The Working Closet

where life meets style

wear it now

Hands up if this ever happens to you: You’re standing in the closet, trying to get dressed for the day and you pull out something super cute. Maybe it’s a blouse or dress or pants that you just love. And then you think, “I’m not going to see anyone today, so why waste a good outfit?” And you put on something less cute. And certainly more blah.

Anyone? Everyone? I thought so.

stripesTuesday: I only left the house to pick the kids up at school.

We all have those days, the ones where we’re not going anywhere special (or, in the case of those of us who work from home, not going anywhere period). Sometimes, it just makes sense to throw on a pair of yoga pants and take care of business — but I’m talking about something different. I’m talking about that impulse to conserve your stylish outfits as though they were a special category of endangered species. I’m talking about feeling like there’s no reason to look nice unless there’s a specific reason to look nice.

Those days.

The whole point of having a carefully edited and curated wardrobe is so that you can wear something fantastic, every single day. If you’ve done the hard work of cleaning and sorting and restyling, everything in your closet should work for you, at any time. I’m a big advocate of organizing your closet by color or style, not by purpose, because when you start to segregate your clothes by the places you wear them (work, weekend, date night, only to fancy after-five functions that require special tickets) you don’t actually wear most of them. When you think about your clothes in terms of broader, generic categories — shirts, skirts, pants — you’re more likely to wear them broadly — to the office, to a playdate, to go downstairs and sit in front of your computer until it’s time to pick the kids up at school. Just for instance.

There’s no rule that says you have to look schleppy just because you’re not going to see people all day. Or adult people, at least.

But it’s not just that we steer clear of fancy clothes for everyday — I will admit that very few of us can pull off a sequined mini skirt on a regular old Tuesday (although I will also admit to wearing a sequined tank top in the car pool line just because I could). We start to really thin slice our wardrobes and pass by even the most casual pieces, because they’re new or they’re nicer than some other, similar piece. What’s the point of putting on a brand new skirt to spend the day staring at a spreadsheet by yourself? Why break out a cute new tee if you’re just going to be playing with LEGOs all day?

Here’s why: Because the whole reason you bought those new, spiffy pieces was so you could wear them. So do it — wear them! Today!

I had a friend, years ago, who used to say that if it was on your ass, it was not an asset. What she meant was that clothes are only an investment if you are wearing them — with very specific exceptions, like certain high-end vintage couture pieces, they have no intrinsic value of their own. Once the money is spent, it’s spent. Saving that dress or jacket or blouse isn’t going to help you buy a new house or finance your retirement; it’s just going to leave you with clothes that you never wore.

Gap dressWednesday: I only left the house to pick the kids up at school.

So how do you break out of the saving-it-for-later rut? Like this:

1. Stop thinking about getting dressed in terms of spending or saving. There’s no number of times you can wear a specific piece or outfit — if it works for you, repeat and repeat and repeat. Just because you wore something today and didn’t see people doesn’t mean you can’t wear it again next week when you have a full day of meetings and play dates. It’s still the same cute outfit.

2. Stop imagining some better day or place to wear the things you love. Face it: This is your life, and there’s no reason not to look nice for it, every day. Wearing something you love makes this day a good day, in a way that tossing on those sad yoga pants just doesn’t. Don’t wait around for something style-worthy to pop up on your calendar — get dressed for each day as though it really mattered. Because honestly, it does.

3. Force yourself to wear the cute stuff. Don’t even give yourself the option to throw on that jeans-and-tee outfit one more time. Move the pieces you’re saving to the front of the closet, or — my favorite reader suggestion — stop doing laundry until you quite literally run out of things to wear. If you can’t grab your safety blanket outfits (we all have them, people) you will be compelled to take a chance with something else, something you’re waiting for the right opportunity to wear. Well guess what? Today is the right opportunity! Because it’s that or go naked.

Finally, there’s this: Think about all those no-one-will-see-me days as a chance to experiment. Not sure you can pull off head-to-toe color? Do it on a day you’re not leaving the house. If you wind up feeling like a clown, at least you can remind yourself that no one saw you. And that’s a good thing.

What’s your strategy for getting through the days when no one will know if you’ve even put pants on? Are you a wardrobe saver, or are you dressing up just for yourself?

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54 comments on “wear it now

  1. avenue57
    May 10, 2012

    I am sat here nodding like someone with a serious nod condition – I TOTALLY hear you and I agree with you so much.

    I have a rule and one that I always say to my audience online – NOTHING IS FOR BEST! I love this article and I’m going to share on RIGHT NOW as this is just perfect.

    You also look amazing so if you have a favourite outfit (love the brown dress by the way) then please post on Avenue57 and inspire other women to wear what’s in the wardrobe and stop keeping outfits for best days


  2. Gina
    May 10, 2012

    LOVE THIS! I frequently just wear jeans & tee because I’ve got nothing going on. Or like this week because it’s been raining all week and don’t feel like getting wet and just feel like being warm and cozy in my jeans and comfy tee. But…I ran out of clean jeans the other day so wore a skirt! yeah!

  3. elleinadspir
    May 10, 2012

    You already know I’m nodding my head as I read this. I’m working on it…trying to be less of a saver and more of a wearer!

  4. Leslie
    May 10, 2012

    Wednesday’s dress – where is it from? Those ruffles + the tie + the fabric (linen? or is it chambray?) – it is all killing me. Please don’t say it is from 5 years ago…

    • Susan
      May 10, 2012

      The dress is silk, and it’s Gap — but from three years ago.

      I know, so sad.

  5. whoorl
    May 10, 2012

    I am so guilty of this. SO GUILTY. Love this post, Susan!

  6. kgseymour
    May 10, 2012

    I feel like every time I make this leap, it feels fantastic! …Until I spill something on it, or a dog snags it, or, or, or … So, for days when it’s truly just me (and some excitable pups), I tend to go a little schlubby. I’m sorry. You don’t have to be my friend anymore.

  7. rachelshingleton
    May 10, 2012

    YES YES YES YES YES! I love this entire post. Preach it, sistah! Did you read Allyson in Wonderland’s post the other day questioning since when did it become weird to dress up? Pretty awesome stuff.

    • Susan
      May 10, 2012

      I think we need to do a 30 Days of Getting Dressed challenge. I’m totally serious.

      Who’s in???

      • outsidevoicetx
        May 10, 2012

        I love that you’re ready for this challenge. :) In.

      • Kelly
        May 10, 2012

        A 30 Day of Getting Dressed Challenge is *totally* not the kind of thing I usually do and is *exactly* the kind of thing I should do. Complete with posting pictures. Please please please please please!

      • Katie P
        May 10, 2012

        I’m in! What’s the rules? A set amount of items to re-mix/re-style or 30 days of no repeats?

      • mamafasha
        May 10, 2012

        I’m in!

      • travelingtrish
        May 10, 2012

        OMG! That’s an awesome idea. I’ve really been exploring the “try something new and stick with it for 30 days” routine. Granted, I have to dress up for half my life bc of my job, but the rest of the time, I am literally trying to find something to do so I don’t have to “waste” a cute, but more casual outfit. This post rocks, Susan! :)

      • claudia098
        May 11, 2012

        I’m in too!

  8. StacyfrPgh
    May 10, 2012

    One reason to look “nice” each day–you have to go out of the house unexpectedly. Say a last minute client calls and you can squeeze her in, or you need to go to the grocery and you don’t have to worry about looking awful. Plus, to me, being well dressed each day makes me feel better!

    Don’t discount the jeans and tee combo though. Wear a nice belt, tuck in the shirt, wear earrings and lipstick…already you look better than 50% of the people at the pick up line or ball game!


  9. YES! I love this with every fiber of my being. You are right. And I’m dressed like a slob, but that’s because all my nice clothes are dirty. And it’s raining. But you’re right! I’m off to do laundry.

  10. Rebecca
    May 10, 2012

    One thing that holds me back from wearing certain semi-casual but very cute tops is that they are dry clean only! I have since stopped buying dry clean clothing for this very reason. I feel like if I do wear it, it’ll cost me $5 to clean it.

  11. Katie P
    May 10, 2012

    I’ve become a ruthless closet editor because it forces me to wear and re-mix what I have on hand rather than save something up for a future special occasion. You might not have tomorrow, so why not wear it today, right? I must admit that I have a sequined jacket from the Gap that I have yet to wear in public. It’s both awesome and wholly stumps me stylewise.

    • travelingtrish
      May 10, 2012

      Katie, please post pics when you wear it! I would love to see it.

      • Katie P
        May 10, 2012

        Will do! I need to work up the guts to put it on and wear it as a “Tuesday” kind of outfit!

        • Susan
          May 10, 2012

          DO IT, Katie! Wear it with some great shorts and a tank top. Or jeans and a tee. Keep the rest of your look casual to balance the sequins — and then post pictures so we can all see it.

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  13. Kim
    May 10, 2012

    Love it! I also shared your post over at I need to hold myself more accountable in this area and the 30 day challenge is definitely intriguing.

  14. Amy K.
    May 10, 2012

    Great advice, Susan! Gretchen Rubin ( always reminds herself to “spend out.” Wear the cute new top now, write a thank-you note on your pretty new stationery, etc. No saving things for “special occasions”!

    • Susan
      May 10, 2012

      I love Gretchen — I want her to be my life coach. I’m not even kidding.

  15. The Playtime Mom
    May 10, 2012

    Loved your post and could definitely relate to the message. I can’t tell you how many things I buy and store away for that “special occasion” and then I never wear them!

  16. Leigh
    May 10, 2012

    My tip: after you wear something once, turn the hanger around backwards. Only allow yourself to repeat an item once everything else has been worn. I did this all last year, and it helped me figure which pieces I *really* didn’t want to wear (and could get rid of) and it also forced me to be more creative in how I combined tops and bottoms.

    My own challenge is not to look schlubby at home, once I get home from work. It’s tempting to throw on yoga pants and an old t-shirt because I’m *not* going anywhere, but my husband reminds me he didn’t see me while I was dressed up for work, and he’d like to see me dressed nicely too. :)

  17. liz1214
    May 10, 2012

    I did this just this morning. Tomorrow I will wear the cute skirt.

  18. Beauty but more
    May 10, 2012

    Brilliant, love this post…so true, I work from home too, but now have started to using it as a way of trying out more daring outfits to see how I feel about them, and whether I feel comfortable wearing them all day.
    I wish more mums/moms would follow the dress up every day rule though…I often feel really overdressed in comparison to other mums doing the school run etc.

  19. Beauty but more
    May 10, 2012

    Reblogged this on Beauty but more….

  20. Miss Virginia
    May 10, 2012

    GREAT advice! I can’t wait to slim down my closet (and my thighs!) and put on a cute outfit EVERY day. I’m in on your challenge…keep me posted. :)

  21. Susan
    May 10, 2012

    So I was kind of kidding about the 30 Days of Getting Dressed challenge, but let’s do it. Details coming soon. So start cleaning your closets right now. Go! Quick!

    This will be fun, you all. I promise.

    • hairbowsandbutter
      May 11, 2012

      I will totally be doing a 30 days challenge in July on my blog!

  22. agirlandaboy
    May 10, 2012

    I love this post so much. I totally “save” outfits. What IS that? (See also food that goes bad because I might want it later.) My practical excuse is that wearing schlubby stuff over and over saves on laundry. But that’s just sad, isn’t it?

  23. Angella
    May 10, 2012

    I LOVE this. Mostly because I am not one to wear jeans and t-shirts. I wear summer dresses, and cute skirts/tops/shoes and NEVER wear yoga pants in public unless I’m working out.

    If I look good, I feel good. And I get random strangers complimenting me that I “look springy” or “look nice today.” It feels so great and I want everyone else to feel that.

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  26. Meg
    May 11, 2012

    I totally needed to read this today, even though it happens to be one of the days I actually put myself together before sitting down to read blogs. It’s gotten to the point where I barely even allow myself to buy non-schleppy clothes because who cares? And then I feel like a slob. You’re helping me, here!

  27. Arina
    May 11, 2012

    This is so timely for me. I work from home and have a preschooler, and I’ve been working on not letting that be an excuse to be schlumpy. Have been really remixing and editing my wardrobe, and I love that you’re writing this…

  28. Melba
    May 11, 2012

    Great post, and great idea. I do this with my other things – I use my “good” china and silver, but not so much my good clothes.

    On a slightly different topic, can you please, please update us on what is in your closet now? I suspect that I have a ridiculous number of clothes, but I want to see what you’re down to to know what I should be aiming for…

    thank you!

    • Susan
      May 11, 2012

      I will! I’ll get some photos and a list up on Monday. Promise.

  29. hairbowsandbutter
    May 11, 2012

    I leave the house to go to work everyday, yet I still do this occasionally (usually on weekends). My solution. If I had an outfit that I wore to work that I totally loved and I know that I’m hanging out with a group of non-work people on the weekend, I just wear it again. No one will EVER know (except now all of you). I also do the laundry thing (unintentionally). I end up wearing all of my clothes in some way or another and it forces me to get rid of the ones I hate (why is this still clean? Oh right, I haven’t worn it in about 6 months *throw into giveaway pile and find something new to wear*).

    Thanks for the thoughts, I loved it!

  30. Leah N
    May 11, 2012

    Yes yes yes! Thank you so much for this.
    I have started to try and think differently about my outfit choices but do still tend to go with the jeans and t-shirt thing on the weekend when all I really want is to be in a cute dress!
    This weekend – all cute dresses!
    I also tend to choose my clothes on the mood i’m in in the morning.. which is usually tired and gumpy so the outfits look that way too, when really a cute outfit can acutally make me feel better and happy! So silly but so easy to change! I think picking it out the night before when I’m not groggy from sleep will help as well!

    • Susan
      May 11, 2012

      Leah, this is EXACTLY why I wait until after I’ve gone running (or at least had coffee) before I decide what to wear. I need to be really awake, and far enough from getting out of bed that I’m not still irked about having to get out of bed in the first place.

      I’m totally serious.

  31. dasmilkglas
    May 11, 2012

    I just found your blog thanks to Shutterbean…uhm, YAY!

    You’re amazing, seriously. I love your outfits! I work in a business/ pretty casual atmosphere and sometimes when I just feel like sprucing up–everyone questions it. Why should they? I want to feel pretty darn it! I have awesome clothes!

    This is so fantastic! I also hope you do a 30 day challenge, I am so in.

    • dasmilkglas
      May 11, 2012

      Embarrassing, just saw your new post. Ignore the last part! :D
      Please&thank you!

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  33. Hollie @ I'm Busy Procrastinating
    May 13, 2012

    I am guilty of wearing certain outfits to work on certain days. But I never feel good in the “I’m not going to see a lot of people today” outfits. I try to remember that the French typically buy fewer clothes, but better clothes. I’m trying to think about that myself, but my mom bought all my clothes at thrift stores when I was little, and The Mr. is a penny-pincher who thinks jeans still shouldn’t cost over $25, so it’s hard!

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  35. Jennifer M.
    May 14, 2012

    Ditto to what everyone else said. I am so very guilty of this and need to change! I buy new clothes and find I only wear them on date nights, girls nights out, etc. and then wait about three seasons or so to wear them regularly which by then I’m sick of them. I accept your challenge and will begin tomorrow! By the way, I have that Gap dress in black and love it. It may be in this week’s wearing :).

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  37. Thrift Store Mama
    June 10, 2012

    I leave my clean laundry in the basement to encourage me to wear the other pieces in my closet !

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