Last week, I shared a post about my client, Mrs. Sublime, and the work we have done together to rebuild her wardrobe. I mentioned in that post that I would be elaborating on the concept of building a wardrobe using micro and macro perspectives. A micro perspective focuses on the individual level, while a macro perspective focuses more broadly. Both are important if you want to get the most of what you have in your closet.
Women shop almost exclusively using a micro perspective. They see what they like and if it fits, looks good, the color is flattering and the price is right, they buy it. Maybe they will consider what they will do with the piece in terms of where they will wear it, but that’s about as far as they take the thought process. Over time, the closet starts looking like this.
Yet, interestingly, when looking for something to wear, it’s like this:
And you’re surprised?
Come on. What did you expect? Seriously. Do you think elves live in your closet and things will just magically come together no matter what you throw in there? Do you go grocery shopping and buy random things and then expect that the hodgepodge of groceries you bought will just magically whip up dinner? How many plans have you made where you didn’t have the bigger picture thought out ahead of time? How often did those plans fail?
When I posted my blog post about Mrs. Sublime to social media, one person commented that they liked the fact that I used many pieces to create Mrs. Sublime’s capsule and in fairness, I did call what I created for her wardrobe a capsule but as I said to this commenter, I didn’t build a capsule for her, I just built her a wardrobe because all wardrobes, no matter what their size, should mix and match and be cohesive. Why should this be limited to small capsules? We all should be building our entire wardrobes this way, and that is done by employing both a micro and macro approach.
BUILDING A WARDROBE USING MICRO AND MACRO PERSPECTIVES
Being able to use both these perspectives, building your wardrobe means vacillating between zooming in and looking at things individually and then pulling back and viewing everything as a whole. Here are some tips for using this strategy.
Develop a Clear Point of View
Any creative person will tell you that it is hard to create anything without a point of view which is an individual expression or unique vision. This point of view is the macro view. It’s is the overarching expression of your wardrobe. Until you can nail this down, you will never know where you are going, what to buy, what your wardrobe needsmare, what you can eliminate, and whether you should trust your purchases.
The problem is, too many women get bogged down and twisted up about this process instead of being light about it. The idea of developing a point of view feels like a lot of pressure as if there is one magic answer and you’re on a bad quiz show where the clock is running down. Instead of just asking yourself, what am you’re feeling drawn to lately and getting curious about it, the task turns difficult, painful, and eventually paralyzing.
So my first bit of advice is to lighten the up. I know you want to be more efficient and more adept with your wardrobe but that doesn’t mean you have to be so serious about it. You don’t need to sign up for some online course that is going to teach your style in five easy steps, you don’t have to take a gazillion style quizzes, you just need to pay attention because if women just trusted their instincts they would see their own patterns of attraction.
If you don’t believe this is possible, 19 years of experience says otherwise. Every single time I am in a client’s closet, there have been glimmers of their style hanging right in there, and what usually has a client go off the rails is when they don’t trust these signs and instincts. Instead of zoning in on the pieces they love and building on that, they jump around experimenting with other things which turn their closet into a random dumping ground. If there was one thing I wish every woman would learn about their style it would be to trust themselves.
An exercise you can try would be to pull out only the things you absolutely love from your closet. These are the things that you may not literally grab if your house were on fire but you would be completely bummed about if you did lose to one. Even if you have only one or two things that you love to set aside, look for the patterns in style, color, and aesthetic to start zeroing in some clues that may inform the direction your wardrobe most authentically wants to go. This is your starting point.
If you are still having trouble, I am going to invite members of my Facebook Group to a challenge by trying this exercise out for themselves to see if they can use it to further clarify their own points of view. Care to join us? Get more info about becoming a member here.
Look at Each Piece Individually and Broadly
Every time I look for something new to add to my wardrobe, what initially grabs me is I if am attracted to it. Next, I will look at it from the perspective of wearability and if it is realistic for me. Cute shoes but with ankle straps. I move on. 4″ heels. Nice but no. Only comes in black? Sorry. This is the first cut. The second and equally important cut is I look at each piece more broadly and consider how it works with everything else I already own. I do this every. single. time. I run each and every item under consideration through my head and ask myself how this piece works and see if this particular item plays a part that is missing from my closet. If I can’t build an outfit or it doesn’t make sense in the macro view of my wardrobe, I move on.
This may seem limiting and no fun, but it’s not. In fact, it’s a lot of fun because you start to feel like you are always building something. You become a curator of your wardrobe instead of someone who just throws things into your closet and prays it works out. Plus, in a time where we are all suffering from decision fatigue, wouldn’t it be a lot easier to be able to edit out some options right from the start?
You Need a Cohesive Color Story
Even if you like to wear a lot of colors, I urge you to get really focused on what the general color direction of your wardrobe is. You don’t have to commit to these colors for a lifetime but you will be more successful if you develop which colors you are feeling the most drawn to right now. Also, get clear on how you like to wear color. I like wearing color but I rarely wear it in my clothing unless it’s very specific colors like rust, yellow, burgundy, teal, or deep greens. Otherwise, most color I wear is found in my shoes and accessories. I know this about myself from paying attention and from trial and error of how many times I have tossed out a top that was in a perfect color for me but I never wore. I also prefer a range of warm neutrals, like olive, camel, brown, and cooler colors like grey and navy. Instead of forcing myself to diversify, I have instead built a range of these shades in my wardrobe that has made what I have to wear easier to mix and match on the macro level.
Keep a one-and-done mentality
With a macro perspective of your wardrobe you will have an easier time identifying the holes and your strategy should be to fill those holes once and move on. I’m not speaking of times where you need a few basic t-shirts in the same color or you want more than one pair of pants that fit great, but times where you are covered in a need where only one of that item will suffice. If you have one pair of skinny jeans in a dark denim wash, you are covered, move on.
My love of Aquatalia shoes has been well established. As I have continued to add to my bootie collection, I now have six pairs in addtion to a fabulous pair of loafers I just purchased. If you look at each pair, each one was carefully considered for the role they play. There is no duplication. I was able to do this by looking at my wardrobe with a macro perspective and identifying where the holes were and then looking at my shoes from a micro perspective and seeing what I had and what I needed. Each purpose was purposeful, each pair of boots plays a specific role, nothing is wasted or is supurfluous. Best of all, I save money because my cost per wear is much lower than if I had lots of the same.
You Need to be Willing to Let Go
Editing is a key part of building a wardrobe. When I shop for clients, there is a first pass, a second pass and sometimes a few more passes before I land on what I will ultimately select. Clients have often told me it’s the discussion and talkng through each piece they find really helpful because they never bothered to take their time to work through pieces to make sure they were worth buying. You have to be willing to let go, not just from your closet but when shopping and you can’t do that without that macro perspective that informs the point of view and direction.
You Need Restraint if You Really Want to Manage Your Wardrobe this Way (I Mean, Really)
So often, I hear clients tell me they want a tight, cohesive wardrobe with only a few pieces but when it comes to the reality of what that looks like — a tight color palette, easy to mix pieces, a one and done mentality — they realize how much they will have to let go of, not just physically but mentally, to make this a reality in their own closets. They start to see that for all their complaining about wanting an easier-to-navigate wardrobe, they haven’t been willing to do the work to make that happen. But this is what happens when you only shop with a micro perspective. Without partnering a macro perspective, that final critical checkpoint is missing where each piece gets analyzed to make sure it actually belongs. However, without incorporating both micro and macro perspectives with every client I work with it’s unlikely I’d be nearly as good at my job as I am so it would be hard to imagine you would be either. If you want to be serious about building your wardrobe then you have to take the process seriously and manage what goes in an goes out. The only way to do that is by using both these perspectives equally.