It happens to all of us. We find an outfit that’s comfortable and suits our daily needs, and we start wearing a variation of it day in and day out, leaving others wondering if our closets have suddenly transformed into something resembling Charlie Brown’s.
A couple years ago, that was me.
My go-to winter outfit was skinny jeans, a white tee, a blazer, knee high boots or Chucks (depending on the weather), and a scarf (for color and warmth). I loved the outfit the first time I pieced it together, and it didn’t take long before I started wearing a variation of it twice a week, then 3 days a week, and before I knew it, I was having trouble keeping up with laundry because I wanted to wear my “favorites” more and more each week.
And it gets worse! When I went shopping, I immediately gravitated towards skinny jeans, blazers, scarves, and white tees, justifying my oh-so-similar purchases with things like “I can dress this up” or “it’s a classic, a wardrobe necessity”, or “I can wear this with tons of stuff I have”. As a result, I ended up with 7 or 8 different blazers (most of which were black), a ton of white tees (most of them men’s undershirts), and a bunch of great scarves. I pushed “off season” and “fancy” stuff to the back of the closet and brought blazers and scarves to the front. My closet, effectively, literally became Charlie Brown’s.
I was in a style rut, bigtime!
The worst part about it? When I discovered what I’d done to myself, I had trouble getting out of the rut. My closet was largely variations of the same thing, but because I had gotten to the point where I was almost afraid to wear anything else. Throwing the same thing on every day was easy–the biggest challenge I had was picking out a scarf–but putting together an actual outfit? Yikes! Plus, I’d spent a ton of money buying, essentially, the same thing over and over, so when it came time to wear something different, I didn’t have much else to choose from… during one of my closet clean-outs, I’d actually gotten rid of a fair amount of other items because I hadn’t been wearing them!
How’d I break out of the rut?
Well, I had to start simple, because of both the limitations I’d put on my wardrobe, and my comfort level. I started out by setting simple rules for myself and gradually added more as time went on. The first rule I set for myself was “no sneakers at work”, making it so that I couldn’t just throw Chucks on and go each morning. Then I set a rule that I couldn’t wear a white tee under a blazer–it had to be either a colored solid tee, or a graphic tee. I added more rules each week, things like “only one black blazer a week allowed” and “must wear a skirt or dress at least once a week”.
Right off the bat, I found it pretty easy to play by the rules I’d set for myself, and even fun, because it was a challenge, and I was really sick of wearing the same thing every day. So I didn’t really break the rules very often, and when I did, I just tried to make it up by following that rule twice the next week. And soon, I found that I’d broken out of my style rut so much, that the thought of wearing a blazer actually made me cringe a little.
Figuring out if you’re in a rut isn’t always easy.
It took me quite awhile to realize I was in a style rut. I’m not 100% sure what it was that made me realize it, though I have a vague recollection of a coworker saying something about my “uniform”. And that was well into winter. Looking back, I wonder how I didn’t notice. Did I not look at myself in the mirror each morning, or was I simply that blinded by the comfort and ease my basic outfit had become? I’m pretty sure I was blinded, and there’s really no excuse for that. But once I spent some time really looking at what I was wearing each week (mostly by looking at what laundry I was doing each week), it became pretty obvious.
I think the best way to figure out if you’re in a rut is to take some time to evaluate what you’re wearing each day. When I did this, I did it on laundry day, instead of in advance, because (let’s face it) I didn’t do any planning of outfits in advance–I was wearing the same thing every day. But really, all you need to do is look at what you’re wearing and what laundry you’re doing. If you find yourself doing the same load or two over and over, chances are, you’re in a style rut.
If you get into a style rut, force yourself out.
For me, setting rules was the easiest way, but I can easily see how it might not be. If you just can’t stop wearing those few favorites, consider boxing them up and putting them under your bed for a bit, or in the back of your closet. Out of sight, out of mind, right? It might be hard at first, but eventually you’ll find other things to wear.
You could also consider doing a wardrobe challenge, like the 21 Day Challenge or the 30-for-30 Remix, and stick to them. They’re fun ways to rediscover your closet and push yourself to try new things, and you could still even wear some of your “rut” pieces.
Take steps to prevent a style rut.
Planning outfits in advance is a good way to prevent style ruts because it gives you a chance to think about what you’re wearing. I plan in advance now about 3 days a week , and just use an over-the-door hook to hang items on. It takes up very little space and not really all that much time each night. Plus, it generally saves me time in the morning, which is really nice.
If you don’t think you’ll have time to regularly plan outfits, then instead, take an hour or so every month to rotate items in your closet. Move pieces from the back of your closet to the front, and make sure you can see what it is you have in your “wear now” section. If you see it, you’re far more likely to wear it.
Spend some time on sites like Pinterest, Chictopia, and Polyvore finding outfit inspirations. What you find will likely help keep you inspired to wear items you have, and to keep your daily wardrobe fresh and different. And who knows, you might find a picture of an outfit that you love, that incorporates items you have in a way you’d never think to wear them. Polyvore also has a great Q&A area that’s searchable, in case you have something but aren’t sure how to wear it. Chances are, someone’s had a similar question, and you can see what others have suggested (or you can ask your own question–don’t be afraid to!).
Don’t get too attached to items you have either. Sure sure, we all have our favorites, but it’s perfectly acceptable to have multiple favorites of the same type of garment. Different fabrics, colors, and textures all have their place, and there’s no reason you can’t appreciate them all.
And finally, try not to keep washing the same items each time you do laundry. If you can, rotate your loads so that when you do laundry, you’re not washing stuff you wore the week before, but instead are washing stuff you wore two weeks before. That way, you won’t always have the same items clean all the time, so you’ll be forced to wear other stuff in your closet. Besides, washing things too much can cause them to fade, pill, or lose their shape quicker, which is bad.