I have been giving serious thought lately to the idea that I don’t think most women want workable wardrobes, even if they are lovers of fashion or claim they just want to get maximum use out of the clothes in their closet. In fact, I think those who enjoy fashion or call themselves fashionistas are often the biggest offenders of this. Despite their love of shopping, the drips of salivation that come from ogling a pair of shoes and their knowledge of every designer on the planet, I think that loving fashion and making fashion work are two totally different things. A love of fashion does not make you an expert on the topic, just like a love of food doesn’t make you a chef.
Let me explain this further.
I was once called the “Alton Brown of fashion” because I am about as nerdy with my knowledge of fashion as Alton Brown is about food. Having spent the past 20 years of my life working in this industry as a designer, a personal stylist, an author and a visible style expert, I have a ridiculous amount of knowledge to share. The whole goal of this blog, along with my style consulting business, has always been to answer the “whys” about fashion– “Why does one neckline work better than another?”, “Why do black and white prints drown me out?”, “Why can’t I get better use from the clothing I buy?” are just a few examples of the information I share with the belief that once we understand why something does or doesn’t fashionably work we can make smarter shopping, style and wardrobe choices.
Do women really want to make informed choices about fashion or have a workable wardrobe? I’m not always so sure that they do.
Fashion can be an escapist pastime
Fashion can serve as an emotional escape, a place where we are able to dream of a life that is far removed from our current reality. The idea of putting boundaries or restrictions on this form of escapism can make many feel agitated, limited and resentful that the fun part is being taken away. It’s not unlike food which can also be an emotional escape from dull reality.
The fashion industry knows women’s weaknesses for pretty things and plays them like a finely tuned fiddle –splashing fashion must-haves after must-haves in their faces, as if all will be lost in their lives if they don’t buy the latest looks. Retail has managed to speed up the cycle and get new merchandise into stores at such a rapid pace that it’s easy to go to a store and find something new practically every day, and we’ve come to associate certain brands, labels and looks with popular celebrities who we wish to emulate. Why more women don’t get pissed off over the fact that they’re being played by these tactics baffles the heck out of me. Yet, unless you have got your sense of self planted firmly, it’s very easy to get swept up by all of it.
In the end, few women have much to show for this escapist pastime. Fashion does a great job of putting tons of product out in an appealing manner. However, after they leave the store, women are left alone to figure out exactly what to do with their new purchases and many are left feeling overwhelmed and confused with how to use their closet full of clothes. It is in this moment that a woman puts her foot down and declares that drastic measures will be taken, like swearing off shopping, only shopping in her closet and committing to a streamlined closet of items that can be mixed and matched. Yet, this never works because the key part of the equation is that, for the most part, women have no idea what they are doing when it comes to shopping for clothes and, worse, many aren’t all that interested in really learning. So, you can have a small closet of clothes or a big closet of clothes, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is what’s in there, not the size. If you don’t know the right things to put in the closet in the first place, is it really relevant how big or small it is?
In these moments it is not uncommon for a woman to turn to an equally misinformed friend for advice, which is like the blind leading the blind. However, it’s also a way to feel justified. If everyone is suffering from the same problem, then there is no need to take responsibility for it. Plus, fashion advertising does a fine job of solidifying this mindset by portraying the idea that it’s totally cool and cute to be a fashionista who can’t get enough of all the great trends and deals out there, or that there really isn’t a problem in having too many shoes. Don’t believe me? Have you ever taken a few minutes to sit through a haul video on YouTube? These videos are like listening to nails on a chalkboard and a great example of how sad shopping has become. I can handle about 30 seconds of these videos, yet they get hundreds and thousands of hits every day.
Having a workable wardrobe means being realistic, restrictive and responsible
So, no, I don’t think most women want solutions to their fashion problems and most women don’t want workable wardrobes, because, in order to have the wardrobe of their dreams, it would mean having to be more restrictive, realistic and responsible…and being these things aren’t any fun.
You want to watch a grown woman stamp her feet and throw a tantrum? Tell her that a print that she is salivating over isn’t flattering on her or that she has no business buying 6″ platform stilettos with ankle straps that she can’t walk in and that make her calves look like elephant legs. Okay, I’m being a little dramatic, but, seriously, in an attempt to save a woman from herself I often feel like the Debbie Downer of fashion. And it is not even like I tell them they can’t purchase something that is unflattering on them, I would never be that restrictive, but try telling anyone who doesn’t want to hear something that it’s not a good idea and see the reaction that you get.
It may come as no surprise to you that most women who read my blog aren’t die-hard fashionistas and that my client base over the past eleven years is made up of women who want to look good but aren’t totally consumed by fashion. They understand the importance of looking good and they want a solution-oriented approach. This certainly does not mean that those who read my blog or who hire me to consult with them don’t enjoy staring at a pretty dress or a have a moment of weakness over a pair of shoes. Yet, what these readers and clients can do, which most emotional shoppers can’t, is separate the enjoyment of something fashionable from actually buying it.
There are enough blogs, shopping websites and advertisements out there designed to woo a woman into buying more, yet few resources out there to teach a woman what to do with it it once she gets it home. The second a woman decides she is done with the endless cycle of a ton of clothes and nothing to wear is when she finds me.
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I get a kick out of “Haul” youtube videos too LOL!! Great post Bridgette…
Thanks, Cheryl! OMG, haul videos KILL me! I would imagine it would be like a 5 star chef watching a video of some idiot doing a cooking tutorial on YouTube about how to make Kraft Macaroni and Cheese! The fact that some of these haul videos get millions of hits is truly frightening! Granted, the videos are mainly done by kids who are definitely not in my demographic of readership, but if this is the future I’m really scared! LOL
Gets back to that “More is more” mentality.
What an insightful post! I am working my way through this blog and keep finding gems. I can’t find the haul video though. On YouTube….
Hi Henrietta! Thanks and welcome! If that link for the haul video doesn’t work for you, trust me, there are a gazillion mind numbing ones on YouTube. Just search “fashion haul” and you find some. They’re all the same, stupid, vapid and a total waste of time.
Love this Bridgette! Really interesting when you stop to think about it.
Thanks, Connie!!! This topic had been swirling around in my head for days. As a writer, sometimes you have to marinate on something and let it come together in your mind first. Yesterday, I sat down to put it all together and it was definitely a challenge to get it all down in a blog post. I was honestly preparing for a little heat…but, so far, this blog has been very well received. Thanks again for your comment!
Shopping is often a game with no real end result. It feels like it’s not the fashion but more the hunt (enter in an item purchase for a one-time special event that ends up an orphan in your closet). The serious who have a real look to pull together call you. The rest of us just enjoy the hunt as, after, acquisition often equals status.
Agree, Cheryl! Unfortunately, when that “hunt” gets out of control or as a form of avoidance or therapy it can get dangerous! Additionally, while some like the hunt others find it excruciatingly difficult and time consuming. I think you’re right about acquisition equaling status, sadly.
First I want to let everyone know how much Bridgette helped me out. I recently lost about 60 pounds and literally had “nothing to wear”. We did a virtual style consultation and she was very frank about my then-wardrobe. Who knew I had a flat butt?? As I am rebuilding, I have realized reading her blog and posts have really shifted my mindset. I used to browse shopping sites and would randomly buy things because they were on deep discount. So lots of items that were limited in their uses. Now I make myself think of five different ways to wear something before I buy. I also use Pinterest a lot of for ideas and “cross pollenation”. It did take a while to quit feeling like I was constantly wearing the same thing. But that has been offset by the fact that I get wardrobe compliments just about every day!
Kym, so kind of you to post this! I am glad our time together helped you!! It’s incredible what can be learned in a short, virtual consultation! You were a quick study and were definitely open to change!!!! Congrats!
Awesome post! I just found this today and know that I will be plowing through your archives because this is exactly what I am looking for. I am so tried of trying to find help online only to be offered up bloggers that show picture after picture of a fabulous outfit in different poses and no real substance!
Welcome, jburd! Thrilled to have you here! I am glad this blog post helped you and enjoy reading the archives! I think you’ll find a lot of information that you have been searching for! I think there has been a movement towards women wanting more from fashion blogs than just pretty pictures and fabulous outfits, women want to learn. Unfortunately, most fashion bloggers are I experienced and have no idea what they are talking about. Like I said in my post, “A love of fashion doesn’t make you an expert on the topic, just like a love of food doesn’t make you a chef.” Please feel free to also join my Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/bridgetteraesstyleexpert and all my other social media platforms above. Looking forward to having you aboard!
Oh my goodness! I have been looking at fashion blogs for the past year and have not stumbled upon yours yet. I cannot wait to look further at your blog. My shape changed overnight it seems and I was left with nothing to wear. I do not look at fashion as a fun hobby, but I can tell a huge difference in my self confidence when I am wearing something that looks nice.
Hello and welcome! I am thrilled you found this blog and happy to have you commenting! I hope you find it helpful with your style journey! Even though I’ve been in fashion for 20 years, I don’t consider it a fun hobby either. It’s work! Of course I enjoy it, but I think I take a practical approach to fashion because, for me, it has always been a career! Wishing you the best and thanks again for your lovely comment!
Well said! It’s been about a year since I started seriously
“challenging” every potential purchase. Discipline regarding what I
bring home has made it much easier for me to choose outfits (and pack a
suitcase!) BUT it makes shopping less fun because I often leave with
nothing, opting to wait for the “right” piece. Thanks for the
I almost wish I had this problem – I think I have the opposite. I walk into a dept store and am quickly overwhelmed by the oceans of clothes that don’t look good on the hanger or I think would never work for me (like all dresses). So I end up purchasing maybe one thing that seems like the least of all evils. Bridgette, I would love if you would open a store that focused on business casual outfits (my biggest challenge). I’d be your best customer. 🙂
Hi Kelley! Maybe one day I’ll be able to have a line of clothing, or something. Owning a store is hard work!!! But, it’s good to know I would have one loyal customer! I think most women struggle with dress casual, which is why I focus a lot of my career fashion advice around this. Honestly, it’s all about layering and building. Start with some basics and then add your accents and pops. And, I totally agree, most stores are terribly over merchandised and overwhelming! This is why my clients hire me, I do all the groundwork before they meet with me. It’s not easy to shop and store often don’t make it any easier!
I love shopping and have collecting everything possible over the last 5 years. It’s only recently i realized that a BIG wardrobe is not the answer to ‘Whst should I wear today’ dilemma. I spend so much time n effort ensuring I wear everything in my closet every season (without much success btw) that I get to wear what I really really love no more than once a year. What a shame! And yes, the minute I realized that is when I found you 😉
I have an important question for you. I live in India where it’s hot hot hot 8 months a year. Layering only works for like 1n half month out of that. What about the other 6.5months? How can I create a dressy casual wardrobe considering that layering is not an option at all??? I hope you will be able to help.
[…] down to write this post today, I was reminded of an excellent article by Bridgette Raes titled “Most Women Don’t Want Workable Wardrobes.” Bridgette points out that having a workable wardrobe means being realistic, restrictive, and […]
[…] Most Women Don’t Want Workable Wardrobes (Bridgette Raes) […]
I never spend more than 10 min in a strore because i know what i want, what fit me and the budget for it. The more defined my style is the easier.