I really have to thank Debbie Roes, blogger at RecoveringShopaholic.com, for not only hiring me for a virtual style consultation, but for documenting her experience so extensively on her blog. The series starts with this post and then continues for several more. If you don’t read Debbie’s blog, or haven’t been following this series, it really is a must read. While what she has been sharing has been personal experiences about working with me, how she has shared it has been very enlightening for many of her readers, as I am sure it will be for you too.
How I work with clients virtually, and how I worked with Debbie, is I have virtual clients send photos of outfits they want me to assess. It’s no different to how I work in person, only virtual clients have a bit more heavy lifting to do prior to our consultation because they have to photograph what they want me to look at. Once I receive a client’s photos, I go through them, take notes, and schedule a follow-up session via Skype to review.
During one of my sessions with Debbie, she and I talked about this outfit that she is wearing in the photo above. When I told her I liked the jacket she chucked a bit and shared that many readers of her blog told her otherwise and that they didn’t like it. In fact, she was thinking of getting rid of the jacket because of the comments. While Debbie and I agreed that the outfit wasn’t that great, I told her there was nothing wrong with the jacket, it was how she styled it that was the problem. Unlike the readers of her blog, I was able to look beyond the outfit, focus on the jacket, and see it was a worthwhile piece. Instead of how she was wearing the it in the photo, I told her that I think she needed to see this jacket as more of a standalone item and to keep the rest of the outfit clean and uncomplicated. To the right are some of the ways I suggested she wear it, with a clean column look underneath or even with a pair of jeans and a basic top under it. By giving this jacket more of a clean background it gets to shine.
After making this suggestion to Debbie about this jacket, I bet her that if she changed how she styled the jacket, and then posted that new outfit on her blog again, that the jacket would not only get compliments, but it would be quite possible that some of her readers wouldn’t even notice that it was the same jacket they told her they didn’t like.
This whole exchange between Debbie and me is what is inspiring today’s post because I am sure that Debbie isn’t the only person who has been faced with the issue of clothing not being the problem but how it is styled that is. In fact, I see this all the time with many client I work with. In today’s post I am going to share some tips with you on how you can save clothing before you ditch it. Below are five outfits with side-by-side comparisons of how easily you can make an okay outfit look good by just changing it slightly. Before you cast off what seem like bad clothing options for good. It’s quite probable that you have quite a few gems in there. So put the donation bag down for a few minutes and take a look at these solutions.
How to Save Clothing Before You Ditch It
Problem #1- When two pieces war with one another
In this casual outfit, I am using this striped cardigan from Modcloth that works great with a grey pair of grey Gap pants, booties, handbag and pendant necklace. In the outfit on the left, under the cardigan, I used a novelty blouse from Boden. While the blouse is pretty on its own, under this cardigan it’s not working. The problem is that the cardigan wants to shine and the blouse is creating a distraction. As a result, neither piece gets the spotlight. This isn’t unlike Debbie’s jacket that needs to have the attention. When you have a piece like that is a bit of an attention hog, you’re better off letting it have the focus by keeping the rest of the outfit clean. In the outfit on the right I simply switched out the top for a tank that is more understated to give the look more balance and one focal point.
Problem #2 – A balance issue
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard a client tell me that they think they can’t wear something because it doesn’t flatter their figure or that they want to ditch a piece from their closet because it doesn’t look good. Case in point, an outfit like this. In both outfits I am using this same skirt from J. Crew, same boots from Nine West, handbag and necklace from Max & Chloe. On the left, I am using a relaxed black sweater and on the right I am using a sweater with some more shape, both styles from Reiss.
Fit can often seem like a good reason to ditch something. But, before you do, consider that it isn’t the piece that is fitting you poorly but how you are wearing it that is. In the outfit on the left, a loose, drapey sweater with a flippy a-line skirt is going to make most women look like a shapeless box. Add to that, when you style a pair of stiletto boots with this outfit you are on the fast route to looking like a rock on a set of toothpicks. When women aren’t happy with their shapes they tend to hide. Big mistake. On the right, by just choosing a sweater that not only shows the waist, but the curve of the hips, the skirt looks more flattering and the outfit on a whole looks more balanced.
Problem #3- When one piece overpowers the other
Cardigans should be easy, right? Well, usually they are, but if you have ever put a chunky cardigan over a printed top only to find that it’s not working, you may just need to swap out the chunky one for one in a flatter knit. Again, this goes back to the first point about pieces that fight or are at odds with one another.
In the outfit on the left, this chunky cardigan is overpowering this printed top from French Connection. This print is so delicate that it can’t stand up to the attention hog that is this chunky cardigan. Instead, the flatter J. Crew cardigan on the right offers the same coverage while taking more of a backseat and letting the print have the floor. The outfit comes together on a whole with charcoal grey pants, grey flannel flats and a soft pink handbag and earrings.
Problem #4- When accessories detract vs. enhance
I love accessories, and if you read this blog regularly, you are probably stepping up accessorizing your own outfits. However, you have to watch that you don’t get too overzealous with your accessories, even if they seem like they should work with your outfit.
When you have a pop piece, like this tapestry skirt, you have to be careful of how you accessorize it. Too much accessorizing can start to pull focus. This is what is happening in the outfit on the left. There are just too many focal points. When you look at the outfit, you notice the skirt and then your attention gets pulled to the necklace. It’s a lot of back and forth. Instead of harmony being created, distraction is, and, as a result, the outfit looks more hodgepodge than it should.
In the outfit on the right, the look is still accessorized and finished looking, only now the skirt gets to stand out. With the teal slim sweater from J. Crew, I added a more understated black bib necklace from Stella & Dot instead of the more ornate one from Bauble Bar on the left. By pulling back, however, this does not mean that you can’t have fun. In the outfit on the right, I still played with color by adding this pink bag in lieu of the green Brahmin bag on the left that looks a bit too matchy-matchy with the outfit. The look on the right is still fun, but all the parts work together vs. fighting for attention. To keep the outfit minimal, I used black opaque tights and black booties from Banana Republic.
Problem #5- When accessories don’t work with the outfit
Often, you have to let the clothing dictate the direction that your accessories will go. This is definitely the case when you have a piece of clothing that is so clear in style direction, like this very bold, modern and sleek dress from Modcloth. This dress just wants accessories that are equally clean.
In the outfit on the left, the accessories are all too fussy for the dress. The earrings look too vintage, the handbag is too ornate with the silver detail, and the shoes with the bows look too feminine. These pieces are certainly all pretty, just not with this dress. On the right, the accessories used make a lot more sense. Like the clean, modern nature of the dress, the accessories have that same feel. Now all the pieces look like they are working together instead of looking out of place. I used a pair of less ornate earrings from Givenchy, a bold, modern bag in red and a simple pair of pumps.
When you buy clothing and put outfits together, you have to look at the outfit on a whole in order to create harmony and balance. The good news is that all it usually takes are a few tweaks to save clothing. With these tips, my hope is that what was once on your donate heap has made it back to being worthwhile items.
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love the new blog design and lay-out! and wish I had read this article before I donated a whole bunch of clothes… wonder what I would have saved!
For future reference!
Sartorial brilliance thy name is Bridgette!
Oh, Bridgette, your accessory styling tips have forced me to take a long, hard, look at each piece before the credit card pops out. What am I going to do with this piece? How long should this be? How shiny do I want to be? Do I want a statement piece tobe the star or something that enhances a special look? Your students are learning, and a special “thanks” for not giving up on our learning ability, at any age.
Your fans love it when you get down to the final details that complete the look…your the greatest!!
A faithful fan,
Excellent! Yes, putting thought towards purchases is a wise move! Always appreciate your kind words!
This is a great post, Bridgette, and a really excellent complement to Debbie’s own latest post on “who are you dressing for.”
Love the examples you have shown here, they are really clear and persuasive. Now, how to build a closet that can accommodate those sorts of subtle changes and swaps to make an outfit work…. (I realize that’s a huge question, I’m not expecting you to answer it — just putting it out there as something I will be chewing on!)
Thanks, Sarah! I like when bloggers’ posts complement one another. I read the Debbie’s post you are referring to and thought it was great.
Brilliant post thanks!
Hi Andrea, thanks!
Great post. Found lots of answers to why, when I look in the mirror, I say “Something doesn’t look right.”
I love that many of your whys were answered! It does make you feel more in control, doesn’t it?
Thanks, Lynn! I am glad you found this helpful!!
Now I know why I can wear 2 different styles of black sweaters with my patterned ankle pants and only one looks good with it!!! THANK YOU!!! Now that I’m learning how to accessorize and use pop colors I feel like this is the advance course in dressing!!!
Thanks! I am so glad this was an aha moment for you! This post was really interesting for me to work on because so much of what I see wrong with outfits happens in the moment, and each situation is so unique. It was really tricky to work backwards and figure out what the common issues are.
You are definitely in the advanced styling class now!!!
Bridgette you are awesome. Small details that change everything.Thank you!
Thanks, Wendy! A little goes a long way, doesn’t it? Thanks for your kind comment!
Thanks so much for mentioning me and my blog, Bridgette. I love how you come up with topics for blog posts and am happy to have inspired another one of your excellent posts. I still haven’t re-styled the blue jacket, but I have taken a lot of the other great advice you’ve given me and am feeling much happier with my outfits as a result. It’s amazing how sometimes what seems like a very subtle change can make a really big difference. I did have to cringe when I saw that outfit photo again, as it’s not one of my favorites! But through you, I have learned that it’s not the pieces themselves that are bad, it’s the way I was pairing them. Huge aha moment there, and I’m glad that others are able to benefit from my styling problems! Thanks so much for all of your wonderful advice. I’m going to be doing at least one or two more posts in the series and will likely include the re-style of the blue jacket in one of them.
Sometimes I really don’t know how I come up with these ideas, but I am super grateful to you Debbie for inspiring this one! I actually got a comment on my FB Page today asking to see how you restyled the jacket. So, no pressure, but people are waiting. 😉
I am glad that you have learned how to rework your wardrobe and get more with less! Even I am excited to read your follow up posts because it is really fascinating to read about what I do from the perspective of the client. Thanks again for your generosity, Debbie!
I have given a thought many times to creating a private group or a place where everyone could feel that they could share privately without judgement. Not that everyone isn’t super supportive here, but I think it would be nice to create a place like this. Let me figure out how I might be able to do this on my blog…in my spare time. Ha! No, seriously, I need to figure this out. I am sure there is a way.
That would be great, Bridgette! I’ve been considering doing that on my blog, too, as readers have requested such a thing. I’m not sure how to do it and I’m not an uber-techie, either, but there’s got to be a way to do it that’s not too hard.
Currently I am looking into bbpress. Do you have a wordpress blog? I am making sure it can be what I want it to. Of course I have a slamming headache and there is drilling going on outside my window. Not a great combination for learning something new! I will let you know what I find!
Yes, I have a WordPress blog. I’ve heard of bbpress but don’t know much about it. I love how you say you want to do something and you immediately dive in. I need to be more like that! I hope your headache goes away soon. I get a lot of them (migraines) so I certainly empathize! Good luck with setting up the forum!
Haha, one of my clients called me boundless once. I can be a bit ready, shoot, aim sometimes, and sometimes it works and other times it doesn’t. Case in point, I am now on the phone with my website’s tech support because all my “fooling around” with forum stuff has caused a back end site issue that I don’t know how to fix. So, headache is now gone (thank Excedrin) and I have a new one called technical issues. I am on hold right now and feel like I am in a bad Kenny G. dream with the music. KILLING ME!
For non-bloggers it would be nice to have somewhere to post photos and know that it’s understood that criticism and advice is only to be posted if asked for and that when it is asked for, both are done thoughtfully and out of kindness. Likely it wouldn’t need much moderating then.
Love,love, love this post! More please Bridgette for us style challenged souls.
Thanks so much!!!
Brilliant post, thanks! “Completing” outfits has always been a challenge for me. Reading yr post helps.
I am thrilled to hear it, thanks!
Great post! Can you tell me what the relaxed style black sweater would work with please?
I tend to prefer slimmer bottoms with more relaxed tops because it creates a more balanced proportion. I hope that helps!
Yet another great post! These small tweaks really do make the outfit. Thanks Bridgette and Debbie!
Greatly appreciated, Squidge!
Bridgette-seeing the side by side tweaks to the outfits is super helpful! I’d love to see more posts like this, because it shows how subtle changes can make or break an outfit and why some things work and others don’t. Pant length/ style with appropriate shoe choices comes to mind as one that might be good for this! And thanks for your posts….I read you regularly!
Hi Cheryl! Yea, it’s often hard to see the difference without side-by-side comparison. Of course, it’s double the work on my end but I think it’s well worth the time. I will definitely consider your suggestion! Always looking for great ideas! Thanks!
You’ve outdone yourself with these side by side examples -more like this please!! This is super duper helpful. Seriously, your advice gets better and better!
Hi SS, thanks!!! I would be happy to do more! These types of posts are super labor intensive, however, when time allows in my schedule I have no problem doing more of them!!! Some weeks are better tnan others! It’s always great to get positive feedback, makes me want to commit to doing more posts like this! Thanks again!!
[…] some photos. Not only did Bridgette give me a lot of advice on how to restyle the jacket, she also wrote a blog post around it. Bridgette didn’t really think the jacket was a dud; she just thought it needed to be styled […]
This is all getting filed away as I work on my own wardrobe overhaul!