The Outfits We Turn To

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We all have them: the outfits you turn to when you’re feeling bloated, sad, or otherwise not so great. Sometimes we’ll wear this around the house as we sit and binge-watch Netflix or read our favourite book. Other times we have to go out into the world and need an outfit that will make us feel sparkly or as I like to call it, “In My Power.” We often think about what our favourite outfits are, but don’t necessarily think about the purpose that that outfit serves in our lives. And it might serve many.

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My go-to when I’m feeling bloated, anxious, tired has to be a pair of leggings and a comfy loose-knit sweater. Wearing tights almost makes me feel like I’m naked, but also swaddled in comfort. A loose-knit sweater makes me feel like I’m wrapped in a hug. The juxtaposition of the tight and loose is somehow a very soothing combo.

I’m also head over heels in love with this Stay Home Club t-shirt designed by Julia Bereciartu. Paired with my boyfriend jeans, I feel both comfy and cute. The fact that I only really started wearing t-shirts this past year (after a 5+ year long hiatus while I dated blouses) is really mind-blowing to me. What was I thinking?

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My other go-to is my red dress. For a long time I thought that I couldn’t wear red because my hair was red (although closer to a strawberry blond if I’m being honest). Then one day I fell in love with a red dress from Urban Outfitters and brought a few friends back to consult. The verdict was unanimous: I must have this dress. I’ve worn it at academic conferences, on stage at events, and out on dates. I call this my “I’m in my power” dress. Whenever I’m stuck on what to wear, my non-sexual life partner tells me to wear this dress.

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I was curious to know what outfits other women in my life turned to when they weren’t feeling so great and why that specific outfit was their go-to. I also really wanted an excuse to use my brand new camera! I’ve always wanted a DSLR but have never been able to afford one/justify the cost. But as an end of summer, “congrats you’re done teaching” gift to myself, I decided that wanting pretty pictures for my blog was as good a reason as any. Hope you enjoy the photos and reading the stories behind the outfits we turn to!

Tajja, English/Law Student

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This is an outfit that I turn to when my to-do list starts to feel overwhelming and it’s time to knuckle down. The pieces that constitute it are really more of a template: leggings + comfy t-shirt + oversized collared shirt, which usually gets substituted for a cardigan in the colder months. The outfit is a go-to in times of stress because the shirt lets me feel safely swaddled, while the cling of the leggings is conducive to curling up in a chair for long periods of time. It lets me be comfortable without feeling encumbered by fabric (the way I might from, say, a pair of sweatpants). There’s a purposeful polish to the outfit too, though—even if I need clothing that is unrestrictive enough to facilitate sitting in a library for hours, I still like to look and feel nice. The t-shirts are quality; I roll back the sleeves as much for style as for functionality. I can sometimes get a little enamoured of my own stress—probably the vestiges of a childhood tendency to think of myself in the third person. It might sound strange, but I find it motivating to sustain the mental image of myself as someone extremely capable despite high-pressure circumstances, like being in a montage that makes productivity sexy. And in that montage, I want to look hot. I’ll usually pair the ensemble with my Frye boots, as their sturdiness is comforting and grounding. I just put them on for the first time since having them resoled and thought, “These boots make me want to fight.” I think it’s good to have a piece in your closet that helps you attack a mountain of tasks with that kind of energy.

Shirt: Denim shirt: Aritzia / T-shirt: T by Alexander Wang / Leggings: Aritzia

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I’ll turn to this ensemble (and variations on it) when my body confidence is hovering around the lower end of the spectrum and I need an outfit to make me feel stronger. Before buying this pair of pants, pretty much all the bottoms I owned were skinny. I had it in my head—wrongly, as it turns out—that slouchier trousers and looking polished were mutually exclusive. This was my first experience with the jogging pant silhouette, and I’m so glad to have discovered it. This outfit is a go-to because the flowy pants don’t cling, but the high waist and the tapered leg mean they still look elegant, and I can feel like my body is being flattered without it being featured. I also like the deep, sizeable pockets and how they invite me to put my hands in them. It’s a stance of confidence and power that goes some way toward inspiring those feelings.

It’s worth mentioning that these aren’t just pants that I wear when I’m feeling less than confident—I also wear them when I’m feeling stellar, but it’s nice to be able to rely on a favourite piece to make me feel better if need be. I’m still discovering that I can pair them with basically anything in my wardrobe. Here, I’ve paired them with a cropped long sleeve t-shirt that’s fairly loose, as it’s unlikely in this mood that I’ll be keen on anything clingy, but the crop lets me show off the high waist and pockets of the pants. It’s really all about the pants. In case you can’t tell, I really like these pants. This post was not sponsored by Uniqlo.

Pants: Uniqlo / Sneakers: Nike Air Max 90 / Top: Brandy Melville

Laura-Louise, Executive Producer @ Raconteurs Storytelling

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This leopard print muumuu is what I often refer to as my “power garment”. The item that if I’m having a bad day, or feeling unfabulous for any reason, I can put this thing on and lounge in my apartment and feel like I’m amazing. A vintage store at the end of a block I lived on years ago (RIP Marylou Flamingo!), was closing up shop and threw a big party their last night — everything was for sale but super cheap, and everyone was dressing up in all the outrageous things left in the store. This muumuu was one of them — tried on and passed around by everyone but when I put it on, I knew it had to come with me.

It’s so completely ridiculous that it’s impossible to be serious when you are wearing it, and since a bad mood requires a certain seriousness, it is therefore impossible to be sad. You can’t be sad and silly at the same time — it’s not logically possible. The best thing is to get all dolled up in full hair and makeup (false lashes if I got em!) and then just stay in alone and drink tea or gin or something. This muumuu isn’t for them! It’s all for ME and I deserve it!

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During my undergrad in Montreal, my schedule aligned so that I would come home from class every day around 3:30, just enough time to sit down at 4 and take a nap during Oprah, then wake up at 5 when Dr. Phil came on. He’d just make you so mad you’d have to get up and turn it off and do something! But Oprah — she was an inspiration.

A Black woman raised in Chicago by an illiterate family, abused as a child, who despite being fat and Black still became the most revered woman in America. Who defined her own friendships and romantic relationships on her own terms, who got suburban moms reading Steinbeck, who somehow existed in a dreamy friendly bipartisan space in an increasingly disparate country. She gave me faith that women living in what I imagined my nightmare to be— white, suburban, middle class, uneducated, married with children straight from high school, in small town bubbles of homogeneousness and tradition — were hearing this message of intelligence and tolerance and kindness and empowerment. It gave me faith that maybe contemporary North American society wasn’t so doomed. During this time, I’d often tear up when describing just how amazing Oprah was, what she overcame and how much influence she so gracefully wielded.

When she switched from network to her own cable channel I was kind of devastated — I couldn’t afford cable! Who would I nap to now? Who would give me my daily dose of pithy and uncomplicated self-empowerment? Who would tell me stories of regular women who overcame car accidents or family drama, or bring me interviews with noncontroversial celebrities? Who would tell me the best cashmere ponchos and scented candles to buy if I ever somehow discovered both a sack full of money and a will to spend it on frivolous luxuries? WHO WOULD TELL ME TO LIVE MY BEST LIFE? No one. I have to tell myself to live my best life now.

I had this t-shirt made with what became my personal mantra, a reminder that we must be our own caretakers, our own best friends, that we alone are responsible for living our best lives. Oprah isn’t for us anymore. You have to be your own Oprah.

Ipana, Director of Community Engagement

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I’ll turn to this outfit when I’m feeling bloated and don’t want anyone to touch me or look at me. On a practical level it has a warm fleece underlining. But on a purely personal level, it reminds me of a time I got stuck for a day in Halifax airport when flying between the Caribbean and London as a passenger had a heart attack on the plane so it had to do an emergency landing and I had to buy this sweater out of sheer desperation as I was freezing. In short, it reminds me of other experiences of life and simply puts things into perspective.

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I wear this dress from Forever 21 whenever I’m feeling like life has prematurely aged me and I need a serious pick me up to make me feel carefree and young again. This outfit makes me feel great because it’s so feminine, fun, comfortable and effortlessly pretty. Plus it’s a tad daring with the back cut out.

Loretta Jean, Student & Burlesquer

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This black and white polkadot dress has been in my my wardrobe for over 10 years.  I put this dress on when I need an instant confidence boost. It’s been dubbed my Lucky Dress, because good things always seem to happen when I wear it. (Often I figuratively ‘get lucky’ when I wear this dress too, so that’s never a bad thing.) My favourite features are the ruching in the tummy area (it’s super flattering and makes me feel sexy even on days when I’m feeling crampy or a bit bloated), and the necklace, which draws attention to my décolletage (in my opinion, one of the sexiest parts of the female form.) Somehow, I magically have cleavage in this dress too, which being more on the smaller end of ta-ta spectrum doesn’t happen very often. The oxford shoes are a more recent acquisition, I purchased them before a recent trip to Paris because I needed good flats for walking around. They took a while to break in, but now they are my new favourite pair of shoes. They’re classic and will never go out of style.

Dress: Maybe Le Chateau / Shoes: Miz Mooz (purchased at Town Shoes)

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I call this one my Berlin look, in honour of the effortlessly cool and streamlined looks favoured by the young and hip populous of the German capital. I got both the pleated kilt and the cropped black t-shirt with rolled sleeves in the Mitte area of the Berlin while studying there in spring 2015. This is my go-to “I wanna look cute, not look like I tried too hard” outfit. I just kinda feel happy and badass in it. I also often wear it to doctor’s appointments; I have some chronic health issues so there are lots of these and I feel most relaxed and at ease in this outfit. Again, I feel an instant confidence boost in this outfit.

I usually wear this outfit with my Dr Martens boots, which are my primary go-to-footware like 9 months out of the year. I’ve been wearing mostly the same style of the British boots since high school, the pair in the photo are my slightly different style, since 2001. (But they’re always still mid-calf boots.) This grey pair were from the wardrobe of the TV show Lost Girl (which makes me love them even more.) A friend worked on the show and gifted them to me after they wrapped the last season.

Skirt: Glamorous (thrifted) / T-shirt: Monki (thrifted) / Boots: Dr. Martens

Barbara, Emotional Wellness Coach and Creator of Be With: Cards for Self-Care

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This is the comfy one. Really, when I’m feeling off and don’t have a need to be dressed up, this is pretty much how you will find me. My favoutrte super high waist leggings from Wilfred (a gift from mom & dad), my faithful grey sweater from Kind Exchange — which I’ve had many versions of throughout the years, and a big pashmina scarf gifted to me by my boo, Tanya. Basically, I like to be in some version of a full size body mitten — cozy, held and warm.

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Photographing this outfit actually inspired me to write about it for my weekly newsletter. I recently gained some weight, and this skirt was purchased in direct response to that. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been working on transforming my response to trying clothes on clothes that don’t fit. Rather than saying that there is something wrong with my body, I’ve taken to recognizing that the piece I’m trying on doesn’t support my body as it is in the moment. So the problem is with the ill-fitting piece of clothing, not my size. My body is just my body, and what it needs is something different, something like this skirt. It fits like a dream, and is a very lucky Value Village purchase. The t-shirt is Gap.

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This post was written by Margeaux

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