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How to Build an Appropriate Wardrobe

Building a Wardrobe
May 1, 2019

Welcome to Dressed for My Day, where I’ve either stepped into something I shouldn’t have gone near (LOL!) or hit on something big! You decide. Today I simply want to discuss what it means to dress “appropriately” and how to do it consistently. I also want to share a few tips for building an appropriate wardrobe – that’s a wardrobe stocked with a few elements that will ensure you always have at your ready the appropriate, perfect, suitable outfit…for the occasion.

Oh, and this post is part of the Building a Wardrobe that Works for You style series.

How to Build an Appropriate Wardrobe

What do we mean by “dressing appropriately?”

When we were raising our kids, appropriate became quite the catch word around our house. I frequently asked my children things like, “Is that an appropriate way to talk to your father?” or “Is this an appropriate television show to be watching?”

As my kids got older they even started throwing that word back at me in shocking but appropriate questions. “Mom, is that really an appropriate book for you to be reading?” Hahaha!

Of course what my kids and I were really asking each other was if our choices were wise. And that’s exactly what I mean by dressing appropriately, too.

While I’m all for wearing whatever suits us most of the time, I believe there are certainly occasions when additional cues should help form our decisions about how we dress. And I know you agree with me. That’s why we care about what we wear to a wedding, a job interview or a funeral, for instance. We know, in those situations and others, there’s more at stake than simply expressing ourselves or wearing our favorite things.

How can I know what’s appropriate?

The appropriateness of our clothing is based on several factors:

  • culture – By culture I mean the social behavior, norms and traditions of a group of people. For instance, think about the culture of your church or workplace.
  • event or occasion – think weddings, baby showers, company picnics, job interviews, memorial services, graduations, performances, Sunday church services, court hearings, family reunions, etc.
  • location – Is the wedding in a cathedral or chapel? Is the company picnic at the home of the CEO or a local park? Is the graduation inside or outside? Is the bridal shower in the South or California?
  • dress code – Sometimes there is an expressed dress code…for work, restaurants or events.
  • weather – Well that’s self-explanatory.
  • the region of the country – People who live in the Pacific northwest dress quite differently from folks in the South, etc.
  • age – Even if we’d like to think there are no such rules, something in us knows that we’ve aged out of certain clothing styles.
  • activity – What will you be doing? Sitting and watching? Working at a desk or in a field? Or hiking, dancing, tending to patients, baking, painting, playing games with children?
  • your role – Perhaps this factor trumps all the others. Regardless of the situation, location or activity, your role largely determines what would be the most appropriate attire for you. Especially if you are in a position of leadership or authority.

Ok, so we got all that. We understand the components, but how do we factor them?

Here’s the key.

  1. Consider the first 8 components above – culture, occasion, location, dress code (if any), weather, region of the country, your age and the activity.
  2. Consider your role in the situation for which you’re dressing. If you’re leading, teaching, selling, conducting, presenting, hosting, being celebrated, etc. take it up a notch. In any of those roles you can’t afford to dress inappropriately. Likewise, if you’re a guest and not the center of attention, take that role into consideration.
  3. Consider and respect the other people involved. Ultimately, dressing appropriately boils down to choosing to be more considerate of others and less wrapped up in self. Wear something that shows due respect to your host, your teacher, your dinner partners, your date, the bride and groom, the feted guest of honor, your students, etc.

Building a Wardrobe that is Appropriate for Any Occasion

An appropriate wardrobe is simply a versatile wardrobe. When assembling your wardrobe make sure you don’t leave out a few essentials that will help you be appropriately dressed for any occasion.

  • A classic blazer – I suggest starting with a black blazer, but additional blazers in white, navy or your signature colors will help you have more versatility, too. You can add a blazer to almost any outfit and immediately raise the level of dressiness.
4 Ways to Style a Pink Linen Blazer
This blush pink blazer takes a jeans and t-shirt outfit to a new level. Discover 4 ways to wear it in this post.
white tee w/grey stripes (wearing medium) // blush pink linen blazer (wearing 8, TTS) // shoes (no longer available, optionor another option) // soft pink bucket bag // palm necklace // mini chloe necklace // earrings no longer available (option) // silver ring
  • nude pumps – Add a pair of classic nude pumps to anything and you automatically raise the bar. If you can’t wear high heels, go with lower kitten heels. And if you absolutely can’t wear heels at all, make sure you have a pair of neutral, pointy toe (if at all possible) dress flats in your closet.
Blush Pink Blazer + White Pants

white Chatham pants (wearing curvy fit, also available in petites) // white tee w/grey stripes (wearing medium) // blush pink linen blazer (wearing 8, TTS) // shoes (no longer available, option) // soft pink bucket bag
  • a neutral colored solid classic cardigan – There are simply times when a woman needs to have her shoulders and arms covered. The easiest and least expensive way to be prepared is to have a classic cardigan in black, white or other neutral in your closet.
Spring completer Pieces - Cardigans
Garden floral top // black cardigan // girlfriend chinos
  • simple, chic black dress – I’m not necessarily talking about a “little black dress.” I suggest you have a black or other neutral solid dress with clean, simple lines that can be dressed up or down with the right accessories and shoes. Pick the right dress and you’ll be able to wear it to a full range of occasions. I shared the benefits of a powerful black dress in this post.
Powerful Black Dress
black dress (sold out, option 1, option 2, option 3, option 4) // leopard print clutch // pumps
  • white sneakers – On the other end of the spectrum, it’s wise to have a pair of go-anywhere sneakers in your arsenal. If you have only one pair, I suggest you make them white so they’ll be the most versatile.
Perfect Spring Weekend Get-Away Look

pink mid-rise skinny ankle jeans (also in curvy fit) // Keds leather sneakers// no-show socks

I shared other spring wardrobe essentials in this post, and I’ll be sharing the wardrobe essentials for each of the other seasons as we encounter them. Having those essentials in your closet will keep your wardrobe versatile so that you can dress appropriately for each situation and each day.

One more FAQ…

So when in doubt, is it better to be overdressed or underdressed? Common wisdom actually says its better to be dressed slightly too casually than to be dressed too formally. I would add that it’s better to be slightly underdressed but with a chic, classic, pared down vibe. That’s why the essentials I shared above work so well. They’re all classic with clean, simple lines.

Posts to come…

What do you think about dressing appropriately? Remember, I’m all for self-expression through our clothing, but there are times in life when it is wisest to consider others above our own need for self-expression.

To that end I’ll be publishing some posts in the near future about What to Wear to… you name it! In fact, tomorrow I’m kicking off the series with What to Wear to a Funeral. I hope you’ll swing by to check out the post.

Meanwhile, if you have other scenarios about which you are curious as to how to dress appropriately, let me know. I’m game for anything…pretty much. *wink* I’m always up for researching and asking questions so that I can help us all get…Dressed for Our (unique) Days!

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Blessed for My Day

When I was looking for scriptures for today’s blessing, I was a little surprised to find Exodus 28:3. Isn’t it interesting that God chose people with “the spirit of wisdom” to make the priest’s garments? I love that!

Let’s remember today that while it is perfectly acceptable to dress in colors and styles that express our personality and preferences, it’s not all about us. We are wise when we dress in a way that shows respect to those around us. That may mean we put on something fresh and pretty for our husband, wear something professional to work, lace up our sneakers to play with our grandkids or put on our jeans to help our elderly neighbors work in their yard. How will you communicate love and honor through your appearance and dress today?

You shall speak to all the skillful persons whom I have endowed with the spirit of wisdom, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may minister as priest to Me. ~ Exodus 28:3

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xoxo, Kay
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19 thoughts on “How to Build an Appropriate Wardrobe

  1. Great post today! I always try to dress appropriately and classy. That being said a little sass can go a long way!

  2. I agree with dressing appropriately for the situation. The tips above make sense. The only item I disagree with is the idea that being underdressed is better than overdressed. If I’m unsure, I’d rather be overdressed. I can always take off a jacket or piece of jewelry to tone things down.

    1. Yeah, I’m prone to agree with you there. But everything I read said otherwise. I think those folks were talking about being seriously overdressed though. That’s why I think it’s a good idea to look polished and put together either way. Thanks for sharing. ?

  3. What a great post! Now that I am retired, I am trying to reduce the size of my wardrobe and want to be sure to have all the appropriate basics. Your post provides a really good guideline. Looking forward to “what to wear to a funeral”, and future posts.

  4. I LOVE this!! I have taught my three daughters about dressing appropriately from day one. (Sometimes that’s in terms of modesty, other times in terms of occasion.) How we present ourselves is important for so many reasons.

  5. I’m trying to get my 18 year old son to dress appropriately. ??‍♀️ I think that’ll come with maturity…at least I hope so!
    Great post today!

    1. Ahh yes. That’s an interesting age with guys. Plus the younger generation just doesn’t set the bar as high for each other. But you’re right. I think dressing appropriately definitely has to do with maturity. And to me taking other people into consideration is a big mark of maturity. ?

  6. Thanks for your post today. How about “what to wear to a dinner party where you have to remove your shoes at the door “? In Austria, most people expect you to take off your shoes when you enter their home, and with shoes being such an important part of our outfits, this is something I struggle with. At least after 19 years living abroad, I know to make sure I have on decent socks before I leave the house! lol

    1. Hahaha! That is an interesting one! That happens some here in the states too. And it is something we sometimes forget to take into account…until it’s too late! Ha! ?

  7. I love this post and completely agree with you that often it’s best to dress with the intent of honoring others around us. May I also add that as a follower of Jesus Christ, I need to consider honoring Jesus in my dress as well as in many other areas of my life.. Thus, I loved the Exodus 28: 3 Scripture about attaining a spirit of wisdom in the garments we consider. A rule I have developed for myself many years ago is this: If I have to question if something is too short, too tight, too low, too young or too whatever, it probably is! Leave it on the rack and move on to a wiser, more appropriate choice!

  8. Kay, I do think that we need to dress appropriately, even when doing yard work. Growing up in church I was taught that I should always wear clothes that show I respect myself – not showing my bottom or my breasts to others. At 62, I am still very self conscious if a top shows just a tiny bit of cleavage. Our 19 yr old granddaughter is very well endowed and unfortunately, she likes to give others a show. I hate that she doesn’t see anything wrong with letting it all hang out. That scripture is perfect!

    1. Thanks for sharing Ginger. I guess the thing about dressing appropriately really is both a matter of showing respect to others and having respect for ourselves. I like that. ?

  9. Super insight in considering our role and the culture we find ourselves in, Kay …

    As a pastoral counselor for women who works out of my own cozy home office, I love the flexibility and individuality this freeing environment offers me after working in a ministry setting for years.