clothes, project 333, style


I’ve had this post in my mind for over a week now. That’s kind of how these start. Something happens that triggers me to start “writing” in my head – if I can’t get to the computer right away, I will “write” for a few days. Once I make the time, I sit down and most of what’s been percolating in my mind makes it onto the page. [Often I’ve thought how cool it would be to have a “record” button that would keep track of the “writing” I do in my head.] So, I had it ready to go then someone said something to me at work on Wednesday that pretty much threw off the whole premise of this post. I’ve decided to write it anyway, then I’ll address her comment at the end. How’s that for a hook? 😉


I was working from home and after an hour or so on the computer I decided I needed to take Denali for a walk. I went to my bedroom and started putting on clothes – pants, shirt, another shirt and fleece. As we walked out the door I slipped on some shoes. I didn’t think about what I was wearing until I was on the street and looked down. I started laughing at my outfit. This is what I saw:


In case you can’t tell – gray slip on shoes, black and purple leggings with some tribal pattern, blue and grey plaid shirt, turquoise and orange fleece. Absolutely nothing matched. And, I feel like this defined my experience with clothes.

When I get dressed for work I start with pants then work my way up, adding items until I think I have enough clothes on to keep me warm. Prior to my current job, I wore jeans most days. The idea of “business casual” was intimidating to me. Buying clothes and putting together outfits is not one of my gifts. I’m so grateful to be a Brock – my mother- and sisters-in-law know how to shop and have taught me well. I think my style quotient has gone up several points since being part of their family!

It’s not just clothes either. Shoes are the bane of my existence. If I could wear Chacos everyday I would. But I can’t, and not just because “business casual.” My feet determine the temperature of my body, so if they are cold, but whole body is cold. No sandals for me in the winter!

I can never find the generic shoes that go with all outfits and are comfortable. I don’t wear heels, I don’t like my toes to be squeezed together, I don’t care about brand names. Except Chacos, of course.

Recently I discovered Courtney Carver who started Project 333. The idea is that for each season you have 33 items in your wardrobe, including shoes and accessories. Jewelry you never take off doesn’t count and neither do workout clothes (only wearing when you’re working out!). In some ways I do this already. I have a rotation of outfits I feel I’ve mastered that I wear to work each week. I think this would make my morning routine smoother – less to sort through in the closet when it’s dark and I’m half awake. If I have clothes that all go with each other, it won’t matter which pants or shirt I pick because they all match.

Now that it’s finally spring here, I’m switching out my winter clothes this weekend. I’m going to seriously consider this minimalist approach to my closet and see what I can do with what I have.

I’ve gone through several different styles since college. In the late 90s, after the baggie jeans and huge flannels of the mid-90s, it was bell-bottoms and tight fitting shirts and those god-awful platform flip flops. Then I went through kind of a preppy stage with lots of cardigans. After my divorce the hippy showed up with band t-shirts (and a long-sleeve under during the winter, of course), strappy tanks and skirts for days. Since then I don’t know that I’ve had a clearly defined style. I do wear a lot more LOFT items these days. My activities also determine my clothing choices, like yoga and running.

Earlier this year I went shopping with two of my sisters-in-law – we all got gift certificates to a clothing boutique for Christmas. I used mine to by a comfy hooded vest. After wearing it for a while, I decided on my new style: hiker chic. I was told this is made up. Perhaps it is but I’m going for it. Yet another style defined by my activities – hiking the Camino de Santiago this summer. I want shirts I can wear for days without washing. I want a fleece that will work for a walk in the woods and a dinner out with friends. I want to be hiker chic – you can see it right?!

When it comes to clothes, I have no idea how to define myself and I think that’s okay. I really just want to be appropriately covered and warm or cool as the weather dictates. If what I put on looks good, well, then everyone wins!


So, I have defined myself as “not stylish.” That’s the narrative in my head when I buy clothes, when I get dressed, when I look in my closet. These are the words I use.

But then…

On Wednesday I walked into a room with a few of my co-workers and one looks over at me and says, “I love your sweater.” I look down and sarcastically say thanks. Then she continues by commenting on how stylish my clothes always are. I laughed it off thinking she was joking, but then I looked at her face and saw how truthful she was. So, I said, “Well, thankfully I married into a family that knows how to shop.” She agreed that it probably helps, but that can’t be all – that I need to own some of this.

I mean, then she started talking about how stylish my umbrella is. I have a stylish umbrella, people!

I walked out of that room with a bit of identity crisis. I thought about this post I had written in my head and how it went against everything that just happened. I thought about how I’ve always told myself that I’m not stylish, that I’m always just a step or two behind, that I don’t know how to dress. (I mean, I go out in public in moccasins, colorful socks, pants that don’t match the socks and oversized sweatshirts…)

Whether or not I’m stylish wasn’t the ah-ha moment for me. Honestly, I don’t care that much – if I did, I’d have done something about it years ago.

What I did take away from this is the story I tell myself about myself. I live with this story that I don’t know how to dress – not because anyone else told me, but because that’s the story I created and I keep it alive through the narrative in my mind. What other stories am I telling? What other narratives am I keeping alive, even though they may not be true?

It used to be: “I’m not a runner.” Even though I’d run several half-marathons, I didn’t identify as a runner because I didn’t feel fast enough. Eventually I set myself straight on that one.

There are probably more.

I’m grateful for this co-worker and her willingness to speak truth into my life, whether she knew she was doing that or not. I’m not sure I’m ready to claim “stylish” as part of my identity, but when someone tells me they like my sweater, I’m going to start saying “thank you.”



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