Many of us may have a thing or two in the back of our closets that we love in private but have not yet gotten up the nerve to wear in public. At some point, we’ve all felt that self-consciousness that sometimes comes while standing in front of the mirror, trying on something new or different. Often, we’ve gotten dressed in it multiple times—and then swapped it for something else right before going out the door.
It can be uncomfortable to take a style risk or change up our usual look, but here are a couple of thoughts to recall when getting up the courage to go out on a limb!
Other people are mostly thinking about themselves.
Others simply don’t notice or think about you as much as you may assume they do. They live full lives and are too preoccupied with their own joys and sorrows. They simply don’t notice you as much as you may assume they do. (Case in point: do you remember what your colleague wore to work last Monday? Probably not!) And even if somebody does notice, remember: it’s just clothes! Yes, how we dress affects how others perceive us, but if you’re out of the office, why not have some fun? Clothes are a creative outlet, but it’s not worth the time spent worrying over them.
Focus on the happiness it brings you.
If you find an item that makes you happy, just wear it. Often, people see something they love but ask themselves, “Where would I ever wear it?” If you are truly taken with something, the answer is: anywhere! Aside from work and weddings, there are very few actual rules about what you can and can’t wear out of the house. Use some of the tips below to make things look more casual or more suited to your activity, and then pick a day to put it on next week. Why not wear a red skirt to work, a beaded dress to brunch, a flower crown to the bar, or retro-inspired heels to the grocery store if you like them? The alternative is that your favorite clothes may hang in the back of your closet collecting dust for months while you wait for the “right time” to bring them out.
If you are unsure of how to go about trying out a bold piece or wearing something different, you aren’t alone. Check out these practical tips to help you get out the door in that thing you’ve been eyeing for multiple days in a row.
De-emphasize it to start.
You can get used to wearing an intimidating item by covering it up a bit and drawing attention elsewhere. For example, perhaps you found a sequin blouse, a pair of red platform heels, or some huge dangling earrings. The first few times you wear the sequin blouse, you might put a cardigan or blazer over it so there’s just a small stripe of sequins visible down the front. With the shoes, you could wear them with longer, flared or bootcut pants so just the tips stick out under the hem. If your hair is long, you can wear it down to partially conceal the huge earrings until you get used to them.
(Here, the neutral blazer covers up a lot of the leopard-print blouse.)
Pair intimidating items with wardrobe staples.
Maybe you have a hand-me-down from your grandmother that you love but just can’t seem to wear it out the door. Next time, try mixing it with wardrobe staples that make you feel beautiful and confident. Pair it with your all-time-favorite jeans or the sweater you wear five days a week. This will help you feel more like yourself while wearing something that’s different from your usual look.
Dress it down.
Maybe that thing you’re longing to wear feels (maybe just to you) overly fancy, bright, or loud. Dressing it down is a good way to lower the intensity to a level that you are comfortable with. Many casual, neutral classics, such as jeans, denim jackets, cardigans, and sneakers work well for this. Pair jeans and a denim jacket with a bright top, or wear sneakers and a denim jacket with a fancy dress.
(The sneakers dress down this tulle skirt.)
Wear it around the house or on your day off.
You can also ease your way into wearing something different by wearing it at home, just around the house. This will help you get used to the look and feel of it on your body. Eventually, the fact that you’re wearing it will recede to the back of your mind as you go about your daily tasks—just like it will when you later wear it outside.
If you’re still feeling uncomfortable, the next step you can try is to wear it out in public at a time when you won’t see colleagues or friends. Sometimes people avoid dressing differently because they worry (not always correctly) that their friends or colleagues will make comments that will make them feel self-conscious. You might worry that your coworkers will note that “You never wear jeans” or “I’ve never seen you in a dress before!” But if you start off wearing something on your days off, it won’t feel as odd to wear it during the week. Also, you can truthfully respond with, “Oh, I wear skirts on the weekend.”
(This tee tones down the bold skirt and makes it look more casual—great for a weekend outfit.)
When trying something new or different, you may feel unsure about the ensemble, or worry about being overdressed or underdressed. But, if you start off with small steps, you will gradually get used to wearing that item or style, and the payoff is the joy you get from frequently wearing your favorite pieces—regardless of whether it’s in the settings you first imagined. Embrace the unique things that bring you joy!
(Courtney Quinn, from ColorMeCourtney, finds joy in dressing in rainbow colors.)