Comfort Zones

Eileen Fisher sweater, waxed skinny jeans, pencil skirt, moto boots

These? Totally within my comfort zone. From Eileen Fisher.

We often read advice to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones, to do that thing we’re afraid of doing, either because it leads to something we want, or to prove to ourselves that we can and gain confidence and a sense of achievement. We worry that we’re getting stuck in a rut or allowing our fears to hold us back. And in some cases, that’s true. Maybe we’re stuck in a place we don’t want to be out of fear of failure or judgement. In that case, crashing those mental barriers can free us to become another step closer to our best selves.

But I’ve also come to believe that our comfort zones, if they are truly aligned with our selves and don’t constrain us or hurt ourselves or anyone else, are also part of who we are. And sometimes finding that balance between keeping ourselves challenged and growing, and staying true to our likes/dislikes, beliefs and values is hard.

This is as true for our personal style as anything else. Not only is the fashion industry always pushing us to try “the next new thing” but I think our culture in general reveres the new and shiny. (I do believe this there’s a part of our brain that’s hardwired to crave novelty, otherwise we’d all still be wearing some iteration of a toga). It used to be that les femmes d’un certain âge were pushed to set aside certain styles and adopt an inconspicuous mien. Now it feels at times like almost the opposite is true. We’re urged to avoid invisibility, and gorgeously flamboyant dressers have become our torch bearers. I adore those artistic souls and their fearless style, and how they’re kicking down the fences around that “age appropriate” pasture. My moto boots and I thank you.

But it’s sometimes hard not to let what we admire become just another “should.” My own style comfort zone is less colorful and exuberant, and after a few years of back-and-forthing and trying to be more “fun” with my style, I’m fine with that. I prefer my style fun in small doses, like an oversized rhinestone necklace or a pair of leopard boots. And then there’s the sleeves thing. I’ve always been on the modest side. I have no problem with women of any age showing their arms (or legs or décolleté), but going sleeveless is something I’ve never been comfortable with, and that’s not going to change now.

Sometimes honoring our comfort zones is affirming that it’s OK to be who we are.

How about you? Are you comfortable with your comfort zones? Do you feel the need to break out of your style comfort zone from time to time, and if so did any of the changes “take”?

 

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To see a wonderful kaleidoscope of styles and comfort zones, go check out Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style!

 

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26 Comments

  1. July 22, 2013 / 4:20 am

    Many years and dollars, I have now realized if it’s outside my comfort zone it stays in the closet only to be sent off to Goodwill a year or two later.

  2. Cornelia
    July 22, 2013 / 4:52 am

    Not only are these in my comfort zone, they qualify for sleeping comfort. The mustard is one of my favourite colours from way back. Gorgeous.

    • Linda B
      July 22, 2013 / 6:36 am

      I am head over heels in love with those Eileen Fisher looks, especially the two you featured. They are a great balance of rock n’ roll, comfort and fantastic style. I don’t have a budget for these clothes but can imagine recreating some of the sweater and skirt colors and shapes in hand knitting. Thanks so much for the inspiration!

  3. July 22, 2013 / 5:58 am

    My husband and I were just talking about this subject. I need the comfort zone for life’s structure but I also need to push my comfort zone in areas to keep middle age exciting. Taking thoughtful risks are good for the soul?

    blue hue wonderland

  4. Lisa White
    July 22, 2013 / 6:27 am

    I purchased the Eileen Fisher harem pants. I thought I would NEVER wear harem pants! Yet, when I tried Eileen Fisher’s on they looked very chic. She has designed them in such a way to let the loose (droopy) part leave off right before the ankles. They were very flattering and stylish. Also, they have the added benefit of being extremely comfortable. Kudos to Eileen!

    I also ordered a brick reddish leather skirt from the Nordstrom sale. It is a wrap skirt with a vertical zipper. On the model it is a mini skirt, but I am petite and their regular size mini skirts are right above my knee, So, I thought I would try it as the price was very right. It may go back, but I thought I would try and style it and see if I can make it work.

  5. July 22, 2013 / 7:00 am

    I have often thought that readers probably find “my style” boring compared to other fashion bloggers over 40, but I stay within my comfort zone. I wear what I model on the blog. I did have to step out of my comfort zone early in my 50s and try clothing that fit my body, pencil skirts, jeans etc. At that time, all I wore was over sized clothing, wrongly thinking it covered my weight. After that I went on a treasure hunt to find the balance between stepping out and staying within…deciding what words I wanted to communicate with my style was key. I am a creative mixture of a little bit fun with mostly classic. I love to look at what others do, but I now know what is me and what isn’t. I can’t wait to see your leather skirt…a red leather is something I would do!!

  6. July 22, 2013 / 7:08 am

    I have expanded my comfort zones – just enough. Or at least that’s how it feels. I do agree that everyone’s being pushed to dress more wildly. more patterns, more odd novel silhouettes, etc. I suspect it’s fashion blogging that has done it, wild clothes are more entertaining to look at online.

  7. July 22, 2013 / 8:39 am

    I totally agree with your sentiments, well said. I feel very comfortable within my comfort zone of basically dressing classic but from time to time I look forward to trying something ‘new’ or different for me personally because I get bored 🙂 One of these was boyfriend jeans that for years and years I couldn’t consider for various reasons then I took the plunge after seeing so many others look so good in theirs. Fortunately it worked for me – in fact it has updated my whole closet!

  8. Sacramento Amate
    July 22, 2013 / 10:11 am

    I try not to have any cmfort zone. I feel best inside when I am isnpired and inspiring.
    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

  9. Laura
    July 22, 2013 / 11:06 am

    I think comfort zones can change depending on what you spend your time doing. Since retiring, I’m more aware of dressing to fit within the various worlds I inhabit so that I feel comfortable i.e. relaxed and confident, whether I’m in the garden or downtown for lunch. That said, I’m with you on the sleeveless thing. I’m not comfortable in bare/short sleeves or bare legs. Although I’ve been mulling over the idea of a linen dress for these hot muggy summers – it would have to be long and have 3/4 sleeves. Since I haven’t worn a dress in decades, that would be pushing the zone for me. Would I really be comfortable in that dress? Or is it just the fantasy wardrobe trying to sneak in the back door?

    Thanks for a thought provoking post, love your blog.

  10. Mette
    July 22, 2013 / 11:15 am

    I have a small wardrobe, which gets worn.
    Since I buy so little clothes ( these days ), I splurge on their aesthetics, quality and comfort.
    My clothes follow a certain pattern, however I update them, and get rid of worn out ones.
    Clothes are important to keep me comfortable, warm / cool.
    I browse through some magazines, visit some online shops, keep my eyes open, but in general I buy my clothes from Helsinki – if and when I see something I like.

  11. July 22, 2013 / 1:03 pm

    I am very eclectic in my clothing choices but, for me, fit is everything. Not too big or too small. Clingy or droopy are not good looks for the petite curvy woman.

    • Lisa White
      July 22, 2013 / 1:56 pm

      Yes, I can certainly see your point. I am petite, but found the “droopy” harem pants stunning as they hit the floor. However, I am a size 0 and somewhat short on any curves. I was teased relentlessly in Junior High and High school because I could not get past 72 pounds and looked like a board (carpenter’s dream is what I remember being called) Needless to say, curves were in then and I was dateless. Well, I finally past 100 pound, but I seem to look best in skirts and pants that are long to the floor or above the knee, but anywhere in-between cuts my “line.”

  12. Joy
    July 22, 2013 / 6:14 pm

    I stick to dressing within my comfort zone, particularly with shapes and cutsand lengths; fabrics can differ, and that provides variety and different degrees of dressy or casual. But we are all different: I cannot imagine giving up my sleeveless summer tops, but would not dare leave home in the skinny pants (leggings)? shown above! A chacun son gout!

  13. July 22, 2013 / 8:29 pm

    I find it very difficult to talk myself into liking a new style — there’s got to be an innate response, rather like chemistry in match-making. In a way, this helps me recognize my comfort zone, if that makes sense. That is, my style might change with fashion, to a certain degree, but there will be something consistent within those changes, even if I can’t identify or articulate it initially. That “something” outlines my comfort zone, whether it be through colour or shape or fit or texture.

  14. Kat
    July 22, 2013 / 9:26 pm

    I am uncomfortable following trends generally. I’ve noticed this about myself — maybe I’m a contrarian? I see the word “trending” and I shudder. I like what makes me feel like myself. Case in point: I have a pretty high energy job, so I’m on the go. A shoe I can’t run around in, dash up the stairs in, and briskly walk back from a meeting in while I’m kicking the autumn leaves… all of a sudden doesn’t look attractive to me.

    It’s interesting that you posted Eileen Fisher. I’d always heard EF disparaged as dowdy and dull and baggy, but I can’t disagree more. I recently discovered her line and I actually find her clothes kind of edgy — architectural, really, and the best pieces have an almost sculptural drape. I want that great grey sweater in the left hand picture and I want to wear it with a swingy knit pencil skirt and a big angular pendant necklace and ankle boots. (Of course, ankle boots I can run around in!) Grey is my black! Colors jar me lately. I long for neutral, texture, drape, feel, dimension. It’s crazy how truly subjective “style” is.

  15. July 22, 2013 / 10:22 pm

    I agree 100 percent! When I started reading blogs, I wanted to try a lot of new things and dress like other women. But a lot of those experiments haven’t really felt right for me, and I’ll be culling some things from my closet. The experimenting has made me more sure of what does work, though. Now I just need to keep shopping until I get it right!

  16. Kourtney Curay
    July 22, 2013 / 10:24 pm

    The truth is, our comfort zones should be something that we wouldn’t try to escape or avoid. It can be hard to always keep up with the new trends and it’s also not advisable to keep on experimenting with clothes that don’t suit you. It would be best to try something new sometimes but having some “safe” or comfortable pieces in your wardrobe also wouldn’t hurt. It’s nice to be fashionably uncomfortable sometimes to unleash your inner fashionista and have some days wherein you can just wear anything you want that’s comfortable and makes you feel good.

  17. July 23, 2013 / 7:02 am

    I’m comfortable with my comfort zones but it’s always good to throw something new into the mix – or give old clothes a new spin.

  18. Kris
    July 23, 2013 / 1:41 pm

    I try to remain “classic”, but sometimes it is hard to keep that comfort zone from becoming frumpy. It took me forever to buy a pair of colored jeans, but now I love them. Still I only own one pair and that’s enough.

  19. Jill
    July 23, 2013 / 4:22 pm

    Great post. When I started blogging I felt a bit out of place at a NYC blogger’s conference because it seemed everyone was dressed over the top, and that is so not me. I know myself too well! I’m like a lot of the ladies here, I like classic with a bit of fun, edge, or glamour thrown into the mix. XO, Jill

  20. July 24, 2013 / 7:06 am

    Your post is extremely well written, you are a remarkable orator and very articulate! I agree that we should wear what we are comfortable with and perhaps only venture towards the more exciting trends in as far as we experience our own style perhaps to be to restrictive. The French women hardly wear any make up and very few accessories, yet when they are dressed in jeans and a T shirt, they still look sharp! I support the idea of balance, if the neckpiece is loud, the rest should be a little more quite, and vice versa. I embarked on a style discovery introducing little bits of colour and re-invented myself, which amounts to nothing else but allowing myself more freedom to develop styles I didn’t think of as appropriate before! It’s also comforting to allow yourself to dress according to your mood!

    Well done, great post and well said!
    FF

  21. July 29, 2013 / 1:11 am

    Great piece. Comfort zones are interesting. I am comfortable in a range of styles, from demure to sonic boom-like, but I find that it’s how I feel inside what I’m wearing that generates the most positive vibe of all. It’s possible to wear a “plain” skirt and top and still feel as vibrant as a “loud” outfit.

  22. cathyc
    August 18, 2013 / 9:28 am

    It is a terrible statement about the world that so many women won’t show their arms. It is wrong. It is bad for all of us. If the weather calls for bare arms, so be it. I for one am on a crusade – if perhaps a one person crusade – about this. Otherwise you are living a life where you are ashamed to be growing old, or ashamed to be imperfect, and if that is the case, you really can’t be having much of a life at all.

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