dressing professionallyI know what I like to wear.  It’s usually three, maybe four outfits that I mix and match.  I have less-loved filler in my closet too, but there is one pair of jeans I always prefer, a few pairs of wool socks that are soft instead of scratchy, the perfect tank to wear under a sheer blouse.  When I’m running late, I can never find the pieces that need each other.  Half-dressed I’ll realize something essential is missing.  That first outfit is thrown to the bed/floor and I try again.  Sometimes, it takes a few re-starts to get it right.

As much fun as this whole dressing-undressing-redressing experience probably sounds, it isn’t.  I end up later than planned to work, or else have to skip breakfast because my precious morning minutes have been used up frantically searching through drawers.  When I’m even five minutes later to work than planned, I fret on the bus instead of enjoying catching up on blogs, and my morning work time (which is my most productive time of day, when I’m not thinking about shoes and tights and sweaters) takes a hit.

There is a simple fix for this unnecessary stress:  planning ahead.  A lot of people recommend choosing your clothes the night before, but I know myself well enough to know that there’s always a night or two each week that I can’t be counted on to care about morning stress.  Perhaps we’re out late at a dinner or met up with friends for drinks or trivia; if I get in late, I’m pretty likely to go to sleep without choosing outfits or ironing slacks.

It may sound a little intense, but I’ve started choosing an entire week of outfits on Sunday evenings.  It has completely changed my morning routines.

First, I do the regular load or two of weekend laundry.  In a perfect world I actually put that laundry away, but if we’re being honest that doesn’t always get done.

Then, I check the weather.  I grab a post-it or an index card or my planner or whatever else is handy, and jot down the ballpark temperatures [lately, just “cold” or “really cold”] and take note of any days where it might be rainy.

Finally, I stand in the closet and pair tops, skirts/pants, and sweaters together and hang them in a group in the front of the closet.  I go to my drawers and choose the tights/socks/underneath layers necessary for each outfit.  I also think of what shoes will be necessary and make sure I gather up all of those shoes from where ever I might have stashed them and place them in my closet.

Over the last few months when I’ve been using this system, I’ve learned a couple of things:

  1. Always choose an extra outfit.  This is great for two reasons.  One, you can wear any outfit during the week that you’ve chosen, and if you decide you hate something at the last minute you have a back-up.  Two, if you fail to be responsible on the following weekend, you have an outfit nicely waiting for Monday morning and you can catch up on Monday evening.  I’m taking advantage of my extra outfit right now, wearing black tights, a black dress, and whatever cardigan is the least-wrinkled in my closet.
  2. Pull that blouse you never wear out of the back of the closet and try putting it back in rotation.  You bought it for a reason, try to remember what it was.
  3. Develop a balance between dry-clean-only and regular-wash items, so that from one week to the next you still have clothes to wear.  When I finally get to the dry cleaners, I have a slew of items I love that I haven’t worn in a while (because who goes to the dry cleaners regularly?  Not me…), and I want to wear them all at once.  Doing so will only result in them being back in the “please take me to the cleaners” pile right away.  Space those beloved items out so you have at least one thing each week you love.

Do you have any tricks for dressing well without stressing out?  If so, please share in the comments.

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