I need a new wardrobe - Help!
October 28, 2012 4:43 PM   Subscribe

Style filter: Help me build a new wardrobe that is low-key, humble, and comfy, but polished and not disheveled.

I kind of hate fashion. I don't want my clothes to yell "look at me!," "fashion is so important!," "I want you to think I'm cool and sexy!" yada yada. But at the same time I don't want them to draw attention like "I'm a slob!," "These clothes don't fit me!," etc.

For the longest time, just wearing jeans and fitted tshirts has been my default for anything casual. I was pretty happy with that as far as my clothes just blending in and not being a big attention thing. But I was asking some candid advice of some friends and they were noting that jeans aren't all that flattering, and that skirts look a whole lot nicer on my body type. I'm a pear shape, pretty big hips.

So I've been trying to wear more skirts and dresses lately, and build a new wardrobe based on that. It does look nicer on me. But most of the skirts and dresses I have are on the fancier/attention getting side. They also aren't very comfortable or warm! Winter is coming and I hate tights and leggings!

So I'd love to pick the hivemind for suggestions for skirt/top and dress suggestions that are very comfy and warm. I'm really wanting to start wearing ankle length or longer skirts - I really don't like having to always worry about how I sit or bend down in a shorter skirt. And also have a humble, low key, not glam at all vibe.

I have seen some girls in real life with a hippie/indie sort of vibe that rock really comfy looking, low key, long skirt looks. But I'm not sure where to find the pieces to make this kind of look.

I'm thinking it would be great to find long jersey material skirts. Either to buy or find sewing patterns. But I'm really open to all sorts of suggestions - outfit ideas, foundation pieces. Let me know what you think! Thanks!
posted by chocolatemilkshakes to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Target has a very nice selection of jersey maxi skirts. As for dresses, I like shirtdresses because they are so versatile. Rachel McAdams' character in Midnight in Paris might inspire you!
posted by acidic at 4:55 PM on October 28, 2012

One style of jeans not working with your body type doesn't have to mean that you must be jeans-less forever. Do you have a Nordstrom or something similar nearby? Make an appointment for a personal shopper and ask her to help you find a pair that will work for you.

Long jersey skirts: Target had several this summer. (on preview - yes, acidic has it)

I don't think that these should be super difficult to find... however, sewing them might be tricky. Knits aren't real easy to sew well (as in, looks like something you bought instead of poorly home made) unless you have a serger and understand how to set the tension correctly on it.

This always gets said in these threads, and it is so so so true... you are far better off with a small number of well made pieces then a lot of cheap polyester clothes that will look bad after a few washings. Learn which brands work for you and then hit up consignment shops, clearance sales and things. You don't have to dress "glam" in well made clothes, and it will be cheaper in the long run.
posted by lyra4 at 4:57 PM on October 28, 2012

This is something I've been trying to figure out myself. I think the key to looking polished yet casual, yet not frumpy in a maxi skirt is how you accessorize- the shoes, jacket and jewellery need to be modern. I think whether you dress it up or down is matter of what top you wear with it.

But people who actually know about fashion can probably do a better job than me of giving specifics.
posted by windykites at 5:19 PM on October 28, 2012

Blazers snazz up an outfit quickly.

But stroll around Bodenusa.com... High quality nice stuff, flexible return policy.
posted by k8t at 6:09 PM on October 28, 2012

Now is a good time for sheath dresses, they're all over the place. You can dress them up or down and they always look put-together.

But if you hate tights, then you should be centering your strategy around pants that flatter. I would never go outside without pants or tights in the winter, that's just crazy talk. In my own search for warm tights I just came across this blog post which had some good resources on staying comfy and warm and fashionable, and her greatest hits may have some more useful advice for you.
posted by bleep at 6:29 PM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am a pear with a big butt and I buy skirts from Boden and also from Texture, which fits well with a slightly upgraded jeans & t-shirt type vibe. I personally prefer the knee length skirts from Texture but they do sell midis.
posted by immlass at 6:30 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Maxi skirts have been in fashion lately, so chances are you'll find some in stores at a variety of prices. You can also look online to see how these skirts are styled- searching sites like Pinterest can give you a lot of visual inspiration. Don't focus so much on the exact pieces as on the general composition of the outfit- things like wearing a closer fitting top with a maxi skirt to balance out the volume on bottom (e.g, tuck in a t-shirt, wear a jacket or blazer, wear a close fitting button down) or what kind of shoe you see paired with them.

Also, don't give up on jeans! The standard advice for pear shaped women is to either wear skinny jeans with a looser top (boots look nice with this kind of outfit) or trouser or boot cut jeans with a closer fitting top. The former is more popular with younger women, in my experience, and the latter with women in their late 20s-30s or older, but it really depends on your body and what you like. Do any of your friends dress the way you want to dress or have your body type? Ask them to go shopping with you and pick you out some outfits, then actually try whatever they give you on and see how you feel. Don't be afraid to go a little outside your comfort zone.
posted by MadamM at 6:33 PM on October 28, 2012

My first thought was that this describes the "Eileen Fisher" style. Comfortable but dressy enough to wear to work. It's expensive stuff and can sometimes look a bit too mature/older for some people, but maybe scrolling through their website might give you some ideas? Easy enough to find less pricey versions of similar styles.
posted by belau at 6:58 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

You might try skirts by Erin MacLeod, on Etsy. They wrap around and snap, fit almost any size, are flattering on most any shape. I own 8 and would be the spokeswoman if she needed one! Throw on a t-shirt and sweater you are put together!
posted by jennstra at 7:46 PM on October 28, 2012

Do you hate leggings/tights because they don't offer warmth or because they feel constraining? If 1 is true, I'd suggest voluminous sweaters (or, layers up top to create the same effect - slightly-dressy tee or blouse + cardigan) with a pair of skinny pants, just being mindful of where the hem of the top falls around your hips. (Would go higher or lower than widest part.)

Thing about the skinnies for pears, jeans or not: the cut has to be really good, and the fabric has to be decent. So, spend here. For cut, I'm going to guess mid- to low-rise would suit you, and maybe several vertical panels across the length of the leg (jodhpur-style, without the flare at the thigh) for pants (vs jeans). Materials: would avoid straight cotton, and get a blend with a teeny tiny bit of stretch. (I like a touch of viscose, mostly because it washes not too badly. Someone else will know better.)

In general and for pants especially, I like Wilfred's stuff (Canadian, not sure how available it is elsewhere).

I wear dresses when I can, because it involves less planning and fewer pieces. Simple shifts, usually belted (jersey, knee-length). Key to warmth with those, where I am: full-length, slightly fitted down coat & tall boots.

Oh yeah, for tops: I kind of love the comfort of knits & silks; maybe you would too. (If you have enough of them in similar colours, it's less of a pain to separate them out when washing.) Cotton on top is ok for me, as I'm less concerned about things being bloody architectural. Avoid thin layers a la Gap, top should have some heft.

Inevitably, though, I find myself wearing pants or jeans when it's really cold, and invite you to reconsider them.
posted by nelljie at 8:38 PM on October 28, 2012

When I think of maxi skirts and the hippie/indie look, "polished" isn't the word that usually springs to mind so I am a little confused about what you are going for. Also, are you looking for a new look for work, for hanging out, or just in general?

I'm thinking a shorter skirt (maybe a knee length pencil skirt?) might not actually be more flattering for your body type than a maxi. Also, jersey fabric has this annoying tendency to cling to areas where a little float or skimming might be more forgiving, so if you go for the maxis, try them in a variety of fabrics to see what works best.

My favorite cold weather look is a knee length wrap dress in a light, swingy fabric over leggings, boots, and a cardigan or fitted jacket. Warm, cute, and cozy. You don't have to worry about the length of the hem since you have leggings on under it, and if you wear a longer cardigan with a skinny belt, it really accentuates curves and makes you look pulled together.

When I decided to up my look a while back, I watched every episode of "What Not To Wear" that I could find online...I love Stacy & Clinton's aesthetic and their rules are pretty simple and easy to remember.
posted by deliciae at 10:31 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm plus-sized - pretty evenly proportioned and I've really learned to love skirts & dresses. While this may sound WAY vain - the one thing that helped me was to take a daily photo of my outfits. It's help me define my personal style. (self link )

You could probably get away with wearing even some of your shorter dresses/skirts if you wore long socks and a tall boot (like so)

Also, echoing the power of a blazer. It can definitely tone down a dressier dress. Is there a celebrity whose style you like? That might help give a better idea of where to direct you.

Last (whew!) if you're not sure - though it can be insanely annoying - pinterest can be a fantastic resource.
posted by heartquake at 10:36 PM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm hour-glass shaped and finding clothing that's comfortable and flattering for a casual office is murder. When I was in business attire, suits were great in the looks department, and I could ditch the uncomfortable jackets in the office. Casual, while more comfy, is harder.

Now I wear a lot of wide-leg jeans/trousers, with tunics. That really works for me. Today, since the temperature went down about 40 degrees, I've got on a pair of black jeans, a black mock turtle and a long, sleeveless sweater over that. Comfy, warm and put together.

If you like the look of crisp cotton, get the kind that's no-iron. No one likes to iron.

Try on a ton of things. I like Macy's for this. Good quality, good prices tons of selection.

Wrap things should work, wrap tops, or wrap skirts. I have an awesome denim maxi skirt that I wear with knee-socks and clogs. It's A-line/trumpet shaped, and makes me look super curvy and sexy. If my calves weren't so big, I could wear boots instead.

So skirts and boots might be an answer for you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:19 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Black skirts, gray skirts, black dresses and understated colored cardigans with tights and flat knee high boots (Naturalizer are mine) is my answer. Also having understated flats can dress down many skirts. I wear a lot of simple necklaces to accessorize. Basic black pants with a long sleeved jersey top and a cardigan or solid good quality fleece also gets me by on days I just need to get out the door.

Sweater dresses also really fit in this category. I'd try one at Target or something similar and just make sure you will wear it and if so, then buy a higher quality one.

When I was younger and had more time to shop, H&M was good for interest items (tops not pants, as they're not very pear-shaped friendly in most cuts). I've had decent luck at Gap/Express/Loft for pants/bottoms. Anthropologie's sale rack is very pear-friendly. If you have an Urban Outfitters they may be decent for ideas. Some of their lines have a comfy/not too formal but work appropriate (for younger casual side of business casual) set.

Long jersey skirts -- Target had a bunch this summer. American Apparel always seems to have them. But, I have no advice how to pull off this look. It requires some coordination/accessories beyond my abilities.
posted by ejaned8 at 7:36 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding look for jeans that fit better. I am also a pear with a big butt/hips and after years of wearing ill-fitting jeans, I replaced all of my old jeans with curvy jeans from Loft in a range of cuts and washes. It's awesome! All of a sudden I'm not pulling my jeans up every second, and everything just looks better. It's been a really good change, even if it required an outlay of like $150.

If you don't like tights or leggings, skirts are hard. I'd consider wearing tunics (Boden is great for those, as others have pointed out) or short dresses over skinny jeans for a similar look. If you haven't worn tights in a while, though, try them again - there are so many cute, comfortable brands (I love the ones at Target), they can add a really great pop of color, and a knee-length skirt with boots and tights is really nice on pear-shaped ladies.

Do be careful about maxi skirts/ankle-length dresses and skirts - I know they're a thing now, but they are not flattering on very many people. Unless you are tall and perfectly proportioned, maxis tend to make people look heavy and frumpy. If you're bigger on the bottom, skirts probably make you look good because they flare out a bit at the knee, and then have nice shapely legs below the hem. A long jersey skirt is just going to hang straight down from your hips, which may not be what you want if that's the widest part of your body.

Cute and comfy winter dresses: the sweater dress is the best thing! I think I have like eight of them. A few:
1 2 3 4 5

I tend to prefer looser-fitting sweater dresses like the first three, but YMMV. In general, sweater dresses are nice because they are very casual and cozy, but still look really put-together with tights and boots.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 10:03 AM on October 29, 2012

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