Struggling to Look Effortless
Sometimes it seems like the internet is obsessed with looking effortless. No one wants to look contrived or like they "tried too hard" - yet some individuals can literally spend hours creating the perfect "effortless" ensemble. And then when we see someone who is dressed inappropriately, don't we all kind of sigh inside and wish they had made more of an effort?
The Continuum of Effort
Although tons of blogs and magazines tout effortless chic as the way to go, effort isn't binary - it's not like you either exert MAXIMUM EFFORT or nothing at all. Sometimes you put more energy into a look, and other times you do less. Most of us, if we're honest, actually put a decent amount of thought into how we look - in fact, sometimes an easy breezy throw-on-and-go outfit actually takes a lot of thought and maintenance on the front end (e.g. in the fitting room, at the hair salon). Conversely, most of us also quit after a reasonable amount of effort instead of strapping into intricate, elaborate looks every day.
In general, a more effortless look uses less pieces (LBD+pumps), and a more elaborate look uses more pieces (LBD+blouse+cape+hat+gigantic glasses+arm party); a more effortless look will have a softer or more relaxed fit (track pants), and a more elaborate look will be more starchy and more tailored (an oxford shirt); a more effortless look will stick to neutrals, while a more elaborate look will embrace color and print.
As with any other continuum, such as politics or religion, there also exist extremes to which less of us can relate. Most people will find a complete and utter lack of effort repulsive - and most would similarly view fanatical effort as bizarre. The trick is to figure out where you land on the sliding scale.
Why Look Effortless?
So if we all actually do put some kind of energy into our looks, and if "effortless" style actually takes a decent amount of thought/planning/grooming, then what's the big draw of an effortless style?
There are tons of positive connotations surrounding an easy-looking image:
- Low-maintenance (physically or emotionally)
- Easy to understand
...but there are also lots of great personality traits reflected by a more elaborate look:
It doesn't really matter how effortlessly or elaborately you dress - as long as you do it accurately. If you're a single person looking for love, you might want to telegraph that you're a high maintenance person in order to attract like-minded dates. If you're in a position of authority or need to communicate your complex intellect for a presentation/interview/competition, you might want to look more buttoned-up and formal.
Doing the Work on the Front End
So if you want to look and feel more effortless, how do you make the process... more effortless... without falling off the deep end and just looking sloppy? I call this "doing the work on the front end." This means that most of your ideal look gets secured long before any individual outfit is chosen.
- Being strict about fit and flattery in the fitting room (so that everything automatically fits and flatters at home)
- Insisting on a mix and match wardrobe (so that you can almost get dressed in the dark and still look coordinated)
- Devising a few set capsules/uniforms/formulas that you can "just throw on"
- Specifically asking for a low-maintenance hairstyle at the salon (so that you can roll out of bed and look fabulous)
- Paying careful attention to your grooming routine (clean and tidy skin, nails, facial hair, and teeth go a LONG way toward making sweat pants look chic)
- Devising set make-up "uniforms" (to get you out the door fast while still looking finished)
As much as some may deny it (especially here in perennially casual California), most of us actually do give a sh*t. But we can all prevent our images from running our lives by a) being honest about who you are and how you want to be seen, b) having a plan about how to express your ideal self visually, and c) building a wardrobe system that consistently generates your ideal image - it may not be 100% effortless, but at least you eliminate the daily struggle.