What Exactly is Frumpy?

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Are certain prints frumpy?

What Exactly is Frumpy?

I’m sure we’ve all asked the question of what exactly is frumpy. It’s one of those terms that gets tossed around quite a bit, yet it’s not easy to define. I had tackled this subject in the past and was recently reminded about it when I read the article by Jacynth.

I’m not here to say the same things that Jaccynth did, but I’d love to bring up the idea with all of you. I felt like I agreed with thought that it’s when someone has given up on looking good. Or has a please don’t look at me demeanor. But let’s break it down some more.

Quote of the day: “Urban Dictionary definition of Frumpy: A female with lack of concern for appearance. Often characterized by sweatpants, frizzy hair, gramma panties and a paisty complexion.”

In the past, a reader once asked about styling floral shirts so not to look mumsy. It really got me working hard on trying to come up with some interesting ideas. I thought it’d be interesting to get your take on them.

While I’m not the expert per se, I am very excited to announce that I was featured in .” If you check it out, I’d also appreciate you sharing it on your social media! Thanks!!

I’ve written more articles about this idea. Make sure to check out those also.

What Exactly is Frumpy?

So first, let me ask again. What is your definition of frumpy? This is where I think it’s hard to pinpoint one item or one detail that makes someone look frazzled. And really, I have a feeling, we’ve ALL gone through periods in our lives when we could relate.

For me, it was when I was married to my ex husband and just starting up my dental practice. One time I was told I looked about 40 (and I was only in my late 20’s). I’m sure it had to do with two huge reasons. One I was in an awful relationship. And two, I was trying to dress professionally, and was missing the mark.

But trust me when I say that I don’t think it’s just the clothes that can make us look frumpy. It’s the hair, the lipstick, and the attitude that all plays a part. AND you certainly don’t have to spend a ton of money to look non-frumpy. Don’t let age or size be a factor either…we can all fight the frump.

I’d love to walk you through the examples below. And tell you what I was thinking with these posts.

Jodie’s Take on Frumpy And Fighting Back with Modern Jeans

I started our frumpy florals series 3 years ago by having us all wear a floral top. And then we switched up our same top 3 different ways. One of the ways was to wear it with a pair of modern jeans. You can see Nancy and Charlotte’s transformation and my rationals for them in that post.

From frumpy to fabulous

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I would tell you that it’s not just the jeans that make a difference to the look in this example. Sure, the jeans are a more modern cut and style. In fact, I know most of you can’t stand the distressed detail. But personally, I will tell you I feel younger in mine. Maybe it’s crazy (and yes, I’ve been told I’m crazy), but it’s a feeling, maybe because the younger girls ARE wearing them.

Another factor is the shoes. Stylish shoes are huge in my opinion. And while I know that everyone wants comfort too, I feel like there are many companies that can give you both. Walking Cradles is my go-to shoe company for comfort, but I find other great shoes at DSW also. So the fact that I added a modern pink shoe in the after photo above makes a huge difference in the look.

But there’s even more to it than the pieces. It’s the colors and fit of the pieces that can make or break the outfit too. In the frumpy photo above, all the pieces are loose and muted in color. That’s where even the fact that I front tucked the top, along with the addition of colorful shoes, adds so much sass.

And the shades. Seriously. If you’re worried about how you look, add some FUN sunglasses.

Nancy’s Take on Frumpy and Fighting Back with Layering

The second part of the frumpy floral top series was an idea to layer the shirt. You can see mine and Charlotte’s layering in that post, but today, I’ll concentrate on Nancy’s example.

Print mixing to look non frumpy

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It’s not that you HAVE to wear a topper to make an outfit stand out. But if you’re worried that a top could look dated, it’s an easy fix to add a more modern vest or jacket or cardigan. Besides, even though this is a print t-shirt, it’s just that. A t-shirt. One factor of not looking frumpy is to stand out. Be visible. Enjoy life.

So with Nancy’s outfit, I had her print mix with her leopard cardigan. This is one of my favorite examples of print mixing. The two tops play off each other SO well, because they both have black and white in them.

Then the contrast of the white pants create a more modern flair. It’s not like the pants are super tight. They are an ankle length which is also more contemporary right now. Which is one reason why I think it’s important to update our pieces from time to time.

Of course, the shoes play a big part in Nancy’s example. The before pair just don’t do anything to help the look. Sure, you might have picked them because they are a variation of nude and we have all heard how nude shoes lengthen the legs. Yet it’s a good example of how “longer” legs does not make you fabulous.

Charlotte’s Take of Frumpy and Fighting Back with Accessories

Last but not least, in the third post of our frumpy florals series, I wanted to see about adding in accessories. Could certain accessories along with other combinations make the overall look different? Just like in the other two examples, we all played along with our same top in each. So you can see how Nancy wore her purple floral shirt and I wore my pink floral blouse with different kinds of accessories in the post.

Adding Accessories

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One of the hugest factors in my mom’s first look is how it’s very matchy matchy. Now I know many of you LOVE matching. And that’s not a bad thing. Yet it can look old ladyish at times. It’s very modern to throw in another color to an outfit. That third color can add more interest and pizzazz. Even if it’s only a neutral.

Like with my mom’s example. The black jeans give the top more contrast. With the yellow capris, the whole thing blends too much. Then again, like I said before, it’s not only ONE detail. Possibly my mom could have worn those yellow capris and added in some white booties or some other cool pair of shoes? Maybe something to give it a little more edginess.

It’s almost like you want to add in at least one updated piece. Maybe it’s trendy. Maybe it’s not. And remember so much of style and fashion recycles. Like the leopard print that we see so much of right now. That’s why I had my mom add in her leopard shoes. They make her look like she’s living in the 2000’s. Instead of the 1950’s.

The accessory that really stands out in my mom’s case is the choker necklace. Sure, you might have worn them in the 60’s and figured you’re done. But it’s not bad to wear the same style when it comes around the second time. Really! And heck, it may cover up any wrinkles you are worried about showing!


I think all of these examples point to why the word is so elusive. There’s not just one factor or a piece that makes us look frumpy. If we review the definition by the Urban Dictionary above, you’ll see it includes hair and complexion. Which is why I touched upon updating our haircut or style lately.

As for complexion, that’s why we take care of our skin. And if you are looking a little pale, throw on some bright lipstick. Or a hat. Something to take the focal point away from what you don’t like.

My last piece of advice. Stop worrying about standing out too much. You need to stand out. Life is too short to be invisible. So put a little Iris Apfel into your outfit. Try a new style, experiment with a new haircut and just have fun with your clothes.

Enough of my opinion. Tell me yours. What exactly is frumpy?

Photo credit: Rob Filogomo

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