Right after I got married, I started a new job, which involved a lot of travel. After my first trip (remember the four outfits and super full suitcase?) I needed to figure out how to pack for work trips moving forward. The pendulum eventually swung very far the other way, resulting in a year long period where I took the easiest possible route when traveling.
My uniform became black stretchy pants that were professional and traveled well but weren’t super flattering, a company shirt, and serviceable but not fun shoes. Yes, it was easy. Packing was simple, getting dressed was fast, and nothing wrinkled. But I felt boring. Frumpy. Matronly! For years I had been interested in fashion, shopping was a sport, and I planned my outfits a week in advance, coordinating down to the earrings. But once I started traveling, my life got busy in an unfamiliar way.
I almost feel like I became a shell of myself. Or, more accurately, my personality retreated and there was a layer of frump covering the interesting parts. This all sounds very dramatic, and you may be wondering how it ties in to clothes. All I know is that looking back on that year I hardly recognize myself, physically and mentally. I gained weight, I stopped doing my hair and settled for ponytails every day, I didn’t do anything fun with makeup….. I felt bad about myself. I remember being on a plane and looking down at the shoes of the woman next to me, fabulous purple flats with jewels. As I looked at them I realized how long it had been since I had made an effort with my appearance at work, and thought, What has happened to me?
I don’t know what happened, but after a trip to Chicago to see my sisters in November of 2007 things started to change. I started eating better and got back into yoga, so lost some weight. That made finding new clothes fun, and getting dressed a joy instead of a chore. It didn’t happen overnight – I still wore those terrible company shirts, and sometimes the stretch pants, but I wore cute black ballet flats and found some fabulous earrings. The next step: I got some new slacks – still black, but actual slacks that were flattering. Later I bought my favorite magenta flats (which I still wear all the time) and became a little more adventurous with my outfits. A light teal cardigan over a gray blouse with teal and pink dots? Yes please! 2008 ended with a newly red and significantly shorter hairstyle, exchanging my black work purse for a brightly colored one, and amping up my makeup routine. I felt like a new woman!
The sense of confidence I now feel is still a joy to experience. I know that sometimes the path of least resistance is so tempting, and making the the effort is so much work. If you are struggling with the extra effort, don’t give up! I’ve been there, I know how it feels. But it is so worth it to know that you look good, and feeling secure and confident about yourself will make those long travel days just a little bit brighter. You can do it!