I noticed this past week when we were in Quebec that I was in need of some therapy. Some clothes therapy. A little dreaming of outfits I could wear if I were going somewhere. Anywhere. I think this necessity arose because I was either in my comfy sweats or my ski gear for seven full days while we were away. And the week before that, we skied twice, and I cleaned one day, blogged one day, and packed on another day. The only day that week when I was not in sweats or ski gear was the day I left the house to pick up stuff for our trip. And that was the day after our big snowstorm. Thus I was swaddled to the eyeballs in hat and scarf, and wearing jeans and my heavy winter boots.
So, while we were away, I began to dream of outfits. I’m serious. I awoke one morning after a dream in which I was back teaching, and found I was thinking, “What should I wear to work this week?” And so as Hubby got up, switched on the kettle, and made tea, I lay snuggled in bed pretending to still be asleep, and happily planning a week’s worth of work outfits. Weird, eh?
I’ve long believed in the power of clothes therapy to help me through times of stress or pain. I wrote about that idea in this post back in 2018 when I was laid up much of the summer with a bad case of shingles. I’d been in pain and unable to stand the feel of real clothes on my skin for weeks. And so I consoled myself by dreaming of outfits I would wear when I was able to wear clothes again. The idea of equating clothes with therapy came from Haley Nahman who was, at the time, writing for the now defunct blog Man Repeller. You can read Haley’s original post here.
Haley’s idea was that certain clothes made her feel better. Like her best self. So she called them “therapy clothes.” My idea was that just the thought of favourite clothes, not even the wearing of them, but merely the planning of outfits, can be therapy. Thus “clothes therapy.”
“But wait a minute,” I can hear you saying. “You were on vacation, having a lovely relaxing week in the Laurentians. You weren’t in pain or under stress.” I know. Weird, eh? Not to mention the fact that I haven’t worked as a teacher since January 31, 2013. Tuesday will be the ninth anniversary of my first day of retirement. So why the heck was I planning work outfits?
Well, let me explain.
I started scaling down my wardrobe before I retired. For two years before my actual last teaching semester, the only clothes I purchased new were clothes I could wear in my newly retired life. And when I did retire, I did a strict edit of my closet and gave away to young teacher friends anything I knew I’d not be able to wear again. Especially those pieces that were good, and which I felt deserved a new life with someone else.
I kept dressy jackets and sweaters I would wear with jeans. Skirts I could wear with tee shirts and flat sandals. And “just in case” pieces I was unsure about. But I talked about all that years ago in a post called “Sunday Style.” Let’s just say that many pieces no longer lived in my closet if they could not be repurposed in my new more casual, Sunday style, life.
But the other morning while I lay in bed in our condo in the Laurentians, I began to wonder whether or not I have edited my wardrobe too much. Whether or not I have culled into oblivion the possibility of outfit variety. I didn’t really think I had. But lying there several hours drive away from home, and unable to look into my closet, I was unsure. So I began to play a game in my head. I pretended that, for whatever reason, I had to go back to work on Monday. What would I wear? Would I have sufficient clothes to create suitable outfits to see me through a week in the classroom without repeating an outfit.
As I said above, I lay there in bed happily thinking through my closet, and deciding what I would wear to work. If I had to go to work. I’d feel great, I thought, wearing my faux leather skirt with boots and a sweater. I could swap out the high boots for ankle boots and change up the sweater for a different outfit. See the first two photos above.
Same with my black Theory leggings, below. I could wear them with ankle boots, my burgundy cashmere turtleneck, down vest and my old Alfred Sung blazer. I might leave off the vest with this outfit. And on another day, I could wear the leggings with the same sweater, my vest, and my high boots.
Of course I’d feel great standing in front of my classes in my knee-length sweater dress from Aritzia, with black tights and ankle boots.
I’d also feel comfortable in my burgundy boot-cut jeans from NYDJ, a long-sleeve matching tee, and a hoodie and scarf. On casual Friday I’d wear my jeans, a white tee, a blazer, and my green hoodie around my neck. I could haul out the old Max Mara black blazer to wear with my black leggings, boots and a cream turtleneck. Actually this outfit would work with almost any sweater under the jacket.
My longer sweater dress I might save for a day when I wanted to look a bit more smart. Parent-teacher interviews, maybe. A committee meeting at the board-office. Maybe P.D. Day? I still remember back when we used to get dressed up for the board-wide P.D. Day. And the last couple of years I worked I presented with my friend Krista on P.D. Day, and I’d want to look comfortable but smart for that. Not that I’d be attending any of these activities if I were really going back to work this year. Pandemic school being something completely different from what I experienced.
Would I dare wear leather pants to work? I would now, my friends. With a white tee, a long vintage Max Mara jacket and a matching sweater, I’d feel conservative but still edgy. The purple sweater and pants I’d save for a night out with colleagues. I have to confess that these are my old faux-leather pants. But with my new ones, even though the style is slightly different, the idea is the same.
So yeah. I’d definitely have enough clothes to see me through a week, or even two, of “work” without repeating exactly the same outfit. My little mental exercise was wonderful clothes therapy.
Now, back to the reason I was in need of clothes therapy at all. Firstly, I was feeling a bit outfit deprived. I had not worn anything but sweat pants or ski gear for most of two weeks. Although I loved our week away, we usually eat out at least once when we are at Lac Morency. Both of us love the old dining room at the inn there. We get dressed up a bit, and walk through the snow from our condo. The food is always lovely. And we enjoy the chats we have with the waiters about the food and the wine and winter life in the Laurentians. Last time we were there, in the bar while we waited for our table, we had a really interesting conversation with a bunch of mining engineers from around the world who were in Quebec for their annual company meeting.
But this year Covid restrictions prevented that. The restaurant was closed. And as I said, I wore comfy sweats around the condo, and ski gear everywhere else. It’s amazing how even one night of dressing up and going out can make a difference. But when going out is not an option, planning outfits for going out can help.
And part of the reason for the outfit dreaming was to reassure myself that I could still conjure up some outfit variety. Prove to myself that I had not culled my wardrobe too far. And to see if I still had enough clothes for something other than errand running. Like, say, for work. I was kind of relieved to see that despite the much smaller size of my wardrobe these days, there’s still plenty of variety to be had. I don’t own “business-casual” clothing like I used to wear. Those days are long gone. But I’d be happy to wear any of the outfits in this post to a job. If I had a job. Which I don’t.
Which brings me to my last point. The fact that though I have just planned, with the aid of photos from previous posts, a week of work outfits, I don’t actually have to GO to work. That brings me as much pleasure as the idea that I haven’t edited my closet down to boring basics and nothing else. Now that’s what I call beneficial clothes therapy, my friends.
Of course none of these outfits was originally planned with the idea of work in mind. My style has actually changed quite a bit since I retired. At first I wore mostly jeans and jackets, jeans and sweaters, or jeans and tees. In the past couple of years I have begun to add pieces back into my closet that are a bit more, if not exactly dressy, then a bit beyond jeans and a sweater. And perhaps smarter than I thought I’d need in retirement. I think the advent of wearing sneakers and chunky boots with dresses and skirts has inspired me. It’s so easy to make an outfit more casual with this kind of footwear. No more lady-like pumps and delicate ballet flats for me. Not at the moment, anyway. I’m wearing skirts and pant suits with sneakers, and dresses with ankle boots.
And in my current, happily retired, white-haired state, I find I am more comfortable wearing outfits that are more “out there” than I ever did when I was still working. And that thought pleases me no end.
So how about you my friends? Are you outfit dreaming this winter? Maybe you have witnessed a change in your style in the past few years. Do tell us. We’re all ears, you know.
I’ve created a product widget below of some of the pieces I refer to in the post, if you’re interested. Many of the items I wear are old, so I tried to find something as similar as I could.
P.S. The clothing links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking my link, I will earn a commission which helps to pay for the blog.Follow my blog with Bloglovin