How do I dress for two different lifestyles? Ask The Kit
“I just bought a farm, a lifelong dream realized. But now it feels like my wardrobe — and thus my identity — has split in two. I find myself seeking out a whole new “look” of plaid shirts and heavy-duty boots and shackets. Stuff I’ve never considered! Can I have two entirely different clothing personalities depending on which place I’m in?” —Yours Truly
OK, right off the top, this is my own question. I’m struggling with this, and when I complained about this to stylist, Julianne Costigan, we quickly worked out it was something universal: We all have different roles and settings in our lives, and integrating two or more wardrobe personalities is challenging. Think of the many of us moms with corporate day jobs, or even the challenge of dressing for the weekend, or vacation. It can feel like we are dressing for split personalities! So, I’m going to share how she answered this question. Hot take: Her solution really boils down to integrating our weekday wardrobes with our weekend fantasies.
To briefly explain how I ended up with 13 acres and a clothing issue: I spent years “manifesting” a farm by spending way too much money on online vintage mismatched silverware and farmhouse jugs and artfully banged-up tables and odd paintings (and promptly putting them into storage, because city house = full). Then one day, likely because he was tiring of the boxes of pink goblets stacking up, my husband and I took a drive and wham-bam, we bought a farm, complete with barns and a silo and a pond. It is beautiful, and a wee bit of a wreck, but did I mention the massive wrap-around porch? For the record, yes, I recognize it is a great privilege to have a rural getaway, and I’m grateful and stunned in equal portions.
For all the work I did imagining how I would fill it, I did no thinking about how I would dress for it. I quickly realized this affects how I am adjusting to my new farm life. Don’t you also feel weird when you don’t feel like yourself in clothes?
So I tracked down Costigan, who does editorial and advertising styling as well as running a fashion consulting firm for celebrities and high-powered business executive types. “A lot of the women I work with are saying something similar right now, along the lines of: the world is a different place; I don’t know what I should be wearing for anything!” Costigan begins. Good to know I’m not alone, and I have something in common with the “women of influence” that Costigan usually dresses.
“My philosophy is that it is important only to buy things that can be worn for any occasion.” She means elevated wardrobe basics — blazers, trousers, good denim, great sweaters — then, she says, style them differently depending on where you are going. “Bring your own personality with you wherever you go. Find the pieces that you gravitate to in your closet, the ones that always make you feel good about yourself, and make those the foundation of your wardrobe in any place or setting.”
With Costigan, that always comes down to the ultimate uniform piece. “Start with a blazer. For the office or dinner, wear it with a white blouse. For the weekend, or the cottage, wear it with a T-shirt, or a hoodie, even. Similarly, swap out heels for work with sneakers for off-duty time. Add jewelry for work, take it off for the weekend.” If you have a cashmere sweater you love, wear a collared and cuffed shirt underneath to make it more “work” she says, and put it under a denim jacket, or one of the ubiquitous “shackets” out this fall.
Seems simple enough; now for more advanced class suggestions. “Take elements of what you love and use them differently. For example, if you love a leather jacket in the city, try leather Frye boots in the country instead.”
She cautions against stocking a Gatsby-like stash of “everything the same” in your closet. “All the same — say, one sweater in three different colours, that gets stale.” Stale is the enemy of feeling good in your clothes. “Take a category, maybe the white shirt, and buy variations on it, so you have different options for your uniform, you don’t have to think about what you are putting together.”
Costigan has put this plan into action for her own cottage: “I don’t like to pack to take things back and forth. If you can, get some of the same or similar elevated basics at each location. Only bring back and forth the special pieces, or things to change up the styling.”
Her message is to keep your wardrobe — and your identity — familiar in different parts of your life. “Most women, and my clients, know that for much of our lives we tried to fit in. Forget that — we never felt great doing that. We should wear what we feel great in. Identify that, and you’ve done the hard work.”
I’m here for her advice. Trying on a whole new personality just sounds tiring, what with the buying laying hens I would prefer to be thinking about. I’m building a new mood board, populated with chic supermodels who effortlessly bridge their glam lives with life in the English countryside, wearing silk satin ball gowns with their wellies.
After all, the chickens aren’t going to judge me!
Send your pressing fashion and beauty questions to Leanne at [email protected].
Shop the advice: Based on Costigan’s thoughts around how to adapt your wardrobe for a new, more casual setting but keep your sense of identity (and your basic uniform), here are some of the best basics on my shopping list.
Banana Republic sweater, $309, bananarepublic.gapcanada.ca
This is the definition of an elevated best basics item: a merino cashmere oversized sweater that can be dressed up or down, city or country. Has anyone else noticed Banana Republic has been kind of great, lately?
Kotn T-shirt, $35, kotn.com