How to get out of a style rut?

by Sylvia

How to get out of a style rut |

Both me and others were a bit saddened by a comment from Cheryl as a response to an outfit I posted on my Facebook page: “When you are slim like this lady you can wear what you like. I am feeling so down today and have lost my way with my wardrobe  I’m feeling old, (at 48) fat and frumpy”.

I know that quite a few women feel this way.

Increasing weight, hormones, health issues and life in general can get us into a style rut and make us feel less than wonderful.

Of course these can sometimes lead to more serious issues like depression, but that is beyond the scope of this article. Today we will mainly focus on how to get out of a style rut.

That in itself can make you feel better about yourself, as it really is true that looking good can make you feel good as well. (for those that feel that you are getting really depressed, I recommend this article by reader Lorraine on how to cope with depression).

How do you get into a style rut?

A style rut often happens when you feel that you don’t have the time or the desire to spend time on dressing and / or self grooming. You may be overwhelmed by or too busy with your children, not feel happy with your career or relationship or got frustrated by the increasing size of your body or overwhelming health issues. You may feel that looking after yourself is not important or that there is no time for that.

The problem is that when you stop looking after yourself, you will look even worse and therefore FEEL even worse. It can become a downward spiral.

Before you know it, you may feel old, fat and frumpy as Cheryl expressed above.

What can you do to get out of your style rut?

First of all, you need to realise that you are in style rut and that you are doing this to yourself.

You have stopped caring at some point and stopped making an effort to look after yourself for any of the reasons mentioned above.

You will need to get rid of any excuses you have given yourself as reasons why you can’t look good.

Some of these can be:

  1. “I’m too old to look good”
  2. “I’m too fat”
  3. “I have no style”
  4. “I have no time for shopping”
  5. “I have no money to buy anything”

Let’s tackle these excuses one by one.

1. I’m too old to look good

I assure you that you can never be too old to look good!

No matter what age, if you have developed your own sense of style, it really does not matter if you have a few more wrinkles or not. Everyone can achieve a young & hip look and there are so many ways to achieve that. Add some funky shoes to your outfit, wear a modern necklace and choose clothes that fit are just a few things you can do.

In fact, this whole website is about how to look young, hip and stylish after 40. Often it’s not even about how you dress specifically, but how you approach life in generally. Suzanne’s article on how to look young and youthful after 40 gives some great tips on how to achieve this.

A great example of someone who celebrates life and looks amazing after 70, is Judith. Check out her article on this site on how to look amazing in hats.

Looking great over 70, The Style Crone |

2. I’m too fat

Many women give their increased body size as the excuse for not being able to look good. I understand that it can be a challenge to dress for a changing body after 40. Many find that they need to adjust to a bigger tummy, the loss of waist, bigger hips etc. It is no excuse to look frumpy though.

When your body changes, you may need to learn a new set of guidelines on how to dress the new curves of your body. It may take some effort and it may involve a few trips to the shops, trial and error and some commitment from you. You can start by reading this article on determining your body type.

When you put in the effort and learn what works for your body type and your personality, you will soon discover that you can look good no matter what size you have.

One of the best examples of someone who looks superbly chic while being curvy is Georgette. Check out this article on how to dress for curves and be inspired by how fabulous she looks!

How to dress for the curvy body type - Georgette |

3. I have no style

When you have neglected yourself for a while and have paid no attention to what you like, what excites and delights you and put no effort whatsoever in finding clothes that suit your body type and personality, you may say to yourself that you have no style.

The truth is that you have neglected your style too much.

Everyone has style.

Everyone has a unique personality and their own preferences and likes. You just need to find or rediscover what they are.

The articles in the finding your style section of this site will help, but you may also want to make the investment in my style course: 21 Steps to a More Stylish You. This course will take you on a path of self discovery that lets you connect with your style personality, your body, your style preferences, the style you aspire to and the person you want to become. There will be no dictations on what to wear here. You will discover that all yourself. We will give you lots of helpful pointers though and will give feedback on any outfits you choose to upload.


4. I have no time for shopping

Another well-known excuse is that you think that you have no time.

Fact is, everybody has the same amount of time each day. It’s up to you to decide on how to spend that time. What will get your priority?

If you think that you have no time to look after yourself because your kids, husband, job or whatever else it is needs it more, you are doing both yourself and others a disservice.

You should always make sure that you look after yourself first.

Only when you are happy with yourself, both mentally and physically, will you be able to look after others and / or your job well. If there is no time to go to the hair dresser once a month or go to a shop, there is something wrong with your priorities.

Have another look at your schedule and make sure to plan some “YOU” time a month in advance if you must. It’s the best you can do both for yourself and for others as well.

5. I have no money

This is another popular excuse.

I know that not everyone has equal amounts of money and that times are tough for some, but most of us in the developed world have enough to live on.

You don’t need the latest designer clothes and bags to look good. If you know what you like and what suits you, you can buy fabulous clothes in thrift shops and fast fashion retailers as well.

When you are on a budget, you will need to be even smarter about your fashion choices.

You will need to know even better what suits you and what does not. You may want to create a few smart capsule wardrobes, so you can easily mix and match all your clothes and always have something unique to wear.

How to get out of your style rut?

Regardless of our height, weight or physical limitations, feeling comfortable in your body is important at any age. When our clothes fit and feel comfortable they become an expression of who we are and cannot only be an enjoyable experience but uplifting as well.

Many of us throw our hands up in the air as we sense our appearance changing and the clothes we once enjoyed no longer feel or look good on us. We just have to adjust! And, we can!

So go through this list of excuses and ask yourself honestly: “What is my excuse?”

Perhaps you have several.

Concentrate on the one that is your biggest excuse, and try applying some of the recommendation mentioned to counter them.

Start with one excuse at the time. Once you have overcome that issue, move to the next excuse you may use for yourself to stop looking good.

Take baby steps and slowly but surely start making some positive changes.

As an extra motivator, here are just some reasons why looking good is important

1. When you look great, you feel great

You may have heard the phrase before: When you look great you feel great. I believe this to be true. When you don’t put in the effort, you will know deep down that you don’t look your best and your face will show it.

You will look less confident and less approachable.

On the other hand when you have made an effort and can look in the mirror with a confident smile, you will show that to the world. You will look confident and happy and beautiful and others will notice that too.

I even believe that making an effort in terms of your clothing can actually reverse a bad mood, so it can be very therapeutic as well.

2. It shows that you care about yourself and others

Others DO really appreciate when you look after yourself. Not only are you entertaining and pleasing yourself with some creativity or color, others will be delighted as well. Although I believe that you should mainly dress up to delight yourself, there certainly is no harm in entertaining others as well!

3. You will be taken more seriously

Unfortunately, this one is a fact of life. If you look better, others will take you more seriously. In a study it was even shown that women that put on more makeup will have better promotion chances (for more info see my article makeup: is it essential for women).

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t agree with this, but I have experienced myself that you will be more appreciated when you look better.

I am hoping though, that you will take the first 2 reasons more to heart. I believe that making yourself look stylish and beautiful should always be done, because you yourself will feel and see the benefits and not because others expect it from you.

4. You will have more FUN

Fashion, styling and dressing up is fun. When you start seeing the potential of dressing again and how it makes you look and feel, it will become a fun activity and not something you dread.

You will take delight from websites like these and not feel threatened by thin models and the latest styles. You will know what suits you and what you can do this season to make YOU feel better.

You will know how to add perhaps one trend to your style this year and how you can play with color, prints and silhouettes. You will have fun with your style and that is exactly how it should be.

Some final words

I hope I have convinced those of you that are in a style rut to have more fun with clothes and discover your stylish you. Looking stylish doesn’t have to be a chore but can be a lot of fun.

I’m sure that the time (and perhaps a bit of money) invested will make you feel happier, more alive and will help you to enjoy your life after 40 even more!

I would love to hear your feedback! Have you ever been in a style rut? How did you get out of it? If you are in a style rut right now, what is your main issue and what will you do to beat the style rut?


P.S. If you are in a style rut right now, my style course will definitely help!

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }


Wonderful advice Sylvia! As a sales associate in a popular clothing shop that caters to over 40 women, I often see women who have totally given up on themselves. They buy clothing for solely utilitarian purposes often not even trying the clothing on. Many have given up on grooming, makeup, etc. On the other hand, I see women who still make efforts to look attractive and put together and enjoy dressing and look forward to updates in their wardrobes. I think it boils down to thinking that you are worth the effort it takes and being confident in yourself.



Yes you are totally right. It’s so sad that women give up on themselves; everybody can look beautiful and feel confident. I hope you are able to help some women in your shop.



I think I have used all the excuses at one time or another.

I mentioned this during the style challenge, but my road out of this was a commitment everyday to wear earrings and put on mascara. The rest followed. Sometimes we need to take a really, really small first step to move forward.

The other thing I did was I named the date when I would stop using my children as an excuse (this was mostly for housecleaning, but it can apply for this.) I realized that when my youngest started kindergarten, I would have two mornings a week where I wasn’t working and she wasn’t home, when I would suddenly have “time.” I think this was important for me because it saved me from frittering away those 8 hours and really using them to do things that were important to me.



Great advice Lisa. It’s all about taking that first small step….


Tracey Jennings

Right now the winter has begun to take it’s toll on many of us in the blogging world and this is timely written…. I hibernated on my couch for a few days last week when we had an entire foot of snow dumped on my beach town that rarely gets snow… this after 5 inches the week before… The hibernation was just the thing to get me back in the mood to start styling outfits again… Heading to the forum to show my “Coming Out of Hibernation” Outfit…



Yes, I should probably have added the climate as a reason too. It’s very easy just to hibernate and cover yourself in huge layers in winter. For those that don’t feel that they can dress well in winter this interview with Nicole who lives in Alaska is a great resource:



I must confess that my clothes yesterday were a turtleneck and a plaid wool men’s button down shirt over jeans (over long-johns). It was not attractive. But I was warm as I shoveled sidewalks and shook snow out of trees!



Sometimes you just need to be warm and comfortable. Believe me I’m very practical for my work indoors here too!


kay kerns

I do suffer from moderate but chronic depression and can all too easily slide into an apathetic state where I don’t make an effort to care for myself let alone do my hair and makeup and choose a cute outfit. If I can get excited about my clothes, hair and makeup it is very therapeutic even if I don’t have the funds to purchase anything new I can still make the most of what I do have. Even going through my wardrobe and eliminating items that drag down my mood is helpful. Wearing more color and combining my things in new ways cheers me up, and so does refashioning old jewelry into new pieces. Sites like this are a great source of encouragement and inspiration. Keep up the good work Sylvia and all you other bloggers :).



Great to hear that my site works and keeps you inspired Kay. Keep up the good work remixing your clothes and accessories and having fun with them!



Very good post, Sylvia, I am sure there is at least one point most of us can relate to very well!

“I am too fat” – when there are a couple of extra “winter” kilos, get rid of them. I am currently on “no alcohol, no meat, lots of vegetables, fish, fruit and herbal tea”…. Just to feel better again and fit into my spring/summer clothes.
If, for whatever reason, there is more than a couple of kilos, also Tanesha’s blog Girl With Curves is fabulous.

“I have no money” – On my blog I show how to dress without designer clothes. And I get a lot of inspiration from Kimberly of Penny Pincher Fashion

Annette | Lady of Style



Thanks Annette and great site referrals.



I totally agree that you can begin to look good, even when you don’t look your ideal bodywise or feel very good mentally. I’ve suffered from depression at times and a bright lipstick or red bag has worked. Obviously, it doesn’t do away with serious depression, but it can help to lighten the mood a little. I have a sister-in-law who is a British size 18 and refuses to buy new things because of it – unless they’re men’s checked shirts, which she wears over enormous loose T-shirts. Going shopping with her is a nightmare; she just will not even try things on. We saw a lovely lady shop assistant, herself at least an 18 – and she looked wonderful, in colourful, fashionable clothes that really suited her. She offered sis-in-law help, but she utterly refused to try anything on or take advise – which was so sad, as she has a very young face and lovely complexion, as well as comparatively slim bottom and legs. Her size depresses her, but I feel that she could still dress for now, look good and be uplifted. I have to shut up about it with her, or I start to feel as if I’m preaching at her or being horrible, but it exasperates me no end!



Quite a sad story Trisha. It’s hard to give help to those who don’t want to listen. I hope she will be able to understand one day that her size does not prevent her from looking good and hopefully then she will be able to take baby steps and find her style groove back.



What a great article and something we can all relate to. As you know from the 2013 Style Challenge I hadn’t given up but was in a style rut. I didn’t feel my lifestyle allowed me to wear the clothes I wanted to wear and I had generally lost my way.
However, I shed a few excess pounds through Weight Watchers, did the Style Challenge, reignited my enthusiasm for clothes and started creating opportunities to wear them. It even carried me through some health issues last year.
You don’t have to pay a lot to look stylish – Annette (Lady of Style) is a great example of somebody who shops on the high street but looks amazing.
I urge anybody who has lost their way to learn to love yourself, lose the pounds (if you need/want to) and do the Style Challenge!



Great to hear that it was such a turnaround for you! I know I and my readers are all still so impressed how you went through some difficult times this year and found solace from your clothing.
For others, the style challenge Lorraine is referring to is now my Style Course that I mention in the article.



Thank you for this write up. I live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and at the moment we are in the a deep freeze, we are talking -35. I find it very hard to dress fashionably in this weather as no matter where I go I leave my coat on. I try to dress nicely under my coat but find, why bother, when I never take it off. I am in the process of trying to find trendy warm coats/scarves/hats to spruce up my wardrobe and hope that helps. I will be reading your article on cold weather style, love your website.



I feel for you Sheri. Don’t worry too much about it. Even the best of us would have trouble dressing nicely in that kind of weather. Sometimes you just need to stay comfortable…. Yes, the coat becomes very important in this instance!



Great article.

I agree so much that when we take the time to make ourselves look good we feel better and are more productive.




Being of reasonable height (even rather tall), normal weight and size, normal appearance, rectangle shape and having a fair bit of money to spend…. I am home and dry. I should never, ever complain. Got the message. I am grateful, really I am.


The Style Crone

Just catching up Sylvia. Thank you so much for the mention and for the message!



like some ofyour ideas…and I am over 50 and a little over my usualy size, it fluctuates, but I do go to thrift stores, garage sales for jewelry, and several discount/outlet stores for odds and ends. I just try to come up with new combinations of what i have and try to stay away from my comfort color, black, which is hard to do. Thanks for the tips



Welcome Di and thanks for your feedback. Keep experimenting with new combination and ideas and most of all have FUN!


Muriel Philips

Thank you Sylvia for another awesome post.



Thanks Sylvia, I like your ideas. although I have 3 kids I try to make sure that what I wear day to day is a bright color or just groovy trainers and ‘running around’ wear can be funky and uplifting. I don’t have many opportunities to ‘dress up’ so those day to day clothes can be a boost.



I’ve always prided myself on wearing beautiful clothes, and everyone knew me for being quite a clotheshorse. However, after having a baby, I have a frustrating shape, and my clothes no longer fit me well. I’ve decluttered and given them away, and now feel I have nothing to wear!
Add in the factor of an endless summer this year (think super hot, sticky, humid days) which makes my hair frizzy and unmanageable, and it adds up to feeling frumpy and awful every day. I realize I have given up. I just put my hair back everyday, and wear “whatever”. Not a good feeling.
Reading your blog has inspired me to get back up and try again! It’s so true what you say about looking good being important. It reflects how you feel about yourself, and in turn can affect your success in other areas of life. Thanks for saying that!



Glad I could inspire you Madeleine. It sounds like you are on the right path to looking fab again!


Lea McCain

Recently, I turned 60 and it doesn’t feel like me. Dressing my age is too old and dressing really younger is silly and foolish. It is difficult to find a balance. Most retail stores, try to dress you older than you feel, etc. Maybe, I should start a women’s line of clothes and call it, “Not There Yet.”



Lea, I went through the very same feeings around 60, I am 64 in Feb. Funny enough, moving and meeting new friends who are in their 70s and very fashionable has helped me work through some of these issues. I don’t have the money to buy Armani as one new friend does, so look for similar things in a lower price bracket with nicely fitted puffa coats for example, ones that are quite smart enough for a town, but you can still go for a walk in. Actually, I have never been as classic a dresser as her, so tend to dress them down with well fitting dark dye jeans and a nice roll neck or casual smart jumper. For me (and this is very much a personal thing) fit is important and viscoise which breathes, not polyester, in easy fitting jersey wrap dresses are a constant, with little boots which are less dated than conventional heels. Jewellery, long casual scarves and bags are my big thing and lots of short boots, which I use to dress up the jeans or black jersey slim trousers (almost skinnies, but more flattering) or dresses.I love the British brand Warehouse, although I have to be selective, given my age. I tend to shop in younger stores like that one and Mango and Zara, but look search for things that will work for me, its a lot of legwork, but fortunately I quite enjoy it, and I enjoy finding a bargain in H and M too, or anywhere come to that. I would not go to stuffy stores meant for older women as that would make me feel older than ever. I had my colours done too, this means I stick (but not religiously) to roughly an autumnal palette of softer wines, reds, rusts and greens with black as a basis. This makes it easier to just fling something on with something else and have it go together without too much pontificating. In fact, I have found the best thing is to go more casual with age, but smarter with it, if that makes sense!


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