Thursday, October 9, 2014

What It Takes to Have a Chic Outfit

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.

The compliment in the elevator felt really good. So I'm vowing to keep putting in the effort. I'll keep checking the sales racks too, but it's worth it to me to try to do better. Finally.

A photo from Marc's 40th birthday dinner, wearing one of my new dresses.


  1. how awesome for you to take a chance and right out the door to get such a compliment! Please post a pic sometime so we can see your chic self :)

  2. I would like to see this elevator outfit, my friend! It sounds AWESOME!

  3. My BFF and my mom used to joke that I wore a uniform even though I didn't need too. I took me a looooong time to get to place of comfort with stepping away from black pants and a million different tops. High fives and cheers to a fellow chic lady!

  4. You need to show a pic of this fabulous outfit. I'm with you - I've gotten into a basic wardrobe routine - but I'm starting to mix things up more. I wore a chevron-striped orange and grey dress the other day and got loads of compliments. I guess I need to mix it up more often - and definitely get away from the boring black slacks. :)