How to add personality to your wardrobe - une femme d'un certain âge

Daring to be distinctive: pieces that add personality to your wardrobe

Susan Blakey wears a long navy jacket, striped sweater, boyfriend jeans and blue oxfords.

One of the style lessons my mother instilled in me was, “always go with the simpler (and/or) more classic choice; you won’t tire of it quickly.” While there’s some truth to this, never swaying from the “simple” (or classic) path can lead to a wardrobe that feels bland and generic. Been there, done that. 😉

Above: originally worn HERE.

Pieces that add personality to your wardrobe

Yes, accessories can do some heavy lifting, but after years of lamenting that my wardrobe was “all workhorses and no Show Ponies,” I’ve expanded my comfort zone to include some distinctive pieces that add personality to my wardrobe.

One of the reasons I shied away from more distinctive clothing items was that I worried they would be too memorable. (My mother also used to say, “I can’t wear that dress to the party…they’ve SEEN IT BEFORE.” 😂 ) I don’t know where the idea that we have to look different every day originated, but it’s not something that’s universal. In Europe where wardrobes are often smaller, there’s no stigma associated with wearing the same piece or outfit on repeat.

Susan B. wears a lemon print stripe sweater, navy joggers and sneakers. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Above: originally worn HERE.

What makes something a standout piece? It might be color, pattern, details, shape, texture, or a combination of any of those. Just how distinctive and how many “personality pieces” you combine in an outfit will depend on your style and comfort level. Because I’m petite, I don’t do well with too many competing patterns or focal points. So I usually stick to one standout clothing item and keep the rest as supporting players.

Shopping my closet for more outfit ideas…

Susan B. wears a lemon print striped sweater, off-white jeans and yellow loafers.

I purchased this fun cotton sweater back in 2019. While it’s not going to set the fashion world on fire, it is more distinctive than just another classic Breton top. It’s from Chinti & Parker. It’s one of my wardrobe favorites, and I get compliments every time I wear it.

Above: sweater no longer available. jeans | loafers (similar)

Another reason I’ve been wary of more distinctive pieces was the worry that they wouldn’t be versatile. But as I’ve learned, if you love something and it suits you, you’ll probably find multiple ways to style it. My friend Frances who blogs at materfamilias illustrates this well with a distinctive dress she packed for a recent trip to Italy.

Susan B. wears a denim jacket, lemon print sweater, tan corduroys and raffia oxfords.

It can be hard to find those distinctive pieces that tick all of the boxes, so keep your eyes open and be prepared to snap up something out of season. Aside from the Yes! Factor when I try something on, I think about what else in my wardrobe it will work with. And I prioritize quality…if I find something that really speaks to me, I want it to last!

Above: sweater no longer available. jacket (similar) | pants | shoes (similar)

More sweaters with personality:

What’s the most distinctive item in your wardrobe that you wear regularly?

Stay in touch.

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  1. SuD
    November 24, 2021 / 4:44 am

    Lovely outfit combinations on you. I really like how the yellow in the t-shirt is repeated in minimalist detail in the sneakers.

    • Susan Blakey
      November 24, 2021 / 9:49 am

      Thanks, SuD!

  2. Linda M
    November 24, 2021 / 5:18 am

    What always elevates your outfits, I think, is your footwear. In retirement, I’m dressing more casually, and I look to your slightly funky footwear as a guide to making my jeans and top, or leggings and big denim shirt stand, out a little more, and be more fun. While I enjoy fashion and have lots of cool accessories, for some reason, I struggle with “fun” sneakers and flats. Thank you!

    • Susan Blakey
      November 24, 2021 / 9:49 am

      Thanks, Linda! Someone once described footwear as “the exclamation point on an outfit,” and that inspired and has stayed with me.

  3. November 24, 2021 / 6:56 am

    Thanks so much for the mention, Sue! I love your top — loved it when you first showed it here a couple of years ago, and I love to see you wearing it in different combinations here (and I agree with Linda M, above — your shoes really add the polish! pun not intended).

    • Susan Blakey
      November 24, 2021 / 9:47 am

      Thank you, Frances! And thanks for your post, which inspired this one.

  4. Roberta
    November 24, 2021 / 7:00 am

    More posts like this one please. Really appreciate your taking time to show multiple examples of styling signature pieces. I also admire your footwear changes. Inspiring me to try changing my ootd.

    • Susan Blakey
      November 24, 2021 / 9:46 am

      Thanks, Roberta!

  5. Wendelah
    November 24, 2021 / 7:28 am

    My everyday handbags are from Sari Bari. They’re made from recycled saris. I get compliments on them everywhere I go.

    • Susan Blakey
      November 24, 2021 / 9:46 am

      What a fun idea!

    • November 26, 2021 / 9:34 am

      I love Sari Bari! Such unique items, and for a good cause. (Their items are sewn by women who were impacted by human trafficking.) And, I believe their entire selection is on sale today! I don’t have any connection to their shop, I just really love their bags!

  6. Karen B
    November 24, 2021 / 7:36 am

    I love the top as much as I did when you first shared it. Great ideas for different ways to wear tops.

    • Susan Blakey
      November 24, 2021 / 9:46 am

      Thanks, Karen B!

  7. November 24, 2021 / 7:38 am

    The thing about that shirt, for me, is that it really embodies your spirit as I have come to know you. Classy (in the best way), fun, and always ready to embrace something a little new.

    • November 24, 2021 / 9:06 am

      Yes!! Completely agree!

    • Susan Blakey
      November 24, 2021 / 9:45 am

      Thanks so much, Lisa! You know me well…;-)

  8. Susan
    November 24, 2021 / 7:45 am

    Oh my gosh, this post speaks to me! You’re such an inspiration, Susan. “All work horses and no show ponies” is the story of my closet. After I got my colors done recently — I’m a Deep Summer — I concentrated on getting basics in my best colors (hard to find this season). The colors are great, but the outfits are boring. I run hot, and live in Southern California, so I can’t always count on a layering piece for interest. Help! Where do you find interesting items? It seems like the mall stores have the same old super-safe basics.

    • Susan Blakey
      November 24, 2021 / 9:44 am

      Thanks so much, Susan! Yes, that’s been my gripe/frustration about local retail for some time now, and why I’ve done some targeted shopping overseas. I’m on the lookout for pieces with a “little something extra” and will share as I spot them.

  9. Jacqueline
    November 24, 2021 / 8:28 am

    Thank you so much, Susan for the introduction to materfamilias! While Frances’ clothing style is not mine her writing and life experience is.

    • Susan Blakey
      November 24, 2021 / 9:41 am

      Doesn’t she write beautifully, though?

  10. Karen in Cowtown
    November 24, 2021 / 8:29 am

    Great post on shopping your closet—thank you! That top looks super cute with your denim jacket!

    • Susan Blakey
      November 24, 2021 / 9:40 am

      Thanks, Karen!

  11. Abby
    November 24, 2021 / 9:13 am

    I love this post. I can also feel the new positive energy you have from your shopping trip abroad. I would love to see these outfit pics all lined up next to each other. More posts like this please!!!!

    • Susan Blakey
      November 24, 2021 / 9:40 am

      Thanks Abby, I’m definitely feeling more inspired these days.

  12. Eve
    November 24, 2021 / 9:17 am

    It’s all in the details sometimes. You use shoes, scarves, and jackets in such creative ways. I bought my first graphic tee because of your inspiration and thos little bananas in your hair and around your neck, so inspiring.

    • Susan Blakey
      November 24, 2021 / 9:39 am

      Thanks so much, Eve!

  13. Eve
    November 24, 2021 / 9:18 am

    Okay now. I did not type the word banana. Crazy spellcheck

    • Susan Blakey
      November 24, 2021 / 9:39 am


  14. Joan Sunderland
    November 24, 2021 / 10:31 am

    Hi Susan – enjoy your posts so much. Like you, I love a good pair of shoes to add an exclamation point to an outfit. I haven’t yet purchased a pair of Clergerie shoes – the price point is one consideration, plus not traveling as much for work. I’m finding my resolve weakening though….. 🙂 Have several pairs from The Office of Angela Scott. Their loafers and oxfords are fun.

  15. Eva Gayle Cox
    November 24, 2021 / 1:31 pm

    I love your posts when you show how one item can worn multiple things. I always think ‘what will this go with in my wardrobe??’ when shopping. Thanks to you, I’m wearing more funky footwear & always get compliments on my ‘cool’ shoes.

  16. Nancy Klein
    November 24, 2021 / 4:48 pm

    “Let us remain inflexible and fortune will at last change in our favor.” Years ago a tweed, navy or black blazer was not distinctive, now, it is at leastwhere I live in Northern California. I do not find that style too structured – but I am not cute and funky like Susan. Now I buy most of my cloths on ebay, etc., where it is easy and fun to buy beautiful, dare I say classic, clothes at good prices. One unusual piece, though, an Italian metallic puffer coat which looked so ugly that I felt sorry for it, I bought when the price was lowered to $60.00. I love it.

  17. Lagatta de Montréal
    November 25, 2021 / 9:53 am

    I don’t live in Europe now, but our housing co-op closets are very small – when our Montréal triplexes with iron staircases were built in the early 1900s, most people had very limited wardrobes. And they are small in modern condos. I don’t mind; most people wear only a fraction of their clothing. One distinctive item bought recently: a deep cool-green overshirt (surchemise in French) in organic cotton twill, As for shoes, my short wide (in front) feet are hard to fit, so they tend to be plain and practical.

  18. November 28, 2021 / 12:02 pm

    I agree with you. I am quite the opposite though. I have a lot (and I mean A LOT) of distinctive pieces haha.

  19. Anon
    November 29, 2021 / 5:22 pm

    I look at my eyeglasses as the “show ponies”. I own only one pair at a time, and I want them to stand out. They’re part of my personality. People don’t remember what I wore, but they always remember the red cat-eye glasses. Somehow they go with everything. Now it’s time to replace them, and I’m feeling a little sad. The new pair isn’t as splashy. Neither is it blend-in bland. Maybe a new part of my personality will come out that says…”purple”!

  20. January 30, 2022 / 10:16 am

    Hi Susan, Love the line all workhorses and no show ponies! I totally agree with your philosophy, too many staple pieces becomes boring. The standouts are what make the fashion statement. It’s easy though to purchase “fast fashion” that don’t stand the test of time and tend to be poorer quality. I too love to shop when I travel just to find the unusual pieces that become my go to favourites

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