A few weeks ago, I got you started with three things you can do to up your style game in 2021. If you missed it, go back to that post and read that first. As I mentioned in that post, when there’s a big gap between where you are and where you want to be, you feel overwhelmed (and restless). Setting realistic goals is a great way to help you feel more confident. Big goals are only achieved when we take clear, specific actions that keep you on the path to reaching them. Did you get started with some of the suggestions I made? Have you made any changes?
Taking actual steps is what separates the wheat from the chaff because, let’s face it, we all have things we want to be different but until we actually do things differently we’re just going to stall out in neutral. No judgment if you haven’t done anything differently or challenged yourself. There are plenty of start/stops in life that have proven that you have to be ready to make real, significant changes. However, the fool is the person who does the same thing and expects a different result. Remember, no flogging yourself if you are failing yourself, but don’t give yourself too much of an out clause either. By not doing anything, you also give up your right to complain about it too. Nobody likes a whiner.
STEP FOUR IN ACHIEVING YOUR STYLE GOALS IN 2021: ORGANIZING YOUR SHOPPING PLAN
So we’re moving on to step four, organizing your shopping plan which we can all use because, seriously, shopping sucks. Like bad eating, the only way shopping is often pleasurable is if we’re doing it as a form or escape, for emotional reasons or as an indulgence. And in no way am I suggesting that you give up shopping being fun if you do enjoy it, but that you take a hard look at how productive you are when you shop. The key is to find a balance.
Shopping is where we are also at the mercy of something else, be it the merchandise in stores, our budgets, and our bodies. There is far less control in shopping than we have in other areas of wardrobe management. It remains the part of my job, even after 18 years of doing this, that puts me on edge because there are so many variables that I have to get right in areas where I don’t have as much control. So I get it. I understand the frustration you may have by what’s in the stores, getting the right clothes for your unique body shape, the annoyance found in figuring out what the right pieces are for your wardrobe and what comes with distilling down what is right to put in your closet. I deal with what you deal with but on steroids. So let’s make you a healthy shopper who knows how to harness more control of the situation so you’re not at the mercy of all that comes with shopping for the right things.
Going to the store to shop for clothes without a plan is the equivalent of going to the grocery store without a shopping list. I was just in Trader Joe’s this morning and while I did have one thing I had in mind that I needed, as I walked the aisles, I wished I had sat down and made more of an extensive list, that I had taken the time to figure out some other things I needed. This trip to Trader Joe’s felt like such a wasted opportunity. Had I planned better, I might have made better sense of my trip. I never shop with a client before reviewing at least some part of their wardrobe and neither should you.
So you can’t just go to the store to shop for clothes without an idea of what you are shopping for. It doesn’t have to be exact as your grocery list, but you should have an idea of what’s missing in your closet. Browsing isn’t off limits. Of course, browse, get excited by things. I found Jicama at Trader Joe’s. It wasn’t on my list but when I saw it I picked it up. Sometimes we find nice surprises at the store.
How to Figure Out What You Need
Let’s set aside your feelings about shopping for a moment. You need to do a few things before you hit the stores anyway. The first is figuring out what needs you need to shop for. Assuming you went through your wardrobe and whittled down, it’s time to figure out where that leaves you and what you need to build back. Even if you are on a shopping fast, you can still do this exercise. In fact, it’s a great time to do it because you won’t be in the stores for a while which gives you plenty of time to prepare. Then, when you are ready to go shopping again, you’ll have some clarity.
The best way to do this is to build looks and to look for holes. You want to reference your style vision board or vision statement (do you have those done yet?) when doing this because while you might be able to create a look, it doesn’t mean that the look you create is a match for what you envision. You can look at the outfit and acknowledge that maybe it’s a look but it isn’t the right look for you. Creating looks doesn’t just help you figure out what you need but it can also help you purge further because now you’re looking beyond the basics like if it fits, if the color is good and if it is wearable. Is it also wearable for your life and for what you envision?
But I struggle with putting outfits together!
You want to heed the advice of putting looks together before you hit the stores but consider yourself less than good at doing this. In fact, you think, if you were better at it, you likely wouldn’t be in this position in the first place. Valid argument. The good news is you have years’ worth of blog posts right here that can give you some guidance. If you haven’t dug in, you can check out my whole series on the different Styling Formulas. You can refer to my Base, Accent, Pop strategy, and my alternative strategy for capsule building which I share in the video below. You can also look at the outfits that inspired you if you made your board. Don’t think these boards can’t be helpful. I often reference the looks that my clients select as inspirational. Break the outfits down and figure out the components that were used to create this. Imagine what this person would wear if they were living your life. The more you work at creating outfits, the more granular you are, the more clearly you will spot the holes.
I’m starting from scratch. I have no outfits to create and now I am totally overwhelmed
Relax. This is actually a good place because you’re building up from the bottom up. It’s much easier for me to help a client build a wardrobe from nothing than it is to sift through and try to make sense of a collection of mistakes. If this is you, relying strongly on your vision will help you craft what the image is you want to create. It gives you a future to realize and live into. It will keep you from purchasing things that you may like but don’t fit within the theme you created. Start small, prioritize the things you need most urgently, figure out what pieces you need most to maximize what you already own.
Let’s Talk About the Power of Elimination
If your closet started out as large and overwhelming, this is not a state we want to return to again. There is actual proof that too many choices create paralysis and that we do better when we have limited options to select from. So the key is to build back slowly, even if your wardrobe is sparse. Wear what you have, note the items that nag you that you might need. This is how I incorporated a navy blazer into my wardrobe. When I would get dressed, I heard myself kept wishing I had a navy blazer to complete my looks.
Also, consider what items will get you the most bang for your buck. Wouldn’t you rather have one thing you can wear multiple ways vs. multiple things you can wear one way? Also, consider what you just don’t need. I had a Facebook Group member ask me if she needed to replace some skirts she had but had gotten old without even considering if she needed this in the first place. Don’t get hooked by people telling you that you need to own X and be okay with the idea that maybe your style is limited to only a few varieties of looks. Steve Jobs and fashion designer, Carolina Herrera are two examples of people who found their looks and stuck with them and by doing it were able to eliminate one decision from their days. This idea that you need a ton of variety in the closet is a falsehood and you really should be asking yourself what can I keep in my closet that will get the most use. For me, not wearing black has been the most liberating decision I have ever made with my wardrobe? Why? Because eliminating options makes decisions much easier. So don’t overwhelm yourself with these big shopping lists or that it needs to be solved in one fell swoop.
Here is your challenge: name one thing you don’t need in your wardrobe that you can let go of buying or considering right now. It could be a color, a silhouette, or a whole clothing classification. What can you live without?
In the next post we’re going to get to actually shopping and some ways I have learned how to navigate the stores for a variety of different clients. Stay tuned.