What To Wear When You Don’t Have Time To Wait for Inspiration.

What should I wear, today? What, what, what? Sigh. How many times have I stared blankly into my closet and asked myself that dreaded question? Ha. Many, many times, my friends.

To be truthful, I haven’t done it in years. But when I was younger… well… that was a whole other thing. Back then I might go through several outfit changes each morning, tossing aside unwanted items as I became more and more frustrated, and had less and less time before I had to be out the door. Then, when inspiration failed me, and time ran out, I’d root through the pile of clothes on my bed, haul out a favourite and too often relied upon outfit combination, and rush down to the basement to plug in the iron. Because, of course, the blouse or skirt was now hopelessly wrinkled, having been discarded early in the process, and lying under a growing pile of other discarded items. I’d press the wrinkles out, toss on whatever it was I’d chosen, and dash out the door, coat flying, twenty minutes late, knowing that if traffic was heavy my first morning class might be in danger of starting without me. And that would be bad because I was the teacher. Phew. So glad those days are over.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all just looked like this every morning? source

But, as I said, I haven’t done that in years. Partly because I’m much more organized now. If there’s one thing that teaching teaches teachers it’s that being organized pays off in sooo many ways. Course timelines planned, units mapped out, target dates for tests and major assignments in place from day one of the semester. All of that frees you up to be more creative in planning day to day activities, more in the moment, and better able to have fun with the kids. And it reduces your stress. Big time. And after a few years, that technique of planning the big stuff in order to relax with the day to day bleeds into other aspects of your life. Like wardrobe planning.

Here’s how it works for me. I know many of you have read this “philosophy” numerous times, so I’ll be brief. Every season I do a wardrobe inventory of what I own that I will still wear this season, and what I will consign or give away. Then I look for gaps or needs. To help me decide what I might want to add to my wardrobe, I pull pictures from magazines and pin them on my bulletin board for inspiration. Or I start a Pinterest board. Then I make out a seasonal shopping list. And I write all this down in my little book. The writing down part is important.

 Fall 2016 fashion inspiration board
My inspiration board for Fall 2016.
I don’t always follow my shopping list. Sometimes I can’t find an item, or I change my mind about what I want. But I always know what I don’t need. And I shop for items that fit with other things I own. Sometimes I find a jacket or a suit that I really love which takes my wardrobe off in a new direction. Like my navy Veronica Beard suit. But I am always aware that I may need to then find coordinating tops or shoes. So I don’t do that often. And only if I love, love whatever I’m buying. And never if the only reason for buying it is because it’s on sale. I mean, buying that brown midi-skirt at a fabulous price isn’t smart shopping if you now need new brown boots, and maybe even a camel or brown coat, to go with it. Later in the season, I usually do a follow-up shop, to fill a specific niche that I’ve identified. Like yesterday I found a pair of khaki jeans at Massimo Dutti that work beautifully with my khaki suede Twiggy moto jacket. They will also work with a grey and sage green striped Vince tee, with my navy and white tees, or with my navy Veronica Beard jacket. So one new pair of jeans broadens the wearability of several other major pieces.
 My tiny clothes closet.
Most of my tiny closet. The pants and jeans are on the right out of sight of the camera.

Once my closet is organized. And I’ve shopped. I always spend a happy afternoon trying on all kinds of outfit combinations. To see what goes with what in reality, on my body, and not just on the hanger. When I worked, I’d do this on a Wednesday. Hubby always played hockey after school on Wednesday afternoon, and I knew I’d have the house all to myself for several uninterrupted hours. So I’d rush home from work, brew up a pot of tea, and get started trying to recreate the outfits that hitherto had existed only on my inspiration board and in my imagination. Sometimes the fantasy did not translate into reality. Sometimes I’d find new combinations that had never occurred to me. I used to keep a hastily scrawled list of these new ideas pinned on my cork board, where I could see it when I was working at my desk. That way I’d be more likely to remember to wear these new outfit combinations.

These days, instead of taking notes, I just take pictures for my blog. Then when I’m getting dressed, I can quickly look up an outfit shot on my i-pad. If I weren’t writing this blog, I think I’d still take pictures with an i-phone and keep outfit ideas stored there. Seems like a quick way of recording outfits that work, that you like, and that you want to be able to recall when you have to be somewhere, and you don’t have time to wait for inspiration.

Earlier this week, I had what Hubby jokingly refers to as one of my “fashion shows.” I tried on a whole mess of clothes. This time, I wanted to see how I might get more wear out of these old brown suede Prada ankle boots. Eventually I found I liked them with my flared Current Elliot jeans, my new Veronica Beard jacket, over a cream silk blouse. And with this double-faced, wool scarf which has teal green, blue, and brown animal print on one side, and which looks great with both chocolate brown and with navy.

Veronica Beard navy jacket, Current Elliot jeans, cream silk Equipment blouse, brown suede Prada booties, Holt Renfrew animal print scarf
Trying to translate inspiration into reality the other day.

I should add that “fashion shows” are just for the purpose of identifying what I might wear. They are not generally for public consumption… especially given the fact that I had no make-up on, and my hair was sticking up in tufts. Hence my hiding behind an artfully placed book. See how beneficial reading can be? Ha. Totally appropriate camouflage for me. I always did have my nose stuck in a book.

So you see, if you know what you own, and you know what goes with what because you’ve already tried on several different outfit combinations, you can avoid the dreaded question “What should I wear?” You can eliminate the distressing last minute dearth of inspiration. And totally do away with the towering pile of cast off outfits on the bed under which the one item you desire will now be languishing in severe need of a good ironing. I always hate when that happens.

And let me add one caveat to this advice. Never, never presume to plan too far in advance exactly what you will wear for each day of the week. I did that one year when I started to become a bit obsessed with organization. In love with my newly learned skill of planning ahead, I thought: “If a bit of planning is good, then of course a whole lot of planning will be…well.. better. Won’t it?” Ah. Not so much. Sometimes you really can have too much of a good thing. I began to realize that it was much better to have a range of outfits from which to choose to suit my mood. Because there’s nothing worse than planning to wear, say, a skirt suit with high heels on the one morning when you feel like crap and really, really want to wear cords and running shoes. Always have a plan B … trust me on this one.

Now, I know some of you are saying… “Gad, this woman takes dressing seriously.” You’re right. I do. I seem to be temperamentally unable to grab whatever jeans and top are handy, throw them on, and happily head off to start my day. I want to look good, or as good as I can. Be comfortable. And appropriately attired for my mood, and for whatever activity I’m embarking upon. Shallow it may be… I will admit… but I can’t help it. That’s just the way I am. A bad outfit makes me verrry cranky.

How about you my friends? How do you solve those last minute ‘what to wear with what’ dilemmas? Any secret tricks you use to pull together a polished look when you’re pressed for time? Any funny wardrobe stories you want to share?

Go ahead. We’re listening.


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38 thoughts on “What To Wear When You Don’t Have Time To Wait for Inspiration.”

  1. Mostly on the run here (following an active granddaughter through a big new-to-us city), but I do want to say that I'm still reading and enjoying your posts very much. And that I admire your organisation immensely!

  2. Good advice . It might sound like a chore to some but my routine is similar & I enjoy it . Though I'm more prone to the odd wild card when shopping . I keep a little list on my iPad of different combinations to try sometime too . We are going to Barcelona again in a few days & after a final weather check there'll be the ' fashion show ' . I'll need to have tidy hair & makeup though , otherwise everything looks dreadful now . Hubby smiles wryly at these antics but can't say too much , he collates his malt whisky collection & strokes them affectionately occasionally.
    Wendy in York

    1. You and Barcelona are developing an abiding friendship, aren't you? I'd love to visit there one day. Husbands who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones at our antics, I always say. My Hubby can name just about every place in the world where he's caught a fish. My fashion obsession pales in the face of that much enthusiasm!

  3. I've been getting more organized with my approach to clothes, although not quite to your level. I'm currently tracking what I'm wearing per the Curated Closet. My husband thinks I'm nuts when I take a photo of an outfit, but I don't always remember certain combinations and that helps with ones I like. So true about the mood — some days I decide what to wear the night before, & others I end up trying a couple of combinations in the morning because the mood doesn't fit. Fortunately, I get up earlier than needed and have a short commute to work.

    1. It's not like I have a ton of clothes, but if I don't take pictures of new combinations than I just end up wearing the same things with the same things over and over. I've always found that my mood and my outfit have to match if I want to feel comfortable all day. I will say that in the years before I retired it was a good thing I had a short commute or I'd never have been on time for work. Not because of outfit choosing, but because I'd got into the habit of having a second cup of tea with my husband who was already retired.

  4. Phew, and I thought I was the only one doing these "fashion" shows. I like the idea of taking a selfie with each outfit, but Susan, how are you taking those? With your iPad? do you have it set up on a timer or something? I really struggle snapping a decent shot with my phone plus the lighting by the full length mirror is poor, narrow space… that's a lot of excuses when maybe it's just me?

    1. From the other comments, it looks like there are quite a few of us who put on our own private, not for public viewing fashion shows. I have an ap on my i-pad mini which allows me to take shots on a timer. And it cost under $5.00 so it was really worth it!

  5. Fantastic advice! I've been much more organized with my wardrobe in recent years, but this takes it to a whole new level. I love the idea of photographing potential outfits for future reference. I'm on vacation right now, living out of a suitcase, but when I get home it will be time to do the seasonal wardrobe switch and I will definitely be referring to this again. Thank you!

  6. Fashion is a guideline and I handle my wardrobe much as you do…cull, revisit what was worn, update a few major pieces and then enjoy the ease of a streamlined closet. Black is my go to colour but I love pairing it with a pop of colour whether that is red, hot pink, blue, or a neutral like white or gray. Colours must appeal to me and be appropriate for the activities that I do…love using suit jackets to dress up an outfit even now that I have retired from a teaching career. Thanks for sharing the great advice! Cheers, Alayne

    1. Streamlining is so satisfying, isn't it? I too have a lot of black, and grey, and have been adding navy this season, which I'm really enjoying.

  7. You are very well organized and I like it very much myself-why would be weird to be organized in the kitchen,household or wardrobe as perfect as one is /or was in the professional life? The skills are the same or similar.
    Taking photos of outfits is a great idea,thank you. I usually keep the evidence of everything in my mind but this is better indeed

    1. Those skills should be transferable… you'd think. But I know several talented, creative, well organized teachers who show up to work looking like they just grabbed yesterday's jeans off the floor. Maybe to apply the skill you have to care about the endeavour… and some people just don't think that it matters how they look. At least that's my interpretation.

    2. Yes,that's exactly what I think-they shut the door of their home and don't transfere their skills,making us ,who do (I don't judge,but don't want to be judged,too), looking weird,when it comes to question 🙂
      And,yes,they don't really think that it matters. Everyone to one's taste!

  8. I don't write things down, but when I hit on a combo I particularly like, I'll snap a photo for reference. Sometimes I'll post on the blog, other times not. I think because I've narrowed down the *types* of items in my wardrobe, and the silhouettes, that makes putting outfits together easier. But sometimes it's just fun to experiment with new combos!

    1. I agree, Sue, about having certain "types" of pieces that you know work for you. It's just that sometimes they should work…but for some strange reason they don't. That's when having tried them earlier saves time, especially if you're rushing out the door.

  9. OMG! I'm the black sheep. I never am that organized. I wait for the last minute to figure out what I'm going to wear. My closet does need a thining out desperately. I think I will hire some one to help me let go of some of these clothes. Too much. But I would be so anxious if I was as organized as you are. Yet I do appreciate your results. You always look great. Love your style.

  10. What a great system and it clearly works for you. I'm nowhere near as systematic when it comes to my wardrobe although I do have fashion shows from time to time which I find useful. Never thought of photographing outfits for future reference. Might try that one. Iris

    1. Thanks, Iris. I've only recently hit upon the photo record idea. Wouldn't it be great if an off-the-wall fashion designer had a show that actually mimicked the shows we have in our bedrooms??? That would be fun.

  11. Oh you know I love these organization/curating/shopping posts, Susan. Many of us have gotten used to taking a pic every day or so – can you imagine that 20 years ago? You're a tremendous closet inspiration. And . . . what is iron? : 0


  12. While I'm too mercurial (what, me moody? impossible!) to plan out in advance and stick to it, I do employ an idea that I got from you last year, which is to take a photo of an outfit if I end up really liking it and feeling comfortable in it. Having a photo helps me remember the particulars of a combo that really worked well.

    But it's also had an amusing side effect: several of those outfits I was so smitten with at the time have turned out, upon later review of the photos, to be not quite as flattering as I first thought. So I now have on my iPhoto an album entitled "NEVER Wear This Again!" �� — Catbird Farm

  13. Hi Sue …good post! It definitely gave me cause for reflection 🙂 Distant memories of piles of clothes on the bed and feeling unhappy with my eventual choice! Nothing felt just right! This rarely happens now, thank goodness. Although as you know, I'm not looking forward to shopping for my mother of the bride outfit! 🙂 Although feeling better than I did.
    During my working life I wore a uniform.As long as that was all clean and pressed, shoes polished etc all I had to struggle with each morning was making my curls presentable! I don't take pictures of outfits but I do make lists ( a tip I learnt from you) including ones for holidays …With what works and for when.I also make notes as to what works at the end of the holiday when I may,… read will! have put on a lb or two. I make a list at the end as to what I actually wore and how it felt,to make packing easier the next time. The plus to all of this is I'm generally very happy with what I wear day to day. A day out in a London with my daughter is effortless. Organised for lots of walking ..A smart restaurant or cocktail bar and any changes the weather may throw at me!

  14. Recently retired and loving it, but I confess that I miss getting a selection of outfits ready for the work week. I always prepared 6 outfits just to give myself a little choice. It was a Sunday ritual – coffee and "fashion show", as you put it. I need to look for opportunities to dress up since I'm not going to the office.

  15. I'm somewhere in between at the moment, between organized and haphazard although I've been to both extremes. I think I'll start taking fashion shoots again, mostly because if I find something new I forget it before it can become a habit.

  16. I love that idea, Susan! Teaching does teach us to be good planners, doesn't it? And good about being flexible when the plans all go to hell too! ;P My closet has been a bit out of control since I started blogging! Maybe I'll try your technique, Dear! Thanks so much for sharing with Fun Fashion Friday! Oh, and can't wait to hear about shopping in NYC!

    Dawn Lucy

  17. I love this! And, you do take dressing seriously but in a positive and very smart way. I do know if I even tried half of your advice I would save hundreds of dollars every year. Thanks for sharing this.

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