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  • Writer's picturesallyinstpaul

What Makes You Feel More "You" When You Wear It? Part 1

Today I am answering a style journal prompt from m gets dressed:

Is there an item or pairing that always makes you feel more "you" when you wear it? What do you like about these anchor pieces?

She likens these items to "a staple of your personal style" and "a security blanket for your outfits," noting that these items make an outfit feel "comfortably familiar when you mix it in." I thought this made an interesting compare/contrast to the Daily Dozen...12 items that bring the most value to your wardrobe / get worn the most often...that Liz Klebba recently posted about for her spring/summer wardrobe.

Back in December, I shared my fall/spring Daily Dozen, selecting 1 specific item (i.e., cheetah Oxfords) and 11 general categories of item (e.g., slim pants) that are my frequently worn, go-to options that form the basis for my style in those seasons. As I review this list, it still feels right as my round-up of "must have" items. I couldn't get very far without a pair of dark wash skinny jeans, a long-sleeved neutral T-shirt, and a long cardigan in my wardrobe, for example. These fundamental components that are necessary for me to build outfits are, you know, basics. And while my Daily Dozen is not a generalizable "12 Items Every Woman Must Have For Fall and Spring," it wouldn't be surprising to see at least a little bit of overlap between my list and another woman's list on some of those basic items. (Liz's spring list and my fall/spring list had an overlap of two: pointy-toed flats and the blouse...she called hers "fun blouse" rather than "print blouse," but in the photos she shared, all 3 of them were also prints so we seemed to be getting at the same thing.)

Having an idea of what you wear the most often and rely on to build outfits is helpful for a lot of reasons: putting together a wardrobe capsule or travel capsule, prioritizing what to replace first when items wear out or your size changes, deciding where it might be worth it to spend more money on an item...all those sorts of wardrobe planning things. And having an idea of what garments or accessories makes you feel more "you," what grounds you in your personal style, is a great complement to that. These are the things that take a somewhat generic outfit (e.g., dark wash skinny jeans + long-sleeved neutral T + long cardigan) and personalizes it...or that take an item or an outfit that isn't in your wheelhouse and makes it feel comfortable and right.

I definitely have a number of these items that ramp up the "me" aspect of an outfit, and if you've spent much time reading my blog, you can probably take a guess at what some of them are! It's funny...I sat down and brainstormed my list as soon as I read the style prompt post on m gets dressed, and it just so happens that I came up with exactly 12 of these items! So to supplement my Daily Dozen above, I also have a (for lack of a better term) More Me Dozen.

Today I will share the first six items on my More Me Dozen. Here we go...

#1 Long Scarves (Especially Prints)

I would say that scarves, especially long oblong scarves, are the most obvious component of my personal style. I wear them frequently (hence they are on my Daily Dozen list) but they are also something that differentiates my style from other people's. That generic jeans + T + cardigan outfit I mentioned above? There is a very high probability that I will wear a long scarf with it and a somewhat low probability that any other random person will. (At my office, the other Scarf Lady retired a few years ago, and I joked that I will have to carry the torch of scarfdom into the future alone.) But while a solid accent colored scarf is extremely versatile and hence made my Daily Dozen list, when we're talking about what's More Me, it's definitely a print scarf! (These 11 print scarves are just examples of scarves that fit this category; I have a LOT of them.)

Black + White + Accent Color + Print Mix - Summer Outfit Idea for Plus Size Woman Over 40

This OOTD from last month is a very simple burgundy column of color that definitely became More Me with the addition of a long magenta polka dot scarf secured with a DIY shank button scarf ring.

Burgundy column of color with polka dot scarf - Plus size outfit idea for fall or spring for women over 40
OOTD 4/26/22

#2 Layered Necklaces

This one is a straight overlap between my Daily Dozen and More Me Dozen lists. If I'm not wearing a scarf (and sometimes even when I am), there's a good chance I'll be rocking a layered necklace. A layered necklace/#neckmess is a great way to customize your look because it's not just the pieces you select but the way you put them together that has a lot of impact on the your final look. I like to incorporate a lot of different kinds of necklaces in my looks, but I stand by this set of essentials that I put together for my Daily Dozen.

This layered necklace that I created for the Style Imitating Art - Solar System Quilt challenge is a good example of the rather rare all-neutral Sally layered necklace with pearls, seed bead strands, flat shell beads, gold open circles, and an old (dating back to high school!) medallion necklace. (And yeah, the long-sleeved polka dot T and cheetah Oxfords from the Daily Dozen make their appearance, haha.)

Black + White + Statement Necklace + Nude Shoe - Summer Outfit Idea for Plus Size Woman Over 40

#3 Animal Print Shoes

Speaking of those cheetah Oxfords...they are just the most recent purchase (hence in heavy rotation) in the More Me category of animal print shoes. These seven pairs are my complete current collection...7 big cat print and 1 snake print. (I'm not 100% sold on snakeskin print in general, but I was attracted to the low-contrast colorful-yet-metallic look of this pair, so I gave them a shot. Verdict: Love 'em.) I have owned some animal print clothing in the past, but I have to admit, with perhaps one exception, I didn't wear those pieces very often and was not sorry to part with them. (The exception was a brown/black leopard sleeveless dress from Lands End made of a thick ponte fabric that fit extremely well and that I liked to wear with a specific brown blouse layered under it.) Even though I like the look of animal print garments, they just usually don't feel right when I wear them...just not me. But animal print shoes are 100% More Me, and I will happily throw on a pair of them with almost any outfit (the exception being that I don't generally go for multiple animal prints in an outfit).

Black + White + Silk Scarf + Print Shoe - Summer Outfit Idea for Plus Size Woman Over 40

#4 Colorful Ankle Pants

A thousand style experts (and style "experts") will tell you to avoid bright colors on the bottom half of your body if you don't want to draw attention to that area...which I guess is reasonable advice if that's a major concern in your life. I'm both plus size and pear shaped, so surely I am a prime candidate for this advice,, living my days in solely black, navy, and charcoal pants is not an appealing option to me! Here's a sampling of my colorful pants collection.

Black Print + Accent Color + Layered Necklace + Statement Shoe - Summer Outfit Idea for Plus Size Woman Over 40

This OOTD from earlier this month shows one way I like to wear colorful pants...I flip the typical "accent color on top + neutral on bottom" color formula to "neutral on the top + accent color on the bottom." Both color formulas are good ones, but I like that the color on the bottom version has a fresh, somewhat unexpected look. Colorful pants also seem to have a big visual impact, perhaps a combination of them being unusual and the fact that even those of us with legs shorter than we might prefer still have quite a bit of leg!

White shirt + plaid vest + green pants - plus size outfit idea for women over 40
OOTD 5/11/22

#5 Zoological Prints

I reserve the term "animal prints" to refer to designs that mimic the skin/fur/scale pattern of an animal (such as the animal print shoes above) and use the term "zoological prints" to refer to designs that feature an image of the entire (or much of the entire) animal itself. While I'm not a huge fan of animal print clothing for my style, I LOVE zoological print clothing!

Graphic Ts and intarsia sweaters with a single, usually large image of an animals (or animals) are a favorite of mine. While I have seen the recommendation that as we "age," we should seek "simplicity" in our pieces rather than "cheesy" detail, and that we specifically should avoid "intarsia sweaters (the kind with a picture on the front)" because by the time you're 38, you're "a more vibrant and sophisticated woman and your clothes should be as well." Huh. I was unaware that I am 10 years past the stage where I am required to turn in my personal style chit that says "cute & quirky" for the one that says "sophisticated & elegant."

Print Blouse + Sweater Vest + Bulky Necklace - Summer Outfit Idea for Plus Size Woman Over 40

I guess if the fashion police believe that strongly in age-based personal style, they can come over to St Paul and write me a ticket.

Blush rabbit sweater + violet pants - Plus size outfit idea for women over 40
OOTD 5/4/22

I also have a good number of all-over zoological prints, of which this is just a sampling. I have several with rabbit prints, of course, and bird prints are also extremely well represented in my closet (as I've shared recently). I'm actually wearing a top with an all-over zoological print today, as you will see on Wednesday's Style Imitating Art post!

Print Blouse + Neutral Pants + Statement Necklace - Summer Outfit Idea for Plus Size Woman Over 40

#6 Quilted Vests

Although this isn't a seasonally appropriate piece for most of us in the Northern Hemisphere, I have to include the quilted/puffy vest on my list of More Me items. They are in heavy rotation for me from about December to April, and I will wear them with just about anything. (I mean, I wouldn't wear them for a business professional or dressy occasion, but I almost never need to wear clothes for those dress codes.) They definitely introduce a "relaxed" style element to an outfit (which works for me as I enjoy style juxtapositions), but I don't think they cause an entire outfit to become automatically really depends on how you style them. (I find that styling them with confidence and with a good amount of not giving a rat's ass makes them appropriate for a lot of situations!) I appreciate them as a practical layering piece to go over everything from a long-sleeved T to a heavy pullover sweater, and I like that they are easy to wear under a winter coat. I really enjoy the texture of the vest and the visual effect of the torso and arms of the outfit having two different colors/textures. It's just a piece that when I put it on, an outfit usually moves more toward my style comfort zone.

Some people avoid them due to fear of looking like "the Michelin Man" but if you stick to quilted vests and thinner puffy vests, you will not resemble a stack of bulbous tires. Do they add bulk? Yeah, I guess they can add bulk...they are a non-trivial layer of clothing worn over other clothing...but it really depends on the vest (some are thinner than others, some are more shaped than others, etc.). It also depends on your own body and what kind of silhouette you want to create. I find that adding a vest can give me a sleeker look at times because a vest adds structure, can reign in the volume of an oversized top/sweater, and and will skim over the body rather than highlighting every bump and curve as some knits do when worn as stand-alone pieces.

I have a variety of different quilted/puffy vest styles (of which this is just a sampling), but right now my favorite style is the stand-up collar, curved hem quilted vest of the brown and navy ones below.

Print Blouse + Neutral Skirt + Accent Color Shoe/Necklace - Summer Outfit Idea for Plus Size Woman Over 40

Here I am in the last quilted vest outfit of the season...even with the looser cut of pants, I don't think the vest makes me look unnaturally rotund or protuberant.

Magenta quilted vest - plus size winter outfit idea for women over 40
OOTD 4/14/22

Stay tuned for the next 6 More Me items in Part 2...

What comes to mind for you when you think about things that make you feel more "you" when you wear them?

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