I know this sounds obvious, but the key to not having a wardrobe that makes you feel frumpy is to not buy clothes that make you feel frumpy.
I kind of blew your mind a little, didn’t I?
I’m pretty much a genius.
The problem with this approach is that it can be hard to spot the frumpiness when it’s artfully packaged and merchandised at the store or online. I mean, it looks so good on the model, right? What do you have to lose?
The answer? Your style.
Many of the clothes that are marketed at mature women are not contemporary or flattering, so I came up with some guidelines to separate the stylish from the stodgy.
Stop Shopping At “Old” Stores
I think we can all agree that stores like Talbots, Chico’s, J. Jill & Christopher & Banks are not targeting teenagers. These stores create clothes specifically for women in their 40s and above. The problem is that many of the clothes at these stores tend to have too much going on, and their trend or seasonal update pieces are potentially frumpy. Skip shopping for trends at these stores, and stick to classics like tees, button-downs, and white jeans, for example.
Right now at Talbot’s, for example, you’ll find these 2 tops.
The first has a pattern and trim that can read older and potentially frumpy. The second is a simple basic that can be a building block in your wardrobe. Learning to tell them apart can mean the difference between a stylish wardrobe and a frumpy one.
Choose Solids Over Prints
I know, I know. Solids can be a little lackluster, but when in doubt (and at some of the stores above, that should be pretty much all the time) choosing solids over prints can be a way to safely sidestep style disasters. I mean, a basic piece in a basic solid with a good fit is always going to be a good choice. It’s once you start adding the crazy prints that things get dicey.
If you do love prints, like I do, stick to those from contemporary brands that are known for cool, contemporary prints. The other suggestion is to stick to graphic and classic prints like a timeless leopard, stripe, or check.
Keep It Simple
The hardest part about shopping certain stores and brands is their tendency to overembellish. I’m not talking about lying here. I’m literally talking about overembellishing, where every surface is patterned, bejeweled, or otherwise adorned. While some over-the-top pieces can be cool and stylish and high fashion, those pieces are generally quite expensive and come from designers with a genius for it. The wrong kind of embellishment leads to pieces that are fussy and frumpy.
I call these the “But wait… there’s more!” pieces, because no matter how decorative they are, there’s always room for another crazy detail.
Focus on Fit
You can follow every suggestion and shop every contemporary brand and check all of the boxes, but if your clothes don’t fit you well, the outfit can still be frumpy. And it’s the easiest thing to get right. In a way.
Focusing on fit means that we don’t compromise when it comes to choosing clothes that fit our bodies and are flattering. Often we feel frumpy because our clothes are either shapeless and boxy, or tight and clingy. Both extremes are unflattering, and can make an otherwise stylish outfit look dated.
Don’t Buy Matched Sets
Matched sets, or co-ords, are super trendy right now, and when chosen carefully, can offer the polish of a dress or jumpsuit with the versatility of separates. But in order for a matched set to work, it needs to feature the same solid or the same pattern on both pieces.
One of my personal favorite matched sets is this outfit from Isle Apparel that I featured on my Instagram.
My goal is to always offer you a new way of looking at things and a fresh perspective on style. And now I’d love to hear from you? Which of these tips resonated with you? And which do you disagree with? Let me know in the comments!
Nada Manley says
Thank you so much for the question Peggy and for the comment! I would not say that Talbots, Chico’s etc are for staples and solids only, but more that these are the safest bets from those places. There are some printed and special pieces that work from those stores as well but they are harder to find. I hope that helps! Also, great question about the dress and jacket. I do think those little cardigans and shrugs are now dated, unfortunately. I don’t think a denim jacket is the only option, though. I think a moto jacket, a bomber style jacket, or a blazer jacket with a defined waist are all very flattering over dresses like this and can all be dressier than a denim jacket, which as you said definitely makes the look more casual. Depending on the material these can be casual or dressy. I think a blazer or a pretty suede or fabric moto could work very well to dress these dresses up for events. 🙂 I also like a utility jacket but it is more casual, kind of like a denim jacket. I hope that helps! This is a great topic for another post or video. Thanks for the idea!
Thanks for another great post. I shop at Talbots, Chico’s so I was sorry to hear they made the solids/staple pieces only. My question is in the matchy-matchy section, specifically about the magenta print dress with solid sweater. When you say wear a neutral with these styles, are you referring to a white or denim jacket? I like the solid shrugs over print sheath because the front of the dress still shows…and also keeps the look a little dressier than a denim jacket. If shrugs are dated too, what are options for a printed dress that you still want to look dressy (for church, fancy dinner, etc)?