Just to review: Rut-Busters is my new series, introduced last week, in which I try new things – however small – to dig myself out of the wardrobe ruts into which I so easily fall. So without further ado, let’s begin!
The Rut: Boring Jacket and Top Combinations
This past summer, I made two new purchases that have been wardrobe lifesavers this year:
- A burgundy corduroy jacket by J. Crew, and
- A pair of classic, wool-blend trousers, in a tweedy heather grey fabric, by Ann Taylor.
Although the color of the jacket is, admittedly, somewhat muted and neutral, it was a stretch for me because it’s not brown, beige, or black. Color! Sort of! (Baby steps!)
So I started pairing it with some of my usual work tops, like this:
I liked how things were looking, but I started running into trouble when I added the trousers. Because although the trousers have a modern fit (below the waist, boot-cut), their overall feel is still fairly conservative. So when I paired them with a jacket that’s also tailored and classic, I found myself feeling a little more stuffy than I would like. Less feminine, perhaps. Visions of Lilith from “Cheers” danced through my head (though without Bebe Neuwirth’s kickin’ bod and Broadway singing voice).
The problem is, when part of me is tailored or buttoned up, I like other parts of me to be laid back. In my heart, I’ll always be an 18-year-old girl at the beach, hair blowing around like crazy, freckles everywhere, sporting wacky bead and shell necklaces. Something needed to be done.
The Experimentation Phase
So I played around a little, and quickly discovered that throwing a more feminine, ruffled top into the mix helped a bit,
although you wouldn’t exactly know it from this photo. (This whole taking- photos-for-the-Interwebs thing is still kinda new for me).
Meanwhile, though, I’d also been wearing the burgundy jacket during my non-work life with good results. I liked it best when paired with dark wash jeans, ankle boots, and a colorful “going out” top that I picked up over the summer:
I love the colors and pattern of this ruffled top – so much so that I bought it even though it’s in an awful, scritchy-scratchy fabric that is horrific on my skin. Seriously, do not get me started on this issue. What are clothing designers thinking when they do this?
And not only that, but the straps on this top are crazy weird, too. They are too close together, causing bra straps to show badly. I had to get them tailored so that they’d lie right at all, and still I have to wear one very particular bra, and I have to employ 21st-century bra-strap-adjusting technology:
But I digress.
This jacket and top combo has been my favorite going out ensemble for the past couple of months. So when my rut-busting craze recently hit, I had what was (for me) a fairly radical thought: What if I wore the party shirt to work?
I can hear you laughing at me all over the blogosphere, not because this is a crazy idea, but because it’s a perfectly normal idea that most of you are doing all the time. But this is me. Remember? The Frump Factor? Featuring outfits cobbled together with duct tape and staples?
Between the scritchy fabric and the strap weirdness, I just wasn’t sure I could wear this at work.
Even with bra straps properly adjusted, the alignment of the straps on this top leaves too much bare skin around the backs of the shoulders. Even on the coldest days, I very often take my jacket off – if just for a few minutes – after I’ve trecked across campus and up 4 flights of stairs. Plus I wasn’t sure if that the bra strap adjusting device would hold up. It’s one thing for it to pop out and land on the floor when I’m out at a blues club, but at work? Please.
Furthermore, I was afraid that the scritchy-scratchy fabric would make me homicidal at the end of an 11-hour workday. Hell, I don’t need bad fabric to be homicidal after an 11-hour workday.
Plus, it’s — you know — colorful. Have I mentioned that I’m scared of color? Have I mentioned that, until pretty recently, nearly 90 percent of my work wardrobe has been brown?
But finally, in the midst of a deep winter funk, I decided that I’d had enough of the same boring trouser-jacket-top combinations at work. Plus, I discovered a sleeveless black knit top – a hand-me-down that I never wore – with a low enough neckline to layer under this top. Scratchy fabric and bare skin problems solved. Score!
The winning outfit
The finishing touch was this necklace:
Which is really a rut-buster in and of itself, I’ve found. (And to think, I originally thought it didn’t go with anything! Now it seems to be making all of my outfits pop).
So I put on the complete outfit, and off to work I went.
How did I look? How did I feel? Did anyone notice?
Pretty good, fabulous, and no. But that’s ok. I noticed. I just felt really colorful and festive. I felt like things were “popping,” if you know what I mean (and I’m not talking about the bra strap adjuster; I’m talking about the colors).
And I didn’t feel nearly as blurry as I look in the photos.
So now I’m excited. I want more! Bring on the colorful party tops!
And even though the point of my rut-busting experiment is supposed to be NOT to buy new clothes – to make better use of what I have – I’d love to hear your stories about party tops that work for work. I have to start my long-term shopping list somewhere!