I held up a beautiful blue dress. I’d been so happy when I bought this. It felt like springtime and promise.
I folded it up carefully and laid it on top of a small pile of clothes earmarked for donation.
I was going through my closet and getting rid of stuff. Normally, I enjoyed the process of seeing what I owned and making room for new purchases. But today was bittersweet.
Because I was getting rid of the clothes I’d loved as a single woman who went out on the town and dressed to attract attention.
My clubbing tops. My skinny skinny jeans.
There was no room in my life for those clothes anymore. My body had changed. I’d become a parent just a few months prior. I was resigned to all the changes my new life demanded. I wasn’t going to spend an afternoon at the gym or dance the night away again. I couldn’t be away from my baby that long.
Maybe there’d be a time, once she started school, when I could get some of my old life back. I’d be able to exercise regularly or spend an evening out.
But for now it was best to believe that those days were over.
I got rid of so many clothes I loved that day. Clothes that carried memories of a wonderful time in my life, full of youth, optimism and hope. But it was time. I needed to move on.
All of us embrace life’s transitions in different ways.
Like cutting your hair short as a symbol of freedom.
Or going blond in defiance of a milestone birthday.
Or getting a new wardrobe before starting a new job.
You aren’t the same person you were. So, in some way, you want your outside to reflect your inside. You want to look different, to reflect the fact you feel different.
Changing your appearance to mark the emergence of a “new you” is a common way of celebrating changes in your life.
Is it something you’ve ever done?
Did you change your style after graduating from high school or college?
Have you celebrated a raise by splurging on makeup-counter cosmetics?
Or switched from glasses to contacts and felt like a whole new woman?
Then you know the power of changing your look.
A new look gives you permission to step into a new self. It helps you put the past behind you. You don’t have to carry forward old baggage.
It also forces people to look at you in a new light. People who’ve seen you every day for the past year suddenly start seeing you again. Your husband. Your co-workers. That cute barista who hands you your morning coffee.
You can’t help but feel more confident. People notice something different about you, and they remark on it.
Dressing differently helps you step into a new role or a new identity. It’s why we’re told to “dress for the job you want.” How you look tells other people how to treat you.
Change your look, change your life.
So why don’t we change our look more often?
Why don’t we step into who we want to be using style as a stepping-stone?
Perhaps you don’t need to. If your current look is still working for you—if you’re wearing clothes you love and satisfied with the results in the mirror—then you’re good to go.
But too many of us don’t like what we see in the mirror. And we blame ourselves for it rather than our style.
An Allure survey found that half of us feel that our appearance defines us. Nearly two-thirds of us say that the first thing we notice about a person is how attractive they are.
So appearance matters enormously.
But you’re not stuck with what you see in the mirror. Don’t blame your looks on genetics or poor lifestyle choices. Instead, look at your style.
Why does your hair look the same as it did last year? What’s in your closet? What cosmetics are you using? Are you taking risks with your look or sticking with what’s safe?
That’s where big life transitions can help.
Life changes give us the courage to reinvent ourselves.
When your old life is falling apart, you have the space to think through what you want your future to look like. What YOU want to look like.
For example, many women find that divorce frees them to throw away their old mumsy, practical clothes and invest in new clothes that make them feel sexy.
Back when I had the kind of life where I could go have a drink after work, I would sit outside as evening fell and people-watch. There was a certain group of women, who I pegged to be in their late 40s or 50s, who wore short skirts and cleavage-baring tops that showed off perfect tans.
I admired their gleaming hair, highlighted and styled. I admired their gym-toned calves, helped along by heels higher than I could wear. And I wondered why they were out that night, man-free and dressed to impress.
Maybe these women had husbands at home but were social butterflies in search of some sweetness. Or maybe they had no man waiting for them but were hoping they’d find one tonight.
Regardless, it was obvious how they’d chosen to approach midlife. They’d chosen to deny their age with style.
Some muttered that it was appalling, “mutton dressed as lamb.” And perhaps these women would have done better to make different sartorial choices.
But there they were. Fully embracing their look. Clearly feeling younger and more vital as a result.
Can you own your look with flair?
Or is it holding you back? Trapping you into being someone you haven’t been for a long long time?
If you’re ready to let go of who you were, so you can step into who you want to be, don’t do what I did. Don’t get rid of the old you without a new you in mind.
Spend some time with a stack of magazines or Pinterest. Find images that appeal to you. Separate them into three categories: hair, makeup and fashion.
And start your style evolution.