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Define Your Style for Your {Real} Lifestyle

2024 Style Series
February 29, 2024
2024 DFMD Style Series

I’ve discovered that I’m not the only one who struggles with building a wardrobe that works for my real lifestyle. Many of us, evidently, shop for the lifestyle we dream of having, the one we think we ought to have or the way we used to live. But, since we don’t want to dress with good style only on the days we’re doing something special, it’s important to identify our real lifestyle and prepare for it. Let’s talk about how to define your style for your {real} lifestyle.

Define Your Style for Your {Real} Lifestyle

This post contains affiliate links. When you shop through my links I potentially earn a commission on your purchases, but at no additional cost to you. Thank you so much for supporting my work here by shopping my links.

We’re continuing our Define Your Style…Refine Your Wardrobe style series with a consideration of wardrobe essentials for your personal style. If you’re new to the series, I suggest you start HERE. And you can always find the full series in the top menu of the blog. Also be sure you’ve at least begun to Define Your Personal Style and have read my Tips for How to Express Your Personal Style.

Styling the Veronica Beard Miller dickey jacket
See the original post from earlier this month for shopping links and details.

I think most of us dress for our real lifestyle, but we struggle with shopping for it and, thus, creating a wardrobe that accommodates it. That’s one of the main reasons you may stand in front of a crowded closet and feel like you have nothing to wear: it’s 80% filled with items for those special, unique days, while only 20% of what is in there works for the “everyday.” That’s no fun.

New Spring Outfit from Talbots
See the original blog post from earlier this month for shopping links and details.

I believe that we can dress stylishly every day, even on the most mundane days at home. Even when we have a playday with the grandkids. Even when we go to work. And even when we visit a friend or family member in the hospital, take a meal to a new mom, carry the dog to the groomer, shop for a new car or attend a weekly Bible study class. But we’ll only do that if we have the right things in our wardrobe for our real lifestyle.

Blue Dress for a Sacred Celebration
See the original blog post from March 2023 for shopping links and details.

Your Lifestyle is More than Your Profession

My readers are a varied bunch. Some women are still going strong in a career you’ve been mastering for a long time. Others have recently re-entered the workforce after raising kids at home. Additionally, many women, like myself, are working from home. And even more of my readers are retired or continuing to be homemakers.

But let’s not get too hung up on what we do “for a living” because your lifestyle is much more than your profession anyhow. We ladies wear many hats and have varied responsibilities and interests. My bet is that for most of us no two days in a week are exactly the same. So how’s a gal supposed to nail down her lifestyle?

See the original blog post from earlier this month for shopping links and details.

How to Determine Your Lifestyle

Our goal is to construct a truly functional, fashionable wardrobe that works for our unique lifestyle. Step one? We need to determine our true lifestyle needs.

To determine your unique lifestyle needs, sit down with your calendar. Look back over the last few months (if they are indicative of your usual, current schedule). Or, if you’re approaching a life season change, sit down with pen and blank paper. Ask yourself:

What is my work style?

  • How do I spend my “work hours?” (We all have “work hours” in this sense, even if you are retired. These might be hours filled with house-cleaning, writing, working your Mary Kay business, running after grandkids, volunteering in the community, tutoring, working outside the home, etc.)
  • How physically active am I during my work hours? Do I need to be flexible and prepared for messy work? Or am I sitting at a desk? Or in a car? Or walking and standing?
  • How much of my day is spent doing this work? A couple of hours in the morning or all day?
  • Who am I around during my “work hours?” Co-workers, patients, clients, the public, a partner, husband, children, grandchildren?
  • Do I want to be seen and noticed? Hide or blend into the background? Stand out and be in charge? Look like a team player?
  • What is the environment where I “work?” Casual, outdoors, private, professional, festive, competitive, relaxed, solemn, intense, educational, etc.?
  • Do I need to earn something from the people at work? My patients’ confidence, my clients’ trust, my children’s obedience, my boss’ high regard, my co-workers’ respect, my audience’s attention?
Know Your Body Shape and Proportions
See the original blog post from September 2023 for shopping links and details.

After answering the questions above, use your three style angles to consider how you would like to dress on a regular basis for your work hours. If you haven’t heard about my three style angles system for defining your personal style, see this blog post in our Define Your Style…Refine Your Wardrobe style series. Even when you work you want to be able to dress in a way that reflects your personal style. Granted, there are some work environments that do not accommodate a lot of personalization. But if you’re wearing your own street-clothes, think of signature pieces, style hacks and colors that you want to wear so that your work attire aligns with your personal style.

Look Classy & Pulled Together This Spring
See the original blog post from April 2023 for shopping links and details.

What is my non-work style?

  • How do I spend my non work hours? Think gardening, exercising, relaxing, running errands, meeting others socially, taking classes, working on hobbies, etc.
  • How much of the day and week are spent in these various activities?
  • Who am I around during the non work hours and activities? How do I want to relate to them?
Elevated Jeans Outfit Formula for Early Spring
See the original blog post from earlier this month for shopping links and details.

What about special outings, events and activities?

  • What non work related activities do I involve myself in regularly with other people? Think church, book club, knitting circle, volunteer work, recreational teams and activities, travel, dates, luncheons, etc.
  • How often do I participate in these activities, outings and events with other people in a normal week?
Modern White Jeans Outfit for Early Spring 2024
See the original blog post from earlier this month for shopping links and details.

If you are retired from a career, those non-work hours may take up the bulk of your day. These may be the environments and occasions on which you should focus more of your wardrobe. But we still need to be realistic and proportional about them. Consider what you need to have in your wardrobe in order to express your personal style in those settings. If you haven’t already, be sure to read the blog post, Tips for How to Express Your Personal Style.

See the original blog post from earlier this month for shopping links and details.

From the above questions, determine what types of clothing you would like to have in your closet and at your access. Do you need mostly:

  • casual clothes
  • comfortable clothes
  • colorful clothes
  • suits
  • dresses and skirts
  • jeans and tops
  • outdoor clothing
  • slacks and tops
  • scrubs or other uniform

And what do you need to have just a little of? Dresses, exercise clothing, jeans and tops, professional clothing for the occasional conference, etc.

2 ways to wear Wide Leg Casual Pants
See the original blog post from October 2023 for shopping links and details.

Factoring in Function & Fashion

After you have determined the kind of clothing you need for your work and your non work activities, you get to decide how you want that clothing to work with your overall lifestyle…and personal style.

Keep these principles in mind:

  • You do not have to sacrifice fashion for function. For instance, an elementary school teacher can still dress in pretty colors, functional skirts and dresses, and pretty shoes. And a stay-at-home mom or retired woman doesn’t have to live in sweats and jeans.
  • You do not have to sacrifice fashion for comfort. Comfort comes in all forms. Even if comfort is important to help you do your job well, you do not have to wear slouchy, old, frumpy or inappropriate clothing to achieve comfort. If you’re in a “comfort rut” – for instance, you’re wearing sweat pants and t-shirts all the time – push yourself to look for comfortable knit dresses, skirts or pants that are just as comfortable but decidedly more fashionable and feminine.
  • You can improve the style factor of any wardrobe by selecting clothing that fits well and looks fashionable. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a predominantly casual, comfortable wardrobe, for instance. There is something wrong with wearing pajamas or your husband’s old sweat pants every day and calling that a casual, comfortable outfit.
Elevated Jeans and Sweater Outfit for Spring
See the original blog post from earlier this month for shopping links and details.
  • You do not need to dress to impress, but you do need to dress to influence. There’s a difference, right? We are all influential, like it or not. And how we dress impacts the way we influence others. While you do not have to dress to please anyone but yourself, the wise woman will dress to influence others positively, even if the “others” are her own children, husband, grandchildren, etc.
  • Your wardrobe has a powerful impact on your work performance and attitude. Studies in the area of enclothed cognition – that’s a recognized science of the effects of clothing on cognitive processes – indicate that what we wear makes a notable difference both in how we present ourselves and interact with others and in how others perceive and respond to us. Bottom line? What we wear really does matter.
  • You are wise to spend the majority of your wardrobe budget on clothes that reflect your true, usual lifestyle. Invest less in the clothing that you may need for the occasional event or activity. This may mean that you don’t buy as much of what you actually gravitate toward, but you purchase what practically works for you instead. For instance, you may love high heels and pencil skirts, but if you’re a stay-at-home grandma, you’ll end up frustrated if you don’t have more functional shoes and pants to wear day-to-day.
  • You are smart to buy clothes for the lifestyle you have rather than the lifestyle you dream of. Enough said?
See the original blog post from earlier this month for shopping links and details.

Aligning Your Wardrobe with Your Lifestyle

Hopefully, you’ve been able to determine from these questions and principles the way you would like to dress in order to express your personal style in your real life situations. But how do you get the wardrobe in your closet to align with your lifestyle?

These jeans are generally going to look best with a close fitting top to keep the outfit proportionate. Which proportions am I referring to? In your outfit it is best to have some of your outfit fitted and some of it more relaxed, especially if one of the pieces is very voluminous. So to balance the volume in the jeans, wear a more fitted top.
See the original blog post for shopping links and details.

Answer the following questions to get started:

What wardrobe essentials are important for my unique lifestyle? (Depending on your needs, think low-heeled shoes, comfortable pants, simple dresses, skirts and tops that easily mix and match, blouses that look and feel pretty under an apron, outdoor basics in breathable fabrics, pieces that are machine washable, no-iron tops, etc.)

What would make my wardrobe more practical for the lifestyle I lead? (More casual tops & cardigans? More polished but simple workwear? Fewer heels and dressy pieces? More athleisure wear? etc.)

What items could work with my current wardrobe to make it more functional for my lifestyle? (Add a few simple tees? A few accessories to dress up my current pieces? Different shoes? etc.)

Denim Skirt with Tee and Utility Jacket
See the original blog post from September 2023 for shopping links and details.

Next make a list of items to shop for:

For instance:

  • I need a few more simple tees.
  • Look for casual cardigans and denim jacket to replace suit jackets.
  • Replace dress pants from former career with stylish, comfy jeans and chinos.
  • I need casual but elevated jackets for everyday life.
  • Be on the look out for stylish flats to wear instead of all the heels I have in my closet.
Looking at the Talbots Catalog

As you shop for pieces to fill the holes in your lifestyle aligned wardrobe, be sure to take into consideration correct fit, colors that flatter and your personality or style essence.

Once you get your wardrobe more aligned with your current, true lifestyle, work to keep it that way. Resist the urge to buy what you are drawn to, and instead purchase only pieces that contribute to a wardrobe based on your lifestyle. You’ll discover you have more choices to choose from when it’s time to dress for your average day. And you’ll rarely say, “I have nothing to wear!”

Thanks so much for dropping in. I hope you enjoyed this post in our Define Your Style…Refine Your Wardrobe 2024 style series. You can find the other posts in the series HERE. I’d love to hear from you today. Tell me what kinds of clothes you are naturally drawn to when shopping that don’t align with your real lifestyle. And share with me what you’ll be focusing on instead as you build your spring and summer wardrobe.

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next up, Define Your Style with Colors & Neutrals (click to access)

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Blessed for My Day

Have you experienced a significant life change recently? Maybe the last child left the nest…or the first? Maybe you’ve returned to the workforce after years of dedicating your time and energy to raising kids? Or maybe you’ve retired from a full career? Change can be hard, even when it’s welcomed and planned. But we have a God who has ordained that things occasionally change. And He is faithful to walk us through those changes, serving as the One constant and abiding anchor. Cling to Him when the future seems uncertain and today feels oh so different from yesterday. He is the Alpha and the Omega. And He will never change. So you, dear sister, can.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1

xoxo, Kay
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26 thoughts on “Define Your Style for Your {Real} Lifestyle

  1. I have been an empty nester for awhile, still hurts-this part of my life. Thanks for what you said about this^so happy to see that you talked about empty nesters. I don’t miss the work that comes
    with kids but I miss them terribly. I love their emails-my son sends one often but my daughter has sent some precious ones, too. Wish this pain would stop.

    1. I’m sorry this hurts so much, Cathy. They still need you, but in such different ways now. And losing their almost constant presence is very difficult. I pray that in time the pain will subside.

    2. I’m sorry. I have five children and my “baby” is twenty-three. It is a hard transition-the grandchildren make it easier. It helped me to find hobbies-gardening and travel. I also teach Spanish once a week and volunteer. Keep trying! I’m enjoying it immensely now!

    3. Yes, I feel the same way – I keep very busy and am married but feel lonely – I think some of us just really found that part of our lives to be so rewarding that we miss it very much when it’s over.

    4. It is indeed a hard transition, Cathy. I pray you find peace and joy in this new season. When I get a little sad about my kids no longer being a part of my daily life, I try to remember that this is what I raised them for…to live healthy, happy adult lives, making their own impact in the world. That definitely encourages me a little.

  2. I miss the days of dressing up for work and I miss the wardrobe I had in the 90s. But I don’t need either these days. I still work, but the work world has changed, my life has changed, and my body has changed. This post was extremely helpful and detailed for thinking through my wardrobe for the current life I’m living. Thank you!

  3. Thank you for this comprehensive and helpful post, Kay! Recently while waiting for our table at a restaurant, my husband and I noticed how little people dress up these days compared to even a decade ago. Jeans and sweatpants are everywhere! I love my jeans and sweatpants, but when I leave the house, even to go to the pharmacy, I like to take it up a notch and put on something smart. If we don’t do this occasionally, we can forget how to throw a smart outfit together on the fly, and just give up when a nice event comes up. I have invested in nicer quality casual clothes because that’s what I wear most of the time. I appreciate how you help us use a modern approach to present ourselves to the world regardless of what we’re up to in this stage of life.

  4. Great post! Getting realistic about my lifestyle has been hard for me in the past five years–so much of our identity can be wrapped in that image we have of ourselves. I am an attorney and I worked in very “business-y” offices at major corporations for 30+ years, but I have been remote since 2020. I still have a full on “career” wardrobe that I need to pare, while I will sometimes sit at my home office working in workout attire all day, and that doesn’t feel great. Even worse, a lot of my career clothes (looking at you, my 17 pairs of black/navy pants and 10 black/navy blazers) don’t even fit my current body which has shifted a bit with age. In the process of weeding through my career clothes to see what still works for the non-office life, I also am planning to retire in the next year or two, so I need clothes that I like for the non-career life that I will have. Your post can help me with that planning and even picturing what I will actually be doing when I retire, which makes me happy instead of sad about giving away my size 10 pants. Thanks!

  5. Kay,
    I do this all the time. I’m retired. I’m drawn to clothes that do not fit my lifestyle. This post helped me tremendously. It’s no wonder I have nothing to wear , I’m buying so many clothes for the wrong me! Thank you , Kay for pointing out the obvious for me.

    1. You know, reading these comments and thinking through this a bit more, I think I should have mentioned something about taking joy in the season we are in, the lifestyle we live (as thought I hadn’t already written enough!). I’ve found that when I embrace my casual lifestyle I’m more prone to shop for it. And truly, there are so many great casual options out there now. Just thinking out loud here. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Thank you this was a very informative post. My challenge is that I am looking at retirement in 3 years. Do I stop buying investment pieces for my work wardrobe that I won’t need in 3 years? My non work hours are very casual. I did this exercise for my planned days coming and I will need something in the middle that I don’t have now. So many people have told me to not buy work clothes for the last 5 years of work, I like to be stylish so that is impossible. Thoughts

    1. Hmm, yeah, I don’t really agree with that advice. I think the final years of your career are just as important as the first ones, so why not look your best? And three years is still a long time when it comes to our closet. I think I would just try to be all the more careful with my purchases, making sure every piece I bring in gets plenty of wear and that I don’t buy duplicates. But if you curate a good wardrobe based on your personal style, you should be able to still feel and look stylish and modern. I’d stick to more classics and fewer trending pieces, unless those trendy things get double duty in your non work time. Those are just my thoughts.

  7. Pertinent reminders, Kay–thanks! Your pairing white linen tie blouse, white tee and loose pant inspired me to grab those items from my closet, so I’m instantly blessed with a new outfit. I may add organic (bone or stone?) necklace or bold earrings, and perhaps a tapestry or textural tote. Always love ways to minimize a tummy, where we don’t wear belts or tucked tops. Let’s make today most beautiful in whatever small ways we can, everyone.

  8. Kay, I have been on the refine your wardrobe journey with you and the other ladies….changing it up with each post ..boy was this one an eye opener…I have so many beautiful clothes to wear for dress up and no place to go… My lifestyle is very different from my closet…I ordered the little lavender hoodie thru your link, I think I have worn it more since it came to my doorstep than most of the rest of my wardrobe….I need things that move well,not only to care for my husband ( he has been ill for some time now) but to play with grandchildren, and tend home and yard…and the bulk of my clothes are for dress up…well I will spend some time today studying today’s post and trying to reconcile all I have learned to build a more user friendly wardrobe.Thank you again for sharing your knowledge.

    1. Linda Blessings to you and your husband 💞it is hard to care for someone you love even though it is extremely rewarding . While trying to be You and trying to look nice both for them and also anyone who visits , whilst being comfortable and practical. If this is any help when I nursed my dad from start to finish (7 months) of his Terminal illness , I wore my Chino Style Pants ( I found jeans too uncomfortable all the bending and stretching) and soft tops that I could layer ( grandad, V tops or Scoop tops ) with either Shirts/Overblouses/Cardigans because as you know throughout the day theres a lot of taking off and putting back on , plus I always wanted to look pulled together for various members of the Medical Team coming in often to see dad , but my main aim was to be comfortable and look nice for my dad so I didn’t stop wearing pretty colours , and my dad did comment on that he said it always put a smile on his face ❤️. I hope this has been helpful for you . My background was as a Nursing Assistant on a Palliative Care Unit and we got to wear Scrubs , thats how I know comfort is crucial , it keeps the smile on your face too . God Bless You Xx

  9. Kay, this was a master class in defining/refining your wardrobe to fit your actual lifestyle. Thanks for your hard work!

  10. This is great Kay! So many things to consider and think about before I make any more purchases. Love this series and thank you for helping me up to this point.😀

  11. This series has been so helpful and today’s post especially so! I’m going to really think about the answers to the questions to help make better wardrobe choices. Also thank you for today’s BFMD – I’m 3 months away from retirement so it really speaks to me!

  12. Very good advice! I really need casual clothing and the nice blouses just hang in my closet and are lucky to be worn even once a year now that I am retired – I volunteer a ton but all very casual settings – think picking up trash by the side of the road and painting over graffiti!

  13. Very good post Kay. I’m going to have to get better how I dress at home. I’m retired and it’s easy to look like bum when I don’t have to go anywhere some days. I did quit buying office type clothes. I’m the grandmother that likes pencil skirts and heels. I now ask myself where am I going to wear it and how many times. I’m drawn to jackets so now I only buy casual ones. It’s not easy but I’m getting there. Thanks for all the time and effort you do in helping us.

  14. Hi Kay Thank you so much for this , it was invaluable to me because I am/was that person buying for a Lifestyle I don’t have . I have this week after reading this , gathered All the clothes for the ‘Lifestyle’ I don’t have and never will and put them i to my local Charity Store, plus the jewellery too . When you started this Define your Style I took your advice and started to photograph myself in my outfits and you are right we do all have a kind of a uniform , also in a notebook every day I wrote down exactly what I wore and why , so now I have managed to pare down my very large wardrobe into the Outfits that suit my personality which is ‘Soft Classic/Feminine/Vintage, that suits also my Lifestyle and are actually the clothes/outfits I love to wear and feel good in . Thank you so much Kay for introducing this Style Series to us , it will make my future clothes shopping do much easier now I know my Style Personality and Colours . Blessings to you Kay for all your hard work and Inspiration ❤️

  15. Thanks Kay! I have enjoyed reading your posts. I retired a couple of years ago at age 59 and we moved from the gulf coast to the mountains. We have an active lifestyle with lots of hiking and cycling. I’ve also been volunteering in our new city. I decided that I needed to elevate my wardrobe because I had an opportunity to do some pro bono consulting. I had gotten rid of many of my professional looking pieces or they were looking tired. You’ve shown me some new brands and inspired me to have a few things that look more professional. I still enjoy wearing a dress to church on Sunday but I may be on of the few! Thanks for sharing your perspectives on trends too. I enjoy. hearing what’s trending and trying to figure out what is going to be around for a while!

    1. Sarah,
      I’m so glad you still wear dresses to church like I do.
      I am one of the few as well. I grew up that way.
      Sometimes I think to myself that I would have more outfits to wear if I wore pants too, but just can’t do it yet.
      Take care!