If you know me, you know that I am one of the most pragmatic style experts on the planet. Fashion and style, being extremely subjective with a lot of variables, can be so hard to define and explain to the average person who struggles with the concept. Style isn’t science or math with simple formulas or explanation. So, now imagine, if you will, a client who has a background in accounting, finance or law, for example, staring at me, their consultant, in their underwear wanting to cerebrally understand the concept of looking good. This was one of my biggest challenges when I left my fashion design career and started working with clients on their style. I knew I had to take the intangible topic of style and make it as formulaic as possible so clients could have their own successes without me handholding them every step of the way.
As I tell my clients, I can’t sleep in their closets and dress them every morning. (Although, I’ve gotten requests on more than one occasion.) So, I had to come up with terms, phrases and analogies to give my clients to make getting dressed successfully more paint-by-numbers and less abstract. Calling things like a boring outfit a Chicken Outfit, accusing them of Wishful Wardrobing and step by step offering a wardrobe solution as an Anchor Solution or an Outfit Round Robin are some of the ways I’ve managed to help clients better understand the whole concept of style.
Until now, I have yet to address on this blog what is probably the most effective and simple six-word phrase that has helped my clients be successful long after I am out of their life. It’s simply:
“Where are you going in that?”
This phrase became my mantra for client success nine years ago while working with a client who pointed out that I kept saying that over and over again during her session. As she’d pull a piece out of her wardrobe, pleading with me to let her keep it, I’d simply say, “Yes, but where are you going in that?” When the client realized that she had nowhere to wear it she found she had an easier time letting it go. “Where are you going in that?” became so ingrained in my clients’ minds that when they would go shopping on their own they’d report back to me afterwards saying that they would pick up an item at the store, consider it and then hear my “nails on a chalkboard voice” in their head asking them “Where are you going in that? Where are you going in that?” The amount of money they claimed to save, along with the amount of fashion mistakes averted, just by asking that question of themselves was quite profound.
So, this is my advice for you. The next time you are shopping or cleaning out your closet,, before you keep it in your closet or get it rung up at the cash register, I want you to ask yourself, “Where am I going in this?” If you can’t come up with at least one place that you will wear it, don’t keep it or buy it.
Now, this practice requires rigid honesty. Believe me, I’ve argued with clients who, when asked where they are going in something, start making stuff up. “I’ll wear it to paint” they say as I look around the house at their white walls and ask them the last time they picked up a paintbrush, or when a client exclaims that they’ll wear an outfit to go to a club yet have three kids at home and a full time job and can’t remember the last time they went dancing. Don’t Wishful Wardrobe (which means dressing for a life you dream about yet don’t live), be honest. When you ask yourself where you are going in something, make sure you actually go there!! The exercise is useless without honesty.
I should warn you, sometimes, this exercise can be quite sobering because you realize that your life isn’t as dramatic, exciting or full as you hoped it would be. Maybe you keep buying date tops but realize that you sit home most Friday and Saturday nights. Perhaps you do want to be the person who needs 20 pairs of platform heels yet can’t remember the last time you weren’t in sneakers. Yes, brutal honesty with oneself can be depressing, however, so can a closet full of never-worn clothes that have nowhere to go. Yet, instead of getting depressed see this as your opportunity to change. Your closet tells on you if you like it or not. The more honest you are with it the more you can see how your life is operating. If you don’t like it, change it, but change it first before you buy the clothes to fit that change.