"But if Fashion Were Easy, Wouldn't Everybody Look Great?" ~ Tim Gunn
Tim Gunn coined his famous, pithy phrase 'the slobbification of America' as an articulation of a phenomenon that's been happening over the past 50 years or so. In terms of our personal appearance, we've been 'devolving' into slobb-dom. The reasons, I'm guessing, are the introduction of synthetic fabrics, and advances in technology making clothing manufacture easier and thus cheaper, to name two of the more popular excuses.
But 'casual' isn't synonymous with sloppy.
-sloppy: slovenly, careless <a sloppy dresser> <did sloppy work>
-casual: informal, natural <a casual conversation> <casual clothing>
Casual means informal, sloppy means slovenly. So casual doesn't mean throwing on whatever is clean(est) then heading out the door. It does mean clothing that's generally more relaxed and/or comfortable, often with less embellishments or pronounced style. 'Casual' can be considered a 'style' in and of itself- and I'm always a champion for people expressing their own style with their clothing.
It's not really a fine line, either, so don't go there- casual done well is a million miles away from slovenly. The difference is time, effort and care. If you want to live in jeans and have the lifestyle that allows it, then go for it. But make sure you find jeans that fit and are flattering. And put tops with those jeans that are equally flattering. Yes, it takes more time to find the more flattering options, but it takes the same amount of time in the morning to put the good 'casual' clothes on as it does to put the 'slovenly' stuff on. It all boils down to how you choose to present yourself to the world. And if you present an image of self respect, you're more likely to be treated with respect. More importantly, it feels good to know you look your best.
So here's a few suggestions to get you started on a successful casual wardrobe- either as your entire wardrobe or as part of your overall wardrobe.
1. Know your best colors (see Feb 3, 2012, "Color, Glorious Color" for more on choosing your colorshttp://chichiimage.blogspot.com/2012/02/color-glorious-color.html)
2. Know your proportions (see March 23, 2012 "Derrère Delusions," http://chichiimage.blogspot.com/2012/03/derriere-delusions.html
and April 27, 2012 "Smoke and Mirrors"http://chichiimage.blogspot.com/2012/04/start-by-doing-whats-necessary-then-do.html for help in this area)
3. Last, know your style. (See February 24, 2012 "Style Freak" http://chichiimage.blogspot.com/2012/02/style-freak.html and June 21, 2013 "A Pretty Little Addiction" http://chichiimage.blogspot.com/2013/06/a-pretty-little-addiction.html for ideas.)
These three variables- color, proportion and style- can make or break your 'casual' image. Pay no attention to them and believe me- it shows.
By far the easiest way to maintain a good casual wardrobe is to keep it simple. Choose only a couple of styles for both tops and bottoms (hopefully all pretty much interchangeable) and only in 3 or 4 of your best colors, and stick with that. Beyond that, keep everything in good shape- proper laundering and folding or hanging before those pesky, image-busting wrinkles set in, and replace what needs it, as it needs it. And keep it small- buy less, wear more often, and again, replace as needed. This way you'll not only look better, but also avoid wasting wardrobe space, having a messy closet that's like a black hole, and you can stay in line with current fashion, if that's important to you. If not, then you just give yourself a way to avoid getting bored with your clothes.
The hardest part of this plan? Letting go of that ancient, favorite, sloppy t-shirt….well, maybe keep just that one thing for when you're by yourself at home, not going anywhere at all…