Hello, and welcome to Dressed for My Day! I’ve been tossing this concept around in my head for a while now and I thought it was time to type it out. Like you, dear reader, I’m constantly learning. My own personal style continues to evolve. And, even as I learn more about my personal style, I’m also navigating aging. In the process I study other women a lot. And I especially pay close attention to those women who seem always to look smart and pulled together no matter what the occasion may be. How do they do it? What sets them apart? They all dress differently, these beautiful, stylish women. But I’ve discovered that every stylish woman has one common characteristic.
It takes courage to be stylish. And while it may seem to us that some women just are courageous and others aren’t, I’ve decided that this is one character trait that we absolutely can develop with perseverance. In fact, we’ve all had to be courageous at one time or another.
As I wrote previously in this inner beauty post on courage, I’ve found that it takes a large dose of courage just to be a woman. Wouldn’t you agree? It takes courage to:
- earn an education
- apply for a job
- say, “I do”
- carry an unborn child
- birth a baby
- raise a child
- pay the bills
Yes, we have to be braver than we really are to meet the bare minimal requirements for the lives most of us live. But you and I know that none of us live “bare minimal” kinds of lives.
We need even more courage to:
- say goodbye to a stillborn child
- nurse a husband through illness
- raise a child with special needs
- live as a single woman in a couples’ world
- care for a parent with dementia
- bury a child
- love a difficult family member
- persevere in a strained marriage
- forgive a wayward spouse
- recover from an injury
- rebound from a divorce
- battle cancer
- endure multiple military deployments
- move across the country
- love a child through mental illness
- confront a boss who is demanding inappropriate things
- blow the whistle on a perpetrator
- live with an autoimmune disease
- walk away from a dream to deal with a reality
So you probably have more courage than you even give yourself credit for. But do you have the courage to be a stylish woman? I think you do. I think I do, too. We can tap into the courage we’ve had to have for life’s challenges in order to make the courageous decisions necessary to be stylish women.
A stylish woman courageously determines her own personal style essence.
When we’re growing up we are largely influenced by the style choices of our mothers, other influential women in our lives and our peers. Our personal style is shaped by these women. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Who shaped your sense of style?
But if I want to be a truly stylish woman I must choose to chart my own course at some point. And that takes courage. I’ve noticed that the most stylish women dress in a way that resonates with their personality, lifestyle and season of life. Their style “fits” them. That doesn’t just happen. It requires courage to break away from the pack and determine your own style.
Exercise in courage: Take the time to jot down some notes about your own personal style. Use descriptive words to define how you like to dress. Be sure to note the signature clothing items, colors, style hacks and accessories that make your style your own.
If you need a little helping determining your own personal style, check out my post, How to Define Your Signature Style.
A stylish woman courageously dresses the body she has now.
As we age we sometimes discover that our bodies change, too. While I’m all for staying healthy and fit through proper diet and rigorous exercise, I also have noticed that truly stylish women come in all shapes and sizes. It takes courage to remove from your closet things that no longer suit your body shape or proportions. Some of those items may have sentimental value or maybe you just hope for the day when you can “get back into them.” But a stylish woman ruthlessly focuses on dressing the body she has now.
Body acceptance takes courage. But it’s not just about accepting our bodies; it’s about celebrating them by continuing to dress beautifully even when we feel like we’ve “lost” some of our former beauty or shapeliness. A stylish woman ages with grace because she accepts that some changes are inevitable and she develops ways to work around or with those changes.
Exercise in courage: Note how your body has changed in recent year. Be honest with yourself about those changes. Then determine if you’ve done anything to adjust your wardrobe to better fit your new body. Are you buying the right size garments? Have you had a bra fitting recently and purchased new bras? Are you wearing your clothes differently, not to hide or disguise your body, but to accentuate the positive?
A stylish woman courageously wears the colors she loves and feels her best in.
I’m all for having your colors analyzed, if that helps you to feel your best about the style choices you make. But I think it’s even more important to narrow down your wardrobe colors so that you build a wardrobe that really works for you. And when you do narrow down that color palette, I think it’s going to serve you best to choose colors that make you feel your best. When we wear the colors we love, we show up as our authentic selves. Joy exudes and confidence comes more naturally.
Truly stylish women create wardrobes that help them wear the colors they love. They have the shoes, handbags and accessories to put together outfits in the colors they love over and over.
Yes, stylish women pay attention to the trending colors. But they make conscientious decisions about whether or not they will wear those trends. They have the courage to break their own rules and wear those trending colors if they so choose, but they also have the courage to stay in their own lane if they’d rather.
Exercise in courage: Put together your chosen color palette for the fall and winter. Consider the colors that elicit compliments when you wear them and the colors that are trending this year. But courageously lean into the colors that bring you the most joy and make you feel like you.
A stylish woman courageously allows her wardrobe to evolve.
Well, some of us do better with change than others. But stylish women don’t allow a fear of change to keep them stuck. They realize that, while they may love the silhouettes, cuts and patterns they are currently wearing, beautiful style is a healthy and lively mixture of the classic and the current. These women resist the pull to get stuck in their ways and bravely venture into heretofore untested territory.
It’s scary trying new things, or at least it is for me. But when I reflect on how much fashion has evolved over just my lifetime I realize that change is inevitable. And sometimes when I examine those changes through the rearview mirror I realize that my fears kept me from enjoying styles that I later came to appreciate.
In fact, I was quite late to wearing skinny jeans. But once I tried them and got used to the feel of having denim hugging my legs, I wore little else. It took me a while to figure out what features to look for and how to style them for my body shape and proportions. And it took courage for me to wear something that felt so different from the boyfriend and bootcut jeans I had become accustomed to. But, like riding a bicycle, wearing skinny jeans eventually became second nature and required no bravery at all.
What about you? What trends were you slow to try that you later enjoyed?
But this type of courage is not just about bravely trying trends…
Stylish women courageously allow their own personal style essence to evolve, even if ever so slightly, as times change. The best example of this that I can think of is from Downton Abbey.
If you’re a fan of the original series, you surely observed how the fashions worn by the Crawleys and their peers changed over the years spanned by the story (1912 – 1927). The only “upstairs” character whose style did not change was the Dowager Countess of Grantham, played by Maggie Smith. And sure, the Countess dressed beautifully, but not stylishly. As the years passed, her floor length (often with a train), lace covered taffeta dresses looked more and more out of step with those worn by the other more stylish Crawley women. A stylish woman courageously allows her personal style to evolve, even if the changing of times feels a little unsettling.
Exercise in courage: Look back at photographs of yourself in the past ten years. You’ll certainly see that you have aged. That’s inevitable. But do you also recognize that your style has evolved? Note how it has changed over the years. Allow those subtle changes to boost your courage as you consider how your style may need to evolve even more now.
A stylish woman courageously tries the trends that pique her interest.
But let’s go back to those trends for a minute. Because it does indeed take courage to try new trends. I’ve discovered that stylish women don’t necessarily try every trend. In fact, embracing every trend out there could lead to a sort of style schizophrenia. Ha! There’s nothing stylish about being too trendy.
But our style can’t evolve without trying some new things, too. And every new style is going to feel like a fad when it first surfaces. I’ve noticed that stylish women pick and choose the trends they try, leaning into those that feel the most authentic to their personal style, those that line up with their way of dressing.
For instance, over the past few years my personal style has become more relaxed and a little more edgy while still staying somewhat true to my original classic style roots. I enjoy combining classic elements with more modern pieces. And I like selecting classic pieces, such as blazers, t-shirt, jeans and black pants, in more modern iterations. So it feels authentic to me to try the relaxed fit denim and casual blazers. I’ve enjoyed experimenting with different types of footwear with these trends, too.
But it wouldn’t feel authentic to me at all to purchase a lot of the beautiful embroidered or crocheted pieces that have been trending in the past couple of years. These lend more to a bohemian or romantic style. And the puff sleeves, ruffles and smocked bodices are also more of the romantic style essence. So I haven’t really dabbled in those trends a lot either. And honestly, when I have, they didn’t feel right, so I didn’t wear them much.
Stylish women courageously choose which trends to try and which to pass on. I’m not always good at this, but I’m trying. What about you?
Exercise in Courage: Prepare to see lots of trend reports as we head into fall. Evaluate them not just based on your first reaction, but on how they would incorporate into your personal style essence. Encourage yourself to try at least a few of the ones that you decide would help you look like a more modern version of your preferred style aesthetic. THEN be prepared to bravely face a little push back, even from surprising sources. Don’t let it frustrate you. Consider the source, listen intelligently to any sound criticism or advice, but sift through it, too. Also determine to try new things multiple times, giving yourself time to acclimate and get the styling right. Most of us don’t style new things perfectly the first time.
A stylish woman courageously celebrates and enjoys other women’s styles without feeling threatened by or antagonistic toward them.
As I mentioned, I haven’t worn a lot of the ruffles or puffed sleeves that have been trending recently. But that does not make those trends wrong, bad or ugly. In fact, I love them! On other women, that is. I truly do. I admire women who wear big puffed sleeves and ruffles and bows. I admire women who wear tops with cutouts in the shoulders and across the chest (another HUGE trend!). And I celebrate women who confidently wear lots of color.
But that’s just not me…
And sometimes I take some criticism for not wearing more color, more ruffles, more cutouts, what have you. Maybe you’ve faced similar criticism from a well-meaning sister, daughter, husband or friend. But I believe truly stylish women courageously stay in their lanes…without getting angry or defensive towards women who are in a different lane, style-wise, that is.
You see, stylish women have a high degree of grace about them. Wouldn’t you agree? They’re not just dolled up to look nice on the outside, but they have an aura of grace about them. They appreciate good style and don’t define it simply by what’s in their own closets.
Exercise in courage: Think of someone who dresses differently than you do. Not someone who doesn’t put any effort into her appearance at all, mind you. But someone who makes different style choices from yours. What do you appreciate about her style that is different from yours? Next time you see her, courageously tell her what you love about what she’s wearing or how she’s styled her hair. Let her know you truly admire her taste even if it’s different from yours. Now don’t turn this into a backhanded compliment. Know what I mean? Don’t let it feel more like an insult. Graciously affirm her.
Finally, a stylish woman courageously wears her wardrobe with confidence and enjoys it.
Maybe this is the hardest step of courage to take. Somehow truly stylish women show up consistently with confidence in their style choices. Whether they’re sitting a trend out or embracing it, wearing a new color or no color at all, donning a new dress or one they’ve had in their closet for years, these women walk into a room exuding confidence. And truly stylish women don’t just have an air of know-it-all confidence. They have a joy that translates as confidence. Know what I mean?
Honestly I think I’ve decided that this brand of confidence comes from an inner disposition that has very little to do with what they’ve put on. Instead, I suspect that these stylish women have put ample thought into what to wear and how to wear it but, once they’ve put it on, they’ve turned their attention outward and off of themselves altogether. They’re able to bravely walk into a room with little thought to whether or not they “look okay” because their focus has shifted from self to others. They’re more concerned with helping other people feel at ease than with making sure that they are seen. And they’re more inclined to give compliments to other women than to solicit them from those they encounter.
This type of courage is an ethereal quality that is somewhat hard to define, but we know it when we see it. Right? So how do we capture it? I think stylish women do the work up front so that they can get dressed each day with confidence and then forget about it. They’ve defined their personal style, chosen their pared down color palette, decided with confidence which trends they’ll try and which they’ll let pass, and put together a wardrobe that works for their bodies, their season of life and their lifestyle. And then they just get dressed for their days. They don’t have to overthink it. And that leads to joy and a beautiful self-confidence.
Exercise in courage: How self-conscious do you feel when you walk into a room of people? Do you think more about how they perceive you or about how you can serve them or make them feel more at ease? What steps do you need to take so that your wardrobe is one that works for you so that you can enjoy using it to get dressed for your day rather than focusing too much energy or time on it?
If you need help creating quick outfits so that you don’t have to dwell on your appearance too much, check out my 7 style formulas.
Look, I don’t mean to imply that courage alone equals style. Obviously there are other qualities that stylish women have. Many are gifted with an uncanny ability to put things together in an aesthetically pleasing way. Others have amazingly beautiful bodies to work with. Some are trained in fashion or other arts. And others have the money to purchase clothing that could make a rag doll look drop dead gorgeous. Ha!
But while some stylish women may have some of those things, I truly believe all stylish women have a modicum of courage. And I also believe we’ll never look really stylish without it…even if we have lots of money, a beautiful body and a college degree in fashion design. Yes, it takes courage to have great style. And that is one thing we can work on developing. How do I know? Because you and I have needed even more courage to do so many other things in our lives. We are courageous women. So I know we can do this little thing with courage, too.
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Blessed for My Day
The Bible teaches us that our confidence in the Lord can grow as we become more sure of who He is and what He can do. That surety comes from reading the Bible consistently and thoroughly, reflecting on and thanking God for answered prayers and living in community with other believers who are doing the same things. As we get to know our God – His character and His ways – our faith in Him develops into a strong force that helps us navigate the hardest of times.
How is your confidence in the Lord? Do you have more doubts or convictions? What do you need to do to strengthen your faith in God? Consider one action – reading more of the Bible, spending more time in prayer or attending a Bible teaching church – and act on it this week. As your confidence in God grows your courage in life will grow, too.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. ~ Hebrews 11:1