6 Steps to Update Your Personal Style

Yesterday I told you about how I reworked my elevator pitch and tried it out on a stranger at a conference luncheon and how that sparked an interesting conversation.

“I write a lifestyle blog about cooking with nutritious whole foods, my newfound passion for fitness and running, and wearable fashion for the typical suburban housewife.”

When I tried to explain how people relate to my fashion posts, even though I feel that my personal style is really quite plain and repetitive, she jumped in and explained how it might seem easy to someone like me who actually enjoys following the trends and trying new looks, but that it is really not that easy for many women. Which reminded me of a comment I had on my Daily Mom Style post last week. Someone simply said, “You make it look so easy.”

And that got me to thinking. It really isn’t that easy — even for me, and I enjoy it. It does take some work, and time and attention, and not everyone has that. It’s so easy to fall into a fashion rut, especially in the child bearing years. I remember those years, and how I would feel like I missed two years on the fashion scene — between being pregnant and nursing and losing preggo weight. All told, it was 18-24 months of being out of practice, and even though that’s a rather short time, I would feel like it was a big hurdle to get back into the swing of things and figure out what was current and what was not and how it worked for me.

I can only imagine how it might feel if you’ve let yourself go for five or ten years.

I can see how some women might give up and feel it’s too far gone to even try.

So I thought maybe I’d write a post about how to update your look and get out of a style rut — whether it’s a style rut from 2009 or 1999. I’ve broken it down into 10 steps. Now, I realize that finances play a part in this process. Not everyone can afford to totally revamp their wardrobe, and it will take some time. But hopefully you can tailor this plan to work for you.

6 Steps to Update Your Personal Style {and Get Out of that Fashion Rut}

1. Clean out your closet.

(Hey, I didn’t say this would be easy!) Go through your closet and remove anything that makes you feel frumpy or doesn’t fit well. Take a Saturday morning, and really do this right — you know, the three piles (one to keep, one to donate, one to trash) and get rid of anything that you don’t wear anymore (or don’t WANT to wear anymore).

2. Look around, figure out what’s in style and what look you want to go for.

If you feel that your look is really out of date, take some time to peruse relatable fashion blogs — go through the What I Wore Wednesday blog carnival posts at The Pleated Poppy and see what other women your age are wearing. Start to get an eye for what’s current and think about what looks you like, which ones you think you could pull off. It helps to know your personal style, but if you’re unsure, now’s the time to develop one!

3. Go shopping for a few new, stylish wardrobe essentials.

How to Find the Perfect Jeans

Don’t confuse stylish with trendy. Your goal here is to update your look so that it is current while keeping it age appropriate. Don’t feel the pressure to adopt every new trend, but there are a few wardrobe items that will help update your overall wardrobe. Here are my suggestions:

  1. Jeans. I have written several posts on finding the right pair of jeans. If you’re wearing “mom jeans” — go shopping! This is the single fastest and easiest way to update your style. Get a pair of jeans that is in style and makes you feel good about yourself.
  2. Shoes. I recommend having a pair of nude (skin-tone) wedge sandals or pumps, depending on your lifestyle. If you work in an office, go for pumps. If you’re lifestyle is more casual like mine, wedge sandals or espadrilles will go with so many outfits and instantly update your look. Then you should have a pair of casual flats — loafers or ballet flats, whatever suits your style. A metallic will actually be more versatile than black or brown. For the winter, you’ll want a pair of boots. Again, choose a pair that are versatile and will go with many outfits. If you’re blond, go for brown or tan boots. If you’re a brunette, dark brown or black will be most versatile for you.
  3. Fitted jacket. Again, depending on your lifestyle, this could be a blazer for work or a khaki jacket to go with your jeans. But get something that fits well and gives you some structure.
  4. Handbag. (You knew I’d include that, right??) Go for a color (yellows, greens and blues go with most everything), and make sure it’s large enough to hold everything you need. A beat-up handbag that is bursting at the seams never makes a good fashion statement.
  5. Dress. Buy one dress that makes you feel fabulous. Knee-length is most flattering. You can wear it with your new wedge pumps and fitted jacket for a whole new look!

4. Develop a uniform. 

Fashion Over 40

If you’re truly fashion challenged (or just don’t have the time or the energy for thinking about putting new outfits together every day) then it is perfectly acceptable to develop a “uniform” of sorts that works for you. This is pretty much what I’ve done — you’ve seen it! Skinny jeans, cute top (probably a sweater or a tank with a sweater over it — I don’t do button-downs) and ballet flats or boots. In the summer, it’s similar — jean shorts, cute tee, cute sandals. Funny that I use the term “cute” to describe my wardrobe items when I have never thought of myself as cute at all. Whatever works for you, your style and your life, figure out a look that works and then just wear variations on that look. This makes it easier to mix and match too.

5. Re-evaluate your hairstyle.

Have you had the same style for 5-10 years? It might be time for a change. Once again, I recommend looking at blogs of women you think look good for their age, and think about what might work for you. Peruse some hairstyle magazines, talk to your hair dresser or a trusted friend. Then go for a new look. This will be HUGE for updating your style!

6. Re-evaluate your makeup.

What's In Your Makeup Bag?

Another obvious one, but it’s amazing how many women are still applying their makeup the same way they did 15 years ago. Go to Sephora or a department store makeup counter and have someone give you a new look — or, if nothing else, ask them to show you how to apply your eye makeup. It doesn’t have to break the bank, but making sure your makeup is current will go a long way towards updating your look.

There is so much more I could say on this topic, but I’m trying to keep it concise. Did you catch that? Me, concise. HA!

What do you think? Is this helpful at all? What would you add to my lists?

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29 Responses

  1. Great advice. I totally need to clean my closet, but it’s so daunting! I definitely have a uniform. It’s rare that I truly change it up, but I love finding new and updated pieces of my old “stand-bys”.

    1. I think most fashionable women are that way – there are some rare exceptions, of course, but most of us find what works and then use accessories to change it up and keep it interesting!

  2. This was really, really interesting, especially after yesterday’s post. I used to glance at your weekly style pics and think to myself, “She’s wearing all that same look AGAIN!’ haha 🙂 Now I know why! And it makes a lot of sense. A sane, busy mom doesn’t want to reinvent Vogue magazine every morning, even if she does like fashion. Today’s post is a good, sensible summary of how to start — kind of like how to begin getting yourself in shape if you’ve been letting yourself go body-wise for a few years.

    That said, it is difficult if a woman: 1) doesn’t have much cash to spend, if any, 2) is overweight, like 50-75 lbs overweight, and clothes don’t look good no matter what you do, 3) doesn’t enjoy fashion anyway, and 4) isn’t just 5-10 years out of date, but has never really done fashion AT ALL. Voila! C’est moi! 🙂 But I’ll give it some thought. I don’t think I could possibly find a pair of jeans that would work on me, but your comment about the bulging handbag hit home. And all of us should regularly clean out the closet. BTW, do you find that it’s much harder to make your husband throw out his old clothes, than to make yourself? What’s with that???!

    1. There are lots of plus size women who have great style, though! I think it’s more about not really being into fashion at all. 😉 And I do think the lack of interest can have something to do with not liking your body, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

      I’m glad the handbag advice was helpful. That’s the other thing. Most women probably don’t want to reinvent themselves, but a fresh haircut or a new handbag can go a long way to making a woman feel (and look) more up to date.

      My husband likes to get rid of stuff too. We’re both like that. Too much stuff makes us claustrophobic! LOL

    2. There are a lot of plus-fashion bloggers, and body positive bloggers now who cover fashion for larger sizes. This is the perfect time to discover fashion, with so much inspiration everywhere. I’d encourage you to check out some blog specifically geared for plus sizes, for inspiration, and then take the awesome advice Jo Lynne gives and apply it to some of the options that appeal to you. 🙂 Now, you can actually *see* how clothes will look on a similar body type, not on mannequins, but on bloggers.

  3. Great advice!

    I was looking through some pictures with my daughter the other night, and I realized how tough those years of having babies and being a new mom was on my fashion and style. Part of it was financial (not enough money to buy clothes), part of it was a new, plumper body, and part of it was being exhausted. At any rate, it took me a few years to get back to being “me”.

    You’ve given us all great advice. I wish blogs were the big thing back when I was at that stage. I think all the inspiration would have done wonders for me.


  4. Good post, just a heads up you’ve got a typo though. In the paragraph above the picture you say you’re going to have 10 steps, not 6.

  5. The makeup one is so interesting. I’m going for a consultation with my esthetician next week. I woke up one morning and realized it had been forever since I had done that, and really, age changes things.

  6. Great post! I never thought about the fact that having children can put you a year or many more behind… that’s why we feel so frumpy with little children! Totally worth it, though 🙂 Anyways, for anyone who has the chance to meet with consultant from House of Colour (based in the UK, but with some consultants in the US), I recommend it! It totally put the fun back into shopping for me, while streamlining the process. I thought it would put me in a box, but far from it! Shopping is now more fun because I know what I am looking for, color, cut, and style-wise, thanks to guidance from my sessions. Might be pricey up front, but saves money in the long run!

  7. Pinterest has been my biggest and best tool for figuring out my style recently. I pin to a general “like” board. From there I can evaluate general trends of what I like and what I want to add to my closet. And I’m finding that I am absolutely developing a uniform and I love it!

  8. I enjoyed this post because not so long ago I was a hopelessly out of date, overweight housewife. I got up to 242 lbs and felt like nothing looked good on me. I just wore what fit. I’m not at my goal weight yet, but I’m pretty darn close, and I can now wear anything I want. One thing that really helped my wardrobe was thrifting. I didn’t/don’t want to spend a lot of money on clothes when I’m still losing weight, and I don’t buy everything at thrift stores, but I’m constantly amazed at the beautiful, stylish pieces I find. I think it’s the perfect way to build up your closet without breaking the bank.

  9. Funny that you should write this….I was thinking of doing just that this very weekend. I’ll keep all your tips in mind! If I have the energy to post about it, I’ll be sure to give you and this post a shout out!

  10. Wow! This was JUST what I need right now.

    I have lost 65 pounds since last summer, and am ready to revamp the whole wardrobe. Oh yea!

    I am so excited to follow your links. I have no idea what “my style” is . . . because it had to be different when I was seriously overweight. (I wasn’t fat and frumpy. I really took care to dress nicely, but my “fashion” was definitely dictated by my weight.)

    I need HELP . . . and am sure that your tips and your links are going to get me back in style.


    mama of 12 (who was pretty much pregnant or nursing for 20 straight years)

    1. Laurel, losing 65 pounds is a HUGE accomplishment. I’m sure it’s a challenge shopping for your new body, but I’ll bet you’re going to enjoy it once you figure out your style and what you feel good in. 🙂

      A couple of things I’ve learned from watching What Not To Wear over the years… haha…

      1. Structure is key. It’s easy to get enamored with the flowy, looser styles but they really aren’t flattering on most women. Fitted jackets are your friend.
      2. Buy for the size you are, not the size you want to be. So if you still have weight to lose, don’t be tempted to buy a size down. Buy what fits NOW and you will look and feel so much better.
      3. Fit is everything. If it doesn’t fit perfectly, and you don’t want to pay to tailor it, leave it on the rack. If you don’t feel GREAT in it, if you think you can do better, don’t buy it and keep looking.

      Good luck!

  11. YES YES YES! And if the “cleaning out your closet” and “shopping for new stuff” overwhelms you..HIRE ME!, hahaha…seriously…see if you can solicit the help of either a fashionable friend who you can repay with wine and dinner OR if you can financially hire a professional..
    I have done over 6 closets this Spring alone…ranging in new moms at 30 to older women retiring at 65 and they all come away feeling a huge weight has been lifted off of them..clean closets mean you can REALLY see what it is you are missing from your wardrobe!

    Great post..I think MANY women will love this one…I plan to highlight one of my closet overhauls soon…so much to do..so little time, lol.

  12. Jo-Lynne,
    I just came across your website and I love it! I put it in my folder “blogs I follow.” The reason I was curious about this particular post is that, due to having fibromyalgia and weight gain, most of my cloths do not fit. I love fashion, but it has to be first, soft to the touch because of the fm. Second, because of fm and weight gain, I need clothes that both fit well, and look good. Tops that are gathered in the front to disguise the belly. I was a size 3/4 for most of my life, now I am a size 8/9. For now, I just want to find clothes that look good at my current size. When I am healthier and have less going on in my life, I will concentrate more on getting back into shape. Thank you so much for posting the “Fashion Over 50” site which I will go on over to from here. And God bless you and your family!
    A fellow Sister in Christ,

  13. My personal style has changed so much since gaining so much weight – 40 pounds in two years, thanks to thyroid problems from Lyme disease.

    In the summer I’m all about long flowy dresses and in the colder months its skinny jeans and over sized shirts.

    When I was skinny I loved jeans and form fitting t-shirts. I miss those days and hope I get back there one day.

  14. I have to admit I re-read your jeans and tee post every few months – it very much captures my style philosophy, and very affirming of how simple style can look awesome with the right attention to a few details … why bother chasing trends when you can stay fresh and look great with the basics? (unless you really love doing so, of course – in that case, knock yourself out!).

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