Returning to the Office After the Pandemic Closet Purge :: Getting Your Style Back


“Playing dress up begins at age five and never truly ends.”-Kate Spade

Like so many little girls, I loved playing dress up in my mom’s closet. As a child of the ’70’s, I’ve already seen many trends come and go and come back again (hello, mom jeans and middle parts)! It makes no difference to me if it’s a classic look or a hot trend–I love clothes. 

I love fashion, but I also love a deal. I was thrift shopping for denim way before “vintage” was cool. 

closet purge

However, I chose a profession where either scrubs or very practical slacks and a comfortable top are the uniform. But post-pandemic, I decided it was time to up my working mom game.

Online Shopping, Marie Kondo, and the Pandemic

Online shopping was huge well before the pandemic–with deals and trends, influencers, and brands galore on Amazon, Pinterest, and Instagram. Now that everyone has pretty much abandoned the idea of workwear, and leggings and athleisure are now considered a high fashion, I decided it was time to revamp my closet.

I know the old “if you haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it” rule. That is practical advice for us all, but what if you haven’t worn it because you just don’t know HOW to wear it well, or differently? Are you tired of just pairing every color with black pants?

Being out of work for over six months, I had plenty of free time to watch tutorials and rework my closet. Between Marie Kondo and the pandemic, it looks like everyone had a pretty major closet purge. I spent an entire weekend reworking my closet and stumbled onto some winning combinations. What I pulled together turned out to be stylish, comfortable, practical, and basically free! I will never again say “I could never pull that off!”

closet purge

Tips for Reworking What You’ve Got

Getting Started

First, get a full length mirror, your cell phone, your bestie, your mom, or your daughter. Then be ready to get outside of your comfort zone! Take pictures of yourself in various outfits. That helped me to sort of “live with” the look and compare looks on me. I also texted friends with the message, “Does this look amazing or awful?”

closet purge

Your Signature Color

Second, know your color wheel. Yes, I’m looking at that gaudy orange! If you have ever been told, “That color looks so good on you–you should buy more of it,” then consider that your signature color! Embrace it! There are plenty of shades to play with that will accentuate your skin tone and suit you best. 

The All-Important Fit

Third, does it fit? Okay, I’m not technically talking about the “quarantine 15.” We won’t go there. Specifically, is it the right length and where does it fall on you? Wide leg or skinny, maxi or mini, does it accentuate the narrowest point of your leg? I have a midi skirt I love, but because I’m petite, it hits at the middle of my calf and just looks . . . blah. But pulling it to my knee created a better length for me, and I want to wear it all the time!

How about the neckline? Does it flatter you, or does it make you look frumpy? I took a maxi dress I never wore and made it a tunic that I wear on repeat! You won’t believe all the hems I’ve had sewn up to make lengths work on my petite frame. Don’t have a seamstress? No problem! All you need are sharp scissors and maybe an iron to do a simple hem with some iron-on tape! Plus, frayed and distressed is in, so go with it. 

Have Your Own Fashion Show

Next, try on everything! This is when the fun begins. Start mixing and matching. Look at colors first. My new go-to is monochromatic dressing. Pull out everything in one color and play with it. Some shades won’t go, and others will match like they were meant to go together.

Pop on an animal print shoe or contrasting color jewelry and look like a million bucks. Also, try matching prints! If the prints have the same colors, see how it looks together. You never know, you may find an amazingly chic combo that will help you stand out on that Zoom call or that in person (finally!) meeting. Try to avoid pairing every color with black. Obviously, black is a neutral, but don’t forget about brown, tan, grey, and even olive! 

Animal print is a neutral. The end.  Just trust me on this one.

How to Make the Most of Your Newly Found Closet

After a major closet purge, you probably kept your favorite pieces and lots of basics. Decide how can you wear them in a different way.

Try a spin on the classic white dress shirt and jeans. Why not pair a chambray shirt with dress pants or a pencil skirt? How about a white dress shirt with athleisure? What about swapping in a jean jacket instead of a blazer? Yes!

Try a bright sweatshirt with dress pants and see the difference! And after seeing the almost unlimited styling options, I’m now a convert for a silk (or silky) shirt. Silk tops are the ultimate closet chameleon for jeans, pants, suits, over a simple dress, or vegan leather leggings (so chic)! It can be the ultimate dress up or dress down piece.

Stay with me on this one, but think of adding some shimmer or sparkle. I love sparkle with jeans, and it’s so fun to add a shimmer under a conservative jacket or cardigan for a Zoom call. 

Finally, if you aren’t sure what to do, add a pop of color! A splash of red or yellow is always a classic with a LBD. Think pink with blue or orange with green. Use your favorite patterns to get inspired on color combinations. 

Final Thoughts to Maintain Your New Found Fashion

Lastly, here are some ideas to consider when making a new purchase. Imagine the item in your wardrobe. I have started planning for pieces that I really want instead of just blindly buying. Stalk Poshmark or the Target app looking for a specific color or style. Ask yourself, “Can I make several outfits with this or dress it up or down? Will it work in multiple seasons with different accessories?”

Think of a red top with a crisp white shirt vs. under a tan blazer. It does not need to be a neutral basic to make this look work. Once you have re-imagined your options and created outfits that you know will work, it’s easier to envision how things will fit in the mix. If you are not starting from scratch, consider tossing one item for each new item you add. This is hard, but it may cause less impulse buying or chasing trends. You can gift, thrift, or consign it! 

There are so many difficult choices moms have to make everyday. I hope that this will make your wardrobe choices more streamlined, creative, fun, and thoughtful. Dressing should be fun and allow you to put yourself in the best light.

closet purge

While much of our future is going to be online, I still think getting up, putting on your favorite outfit, making an impression, and feeling good about yourself is one of the best acts of self-care we can do as moms.  

“Life is a party, dress like it”-Audrey Hepburn

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Christine lives with her husband of 20 years, Ernie and their three children , Eli (16), Sawyer (14), and Olivia (11) and their sweet Lab, Rocket, in Gardendale, AL. She is proud to call herself a wife, mom, daughter, friend, Physical Therapist, and colon cancer survivor. Health and wellness have always been the forefront of her professional and personal  life, and although her cancer journey brought her from healthcare provider to patient, she continues an active lifestyle including working as a PRN physical therapist, jogging, watching her kids play sports, and incorporating healthy meals into their busy life. While priorities often shift after a cancer diagnosis, being a community volunteer, helping wherever possible for her village of amazing friends, and traveling with her family are things she treasures. Always an avid writer in her personal journals, she began putting more feelings and stories of her faith, life, and experiences into Facebook posts, which made her think that pursuing blogging could be a great outlet. A lover of fashion, home decor, and also a great bargain, she can be found at her local consignment shop, thrift store, or TJ Maxx when not cheering for her kids at baseball, football, or cheer.