closet crisis

blue tank black midi1 blue tank black midi2 blue tank black midi3 blue tank black midi4 blue tank black midi5 blue tank black midi6 blue tank black midi7
tank: Old Navy // skirt: ASOS // shoes: Steve Madden // necklace: The Land of Salt

photos by Chelsea Laine Francis

This is a post I've tried to start a couple of times from different angles, but I think I've finally gotten down to the issue: I'm in a major closet crisis. I feel like this is style blogger heresy to admit on the Internet, but it's also incredibly true.

Over the last year and a half, a few things have changed that I think lead to my crisis. First, as I've written about before, my body has undergone some pretty big changes in shape and size. Last summer I did a pretty huge purge of my closet because nothing I owned fit me anymore. I continued to purge through fall and winter, and by time spring rolled around, I had hardly any clothing left.

The second factor is the idea of capsule/limited wardrobes. Last spring I did a 30x30 challenge, which ended up being an awesome experience in getting the most out of my clothes. I mixed, matched, and remixed like never before. Unfortunately, by the end of the challenge, most of those items were lost in the Great Closet Purge of Summer 2014. Mid-summer I got frustrated with trying to rebuild a wardrobe through thrifting and I bought a handful of pieces at the Banana Republic and J.Crew outlets. I then shared a 7x7 remix challenge to show how I got the most out of those few purchases. Fall and winter set in, and again I purged previous years' clothes that didn't fit, purchased just a few new pieces, and remixed them all season.

As I started adding a few items to my closet for spring, I was struggling: struggling to find things that could wear a bunch of ways, struggling to find things that fit my body the way I wanted, and struggling to find things that fit the woman I am and aim to be. I so associate clothing with being a physical representation and expression of the person I am. There's a quote from Caitlin Moran's book How To Be A Woman that I deeply relate to: "When a woman says, 'I have nothing to wear!', what she really means is, 'There’s nothing here for who I’m supposed to be today.'" When I get dressed every day, I think about the kind of woman I want to be that day. The clothes in my closet today aren't speaking to me the way I need them to. When I pick out an article of clothing in a store lately, I don't think "That's the kind of woman I want to be." I think "Is this the kind of woman I have to be in order to wear this?"

I was looking through my archives recently looking for summer outfit inspiration and what I found were thrifted gems and impulse purchases that I was so excited to wear (example A, B, C and D). I remember never wearing the same outfit twice because I was constantly inspired by my wardrobe and I had endless options to choose from. I miss feeling this way.

Everything I've purchased so far this season is either black or blue (in fact, I even have the same top in black and blue). I find myself wearing the exact same version of seven or so outfits every week. I don't have many options and there are only so many ways I can wear the same few items. The pieces I've purchased are too cohesive -- I'm just matching everything back to itself and I desperately need to branch out.

But I'm finding that I don't know how to branch out. Or, maybe it's that I don't know what kind of woman I want to be, or rather that I don't identify with the options retailers are offering for me. I feel like there are essentially three styles lately: The Coachella Go-er, The Every Girl, and The Minimalist. The first is a look that is completely opposite from me: tribal patterns, fringe, crop tops and flowy bottoms. The second can be summed up by floral skater dresses found at Target and fast-fashion trends seen on every girl between 15 and 27. The third is what I've been buying into; mostly void of personality, solid neutral-colored pieces in boxy shapes. I feel like I'm being offered the options of a personality I don't identify with at all or two styles that are plenty accessible but not individual or inspiring.

I guess I'm sharing all of this for a few reasons. I'm a style blogger who has lost her style. Shopping has been totally exhausting the last couple of times I've gone (a new experience for me). I'm not wearing new or exciting things to share with you because I'm wearing the same outfits you've already seen.

I want to get back into thrifting. I gave up last summer when I was so angry with my body and just needed the solace of clothes existing in my closet without having to put in the work to find them. I want to think about who I am in regards to my style. I want to look at some magazines and Pinterest, but also old outfits of my own that I loved so I can figure out what it is that I love about an outfit. I want to make shopping lists, but also allow myself to be impulsive and buy beautiful things that I'm excited to own, instead of just things that are practical and match my other (decidedly) boring clothes.

Have you dealt with a style rut or closet crisis? How can I fall back in love with fashion?

26 comments

  1. I love this outfit! But I completely understand where you are coming from. That is why I'm doing a capsule wardrobe to try to hone my style and figure out what I like outside of what everyone else says is in style. I use to have so much fun with clothes and get so many comments about how adventuresome my outfits were but that was prior to me working a job that required scrubs and pregnancy. Since becoming a mom and staying home I've struggled with finding that sweet spot with style, feeling stylish but also practicality.

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  2. YES TO THIS. That quote speaks to my soullllllll.

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  3. I actually just wrote about
    my clothes & closet (my post is going live tomorrow if you want to stop by
    and read it then). I purged a lot too and pretty much left myself without many
    options. There is still a lot I want to purge because the items just aren’t me
    anymore. Out of the clothes I have now, I probably only wear about 50% of them.
    I really want to start focusing on my
    wardrobe because I’m tired of wearing the same things to work every week, but I’ve
    been having a hard time shopping too. I feel like I'm in a really big rut.

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  4. I didn't realize there weren't a lot of options until you mentioned the three styles. It's totally true! I'm definitely in the minimalist camp. My closet is feeling really boring and uninspiring these days. I feel like the only thing I enjoy buying right now are shoes! I think your idea of going through your outfit posts and Pinterest is a great idea! Sometimes if I have an article of clothing that I don't know how to style, I will go to Pinterest and search by that article of clothing and find inspiration from different pins. Or I'll come on your blog and see how you've styled things in the past!

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  5. Ugh, I know what you mean, girl. I seem to be at a weird 'in between' age in terms of fashion, where I don't want to wear what's being marketed to teenagers and college-age girls, but I don't feel like I don't want to totally go the way of a capsule wardrobe with mostly neutral, minimal stuff. Add body issues into the mix and it's just a recipe for frustration every morning trying to decide what to wear. I went and did another sweep of my closet to get rid of things that I haven't worn in a year or two, and I'm making a concerted effort to only bring in new pieces that are either well-constructed and super versatile (pieces that I have to save for and can't just go out to Old Navy or something and pick up on a whim) or pieces that function as an entire outfit (dresses and jumpsuits that I'd actually wear more than once). But anyway, I totally get it. If it's any consolation, I love the outfit you posted yesterday with your new watch!

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  6. I FEEL THIS. I used to love dressing up everyday, but as my body changed over the past 3 years (sedentary work and bad food choices as #1 culprits) I found myself getting more and more miserable the more I tried to enjoy fashion. I think I've spent the past year wearing primarily leggings, sweaters, and tunics and for now, that's ok. Being pregnant now, I'm trying to get back in the fashion thing; I realize I feel a LOT better about my preggo body if I dress up and make an effort, even though my preggo body is essentially the same size as my pre-preggo bod. Fashion and style is such a weird thing, and I think we all go through phases of "caring" and "not caring" (or perhaps "struggling" and "not struggling"). That being said, I look forward to your posts (and pins on PInterest) because your style is ultimately more relateable to me than a lot of other blogs. :) Maybe someday I'll get back into fashion blogging.

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  7. I feel you, girl. I often feel uninspired by the clothing that is being marketed to me, and find a lot more inspiration when I take the time to really go digging around and see what's available beyond the marketing and window displays. Also, a lot of times my favorite clothing items end up being gems I stumbled upon, often when I wasn't really even looking for anything. Maybe you've actually reached the point of being too intentional with your fashion purchases? I find that when I know the ending to a story before I start writing it, I'm not excited to get it down on paper. Maybe if you know all of the outfits you're going to make before you buy something, you're bored by the time you actually wear them? Maybe you need to add a couple of unique, impulse pieces to your carefully crafted wardrobe.

    Here are a couple of ideas: 1) go out and buy a 100 percent new outfit. Don't worry about what else you can do with any of the pieces. Just buy an outfit full of pieces you love on you and see what else you can do with it when you get home. 2) Mix another color into your wardrobe. Pick one that would add some contrast, but would also "go" with the blue and black you already have going on. Buy a couple of pieces in different shades of that color and have fun mixing and matching these new elements! 3) Focus on accessories. Maybe you and your body need some time to get used to each other. If that's the case, invest in some fun jewelry, scarves, shoes...whatever you can add to your current clothing that "fits" to help it feel interesting and new again.

    Ultimately, though, I am most inspired by the women I know and admire! I see their personalities in their clothing and I end up taking on some of their looks as I try to adopt the things I want to learn from them. I was constantly inspired by the two women I worked closely with at the jewelry store. Maybe in addition to searching the web, you should look to the women in your life that you most admire and see what style choices you can take from them. This may help solve both of your crises–give you some style inspiration, and also remind you of what these women have taught you, and in what ways you want to follow (and deviate) from their paths.



    And remember: nothing is permanent. You can decide that you want to be one person today, and after taking some steps toward it, change your mind next month. You can be all about fashion sneakers and buy one glorious pair and then decide that's too young for you and part ways. You can try anything once, on your body and in your mindset.


    If you ever need a thrifting partner, or a second eye over your wardrobe, or a friend to bounce an idea off of, I'm here. I hope you, your body, and your wardrobe make nice soon.


    XO Jen

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  8. Let me start by reminding you that you are BEAUTIFUL and that your smile is infectious. It doesn't matter what kind of women you are/decide to be -- those two things will always remain constant. That being said, I can totally relate to being in a style rut. In some ways, I'm lucky because I get to wear scrubs to work everyday so I don't have to put any thought into my outfits during the week. But, when the weekend comes, I'm at a loss. My body has also changed over these last few years, many of the clothes I'm hanging on to no longer fit, and I tend to always buy non-printed blacks/whites/grays when I do purchase new items. It makes me feel blahhhh.


    One thing that may work in the meantime, and may help you to find inspiration, is trying to see how many shoe/accessory changes you can do on any outfit to see how it alters its look. I think that would be super helpful to the style-challenged like myself!

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  9. Oh man, so much of this speaks to me. I've been in a fight with my closet (and my body) for the last year myself. I've purged so much of what no longer fits me and yet shopping is a challenge when I don't have the budget and it's not a fun experience anymore because all I do is end up feeling bad when things don't fit me the way they once did.

    For me, I've been trying to find inspiration where I can, and keep a list of items that I would like--either replacements for things I've purged or new things. When I'm out shopping and something catches my eye, I will consider buying it if it fits on my list of items. Comfort has been number 1 on my list lately--if my clothing doesn't fit, it ends up making me feel so much worse. I have a cute pair of pants that I love that I refuse to give up. I wore them a month or two ago and I actually had to go out and buy another pair of pants to wear on my lunch break because they were too tight to be comfortable. That should not happen.

    Being comfortable in what you're wearing and feeling happiness when you get dressed in the morning is the key to falling back in love with fashion. If you take it step by step, I have no doubt your closet will be brimming with great options soon!

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  10. This post really resonated with me Nicole! The wardrobe I had when I got pregnant with Ru was from my single lady thrifty indie days. It doesn't really fit who I am anymore. Also, my body is still finding its equilibrium after having a baby. I've been wearing a lot of hand me downs from friends- which is great but I also don't feel like 'me' in them. I've been putting a lot of thought into rebuilding my wardrobe. If I'm being honest with myself- I'm at home with Ru most of the time. So having a few cute yoga pants and a few tops would probably work 80% of the time. Then there are the weddings I attend to photograph and the brunches with girlfriends. I really just need a few key pieces that I absolutely love for those occasions. Since I don't have the ability to go shopping with Ru right now . . . I've signed up for Stitch Fix. Let's see if someone looking at my Pinterest can send me what I'm looking for! I expect my first box on the 18th.

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  11. Nicole, you're such a wonderful writer and woman. Remember that the only person who cares what you're wearing is y-o-u.

    The best thing to ever happen to my wardrobe was moving to an Ashram. I couldn't show my arms or legs or chest. Nothing could be tight or revealing. I was reduced to wearing 2% of my closet—the blandest, most perfunctory items. I was coming from a corporate job where I could afford to be a brand slut; it took adjusting.

    But by not focusing on clothing and only focusing on who I was and how I treated people, I was a much happier person. I still live at the Ashram. In times of stress, I notice I fuss over clothing. I don't want to just look nice—on a deep level, I want to be loved, respected, and recognized for my inner beauty.

    So now when I look at my closet and wish I had something cuter (or could even wear something cute) I ask myself: What do I really want? Usually, it's a good conversation, a walk in the woods, a hug from a friend.

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  12. I love this post Nicole, I too have purged almost everything I've owned in the last year or so. I went through some "life changing moments" that shaped me emotionally and physically as well! It has been bitter sweet and I really didn't feel like the same person I once was and it was time to "let go" of some clothing and memories that was attached to them. I started to fall in love with simple pieces that I could style many different ways and that looked more effortless rather than too put together. I'm with you there on changes and you'll figure it out along the way.... this is one of my all time favorite outfit posts of yours I think because you look very comfortable in your own skin and that's what really shines through.
    xoxo
    Taylor
    http://www.nothingbutapigeon.com/

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  13. I've dealt with this almost exactly as you've described it. In the past year my body has changed a lot as well, leading me to purging and remixing and purging again only to feel as though I haven't nailed down my style. Recently I've found myself pinning images of what I will wear (realistically) compared to the styles that I wear only in my imagination. Because, let's face it, I love bohemian floor length dresses and wide legged patterned slacks in my free spirit alter ego... but it doesn't quite fly in the real world. It's a struggle!

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  14. I keep realizing that I've never really *defined* my style. I've always been concerned with price over style and now all of a sudden I look in my wardrobe and nothing inspires me. I know that I really like Betty Paige-esque dresses, but I don't know how that is supposed to translate to work clothes or casual clothes - and I will never be the girl who can wear all of those cute head wrap/bow things because my hair is too big (which I feel like is an essential part of the Betty Paige look). I also really like color, but that's not super reflected in my wardrobe, so I need to figure out what to do about that as well. Recently I went through and purged anything that didn't bring me joy (you know, like every other blogger is doing right now) and so I got rid of a few more things that I'm still not even really sure why I had to begin with. I guess the next step is figuring out what Betty Paige would were to her day job and out with friends. Or figuring out exactly what it is I like most about those styles and then look for those attributes in other clothing? Maybe that's the answer. Thanks for helping me to think about this a little bit more :) - and good luck with your closet crisis! Oh. And I REALLY love that nothing to wear for who I want to be today quote, very awesome.

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  15. Thrifting and resale have saved me many times. My situation is a bit different in that my body hasn't changed, but the bodies around me have. Since moving to Japan, my clothing options are so limited because the typical body shape here is so different from mine! Every time I find something cute, it's a mess when I try it on. I have to constantly remind myself that it's not me, it's the clothes. But resale/vintage shops are always there for me! And online shopping. Haha good luck Nicole! You'll find what you're looking for.

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  16. THIS POST DID NOT DISAPPOINT! Wow, lady. I have been feeling very similar lately. I know so many people are into the whole capsule wardrobe thing, but few people talk about the downside to having a closet that goes together too well (or they just don't experience it, I guess). I have a big closet and don't have a capsule wardrobe at all, but I'm to the point where nearly everything I have goes together. It's the first thought that goes through my head when I buy something new: does it go with three outfits? Usually I can think of WAY more than three because everything I have goes together so well, and I'm stuck in a rut of outfits even though everything goes together. I think I'm just rambling at this point but I just wanted to let you know that I know what you mean.


    xo Kimi
    cottoncashmerecathair.com

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  17. I go in and out of feeling like this at various points every year. Sometimes I feel good in what I have and sometimes I don't. It depends on my mood, where I have to go, how I'm feeling in my body, how much time I have to get ready, blah blah blah.
    But I typically fall into the minimalist variety. Majority of my closet is filled with staples and multiple colors of the same exact simple product. But while my outfit staples might be fairly plain/boring, I always try to add personality via accessories. I have about a million scarves, a few too many bags, and a solid grouping of shoes. In fact, I've started noticing that when my shoe supply is getting low, my whole closet feels empty!

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  18. I feel this way almost every season. I think one of my major problems is my desire to have a wardrobe of good-quality basics that will last...without the budget to make that happen. The other big problem is working with children (which I love!). It takes a toll on clothes, so I find myself steering toward basic khakis and black trousers, avoiding all the cute trendy skirts, leggings, or NICE pants that crawling on my knees will utterly destroy. I end up buying most tops at Target or Old Navy in basic colors, lots of basic cardigans, and mixing everything up. No style happens. I look at my closet and feel bored.

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  19. I'm so excited about your capsule and I hope you find it so helpful! I think my issue is that it caused me to be a little too intentional, and I need to open myself back up a little to the fun in fashion.


    PS. I love seeing all of your adorbs pics of little Landry

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  20. I think refocusing is such a good way to look at it! I keep buying the same things to match the things I have, and I need to shift so I'm buying things I like more and then things that go with those things instead!


    PS I loved your post!

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  21. You're the best. Seriously. Every time you comment it makes my day.


    I feel the same about shoes! It's so much easier to buy shoes, isn't it? They pretty much always fit!

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  22. I'm just gonna put it out there that you and I need to get a meal sometime. I feel like you and I haven't gotten enough one-on-one time and I think we are meant to be much better friends.


    Also, please teach me your jumpsuit ways. Your style has been KILLING IT. Everything you wear is so unequivocally Liz and *that* should be the goal. Where do you shop? Is it mostly thrifting? Where do you invest? I'm so interested!

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  23. Yes, I would absolutely LOVE that! Let's have lunch and talk style, shopping, life, etc. Email me yo' digits at lizfeezor@gmail.com and let's set something up!

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  24. I don't know how I missed this comment! This just made my day! YOU'RE THE BEST (sorry not sorry for all the exclamation points)! Also, I am listening to your podcast while I'm writing this. I just started listening yesterday and I have already listened to five episodes! I catch myself agreeing out loud or adding a comment to something you guys are talking about, that's how much I am loving BFD. It's funny, smart, insightful, and thought-provoking. Totally hooked.

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  25. I love your outfit and pics! I would totally wear this, and you look great! I so relate to feeling like I have nothing to wear that suits my sensibility on a given day. I recently underwent my own closet purge and feel like at least I know the types of clothes I reach for, having thinned out the options. Now I just have to get excited about my new closet and fill it out a bit :)

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  26. Great post and the way you describe the styles that are currently available at a lot of stores feels so on point to me! If I had to describe the things I've been buying, they'd generally fall into either the Every Girl or the Minimalist thing, I think. (To be more precise, I just buy a lot of what Ann Taylor or Loft are putting out every season, and they both market a certain set look - something like the Every Girl look for a slightly older crowd? - that's not always "me," even if their stuff works well for my needs, so I buy stuff often.)


    I don't have as much insight on how to deal with a style rut or closet crisis, except that I can also relate to the feeling of often being uninspired by what's available at retail stores.

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