Save. Spend. Splurge.

Why dressing well isn’t for the vain or shallow

I feel like society today is all about dressing down and being casual in an effort to:

1. Prove how not important clothes are to life except to clothe oneself – what about world hunger issues? And how the planet is basically imploding!?

2. Secretly convey that they are too intellectual and/or rich to care about frivolous things like style or clothes

3. Separate themselves from the pack of vapid, vain, preening sets of folks who actually care and spend money caring

Dressing up is not a bad thing

I’ve already waxed poetic about being annoyed at how people always keep asking me why I am always so dressed up.

Dressing up, is (today), for me, seen as trying too hard, or trying to be someone you are not or worse, that you are trying to dress and be someone else for other people.

Really.. I just want to dress up.

I just want to look nice, no matter the situation — going to the grocery store, going thrifting, it doesn’t matter.

It is more for me, than for anyone else. I like the way it makes me feel (gives me a confidence boost), and that boost translates into me being more friendlier because I feel better about myself.

When I dress like crap, or am in an outfit I am not comfortable in or don’t think looks good, I’m subconsciously nervous about it all day, and it translates. I can see myself fidgeting, and just generally not feeling great.

Even for something people DON’T see, like pedicured feet, I am starting to appreciate and enjoy the fact that I have nicely painted toes, even if they are stuffed into boots or heels all day. It makes me feel good, than to feel or know that I have callused, rough feet hiding in socks.

Clothes put into context matters

But the thing they all miss in this assumption is that you have to dress for the context of life.

It is a stereotype to assume that if you are someone who cares about style and wants to dress nicely, it means you’re shallow and vain.

Dressing well and acquiring the skill to do so, is a worthy endeavour as it can open doors to opportunities you did not deem possible.

It shows that you care and place importance on being well-presented and appropriately so (you won’t wear a suit to the beach for instance) to the world no matter the situation because you are smart enough to recognize the deep-seated social markers in doing so.

Case in point — How would you dress for the following?


Casual or Formal?

First Date:

Sweatpants or Jeans and a nice shirt?

Wedding (assuming no dress code):

Jeans and a shirt or a nice dressy outfit?

Going to the beach:

Dressy formal suit or casual linen & swimwear?

Context matters and instead of thinking that only “special” exceptions as I have listed out are the only situations were one should be conscious of what they wear, you should consider that everyday life is the same.

Your life is your own personal stage

Do you really want to run into people or potential contacts you know, dressed in stained sweatpants and a freebie tee even while running errands and doing groceries?

You never know.

Just because those special events have a formal or informal dress code it doesn’t mean that the rest of your life doesn’t.

Our clothes are our uniforms

Society imposed a dress code on us whether we realize it or not, and going against it can be very cool but more often than not, people rebel against it for misguided reasons in wanting to not seem shallow or to look stupid.

Think about the dress code you expect when you go to see the doctor.

Is she dressed nicely or in loungewear?

How about a police officer?

Are they in uniform or are they in sweatpants and a tee with a badge? (Not assuming plain clothes, you know what I mean).

Which would convey security and trust?

This is why even security guard companies have uniforms, so that they look professional.

Or a banker — are they in jeans or a suit? Which one conveys trust, confidence and money?

To not play the game because you want to be different and unique, is just putting yourself at a disadvantage.

Be unique and different with what and how you wear your items in the context of your own uniform.

Have a great lining hidden in a wool jacket!

Wear funny socks under a serious suit.

Have a wrap dress with a whimsical elephant print on it like I do.

There are fun ways to be different and still be considered well-dressed even if you’re rocking distressed jeans!

Don’t confuse stylish with trendy

Making sure that you care about clothes is not a frivolous endeavour.

You don’t need to be trendy to be stylish.

There are classic combinations of outfits that have endured for a reason — stick to them and this uniform by all means!

A collared striped shirt or a white shirt and jeans always looks nice.

Look at within those ‘rules’, how different a striped shirt outfit can be:

You don’t need a lot of money to be well-dressed either!

You can buy secondhand items, go thrifting and buy off Kijiji for instance, or eBay.

All of this, just means that in exchange for getting something cheaper or paying less money, you need to put in more TIME and EFFORT.

You need to be able to be patient, spend time checking constantly, waiting for your item in your size to come up so that you can buy it for a fraction of the retail price.

These two outfits for instance? 99% secondhand or thrifted.

The only items that were purchased at retail is the clutch in cognac, and the black belt in the right-hand picture.

Everything else was secondhand or deeply discounted.

What about you? Do you ever think about what you wear?


  • Amy

    I have become a bit lazy. I used to love dressing up, and I still love clothes in general. Sadly I tend to gravitate to “comfortable” and my job allows that. I’m a bit bigger than my glory days, but I’m still in a size range where they sell nice clothes. I’m doing a blog challenge right now, that helps with style inspiration. I would like to get myself back into fashion 🙂

  • Caroline

    You have an amazing watch collection!

  • kay

    These days, I try to dress up. at least better than before.. Esp for work … Last year was bad with so much stress esp related to my health and work and I had to make do with whatever that fit in my closet (shopping would be even more stressful as its not easy to find clothes for me)….. But now that it’s getting better, I’m slowly finding my way back to dressing appropriate for each occasion. I aspire for stylishness – but for now appropriate will have to do. And TBH, even this effort and how I look now has made me feel more confident and it shows.

    I do believe this quote I read somewhere – The way you look affects the way you think, the way you feel, the way you act, and the way others react to you. – Judith Rasband

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      That quote is everything for me — The way I look definitely affects how I think, I act, and the way people respond to me. They are MUCH kinder when I make an effort, and in turn, it makes me feel great.

  • Sense

    To be honest, I wish I had a reason to care about what I wear every day. My work colleagues wear cut off shorts, tank tops, and walk around in bare feet (it’s NZ; everyone walks around in bare feet! The first time I saw someone walking around a mall with no shoes I took a picture 🙂 ).

    I am a PhD candidate and I am lucky if I leave the house with my keys most days! Clothes are…not on my radar. Am I covered, comfortable, and warm/cool enough for the weather? That is about all I have the mental energy to think about in relation to clothes these days. I wish it were different.

    I work in a lab alone most days, so no one even sees me, either–I can go for whole weeks without seeing anyone else at work or even at home. So…some days I wear the same thing I did yesterday, just to not have to think about it. I also wish this were different.

    So I guess it comes down to: 1. I don’t care what I look like if no one else is around to see it. What I wear has no bearing on how I see myself. I hardly ever look in the mirror…and even then I just look at my face/hair to make sure everything is clean. 2. When I do dress up, it is to respect other people (e.g. I wear a blazer when I have a work meeting to show that I take them seriously; I wear a nice dress for a wedding to show that I respect the special occasion). and 3. while I can pull together a cute outfit once in a while for special occasions, I don’t know how to dress well on a regular basis quite yet. It is too hard to have to think about for every day, esp when I know I won’t see anyone. I am taking notes though!! 🙂

    Interesting differences in perspective!

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Bare feet!? I think if I did that here, I’d be committed to an asylum. Plus not practical during winter.

      I dress for me though 🙂 I work at home now and even when I leave, I make it a point to choose an outfit and a little makeup even if I don’t have to, because it makes me feel good

      I’ve also noticed I get much better service when I do versus going out in a sweater and jeans with no effort. I’ve been doing mini experiments and it has been interesting.

    • NicW

      I moved from a city that wears corporate black to NZ too and the bare feet still makes me look twice ! So many of my gorgeous clothes are going to waste here.

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