Friday, July 5, 2013

Easy Fashion Tips to Avoid Dressing Frumpy

I’m not sure I've ever had a “sense of person style.” In my life, I went straight from private school uniforms to medical scrubs. We'll just ignore college, which consisted of a mash up of baggy jeans and Pearl Jam t-shirts.

When I started practice 8 years ago as a very young looking 30 year old, I attempted to dress older to appear more professional. My interpretation of this was solid dress pants with men's style dress shirts, both starched to the point they would stand on their own.

Over the years the patients have slowly stopped asking me “if I’m really old enough to be a doctor.” I'm maturing. There are a few 'wisdom lines' around my eyes. Yet, I remained in my easy fashion rut. Then last summer, one filter-free patient came right out and said it,“Dr. RH+, your clothes are too plain and boring, you need to accessorize.”  Not exactly what you want to hear first thing on a Monday morning.

At first I blew off the comment, truly I wear lots of different colors…. of brown, I thought indignantly.  Later that day, I noticed a headline on one of the magazines in my waiting room: “How to know if you dress too old?” I reluctantly picked it up, only to discover I was sadly answering yes to nearly every question:

Do you wear matching twinsets? yes

Tan panty hose?  yes

Matching shoes and bag ? yes

No jewelry? yes

I realized I needed to get with the times. My ‘professional’ wardrobe from 8 years ago needed a lift. Having recently reached a fitness goal, my current clothes were a little big, so what better excuse to do some shopping. Only I have neither time or fashion sense.

Over the last year I've set out on a mission to update my look. Here's what I tried to get with the times that has required the minimum amount of time and effort:

Pintrest. I hate fashion magazines. I find them overwhelming, but Pintrest is a beautiful stream of adorable clothes and outfits. It's filled with real life ideas and models who aren't anorexic. It's much better digital entertainment than Facebook or Twitter.

Gut Your Closet. This is a hard, but necessary step. As I cleaned out my closet I discovered I owned 5 dark brown sweaters and I'm embarrassed to admit to you how many pairs of brown pants I found. Get rid of anything that doesn't fit or you haven't worn in 5 years. If you don't love it and it's not a staple, then chuck it.

Schedule a Haircut. If your hair still looks like your high school yearbook picture, you may need to get with the times.

Shop with a Plan. When you do get precious moments to shop, use them effectively. Use your pinned images or a running list of staples on your phone. Don't forget to try on everything. If you're like me, you never get around to taking things back.

Ditch the Mommy Jeans. Buy your t-shirts at Target, but high end denim is worth the price. Don’t believe me? Then check out this site. When you shop for jeans take the most honest person you know and try on several styles until you find what works for you.

There are Other Stores besides Ann Taylor. Ann Taylor is great for staples, but for me a least, I just got stuck buying different shades of brown pants every year. Venture to the other end of your mall. No time? Try online stores like  Boden and GarnettHill. Though I'm still not sure if I'm hip enough to shop there, I love Anthropologie as well.

Accessorize. My husband bought me a lovely pair of simple diamond stud earring for our 14th wedding anniversary and they have not left my lobes for the last 3 years. Jewelry seems too complicated for me, but I have really tried to make an effort over the last year. Honestly, I like to BUY scarves and necklaces more than I like to wear them, but I'm trying. This is another place where I have found Pintrest to be helpful, if I'm not sure how to accessorize, I can usually find some excellent examples there.

Stitchfix. The discovery I most excited about is stitchfix. This is an ingenius company where an online stylist sends you a box of clothes to your house whenever you like. You try everything on, keep what you like and easily return for free what you don’t. When I see the box on my porch each month, I literally squeal with delight. You initially fill out a style quiz, give them your measurements and price range and that's it.


I doubt I’m the only doctor mom, who has neglected her own wardrobe over the years as she slowly managed to spend most of her shopping time at Target and Gap Kids. I have also found a little piece of myself along this journey that I didn’t realize I’d lost. With years spent immersed in the roles of doctor and mom, with most of my focus on caring for others, I think I was starting to lose a little of my spunk. As I’ve made a small effort over the last year, I definitely feel more put together with an added spring in my step.I’m sure I won’t be walking the runways anytime soon, but I do get compliments on my appearance rather than suggestions for improvement.


What stores do you find that work best for you? Do you have specific fashion blogs or people on Pintrest that you follow who give you great ideas?

{Sadly, this is not a sponsored post, these are only my honest opinions.}

26 comments:

  1. Our local medical society is large enough to have a women's group. As a social event, one of the up-scale dept.stores put on a fashion show for us, featuring stylish but practical clothing, specially selected for work in medicine. Washable stuff, no low gaping necklines,no tight short skirts, etc... For models they used a few of our members. Various body shapes were represented and our physician models, most of them MIM, looked terrific.It was really fun.

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    1. That sounds really fun. We also have a women's medical society, I'm going to suggest we try something similar.

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  2. Ha about the runway post. Would love to do that again. I'll work for free.

    I'm a fan of Anthropologie - I have a few pieces from there that always get me compliments from strangers, although lots of stuff is a little casual for work. Also love Reiss - try to wait for sales though. Then tried and true AT, BR.

    Stitchfix does sound ingenius, although I'd be worried it would be like BMG in college all over again...

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    1. With stitchfix you pick when you want your next shipment. I did it for several months in a row, but I just switched to do it once a season.

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    2. Sooo. after reading this I made a stitchfix account but have yet to pull the trigger on a purcahse. What's an average shipment cost? 5 items of each $75?

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    3. The tops (what I've mostly bought) are $40-60.

      I bought a dress that was $90 and a blazer that was $110.

      Sorry for the delayed reply!

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  3. Macy's and a few others have a personal shopper service, complimentary. You tell then your size, style, purposr, then show up to a room selected to meet those criteria. Awesome for busy Dr. Mom life.

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  4. Just went shopping for the first time in 5 years (online) at Boden, and I was really happy with the cut and the quality of the clothes. I'm tall and skinny, and I think it works best with that body type. I also like J Crew but have found their quality declined in the past couple of years. Banana Republic is ok too, just not for pants (for me).

    I really like Theory pants. I know they are pricey, but I have a pair that I have worn almost every week since 1999 that still looks great, another pair I got in 2000 that has endured the same, and a third pair I got in 2003 that I wear even more often. Honestly, they have been totally worth the $200 or so I paid at the time. And they look way better than the cheaper pants I own.

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    1. That explains why absolutely nothing from Boden fit right on me! I've never heard of Theory. Will look into.

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    2. I'll bet Ann Taylor looks awesome on you though. That brand just looks funny on me. Just goes to show....

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    3. Ana I don't know how tall you are but I'm only 5'1" and a lot of anthro works well for me. I also love madewell. I love baby Boden for Annabel but have ever ordered from there for me- I need to try things on given my height! Soooo looking forward to a cute wardrobe ... Maybe in 2014!

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    4. I'd never heard of madewell. I'll have to check it out. Thanks sarah!

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    5. you can get a student discount at madewell (which is an upscale j.crew brand), j.crew and banana republic.

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    6. I've actually never shopped at Ann Taylor, but AT Loft pants look WEIRD on me...the dresses and tops are fine, though. I just realized my sister (who is 2 inches shorter and a bit heavier than me) shops a lot at Boden, and she had some cute things---strange. I guess its more individual than I thought. I've never heard of madewell either...and I shop a LOT.

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    7. madewell is like jcrew blended with anthro in my opinion. it is my absolute favorite.

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  5. COLOR!!! I'm terrible at accessorizing (I also do the diamond stud thing), so I make up for it with bright colors and prints. Much quicker in the morning than fiddling with a scarf.

    I also discovered a love for dresses while I was pregnant--I had never realized how much more comfortable they were than pants or skirts--and it's easy to look "dressed up" and fashionable in a dress. They're especially great here in CA, where pantyhose are definitely considered optional. It's a decidedly more feminine look, and maybe that work in every specialty. In OB it's a good thing.

    Overall, though, I think a good haircut (plus keeping up with color for those of us who do it) and tasteful makeup are better investments than trendy clothes.

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  6. I love this post! I don't know if you read my fashion post, but I still totally dress like Pam:

    http://www.mothersinmedicine.com/2011/09/why-do-i-have-so-much-clothing.html

    I'm still in that "young 30ish" phase and I definitely hate my wardrobe. Especially my casual wardrobe. I caught a full length photo of myself at a birthday party and was horrified how much I apparently dress like my mother. I just bought two new cute jeans but my old clothes are sooooo comfy. It's hard to let go.

    What's especially hard is that my daughter is about 10 times more fashionable than me.

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    1. Yes, I have a bit of the Pan syndrome too!

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  7. Love this post!!! I think patients do want confident, well-groomed doctors and I think stylish ones are even better. I've been working on updating my style as well. Difficult on a tight resident budget. Keep up the good work and thanks for the resources.

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  8. As I've grown older (am in my mid 30's), I find that well-made clothes in styles that really flatter me & colors/patterns I like suit better than following most of the trends. And I wear them longer without feeling dated, too. For office days, I'm a fan of Anthropologie, Madewell & Boden. I tend to wear a lot of dresses & skirts. Definitely agree that it's worth it to splurge on a great pair of jeans, and would add that nicely cut pants for work go a long way toward decreasing the frump factor. Said goodbye to hose long ago. For winter, I go with tights. Also am starting to sew some of my own clothes, which I love doing.

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  9. Also, Nordstrom's just cannot be beat for the fashion assistance wide range of styles and colors. The sales people there will actually HELP you!! And they will pull outfits together that you can easily coordinate for work. I love White House, Black Market for slacks (I am tall and they run long) and then Banana Republic also has great tops as well.

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  10. I know I am not the only one sorry to see you go. You had some original thoughts and did a great job. Good luck!

    Roseville dentist

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  11. Love love love this post. I am realizing also that patients want to see a confident, well-dressed physician and not one in frumpy, stained, ill-fitting clothes from Target... Or with grey roots and broken fingernails, but one thing at a time. I think they forgive me b/c they know I have little kids. I love the Stitchfix idea and the Macy's personal shpper ideas. Practical, wonderful advice.

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  12. I have to say I used to love Ann Taylor and I really mean love - at one time just about every thing nice was "oh, thanks, it's from Ann Taylor". But something changed this summer - did anyone else notice?? It's just not the same anymore - style, quality, cut-wise. Banana Republic is still the best in my book! Affordable and fashionable enough without being too over the top, doctoring-wise.

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    1. I agree I think AT has changed for the worst over the last year.

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