I Documented My Outfits for 3 Weeks: Here’s What I Learned

BY ANNA J. STAINSBY                                             ONLINE DIRECTOR

About a year ago, during some lecture made more interesting by perusing Man Repeller, I came across a piece by Leandra Medine entitled “30 Days of Mirror Selfies Might Teach You Something”.

It was a candid and moving piece on what might superficially seem like a trivial matter- what we choose to put on every day. Sartorial choices say a lot about who we are, what we’re going through, but it takes an exercise like this -documenting a month of one’s choices of presentation- to step back and properly reflect.

When I was brainstorming features for MUSE this fall, I figured it would be the right time to do it. I also figured that documenting my outfits in the first few weeks of school might be more interesting than the ones I’ll (soon) have to put together in below freezing weather.

September is a month of renewal. It’s the departure from home and return to school, the transition to cooler weather, the shift in schedules, mentality, social life… This particular month brought me more newness than I’d realized before this project. Almost as soon as I started, I dove into a new role at MUSE, a new home, new academic territory, and a new relationship! It’s interesting to see how you present yourself when you embody those different roles and take on new things.

While I can see how I present myself more professionally in settings like MUSE, or small seminars where I am expected to speak/want to be taken seriously (or like a poet, as I was in Day 4), it was nice to notice that none of my “date outfits” are not unlike “me outfits”. I’m sure it has to do with my having known my boyfriend for 7 (!) years and he’s seen me in just about everything, so I’ve never second guessed anything before seeing him. But it was nice confirmation nonetheless that hasn’t changed how I want to present myself.

The one undeniable thing about a project like this is that you are so conscious about it. I do think I’m thoughtful about my outfits, but during this time I was particularly focused on not repeating pieces too often, not gravitating towards the same look as to provide content that wasn’t… boring or expected. Upon realizing this (some 3-4 days in) half of me felt like I was cheating (of course you can go a month creating unique outfits if that’s the goal!) but half of me also thought I could continue documenting my outfits and using that as motivation to create newness for as long as I wanted- or at least keep the mentality that I might catalogue looks and to remember to switch them up! Although it didn’t feel genuinely *scientific* in that I was hyper aware that I was in the process of an experiment, it served as a reminder to utilize my full closet- not just the pieces at eye level. It keeps things more interesting.

Some things I’d suspected were confirmed: I feel better and act more confidently when I’m put together. Look good, feel good is for the most part, a great way to cheat your way into a better mood even when you don’t wake up that way. And while that does include fun outfits, I realized I feel my best in a uniform of sorts: romantic blouse + high waisted denim + heel. Simple, but it worked every single time. It’s something I’ll remember from now on when I have those frustrating WHAT DO I WEAR?! mornings, but also when I’m shopping. If I feel best in blouses and jeans, might as well widen the repertoire.

Even if I never document a look again, it’s nice to be able to look back at these ones for inspiration, but also for the memories that come with them. Day 1 was my last first day of my undergrad! Day 4 was when I officially started dating someone! Day 23 was the last day I documented my outfit, the last day school and law school applications didn’t paralyze me (only exaggerating a little) and I could still do so! Outfits are nice bookmarks- visual reminders of the way you presented yourself, and felt, on a certain day.

 

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Day 1: My last first day of school (!!!) look consisted of a Mackage leather jacket, vintage Gucci dress shirt (scored for just under $30!), Artizia plaid pants, Converse, and a tote bag because I lost my backpack. (but doesn’t a tote say ~chill~ a little more anyway?!) I felt pretty happy with the look- relatively casual and not too cheesy for the first day.

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Day 2: I share custody of this jacket with my mother and whenever I have it I have a lot of trouble styling it. I figured I’d try an all denim look which I didn’t love but it did the trick. The whole look is Zara and shoes- which felt more like razor blades and made me bleed till I got home- are Brown’s. They refuse to break in but I refuse to let them win so I’ll keep trying.

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Day 3: Until I added the leather, I felt a lot like Wendy from Peter Pan in this dress. I was hammering a tapestry in our living room in it and my housemate said that it looked like I might murder her, which is understandable, because babydoll nightgowns (plus hammers) definitely give off creepy vibes on grown women. But! It was so warm outside and I doubt I’ll be able to wear this again without a sweater or pants, so I had to. I wish I’d had a bandana to tie around my neck or some colourful chokers but I had to keep it simple- I think it worked nicely in the end. Dress is Aritzia, bag is Zadig & Voltaire, shoes are Maje.

 

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Day 4: I was very glad to have opted for cut offs instead of jeans because by 10 I was already sweating. Moreover, short season is coming to an end and so I have to optimize when possible. This Zadig & Voltaire blouse always makes me feel like a Renaissance man (and was perfect for my poetry seminar- look the part, right?) and espadrilles (Castaner) + a straw basket add a girlish/french twist that always make me feel very me! Despite having to keep my arms down all day (it was really hot and silk is not forgiving) I felt wonderful all day and made note to dress more like a french poet.

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Day 5: I’d originally planned my outfit around a plaid blazer- wanting to clash a bunch of patterns- but it was too warm in the end. I lasted the morning in the leopard booties but got too blistery later and swapped them for loafers which made me feel more Olsen-y and actually worked better. It was a pretty chill Friday look.
Day 6: I didn’t get up until noon, and when I did I was in PJs until I went out at night. I forgot to document my look but it was my first resort to an all black look so I’ll just let you imagine it.

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Day 7: I followed Thursday’s equation here- blouse (actually a bodysuit by Zara), cut offs + basket, and a fun heel, also by Zara, which are not the comfiest but they do give me Carrie Bradshaw vibes. I tend to feel more productive when I look semi-put together, and since I was just spending the afternoon sitting at Stauffer I could afford to put aesthetic ahead of comfort.

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Day 8: This particular look reminded me that I’m purely a utilitarian dresser at 7 AM on Mondays. The only fun thing about this outfit is my Fjallraven that I can only wear if I forgo my laptop, but since my 8:30 forbids electronics anyway, I was able to add a tiny pop of colour. Also, the shirt is from H&M’s men’s section- which I am convinced is the hack for the perfect tee. They’re thicker and more structured than woman’s tees and fall in baggy perfection. Felt boyish all day but I was too tired to care.

 

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Day 9: This outfit was conceived with one consideration in mind: All You Can Eat sushi. It was my only plan for the day and therefore loose apparel was required. My excitement about said plan somehow mirrored itself in my sartorial choices and I soon found myself feeling like a fourth grader (top handle lunch box bag that is super inconvenient but also super cute included), decked out in yellow (so happy!!) and sparkly platforms (so fun in the sun!!).  A kiddie outfit can make you feel a little lighter, and sometimes that’s all you need (aside from sushi).

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Day 10: I forgot that I’d agreed to sit in on a engineering lecture with a friend of mine this day. While my being there was contingent on my discretion, I did stand out just a bit. No one called me out, though, and I loved getting to wear this dress again. My favourite way to wear it is with chucks and a leather jacket, or foregoing the slip for a bathing suit instead-  it’s such a good festival dress! Like most things I own, dress is Zara, bought for a fraction because it had a small rip that I (my mom) sewed right up! Fun!

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Day 11: I love wearing this top (Zara…) as a going out shirt because it shows skin in an unusual way but still offers a lot of coverage. I’m a sucker for a high neck and Victorian vibes. I didn’t want to wear shorts again but it was too hot for anything else and none of my dresses were doing it for me, so I figured I’d resort back to the equation I’ve realized never makes me second guess myself. Matched the shoes to my blouse and update: they still make me bleed.

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Day 12: I was almost embarrassed at A) how uninteresting this outfit was B) how sweaty I am in it and C) that I nonetheless, have to include it in this post. I was going home to Toronto and had to quickly put together something (AKA pick up my shorts from the floor and put on the lightest tank- Zara- I could find because boy was it hot) for the drive. Meh.

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Day 13: We don’t have a full length mirror at home (I know, weird) so I made my mom document my outfit! I had a wedding this day! I decided to forgo the traditional dress and opt for a suit and lace tank- both from The Kooples. I have never felt cooler and wish I could wear it all over again- next time with Adidas and a crop to dress it down a bit.

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Day 14: Got home from Toronto on Sunday and immediately changed into the lightest dress I own- a slip from Maje. I wear this to go out, in the winter over a turtle neck, over jeans… It’s basically the most versatile piece I own and I have been loving it for almost 5 years now! I was a sweaty, hungover, mess trying to catch up with work and friends that day but that simple little slip made my life a little more put together- and cooler.

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Day 15: After the past few days of thoughtless (apart from with re: to the weather) I thought I’d feel a little better about myself if I started my week with something that had a little more intention. I paired a plaid Zara skirt with some more pattern- a Grateful Dead tee- and new loafers. I know I’m about a year late on them, but I guess that’s the time it took for Steve Madden to make a half decent version of the Gucci Princetowns.

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Day 16: I only realized after I documented this look that I’d accidentally- a sartorial Freudian slip of sorts inspired by Paris Fashion Week- followed the editor equation for this outfit. It’s a trusted combo- black heels, boyfriend denim, white tee, jacket (Chanel or Chanel-inspired) slung across shoulders. My hair was still wet but I think that just furthers the whole editor look- too busy for blow outs! Felt professional all day, and super appropriate for my MUSE meeting that evening. Jacket and shoes are Zara, jeans are Gap.

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Day 17: Another good go to is jeans, blazer (both Zara), band tee (H&M), and fun (shiny) booties (Steve Madden). The blazer was too hot for outside but was perfect for Stauffer which was where I spent the better part of my day, anyway. It’s a predictable, but efficient uniform.

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Day 18: It’s FALL! I’d been waiting to pull out this dress (do I have to specify that it’s Zara at this point? It feels like a Valentino to me, so that’s all that matters) but it’s quite thick and has a high neck and long sleeves so theres only a small window of time that I can actually manage it- aka beautiful sunny fall days where the air is crisp but the sun is still beating. I felt so great all day. I got into a debate (something I seldom do) in my poetry seminar I have to, at least in part, credit this dress. Confidence comes from within but also from your armour- what better armour than Victorian inspired embroidery?!

Day 19: That day called for Stauffer so I wore what I consider to be an upgraded version of swears (from Aritzia) and my coziest Madewell sweater. Was warm all day and felt pretty presentable- and looking back at the picture: long legged also! Love what a good stripe will do to your legs. Made note to buy more Adidas.

Day 20: Can you tell school has picked up? This was another Stauffer look, weekend edition. Felt super boyish but some days you don’t care and all neutrals never looks terrible. Meh. Would not repeat.

Day 21: After 3 days at the library I think I finally struck a balance. My leather Aritzia pants are surprisingly warm, my loafers furry (and nerdy), and a grey sweater under a grey blazer was the one thing I was unsure of but as it turns out, it passes as semi-monochrome and I don’t mind it. I was warm and honestly, looked the part of “studious” (see: blazer + loafers) which truly helps me get work done.

Day 22: This is my birthday outfit! I always feel pressure to not dress in a particular way on my birthday (a dress for example would make me feel like I was trying to be the centre of attention in a bit of a childish way?! Is that strange?! Maybe?! Yes?!) so I chose something simple. Mind you, this outfit was also created at 7:30 AM so it does steal its influence from about a week ago, with the addition of the leather jacket. Felt fine all day, and definitely not birthday like.

Day 23: This is an outfit that I swear looks 50% IRL. The blouse (vintage) is wayyyy poofier, the bow wayyyy bigger, and the whole thing just wayyyy better when you can see the way it all moves… Also, I could’ve tried for a better photo but didn’t quite have time for a second shot. But vintage clothing has a way of making you feel so special all day which is why I love it so much. Plus, I followed my equation! Way to end on a high.