My 5 Rules for Getting Dressed

5 Rules I use for Getting Dressed // One Lovely Life

In February, I was asked to speak to a group of teen girls about my style and fashion philosophy as part of a Fashion Night they were having. Truth be told, I’m sure there were plenty of surprised people when I was revealed as a speaker.

I’m not what you might call trendy by any means. I’ve grown up with a few examples and pieces of fashion advice that have worked well for me. Maybe they’ll turn some light bulbs on for you too. Who knows? For better or worse, here are the five principles I use for getting dressed.

5 Rules I use for Getting Dressed // One Lovely Life

1. Go For the Classics. Growing up, I had a friend named Paige. While everyone in junior high was striving to wear clothes with visible labels and brand names, Paige was one of the prettiest girls in our class. Paige also never wore clothes with a visible brand name or logo. She wore mostly solid colored shirts with classic lines. She moved shortly after the school year started, which gave me the perfect opportunity to try on her fashion identity without “copying.” I have primarily worn solids (with the occasional stripe or polka dot thrown in the mix for good measure) ever since.

I started noticing that some of my fashion favorites (like Audrey Hepburn) could just as easily wear their clothes today as when they originally wore them. They were classic, timeless, beautiful clothes. I’m no Audrey, but I try to err on the side of something that won’t be out of style in two months.

5 Rules I use for Getting Dressed // One Lovely Life

2. My grandma once told me to invest in some basic timeless pieces (things like a good pair of jeans or a quality dress), then to fill in the gaps with inexpensive trendy pieces of jewelry, shoes, or accessories that I could change out as often as I please. My grandma is gorgeous and has one of the happiest wardrobes in all the land. I trust her. I apply this advice by “investing” in better quality jeans, a versatile skirt, or a great sweater. I love to keep things current by buying fun shoes (my weakness!), or scarves. Even a great lipstick can keep things feeling fresh and new. That said, I almost never pay full price for clothes. I buy jeans at the twice-yearly sale, use internet sale codes every time I shop online, and pick up most of my clothes at outlets (on sale), Target, or clearance racks.

One investment I made recently was in the best pair of flats I’ve ever owned. I saved my birthday and Christmas money last year for a pair of Tieks. They’ve got such a stellar reputation for being comfortable and classic. I wish I could get every color out there (mercy, those mint patents! The leopard!) but these ballet pink ones make me feel feminine and put together whether I’m pairing them with jeans and a nice top for date night or a pair of black leggings and a button-up for preschool drop-off.

5 Rules I use for Getting Dressed // One Lovely Life

3. I’ve had a capsule wardrobe since high school. Long before people called it a “uniform” or a “capsule wardrobe.” I’ve happily worn a handful or two of pieces at any given time. Above is a sample from my closet. It’s not everything, but it gives you an idea of what I mean. I keep to a formula that works for me, and I wear nearly everything in my closet on a regular basis. In essence, I choose a color palette, stick with it, and then basically everything I own can be mixed and matched. While I *always* have whites, greys, blacks, and navies in my arsenal, I change things up every few seasons. This spring, my clothes are almost all white, grey, navy, mint, and coral, with some denim/chambray mixed in. Getting dressed doesn’t feel especially fussy, and I always have something to wear.

This works for me. I’d like to think it’s because of some deep reason (like being such a driven person I don’t have brain space for clothing decisions), the truth is that, as much as I love clothes, I have a hard time shopping and this keeps things simple. And, I’ll add that I don’t get bored because I change things up with shoes, etc. to keep things interesting. This totally wouldn’t work for everyone, but it does for me.

  • Top Row: J Crew Factory, Target, Gap Outlet
  • Middle Row: Gap Outlet, Gap, Gap Outlet
  • Bottom Row: Boden, DownEast Basics, Kohls

5 Rules I use for Getting Dressed // One Lovely Life

4.  Forget about size. Buy what fits. Some people are surprised that shopping is hard for me. I believe some part of shopping is hard for everyone. Maybe you have a hard time buying jeans. Maybe dresses never fit quite right. Maybe it’s getting the right bra. I’m a short (5’2″ on a good day) girl with a thick, boyish waist for my size. On a size chart my bust/hips are two sizes different than my waist. In order to accommodate my waist, things usually end up being giant in the shoulders or big in the arms or hips.

We all have areas we don’t love as much as others, but I’ve found I’m happiest when my clothes fit–no matter the size. I’d rather wear a size that fits well than one that feels too tight or too low-cut or short or whatever.

5 Rules I use for Getting Dressed // One Lovely Life

5. Find Your Red Badge of Courage. My mom raised four girls (and a boy), and was once stopped by someone who commented that she thought my mom was raising vain little girls by curling our hair (can I get an amen for triangle bangs!?). My mom’s philosophy never felt like vanity. It was more the idea that you get ready and dressed in a way that makes you feel good, and you walk out the door and stop thinking about it. I find that when my clothes fit properly, I don’t spend an ounce of extra worry over how I look.

I know of a grandma who wears her “red badge of courage” on hard days. She’d apply a nice layer of red lipstick when she felt things were falling apart or going crazy at home and it helped her feel like she could face the day. Find YOUR red badge of courage, whether it’s shoes, a favorite bracelet, or a cute purse, or a great shade of lipstick. Personally, I don’t wear heels on weekdays. I don’t slide lipstick on to go to the splash pad. I wear stretchy jeans I can get down on the floor and play in. I wear soft fabrics that are easy to care for and nothing so expensive that I’ll cry if someone wipes their nose or fingers on it. But I feel pretty in cute shoes, whether they cost $15 or lots more than that. Do what works for you!

Those are my five guiding principles for getting dressed.

What are some of yours?


  1. I just love you and your sisters! You are beautiful! I wish you lived closer so we could be bff’s and you could help me pick out my perfect style.

  2. This was so fun to read. Thank you for sharing what has worked for you. It IS eye opening to see ‘style’ put into real life. Real women get noses wiped on their clothes. Real women need to be able to bend over without ‘sharing’ all their secrets. Real women sometimes need to be reminded to be real.

    You are really real. (That may be one of the highest compliments I can think of!)

  3. Getting dress definitely can’t take more than 5 minutes for me, or else it’s workout clothes for the entire day! I love having classic pieces that can be mixed and matched with everything else in my closet!

  4. Similarly to your mama, my mom always told us before you leave the house to do what you need to do to make yourself feel great, but after you leave the house focus on making other people feel great!

  5. Girl, you are beautiful in every way! Your figure is fantastic and also, I never realized you are only an inch taller than me! This makes me want to go shopping even more than before.

    1. Rebecca – Of COURSE! The floral sneakers are from Forever 21 of all places for about $15. I’ve seen lots of cute printed sneakers at Target too, this season. The sandals were Old Navy last summer. I have LOVED them and wear them as often as possible. I’ve seen some similar ones at Target and American Eagle this year.

  6. I think my red badge of courage is having pretty toes. I can go out of the house in yoga pants and flip flops, but as long as my toes are painted and look nice, I feel great! 🙂

  7. Hi Emily! I loved this post. I remember from our BYU married days how much I admired you beautiful sense of style. You rock! And as a short girl as well, at 5’1″, what are your favorite places to buy petite or short jeans? I can’t handle shopping for jeans when I’d have to cut off and hem them ;). Thanks!

    1. Oh, amen. Hemming is the worst! I really, really like American Eagle’s jegging jeans. They really are stretchy jeans, not leggings. They come in a short length that I find flattering and the stretchy fabric is a great fit for me.

  8. I have the same sizing problem that you have with clothes (short and thin, but my waist is pretty wide). I find it very difficult to shop for clothing (especially tight fitting dresses) because everything is usually too tight in the waist if it is going to fit everywhere else. I usually end up buying skirts so that I don’t have to deal with alterations. It’s so reassuring to hear someone else has the same problem.

  9. I enjoyed this post very much1 I love your style, and you make a beautiful model. The J Crew Factory website is news to me. Thanks for pointing out that resource. I shop at Loft when I am looking for bargains.

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