Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
We’ve all heard that saying, right? It turns out that this saying can be extended to realms beyond the workplace. Aspirational dressing is all about future-facing wardrobe planning.
As I was reading a stack of books on wardrobe planning, I paid particular attention to the passages dealing with aspirational wardrobes. There’s really only one reason for this: I hate the Chicago climate and don’t plan to live the rest of my days here. When I move, well, that remains to be seen. Because of family commitments, I’ll be here for at least the foreseeable future. But I don’t think of this as a permanent home, and I expect to end up somewhere with more warmth than cold.
So I don’t want to spend too much time and resources on planning my warm-weather wardrobe because I’m just not ready to pull the trigger on a move yet. But I also don’t want to spend too much time and resources on a cold-weather wardrobe because I don’t expect to really need one at all in the future — at least, not the kind of cold-weather wardrobe that takes you through eight months of crappy weather each year, with periodic bouts of “Why haven’t I moved yet?” bitter cold. I have to have coats and sweaters and hats now. They’re not optional. But a few years from now, it’s likely I will only need parkas for travel, not for home.
This means that I’m quite willing to knit sweaters and sew jackets that would be appropriate for, say, San Francisco in July, when the fog turns things nippy and an extra light layer is a good thing. But I’m also not enthusiastic about building a deep bench of down coats, heavy wool coats, and the like. I won’t knit a stack of heavily cabled aran sweaters to keep me warm on minus-15 days, but I’ll knit plenty of midweight cardigans that can move through more than one season. (Okay, I’ll probably knit a couple of heavier sweaters, but that’s just because I already have the yarn in stash.)
Aspirational dressing is about more than just climate and workplace ambitions, though. And this is where it gets a little murky and abstract. We evolve as human beings over time. How will we evolve? That depends on many factors, such as our personal goals, changes in life circumstances, income levels, and so on. A 20-something single girl with little disposable income will dress much different than that same woman at 35, with a husband and a house and a stable career and a couple of kids. When that woman hits 60, is dealing with an empty nest and an unreliable ex-husband and post-menopausal waist thickening, her style will likely be different again. So when we consider aspirational dressing, we’re not just thinking about job applications, but about lifestyle growth and change.
Where to I want to be in three years? This is the question I ask myself when thinking in terms of aspirational dressing. I have some ideas to answer that question, but no firm plans or commitments. Still, it does prove useful to think about how things might change as I plan my new wardrobe. I might be a little more willing to buy an extra lightweight windbreaker, and less willing to buy an extra pair of snow boots. I might give myself permission to sew all the basic summer skirts and sundresses I want, and maybe save the self-control for winter wool trousers. My basics all conform to my current lifestyle, but some of my splurges have definitely conformed more to my aspirations. That might shift over time, but for now, it’s proving to be a pretty useful way of thinking through some decisions.
Do you take a longterm view of wardrobe planning? Do you ever buy something even though you know you won’t need it right away?