If the title didn’t give it away, this is going to be a girly post.
I’m really lucky that I get to work at a company that likes to maintain a casual atmosphere and lets its employees wear pretty much whatever they want to work. Nothing scandalous, of course, but comfortable and casual. In the summer, I go in wearing a sundress and flip flops, and in the winter I’m almost always in jeans, warm snow boots and a sweater. I’m also in the client service industry, however, so when I am out of the office meeting with clients, I have to dress in a more professional manner. I’ve had my handful of client-ready outfits for years, but they don’t make up the majority of my wardrobe since most of the time I can get away with a lot less.
Here’s the problem: I’m 28 years old (shocking, I know, considering yesterday’s Frozen versus Tangled rant), and my cheap, cute, comfortable clothes from Forever 21 and Charlotte Russe are really no longer age appropriate. I look very young for my age, so I’ve gotten away with it probably longer than I should have, but I can’t pull them off for much longer. I’ve been wearing the same client-ready dresses for years. I don’t own any pants that aren’t jeans or intended for exercise, and I hate blazers (the reason for that being twofold: first, in my initial post-college job I had to wear blazers every day, and I looked like I was a child playing dress up in my mom’s closet; second, the trend now is 3/4-length blazers, which are cute, but always leave my forearms cold. Also shoulder pads suck). The last time I cleaned out my closet I realized I need to get some grown up clothes, and fast. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.
Grown up clothes cost money, yo! I mean… seriously. I’m used to shopping at Forever 21, where the most I’ve ever spent on a dress is somewhere around $35. I also do a lot of Mod Cloth shopping but, aside from an $60 dress I bought for a wedding back in 2012, I typically like to buy dresses from them on final sale, when I can spend at most $30 on a dress. Grown up clothes are never that cheap. The last time I was in Macy’s (Macy’s! Not even Nordstrom’s or Lord & Taylor!) a simple Calvin Klein top I liked cost $45. $45 for a shirt! It was definitely nice, slate colored with a draped neck and made of good material, but I balked at the price. I mean, $45 for a top, and it didn’t even have sleeves!
I have to get over the money thing. I’m at a disadvantage here since, for the last four years, I’ve never had to buy a single outfit that I couldn’t wear to a sports bar on a Sunday afternoon to watch football, whereas a lot of women my age have spent the last seven years slowly building their wardrobe up with adult pieces. But I need to make those changes, especially if I want to advance in my career (no one wants to see a 35 year old woman giving a presentation for 20 people in a floral dress from the Junior’s section). I need to figure out–and fast–what my clothing budget per month should be, and what I need to sacrifice in order to do that. Maybe that means a couple less dinners out per month, or a few more meals actually eating leftovers instead of letting them sit in the fridge until they smell before tossing them.
2. My Style
Oh boy oh boy, my style is pretty young. First of all, I love dresses, and if you take away my evening dresses and the handful of professional dresses I’ve mentioned before, what you’re left with is a ton of sundresses. Boy oh boy do I love a sundress. And polka dots. I have a polka dot problem. I’m acutely aware of what clothes look good on my body. I’ve got a full chest, small waist, short torso and long legs: sundresses above my knee fit my body and personality perfectly. Here are a couple dresses I bought from a Mod Cloth sale this past summer:
All three are casual (although the polka dot one can be dressed up, which I did for my birthday dinner), cute (I have a major thing for polka dots), accent the waist. Also, all of them are prints. I own very few solid color dresses. I’m trying to get better. In the fall I bought this Rachel Roy dress from Macy’s:
Cute right? It works really well for work, clients, or going out and, although it has a pretty high neck for me (you will NEVER see me in a turtleneck), it cuts my leg in a nice place and hugs my curves without being inappropriate. Of course, I bought it at $90, which goes back to the money thing, but there you go. New York & Co and H&M are also some nice transition stores when it comes to a more adult style without sacrificing a lot of money. Here are a couple of cute tops I got from H&M in December, each only $25:
Bottom line is… I’m trying to figure out what my style is going to look like for the next 5 – 7 years or so, as opposed to continuing to buy clothes that fit my style from the past 5 – 7 years.
3. My issue with Long-Sleeved Shirts and Dresses, or Sweat
I’m a New Yorker, and I sweat every day. I don’t have a sweating problem, it’s just the price you pay for living in this great city. Honestly, if you’re a New Yorker and you DON’T sweat every day, please tell me about it, I want to know what sorcery you have and why you own’t share. Picture this, non-NYers: It’s 8am, time to leave for work and it’s 9 degrees out. You have tights under your jeans, warm socks, snow boots, a sweatshirt over your sweater and under your winter jacket, a scarf, a hat and knit gloves. You leave your apartment as bundled up as humanly possible to walk to the subway, hands in pocket, head down. You descend into the subway station and start to disrobe piece by piece: hat first, then gloves, which you stick in your purse, and then you unzip your coat a bit to let the air in. The train comes, and you board, stuffed into a car so filled with people that you have to place your laptop bag between your feet. Strangers breathe on you and jostle into your sides every time the train sways. The sweating starts in earnest now. After the longest 20 minutes of your day, you squeeze out at your stop and, as you leave the subway, start replacing your hat, gloves, scarf. Almost immediately upon hitting the fresh air, the sweat you created underground freezes on your body. Yes, it is as gross as it sounds. You walk to your office building as fast as possible to escape the cold, but the heat you create from your power walk has the added benefit of defrosting said sweat while creating it some friends. Finally you reach your building and as soon as you step in the elevator you start stripping again, because the office building keeps its temperature at 78* year round.
Grown up clothes never seem to want to let you breathe. Cotton may be a cheap fabric, but at least it lets the air in and is easy to clean. If I sweat in dry clean only… well, that’s why I don’t own a lot of dry clean only clothes. I just need to get over that one.
So that’s what I’m dealing with when it comes to building up my Grown Up Wardrobe. I’d appreciate any advice or helpful hints from women who have found themselves working through a similar transition! In the meantime, I’ll be here on my couch in my sweatshirt and PJ pants…