After doing extensive closet culling, reading and planning, I finally went shopping. As most of the garments that I got rid of were in the "winter" section of my closet, my immediate goal was to build a respectable cold weather selection without breaking the bank. Which meant finding a few pieces that could be combined with each other and with my existing garments in a variety of ways without feeling boring. The additional consideration was the changes that took place in my body and the changes that would occur as I continued eating better and exercising.
Here is what we are working with. I am very short - five foot even - with curvy hips and fairly broad shoulders for my height. My legs are proportionate for my height, although they would be very short on an average-height person. However, I have very muscular calves, which creates an impression of stumpiness. My boobs and butt held up pretty well, but my stomach - never my strongest feature - was ravaged by the last-year's hormonal tides. And while I do believe that flat stomachs are overrated and that it is healthy for a woman to have a bit of a fat layer around her midsection, I am not a fan of the "muffin top" look. So, while I am burning off some of the stomach roll, I wanted to get clothes that would take advantage of my small torso and narrow rib cage without bulging around the tummy area.
All of the above meant doing what I have avoided for years. I had to go to the actual stores and try stuff on. Those of you who are anything outside of the standard size or height or built can understand my reluctance. It can be discouraging to go to stores, be surrounded by racks upon racks of garments and find nothing that fits properly. Thankfully, my husband came with me for ideas, moral support and to keep me from running away.
After some rather despiriting search at the places that tout their petite selection, like Kasper and Ann Taylor, we ended up hitting the jackpot at the Dress Barn of all places. Yes, many fashionistas sneer at Dress Barn - it's not expensive, it's not "designer", it's not ultra-trendy. However, it was there that I was able to find pieces I gravitate toward naturally: classic, with clean lines, but interesting textures and colors.
On makeover shows like What Not To Wear, you get a $5,000 budget to revamp your wardrobe. We had a budget of $200, so getting the most bang for our buck was crucial. Here is what we were able to pull together.
Three bottoms: a pair of tweed-textured business pants, a pair of stretch bootcut jeans in a dark wash and a gray flared business skirt.
Two tops: a burgundy square-neck sweater with contrast stitching and a black tank top with pleated neckline (I couldn't find a good picture of the latter)
Two jackets: a suede black zip-front and a blue and black patchwork
At least half of these pieces transition fairly well into the warmer weather, and all of them can be worn pretty much year-round. They are all easy to pack and easy to hang out, making a nice little capsule travel wardrobe with a multiple outfit potential.
The sweater and the skirt, combined with my existing fishnets and tweed mary janes, makes a chic office outfit that would transition easily to after-five drinks by replacing the laptop bag with a little clutch, pulling up the hair and adding some fab earrings.
The fishnets take full advantage of my legs, by refining the muscular lines a little bit to go from chunky to curvy-yet-graceful. The entire outfit can be worn just as well with knee-high boots or with high-heeled oxfords.
For colder weather, I replaced the skirt with pants and threw on a fitted tweed jacket, which I traded with a Facebook friend for one of my jewelry creations. Buttoned up, with a scarf and gloves, the whole thing makes a nice look for a chilly day. Without the scarf and the gloves, the jacket still works indoors. Or, if your office is like mine, where they turn up the heat the moment temperatures dip below 60's, the jacket can come off, but the rest still looks professional and pulled together.
Leave the pants and the boots, replace the sweater with the black top and the long tweed jacket - with the short tapestry one, and you get a completely different look. It still works for the office, but is a lot less stodgy than the usual "business casual" fare.
Keep the top, swap the crisp business pants for shapely jeans in a nice dark wash, and the tapestry jacket - for the soft unstructured black zip-up. Replace boots with comfy brown trainers. Toss in a fun piece of jewelry to further get away from the usual "casual Friday" slouch.
All in all? Not too shabby!