Last week, I shared my initial debrief of my second virtual style consult with Bridgette Raes. In that post, I wrote about Bridgette’s feedback on paring down my large jewelry collection and cultivating a more workable accessories wardrobe. Bridgette’s words of wisdom coupled with readers’ comments provided some excellent food for thought – and now I want to do some more culling! I’ll be back with a follow-up on that topic before too long, but today I’d like to talk about skirts.
A Skirt Conundrum Revisited
In my first session with Bridgette back in August, we reviewed a few of my skirt outfits, two of which were very corporate and/or church-worthy and not at all appropriate for the life I lead. Using Bridgette’s feedback, I put together some new skirt outfits that I hoped would be more suitable for my casual lifestyle. In today’s post, I share what Bridgette had to say about my skirt ensemble “reboots,” as well as my follow-on thoughts and future plans for this area of my wardrobe.
One thing I appreciate about Bridgette is that she can be very blunt but is also able to speak difficult truths in a humorous and caring manner. She’s really good at explaining the reasoning behind her recommendations, which really helped me to see why certain outfits just didn’t work. I often get a visceral feeling (either positive or negative) about some of my looks, but can’t always explain why I feel the way I do. Bridgette is able to articulate what’s going on in such a way that I really “get it,” and then she clearly outlines what to do in order to correct those less than fab ensembles.
About the New Skirt Outfits
The new skirt outfits I reviewed with Bridgette were put together during a “shop your closet” session awhile back. I didn’t fully style any of my sample ensembles (I wore the same shoes and accessories in most of the photos) and none of them ever left my apartment. I just wanted to see how I could wear some new and/or trickier pieces and if I could possibly tone down the “church vibe” inherent in many of my skirts.
While I put together some good looks that day, others simply fell flat. I opted to send photos of both types to Bridgette for her feedback, as I believed that even the better looks could be improved in some way. Below I share some of the input that Bridgette gave me, as well as how I felt about the looks presented.
Striped Pencil and Zigzag A-Line Skirts
Back in August, I bought a black and grey striped pencil skirt. Since most skirts I’ve worn over the past few years are more of an A-line or flared shape, I wasn’t sure how to wear this new skirt. I sent two casual outfit possibilities incorporating the new skirt to Bridgette (first and second images below). Bridgette really liked the skirt and was impressed that I bought it, especially since I’m so self-conscious about my bottom half (I even sent her a back view, which she assured me looked just fine).
I wasn’t sure if the flat metallic sandals worked with the skirt, but Bridgette felt that both those shoes and the black caged sandals coordinated well. She loved the color of the purple tank, but wasn’t fond of the ruffle details on the front. She suggested that I keep an eye out for a clean, basic top or tank in that color, as it looks nice with my skin tone.
Bridgette expressed that the pencil shape is a better match for my sense of style than many of my other skirts that will be addressed below. She also really liked my zigzag striped skirt, which she told me can be treated as a plain black skirt in terms of what I pair with it. She liked the skirt with the black caged sandals and teal tank, but felt that the lace straps of the tank conflicted with the overall sleek look of the rest of the ensemble. The shoes and the skirt are modern and clean, whereas the top has more of a feminine vibe that doesn’t really match.
As with the purple top mentioned above, Bridgette loved the color of the teal tank, but would prefer that the straps be plain instead of lace. I feel the same way at this point. When I purchased these two tops, I was in favor of a more feminine and pretty style, but my preferences have changed. I’d now like to incorporate a bit of edge into my outfits, as I’ve mentioned previously.
The caged sandals definitely move me in that edgier direction, so I feel they were a good purchase. However, they don’t really work with many of my skirts, which are more conservative in style. For next summer (and possibly earlier), I’d like to add a few more modern skirts to my closet, as well as a few new tops/tanks to replace some of my more girly and frilly options. Those new wardrobe additions will coordinate well with the caged sandals, but I also have some dresses, skirts, and pants to wear with them now.
Geometric and Polka Dot Print Skirts
Bridgette was glad to hear that I had let go of the geometric print skirt pictured below, as she felt there was something “off” about it. Although the print was nice, it was too wide and my attempt to have it narrowed was unsuccessful (that’s an example of “The Dark Side of Alterations”). As I noted above, I’d like to move away from this skirt shape and more toward narrower and shorter styles.
The wider type skirts generally skew dressy and really look best paired with heels. I tried to “casualize” these skirts by pairing them with flats, but the resulting looks were a bit on the frumpy side, as per Bridgette. I agree, which is probably why I typically wore my flared skirts with heels. Of course, then I ended up with the “church vibe” that I’ve been trying to get away from! If I start to wear more inherently casual skirt styles, it will be easier for me to create laid-back looks with flat shoes that aren’t frumpy.
Toning Down the “Church Vibe”
Even though the polka dot skirt in the center image above has a slightly flared shape, Bridgette believed it has good possibility for me. However, she didn’t like this skirt paired with the blue jacket (more on the jacket later). She told me that the skirt would look a lot more modern combined with structured, unfussy pieces that cut down on the conservative, “churchy” look.
In order to avoid looking like I’m on my way to church, Bridgette told me I need to “water down” the conservative skirts by bringing in the complete opposite. She recommended that I try the polka dot skirt with a denim jacket, white t-shirt, and flat sandals. I like this idea and plan to try it very soon!
The right-most look above was my attempt to make a flared skirt look more casual while also wearing a loved but rarely worn jacket. Bridgette really liked the jacket and felt it could work with some skirts but not the one in the pictured outfit, as the two pieces have very different vibes and clash with each other. She envisioned the jacket with my black and grey striped pencil skirt and a pair of slightly heeled boots or booties. That’s another outfit I wouldn’t have put together on my own, but I can definitely see it working. But that’s why I hired Bridgette!
About That Blue Jacket
When I presented the blue jacket with the wide ruffled lapel in this post, several readers expressed disdain toward it. They liked the color but felt the sleeves were too short and the collar too fussy. Bridgette, however, felt very differently about the jacket. She liked the asymmetrical closure and interesting collar and felt the problem was in what I wore it with, rather than with the jacket itself. She offered the great analogy that an outfit with too many frills is like a cup of coffee with too much sugar.
The ruffled blue jacket combined with the polka dot skirt resulted in an outfit that’s just too conservative for my style. Bridgette thought that jacket could look fabulous with more modern accompanying items. Since the jacket is a bit on the fussy side, everything else in the outfit should be really sleek and clean. Here are a few options she offered me:
- Have the outfit be all about the jacket. Wear it with a black tank, a sleek pair of black pants, and a cool pair of shoes.
- Wear the jacket with a white tank and dark denim jeans.
- Pair the jacket with a plain pencil skirt.
- Try it with a black structured A-line skirt, black tights, and black heeled boots – a column of color with the jacket as the “star player.”
Bridgette wasn’t opposed to the idea of combining the jacket with an A-line skirt, but felt it looked a bit “marmy” with my polka-dot skirt. It really needs to be paired with non-ruffly, non-feminine items in order to work well.
After all of the negative input I got about the jacket from both readers and my husband, I opted to pass it on. However, the consignment shop where I bought it didn’t want to re-consign it, so I still have it. I was planning on donating it, but before I do, I’m going to try out Bridgette’s suggestions above. Even if I don’t end up deciding to keep the jacket, at least I’ll get a chance to try some new things. If I like any of the looks, I may opt to share photos in a future post. Bridgette told me she thinks the readers who hated the jacket would actually like it when worn as per her suggestions. It would be interesting to see if that ends up being the case!
Often Problematic Toppers & Outfit Juxtaposition
One issue I have with my skirt ensembles is deciding which topper to wear when it gets cold outside. My toppers and shoes are often what sent my outfits into church territory, so it’s been a struggle for me to stay warm while also maintaining a casual vibe. That’s a big part of my reason for purchasing a few moto-style jackets this past summer. I felt those jackets would not only make me a look a bit edgier, but also more casual as well.
Unfortunately, Bridgette didn’t feel I was successful in pairing the grey moto jacket (which has since been returned due to itchy fabric) with my pinstripe flared skirt, especially with the ruffled purple tank underneath. While the moto jacket is edgy in nature, the tank and skirt are more frilly and feminine, so the look seems “forced.” I was going for “juxtaposition” and Bridgette is all for that, but such an outfit needs to look thought out instead of just thrown together. She told me the outfit would work if either the tank or the skirt were “sharper” and that I should pick just one softer piece and have everything else be more severe.
Pattern Mixing 101
One of Bridgette’s favorite looks among those I sent her (I sent more than what I’m including here) was the pattern mixing outfit in the center of the image above. She really liked this look, but again felt the tank top should be clean instead of ruffled. She said the ruffles took it from being a fun look to having too much going on. However, if I took the top half of the outfit and paired it with a plain pair of pants or jeans, it would work well. But the leopard print and ruffles are just too much with the striped skirt.
I have to admit that the pattern mixing ensemble was a bit out of my comfort zone when I put it together. I was just playing around at the time, but now that I look at the photo today, I kind of like it. I agree with what Bridgette said, though, and will opt to wear one of my plain tanks under the cardigan instead of the purple ruffled one. I would also wear heels instead of flats, as I really don’t like the look of flat shoes with my more flared skirts. Since I want to stay out of the “frump zone” as much as possible, I will reserve the flats to wear with maxi-length skirts and dresses, as well as narrower or shorter skirts.
Skirt Proportion Guidelines
Bridgette was also a fan of the tonal green outfit I put together (third look in the photo above). She really liked the way the bright tank and dark green jacket coordinated, but again she would prefer a cleaner bottom piece. She said that the blazer is a bit too long to be worn with such a wide and long skirt. In order for the outfit to work well, either the jacket or the skirt needs to be shorter, or the skirt needs to be narrower.
The following skirt proportion guidelines given to me by Bridgette might also be useful to some of you:
- Generally, the shorter the skirt, the lower the heel should be. Shorter skirts can look great with opaque tights and low-heeled riding boots in cooler weather. This is a great look for those of us who don’t like to show our bare legs for whatever reason (in my case, varicose veins).
- Longer and wider skirts usually look best with a bit of a heel. Flats worn with these types of skirts can make the look skew frumpy or “marmy.”
- If you’re wearing a wider skirt (like mine in the photo above), your top and topper should be shorter (or the top tucked in). Longer tops and toppers work better with narrower skirts such as pencil or straight styles. My tops and toppers in the first two looks above are good lengths for the skirts, but the green jacket in the third photo is a bit too long (since the skirt is so flared).
Wearing Skirts and Dresses in Cooler Weather
Another topic that Bridgette and I discussed was wearing skirts and dresses in cooler weather. While this may be a regular occurrence for many of you, I typically only wear my skirts and dresses during the summer months. While it doesn’t get all that chilly where I live, I get cold easily and tend to stick with pants and jeans once the temperature dips down into the 60s (yes, I know I’m a wimp!).
When it’s cold outside and tights are required in order to keep warm, I get confused as to what types of shoes to wear. Bridgette’s answer was simple: boots. Since she lives in New York City and loves to wear dresses, she has a number of boots in her closet to cover all of her needs. Because she doesn’t wear black, her boot choices are in cognac, grey, and brown tones. She believes in a “one and done” approach to dressing, so she has just enough boots to cover her needs. She has dressy, funky, and rugged boots, but not more than one pair of any type.
For my lifestyle and color palette, Bridgette recommended that I buy three pairs of boots, all of which will likely be in black (although I’d also be open to charcoal grey or burgundy):
- Knee-high black boots – These would be the most versatile for me, especially with a flat heel.
- Low-heeled casual bootie – Perhaps in a moto style to add a bit of edge.
- Dressier bootie or “shootie” – With a stacked or thinner heel, perhaps in suede.
Since I’m now a big believer in proceeding slowly with new wardrobe acquisitions, I’ll likely start with just a single pair of boots and one or two pairs of tights at first so I can “test the waters” with wearing skirts and dresses in cooler weather. If I find that I love the look and sport it often, I’ll then opt to add another pair of boots or two to my closet.
Final Thoughts and Next Steps
There will be at least one more post in this series. Bridgette and I also reviewed a number of my favorite outfits during our follow-up session. She loved many of those looks, but offered some suggestions on how I could make them even better. I will share her feedback in a follow-up post. I may also do another post in which I take on Bridgette’s advice and re-style some of my outfits. I haven’t had a chance to implement many of her suggestions as of yet, but they’ve definitely been on my mind. As readers seem to like these types of posts, I’ve opted to expand upon the series instead of just recapping everything in a single update.
Since I met with Bridgette a second time, I have been thinking a lot about my summer wardrobe, especially my skirts. Although I plan to try Bridgette’s suggestions for making my conservative skirts look more modern, I will likely pass some of them on and purchase skirts in alternate styles for next summer (or sooner if I’m able to find some good options).
As my style aesthetic is shifting, I’m starting to prefer more streamlined skirt silhouettes. I have already passed on the geometric print skirt, and the recently purchased denim flare skirt will likely be gone soon, too. As for some of the others in the second and third images above, time will tell. If I re-style the skirts using Bridgette’s suggestions and like the looks, I will definitely keep them around. If I still feel lukewarm about the skirts after re-styling, there will be no reason to hang on to them. I have quite a few dresses and skirts that I love, so why not just wear those?
With the help of my outfit journal and my sessions with Bridgette, I’ve updated my shopping priorities list to include those items that will take my style to the next level. I have a good awareness of what I will need for next summer, so I can start looking out for those items as soon as warm weather clothing arrives in the stores. As for the upcoming cooler weather (yes, it’s still pretty hot here!), I feel I’m in much better shape with my wardrobe. I still need to upgrade my pants and shoes a bit, but I have most of what I need to dress well for my lifestyle and personal preferences. As a recovering shopaholic, it feels both surprising and wonderful to be able to write that. I truly have come a long way!
“Flashback Friday” and Your Thoughts
Since I didn’t get this post out in time for “Throwback Thursday,” I’m calling this section “Flashback Friday.” Each week, I’ll share what I was writing about last year at this time. I know many of you weren’t around back then, so this is a chance for you to read some posts from the earlier days of the blog. For long-time readers, it may be fun for you to revisit content you read the first time around. I know I enjoy reading my earlier posts, as it helps me to gauge the progress I’ve made, as well as solidify some of the insights I’ve gained along the way.
Here’s what I was writing about last October 21st through 25th:
- “How Many Clothes are Enough?” – This is one of my most-read posts, probably because lots of people are searching for this topic via Google and other search engines. This is the post in which I first explored the topic of closet “set point.” I also outlined various reasons why a person might need more – or fewer – clothes in her (or his)
- “What Triggers You to Shop?” – In this post, I reviewed one of the powerful exercises from “To Buy or Not to Buy” by Dr. April Benson. There are five types of shopping triggers which can propel us to buy. I briefly explained each type and provided both general and personal examples.
- “A Mixed Bag of Useful Links” – For much of 2013, I did a useful links post every Friday which was usually confined to a narrow topic. However, last October I opted to mix it up a bit and share articles on a wider range of subjects (like I do now in my monthly link round-ups). Included in this post are links about wardrobe “weak zones,” decluttering, change, relapse, materialism, and more!
I hope you liked today’s post and the “blast from the past” links above! Now it’s your turn to chime in. Feel free to share your thoughts on the topics of this post, as well as any of the “Flashback Friday” links above. You’re also welcome to ask any questions you have for me or make suggestions for future blog posts.