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Functional Dressing for the Roles in Your Life

A common misconception about creating your style is that you have to get rid of your whole wardrobe and find something new. People worry about being uncomfortable, giving up their yoga pants, or feeling stuffy. They don’t think about dressing well for the different roles in your life. Your life should include functional dressing for the roles in your life.

Because life isn’t just one size fits all. And your style should reflect your life. That’s why it is called a lifestyle!

So what is functional dressing?

Functional dressing is something I came up with to explain how your wardrobe should have pieces that function well for all areas of your life. I have two rules: it should be useful or beautiful (or both!).

I broke style down into as many categories as I could think of to hopefully help you figure out what kind of roles you may have in your own life and what wardrobe is needed to make sense in each of those areas. I’ll go into a little more detail on some thoughts about each one, but here is 10 different areas to start with (Feel free to add your own!):

  1. Family
  2. Work
  3. Friends
  4. Church
  5. Fancy Events
  6. Casual
  7. Holiday
  8. Vacation
  9. Workout
  10. Projects

You may find that some of these areas overlap, and that is actually a GOOD thing. That means you can make the most of your wardrobe. Find similarities, find pieces that function well for several areas. By spending time ahead of time on each of these areas, you will develop a functional dressing routine that works perfectly for you. This is why I show how to style pieces different ways, like this patterned midi skirt, so you can see how one piece can serve you well in different roles!

I created a worksheet that you can download too, to follow along and fill out your own roles for functional dressing!

1. Family

When thinking about how to dress to reflect your role in your family, what activities do you do together? Are you home with your family, or does family time include going out to a park, out to a restaurant? Listing your daily activities can give you a good idea of what might be functional for your role in your family.

Make a list of pieces you have that fit your family role.

Make a list of what is missing.

What do you think about your role in your family? What is the importance of dressing well for this role? Is being functional more important, or is beauty more important? You can have both, but knowing in your mind what the main goal is can help when knowing what pieces to let go of or keep.

2. Work

What functions do you need your workwear to perform? This category could look very different depending on your career. If you are a nurse, you might have it easy, but if you are a business woman or artist, you might have to put a little more thought into what you need to get out of your workwear. That is what functional dressing is all about!

What activities do I do in my workwear?
What is my job’s dress code?
What do I enjoy wearing to work?

What makes me feel most productive and put together?

What is missing?

What should I keep?

3. Friends

Functional dressing can be fun too! Think about how you spend time with your friends. Are you a chill at home person? Do you like to go spend time at the coffee shop? Maybe you like to do activities together like workout, or go shopping at the mall. Maybe you like to go to concerts!

List all of these ideas out, so you have a great idea of what type of outfits you would like to wear for each activity.

4. Church

How do you want to show up when you go to church? (At the time of writing this, I’m still social distancing…yay 2020! So my church wardrobe looks a lot like casual comfy clothes!)

Is your church more casual, or dressy? Do YOU want to dress more casually or dressy when you go to church? You get to decide how you want to show up, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else is wearing.

A lot of times we think we need to fit into a box that everyone else is in, but you can create your own box. I like to think of how I’m showing up and dressing as an extension of respect and worship to God. Taking care of me shows how I’m taking care of His creation.

What pieces do you need to feel comfortable and confident for church or dressier events?

5. Fancy Events

You get invited to a banquet, or a Christmas party, or an award ceremony, a graduation, you name it, and you discover you have NOTHING in your closet that you can have as a go-to event outfit. Or you’ve been photographed in that same dress one thousand times.

Having a few go-to fancy event dresses in your closet can relieve so much stress when something does come up, and it can save money too, when you don’t have to buy something last minute.

I like to shop sales for fancier outfits. Often they will go on sale at the end of the season, and you will have it for when you need it. Keeping just a few options allows you to have a rotation for those events. And if you find you aren’t choosing one anymore, it may be time to make room for something new!

6. Casual

This may be the easiest part of functional dressing, and likely what makes up the bulk of most of our wardrobes. We all need some basics, a great pair of fitted jeans, that favorite sweat shirt, or t-shirts, some tank tops for layering. Having a fresh casual wardrobe can really help you feel confident and can be the basis of so many outfits.

What are your go-to casual pieces?

What colors are you continually drawn to?

7. Holiday

Similar to the Fancy Event category, it is a great idea to have a few go-to pieces for those holiday parties, or even what you plan to wear on certain holidays. I like to keep some items that are either Christmas colors, or have interesting textures like velvet or sequins that can easily be transitioned to wearing to holiday parties.

8. Vacation

For functional dressing in the vacation category, it’s important to recognize what your vacation habits are.

Where do you typically vacation?

What activities do you do?

What gear or items are needed year after year?

Including these things on your list can help you prepare for those future trips and make packing so much easier. Of course it is fun to buy something new, but if you have a list of what you know you will need, you can replace things as needed, or shop in advance.

9. Workout

It’s important to take care of our health and having a functional workout wardrobe can really eliminate excuses when we don’t feel equipped to workout. And it’s a good excuse to keep those yoga pants in your closet!

What activities do you enjoy performing?

What active wear do you need to be successful in your workouts?

How will being prepared with your workout wardrobe help you?

10. Projects

Last, but not least (well maybe it is…) I included a projects section. I’ve been there where I want to do some kind of DIY project, but I don’t want to get paint on my nice clothes! Having a few old t-shirts, and grubby jeans or pants will keep you prepared for those moments where you may need to get a little messy! This doesn’t have to be huge part of your wardrobe, and isn’t an excuse to keep ALL your old t-shirts, but it is something that I think can be overlooked.

Practical Application:

So what categories do you want to improve on? How will organizing your mental wardrobe lead to an easier time knowing what to keep and what to toss?

Feeling confident that you have the perfect attire for your role will help you show up more fully in your life and work. In a way, your wardrobe is an extension of you. And you are a complex and beautiful human being, that has multiple interests and areas that you need to show up for.

Don’t forget to download the Functional Dressing worksheet here, so you can do the work to find exactly what you need and what is missing!

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