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How To Dress When Your Lifestyle Conflicts With Your Style Personality

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Our lifestyle dictates the way we lead our lives. A stay at home mum would find it pretty difficult running around after the kids in stilettos and pencil skirt for example so she adapts her style to accommodate her circumstances. Sounds easy enough yes? 

Except we have to factor style personality into the mix. Your style personality is an expression of you as a person; your character and spirit. Often it can dictate your style and you'll find yourself drawn to certain looks that you feel confident and happy in. So for example, I'm very much drawn to smarter, clean lines and feel a complete scruff in slouchy, baggy cuts. Whereas I see some bloggers totally rocking the whole dressed down look. Neither of us are right or wrong, we just have different style personalities.

And that's when things can go wrong. When our lifestyle and style personality collide. It. Can. Be. Disastrous. Take me for example. I was like a pig in poo back in the 90s, in my sharp tailored suits. I had a whole wardrobe dedicated to work wear and took great pleasure in picking out an outfit every day. 

And then children happened. At best, I fumbled my way through the next few years. There was the Reebok tracksuit stage (let's not go there), the jeans, t-shirt and chunky cardi stage and the wide leg pull on trousers and floral top stage. All topped off with a parka and the most hideous pair of ankle boots. Tragic. I felt frumpy and all out of sorts. In fact, the only time I felt good was in evening wear when I could dress up. Thing is, I was trying to conform to what I thought a mum should be instead of listening to my inner-self. I wish I could go back and do it all again. Because I think it's do-able with a bit of know how and a few tweaks. 

If you don't know your style personality, you might want to read this post now. Here is a quick reminder of the six categories:

Creative - someone who does their own thing and makes their own style. Eclectic and different.
Dramatic - someone who follows the latest trends avidly and loves to stand out. The fashionista.
Romantic - someone who loves tactile fabrics and pretty patterns and lots of detail. 
Classic - someone who has a formal wardrobe of classic styles with little pattern and limited colour.
Natural - someone who puts comfort over style. Simple lines and no fuss.
City Chic - someone who is well groomed, follows trends rather than fashion and wears simple cuts.

Some personalities are smarter than others, some more casual. And to make matters even more complicated, some have elements of both. So for example, you can have a casual and a smart Romantic. Wow, it's hard being a woman!

Let's have a quick think about different life stages which obviously dictate our lifestyles.

We leave education
We start our career
We have children
We return to work
We reduce our hours to part time
We retire

It feels somewhat sexist to write it down like this but I think you know what I'm getting at. Whether we follow this pattern or a different one, it's almost inevitable that we'll move from one lifestyle to another. It happens to men too!

Here are a few little tips to help when you find yourself in an alien life stage.

How To Smarten Up When You Prefer A Casual Style

1. A Stretchy Blazer

A blazer is an easy win to smarten up any old outfit. But I get it, a stiff, heavy cotton is your worse nightmare. So look for a stretchy Ponte fabric. Boden's Ponte blazers are akin to wearing a cardi. The stretch is unreal, particularly across the back of your shoulders (I can vouch for this as I have one). Brucie Bonus - it nips in at the waist.  Wearing just one smart item can totally transform an outfit.

Elizabeth Ponte Blazer Was £98, Now £58.80

2. A Sharp Cardigan

Don't diss the cardi! It's a great option to smarten up an outfit....providing it has a little tailoring. I love this particular one, the edge to edge design makes it much smarter than its slouchy counterpart. And those straight lines can be particularly flattering when worn over the top of a column of colour (here we have white) which works the verticals and makes for a slimmer silhouette.

Tailored Cardigan £39

3. Dark Denim

Dark denim is always going to be smarter than washed and distressed. And don't just limit this to jeans. A black or dark navy denim jacket is a good wardrobe worker which you can wear with dresses, skirts and trousers but never jeans. No, don't go down the double denim road.

Pocketed Denim Jacket £35.99

Even the way that you turn up a sleeve can add a bit of slickness to your style. A nice deep turn at the wrist is better than something scrunched up mid-arm.

Choose your best fit jeans for your body shape and opt for a dark wash. They don't have to be black-black. A dark blue can be just as smart. Ok, yes I agree, they're not terribly summery but for the rest of the year, an easy win in your quest for smartness.

Dark Blue Enhancer Jeans

4. Add A Piece Of Jewellery

If you're very much a natural dresser, jewellery won't feature heavily in your wardrobe. Layered bracelets will drive you doolally, chunky necklaces are a no-no and let's not even talk about dangly earrings. I'm not suggesting that you go all Mr T on me, but a small piece can really elevate your outfit. Ahhh this is cute (if your name is Mary...they do have other initials too!).

Bamboo Ditsy Necklace £10

5. Wear A Heel

A heel is always going to be smarter than flats. I know, I'm with you....no one wants the torture of a stiletto. But a block heel is a much comfier option because it provides support and distribute the weight more evenly. To be honest, they don't even need to be that high, a little elevation is all that's required.

Forever Comfort Snake Effect Sandal £25

Or the trusty wedge which is even more comfortable but arguably not as smart. Good luck with finding a decent pair because shoe designers are certainly not at the top of their game this year.

6. Stick To Plain Pieces

Honestly, you'll hate fussy styles; frills and pleats and frou-frou. They're just not you. The whole outfit below has a certain smartness to it (even with the flat shoes) but most of all, it looks totally comfortable to wear. Good basic sweaters are worth their weight in gold.

Tilda Crew Neck Jumper Was £50, now £35

And there's nothing wrong with a t-shirt either. Make sure though, that it has a bit of structure ie. not sloppy with a baggy neckline and isn't creased. Oh and black should be black and white should be white! I mentioned this tee a couple of posts back. Show it some love (ie 30 degree delicate wash, short spin) and it will last you forever. It does actually say hand wash but I've never had a problem. It springs back in to shape and needs minimal ironing. Available in several colours.

Supersoft V Neck Tee Was £35, now £24

Generally if you try to wear at least one smart piece, I think you'll be surprised how much it elevates an outfit.

How to dress down when you prefer a smarter style

1. Wear At Least One Casual Thing

Well that's a bit obvious given what I've just said in the previous sentence but it's true. I'm not going down the anorak territory here. Save that for wet day gardening. But a utility jacket is brilliant for achieving that casual vibe.

Utility Jacket Was £69.95, now £48.97

2. Wear A Shirt Under A Jumper

Verging on the preppy territory here; it's a look that has a dressed down feel but is still smart (if you get what I mean). You don't want to look as if you're hitting the golf course so leave the shirt untucked and hitch up the sweater sleeve slightly (or roll as in the image below).

Crew Neck Jumper £22, Shirt £24

3. Invest In Loafers And/Or Plain Trainers

Both give off a casual and relaxed vibe without being too dressed down. I've surprised myself at how much I've worn both my loafers and trainers. In fact, they are my go-to shoes these days. So first up, loafers which I'm going to term sophisticated casual. There are so many Gucci dupes around, I say take advantage and find the comfiest pair that you can. These ones are also available in navy (and you don't see many of those around).

Gabor Loafer £89.99

I also ventured into the land of the Moccasins last year and bought these in burgundy which are sold out but black and again navy (round of applause) are still available. So if you're ever in John Lewis, I challenge you to try these on and I promise, you will not want to take them off. These shoes have a serious personality disorder; they think they're carpet slippers. Worth every penny. Take your usual size.

Orla Moccasin £85

As for trainers, if you have a tendency to dress smartly, I'd say, stay away from heavy patterns and branding. A good pair of plain white, navy or black will be much more up your street.

I have these and I've worn them to death. There is a little bit of snake print on the heel but I'm ok with that. Very comfy, leather and a good price. Take your usual size. There aren't many left but this style comes with lots of heel options. Now I don't want to blow my trumpet or anything but I'm good at cleaning trainers. After 15 years of demudding football boots several times a week, I feel validated in making this claim. It's all about regular maintenance. A quick wipe over after every wear is far better than waiting until they're rank (not at all looking at the daughter whose Gucci trainers I had to refurbish last week). A bit of Cif for stubborn marks and throw the laces into the wash every now and again. There's no rocket science I'm afraid.

White Trainers £45

4. Add A Denim Jacket.

Much the same as no. 3 in the first section but for different reasons. You're looking to dress down rather than dress up. Although I have to say that as much as I like the look of destressed denim jackets on others, I just can't. I feel like a slob. So if you're like me, check out the jacket above. It's a great way to dress down a smarter outfit.

5. Wear An Ankle Grazer Instead Of A Frayed Hem

OMG, raggedy, frayed hems put me about! And I have them but what a waste of money because they're rarely worn. Thing is, I like the shorter ankle lengths that frayed hems tend to give you. I've yet to find a pair of ankle grazer jeans that are the right length, they always seem to hit the wrong part of the leg. So I often buy a shorter leg length, eg. in M&S I'm a long but I always buy regular in their jeans because the hems sit just above my ankles which are perfect. That said, I've fallen out with M&S jeans because the last few pairs I've bought go baggy after a couple of hours.

Here's a surprising place to pick up your jeggingy-sort-of-every-day jeans; Dorothy Perkins. I bought a couple of pairs of the Edens about three years ago and they're still going strong. Ignore the pants image (ha ha, pants image). I bought a regular and a long length. Guess which I prefer!

I repeat, ignore the image (you can make these work so much better).

Eden Jeans Were £18, now £12.60

6. Choose Your Blazer Colour Wisely

A navy or grey blazer is much easier to wear dressed down than say a white one. I'm not saying that you can't do white but it's a little harder to pull off the casual look (all a bit too Miami Vice or wedding singer) and that's what we're all about in this blog post. You'll probably get more wear out of beige or stone than white.

This photo was taken two years ago and for me, it's the perfect easy wear, dress down(ish) outfit. Enough to be casual but I still feel smart.

Jacket (old) Similar | Jeans Mollies | T-shirt (old) | Trainers (old) Similar | Bag Similar

Check Boden, Mango and Me&Em for navy, black, grey blazers.

7. Do A Half Tuck

Not only does a half tuck make your legs look longer (great for long bodies), it also gives some semblance of a waist so you look slimmer. But the main reason is that it kind of makes you look a little undone but you still polished. Am I making sense?

So the outfit in the first image is ok-ish albeit a little 'classic'. But give your t-shirt a tuck and hey, there's a whiff of coolness (only a whiff mind you).

You can play around with tucks to suit your body shape. Centre / off-centre / side, you choose. If you're doing it with a shirt, makes sure that the placket aligns to the centre of your jeans especially if you're doing a half in/half out look.

So there you go, a few tips on how to dress when you have a lifestyle / style personality clash. I can't work it out whether men have it easy or whether us women make it difficult for ourselves. I fear the latter.

Back soon.

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