Last week, a woman sharing my elevator at the building where I work reached out from behind me and touched my arm. I whipped around, thinking maybe I'd dropped something, but she started gushing. "That is such a chic outfit. Right down to your patterned tights. I'm jealous."
She was wearing a fairly conservative suit, like many others I own, but that I wasn't wearing then. I was wearing a houndstooth patterned jacket of silver and black, a black dress with pleating down the center (and pockets! OMG pockets) that ended above my knees, wedge heels with a bit of patent leather at the toe, and black tights with a checkered pattern. And yes, I'll agree for once and say it, I did look pretty chic. I love my new outfit.
I've been struggling to figure out how to dress for the role I'm in now. For so long, a top paired with black pants was all I knew, and all I needed to know. If I wore a suit, or even a dress sometimes, people would joke that I must be going on a job interview. Two years ago, when I was trying to get promoted, I bought a few new suits. I spent a small fortune having the pants altered, but I hated the bulk of all the lining and the boring conservative sweaters I'd paired to wear under the jackets. A while later I bought two more suits, a brown one and a purple one, but I felt silly in one color from head to toe. But I did figure out that I preferred jackets where I didn't need buttons. I bought a couple different tops to replace my boring sweaters, but I still lacked variety. Over the summer, as I continued to sweat in silk and lining on ninety degree days, a Facebook friend suggested sheath dresses as a way to keep cool. But somehow I didn't get around to buying anything else until a couple of weeks ago.
So here's what I've figured out about assembling a chic outfit. It takes time, and it takes money. Shocking, I know.
The night I ordered that outfit online? I probably spent over an hour picking out that jacket and dress. I picked out another jacket and dress too. Then I accidentally shut down for the night without buying anything, after I'd tracked down online coupons and everything. I realized it a few days later when I went looking for the shipping notification that never came. Oops. Thankfully my online cart was still full, so I placed my order. But here's the thing: I'm usually a fast, decisive shopper. If it fits, that's usually enough to make me happy. But this time, I spent a lot of time looking before I decided on anything. And I had to invest even more time when I had to return one of the dresses when it didn't fit.
The money piece is obvious, since I'm not getting anything for free, but I ended up spending more than I usually like to spend, especially more than "black pants and a top" Cheryl cared to spend. I still hunted down coupons, and price was a factor, but I didn't let it be more important than other factors. I'm fortunate to be in a position where I can do that, but yea, it cost more. Thankfully the tights and shoes were both purchased last year.
The last thing it takes to put together a chic outfit? A little bit of getting over myself. Getting over my reluctance to wear a dress and higher heels. Getting over what I think I'm supposed to look like at work, perhaps a bit of not wanting to be especially noticed. Getting over the fact that I'm not a kid anymore, that I'm a VP with fifteen years of experience, and that I can dress like it.