One day, my husband was doing the laundry and commented, “You have so many pairs of black pants.”
“Leggings,” I countered. “Leggings are not pants.” As the words left my mouth, I realized in horror that I didn’t own a single pair of real pants.
Like everyone else at some point, I have blithely complained that I don’t have anything to wear. Suddenly, it had actually become true. How did I let this happen?
I’ve always worn my personal style with conviction, all the way back to the charm necklaces and friendship pins of my youth. In my teens it was thrift store sweaters and Doc Martens—in my 20s, pastels and vintage heels. Whether it was a good look or a bad one, it just felt right.
Until it didn’t. Thinking back, the slow slide happened over a few years. I spent most of my 20s stepping in front of a MuchMusic camera every day and when I stopped, I embraced the freedom of not having to cultivate a daily look. I dropped makeup and combing my hair and began travelling, living out of a bag. My rotation of outfits became tiny. A few cotton dresses in Paris; lightweight shirts and pants for Indonesia and Mali.
Between trips, I began working alone in my home office. I spent five years writing at my desk. Unthinkingly, I winnowed my wardrobe down to outfits that were as close to pyjamas as I could get.
Then finally, a few months ago, the mother of all style implosions–I had a baby. Becoming a mom doesn’t mean you lose your innate sense of style, but you do lose your waistline. For me, my upper arms became particularly pregnant. My body morphed every day. How do you dress for that?
It was a slow unravelling but when I realized what had happened, it was too late. I had no pants.
As I considered a complete overhaul, I realized it wasn’t just about clothes. My entire identity had changed—my feelings, my priorities, my life. My clothes simply hadn’t caught up.
The way out of this rut wasn’t to shop, it was to know myself. Shopping is pointless if you don’t know who you’re shopping for.
If I want to truly be comfortable in my clothes, they need to feel like they belong to me. I have to feel at least a little bit connected to them and they have to reflect who I really am.
Investing in a wardrobe doesn’t require both time and money (just one should do). But it also calls for patience and a few basic rules.
First, I decided upon a uniform to make daily dressing easier. As we know from every fashion icon in history, having a signature look is the way to go. I thought about what I love (denim, nautical stripes, ankle boots) and started there.
I also needed a fashion mentor. I admire the personal style of women such as Sofia Coppola, Zooey Deschanel and Alexa Chung. An acronym like WWACW (“What Would Alexa Chung Wear?”) is good for weeding out terrible items put on in moments of weakness.
And finally, I had to embrace change. Aging isn’t bad. It’s an opportunity to wear things I wouldn’t have five years ago. I never gravitated toward classic styles in my youth but now I love a prim button-down shirt, a trench coat and simple straight hair. (Younger types should reverse that advice—crazy clothes always look great on baby faces.)
As I continue to rehab my withered wardrobe, I will cut myself some slack because when life is really hectic, fashion can be the last thing on anyone’s mind. Clothes don’t make the woman—that goes without saying. Still, there will always come a time when you have to give a speech or go on a job interview. Scrambling for a special event is a pain. It’s better to wear clothes you love every day. For me, that includes real pants.