but I’m pretty new to this myself.

  3. Cynthia says:

    I think outfit blogging (and reading all the blogs, of course) has made me do pretty much the same thing, although not as methodically and carefully. If I look at the beginning of my archives and compare it to my recent work, I’m doing all sorts of things that I wasn’t doing before — belting, color mixing in interesting ways, you name it.

  4. So excited to follow this. Having no shopping money, well rarely and when I spend I feel so guilty cause I think that it would buy a few days of groceries, pay the phone bill what have ya. Then I do not go out, except to take my walk or go grocery shopping. I walk, so walking shoes have replaced all the glorious heels that sit in my closet, which is filled with similar purses and accessories, and a wardrobe that is replaced with a pair of patched jeans and sweaters that have pilled that cover the Ts w/ tiny holes or stains on them. Once a fashionista, fashion blogger and one that others came to for advice, and this is my life now….I am admittedly in a very deep rut!

    • I hear you. But I’ll bet you could probably put together some really great outfits since you have a closet full of accessories! Use what you have! After all, with the perfect hat or statement necklace, who will notice the patches and pills?

  5. Anne, you are so sweet to mention me!! You just made my day! Baby steps! That is where we all should begin. I have a plan right now to go thrifting for some printed blouses…that is where I see a big void in my closet for spring. Also, as I begin to lose more weight, I want to add a couple of skirts and dresses to my closet. Those are my current goals…I always ask myself with accessory purchases HOW MUCH MILEAGE CAN I GET OUT OF THIS? Prior to spring, I bought a red purse (WHY?)…I just wanted one!

  6. Gail says:

    Thanks for the links, very handy.
    I tried a new approach recently which was identifying the key trends I felt I could join, and buying a few key pieces. So I bought a camel cape, a satchel, some brogues and a silk shirt, and these have served me very well – I felt for once I looked on trend. So I’m doing the same for the new trends of colour blocking and all-white, and choosing a few things that will be good for work and holiday.

  7. Bella Q says:

    Congrats on your baby steps. I like that blogs are inspiring you to use what you already have rather than running out and buying more stuff. I love the idea of wearing classics and updating them every year by wearing them differently or mixing them differently. This year I am craving a non-matchy matchy look by mixing random neutrals like red, navy grey and so forth. Last year I mixed patterns like a kaleidoscope. I also play with the idea of having fewer clothes in my wardrobe but never wearing the same outfit twice. Anyhoo, good luck!

  8. Thank you! I have always been in awe of women who don’t repeat the same outfits. Maybe I can become one when I grow up…….

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