Ask the Bean: College Days – Dressing for the Empty Nest

August 10, 2008 • Magazine

Ask the Bean: College Days - Dressing for the Empty Nest

Ask the Bean: College Days - Dressing for the Empty Nest

Sun, 2008-08-10 10:00

Dear Bean:

My daughter is off to college this fall. I’ve been prepping myself for being used to her being out of the house. I also am realizing that not only did my schedule revolve around hers, so did my wardrobe. I have been a housewife for the past 18 years and I have the appropriate attire for track meets, soccer games, group parties and my recovery sweats when I have downtime. I don’t know where to start with a wardrobe that compliments my new open schedule. Can you please help?

Soccer Mom

Dear Soccer Mom:

The transition into the “empty nest” is difficult in and of itself. And you are absolutely correct — you’ve been a supportive parent in more ways than just the carpool coordinator. Now that your daughter is setting forth to become her own independent individual, you now have the opportunity to do the same — in style. Fall brings forth a new semester and new fashion lines. Reward yourself with attire that displays as much.

First off — pack the track pants and sweatshirt away and start donning the “Ladies Who Lunch” look, because I’m sure some of your friends are also going through the same situation. What better way to support one another through this transition than friendly banter and fashion?

My very first suggestion is this: Read magazines. If you don’t already subscribe to any type of fashion publication, do so now. Add Lucky, Vogue, Harper’s, InStyle, Elle, and any others into your reading regimen. By knowing what other people are wearing, you can begin figuring out what designers and looks you like and what you can see yourself wearing. Next step: Start shopping. Once you know what you want, take the next step and see how it fits. When you find out what looks good and feels good, you can quickly acquire the palette for your updated wardrobe. Then start having fun with accessories.

Keep in mind that it’s very easy to just start shopping and end up with several pieces that don’t match anything you currently have. I know this sounds boring, but begin with black, white and gray. They mix and match with everything, and when you branch out to colors and prints, you won’t have to worry which piece of yours they’ll match.

When you set out on your shopping expeditions, shop for outfits. Since fall is coming, you will be depending on layers. Start with pants or skirt, then add a top, and end with a cardigan or jacket. Embark with a checklist—when you find a blouse, think about what pants and skirts you have that will match. If you don’t have anything but you love the piece, then make sure you buy it with something that you can wear with it. If you go this route, do not buy something that will only match that piece. That goes against the “expanded wardrobe” philosophy. Look for black pants or jeans. These two items are always versatile so you won’t regret any loud fashion purchases in the future.

Next: turtlenecks and tees. I am practically a turtleneck collector in the fall. My favorites come from J. Crew since they are lightweight, layer-friendly, and are both fashionable and comfortable enough for lounging on the sofa. As for tees, look at Banana Republic, Ann Taylor or any store that carries Michael Stars for tees that are thicker and fitted. Yes, they are just tees, but sometimes the t-shirt can compliment an outfit just as much as a Chloe blouse.

Finally — the jacket. Pick up some basic blazers that you can throw over your tees. Add a pair of jeans and flats. Since cooler weather is coming, you will also need a coat. Look for a versatile color and some accent hardware. You may be preventing cold and wind, but no one says you have to sacrifice fashion for functionality.

Now I’m not advising you always stick with the neutral tones and basic garments. You are used to being on the go, so these concepts will work wonders for you to get dressed quickly and always look put together. But what about those other occasions? For the cocktail party, I definitely advise taking some more pamper time, and maybe even add a splash of color.

You are also a mother — so the soirees you attend may be different than those from your college days (and also your daughters’ — not that she’ll be attending parties of course). With that being said, mini skirts and camisoles most likely won’t be your attire of choice. Donna Karan’s fall line has fabulous dresses that are grown-up and ideal for making a statement in a very comfortable, fashion-forward kind of way. Plus Donna Karan designs that classic look to ensure ease of seasonal transition for any outfit. And add a touch of casual for a dinner or movie by simply throwing on a jacket, grabbing a tote, and turning heads wherever you go.

Good luck on your new household transition, Soccer Mom. I have no doubt that you will adjust with ease—and more importantly, continue setting your example both in motherhood and in style.

1. Vince Elbow Sleeve Striped Turtleneck
2. Proenza Schouler X-Ray Print Dress
3. Vivienne Westwood Anglomania Scoop Top and Jacket shown with True Religion Jeans
4. J. Crew Dream Turtleneck Sweater
5. 12th Street by Cynthia Vincent Mesh Embellished Blouse shown with jeans by Citizens of Humanity
6. Sonia by Sonia Rykiel Wool Trench Coat
7. Donna Karan Ruched Jersey Dress with Jacket by Paul & Joe

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