Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How can a slob reinvigorate her wardrobe?

Dear ESB,

I have never been one for dressy clothing; almost every place I've ever worked has been aggressively casual, and the dive bars in which I've been known to socialize hardly have a dress code. But I still have always had an interest in style and enjoyed playing around with clothing. I am particularly drawn to (1970s) vintage, colourful, and punk aesthetics.

However, for the last year, I have worked from home. As a result, my previously "casual" style has turned into "slovenly". My "work" uniform consists of yoga pants and a t-shirt and/or hoodie. On the rare occasions that I actually leave the house, I tend to swap the yoga pants out of that combo for jeans, and that's about it. While I value dressing casually and comfortably, and really can't get any writing done without my trusty yoga pants, I am still pretty bummed at how boring I've become. I don't think I've figured out how to have fun with clothing in the context of my new lifestyle. (Although I did just buy a killer pair of old school military style boots that I am in love with, so that's a start.)

Do you have any advice for how slobs like me who have no external motivation to dress well can reinvigorate our wardrobes?

Slobby Academic


Dear Slobby,

You say you have no external motivation to dress well, but I bet you have to appear in public on occasion to deliver those kick-ass papers you churn out 2,000 words at a time. I also happen to know you've started applying for teaching gigs.

So, yeah. You actually do need to get your act together.


And you've already got the boots! Now you need to go out and try on some clothes with the boots.

When trying on clothes, I always ask myself, "Do I feel great in this? Do I want to wear it out of the store right now?" If the answer is no, keep looking. Don't try to talk yourself into something because it's on sale or because it seems practical. It's always better to buy one amazing thing than ten crappy ones. (And sometimes the most impractical-seeming item will turn out to be the one you wear every day.)



Pictured above is the Autumn/Winter 2010 Lookbook from Stockholm-based Hope (via wikstenmade).


  1. esb you hit the nail on the head. again.

  2. on a more specific note, get the best tailored black blazer you can afford. a good one can be worn anywhere, with anything (or nothing), will be relevant forever, and will look sick with your boots.

  3. Haha, I love this (pointed!) response, as I totally wrote this one. Touche, lady. And perfect timing as I am off to New York tomorrow to experiment with leaving the house and that kind of thing. You make punk rock professor sound so cool and not... old.

    Lauren, re: the black blazer, I have never managed to find one that doesn't feel... 80s-ish? I tend to buy grey or brown for that reason (and I tend to wear an actual blazer like, twice a year, maybe), but I should look around more and see if there is a non-dumpy black blazer out there for me. Let me say the word "blazer" one more time. Blazer.

  4. Weird. I didn't know I had broadcast that thought to the world... seriously, I was JUST TODAY wondering how to get my fashion mojo back now that I do leave the home office and interact with real people in a fairly stylish city. Boots are clearly the answer.

  5. that lookbook kind of make it look like slobby is good for fall/winter 2010

  6. i dont have any black blazers either, but yeah. i love using them to fancy up jeans or skinny slacks. always with boots.

  7. (them for me being non-black blazers i *do* have)

  8. i might have a slight blazer obsession, but for real, they are a vital addition. they class anything up.

  9. Could we have *examples* of blazers, though?

  10. am i the ONLY one who can't pull off a blazer?? :(

  11. @celia no. I was *just* thinking I really had to weigh in.

    I feel like a total fraud in a blazer.

  12. Maybe it's the WORD. I bet Patti Smith doesn't call her Prada jackets "blazers."

  13. i am not going to rise to the patti smith bait.

    1: the first-toe-in-the-water blazer
    2: the slightly-menswearish-lapel blazer
    3: the lauren-owns-this* blazer
    4: the but she would like to marry an oil tycoon and wear this blazer

    *worn smaller.

  14. Thank you for this, Lauren. Number two doesn't make me fidgety at all.

    I just feel like I'm playing dress-up in a blazer. Or a suit, for that matter. And I am someone for whom playing dress-up is generally a delight.

  15. @Amanda there is a suit in the back of my closet that was supposed to change my life. I have worn it exactly twice: once to a terrible job interview and once as an office-worker extra. (turns out that is not the life I want.)

  16. dude, i in no way encourage office clothes, and i would never encourage a blazer with matching anything. i like blazers over jeans or dresses - particularly dresses, since they say "i just beat up some guy in formalwear and took his jacket."

  17. my inspiration has always been a little more abstract (men), and musical. one, two, and for good measure three. of *course* the word blazer is AWFUL, but if we said, oh just add a jacket! no one would know what you were talking about, out of context. and ew. the *only* time you coordinate is when you are going with your boss to washington DC to meet a bunch of high up government-ey people and you are told to wear a suit. *the only time*. (then you go to the first meeting and see your boss and yourself are the ONLY ones in suits, and the next day you wear a blazer, boots and skinny black slacks THANK GOD. your boss wear a suit again for inexplicable reasons.) Unless you are a guy. Or a hot androgynous chick. Then a suit is cool. obv.

  18. All fashion roads lead to Patti Smith.

  19. yes, if you are shane from the l word a suit is cool.

    let's all ignore the fact that i just said that.

  20. @lauren shane from tHE L Word is my lesbian hero.

    speaking of lesbians...

    if I put on a blazer, i instantly look like a lesbian.

    if my best friend, who is in fact a lesbian, puts on a blazer, she looks AWESOME.


  21. hmm. do you look like an awesome lesbian? that would work. i get around it by wearing televangelist-strength makeup, but that's not for everyone. skewing, er, loose in some way seems to help.

  22. @Celia WHOA. your new avatar looks a *lot* like lauren's. that is confusing me already.

  23. i think it comes down to body type. harder to pull off if you are curvy, and esp if you are curvy + short.

    honestly i usually feel too curvy when i put one on. but i do it anyways.

  24. @esb where have you been? i've had that pic for AT LEAST 6 months. and yes, shane is the hot one that makes (how can i put this lightly?)... "non-fem" lesbian look sexy.

    @jamie you hit it right on the nail. i'm just destined to wear cardigans. it's the boobage combined with the lack of height. i can, however, pull off pleats. you win some, you lose some...

  25. @Celia I guess it was the back-and-forth with lauren that confused me. Also: it is 93 degrees in my house. FALL, MY ASS.

  26. If you're used to dressing like a slob, a blazer is kind of a big step. I feel like I would look at that in my closet and be like "Which girl bought this? Me? Preposterous." And as a recent uni grad, it's true: we love us a fuck-yeah TA/prof aesthetic.

    Don't underestimate the importance of figuring out which silhouettes are the best for you. What might work in a lookbook might make you look boxy, stumpy, bowlegged, washed-out, short, or fat. Aka, not awesome.

    Specifically, I've used funky tights as fashion lilypad: not a huge investment, and a great excuse to bust out with skirts and capris to show 'em off.

    Finally, a great haircut can go a lot way to making someone feel like a million bucks.