Full Life Reflections

Striving for happiness, peace, and fulfillment in a chaotic world

Before I delve into today’s main topic, I want to share a bit about how I have been feeling. Time continues to feel strange. Sometimes it seems to move at the speed of light, and other times it feels like I’m stuck in a slow-motion time warp. In many ways, the past three months have seemed more like three years. I can scarcely remember the time before the coronavirus pandemic started. Surely, my life hasn’t always been like this, but my memory feels fuzzy and uncertain.

I’ve heard the state that we’re in now referred to as “the infinite present,” as it’s difficult to plan for the future when we have absolutely no idea of what that future will look like. Of course, it’s always true that we don’t know what’s around the corner, but we usually have a much better sense of it than we do now.

the infinite present

Has anyone else felt like they’ve been in a “time warp” recently?

As I’ve written about previously (like in the three-part series that started with this post), I struggle a lot with depression and anxiety, in addition to a number of physical health issues. Since our minds and bodies are inexorably linked, it’s not uncommon for me to experience flares on both the physical and emotional fronts simultaneously. This has been the case for me lately and it’s often been difficult to push past my pain, anxiety, and inertia to get even the smallest of tasks done. I always think I can do so much more, but then the days rush by and all of a sudden it’s Friday afternoon, with not that much to show for my week. One thing I always want to do more of is post on this blog, but it’s been hard to gather my thoughts and appropriately write them down.

I know I’m not alone in my struggles with time, depression, anxiety, and inertia. I’m tired of beating myself up about not getting enough done, so I’m just going to do my best and trust that it’s enough. Since enough is my word for the year, perhaps one of the lessons I need to learn is that my best is enough, even when it doesn’t feel like it so much of the time.

How Emotional Issues Impact Style

I’m sure I will expand upon some of these thoughts in the future, but now I’m going to switch to the topic of personal style. Although it may seem like personal style has nothing to do with the emotional issues that many of us grapple with, I’ve learned that style and our moods are more linked than most people think. In fact, our style can play a large role in our confidence, happiness, and well-being.

Most of you came to know me through the writing I’ve done about my compulsive shopping problem. It’s taking me a long time to overcome my overshopping tendencies, and that’s because it has never really been about clothes. It’s more about the feelings that I’m hoping the clothes will give me, particularly feelings of confidence and happiness. I’ve been self-conscious and insecure for as long as I can remember, and I’ve struggled with buying too many clothes for much of my life as well. I now understand that I can’t buy self-confidence in any store. Our sense of self-worth has to come from within – and it can be a lifelong journey. However, dressing in a way that feels authentic to who we are and how we want to be perceived can be an important piece of the puzzle to feeling good about ourselves.

personal style and confidence

Dressing authentically can positively impact how we feel about ourselves.

Where I’ve often gone astray has been following other people’s recommendations for how I should dress, based upon the current trends, body shape guidelines, and what those around me were wearing. Whenever I’ve purchased something just because a sales associate or friend said it looked good on me, the item was generally destined to be worn just once or twice, only to then collect dust in my closet until I begrudgingly passed it on.

I’ve wasted many thousands of dollars on trendy clothing and garments that looked fabulous on other women but just didn’t feel right on me.  And just when I felt like I was truly getting a handle on my authentic style (see my late 2015 post on this topic), I went through menopause and decided to transition to my natural gray (well, more like salt and pepper…) hair, which basically set everything style-related on its edge.

Menopause, Body Image, and Style

The past few years have been a challenging time for me in terms of my wardrobe and personal style. After I went up one to two sizes due to menopausal weight gain, my clothing became more of a way to hide myself than a means of expressing my style aesthetic and highlighting my best features. I held on to a lot of my pre-menopausal clothing, hoping that I would get back into it. Unfortunately, I found that most of the extra pounds were stubborn to disappear without resorting to the starvation regimens reminiscent of my eating-disordered years. I didn’t want to start tracking calories and macros or doing regular weigh-ins (I almost never weigh myself – been there, done that too many times in the past), but I also didn’t want to accept my curvier shape, so I found myself stuck between a rock and a hard place for years.

While I can’t say that I’ve completely made peace with my fuller form (which has leveled out at about a size higher than I’d ultimately prefer), I want to get out of the state of limbo that I’ve been in for the past four years. In doing my “half project” and releasing most of the pieces I had in my holding zone, I’ve come to understand that I no longer want to dress the way I did back in 2015. Even if I could wave a magic wand and have my pre-menopausal body back again today, I would make different choices now in terms of what to wear. It’s perfectly normal for our style to evolve over time even if our shape remains exactly the same. Style is more of a moving target than a static destination.

Style Exploration

In recent months, I’ve been doing a lot of exploration about my personal style. I’ve been doing this because I want to feel better about the way I look and I want to stop buying things that I don’t end up wearing. Style exploration is also part of my “20 for 2020” goals list: “Complete two wardrobe/style-related workbooks or courses.” One of the courses I’ve done is the “Signature Style Masterclass” that’s part of the Everyday Style All-Access membership that I joined last fall.  This course has been tremendously helpful in the process of defining and refining my style. Only members are able to take the class, but the creator of the course, Jennifer Mackey-Mary, also hosts a podcast (called Everyday Style School) and recently did an episode on “Finding Your Personal Style” that covers a lot of same information.

Jennifer defines style as “The way you want to look, expressed by the things you want to wear.” She recommends that we all find three words that best define the way we want to look, which she calls our style guideposts. As an example, her three words are fun, current, and polished. Once we define our style guideposts, it makes everything related to style so much easier. Our shopping is more targeted, as we know to only focus on items that are in line with our three keywords. It’s also easier for us to put outfits together and clean out our closets. If an outfit seems “off,” we can ask ourselves whether it’s in line with our guideposts. If not, we can switch out some of the elements to better suit our style aesthetic. And when we’re on the fence about whether to keep something or pass it on, we can check in with our guideposts to see if they apply to the item in question.

A Few Style Exercises to Try

Now this all sounds easy and straightforward, but it can take some time and deep thinking in order to come up with the best words for you. I think I have mine pretty well figured out, but I’m going to do a bit more exploration before I finalize my guideposts. One of the exercises that Jennifer recommends is to create two Pinterest boards (they can be private boards) called “Looks I Love” and “Looks I Loathe” and then identify the common elements in each. This is a fun (and sometimes funny) exercise that can help you to better get in touch with what you do and don’t like. I’ll share some of my examples in my next post, when I’ll also tell you the style guideposts I have selected.

If you want to try to outline your style guideposts, this blog post has a list of words that can help to spark your thoughts. However, I will caution you about a few words that Jennifer says we should steer away from. The first word is “comfortable,” which is more about how we want to feel than how we want to look. It’s possible to feel comfortable in any type of style, but most of us don’t really want to look comfortable. At least we don’t want that to be the first thing someone notices about what we’re wearing. Additionally, “casual” isn’t really a style word, either. It has more to do with a level of formality for an outfit than the actual style of that outfit. Anyone can put together a casual outfit that fits their style guideposts, just as that same person can put together a dressy ensemble to suit their style (so “dressy” isn’t really a good style guidepost, either).

The last word that Jennifer says we should think twice about is “classic.” Unlike comfortable and casual, one can use “classic” as a style guidepost, but many women say their style is classic because they hate shopping and don’t want to buy anything new. Keeping clothing for a long time doesn’t necessarily mean that one’s style is classic, but there is such a thing as “classic style,” which usually refers to wearing structured, tailored, and neutral pieces. If those types of garments appeal to you (think Ralph Lauren or Talbots, as two examples), then “classic” may indeed be one of your style guideposts.

Conclusion

I decided to split my thoughts and realizations about personal style into two posts because I have a lot to say on the matter! I have definitely come to some powerful insights through the reading, listening, and exploration I’ve done recently related to style. How it’s all going to come together is still a work in progress, but I’m already feeling better about what I’m wearing since I’ve taken more time to examine (well, re-examine…) my style preferences. I do have a few challenges, which I’ll share with you next time, but realizing the issues is the first step toward solving them.

As always, I welcome your thoughts on this post. Here are a few questions that may help to spark some insights, but feel free to comment however you’d like:

  • Have you been feeling time differently lately in light of the pandemic? Does it feel slower? Faster? A combination?
  • How have you been coping with living in an “infinite present”?
  • What transitions in your life have resulted in shifts in your personal style?
  • What three words best encompass your style aesthetic? Do most of your outfits reflect those keywords?
  • What are the common elements in the looks you love? What about the looks you loathe?
  • What style goals do you have for this year and beyond?

I look forward to reading what you have to say. I’ll be back soon with the second part of this post, which will focus on my style guideposts and how I’m working on having more of what I wear reflect those desired endpoints.

29 thoughts on “Reflections on the “Infinite Present,” Confidence, and Personal Style

  1. Sally says:

    Hi Debbie

    I resonate with a lot of what you have said. I’m 52 and not actually in menopause yet, but I have put on lots of weight due to depression and the medications I am taking and the fact that I now stay at home. I have gone up 3 dress sizes and put a lot of weight on my middle and lost my waist. Not only do my clothes no longer fit, but the shape and style of them no longer suit my new body shape or lifestyle.

    I have had to buy a complete new wardrobe, multiple times, as I have gone up each dress size. My wardrobe now fits me and my lifestyle. I am no longer working and stay at home. The activities I do are going out on my boat, swimming in my heated pool or the sea when warm enough, using my home gym and walking my dog. Its hot most of the year where I live.

    I have 55 clothes, 18 out and about clothing, 10 loungewear/sleepwear, 5 resort wear, 12 swimwear and 10 activewear, which is the right balance for my new lifestyle.

    I have listened to all of Jennifer Mackey-Mary’s podcasts on her Everyday Style School and I listened To her episode on “Finding Your Personal Style”.

    She also says that:

    “Style is the way you want to look. For it to be a style, it has to finish the sentence,
    “I want to look_________. “

    Figure out HOW you want to look, and then you apply that to every single aspect of your life. You apply it to your work wardrobe and your workout wardrobe. You apply those words to your moms night out wardrobe, and your pyjamas.

    In the end, you should have 3 words that finish the sentence:
    “I want to look blank, blank and blank””

    These are my 3 style words:

    “I want to look Classy, Elegant and Chic”

    1) Classy: Stylish and sophisticated

    “That’s a very classy outfit”
    Dressing classy means dressing stylishly and sophisticated. It’s also timeless and elegant.

    2) Elegant: Graceful and stylish in appearance or manner.

    3) Chic: Elegantly and stylishly fashionable.

    I wear classic, timeless, quality clothes that are fitted in a softly structured way. I wear warm, neutral colours that flatter my natural colouring.

    I wear classic, designer accessories to elevate my outfit. My signature style is warm animal print.

    My classy style icon is Audrey Hepburn. She wore classic, well-made pieces in neutral colours that are timeless. She used accessories to elevate her classic, basic style and she had a few signature items resulting in a cohesive look that was completely her own.

    I look forward to reading Part 2 of your style.

    Regards Sally

    1. Sally says:

      As you mentioned above Debbie, Jennifer Mackey-Mary says in her episode on “Finding Your Personal Style”:

      “ Style is the way you want to look, expressed by the things you wear.

      A couple of mistakes women make when it comes to personal style, and the last thing I want to leave you with is a few words women choose as their guideposts that aren’t style words.

      The first one is comfortable. 99% of women I talk to describe their style as comfortable. Remember that style finishes the sentence, I want to look blank? I want to look comfortable is frankly, not something you should be saying.
      Don’t get me wrong, I want you to feel comfortable, but if someone walks up and says My you look comfortable, you’re probably wearing pyjamas. Focus on finding pieces that look like you want to look, but also feel the way you want to feel. When you shop with comfort as your #1 qualifier, you get a wardrobe that looks comfortable. If you shop with your style as your guide, and buy comfortable pieces that reflect that style, it’s a different experience.”

      I want to look Classy, Elegant and Chic, but I also have a high sensory value and need my clothes to feel good and comfortable on my skin, so everything I buy is classy, elegant and chic, in line with my style guidelines, but the fabrics I wear have stretch in them, are soft and drapey, I can move freely in them and they are comfortable to wear. I do not wear anything that is stiff, scratchy, tight and constricting, fussy and that irritates me, so I remove the annoying, scratchy clothes tags and I don’t wear wool as it is itchy.

      Regards Sally

    2. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you for your detailed and thoughtful comments, Sally! I appreciate your adding more detail about what Jennifer Mackey-Mary has to say about personal style. I definitely planned to say more in my second post on this topic, and I agree that the detail about our style words needing to finish the sentence, “I want to look…” is very important, as well as the fact that our style guideposts should be applied to all aspects of our lives. That’s actually one of the challenges I’ve had, which I will write about in my next post. You seem to have figured things out for yourself very nicely, and I think “classy, elegant, and chic” is a great style statement! Applying such a statement to a very casual life was likely somewhat challenging for you, but it seems like you have it handled well. I’m still working on it… It seems like you are a lot more accepting of the weight gain now, which is refreshing to read about. Learning how to dress a quite different body shape and size isn’t easy for any of us, but your wardrobe sounds like it suits your lifestyle and personal style very appropriately. Good for you!

      Having a style icon can help us to better translate our style statement into a cohesive look that resonates with us. I’ve found a few style icons through my Pinterest exploration, but I’m still on the lookout for others, especially when it comes to more casual dressing. Good points about the sensory value of clothes. I also need my clothing to feel good and comfortable on my skin and prefer soft and drapey fabrics that have give and stretch to them. It can be a tall order to find what works (especially when one is also tall, which I know you are, too), but it’s well worth it to take the time to find what works best for us.

  2. Maureen says:

    Hi Debbie,
    Always great to see another post from you!
    My style is comfy, simple, and practical, with small touches of trendy. I think that “comfy” is a helpful word for describing my style because I really highly value feeling comfortable in clothing, so it’s important to keep it in mind when I’m shopping. For me, the comfort and function of clothes are more important than how they look, so I think it makes sense to count those words as part of my style description. 🙂
    I definitely do look comfortable, but I don’t mind at all, haha.

    1. Maureen says:

      To add to my comment, I do care about the aesthetics of my clothes, which is why I also include “simple” and “small touches of trendy.” However, I don’t think appearance is the the end-all-be-all of personal style, so for people like me who care a lot about comfort and practicality, it makes sense to include those things in our style statements 🙂

    2. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you for sharing your style statement and your thoughts about “comfortable,” Maureen. It seems that others here agree that “comfortable” can be an appropriate style word. I think that Jennifer just wants to caution women against dressing “frumpy” under the guise of comfortable, probably because she witnessed a lot of that with her clients. I care very much about how I feel in my clothes, too, and I don’t necessarily think it’s bad to look comfortable, as long as we also are being true to our style aesthetic (which, of course, can vary widely). I agree with you that the appearance of our clothes is not the be-all, end-all. I don’t know how old you are, but I know that I’ve grown to care more and more about how things feel as I’ve gotten old. It can be challenging sometimes to find the right intersection between form and function, but it’s IS possible. I like what you wrote about “small touches of trendy.” That’s kind of how I look at it, too. 🙂

  3. Tonya Trow says:

    Hey Debbie!
    Time has definitely been weird. It was like one endless day for a month or two. It’s been better since I made and stuck to a very simple routine. Now I’m trying to focus on what I can do as opposed to what I can’t and finding the silver lining where I can.
    I haven’t thought about clothes as much lately. To be honest I’ve been wearing the same handful of tops and shorts over and over. When I do go back to wearing “normal” clothes I’d probably describe my style as neutral, edgy, and simple.
    I hope you’re doing well!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Great to see you comment here, Tonya! I agree that sticking to some sort of routine, even if it’s a simple one, can help during this “infinite present” period of time (and in general). That’s great that you haven’t been as concerned with clothes lately. I have still been concerned with them, but in a different way than before (which I will elaborate on in my next post). I think “neutral, edgy, and simple” is a good style description for you. You would smile at the amount of black that is on my “Looks I Love” Pinterest board. I know that we both agree that it’s the prettiest color!

  4. Jenn says:

    As you know, I recently completed Brenda Kinsel’s “Emerging Style” class. From that, each participant came up with “Conditions of Satisfaction” and a “Style Recipe.” I found the differentiation of the two very helpful.

    For instance, physical and emotional comfort is one of my Conditions of Satisfaction.

    I like the idea of creating boards for items you love and loathe. I might have to play around with that. I have listened to all of Jennifer’s podcasts and have found them very helpful and her approach so down-to-earth.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Ooh, I love the concept of “conditions of satisfaction,” Jenn! I’d love to learn more about that if you have the time and inclination to explain in greater detail. I know that “physical and emotional comfort” would be one of my conditions of satisfaction for sure. The looks I love and looks I loathe Pinterest boards were fun to create, but I found it easier to find things I loathe because there are often elements of ensembles that I don’t like that make them not fit into the “love” category. I definitely learned a lot from the exercise, though, so I would highly recommend it!

      1. Jenn says:

        Debbie, Brenda mostly focused on our style recipes, but taught us to recognize when an element was actually a “Condition of Satisfaction.” As I understand that term, it means a standard which our clothes and accessories must meet to gain admittance to (or perhaps remain in) our closets. This idea totally resonated with me. My Conditions of Satisfaction are:

        • Authenticity; feel like myself in it
        • Comfort; physical and emotional
        • Easy care
        • Suits actual lifestyle or upcoming occasion
        • Ageless; neither “young” nor “old”
        • Proper fit
        • Won’t detract from my confidence
        • Flattering color

        1. Debbie Roes says:

          Thank you so much for coming back to clarify, Jenn! I think my conditions of satisfaction are very much like yours, but I think it would be good for me to take some time to consider them more deeply. I like the part about items needing to fulfill these conditions in order to REMAIN in the closet! I think I will likely be purging some more items before too long for that very reason! Authenticity is HUGE, and I love what you wrote about things feeling ageless and not detracting from confidence, too. Definitely some food for thought here!

  5. Krissie says:

    Hi Debbie, another thought provoking post, and I love how we also have our input with answering these questions!

    Have you been feeling time differently lately in light of the pandemic? Does it feel slower? Faster? A combination?

    For me I think I can divide the virus time into three parts. When it first started and we went into lock down, time slowed down a lot, the days merged and I even forgot which day of the week it was. Then somehow I accepted the slower days and they felt like they were speeding up and I felt I had nothing to show for it – nothing productive I’d done to make the best of this time at home. Now over here we still have a few restrictions but things are mostly back to normal. Now Im feeling sad that I wont get that wonderful slow time back ever again, and yet I cant seem to face the future without feeling fear and apprehension, of more virus, or something. Im finding it difficult to think of making plans and feel a certain level of anxiety thinking about making plans etc

    How have you been coping with living in an “infinite present”?

    Like being in some of strange time warp.

    What transitions in your life have resulted in shifts in your personal style?

    I hope no one thinks me weird, but to this day the concept of personal style just doesnt resonate for me, I feel just “me” and I dress how I like without a signature or style. I love comfortable clothes, with stretchy fabrics and comfy waistbands. I like the word comfortable and I think its ok to use it in this context.

    What three words best encompass your style aesthetic? Do most of your outfits reflect those keywords?

    (Stretchy and) flexible. Simple. Timeless.

    What are the common elements in the looks you love? What about the looks you loathe?

    Simple and comfortable not too fussy as Im very short and feel overwhelmed in some foverstated fussy fashions. I loathe faddy fashion.

    • What style goals do you have for this year and beyond?

    To find the nirvana of comfy pants in my size. I find tops very easy to fit and buy but not pants.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I appreciate your answering all of my questions, Krissie! I like what you had to say about the virus time being divided into three parts. I think it will be a while before things are back to normal where I am, but I do feel like I haven’t made the most of the “slow time.” I feel like I’m very much in limbo and the fear and anxiety are getting in the way of my relaxing and enjoying a slower pace of life.

      I don’t think you’re weird for not resonating with the concept of personal style. It sounds like you DO have a good sense of what you do and don’t like to wear, which is a huge part of it anyway. You also were able to easily identify three style keywords that sound in line with everything else you wrote. “Comfortable” doesn’t have to be a bad word at all when it comes to style! I think that Jennifer just wanted to make the point that ANY type of style can also be comfortable, which is true (but not always easy!).

      If you’ve been reading my posts for a while, you know that I share your challenge with finding pants and agree that well-fitting and comfortable pants IS a type of nirvana. Here’s hoping that we will both reach this place this year!

  6. Gail says:

    Time IS weird these days. It was already different since I retired; now it is even easier to not know what day–or even month–it is. It is a bit Groundhog Day-ish, a bit safe and undemanding, and a bit alternate slow/fast.
    I dress as I did once I stopped teaching. If I wear clean pajamas as some do, I feel as if I am carrying the whole bed around with me. and I don’t like it. For words, I immediately thought of comfortable, but read further down the page that that was one on the no-no words. However, I am keeping it. I don’t mean sloppy, and I don’t mean that I ever buy clothes that are not comfortable. I like to look comfortable–in my clothes, in my skin, and maybe welcoming, approachable and warm,therefore, to others. Other two words: natural, meaning not stiff, poly or costumey; and calm– with color I try to do this. If I had a 4th word it would be confident.
    Common elements: blue, no sharp colors, no citruses, natural fabrics, nothing ruffly, stiff or fancy. Soft fabrics, solids and smaller prints/stripes.
    I loathe the other side of the above–no need to list opposites.
    Goals are to continue to keep my integrity even when I have to go to a fancy affair with dressed-to-kill family.
    Best wishes to you, Debbie and all your interesting and sensitive readers.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Groundhog Day is a good way to describe time these days, Gail! I have trouble remembering what day it is, too, and weekends are often much like weekdays. Your comment about wearing pajamas during the day feeling like carrying the whole bed around made me chuckle! I don’t think that “comfortable” has to be a no-no word, but it also can apply (and hopefully DOES apply) to anyone’s style statement. I have vowed not to buy uncomfortable clothes again, too! I used to compromise, especially when it came to pants, but not anymore. Of course, a lot of pants won’t be as comfy as pajamas, but I’m trying to get as close as possible to that feeling!

      You seem to have a very strong sense of your style and what you do and don’t like to wear. I think my “loathe” elements are quite the opposite of my “love” elements, too. You’ll see that when I show photos next time. I like your goal about keeping your integrity – that’s always a good aim! Best wishes to you, too!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Love and light to you, my wonderful friend! Always nice to see your face – and your lovely silver hair! XO!

  7. Katrina B says:

    This post is just full of interesting things to think about! I hardly know where to start! The idea of a Looks I Loathe board is just so funny and at the same time would be very useful. I haven’t done any style exercises for a while but I know for sure that my style words are Comfortable, Confident, Creative. Funny! I even had Casual as one of the words but it seemed redundant. I can definitely see what she’s saying about it being a feeling rather than a look and i have a couple of stories about that.

    When I first started having anxiety in my 20s I didn’t know what it was but fortunately I knew to seek counseling. The first therapist I spoke with suggested that to help reduce my anxiety about going to work, I should wear the most comfortable clothing I could. I did make an effort to wear somewhat more comfortable clothes as I worked through that period of anxiety and slowly returned to full time work. And then I lapsed back into the uncomfortable suit, hose, and heels that we all wore in the 80s. Looking back, I think the therapist’s suggestion was very interesting, especially since I completely forgot about it and spent decades shopping for the perfect clothing to make me feel less anxious and more confident in the workplace. Instead of wearing more formal and more restrictive clothing all that time, I should have been aiming for looser, softer clothes. Well, I’ll just say I was young and confused.

    Then in my 40s I started having chronic, painful GI problems and I went in the opposite direction with my clothing – all loose and floaty with nothing tight around the middle. Fortunately I was in a more casual workplace! Looking at photos of myself during that time, it looks as though all my clothes were a size too big and everything seems a bit sloppy. No one ever said, “Oh, you look so … comfortable” or anything like that, but if I had been a more discerning shopper or if I had been sewing at that time, I could have looked better.

    Now I suppose like Goldilocks I’ve tried both extremes and finally managed to find a style in the middle that I can wear without pain, but still looks fitted and neat. One of my cowarkers described me as “sophisticated” but another said I dress like his mother. He hastened to add that it was a compliment, and it’s fine since I’m more than twice his age, but I would really like to see how his mother dresses!

    Living in the infinite present is still OK with me – I was soooo lucky that I didn’t have any big events or life changes coming up, I don’t go to school, most of my work is already done at home, and I already grew my gray out. 😂 I am in a kind of limbo about my housing situation as I don’t expect to be able to sell my house or buy a new one while all this is going on. But it’s nothing crucial and I’m not anxious about it. I really feel for all the people who are unable to see family members, the ones who didn’t have a graduation, those trying to reschedule a wedding for who knows when, the many who can’t get needed care, and everyone who has to go to work and risk their lives every day for the rest of us.

    I look forward to Mackey-Mary’s podcasts and learning more about her approach. Now I’m off to pick out some Looks I Loathe!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Katrina! I hope you do take the time to do a “Looks I Loathe” board, as I think you’ll find it interesting, enlightening, and fun. I actually enjoyed that part of the exercise more than the “Looks I Love” board, and it was easier to do, too. I have very visceral feelings about what I don’t like! I like your three “C” words, and there have been many compelling arguments among readers about how “comfortable” IS a viable style word. Your stories illustrate this very well and I appreciate your sharing them! I’m going to try your therapist’s suggestion regarding comfortable clothing to try to help me manage my anxiety. I feel your pain about the GI issues… It’s definitely challenging to dress in light of those issues, especially when one has a lot of bloating as I often do… That’s so great that you’ve found a happy medium between tight clothing and overly loose items. I think I’m getting there, too. “Sophisticated” is a good style descriptor! It would be nice to see how your co-worker’s mother dresses, but it would likely fit into the realm of sophisticated, I would think.

      I feel for people who had big events planned during this challenging time, too. My husband and I attended a Zoom wedding of one of his childhood friends about a week ago. This man had waited until age 60 to get married for the first time and then boom… the pandemic hit. I’m glad they went through with it, though, as the most important thing is their connection. I still cried when they said their vows, but I’m forever a hopeless romantic… I also feel for the essential workers and I’m definitely grateful for their service!

  8. So much of this resonates with me. I also feel very much in limbo. I’m between jobs, so right now my wardrobe doesn’t really fit my lifestyle and I’m spending most of my time wearing a small, very casual, subset of my overall wardrobe. I’m also about a size larger than I’d like to be (again, menopausal weight gain) and I’m not ready to “accept” it yet, so I have a fair amount of clothing in my closet that doesn’t fit me very well. I’ve always loved clothes and have been true to my preferences and (I think?) for the most part have been considered fairly stylish, but again, that all feels like past tense and I’m waiting for this pandemic to end and to get a new job and figure out what my life consists of. One bit of wardrobe advice that really struck me was when I read that you should break down your life into what types of clothes you wear and buy accordingly: For example, if you work in a business casual office, workout regularly, wear very casual clothes at home and only go out for social occasions once or twice a month–with a dressy occasion once or twice a year, then your buying would look something like: 50% business casual wear, 20% casual jeans/t’s, 15% workout clothes, 10% going out clothes, 5% dressy. This seems obvious, but was kind of revelational to me because up until then, whenever I went shopping I would buy “going out” clothes (like for a date or girls night out) even though I’m married and don’t do those things very frequently, I was trying to buy clothes for a lifestyle I wasn’t living! Anyway, thanks for your posts–they give me food for thought.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m sorry to hear that you’re in a limbo state right now, Stormy. I recommend that you store the clothes that don’t fit someplace outside of your closet, as it can mess with our psyches to see things that don’t fit every day. It’s better to only have things that currently fit us – and that we look forward to wearing – hanging in our closets. The pandemic has made getting dressed complicated for so many of us and has messed with those percentages you referenced towards the end of your comment. That advice is really good and although it IS straightforward, I’m guessing that most people don’t buy clothing in line with their actual lives. It’s often more fun to purchase going out clothes, but then we may find ourselves wearing things we don’t truly love and feel good in during most of the occasions in our lives. I’ve really been working on buying for my real life lately and I’m feeling the benefits of that. I have to keep reminding myself, though!

  9. Marta says:

    Great article. Thank you. ❤️

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Glad you liked it, Marta!

  10. Catherine Burch Graham says:

    Hi Debbie and thank you, again, for a thoughtful post. Thought about you last week – and this column – after a verbal altercation with a buddy. I realized that much of my problem with clothes shopping and, frankly, feelings of inadequacy stem from judging others and, I suppose, childhood jealousy of those with more things. I picked up a book called Judgment Detox by Gabrielle Bernstein and, boy, has it resonated. Perhaps it would be helpful for others. Take good care.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for this thought-provoking comment, Catherine, and for the book recommendation. Sounds very interesting! Feelings of inadequacy have played a large role in my overshopping and jealousy has been involved, too. I’m not sure about judgment, but I’m open to that possibility. Maybe I need to check out that book!

  11. Claire says:

    Hey there, Debbie. Always love to see words from you! 🙂 Well as before i think this time period has been about exactly the same for me as always… this is disabled life, man (at least in my case!).

    I did try to come up with 3 words, and immediately got “graphic” (like tees and prints) and “comfortable”. I totally stand by comfy; while I get where she’s coming from on that, i think in a lot of ways it comes from a cultural/societal place of sexism bc women are expected to look and act a certain way to be of value. I think women need to be a lot more comfortable in the world, and clothing is a great place to do that. As a matter of fact, I want to be obscenely comfortable and look it too! It’s also an able-bodied thing, my disabilities make me unable to tolerate wearing tons of garment bc of cut, fabric etc. So I’m sure she meant well but I think missed the mark there.

    Anyway, then i ran into a bump on coming up with a third word. I thought things like “offbeat” and “edgy”, but didn’t feel quite right, then the word “queer” came to mind and i was like, yes! That’s it exactly, in every sense of the word. While I’m monogamously married to a cis/het man, I am also deeply queer. I have been flying my freak flag as long as i can remember. THAT is not always comfortable. So I guess when i see myself in the mirror, i feel best/most myself being graphic, comfy and queer, and that helps me be in the world, which is just hard. All the love, my friend.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      It’s great to see you comment here, Claire! I was actually surprised at how I do feel different during this time even though my life isn’t really all THAT different than it was before. I guess those things that I did do made more of a difference than I thought. I like what you had to say about “comfortable.” I think that many people here feel that Jennifer Mackey-Mary missed that mark on excluding “comfortable” as a viable style word. It seems like many of our experiences are quite different than those of her clients perhaps. Thank you for being so open and honest about your third style word. I can imagine that it hasn’t been comfortable to be queer and be open and out about it, especially when you’re also married. I can see how dressing in accordance with your style guideposts would be helpful. I’m not quite sure how to envision “graphic, comfy, and queer” style, but all that really matters is that YOU can envision it and that dressing that way makes YOU happy! Lots of love right back to you!

      1. Claire says:

        Ha, thanks for the great reply Debbie, it did feel really vulnerable to give my third word! I think for me it can also encompass things like quirky, subversive, androgynous etc. I think nailing those 3 words down (graphic/comfy/queer) actually makes it easier to dress if I keep it in mind and make sure my wardrobe reflects it bc it is most natural/right to me, both in look and feeling.
        I suspect I would feel more of a difference during this time, as you do, if I wasn’t *quite* as debilitated as I am right now. I’m glad you are not as bad off in certain ways, and can notice those things that made more of a difference than you realized. That’s very good information to have.
        Thanks again for letting me have a safe space to share my queerness and how it impacts my dressing and self-image/identity. 🙂 xo

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