Fighting the Frump, Embracing the Froof
Five years ago, the lovely and fashionable RA started this thing called Mission: Put Together (M:PT). The goal was simple: Every day for a month (usually May), participants would strive to be Put Together (PT) in how they dressed. Not only that, but they would photograph their PT outfits and post them to the M:PT photo pool, a place where participants could enjoy and be inspired by one another’s PT looks. RA has documented the evolution of M:PT over the years over at her blog; what we’re here to discuss today is how M:PT has aided in the evolution of my own personal style.
Back when M:PT started, my style was simple, basic, and–let’s be honest–a little boring. My standard uniform was solid-colored tees (short or long sleeved) and jeans, khakis, or shorts. My shoe preference was limited to a few pairs of flip flops and my old, oxford-style red shoes that I’d had since college. It was nothing exciting, nothing fancy, but it was comfortable. And, more importantly, it was easy. I didn’t have to think much about what to wear each day, beyond choosing what color shirt to wear and making sure that if I chose a red shirt, I did not also choose khaki pants, lest I look like a Target employee. Things like patterns and textures fell firmly under the category of “Froof.” And I did not do Froof.
M:PT May 2, 2008 — A typical five-years-ago outfit: Plain purple tee, jeans, trusty old red shoes. The fact that I wore a necklace made it feel PT.
When I joined M:PT that first year, I had no idea how much it would influence my style in the years to come. M:PT has had a hugely positive effect on my style, and on my life in general. I’ve connected with wonderful people, and the contents of my closet have improved in a big way. Slowly but surely, I pushed myself to try things outside of my comfort zone, both when shopping and trying new combinations with pieces I already owned.
I remember one pivotal moment from that first year. I was at Target, tasked with finding a simple white T-shirt. I stood in front of the T-shirt display with two options in my hands: One, a plain white v-neck (the safe option), and the other, a still fairly simple v-neck with a touch of added Froof in the form of a gathered neckline and sleeves. As I stood there debating which shirt to buy, I thought about M:PT and how I’d learned that sometimes a little bit of embellishment on a top could actually be cute. So I left the safe option behind and bought the Froofy tee. The next day, I wore it to work over a pink cami. Froof and layering. This was a big step for me.
That was the first of many M:PT-inspired purchases. These days, that shirt is one of the plainer pieces in my closet. In the years that followed, I continued to try new things and strived to use some of the staples in my wardrobe in new and exciting ways. But for the most part, I still played it pretty safe. I’d comment on people’s cute outfits and say “That cardigan is super cute, but I just can’t do cardigans.” Or “Flats aren’t for me, but that pair looks really cute on you!”All the while, I was slowly being won over by adorable shoes and accessories that managed to pull together otherwise plain outfits.
The previous two years’ M:PTs have happened when I was pregnant (2011) and still carrying a lot of extra baby weight (2012), so I was really forced to get creative with my limited outfit choices. While it was more of a challenge, I think it ultimately helped give me that last little push out of my comfort zone.
Some of my more PT outfits over the years, from left to right:
Spring 2008: “Froofy” brown top with blue cami, both M:PT-inspired purchases; safe khaki capris and flip flops
Fall 2008: Classic and safe white button down, purple cami, and brown pants; M:PT-inspired purple heels.
2011: Striped maternity tee with cami and M:PT-approved blazer (I posted photos of the outfit with and without the blazer, and my fellow M:PTers encouraged me to wear the blazer); Classic jeans
2011: Stiriped maternity tee paired with blue necklace (I was seldom brave enough to pair bright colors pre-M:PT); Cork wedges with jeans (also never would have happened pre-M:PT — it would have been flip flops all summer long)
2012: Cardigan! Worn by the former Captain of the Anti-Cardigan Team! Pink nursing top. Big, shiny necklace! Heels with jeans! Basically none of this outfit would have happened before M:PT.
These days, whenever I shop, I shop with M:PT in mind. I deliberately seek out and try on things I might have passed up in the pre-M:PT days, just in case they turn out to be cute (spoiler: they often are). Stripes! Bright colors! Ruffles! (a/k/a the Froofiest of the Froof!) And yes…even cardigans and (gasp!) flats.
During this year’s M:PT, Heidi mentioned one day “I got the chevron skirt instead of the solid one, and it has made all the difference.” Statements like this apply to so many of the wardrobe purchases I’ve made since M:PT began. While last year I lamented during Pattern Week that I had hardly any patterned items in my closet, this year my closet seemed to be overflowing with adorable patterns, and I struggled to choose which of my favorite patterned tops/skirts/cardigans to wear.
While I feel confident in my style now more than ever, I’m still learning so much, and my style continues to evolve as I push myself to be more adventurous. This year, I mixed patterns. I layered accessories. I wore fabulously bright shoes. During Color Week, I learned that more colors go together than I think, and I don’t need to stick to neutrals to guarantee versatility. I made a solemn vow that week that the next cardigan I buy will be a bright color.
(It wasn’t all successful — there were definitely one or two days when I wasn’t thrilled with my outfit. But that’s bound to happen whenever you try new things. Probably 27 or 28 days out of the 31, I was really happy with the outfits I put together. And 31 out of 31 days, I was encouraged by the supportive comments from all the other incredible M:PT participants.)
One of my favorite things about M:PT is being inspired by others throughout the month and putting new ideas into practice along the way. At the end of Color Week, when so many were pairing teal and coral, I used a birthday gift card to pick up a fabulous patterned coral top and a chunky teal beaded necklace to go with it. It’s not a combination I ever would have thought of pre-M:PT, but it’s quickly becoming one of my favorites. Plus, that necklace goes with everything. (Who’d have thought I’d ever say that about a non-neutral item?)
(Somewhat-related aside: During that same shopping trip, I hemmed and hawed over some adorable flats that came in either a neutral beige color or a coral-and-pink print. The store didn’t have my size in either color, so I found the shoes online and debated which color to order. I made up my mind, placed the order, and promptly moved on with life. The next day, I was daydreaming about the patterned flats and had a panicked moment of “OMG did I stupidly order the boring neutral shoes?” I had serious regret at the realization that I had probably gotten trigger shy and hadn’t ordered the fun patterned shoes. I can’t tell you how relieved I was when I checked my confirmation e-mail and saw the line item for “coral patterned flats.” M:PT-influenced shopping at its best, you guys.)
A coworker complimented me on my bold color combination the day I wore a purple and orange wrap dress with my new teal beaded necklace (I told you it goes with everything). She said she’s usually too timid to pair bright colors like that, but it was working really well on me. Role reversal, much? Here I am, the person so used to saying “I love that on you, but I’m not sure I could pull it off,” and now someone’s saying it to me? As a sincere compliment? I have to admit, it’s kind of fun to realize that some of my more adventurous choices are paying off.
Before the last week of M:PT this year, in which the challenge was to Put It All Together: combine all four fashion elements (color, pattern, texture, shine) into every outfit, I worried aloud to RA about how I was possibly going to achieve that level of PT-ness for a full week. She assured me that it’d be easier than I thought, and sure enough, she was right! I managed to combine all four elements almost effortlessly that week, which is a great testament to how far the contents of my closet have come as a direct result of my participation in M:PT.
M:PT is incredible. It’s so much fun to try new things, make old shirts feel new with the addition of a fun accessory, and encourage others to do the same along the way. It’s such a kind, supportive community of gorgeous women who just want to take a month to band together and Fight the Frump. Every single woman who participates is quick to offer compliments, and every last comment in the photo pool is positive and encouraging. RA recently referred to M:PT as “this inspiring, supportive, non-snarky circle of the Internet,” and I couldn’t agree more. It’s a pretty great little group she’s created.
When RA first started M:PT, the goal was to dress confidently and feel good about yourself. M:PT has definitely helped me reach that goal. To me, being PT is about being adventurous with my clothing choices. It’s about feeling good in my clothes, enjoying the fact that my closet is full of options I love, and spending the day feeling confident with my personal style. The day I first started drafting this post, I was wearing skinny jeans. Not just skinny jeans, though, oh no. Cranberry skinny jeans. (Or, as I prefer to call them: Cranberry! Skinny! Jeans!) Who ever thought we’d see the day?
Some of my favorite looks from M:PT 2013, 100% of which I would have considered Too Froofy in my pre-M:PT days
From left to right:
Cranberry! Skinny! Jeans!, Teal striped top, grey flats
Black twist-front top, polka-dot cami, denim capris, fabulous coral patterned flats
Patterned wrap dress, teal eyelet cami, teal necklace worn as bracelet, cork wedges
Cranberry! Skinny! Jeans!, White striped cardigan, tee with ruffled neck, grey flats
Patterned skirt, tucked-in top, teal necklace, patent grey heels, toddler photo-bomb
Striped dress w/ blazer, big shiny necklace, espadrilles