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5 Ways to Dump the Frump in Your Wardrobe

Ready to dump the frump? Enjoy this week’s column on personal style for midlife women from Pamela Lutrell of Over 50 Feeling 40.

Have you ever heard the term “enclothed cognition?”  I had not until last week, but it seems this is the term for how I have developed a personal style.

According to an article from Forbes in 2012, Northwestern University conducted a study solely on this concept of “enclothed cognition.”  The article states, “Researchers define it in their report as “the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes,” meaning what your clothes are saying to you, not about you. And how they make you feel.”


“Enclothed cognition gives scientific proof to the idea that you should dress not how you feel, but how you want to feel.  Which clothes make you feel powerful? Sexy? In control? Wealthy? The clothes you choose are sending a message to those around you, but also to you, yourself.”

Somehow, when I turned fifty, I figured this out on my own.  I knew it was time to “dump the frump,” but the question remained: who did I want to be?  I remembered my life in my 20s and how the professional clothes made me feel strong and powerful.  I wanted that feeling back.

The best plan to do this for me was to control the messages and constantly ask the mirror what the look I was wearing said.  The next step was to limit the messaging, because I love many different styles in fashion.  Five would be a good number, so that I did not go off on lots of rabbit trails and therefore lose my way.

For the last eleven years, every time I shop or style an outfit for my day, I have looked to see if it sent these messages.

Five Questions to Help Develop Your Personal Style

  1. Strong: Does the piece or outfit give me a feeling of strength? Of being in charge? Of having professional success?
  2.  Chic: Do I feel chic, dignified?
  3. Creative: Is there a creative touch to what I am doing that is unique to my artsy side?
  4. Youthful: Do I feel “young at heart” in an appropriate manner?
  5.  Confidence: Does it fit my body in a fabulous way…not too tight…not too big? Do I feel amazing in it?  Do I look in the mirror before leaving the house and say YES! Then leave with a smile.

Recently, I was asked to simply define my personal style and I said,” I am tailored with a kick.”  The kick is my creative/artsy side best obtained with accessories, and sometimes a print or vibrant color.  Now, please understand, I have been running my own research study right in front of the mirror.  Sometimes I do not hit what I am looking for. It usually happens when I am in a rush or dressing during an emotional moment.  If I plan accordingly, take time and ask my five questions, then I will hit the mark.

All of us can select five messages we desire to send with our clothes–our personal enclothed cognition!  There are so many adjectives women love to portray.  The challenge is sticking to just those five, over and over again, until we say exactly who we are through our wardrobe.  I have accomplished this and know others can do the same.  Two years ago, our high school juniors staged a play for our school and I was one of the characters portrayed on the stage.  This moment was actually a confirmation I have nailed my style, because they dressed the character perfectly and everyone knew it was me.

How would you be portrayed?  Is it time to “dump the frump?”

Please share with us what your five messages would be!

This can be so much fun, but does need much thought, perseverance, and discipline to live within the five!  Thanks for stopping by the Joy Boutique…hope you have a wonderful week!

midlife boulevard, columnist, midlife women, middle-age, midlife crisis

Pamela Lutrell

Pamela Lutrell began her blog, over50feeling40, July 2010 with a desire to encourage women over 50 to walk in strength, confidence and joy. Of course, head turning style makes each day fun!

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Carol Graham

Sunday 13th of December 2015

I have tried to maintain that "kick" and go through my closet at least twice a year. Thanks for the added advice and motivation. I always take my daughter shopping with me -- she won't allow me to buy anything that doesn't scream confidence and style - no matter how much I like it.

Sue Gardner

Sunday 13th of December 2015

2:45 am, a glass of red and some cheese and crackers, searching the web......look what I found. Pamela, you are an inspiration, thank you so much for sharing your journey into the unknown territories of our " next phase". At 67, I don't want to be mutton-dressed-as-lamb, but I still feel as if I'm 35. What's a girl to do??? You've hit the nail on the head as far as dressing classy with an edge. I will pass your blog onto my pals and look forward to future posts. Sincerely, Sue

Pamela Lutrell

Sunday 13th of December 2015

Hi Sue, Hope to see more of you...thanks for the lovely comment. Please stop by and, of course, invite lots of friends...we have a great time.

Kathryn Wells

Thursday 11th of September 2014

Completely agree! Once, I was heading out to a Wednesday night service, dressed quite frumpy, caught a glimpse in the mirror and was shocked. I told myself I could do better than that and have ever since. I may not always put forth the same effort, but I do present a caring impression. Great article.


Wednesday 10th of September 2014

Just now jumping off the Frump Train! Dumped most everything I had because it screamed over 50 stay at home mom. I came across this blog in my very recent search for help. I am now going to sit down and work out my five questions before hitting the stores. Thanks so much for the insight. Very helpful!


Wednesday 10th of September 2014

Great and fun concept! I find my personal style words have been changing over the last year, so a wardrobe clean out is on my agenda very soon.

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