As a personal stylist, I work with all different types of women. They live all over the world, lead very different lives, are in different types of professions, and have their own unique set of wardrobe needs. Despite their differences, there have always been common threads that run through all of them. I’ve spoken of these qualities in the past. Clients who hire me are quite often ambitious, highly intelligent, successful, perfectionists, and a bit type A. These clients have achieved great things, live amazing lives, and can’t believe that despite all their successes fashion is their area of struggle. My job as a personal stylist is to make it so they can devote the limited bandwidth they have to things in their lives that are much more important.

I work with multiple clients at the same time and recently, I noticed two wardrobe mistakes that all my clients are making, that I am sure are not exclusive to the types of women who hire me. These two things are far more common than that, so much so that I thought it was a great topic to write about. If your wardrobe feels out of control if you have a closet full of clothes but can’t find anything to wear or can’t put an outfit together, if your clothing looks great on the hanger but falls flat when you wear it, you may also be making these mistakes.


Mistake #1: You shop with no strategy

You see something in the store, it fits, it looks good and you buy it. That’s all it takes for something to make it from the hanger to your shopping bag and then your closet. And then it hangs there, begging to be worn, taunting you with its big tag still attached reminding you just how much money you spent. It confounds you because when you bought it, it was a clear winner. Yet there it is not getting worn.

This is the number one and most consistent mistake I see being made by clients, buying something with no plan and the belief if it looks good, fits well and is in the right color, you will wear it. Few women think beyond those points. You cannot buy anything without thinking through things like, what you will do with it once it is in your closet, what you will wear with it, or where you will wear it. Does what you are buying work with the colors that already exist in your closet? Do you have something that already does the same thing as this piece will do? Is there something in your closet that you prefer more than this piece that you will always choose before this new piece? This singular thinking of liking a piece and buying it with little regard to the bigger picture is the number one way women get into trouble with their closets.

Now, obviously, if you are building back your wardrobe or starting from scratch, there is a good chance there isn’t enough in your closet to make sure certain benchmarks are met that will make the item wearable. However, as you build, you can employ this thinking. Take, for example, a client whose closet I’ve been helping build back. The strategy I have used is to start with several purchases with the understanding that all won’t make the cut. As we began to weed out the duds and keep the winners, a natural color palette and look emerged that has created the road map in what additional things will be brought in to continue to create balance. By shopping for pieces in a holistic manner, my client has had a much easier time mixing-and-matching her wardrobe on her own because the palette was so obvious.

Strategic questions you can ask yourself the next time you go shopping:

  1. What will I wear with this?
  2. How many different ways can I style this piece with what I already own?
  3. Do I already have pieces in my wardrobe that fills the need that this new piece would?
  4. Does it fit with the colors in my wardrobe?
  5. If I buy this piece, what additional things might I need to get the most use out of this item?

Mistake #2: You Like The Way Something Looks But Don’t Consider How It Looks On You

I recently had a funny interaction with a client while looking at a photo of her wearing a dress. It looked horrible on her. The fit was bad, the style wasn’t her. Nothing about it was redeeming. My client’s response to why she bought it was because she thought it was really cute when she saw it. That was it, that was enough for her to think it was worth purchasing.

Shopping this way is so unbelievably common. You remark at how pretty a print is without giving any thought to what that print may look like on you. It’s as if you’ve completely eliminated yourself from the equation despite the fact that it is you who has to wear it. Be it because of your own physical characteristics or simply because it’s not your style, getting pulled into a piece simply because it is pretty isn’t enough and is what often causes shopper’s regret. Suddenly, that super pretty top that looked good on the hanger falls flat because you neglected to consider yourself and how you would look when you wore it.

There is a certain rigor that comes with leaving things behind in a store when you realize that something is pretty in general but not pretty for you. Yet this rigor comes with tremendous payoffs because in the end, you will have avoided purchasing things that don’t work. Plus, in a time when we are all suffering from decision fatigue and the overwhelm from how much is in the stores, knowing your own limitations really can make shopping easier.

People hate the idea of limitations but, personally, I find them tremendously liberating and a great way to simplify my life. The key is to view the idea of limitations in a positive way that helps you more quickly drill down your options. If I see black clothes, I know I don’t have to bother with them. Ankle straps? Nope, not for me. Empire waists? Not unless I want to look like I am smuggling cantaloupes out of the store under my shirt. By being able to section off the no’s quickly, I can concentrate and zero in on choosing the best from less.

How to develop your limitations in a positive manner:

  1. Are there colors you don’t like to wear or feel don’t look good on you?
  2. Are there things you can’t wear due to physical limitations?
  3. What is your contrast level?
  4. What prints look best on you?
  5. How do you really live your life and what are the types of clothes that work best for it?
  6. What are you drawn to stylistically and what type of items best reflect that?
  7. What shapes and silhouettes work best for your body?
  8. What are the predominant colors in your closet?
  9. What do you feel most comfortable wearing?
  10. Can you wear texture?

The more you can drill down the answers to questions like this, the easier it will be to create the limitations that don’t limit you but empower you to shop for things that are best suited and you will actually wear.

Have you fallen victim to either one or both of these common fashion mistakes? If you have, take comfort in knowing you’re the norm, not the exception. There hasn’t been one client who I’ve worked with who hasn’t fallen into these traps. If you want a balanced wardrobe, you need to shop with a wardrobe mentality, not a clothing one.