Repeating Outfits at Work: How Often Do You Do It?

Repeating Outfits at Work | CorporetteHere’s a great question for today, ladies: how often do you repeat outfits at the office? A lot has been said lately of capsule wardrobes for work — decluttering closets to winnow your wardrobes to things that “spark joy” — and a lot of that may leave you feeling like you’re totally repeating outfits at work. So let’s discuss — how often is it acceptable to do? Does it matter if a certain outfit is memorable in one way or another, such as by pairing unusual colors or prints together, or involving unusual pieces? And here’s a bonus question — how versatile are most items in your closet, anyway? For example, will you only buy a new item if it will “go” with at least three things in your wardrobe?

We had a great discussion on how often one can repeat outfits at work back in 2013, and I agree with a lot of my advice from there:

  • Don’t wear the exact same clothes twice in two days if you can avoid it — you want to give your clothes some time to air out, and you don’t want to get the office gossip mill started.
  • That said, having a personal uniform is A-OK — if you agree with Mark Zuckerberg and President Obama and find it makes your days easier, I’m all for it. But I might look for subtle differences in shape to make it clear to coworkers that you’re not wearing the same clothes twice in one day — if you wear a pair of black pants plus a black sweater every day, alternate the sweaters with crew necks, V-necks, shawl collars — and alternate the pants with ankle, bootcut, seasonless wool, cotton, etc.
  • If you have a very memorable piece, I don’t think you can repeat the exact same outfit more than once every two weeks. For example, let’s say you’ve bought a colorful tweed blazer and you’ve found a sweater that complements one of the colors in the tweed, and you like to wear it with a certain pencil skirt. That exact outfit is pretty memorable and probably shouldn’t be repeated more than once every two weeks — but of course you can wear the blazer with a white blouse and black pants on day 3, and again on top of a sheath dress on day 7, and then wear your blazer/sweater/skirt combo again on day 11.
  • As for versatility – since writing the post on capsule wardrobes I have been actively trying to only buy clothes that are black, blue, red, and purple, and it does make things a lot easier to grab in the morning. That said, a lot of green has sneaked into my closet anyway. Funnily enough, navy has been the hardest color to integrate, if only because I don’t like to wear it with dark rinse denim, and I feel like wearing black and navy together requires a bit more of intentional/attention.

How about you guys? Do you find yourselves reaching for the exact same outfits over and over again and repeating outfits for work? Do you plan your work outfits to avoid repetition? (This was a great post from Blue Collar Red Lipstick on outfit planning recently, btw.) Do you think that subtle variations — such as lipstick or shoe color, or wearing different accessories — “shake things up” enough that you can repeat outfits at the office more often? 

When do you repeat outfits at the office? Does it matter if you have a capsule wardrobe, a work uniform -- or do you plan your outfits meticulously?

Comments

  1. I was thinking about this just this morning – wore a colorful patterned skirt on Monday and was debating whether I could wear it again with a different shirt/blazer today. .

    • I have about 37 suit’s and skirt’s that I mix and match. Plus about 18 dresses (10 of them are RED) that the judge like’s me to wear in court. The manageing partner told me I should consider getting some new dresses and he would pay 75% this year. I may take advantage of that and get a WHOLE new wardrobe! YAY!!!

    • I wouldn’t. I disagree with Kat’s advice in that I think a memorable PIECE (skirt/shirt/jacket) should only be worn once every 2 weeks — I don’t think changing the items you wear with it is enough.

  2. Sydney Bristow :

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot since I got the Stylebook app and loaded in the vast majority of my clothing and accessories.

    I methodically went through and made every outfit combination possible (the app calls them “looks”). So now I see that I have 24 possible work outfits based around my new gray top. I can wear the gray top with my black, gray, navy, royal blue, teal, burgundy, etc cardigans or one of my new jackets and each of those top combinations (except the navy cardigan) with my black or gray pencil skirt.

    The VAST majority of my clothing items match most of the rest of my closet. Most of my skirts are neutral colors and I have a mix of neutral and color tops, cardigans, and jackets. I have a bright green skirt that obviously doesn’t go with everything, but it still goes with a surprising number of my other pieces.

    On Sundays I now sit down and put my outfits down to tights and jewelry into the calendar on the app. Since I have every possible combination already set up, I’ve been able to mix things up more often than before. So I’ll still wear my plum colored top once a week or every other week, but I’m able to realize that I wore it with a gray cardigan last week so I’ll pair it with the navy one this week, for example. Plus the app keeps track of what you wear most and least often as well as the best and worst cost per wear so I can try and cycle through some of the items I tend to forget (or finally get rid of them if I still resist wearing them).

    • Sydney Bristow :

      Shoot, I realize I actually didn’t answer the question. I have a couple of more recognizable pieces (the bright green skirt and a patterned dress) that I don’t wear more than every other week. I think that basically everything else isn’t very recognizable, particularly if I mix up the coordinating items regularly.

  3. Ha! I’m repeating a work outfit as I read this. I’m wearing the same cardigan, broche and shoes I wore on Monday and today is Thursday. I’m just sporting a different camisole and pair of pants.

    • Those are two different outfits in my book.

    • I think you’re in the clear as far as repeating outfits goes. I wear the same shoes nearly every day, some weeks, and my jewelry rarely changes. As for the cardigan, I’ll wear a black or other neutral / not memorable one twice in one week if it suits the outfit. (And the people I see daily are mostly men, who wouldn’t notice that I wore the same thing every day, unless it was a bathing suit or prom dress.)

  4. P.Erskine-Brown :

    Someone here recommended the stylebook app, and it has been worth the $4. It helps me put together outfits I otherwise wouldn’t have thought about, and helps me keep track of how frequently I wear things. It’s also great at identifying holes in my wardrobe. Like I realized if I only had a red skirt, I could tie x, y, and z together and make 6 new outfits with otherwise underutilized pieces in my closet.

    I try not to repeat “outfits” more than once a month or so, and pieces more than once every week and a half to two weeks. Not only does it make my wardrobe feel more expansive, it also makes my clothes last longer.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      That was me! Glad you like it!

      • Stylebook looks awesome (thank you!) but I have an android phone. Have you by chance tried ClosetSpace as well, and if so do you have any thoughts about it?

        • Sydney Bristow :

          I haven’t. This is the first one I tried and I only have an iPhone.

          Stylebook isn’t perfect. I wish it was linked with an online account so I could use it on my iPad too without manually syncing them or even just to fix my fear that my phone breaks and I lose all the work I’ve put into setting it up.

          • Oh well, thanks! But when I was looking at Stylebook’s website to see if there was an android version in the works, it said you should be able to back it up: https://stylebookapptips.wordpress.com/2015/01/30/icloud-stylebook-backup-didnt-work-now-what/ Would that at least cover phone-breakage issues, if not syncing?

          • Sydney Bristow :

            Oh fantastic! Thanks for that info.

          • No problem! :)

  5. I don’t repeat full outfits more than once a month, but I might re-wear a shirt with a different cardigan every 2-3 weeks. I’ll rewear pants in the same week unless they’re distinctive. I’m currently updating my clothing spreadsheet for 2017 and making a list of all my various outfit options for each shirt. So my floral shell goes with my blue or green cardigan, and those will go with black or grey pants, A, B, or C shoes, etc.

    I’ve been tempted by Stylebook but I have way too many clothes and the idea of uploading them all just seems daunting.

    • I just can’t imagine having so many clothes that I could go a month before repeating an outfit. Half of my living space would be taken up just storing them!

      • Sydney Bristow :

        I truly didn’t realize how many clothes I owned or how many outfits they made until I went methodically through them. They only take up 1/2 of a regular sized bedroom closet (the kind that is 2 sliding doors and not deep with just 1 bar all the way across) and 2.5 drawers in a dresser. When I count them out, it seems like a lot.

        People couldn’t understand a couple of months ago when I said I had 18 cardigans (10 long sleeve for fall/winter/spring and 8 3/4 or short sleeve for spring/summer) but they take up less space that you might expect. I was repeating entire outfits weekly because I was defaulting to the same combinations of them until I methodically matched up all the combinations. Now I technically probably could go a month without repeating an exact outfit, although I consider my green top/royal blue cardigan/gray pencil skirt to be a different outfit from my green top/royal blue cardigan/black pencil skirt.

        • We could be cardigan best friends, Sydney Bristow. I have 27 long or 3/4 sleeved cardigans and 6 short-sleeved cardigans. Almost all of them hang from their tags on a coat rack so they take up almost no space.

          • Anonymous :

            Doesn’t hanging them by their tag stretch out the neck?

          • A few of them get a teensy bit stretched out right around the edges of the tag, but it’s not noticeable once you put it on, plus my hair covers it. It’s nice not having wrinkles or creases and I think it lets the cardigan air out more for rewearing.

      • Yeah, I’m definitely excessive. During law school I didn’t always have easy laundry access and could go at least six weeks without needing to do a single load of laundry.

  6. I work from home in a customer-facing role, so I repeat outfits often. I probably have 10-12 solid go-to looks that I rotate between. Since I generally see each customer once per quarter, it’s extremely unlikely they will ever see me wearing the same outfit. If I didn’t have to attend conferences (5 days of outfits in a row!) I probably would have even fewer clothes.

    That said, almost all my clothes are navy, blush, gray or cream/white. I also have a few burgandy/forest green to mix in for winter/fall. Those colors are flattering on me and easy to mix-and-match. I only wear nude-for-me shoes, so they match everything.

    I also like to buy work clothes that I can wear in my day-to-day life as well. For example, I have an oyster silk blouse that looks great with jeans. Or wearing a shell with a structured cardigan and skinny jeans instead of with a suit.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      I’m similar to your last paragraph. Most of my work tops look good with jeans. I have a couple of t-shirts that I don’t wear to work, but the majority of my tops are work and weekend appropriate.

    • Your wardrobe sounds absolutely beautiful – I love that combination of colors.

  7. Anonymous :

    I have 6 skirts and blouses that I wear in warm weather and 6 dresses and 6 pairs of tights that I wear in winter. I also have 6 blazers, so I can wear a different one each day and don’t have to worry if one gets dirty or I spill something on them. For me 6 is the magic number because if I am too busy to do laundry/take things to the dry cleaner on my days off I will still have a clean outfit for my first day back to work. So my outfits repeat weekly.

    • Anonymous :

      You only have 6 work outfits? Seriously?

      • 6 blouses+skirts+6 dresses = 12 outfits.

        • Anonymous :

          But she only wears 6 at a given time depending on the season. She doesn’t wear the dress and skirts in the same week.

      • Anonymous :

        I have 5 outfits, plus two extra tops. And my outfits are a uniform of 3 black pants and 3 cardigans (plus 5 +2 extra tops) and 3 black shoes (ballet, low heel, pump). It makes it sooo much easier for me, and my theory is that because I wear basically the same thing no one even notices what I’m wearing.

        • pugsnbourbon :

          I just had a conversation about this with colleagues today. My hair is the same most days. My makeup is the same every day (except for lip color). My tops and bottoms are entirely black, gray and jewel tones and I have about four pairs of shoes in rotation. There’s less to think about and it really cuts down on that “shopping as entertainment” that’s come up in a few other threads.

    • Wait, do you repeat entire outfits weekly, or just individual garments? (You have up to 36 blazer/dress combos and up to 216 blouse/skirt/blazer combos to play with, so it would surprise me if you were wearing the same combos every week.)

      • Anonymous :

        I don’t actively keep track of which blouse I wore with which skirt. But each blouse and skirt (in warm weather) and dress (in the winter) gets worn once a week most of the time.

    • Anonymous :

      Wow

    • This is my strategy, too! 6 outfits = one per day of the week, plus I can start with a new outfit on the next week. I’m a university professor, so I mostly see people either MWF or TuTh. As long as I stagger correctly, most people only see a given outfit every other week.

      For me, though, it’s two dresses, two pairs of pants, and 4 tops. I have different pants and dresses for warm/cold weather (the tops stay the same, but get a cardigan added in the winter).

      • Also, it’s all machine washable, because I have two young kids and cannot get to a dry cleaner weekly.

      • Ahh, the good old MWF/TR switcheroo. I miss that.

      • Once in undergrad I had a schedule where I only had classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and boy oh boy, do I miss that life.

      • Anonymous :

        I do this too! About 7 dresses, 2 blazers, and 3 sweaters (1 dark navy cardigan, 1 black sweater, 1 silver/gray sweater) and 4 pairs of shoes (knee high black boots, camel heels, black heels, black flats. Wear one outfit per day, all clothes are washing washable. Also have young children and sometimes the outfits get mucky before I get to work…so I wear a hoody until arriving at the car park, and carry a spare dress in the back of my car!

    • I used to know an accountant based in London who had TWO OUTFITS. She ironed one blouse each evening and wore the other one the next day. She looked at me as if *I* were crazy when I said something about her having only two work outfits.

      I realise this is how people used to dress. I don’t get this current mind-set of having an entire month’s worth of work outfits on hand. I know *I* don’t keep track of other people’s clothes nearly as much as they must think I do.

      • Honestly, if clothes were more expensive, we would all have fewer “nice” outfits. It’s the fact that you can get a polyester shirt for $20 that’s “work appropriate” that makes it easy to own 15 of them.

        • Anonymous :

          2 is a bit extreme…but I used to live in London and did something similar. Work wardrobe was limited but very good quality. 2 plain black skirt suits and 5 Pink fitted shirts. The shirts got washed at the weekend, hung to dry and ironed Sunday night. The suits were spot-cleaned as needed. I don’t think I ever actually cleaned them, but did air them out. I promise they never smelled bad! Weekend uniform was jeans and tee shirts…two extremes!!

  8. I do repeat outfits – i.e. wearing the same thing twice in a week. This usually happens with my new pieces and I’m just excited to wear them more often. There’s a seasonality element to this – i.e. I won’t be repeating the same outfit in September vs. November, so I don’t see it as something to worry too much about.

    In other words – the outfits I repeat are things that work well together and I feel confident in – which is more important than trying to wearing a different thing even day in the month for the sake of it.

  9. Diana Barry :

    I switched to more working from home lately, and I find that there are some things that I just NEVER WEAR any more to work – too fussy or likely to get wrinkled or sweaty. (I also have a long commute.) Namely, button-downs, silk, and my tighter and wool work dresses – now cursing myself for buying that $200 Theory dress last year! I do still repeat stuff but mostly pants, and those not more than once every 2 weeks.

    • Anonymous :

      I wear a button up less than once a month. I am totally questioning whether I need any, much less 3 (one with french cuffs).

      • I really like the look of French cuffs but I’ve never worn them. Are they a pain to wear or take care of?

        • Anonymous :

          They aren’t built for speed — it is more deliberate. Like wearing a scarf. I like them in theory, but IRL this is a white shirt and I’m always worried that my cuff drag will get worse as I mark up documents all day. I think for a looking-sharp day, it is nicer than my other shirts. But I just don’t wear it much and got it mainly for the novelty of some antique sterling cufflinks I have.

  10. Former Parisian :

    A couple of months for outfits consisting of separates or suits, 4 – 6 weeks for dresses. I have loads of clothes. People comment on how rarely I repeat outfits…

    • couple of months for suits? How many do you have? I have to wear a suit 2-4 days per week. I would be lucky to go 3 weeks without re-wearing tha same suit.

  11. I do a work uniform recipe- everyday I wear grey dress pants (I need to wear pants 95% of the time, so no skirts), but my top is variable. But every work top I have goes with grey pants, so there’s minimal time spent worrying over if things go together.

  12. I have to admit I usually wear the same skirt 3x a week with different tops. That and one dress gets me to casual Friday. I’m trying to expand but I’m indecisive about what to buy, especially since I don’t have a lot of money to play with so I’m probably trying to overoptimize for cost.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      I have 1 black pencil skirt and 1 gray one that I basically alternate. Sometimes I throw in the green one, but really just wear the 2 almost every work day.

    • Anonymous :

      So do I. I don’t stress about it because (i) I can barely remember what my coworkers wore yesterday unless it’s very distinctive, and (ii) the men I know will wear the same suit three times a week with different shirts and don’t seem to give a second thought to it

  13. True story, I once wore the same dress to work three times in one week. No one noticed. I think we all think people are paying way more attention to us than they are.

    • That’s probably true, except maybe in the fashion industry (although I mostly get this from The Devil Wears Prada).

      • Sydney Bristow :

        My SIL works in fashion and it’s either true or just an awesome excuse. She has an enviable wardrobe. And I get fun accessories for gifts!

    • Anonymous :

      So true. I’m amused by the idea of a month of outfits. I acknowledge my outfits are probably boring – 6-8 looks(really tops or dresses) but I look nice and no one says a thing. Not something I’m going to take up mindshare with.

    • Except, if people did notice, they probably wouldn’t say anything (I know I wouldn’t, but I might judge a little). So you really don’t know whether people noticed. (You do you & I mean no offense by this, but just saying!)

      • Anonymous :

        Oh, they can notice! I just don’t have to hear about it.

      • I did it as an experiment & actually fessed up and asked my coworkers if they noticed, and they are the types to be totally honest (and they’re also exceptionally fun and like an experiment like this) and they genuinely didn’t notice. Now, part of it could be like a lot of other people, my wardrobe is pretty neutral (lots of black & navy), my hair’s usually the same, and I wear the same handful of shoes all the time so I’ve generally got a pretty similar look going on a lot of the time. But I really don’t think people pay that much attention, even to statement pieces. I’m probably one of the most into clothes people at my work, and if I notice someone repeating something, I just think “oh it’s her fun necklace today” but I really couldn’t recall if it’s something she wore earlier in the week or a month ago.

      • Gail the Goldfish :

        I wouldn’t notice unless it was something particularly distinctive. Heck, I can’t even tell you what I wore myself on Monday by the time I get to Thursday or Friday.

  14. Paging nutella: :

    nutella, I loved your response/outlook to the post about dressing differently in an all men workplace. You mentioned a uniform, what is it!? I want to copy you!

    • Oh haaaaay that’s me!

      I guess my uniform isn’t entirely only one outfit, just a small collection of options, mostly dresses, mostly one neutral color. (I know a woman who wears all and I mean only purple and it is a bit strange.) I am guilty like the person above with pretty much having 6 or 7 outfits a season. I honestly can’t remember what my male coworkers wear but when I really thought about it, they definitely wear the same 6-7 outfits, too. Blue shirt, yellow shirt, white shirt, small check blue shirt, the occasional pink shirt…

      Here’s what winter 2016 looks like so far: 3 black dresses of various cuts and sleeve lengths, two gray dresses of different cuts, a black a-line skirt that I typically wear with a gray or black short-sleeved sweater (or sometimes something a little more fun … like forest green), and black trousers that I will wear with usually one of three silk tops (or the sweater tops mentioned above). I like wearing dresses because it is a one-step outfit and they are all plain with just a different fabric/cut. I also will wear a different scarf, necklace, or cardigan sometimes, but I don’t put too much thought into it. I might wear something fun/more true to my style on a casual day (like today is our “Friday” this week, so I’m in black jeans, moto boots, and wearing a leopard scarf belted over a black top) or once in a while. I also have some lazyday outfits, like a black and white spotted AT dress that is entirely stretchy – if it weren’t a pattern I would probably wear it every week, but now will probably wear it like every 2nd or 3rd Monday when I am tired :)

      I have more colors in the summer/spring (like two cream dresses, a light gray dress, an olive dress, a blue dress, etc.) As for how this translates for my all-male environment, it is still traditional, so wearing anything avant-guarde is memorable (like the time I wore a fabulous tie at my old job!) and I think a lot of men have a broad category for what constitutes as “weird” in women’s wear (justifiable or not), so I just don’t want to be remembered for wearing anything “weird.” I just don’t want to be remembered for my clothes like the men aren’t, but I also want to look professional in front of my boss, the GC and the C-suite folks. (I am also a lawyer and look very young for my age, so dressing to casually or creatively in front of these 6’5″ older men can put me in the “twee” category fast. Also, every body and shape is different and I always look pulled together in a dress while also being the easiest option.

      • Meredith Grey :

        Thank you!! You hit the nail on the head- balancing professionalism with the higher-ups while holding my own in a room full of giant boys while looking short/young. This is me exactly!

  15. I wear a “column of color” just about every day. That is, a black top with black skirt, charcoal top with charcoal skirt, navy top with navy skirt, etc. The contrast comes from my third piece, which is a jacket or a structured cardigan. I almost never wear the third piece in the same color as the column, but I will do all black if I lighten it up with white pearls.

    Because of this I repeat outfits quite often. I own multiples of the same skirt in the same color (I like ponte pencil skirts) so there’s a good chance I’m wearing the “same” skirt two days in a row, though it actually is two different items. My tops are mostly sleeveless and fairly plain, though I do have some with asymmetric hemlines, which is kind of fun.

    All of my shopping effort goes into shoes, jackets and accessories.

    • This is my go to work look too. I basically wear threes colors – black, grey, navy – with white, burgundy, or olive accents (jacket or shoes mostly.)

      What ponte pencil skirts do you wear? I am looking for some new ones.

      • My favorite are Eileen Fisher, I stalk them on sale. I also like the Nordstrom house brand.

        • If you mean the basic EF black pencil skirt OMG it may be the most useful versatile piece I own. I love it. It is easy to care for, looks fantastic, can be worn to dinner, the theater, cocktails, business world, lazy Saturdays, romps in the park…I might need a second.

          • Yes. I have three, don’t tell anyone!

          • Gail the Goldfish :

            I might need this skirt. Is it this one? http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/eileen-fisher-knit-pencil-skirt-regular-petite/3400486?origin=keywordsearch-personalizedsort&fashioncolor=BLACK
            or this one: http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/eileen-fisher-stretch-ponte-pencil-skirt/4418896?origin=keywordsearch-personalizedsort&fashioncolor=BLACK

          • Gail, it is the first one. And it is indestructible, comfortable, goes anywhere and with everything.

  16. I work in a casual office, so I frequently repeat the same bottoms (basically black skinny pants or dark wash skinny jeans) paired with a ton of different sweater/blouse/jacket and shoe combos. Since I can wear a lot of what I wear to work outside of the office as well, I have a lot of top and shoe options. I do have to dress up for client meetings, and I have a rotation of 5-6 different outfits (sheath dresses, cropped jackets, and pumps) that I’ll cycle through.

  17. In-house Job Hunt Question :

    For anyone who has recently done an in-house job search, what are some tips and tricks that helped you get through the search? How many recruiters did you work with and do you have any recommendations on how to work with recruiters for an in-house search?

  18. Shenandoah :

    The comments in this thread make me feel so much better about my somewhat limited wardrobe. My “uniform” is ankle pants or trousers, sleeveless blouse, and cardigan. Rarely I’ll throw in a skirt or dress. I routinely wear the same pair of pants twice in the same week. The blouses that are my favorites I tend to wear every week. I might wear the same cardigan twice in one week – usually a neutral like black or beige.

    • Finding well fitting clothes during the pregnancy fluctuation years is so hard that I currently have two pairs of neutral work pants and one skirt, and it works out just fine. A couple of dresses sometimes make it in the rotation but less now that I switched jobs.

  19. giving money to parents :

    So, my parents are notoriously awful with managing money, when they have any that is. They are always paycheck-to-paycheck, and tend to splurge on things they can’t afford, such as an impractical used bmw, while they can’t pay their bills. I love them, but I just know that I’m going to be hit up to loan them money when I see them over the holidays. Part of the problem is that several years ago I was pressured by my father (“I’ll never speak to you again”) to co-sign for my mother to go back to college. She thought that if she got a college degree she could get a better job. Well, that was a bust. She did graduate but isn’t even trying for an office-type job. They work retail off and on but can’t really keep a job. I’ve redone her resume and sent her suggested jobs. Neither is in great health, either, and I really worry about them. I guess my problem is that now I’m paying on their loan that I co-signed so that my credit doesn’t suffer, and while I’m really worried about them literally not eating enough or having their utilities on, I’m also tired of always having to step in at the last minute when things are awful. I can afford it, but I’m exhausted and frustrated with the whole situation. I grew up in this environment and it was very stressful for me as a child. Now I’m pretty frugal and careful all around and it hurts that they never learn anything. It’s the same mistake over and over. I’m on medicine for my depression/anxiety and therapy won’t help fix the situation. I know I’ll give them the money, but part of me just wishes I could win the lottery or something and just give them money to stop the whole problem. I try to think of it as, ok I donate money every year (esp given how I grew up) to help needy and hungry families, so this year it’s my family. But I still get upset. And my husband completely understands how I feel but also rightfully gets upset about it, since we are so careful about saving. We’re bringing our checkbook but I’m still not sure how to come to terms with the problem. They refuse to sit down and look at a budget with me or disclose all of their debt.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      Can you make any money you give them contingent on you going over all their debt, income, and expenses in detail? That’s truly a reasonable boundary to enforce. Although refusing to give them money at all is also a reasonable boundary, but I get the feeling you aren’t willing to go that route yet.

      It sounds like they make bad choices, so I’d give up the daydream that winning the lottery would solve anything. They’d spend through all of that and wind up in the sand or worse situation.

    • LondonLeisureYear :

      Do you see a therapist for this? This is really tough stuff to process by yourself.

      I don’t think you need to give them any money. Is there any way you can get out of the loan situation? They obviously know that you are going to pick up whatever ball they drop. So no there is no pressure for them to change, they know someone is going to save them.

      • giving money to parents :

        I don’t see a therapist, but I have in the past and it wasn’t helpful. I always seem ungrateful. Or feel that way. My father suffers from major depression and had a head injury when I was a child, which is part of their money troubles, too. He’s on disability. They are both over 65. I am on an anti-depressant for anxiety and depression, which I have had since I was a child. I have tried to make loans/gifts contingent upon budget review etc, but it just leads to blow-ups from my father. I know my mom works hard but they can never get out of the rut because of bad decisions. I am doing well and I know they see that and think that it doesn’t matter and I can afford to help them. And they totally would go through any amount I gave them! You are right. Not all of their money problems are due to poor decisions, but most are a result. I’m just so afraid that they will end up on the street. I’ve even considered buying them a house that they could rent back, but decided to wait and see how their situation goes.

        • LondonLeisureYear :

          Personally, when it comes to family and money. I only give money that I don’t ever want to see back again. Its all gifts with no strings attached. However, I also think that it shouldn’t become a habit. With your parents it sounds like they rely on you, that it has crossed into that habit area. If they are on disability, they need to find a way to live on that money or get decide to work more. I would offer to help them fill out any paperwork they might need like for example to get into a state assisted living. And if they don’t want that type of assistance, then don’t help them.

          I know you think a therapist isn’t helpful. But finding one that can help you set up boundaries that you are comfortable with and that can reassure you that those boundaries are okay and that you aren’t being a bad daughter for those boundaries might be really nice.

          The podcast “Bad with Money with Gabby Dunn” talks a lot about money and relationships and how to handle having more money than your parents etc. You might find it helpful.

          Sorry you are going through this stuff. Family and Money are both tough things and the combo is extremely tough.

    • Anonymous :

      Say. No. You can. You should. They will not starve. Say. No.

    • Anonymous :

      This would make me insane. I’m truly sorry. Maybe instead of giving them money, you can give them the name of a county social worker and/or some forms for food stamps and Section 8 housing. I am not a mean person and I know this sounds mean, but I think you need to put you and your husband first. Good luck.

      • giving money to parents :

        No, that’s not mean at all. They make just a little too much for food stamps, actually, and section 8 is maxed out in their area. That’s definitely the route that I think they should take this time, though, so maybe they are making less now and could qualify.

    • How much do you think they’ll want? And is there any way you can give them money for basics but not for “grander plans.” i.e. give them grocery store gift cards so you know they’ll eat; take over their electric bill so you know there’s heat. Outside of that — any plans re college or whatever, don’t give them cash for that bc you know it won’t be put to good use. I guess what I’m saying is tell them — no cash gifts but I’m happy to handle food/utilities etc.

      • My sister would call me every year after Christmas and ask for money because she went overboard on gifts for her kids. I basically started giving her the cash for Christmas in the form of a grocery store gift card for the whole family and not buying individual presents for the nieces and nephews. I like the idea of taking on one of their regular bills, like electric, so you can always say you already helped them this month and can’t do more (especially since that would be in addition to the loan you are stuck with). I am sorry you are in this situation.

    • Anonymous :

      “I know I’ll give them the money, but part of me just wishes I could win the lottery or something and just give them money to stop the whole problem.”

      This wouldn’t solve your problem. They will continue to be reckless no matter how much you give them.

      Decide how much (if any) you will give them. Offer to pay for specific things – an electricity bill on autopay for the year instead of a cheque for $500. Tell them it’s so they don’t need to worry about the inconvenience of bills.

      Practice a few phrases that will help you set boundaries. It can be really hard to think clearly when people we love say upsetting things to us. If you know your Dad may say “I’ll never speak to you again” a response might be “It makes me feel really sad that you only want me in your life if I give you money.”

      This isn’t about you. This is all on them. You are doing the best you can in a hard situation. You can’t fix them but you can take care of yourself and it’s okay to do that.

      • Yup. I have a relative who is horrible with money. Saying winning the lottery would solve his money problems is like saying taking someone to coca*ne mountain would solve their drug problem.

    • Anonforthis :

      With a family member in our life we agree to pay for:
      1) Their therapist so they can get help if they want it (and any hospital stays/doctors that aren’t covered by state insurance)
      2) Their phone so they can contact us.

      Everything else is on them.

    • giving money to parents :

      Thank you all. This is hard but I appreciate the advice. I think you are right and we need to decide what we will pay for (as a gift) and what is out of the question. I have thought about grocery cards, and might go that route, on top of directly paying bills. I just need to be strong and not let them use my emotions against me.

      • Also don’t give into blackmail, like your dad threatening never to speak to you again. The only thing that will make them prioritize money is if they have no other sources.

        I feel you, though. I grew up with parents who were always one unexpected bill away from bankruptcy. My sisters and I are paying for some of my mom’s eldercare now (which is expensive!) When you get to that point with your folks, please look into an eldercare attorney. We were able use a firm to get my mom qualified for MediCal (I’m in CA, so substitute your state) and work with the nursing home to get her rate down to what her monthly social security check can cover. The law firm charged a flat fee for this. My sisters and I pay for the other stuff in her life (she still owns a car, why? don’t ask me) but getting the big monthly bill down has been a godsend.

      • Sydney Bristow :

        I’m sorry you have to deal with this. Is it at all possible that your husband would be willing to take the blame for this as a buffer? You could decide in advance what you are willing to pay for (grocery gift cards sound like a great idea) and how much and then any time they try to emotionally blackmail you, your response could be “husband said we can’t.”

        I know this is totally not fair to your husband, but the reason I bring it up is because my cousin has been my buffer person when dealing with the family that I’ve cut out of my life. I have to see them sometimes at events and she’s forever interrupting when they corner me and flat out says no when they ask for my contact info or details of my life. I really appreciate that she does that for me even though it’s totally unfair to her and puts her in the bad sheep role with them.

        Another option is to decide what you’re going to give them and then flat out lie that you can’t give them any more. You’ll have to role play this to get comfortable but I think it’s completely fine to lie to them in this way. It’s important for your own mental health.

    • Another anonymous judge :

      You are a lovely and caring person and I only can hope my children grow up to care about me as much as you care about your parents. However, this situation has been damaging to you and potentially damaging to your marriage. It may be that it’s time to decide that enough is enough. I agree with the other posters that while you might consider smaller, targeted gifting, perhaps it might also be time to consider another approach.

      From the fabulous Gail Vaz-Oxlade – Canadian money guru: http://gailvazoxlade.com/blog/archives/3418

      A partial quote is as follows:

      How do you say, “No” to a parent you love? It’s tough. But it goes something like this:

      “Mom and Dad, I know you’re in a tough spot. I would be happy to help you figure out how you’re going to change what you’re doing so things can get better. And if you want me to help you find a professional to help, I will. But I’m afraid I don’t have the financial means to bail you out or offer you any support. I need to take care of my family and myself so I don’t end up where you are right now. And I am determined to never be a burden on my children, so I must keep my financial house in order. Please let me help you figure out what you have to change. I love you and want to help, but not with money.”

      • Anonymous :

        Yeah, the part that bothers me is the potential (or actual) damage to her marriage. That’s a great script.

  20. I have a hard time with navy too- and I have several pairs of lovely navy shoes (gifts), but I dislike wearing them with navy bottoms or dark rinse jeans. Maybe ankle jeans would work for a casual day.

  21. Wait – you mean we’re not supposed to throw clothes out after one wear and buy new stuff?

    This blog seems to edge further and further into unreasonable territory with discussions like these, and the answer always seems to be that we have to buy More Clothes, the Right Clothes, the Clothes That Confer Professionalism Upon Us because apparently our personalities and skills aren’t enough.

    • I agree. 99% of the world doesn’t pay attention to appearance like the folks here do. But it’s such an echo chamber that it can make you feel like if you wear navy and black together one time you’ll get fired and blacklisted and there goes your bonus.

      • Anonymous :

        Have you even read this blog? There are tons of great ways to wear navy and black together that regularly discussed on the blog in the comments.

        Professional women, like many other women, enjoy fashion. Shocker there. Are you expecting a fashion blog to not suggest buying clothes? Seriously?

    • I think there are a lot of people on here who really want to know what to wear to look professional, like I did when I was first starting in my career. (not all of us are born with the skill set)

      If you don’t like consumer-y stuff, though, why on earth are you following a clothing site?

    • There may be some truth to this but this blog sort of focuses on fashion so there you go. And IMHO, the people here are always looking for ways to NOT buy new clothes…

  22. For Kat’s comment that she doesn’t think you can repeat the same outfit more than once every two weeks, my question is– or what? Someone might notice? So what? I guess maybe the concern is someone might think you can’t afford more clothes, but again, so what? We are all lucky to have several changes of clothes.

    • Yeah, I’m a dresses or gtfo person and I have less than 10 dresses that work right now, so a dress is likely to get worn within a week of the last wearing. I don’t think anyone cares? I sure don’t.

      • +1

        I wear all dresses all the time, and I live in a place where we don’t have weather, so I just pull a dress from the right side of the closet and hang my clean clothes on the left side, and just go from there. If a dress lingers too long on the right without getting pulled, it is a candidate for the donation pile.

        I also have one zillion cardigans, so i try to mix it up a little that way. Yellow cardigan with black/blue/yellow dress looks pretty different than black cardigan with same dress.

    • Anonshmanon :

      Thanks for this comment! I was wondering what I am not getting from reading the first couple dozen comments above. I understand the choice of dressing fashion forward, and the necessity of looking professional and appropriate. What I don’t get is the obligation to…entertain colleagues with a series of non-repetitive outfits? Why exactly am I to be ashamed of repeating looks as long as they are appropriate and the clothes are clean?

    • I think she’s saying that if you have a really memorable outfit you might want to repeat it less often. but if that’s all you have, repeat away!

    • Are you trolling or just not reading? That is not what she said. She said try not to wear a “very memorable piece” more than once every two weeks she also said best not to wear the exact same outfit two days in a row.

  23. There is a woman who works at my office and she does not have that many outfits, but everything she has fits her perfectly, is perfectly maintained, and looks expensive. She wears the same beautiful fine jewelry every day.

    I have never thought “wow, she only has 10 outfits in her entire wardrobe, [how sad/weird/other negative]”. I only look at her with admiration. It’s not a capsule mix and match wardrobe either. She just has a set number of distinct outfits. I think it’s really neat.

  24. Personally, I don’t care to plan as much as I used to. That said, I wear a lot of black and darker colors so most people can’t tell I’m wearing the same thing. I did notice though when I had a boss who wore the exact same outfits every week in the same rotation.

  25. threadjack links? :

    Threadjack links broken for anyone else? (Kat?)

    • Me too! I was just coming here to say that. They all take me to an old post about LinkedIn.

  26. I have $600 dollars in Amazon gift cards. Anything you would do with them? I definitely want a new suitcase (Delsey Chatalet) but it’s on back order right now. I’ve been maybe wanting some type of nice wrap/shawl to wear in the office when it gets really cold, but not sure if Amazon is the place for that. Also maybe thinking an Echo Dot.

    I don’t have a Prime Account as I’ve been using my mom’s for years. Time to get my own?

    • Sydney Bristow :

      I’d buy all the books on my wishlist. That’s probably close to $600 right now.

      If I hadn’t just bought one, I’d buy a new Kitchen Aid stand mixer.

    • I would buy jewelry. The amazon brand jewelry is actually quite nice. I’ve been gifting it and everyone is pleased.

  27. annonymous :

    This is a day late contribution to the discussion about dealing with unwanted solicitors at your door or anywhere else, especially those selling you things.

    The solution I have found is to look very serious and say “Oh, I am sorry, my husband makes those kinds of decisions in our household.” It would be funny to anyone who actually knows us, but in my pretty conservative area, I have never had anyone try to follow up or push the sale after that statement. (And it actually makes an otherwise unpleasant experience kind of amusing for me. :))

    • I actually would use a variation of that line when we travel to areas where bargaining is expected, like China. I would like something and “ask” my husband if we could get it. It was almost like negotiating with him as much as the seller, and they would tell him to get it for me. It’s hilarious for us because my husband knows that I’ll just buy what I want anyways, and we couldn’t be less like that people at home.

    • Anonymous :

      that’s genius. and as a single lady it kills two birds with one stone for me (shutting them down and indicating that I’m not a vulnerable burglary/what have you target).

    • Anonymous :

      I use this line a lot if I’m on a phone conversation and something is more expensive than I want to pay and I just want to get off the call “oh let me talk to my husband and I’ll call you back”

  28. Amazon Question :

    I am trying to re-order something I bought last year on Amazon. I need to look up the size I ordered. When I click to view my order history nothing shows up. I get a message saying “You have not placed any orders in the past {insert timeframe here}.” While I am not a prolific Amazon shopper, I have definitely placed orders over the past several years. Is order history working for others of you? Am I missing a step?

    • Sydney Bristow :

      Mine is working. Is it possible you have another Amazon account with a different email?

      • Amazon Question :

        Why yes, it is possible I used another Amazon account with different credentials! (Tells you how often I use Amazon.) Thank you.

  29. I try really hard not to wear the same colours too often in a week. Once, I wore two different black and white dresses to work within a span of two or three days and one of the partners asked me if I had made it home the night before. Not exactly the image I’m trying to portray!

  30. Anonymous :

    Business casual federal government attorney in Washington: I have a work uniform of the same long sleeved structured dress that has ~$90-$100 in tailoring in 6 colors, 4 work horse colors (navy, dark green, black, currant) and 2 rarely worn (pink and coral); 3 colors of the same winter weight long sleeve dress; 3 summer weight professional dresses with cap sleeves; 2 pencil skirts, rotation of tops, flats. Wear tights with dresses in winter. Work from home 1-2 days/week; have rare need for 1 skirted suit, or a blazer over one of the dresses. I repeat the same dress sometimes during a week. If I have a higher profile role role on a given day, I do not repeat that particular dress.

    Formerly in a trial lawyer role where I had a closet full of skirted suits and pants suits. In that context, bought new suits regularly, did not repeat the same suit in 2 weeks. Had a lot of luck with a suiting outlet, buying longer ruffle skirts and other slightly off skirts and then having them tailored into a pencil skirt.

    • Anonymous :

      which dress do you have in all the colors?

      • Spaghetti :

        Yes I’m also interested in the long sleeve dresses! So hard to find good ones. The MM LaFleur Karen is great but they haven’t been making it this season.

  31. I disagree about not wearing the same memorable outfit more than once a month. I say once a week is fine, with adequate time for laundering. No one balks at men wearing the same suit and tie every week.

    • pugsnbourbon :

      My husband has five button-up shirts. They are all shades of blue. He does not give two sh!ts, and frankly blue is his color anyway.

  32. Holiday Decor :

    Any recommendations for realistic-looking garlands? Bonus points if it’s pre-lit. I love having a real garland on the mantle but totally dread the needle clean up and disposal each year. Hoping to take advantage of end of year sales and buy a high quality garland for the future.

  33. I’m a government lawyer and I wear the same suit everyday (except casual Fridays) but in different colors: Theory Gabe blazer and Max pants. I have it in black, charcoal, grey, navy, blue grey and beige. It’s like a uniform…for casual Fridays, I wear a jcrew blazer and 7 jeans. Makes getting dressed in the mornings a lot easier but I still look professional for work.

  34. Issie Esse :

    I find this funny as American women (presumably this blog’s demographic/audience) aren’t exactly known for being stylish dressers. The whole “repeating outfits” conundrum reminds me of a time when I was a child watching a girly cartoon wherein the protagonist’s friend confronts the mean girls and states that the reason she labels her jeans Mon, Tues, Wed, etc is so she doesn’t repeat them.

    Like I said, American women–and people–are not known to be on the sartorial cutting edge. Fretting over outfit repeating when their dress is, at best, mediocre is funny. Worried someone’s going to notice that you wore the same nondescript J crew blazer twice in a week? Worried you’re going to need another bland blazer so people won’t notice? Don’t worry, they don’t care.

    This mentality also speaks to the culture of excess in America. Americans believe in washing clothes after one wear which is not only an environmentally unfriendly policy but also results in higher utility bills. It’s unjustified: unless you’ve been doing sport, witness visible stains or smells, your clothes will survive another wear. America really ought to take cues from the rest of the world who practice more line drying.

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