Dressing for the Ordinary Days

“I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little – if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny. And it’s best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.” – Coco Chanel

A few Tuesdays ago, I spent a cozy morning hanging out at home with the kids, baking and wrapping gifts and generally making a mess. And then, suddenly, it was time for me to go to work.

I’d hastily pulled on a white tee and jeans that morning (a great foundation for many outfits) and for some reason I can’t fathom I didn’t put on my regular light makeup that morning. (I always wear makeup.) I grabbed a cardigan, changed my shoes, and headed out the door: no makeup, no jewelry.

My workplace is not a high-style place, and I looked fine for work. Except that I’d completely forgotten about a meeting I had that afternoon, with stylish professionals who had actually dressed for the day.

I didn’t have any cause for concern or embarrassment. But I did feel like I had missed the opportunity to wear something fun, something that made me happy–if only for an ordinary Tuesday. And that would have been true regardless of whether I’d spent all day at the office or home with my kids. I wasn’t dressed like I was ready to take on the world; I was dressed to get by. I want to do better than just get by.

It was such a little thing–my outfit, my meeting–but I resolved sitting there at the conference table to not let these everyday opportunities go to waste. Every day, I will do the things that tell my body I’m bringing my A-game: I’ll dab on some lipgloss and choose a pretty necklace. Even if I’m going nowhere.

(True story: when I came downstairs a few days later wearing an old tee and a tiny gold necklace, my son asked, “Where are you going, Mom?” I was going nowhere, but took that as a sure sign I’d been slumming it at home. Not any more.)

I know getting dressed in the morning–really getting dressed–inspires me to take on the day with a smile, so I’m just going to do it. Every day. I don’t need a reason or an excuse to look nice.

That picture at the top? That’s me on an ordinary Monday, dressed to hang out with the kids and go Targeting. It’s casual, but I tried: I took 2 minutes to do my makeup, I chose a new cheerful sweater, and I put on a necklace–and, for good measure, my grandma’s charm bracelet.

Because I’ve realized how much better I feel when I try.

How do you dress for the ordinary days? I’m dying to hear your thoughts. (Also I’d like to say that plenty of women don’t wear makeup on purpose and that’s great! Please know this is about personal routines and preferences, not a mandate.)


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  1. I totally agree, Anne! And I go back and forth on this forgetting my resolve to get dressed. I totally have a better day if I dress for it but I still forget and get lazy sometimes! So…here’s to getting dressed ready to tackle the world!

    • Anne says:

      Johanna, I know. I forget too, or I convince myself that clothes don’t really matter–but it’s so easy to just put on a bracelet, and it does make such a big difference to how I feel! Now, go put on something pretty and have a great day πŸ™‚

  2. sarah says:

    Love this, so true. I remember during my days in grad school when I actually dressed better i tended to learn better. It was like some part of my brain turned on and said “oh, we are properly dressed today, now let’s get down to business.” I need to do this better now, too. Going to through my new greek key scarf over my sweater today : ) thanks : )

    • Anne says:

      Sarah, I totally relate to my brain turning on like that! I think that’s incredible that you not only felt better, but learned better.

      That scarf sounds lovely. Have a great day!

  3. I completely agree! I tend to dress up more than most people on a daily basis, and I always wear makeup, but when I’m sick or just in a bad mood, I try to put even more effort into my look for the day because it really does change my attitude toward life. Yet another example of how interconnected *everything* within us is. PS Love that sweater!

    • Anne says:

      Everything IS so connected, isn’t it?
      (When I’m in pajamas after 9, my body thinks I must be sick. I don’t know where I got that from, but I’ve always made sure to get dressed in something before then before my body starts to wonder what’s going on πŸ™‚

  4. Jillian Kay says:

    Yes! My word for the year is awake, and I’ve been putting more thought into my wardrobe because of that.

    True story: I should have learned my lesson a couple of years ago when one day I decided to brush out my hair instead of putting it in a pony tail and my son burst into tears because he didn’t know what had happened to me.

  5. Sarah Beals says:

    Love this. And you look beautiful, by the way. Just reading “How to Look Expensive” and the author says that by wearing neutrals and classic colors and “statement” jewelry, you always look pulled together. πŸ™‚ She spends more money on accessories than on clothing, and thinks unique, stunning jewelry even with jeans, makes you look “classy.” They consistently reference Kate Middleton’s look. Enough said! πŸ™‚

    • Very interesting! I’ve determined that another way to describe the excellent woman in Proverbs 31 is classy, so I’ve been trying to figure out how to incorporate more classiness into my life. This fits right in!

      • Sarah Beals says:

        It is totally a fun book. I just turned 40 this year and I was in need of some beauty advice. It mostly boils down to great skin and soft, shiny hair is a huge, huge asset. She gives lots of tips for wearing make-up subtly in order to look like you just woke up and didn’t give it much thought. πŸ™‚

  6. Jeannie says:

    I got a kick out of your post because I just got back from walking my son to school. I didn’t have time to shower etc. so I pulled on my oldest, most unflattering jeans. I put a sweater on over my pajama shirt. Then my parka, scarf, mitts and hat (hats not only flatten good hair, they cover up bad hair) — and off we went. I was just hoping that this wasn’t the day the principal would meet me in the schoolyard and say, “We’ve decided to give your son the Student of the Year Award! Could you come in to my office right now and we’ll discuss the details?” πŸ™‚

    Anyway, I agree with your points! Although I teach an online university course from my home, I always get dressed for work, wear earrings, etc. (I haven’t marked an assignment in my pajamas yet!) Makeup, not so much. But there’s a definite look good/feel good connection that goes both ways.

    • Anne says:

      Hahaha! Jeannie, a similar thing just happened to my friend. They overslept and she left the house to take her son to school wearing no bra, an old sweatshirt, pajama pants, and slippers. And then she was too late to go through the carpool line so she was going to have to walk him inside!

      Thankfully, another late mom pulled up right then, and walked her son into school. But she said she will NEVER leave the house looking like that again unless something is on fire!

  7. I love this! One of my goals for the year is to put on makeup and fix my hair everyday. It sounds ridiculous to have this as a goal, but it’s really to force me to look my best every day. Sure enough, several times this week and last, one of my sons will see me fixing my hair in the bathroom and then say, “Mom, where are we going?”

  8. First of all – that sweater is darling on you. Totally your colors!

    Secondly – yes. So, so true. It is AMAZING what one or two extra minutes of effort can do. Sometimes it really is just about adding a small detail here and there. A necklace, a bracelet, sparkly earrings … it makes a difference to ME which makes a difference in how I interact with others.

    Great insights on dressing for the day!

  9. I definitely find that wearing clothes that make me feel good about myself (and yet are still comfortable) does make a difference. But at the same time, when we aren’t going out and it’s 9:30 and I haven’t gotten downstairs yet because my preschooler refuses to do anything but lay on the floor naked in her bedroom and all I can think about is the mountain of laundry waiting for me and the fact that my underweight 9 month old is over do for his breakfast, I settle for whatever I can put on quickly that will survive baby spit up, smeared food, spilled dirty dish water and whatever other messes my kids produce. I find it hard to wear jewelry either because my son tries to pull it off while nursing. I look forward to a time when I can take a little more time for me again.

    • Tim says:

      Bethany, back when I was an attorney I once went to court with a friend who had a hearing, and she dressed in a beautiful navy blue suit. Complete with baby spit up all down one lapel. She was mortified at what the judge might think but didn’t have time to change. I told her to walk in proudly, wearing that baby spittle as a badge of honor. Everything went fine.

      • Anne says:

        Tim, my grandfather was a judge, and this reminds me of a classic story the family liked to tell on him. Once he was hearing the case of a man who’d been brought to court straight from prison, still wearing his orange jumpsuit. My grandpa said, “He looks guilty in that. Tell him to change his clothes and then I’ll hear the case.”

        But of course the defendant didn’t have any other clothes to wear! So my grandpa gave him his own pants to wear for the trial–because he’d be plenty covered wearing his judicial robes.

        Now for a horrible ending: I have no idea what the outcome was. I need to consult the family historians to find out!

        • Tim says:

          Great story, Anne, even without the conclusion to the trial.

          People sometimes joke around and ask what a judge wears under the robe and I tell them I usually wear Bermuda shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, black socks and leather sandals. I have not yet had the nerve to say that I am in a state of semi-dishabille, though!

    • Anne says:

      I have been there! (Preschooler that wants to be naked? Underweight baby? Yes and yes.) Praying you get out of “survival mode” soon.

    • Oh Bethany, I relate to this. I have a preschooler and a 15-month-old. Drool, dishwater, and the remnants of diapering make me not want to wear my going-out clothes at home. But I’ve found that wearing short sleeves and leaning up against a dishtowel when I’m washing dishes helps with keeping dishwater off me.

  10. Missy June says:

    Since I work out of the house everyday, I do makeup, hair and dress for the public daily. However, may I comment that there was a low-point in my life where I was truly barely surviving and my lack of self care was very evident in my appearance. At the same job where I now work I arrived daily with hair pulled back severely, minimal grooming and clean was as good as I could muster. The difference in mental health prompts me to care enough to present myslef well!

    • Anne says:

      Missy June, it’s funny how my necklace and my mental state can be related…but they are! A little self care goes a long way πŸ™‚

  11. Such great points. I work from home and 95% of the time I shower, dress and put on make-up before I take the kids to school. I’ve found that if I don’t get ready before then, I’ll be still sitting in my sweats or workout clothes at 3:00 when it’s time to go pick them up! I’ve had to make it a habit! And it’s so nice to know that you can get up and go anywhere without “getting ready” – you are already ready to go!

  12. Rebecca says:

    Just popped on my baltic amber earrings. . . now I can comment πŸ˜€ I have a “thing” about being up and dressed, and I faithfully use a little BB cream, mascara, and lipstick. My hair is shoulder length and little-girl silky, so I usually wear it up in a sock bun or twist until I go out just to keep it out of my way (bonus: loose curls when it does come down!). I am soooo bad about jewelry and shoes, though. Definitely something I want to work on.

  13. Tracy says:

    I find that planning (or lack thereof) is a huge factor. I need to already know what I am going to wear that day, so that I am not hunting for my shoes (borrowed by daughters) or trying to decide if I have time to actually iron something. My whole day goes better when I am not starting it out by searching for matched socks.

    I also need to get rid of some clothes that are just too casual for my upgraded business casual look, but I have to do some targeted shopping first.

    • Anne says:

      “My whole day goes better when I am not starting it out by searching for matched socks.”

      Yes! I absolutely relate to this. I love waking up knowing what I’m going to wear.

  14. I almost always wear jeans for an ordinary day. On my cleaning days I wear an older t shirt. Other days I wear nicer sweaters or tops. I don’t wear necklaces on regular days too much any more. Having a grabby baby who broke a few made me wear them less. But I do always wear earrings, mascara, and lip gloss. And I try to do my hair everyday too. it makes me feel more motivated, and better about myself.

    • Anne says:

      Sigh. I just lost another pair of (fake, thankfully) diamond studs to a grabby toddler. He pulled one off while we were walking through the grass–no hope of finding it. And that’s the second pair that’s happened to!

  15. Stacey says:

    I couldn’t agree more! Makes such a difference… On the days that I convince myself I will just be ‘comfy’, I find I get so much less accomplished and feel so sluggish!

    • Anne says:

      I’ve done that! “Comfy” sounds like a good thing…but “sluggish” certainly isn’t, and that’s too often how that story ends.

  16. Tim says:

    Anne, when I put on the robe and sit on the bench, no one in the courtroom knows if my shirt and tie match my slacks and shoes. But I know, and I make sure they do every day.

    There was one time, though, when I took the bench in jeans and a polo shirt under my robe. It was for a trial that was scheduled to end the previous Friday but went too long. My family had a vacation planned and we drove to Mt. Hermon that Sunday for family camp. I had told the jury, though, to be in court Monday at 1:30 and we’d hear the closing arguments and then they’d start deliberations. So on Monday morning I went to breakfast with the family, my wife and I listened to the camp speaker for an hour or so, and then I got in the car and drove back to the courthouse (just under 3 hours). Walked in wearing my camp clothes, put on the black robe, resumed the trial, sent the jury out to deliberate, asked another judge to take the verdict when it came in, and drove back to camp in time for the evening speaker.

    In case anyone in the courtroom was wondering, my shirt matched my pants.

  17. Jodi says:

    This is actually the only New Year’s resolution i’ve had this year. To blow out my hair when I shower (I can afford 15 minutes every other day right??) and put on a little makeup (sometimes just mascara, but at least that!)

    I feel so much better about myself when I put that little extra bit forward.

  18. Great self-portrait! And cute sweater! It’s hard for me to get excited about getting dressed when I know that it’s just going to get covered in drool and food slung by my precious youngest boy’s hands (at the very least), but I do feel better when I look better. And I feel like I owe it to my husband to not look like death all the time.

    There was this episode of Up All Night where the husband was upset that his wife looked good for work but then came home and got toooo dressed down. By the end of the episode, she’d purchased cute lounging clothes. So I’ve been meaning to get some cute lounging outfits that I don’t mind getting dirty. Sounds like there’s a trip to Marshall’s in my future!

  19. Katie says:

    I definitely spent a few weeks there in the most comfortable clothes I could find, but I’m trying now to get back to actually dressing every day. I’m having to relearn my wardrobe though, to plan outfits that allow easy-yet-modest access to the baby food. And I don’t fit back into all my clothes yet, either, or at least I don’t fit into them aflatteringly as I used to. But getting earrings on (necklaces are too easily grabbed, I’ve discovered) makes a big difference to my day!

    I figure T-Rex has all these cute and coordinated baby outfits; he ought to have a relatively cute and coordinated mommy, too. πŸ™‚

    • Anne says:

      Katie, those days of “re-learning” the wardrobe are tricky! I always missed dresses when I was breastfeeding, even though I never wore them terribly often before. And of course you don’t fit into your old clothes yet!

      Enjoy your new baby AND wearing pretty earrings. Anything that makes a big difference to your day is worth doing πŸ™‚

      And this is priceless: “I figure T-Rex has all these cute and coordinated baby outfits; he ought to have a relatively cute and coordinated mommy, too.” πŸ™‚

  20. Elizabeth Kane says:

    Yes! And I’ve found it’s the little things that put a pep in my step during the day. I like a good nail color that gives my outfit a pop – simple, easy, inexpensive.

    Love that sweater by the way. Where from?

    • Anne says:

      Oh, nail color’s a good one. Especially because you can wake up with that on–no application or extra effort required!

      It’s from the Anthro sale rack πŸ™‚

  21. HopefulLeigh says:

    Love your new sweater! It’s the perfect color for you.

    Given how easy it is for me to not look younger than I am, I always dress for the day. No graphic tees, no sloppy hair. Unless I’m wearing my glasses, eye make-up is on. I feel more like myself when I’m wearing a nice outfit and have a sparkle in my eye.

  22. Ashlee says:

    I’m a new stay-at-home-mom and I go back and forth between loving my life in sweatpants and hating my life in sweatpants. And then sometimes I think….I really just need to figure out how to dress UP my sweatpants, if that’s possible. Either way, this post inspired me to wear a cute outfit tomorrow. WATCH OUT WORLD.

  23. I love your sweater and think you look gorgeous in that picture! I’ve gone through several rounds of “clean out the closet” to be able to pull together outfits I love with clothes that fit me so I won’t be tempted to default to a sweatshirt. My daily wear is usually comfy but I like it to be nice too. Enjoyed this post!
    Catherine Denton

  24. Tricia says:

    Love this! It goes along with what my mother-in-law’s motto is: “I want to be the prettiest thing my husband sees today!”

    PS – I wear make-up everyday, too. πŸ™‚

  25. Amanda says:

    At my school, most people wear sweatpants on ordinary days (even to class). Dressing like that makes me feel lazy, though. I usually wear jeans or a skirt with a cute cardigan. It is amazing how much more confidence I have when I put just a little bit of effort into my appearance.

  26. JayBee says:

    What an inspration post for January .

    I work as a GM in a manufacturing facility and as I have always worn skirts (suits etc) to work, made the decision a couple of years ago to make the switch to jeans, yoga pants to work. I now feel so ultra comfortable, but make sure to do my hair make up and wear ewellery every day to avoid the ‘too casual’ look.

    I feel like I’m in a win/win situation!

    I just found your website, (via Wellness Mama) and felt the need to say thanks….I know I’ll be visiting lots!

  27. Jacey says:

    You look beautiful in this picture! Great thought also about looking your best every day, too. I do better work when I look in the mirror and feel good!

  28. Brittany says:

    I just love that quote by Coco Chanel :). I absolutely believe that how we present ourselves (even if we’re the only person who sees it) can change the tone of our day.

  29. tracy says:

    I don’t mean to sound weird or anything, but looking at the photo above, i think we may own the same dining room furniture. We actually inherited ours from my in-laws who I think bought it about 30 plus years ago.
    Anyway, just thought that was too funny.
    I haven’t even finished reading your post because I had to jump in and mention it. Hmmm….maybe I am weird after all. πŸ™‚
    I have been enjoying your blog today. I’m off to finish the post and look around some more.
    Enjoy your weekend!

    • Anne says:

      Tracy, that’s so funny! Ours is hand-me-down from friends who joined households and needed to get rid of the extra dining room set. We were only too happy to take it off their hands. πŸ™‚

  30. Codi says:

    Poking around your blog before work this morning – found you a couple of days ago on from Nester’s 31 days – and this post inspired me! I’m feeling pretty blah about work, but gosh darnit, I’m going to try and change that by my attitude – starting with a little extra attention when I get dressed in a few minutes!

    PS I also know that I feel better-rested and calm when I have matching pajama sets instead of t-shirts and random sweats!

    • Anne says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Codi! I tend to sleep in cute pajama pants … and random tshirts, but I’ve been thinking of upping my own game in this department. Thanks for the reminder. πŸ™‚

  31. Monet says:

    I know this is an older post.. But, WOW! You hit the nail on the head for me.. I’m a SAHM whom home schools. I hardly ever go anywhere during the day. But I dress up everyday nonetheless and wear my usual make-up which takes me 5 minutes to do. It really does not take that much more time to slip into something nice and had a piece of jewelry or two. Maybe it’s psychological, but it gives me energy for the day, it puts me in a good mood, I smile more and I accomplish more.. I can’t explain it. So whatever it’s worth the extra 5 minutes a day it takes to “put myself together” is definitely worth it to me. I do it for me πŸ™‚

  32. Paula says:

    Hello! I must admit I love not wearing any make up since I feel it’s much better for my skin, it gives me this “healthy/ fresh look” that I love πŸ™‚ On the other hand, I do love dressing up. I have a lot of clothes xD

    • Monet says:

      Paula, you may be right in that not wearing Make0Up “FEELS’ better for your skin.. But that is not the complete truth. It has actually been proven to be beneficial as to keeping out toxins and pollutants from the environment. That doesn’t mean if you are not a make-up kind of gal that you should wear it.. It means that if you are on the fence because you think it does damage… which it’s only really harmful to sleep in overnight as your skin does not get to “breath,” that you are not being properly informed… Most women who go without make-up but wear Sunblock are actually damaging their skin more. Many sunblocks have ingredients which are much more harmful than any ingredients in makeups. Not only are you dowsing your skin with carcinogenic toxins when you use them, you are also inhibiting your body’s ability to produce Vitamin D. This vitamin is vital not only to healthy skin, but lack of it has been found to be a culprit in the development of eleven different cancers and scads of other diseases and ailments. Sunblock also goes an extra measure to hinder the body’s natural production of melatonin which can cause a whole new array of health nightmares for you. Again, if you are a no make-up kind of gal, good for you… I’m not trying to change your mind.. but if you are on the fence or are using it to justify not wanting to take the time to put a little bit on you are being misinformed.. Other than that.. To thy own self be true… Live and let Live. I’ll admit to sometimes getting defensive because Ido wear make-up. takes me 5 minutes in the morning to put it on… and am often berated for it.. Why? I like wearing it.. Let me be.. You don’t like wearing… I’ll let you be. But I will correct old wives tales and myths. What saddens me is that there always seems to be something to divide women, Wear make-up…Not wear make-up… Home School – Not Home School… Breast Feed – Not breast feed… SAHM – Working Mom.. well.. you all get the picture.. I’d love to see a lot less division and a whole lot more of respect and acceptance for each individual woman’s choice.. We don’t know their reasons. Yet we are so quick to condemn if they differ from us.

  33. Michelle Owings-Christian says:

    This is fascinating. I have the minimalist thing down in a different way. I have fewer articles of clothing right now than in a long time because I lost 60 pounds last year and had to buy new summer clothes. Therefore, I have 4 skirts, 3 prs of capris, 7 tank tops, and 2 dresses. (Also three sweaters and 1 light unstructured jacket.) I also have several pairs of jeans, however, I don’t wear jeans in the summer unless it’s a really cold and nasty day. The reason this is easy is that everything goes with everything. I just have to decide what the weather is and boom, I’m done. So it is less pain, less decision fatigue.

    The dressing up to be in my house is something I am hearing from several fronts, notably Crystal Paine’s “Make Over Your Mornings” course,, which is how I got to this blog in the first place. I struggle with that. I don’t work outside the home, although in August I will be starting online classes with the goal of working at home and making money at it. I am going on vacation next week — camping for two and a half weeks in Pennsylvania — so I won’t really be able to implement this until I get back. It occurs to me that I might be able to dress a little more upscale if I imagine that I am in a traditional classroom, and I want my fellow students and my professor to think I am ready to bring it. That’s an idea worthy of note. And I should think of ways to implement that on other days. **Goes away thinking**

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