Every client I work with is different and with different needs. Just last week I built a capsule for a CEO, came up with some custom ideas for a client working in Senegal for the US Government, found out another CEO client is going to live in Paris for a year, I began helping a client revamp her image for a career change, and I started working with a former roadie turned flower farmer. The inside of my head is one big colorful three-ring circus of creativity filled with ideas, inspiration, bold colors, and moving imagery, and I love it. I get random client ideas at the wackiest of times, like the one time when I couldn’t sleep, I texted Mrs. Radiant at 11:30 at night that just said, “We’re adding red to your capsule!” thankfully she was up. The shower, I’ve found, is the best place to have that, aha moment of clarity while I am trying to solve particularly difficult client challenges, and I always make it a point to begin those texts to my clients by saying, “So, I was in the shower a few minutes ago and you were on my mind…” just to get a chuckle out of them.
My clients aren’t just different in terms of needs and lifestyles, each client also has different temperaments and personalities. Obviously, I know which clients I can text and joke with being on my mind in the shower and I know Mrs. Radiant is the same type of human tornado I am and would find it beyond hilarious and completely normal that in the middle of a bout of insomnia, I’d send a text like that. I’ve learned over the years which clients require a gentle touch and which I can push, which I can treat like friends and which I won’t develop that type of relationship. I’ve worked with some clients where it’s like pulling teeth to get them to give me any type of information that I can use no matter how many different ways I try to ask and others where I don’t just know about their lives, but I know about their cat, their newly shingled roof, their mother-in-law, and their second cousin’s dentist’s son who just got into Yale.
Then there are the thinkers. I love the thinkers. These are my people because, like them, I am a thinker too. Thinkers aren’t control freaks necessarily, yet they can be, but people who bring thoughtfulness and thoroughness to everything they do. It’s just their nature to commit fully and deeply. These are the clients that walk away benefitting the most from working with me because they see working with me as a journey of partnership where they are just as involved in the outcome as I am. They put their full trust in me and my expertise yet at the same time, don’t just see me as the person who is coming in to fix their problems. Like the parable about the man giving someone a fish, they want me to teach them how to fish.
A new client of mine, I’ll give her the alias Mrs. Serene, has been a very long time blog reader of mine, so when we spoke for the first time, she knew all that I was about and there was a familiarity between us despite it being our first conversation. Of course, she knew a lot about me, thinkers pay attention. Prior to our virtual wardrobe review, clients have to fill out an intake form and prepare photographs. Mrs. Serene took this all very seriously and not only did this work diligently but took the time to think through what she was seeing in the photos of herself wearing her outfits and pre-analyzed the photos. She sent me an email ahead of time with her thoughts, questions, and observations. As a fellow thinker, I soaked it all up like a sponge. If you are a thinker too, this part just gave you the tingles.
By the time Mrs. Serene’s wardrobe review came, she had already been through her wardrobe who knows how many different ways and was more prepared than a Girl Scout. We got together on Zoom, I shared my screen so we could look at her wardrobe photos together and started with her oldest photos she took and ended with the newest. By the end, would you believe Mrs. Serene basically transformed her own damn wardrobe…by herself!?
I was shocked by what I saw, I mean, I knew she had committed but I didn’t realize how much she had thrown herself into this. It was impressive. How could someone who felt lost about her style just a few weeks earlier do it with basically no help?
I’m not talking she just ditched stuff, Mrs. Serene literally narrowed her wardrobe and, as a result, had more to wear, was looking at a closet that was more focused and easier to navigate, and could more clearly see what she did and didn’t need to add. By the end of our session, all I had was a small shopping list of odds and ends that I needed to find for her. These selections were so easy to identify that it was seconds after our session ended that I told her I loved these burgundy Margaux loafers for her.
When You Eliminate You Get More You More From Your Wardrobe
I have already beaten the point to exhaustion that too many choices create paralysis —known as the Paradox of Choice —that it doesn’t bear repeating again. I will link to this post instead. What I will offer, however, is a new perspective on this. Having less that is focused is like the equivalent of making a decision.
Imagine you’re driving down the road with no particular destination in mind. You hit a fork in the road and need to decide which way to turn. When you don’t know where you are going, the time it takes to figure out which road to take involves thought and time. You have to weigh scenarios, play out different outcomes. Stress is created because you’re dealing with vague concepts and no clear direction. You question your choice because, who knows, really? And you have no real end goal in mind. You’re just sort of cast adrift without any plan. Compare that to when you have a clear destination point. When you reach that fork in the road, you know which way to turn and you keep going.
As minor as these little moments seem, they add up and nobody has the time for indecision or vague resolutions. Any situations where you can be decisive are situations you should create. A small moment when you can eliminate certain colors while shopping. Limited pieces in your closet that can create clear and focused choices. A small curated and versatile shoe selection that works with everything. These are quick and clear decisions that are fostered through elimination and clear focus.
This Whole Idea of Variety is For the Birds
Oh my God, whoever promoted the idea that a woman’s closet needs to have all these different wardrobe options because women like to change things up must have had an eidetic memory and a professional dresser. Let’s get clear on something. More stuff does not mean more options to wear. Have you seen all the capsules I have been building for clients lately? I would bet you money that the complainers out there who claim that they need lots of different things in their closet because they, <insert whiney voice> “like to change things up” <end whiney voice> own more clothes than I presented in the capsules, and of the clothes they own, many still have with tags attached, that these ‘champions of variety’ live in confusion, and change their outfit several times before leaving the house. Most women buy too much stuff, try too many options, add too many colors, to which I say: this is never going to be solved with volume. Have you ever heard the saying about money? That more money just makes you more of the person that you already are? Well, the same is true about clothing. You’re not going to solve your problems by throwing more variety in there. More options are just going to create a bigger version of the problems you already have.
It’s not what you own that matters, it’s what you can do with what you own that matters, period, end of story. <mic drop>
As Mrs. Serene refined her wardrobe, by herself I might add, she kept pulling things away and what rose to the surface were the pieces that related well to each other, and through that, what became very clear was where the holes existed in her wardrobe that needed to be further fleshed out. How could she have done this if she had a whole bunch of different directions happening inside her closet? How can anyone fill gaps if there isn’t any clear direction? The more she peeled away, the clearer things became.
I guess I am in a driving mood today (which is weird because the last time I owned a car it had a tape deck) because I am going to give you another road analogy. Think of your wardrobe like looking at busy city streets from an aerial view with all the cars and busses driving along the roads. You can see the interweaving and movement vehicles on the streets. In my strange brain, that is how I view a client’s wardrobe, as each piece is like a car from this aerial vantage point. Each piece (or car) is individual but each piece also exists and interacts with all the other pieces (or cars) too. Your wardrobe is a living thing with pieces that hustle and bustle and engages with each other. An outlier piece that just hangs there is like a stalled car that just causes a traffic jam.
What Can Yield the Same Results with Less Stress?
Last summer, after I came back from hiatus, I told a story about how I noticed was subconsciously making choices that were yielding the intended results but took less stress to achieve them. I didn’t even notice I was doing it until I had a conversation with a client where we talked about how the pandemic had everyone at their boiling points. What I realized was my subconscious brain was in survival mode because I no longer had the bandwidth to put the same effort towards things as I did pre-pandemic. I made choices about what I was willing to sacrifice without feeling like I was giving anything up or losing. I lowered my own bar on things I couldn’t realistically achieve any longer so I could keep my sanity intact.
It’s all about choosing the simplest solutions that don’t sacrifice the result. Yes, you may have to let go of a few outcomes, as I did in my story about accepting ivory walls over more colorful ones, but this was an outcome I was willing to live with for the sake of more important things, like my peace of mind, and focus on things that are way more important. Where women get stuck in the mire with their wardrobes is not thinking in this manner and instead, pushing themselves into a position that isn’t sustainable or realistic for them. If you don’t have the time or energy to manage a super huge wardrobe, accept that and figure out how to be stylish with less in your closet. If you dream of having more color in your closet but don’t have the skill set or the desire to learn how to work with all the colors of the rainbow, limit your color palette and figure out how to be stylish minimally in a way that still captures you authentically. Get over it, move on and do what you can do instead of failing by forcing yourself to do what you can’t.
Women have this insane need to push themselves harder than necessary that must come from that place of, “if I’m not a bloody stump by the end of the day, I didn’t work hard enough.” Yet, at some point, we all wake up and realize, literally, nobody cares, there is no panel of judges, no awards for overburdening yourself. What matters is the result or the destination. It’s up to you whether you want the journey to be an arduous one full of potholes and closed roads or one that is smooth asphalt and traffic-free. And there I go again with the driving analogies.
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This is such a helpful post. I like that it includes an actual example demonstrating reducing wardrobe articles. In 2013, when I was frustrated, I did a closet audit. I was surprised to find that I had over 200 individual items (tops, bottoms, toppers) in my wardrobe. This did not include gym or special wear clothing, which is not problematic for me.
Year by year, I have been able to better define what I like to wear and why. I have also become more selective. I am not a standard size. I try to buy things that fit or can be altered easily. Letting go of fashion expectations and focusing on MY OWN style (e.g., Straight leg, dark wash jeans) is freeing and allows me to look my best with less stress.
These days I have about 90 items for the office, going out, and casual wear. I have worn 35 items more than 30 times – vast improvement. Mandatory telework resulting from the pandemic has made me realize that my retirement wardrobe will shrink even more. Interestingly, people still compliment me on my outfits. I know the number of clothes in my wardrobe does not affect my ability to dress appropriately or feel good about myself.
Wow, Terri! 200 certainly is a lot to keep track of. I am sure there are some people in the world who would find that manageable but it sounds like it was making your head spin. It’s so easy to lose sight of what the ultimate goal is, which is really feel good in what you wear, not have your closet become this archival dumping ground of clothing. Good for you for not only reducing but for doing it in a way that really drilled down to what felt authentic to you.
You’re absolutely right, nobody notices. What people notice is if you look nice or not. Wat you use to make that happen is rarely what some registers and when your wardrobe is tight and focused it is easy to mix and match with less.
Brilliant. I am definitely thinking. It’s certainly a process as we focus and fine tune. I was thinking I was doing pretty good. This has me thinking I can do better! Don’t give up your driver’s licence. 😝
The easiest time I ever had choosing what to wear was on a trip to France a few years ago. I packed a capsule of two neutrals with scarves and jewelry and two pair of shoes for daily wear with one pair of dressy sandals I could walk in, even over cobblestones. My basic decisions were all pre-made back when I packed. I liked what I wore and fit in well with what French women wore.
That changed my mind a lot about what I had in the rest of my closet. I’ve since eliminated a lot of clothes.
It’s always so interesting. I have never had a woman who has packed tight on a trip say it’s something they regret and that it is not something they want to continue with when they get home. Yet, so many women don’t follow through. Glad to see you have kept it up in practice. It really does free up a lot of headspace to keep it tight and workable.
You are a style advisor, yes. Most importantly, perhaps, you are also a spiritual advisor! Your posts are often the source of my meditation and journaling topics. And I have your quotes hanging around my house.