A post from a member of my Facebook Group inspired this post. She has been enjoying rentals from Rent the Runway but developed a problem of buying the pieces she rents. Her hope was that renting would curb her shopping, not provoke it.

Her recent purchase of this jacket she originally rented and wound up buying sparked a conversation in the group about novelty items and justifying these purchases. The group member could cite all the reasons it belonged in her closet, which is great, but, in many cases, it’s quite common to be drawn to something interesting and realize we just don’t live the life to justify owning something so novel. This can be quite sobering. I call this Wishful Wardrobing, which means buying clothes for the life you wish you had, not the one you actually do.

basic clothes
The jacket the Group member rented and wound up purchasing.

What to do When Your Life is More Basic than the Clothes You Love

Nobody wants to consider themselves basic. Being basic has become synonymous with being a boring, predictable, pumpkin spice latte drinking, leggings wearing, bathroom mirror selfie-taking woman. We all want to be considered an exciting, unpredictable and interesting woman who needs exciting, unpredictable and interesting clothes.

Certainly, we want to dress for the life we have, not the one we wish we had, but can we also take this mentality too far? Can we get so practical that we lose a sense of fun and excitement with our wardrobes? This is another extreme I have seen more than once. You know the saying, all work, and no play makes Jack a dull boy? Well, all practical basics and no fun makes Jill’s wardrobe a dull sight. The key is to learn how to balance the two.

So, how can you create excitement with your wardrobe without wishful wardrobing? How do you know when you have pushed it too far and how do you keep your wardrobe wearable and exciting? Here are my tips on how to create an exciting yet still practical wardrobe when your life is basic and you love interesting clothes

Balance, you can’t have one without the other

Novelty pieces are only as good as the basics in the closet to support them. I have been in clients’ closets where it is novelty piece after novelty piece. While stunning, these clients have nothing to wear with these items because they are lacking basics. In these cases, the clients were decorating the home without building the house first. Basics are a foundation of any good wardrobe.

On the flip side, I have been in terribly dry and dull clients’ closets where it is basic after basic and not one piece that is exciting. What these clients need in their wardrobes is a little fun to make the basics interesting.

This is where my chicken analogy came from. It literally was spawned, or I could say hatched, during a session with a client who had this closet filled with basics. There was absolutely nothing that brought this client joy and sparked any fun. If her wardrobe was to be nominated for something in a high school yearbook for it would probably have been something like “most efficient, ” more most likely to become an accountant. Sorry accountants.

Like anything else, it’s all about moderation and finding a middle ground so that the novelty pieces and the basic ones can shine.

Not everything needs to be a workhorse

Of course, when we buy something, we want to get maximum wear out of it. This is why there is always so much hesitation when considering a novelty wardrobe item. How can anyone justify that funky piece when it can’t be worn all the time?

But does everything in a closet need be worn all the time? Do we all have to have a closet of full of items that get worn weekly? Where is the rule that states that it’s only useful if we grab it regularly? Just this weekend, I broke out this amazing Furla wrap scarf that I hadn’t worn in at least a decade. I would never get rid of this stunning piece that topped me off on that cool spring morning. It may not be a workhorse but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong.

We need to loosen the reins a bit and allow ourselves to have at least a few things in our closets that make us happy and serve a purpose some of the time and not all of the time. Again, it goes back to moderation and balance. Yes, the majority of your wardrobe should serve a regular purpose, but there should be a percentage that we love, is useful and gets broken out occasionally. The key is to find that balance for yourself. I know most women like hard fast rules and formulas, but each woman needs to decide for herself what this looks like.

Just because it looks interesting doesn’t mean it’s not a workhorse

The next point is knowing what exactly a workhorse is for you. The idea that all workhorse pieces should be so basic they practically lack any personality is a myth. This is what keeps women buying yet another black dress or another pair of black shoes. Let’s use this Rent the Runway duster coat that this Facebook Group member decided to buy. She was able to rattle off multiple ways and places she could wear it, making it a basic for her, despite how novel it looks.

Don’t get lured in by the idea that a workhorse or basic piece has to lack excitement or interest. The only requirement of a workhorse or basic item is that it can get worn with some regularity.

Don’t use practicality as an excuse not to express yourself

A few months ago, another Facebook Group member posted a photo of this really cute mod looking top and pants that had an optic, fun print. She loved it but was concerned she had nowhere to wear it. Much to this member’s surprise (she thought everyone was going to hate it), members fell in love and started suggesting all the places she could wear it to support the member is actually buying it.

Basic fashion

I don’t know if the Facebook Group member actually wound up buying this outfit, and there is a chance that, for her, the need just wasn’t there, but the thread did spur on the conversation about allowing ourselves the permission to lean in more and find reasons to wear these types of fun pieces.

I am the one who coined the phrase “Where are you going in that?” so, believe me, I am all for pragmatism when selecting clothing. If you can’t reasonably come up with somewhere to wear something, it probably doesn’t belong in your closet. But, do we take this advice too far with ourselves and dampen our self-expression by being too pragmatic? After all, it’s not uncommon for women to downplay themselves for fear of standing out.

There is a big difference between being someone who shouldn’t own a lot of heels because they can’t really walk in them or don’t have a lifestyle that calls for them, for example, and the person who avoids wearing something fun in her life because she is afraid to dress authentically or to let her spirit shine. Be clear on why you are not wearing something. Is it because it isn’t practical and you have nowhere to wear it, or because you are afraid to for fear of what others will say or think?

Realistic novelty

At the end of the day, the novelty that is purchased has to be realistic for you and should work with your style and with your wardrobe. This is where most women trail off and why when they do add something interesting to their wardrobes, they end up regretting the purchase and then scurry back to buying things that are simply basic. Yet, I ask you, just how practical is that umpteenth basic top or black flats when you have multiples already doing the same in your closet?

As I said earlier, novelty items are the finishing touches, or the spice you add to your flavorless chicken to give it flavor. But you wouldn’t coat chicken with sugar to make it flavorful, you would add a spice that complements the chicken. The same is true for novelty. It still has to make sense as an addition. So when adding interesting pieces to your wardrobe, they need to belong there. The way to do this is to make sure these pieces enhance what you own, your style and play a practical role. And this is how you add novelty when your life is more basic than the clothes you love.

As you can probably tell, a lot of fascinating discussions break out in my Facebook Group. If you are not a member, find out more about joining here.