Autopilot Style



Lately I feel like I’m on autopilot with my wardrobe. One day this week, I ran an errand before work. I was wearing dark-wash jeans and a grey turtleneck. Before work, I planned to add my blue cardigan, but it was stuck in a corner of a drawer and was too creased to wear. So I threw on a red one. It was functional, but I felt I had put in no effort. I don’t really “do” scarves, chains and prints. My non-negotiable accessories are earrings, watches and shoes.

I rarely plan new outfits to wear. I buy individual pieces, then find or buy things to go with them and make a basic outfit. It is then “locked in,” with minor variations! I don’t think much about new combinations. The “outfit planning” happens only once, when I buy a piece and then work around it.

I have a lot of solid-colour basics that I can mix-and-match, not because I have memorized a bunch of stunning ensembles, but because they are plain enough not to set off any alarm bells no matter how I wear them. Also, since I have black and grey trousers, and lots of bright-coloured shirts/cardigans/jackets, I impose limits on how I wear them: maybe grey pants, white shirt, blue cardigan. Not grey pants, yellow shirt, purple jacket. I am just not that flamboyant!

Is this versatile or uncreative? Hard to say. I can pull on anything in the morning and it will look presentable.  I just don’t go that extra distance to make it pop.

You would think I’m a no-fuss person and don’t mind looking plain. Here’s the catch: somehow, I do mind. While I don’t clamour for attention, I usually find a subtle point where I look in the mirror and think to myself, yup, that’s it. Two steps down from flashy and two steps up from invisible!

There are times when I really don’t want to make an effort, but that’s not the norm. My idea of acceptable effort is a little more than having a selection of clean clothes, and a lot less than designing a new Polyvore page each morning!

I am trying to think of how to step it up, without spending money on accessories I may soon abandon. I put myself in the not-quite-clueless category. I tend to rule out new looks too easily. I have to stop and think, would other people do that? And then, “But is it ME?”

Some of my thoughts:

1: Shop my closet! Instead of wearing the same tunic sweater with those black leggings, consider my options: what are ALL the tops I can wear with the leggings? What are ALL the bottoms I can wear with the tunic? Could I wear the leggings with a short top and a long layer over? Am I just one pair of shoes away from another combination that works?

2: Accessorize! Maybe a print scarf or some chunky necklaces would break the monotony. Maybe that Mondaine watch I’ve been eyeing is just the thing! Are last year’s fedoras over yet?

3: Go for prints! I have so few. Everyone knows you can wear animal prints as a neutral, for example, but I have yet to do it.

4: Buy more stuff! I could pick up seasonal, holiday or trendy items in the least expensive versions. I could get more variety through thrifting.

5: Decide on a signature look –  limit my style and colours. Then everything I wear would be a variation on a theme. I could even go so far as to have a uniform-like work wardrobe.

6: Buy only top quality items, built to last, and get maximum wear out of them.

I have two pluses right now. One is that my weight is stable right now so I can wear anything I own. The other is that I need a 4-season wardrobe, so I rotate stuff into season every 3 months. I don’t get excessively tired of things because I am always swapping them in and out according to the weather.

I haven’t decided on a plan yet. I’m just dreaming of Spring. What do you do when you’re in a fashion rut?

These pix perked me up (click on any photo to start slideshow):


  1. thrift deluxe

    I think every time you think you’re looking plain there will be someone thinking that you are very simply stylish.

    I know what you mean about a rut though. I am a big fan of pattern and feel awkward in plain blocks of colour, so when I see photographs of myself and I’m always wearing the same things I think I should look for something to freshen things up but I am quite choosy when it comes to new things so it takes a while.

    • Hi TD, I suppose it is all about context – who you spend time with and what their styles are like! Whenever I feel like I should hit “refresh” and do a style makeover, I find myself still attracted to the same types of clothes in the stores. I think my tastes are quite entrenched! Maybe I should hire a personal shopper (or bring a friend) for a second opinion.

  2. Great advice. I love the “shop my closet” suggestion.

  3. Dar, have you read any of the minimalist blogs on capsule wardrobes (between 30 and 50 items)? I’ve read the blogs (and pared down a little) and am interested in the concept of having fewer clothes since I wear the same ones all the time anyway. It is a little scary to stop buying or to accept that getting new clothes won’t turn me into someone else. I’ve got enough, but keep buying.
    I think it is harder to make a feminine or woman’s capsule than a masculine or men’s capusule – particularly if your work wardrobe doesn’t intersect with your weekend wardrobe, but it is an interesting challenge. I like Joshua Becker’s blog and you may like this piece or one of his other ones (again, I haven’t followed it but I am considering dipping a toe into it):

    • Hi Jamie, The Becoming Minimalist post is a good one – I had not been there in a while. I especially liked the advice to embrace having ONE of something! I realized a while ago that I essentially do have a capsule wardrobe, because I have 60 items that are suitable for work, and a maximum of 30 to 40 for any one season. I like mix-and-match basics and I do tend to stick with the same colour schemes over time.

  4. Lorraine

    You sound like me except that since I wear a uniform to work, I have even less clothes than the average person. It takes a lot of thought to put together the kind of wardrobe you are talking about. I am inspired to attempt it.

    • Hi Lorraine, I would find it hard to develop a non-work wardrobe if I had a work uniform. My workplace is semi-casual so I have a lot of clothes I can wear either at work or weekends, cross-over for going out. Without that ability, I would find it hard to keep a complete range of casual/non-work clothes for every occasion. Would be interested to hear how you do!

  5. I hear you on a set style but then getting bored of it! More so now cause I’m travelling (US!) and shopping a lot more. I have set myself a list, and also been pretty ‘single minded’. My focus was: converse sneakers, button up work shirts, white and/or grey jacket or coat. I have got myself Converse sneakers from an outlet – hardly a mark down, but hey! I bought three button up shirts suitable for work, all natural fibres. I’m outright rejecting anything that’s polyester. In my thrift shopping, as is often the case, I took what was offered, and bought some black flats suitable for work, and a STUNNING blue coat. My Black coat which held up to Chicago and -1C or thereabouts, it from 2006, and I’m a little more rotund than then, so it wans’t looking great. I’m keeping it, as I just spent twice the cost of the new blue one, on getting it re-lined.

    I’m definitely thinking more and more about accessories, like necklaces or earrings and scarfs to help add to otherwise ‘dull’ outfits. They are small too – both to store, but to buy and carry across the seas. Alas, I’ve bought none of any of them, but I have travelled with about 7 pairs of earrings, and worn a different pair most days, and it does help me enjoy my ‘look’ more!

  6. Fiona

    I like that: two steps down from flashy and one step up from invisible! I’m so much the same (or would be, if I was at my ideal weight. I’m probably more into ‘whatever fits’ at the moment.)

    I think one thing that works to ‘step it up’ is to have a few outfits that are completely out of the typical look that you wear. Sometimes, I wear a long dress or skirt when I usually don’t…it always attracts numerous comments. Same with colours. If you never wear a brighter green then break one out, it does ease the monotony. But such variations go against the notion of a capsule wardrobe!

    Nevertheless – I am really lobbying for you to break out the ‘Paris dress’ again for a work occasion! 😀

    • You’re right – occasionally I do wear an outfit that’s out of character. Sometimes it’s a buying mistake and sometimes a flash of inspiration. Haha, the Paris dress will never see work duty, but I am hoping for some hot summer days and semi-dressy events so I can wear it this summer. You know our summers only average about 23C, right? 🙂

  7. There are days I wish I had a uniform and in some ways at jobs where we don’t have to be business casual I was always in jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt. My go to colours used to be black, blue and grey until a coworker challenged me to put some colour in my wardrobe. So I bought 2 new colours of my long sleeve t-shirts, plum and orange. 😉 LOL
    I like the styles you have posted.

  8. I saw a woman yesterday who looked very Audrey. Simple. Elegant. Stylish. No accessories. A black 3/4 sleeve boat neck top and a gathered dark grey skirt with a little pattern in the weave. Short cropped cut.

    I wish I did stylish like that. I have a style. But it isn’t simple and elegant.

    Another woman, my age, had a grey dress with a darker grey long line coat and long scarf with pale like green hanging around her neck. She looked great.

    I know you don’t do skirts and dresses for work. But it’s that style is like.

    I tend to do bright colours and patterns. No scarves. They annoy me after an hour. I rip them off.

    • I am scarf-challenged. I do keep trying to wear them but somehow I never get the right length or the right way to wrap. It’s probably because I have collected scarves at random based on the colours and patterns, and never thought about what I would wear them with or how, until afterwards!

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