It’s important to have a realistic picture in your mind’s eye and to strive for a look that’s achievable, not aspirational. Examples of style icons that might work for you:
- Substitute art teacher attending a wine-and-cheese night at a local craft market.
- Katharine Hepburn doing her co-op shift.
- Someone whose closet was just fumigated and who has to wear donated clothing previously owned by thirteen-year-old boys and middle-aged divorcées.
Focus on Essentials
Make sure to stock your closet with must-haves so that there is always something comfortable within reach on those bleary-eyed mornings when you just don’t know if you can do it anymore. For work, try oversized sweaters, black pants that may or may not button, and the flattest shoes you can find. For weekends, try jeans that have lost their stretch, T-shirts with holes, and low-top sneakers that you should have thrown out three years ago and that you are afraid to take off in airports because they smell so bad.
Build a Solid Foundation
“Lingerie” is a beautiful word but an expensive habit. You’re going to want to shop for cotton undies. Consider placing an untouched thong next to them in the drawer for decoration. Bras, meanwhile, are the most important items a woman owns because you can wear them approximately a thousand times without washing them. Be sure to choose a variety of colors: dark, beige, and dingy white. And don’t forget that underwear is like a fine wine—it gets better with age. Holes and tears can reveal sexy surprises!
Complete Your Look
If you don’t have the time to beat your hair into submission with burning-hot tools, try running your hands through it constantly. Make excessive use of bobby pins. It won’t change anything, but you may just feel like you have some small amount of control.
Makeup should primarily be used to mask pimples and under-eye circles. But try spending fifteen minutes applying liquid eyeliner and then frantically removing it because the whole thing backfired and now there’s a bunch actually inside your eyeballs. Apply blush and foundation by dim light so that it looks insane when you finally catch a glimpse of yourself hours later.
Dressing up can be a wonderful way to take stock of who you are and emerge more disappointed than before. Have you ever heard the old adage about Hollywood celebrities on the red carpet? “With the right makeup and clothes, anyone could look that good!” Well, a formal occasion is a great opportunity to prove that that’s simply not true. It’s a chance to raise the stakes and fail in a big way—so go for it! Try on those high heels you bought, and don’t be afraid to exchange them for a pair of drugstore flip-flops purchased en route to the event.
Cultivate a Style Motto
Try this one on for size: “Even if you have no confidence and limited resources, you can still look really, really bad.”
Best of luck, and remember: when in doubt, take a nap.