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five tips for a mindful shopping trip

five tips for a mindful shopping trip

The actual process of going to a store and purchasing clothing can be overwhelming or frustrating even for those who enjoy it. As we head into the summer sale season, I thought I'd share a few tips for mindful shopping.

Various pictures taken on client shopping trips...

1) Before going shopping, MAKE. A. LIST. I can't emphasize enough how important this is. You can't go shopping without knowing what you're looking for. Well, you can, but I can guarantee you will regret most of what you buy. A shopping list should come from defining your style, evaluating your wardrobe, and thoughtfully planning what is needed to make it function at its best. Also, be specific. "Clothes for work" is not an appropriate item for a shopping list. "Slim leg, neutral colored, stretchy cotton blend pants" is an appropriate item. "Top" = no good. "Printed blouse in a washable fabric with an a-line shape" = good. Get the idea?

2) Go shopping at a non-peak time like a weekday or first thing in the morning, even if this means taking a half day from work. It's worth it. Everything will be better. Salespeople will have more time to help, they will be in a better mood, there will be less noise, fewer people, more sizes available. This all results in a much less stressful experience. Wear comfortable shoes and a cross body bag so that your hands are free. Dress nicely and do your hair and makeup so that you feel good about yourself. Bring snacks and water. This might all seem trivial, but trust me, it's the difference between mindful and meltdown.

3) While browsing, focus on only one item on your list at a time. For instance, if you are looking for the printed blouse in our example above, pull only printed blouses on your first sweep through the store. Next, go back and look for the neutral slim leg pant. This way of isolating things helps cut through the visual clutter that can be overwhelming in a store with thousands of items. Try not to get distracted. Recently, a saleswoman I often work with offered to show me pants that hadn't been put out on the floor yet. My client and I were both temporarily swayed by the prospect of "new!" "secret!" pants, but since we were specifically shopping for tops, we declined to even look. 

4) Now you've made it to the dressing room. You've taken everything that might be an option, even if you're not sure. Things often transform when on a body, so don't rule something out because it doesn't look good on the hanger. This might mean that you're trying on 40, 50, 60 items. It's ok. Don't feel guilty about making work for the salespeople (or is that just me?), it's their job. Be quick and ruthless. If it works, put it aside as a potential buy. If it doesn't, don't take it personally and move on.

5) The decision making process will be easier if you follow the preceding steps. For instance, if you have the printed top on your list and you follow step three, you won't end up in the fitting room with things you don't need. If you have a snack, you won't buy something just because you're hangry and want to get out asap. So now you've tried everything. Revisit that first round of potential buys. Narrow down your options. Try them again. Take pictures. Get a second opinion (not because you're going to take it, but because it'll help you clarify what you really think). Do not take the opinion of the salesperson. Their goal is to get you to buy, regardless of whether you should or not. Ask yourself a bunch of questions: will this go with most of my wardrobe? Will I still like this in six months? Do I really need it? Why am I buying it? Am I buying it because it's cheap? Because it's on my list? Because it fits my style? Would I buy this if it wasn't on sale? Is this better than something I already have? (If so, get rid of the less good item in your closet immediately) Is this worth having an overstuffed, stress-inducing closet for? Will I want to return this in a few weeks, creating more work for myself?

We all make mistakes sometimes, but hopefully these tips will help you
avoid a few of them!

a tip to avoid impulse buys

a tip to avoid impulse buys

This is a guest post I wrote last year for with some helpful tips, and I thought I'd repost it here. Enjoy.

Ok, quick survey. Do you have any items in your closet with tags still on? Any items you've only worn once? If so, I'm going to bet that those items are cheapy things you picked up while grocery shopping at Target or at a fast fashion store like H&M or Forever21. When I was asked to write a post about how to avoid impulse buys and fast fashion, I knew I had one surefire tip for doing so. The best way to avoid impulse buys is to buy quality.

Why? Think about it. Would you ever spend $200 or $300 on something that wasn't absolutely perfect? Something that you knew you'd never have an occasion to wear? Something that didn't make you feel amazing? Of course not. Yet when that item is $20, it feels like no big deal. If it's taking up precious real estate in your closet, it is a big deal.

When you buy the cheaper piece, you're going to have to replace it sooner, adding to the (literally) tons of discarded clothing on the planet. Many people talk about cost per wear and it certainly applies here. If you buy a $20 dress and wear it four times before it starts to pill or lose its shape, you've spent $5 per wear, and it essentially becomes landfill fodder immediately. If you find a designer dress on sale for $200 and wear it twice a month for 2 years (because you love it so much), you've spent just over $4 per wear and you still have years of wear left in the dress.

mindful closet, st. louis personal stylist - avoid impulse buys

(outfits I styled at Byrd Designer Consignment Boutique, one of my favorite places to find quality clothes at a discount.)

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, well that's great if you have the money to buy quality clothing, but I don't. I get it. I'm on a tight budget too. Have you ever added up over the course of a year what you spend on clothes? You might want to track it for a few months, because it can be pretty shocking. Do you have 5 or 6 pieces from fast fashion stores that you don't really wear, but bought because they were "affordable"? That's essentially wasted money that could have been spent on one quality piece you'll wear over and over.

There are also ways to get designer clothes for much less than retail:

  • Resale and consignment stores. These stores sell recent designer clothing at 30-50% of the original retail price.
  • Thrift and vintage stores. While there's a lot of inventory to sift through, there are gems to be found. Check out my tips for thrifting here.
  • Ebay. If you can go to department stores or boutiques and try on designers you like, you can often find the same pieces on ebay for much less. You can even set up notifications so that you get an email any time something from your favorite designer gets listed. Check return policies. Some sellers accept returns and some don't, so make sure you don't get stuck with something that doesn't fit.
  • Sale notifications. On sites like and you can search for a specific item and then sign up to receive an email when that item goes on sale.
  • Use cash back sites like and (yes, those are "Tell a Friend" links that give me credit if you sign up!) For instance, during the recent Nordstrom anniversary sale, Top Cash Back was offering 11% cash back if you entered the Nordstrom website through their site. If you're buying something for $200, that's a pretty easy way to save $22.

When you're shopping at secondhand, vintage, or thrift stores, here are a few things to look for in a quality garment. 

  • Natural fabrics like silk, cotton, wool, and linen instead of synthetic fabrics like polyester
  • Linings
  • Strong seams that don't pull apart or have fraying threads
  • Securely sewn buttons
  • Seams and hems lie perfectly flat with no rippling or bubbling

My philosophy is always less is more. If you're going to have less, it better be good quality. It takes some dedication and a lot of patience, but you'll end up with a wardrobe full of beautiful pieces.

closet case study: colleen

closet case study: colleen

It's been a while since we had a case study, and Colleen was the perfect candidate for one. She contacted me because she was getting frustrated getting dressed every morning. Before we met for a consultation, I sent Colleen a questionnaire I send to all my clients (you can see it here). During our meeting, we discussed her answers on the questionnaire and clarified her needs. We diagnosed her style by looking at images from the Lucky Guide - definitely American Classic. Then we moved on to her closet. Colleen's wardrobe issues did not result from too many clothes, in fact, she's a great purger and her closet was very small and tidy.

colleen closet.jpg

Isn't it awesome?! We started to go through piece by piece to figure out why she was having so much trouble getting dressed. A lot of her shirts were boxy and ill-fitting and many of them looked well-worn. Both of these problems stemmed from the fact that they were not great quality in addition to overzealous washing, resulting in pieces that were only a few months old but were already faded and pilling. Feel free to disagree, but I believe that unless you've worked out in it or exerted yourself, most things don't need to be washed after one wear. It varies for each person and each type of garment.

Even with those problem children, Colleen still had plenty of great basics and cute pieces, but she felt like she didn't have any options because she was very unsure of how to put them together. Her workplace is pretty casual and she didn't want to appear too dressed up. She also had a fear of wearing the same thing too often. Of course, I quickly reminded her that's not usually a real issue (outside of your own thoughts) since most people are too self-absorbed to pay much attention to anyone else.

Because Colleen's wardrobe was so small, I was able to photograph the majority of it. To help her see the options she actually already had, I made a series of photo collages showing outfits she could make from her closet. I added in a few things that we already knew she was going to add to her wardrobe - a white tee, brown boots and the two necklaces.  This gave us a total of 12 tops, 8 bottoms, 1 dress, 2 necklaces, 1 scarf, and 4 pairs of shoes. She had a bit more than that, but that's what I ended up using in these images. I very quickly came up with more than 30 outfits (a month's worth!) and could have kept going indefinitely had I had more time. Here are 27 looks (27 only because it make 3 neat squares of 9 looks each!) Again, keep in mind this is only with what she already owned.

If some outfits look similar, it's because they are. Sometimes all you need to do is change the accessories from brown to black, or change a necklace for a scarf for a whole new look. If some of the outfits look simple, it's because they are. You don't always need a million complicated pieces.

After we went through everything in Colleen's closet, I came up with a list of pieces she could add to maximize her options and refresh her wardrobe. We decided her neutral would be brown to make sure that everything went together and so that she didn't need different accessories or shoes for each outfit. Here's her shopping list by priority:

First priority:
-lightweight jacket for layering in a neutral color
-white boatneck or long sleeve tee for layering
-dressier, classic brown knee high boots

Second priority:
-one more pair of work pants, in camel/tan
-1-2 fun printed blouse, other than button down, in a silkier fabric, flowier shape
-1-2 fun statement necklaces
-1-2 accent scarves
-long cardigan in a neutral

Third priority:
-(replace) brown flats
-bright or leopard flats
-(replace) dark skinny jeans

At this point, some clients like to just take the list and run with it, sometimes checking in to ask my opinion on various options. Others prefer to have me do the shopping for them. Colleen had always been overwhelmed by shopping and wanted to get a little better at it, so we planned an afternoon of shopping together.

We started at Nordstrom Rack, which can definitely be overwhelming with its racks of seemingly unorganized clothing. I asked Colleen to focus on finding one thing at a time. For instance, instead of attempting to find all the items on her list at once, we started by just searching out lightweight jackets. Next, we focused on printed blouses - easy to pick out of the crowded racks. I encouraged her to grab anything that remotely looked like a possibility.

When shopping, it was easy to show Colleen the difference between the quality of a few different pieces in the same store. She was drawn to a Vince henley style silk top, but it was about $120. For a more affordable option, we pulled a similar style from a cheaper brand, about $30. When Colleen tried it on, she could tell that the cheaper top was made of polyester and had a bulky fit. When she put on the Vince top, she sighed audibly. It was soft and draped in all the right places. We didn't end up getting that piece (or the cheaper version), but it was a great experience to have. Colleen did choose to spend a little more on a different quality silk top, from the brand Joie. Of course, being at Nordstrom Rack, it was still a great deal. She absolutely loved it and will wear it for a long time.

We moved on to the Galleria and quickly picked up a few additional items at H&M and the Limited. Colleen also picked up a few pieces on her own. Between her work and our shopping trip, she ended up with almost everything else on her list (all the pieces in italics above were purchased).

With the new pieces and the basics she already had, she'll be able to make dozens of new combinations. 

Here's a little of what Colleen had to say:

"I really appreciated your calm, cool demeanor and kind way of handling the clothes I had and the issues I had with them. I never once felt embarrassed or uncomfortable. You are great at putting someone at ease in what is obviously a really personal situation. I also liked how customized your service really is - you seem to value the fact that everyone is going to have unique issues and so there's not a perfect formula for how you interact, you can just go with the flow and tailor it to what they need most.

I learned how to tackle the Nordstrom Rack craziness and how to speed through the mall staples. I also learned you should take half days off work to go shopping so you don't have to torture yourself on the weekend!

I seriously feel so much better. I wore the jacket yesterday and just smiled whenever I caught my reflection - I felt pulled together, just like I wanted! Thank you so much. I feel a million times more confident."

the mindful closet experience

Happy New Year!

I've written often on this blog about cleaning out and streamlining your wardrobe, but that's only one side of the work that I do. The other side is making sure that you actually have clothes you love and that fit your life. Last summer, I worked with a lovely writer and editor who was in real need of someone to help her with this task. She wrote this beautiful piece for Encore Magazine about her experience, and it illustrates more than I ever could the positivity that new clothes can bring to your outlook. It seemed like a fitting way to start 2014 on the mindful closet blog!

Click here and here for page two to see the article in PDF form (credit: Encore Magazine), or read on for the text (any typos are mine)

dacy gillespie st louis personal shopper wardrobe consultant.jpg

by Catherine Rankovic

Looking through my closet was like looking through a scrapbook, a history in black and navy blue and sludgy brown. My main requirement for clothing was that it could survive a lengthy commute and the chance that I might have to change a tire. I thought black always matched black and was always appropriate. My funereal wardrobe reflected exactly how I'd felt about my day job. 

During my husband's long illness, clothes were not important, and I got out of the habit of caring. I relied on a pair of black wool trousers with pockets deep enough to carry the cellphone and pleats enough to hide it. These got dry-cleaned and pressed to a rat-like luster. 

My late husband left me some money. I quit my day job, toured Europe in a black jacket, skirt, hose, and flats, and then came home and set up my own business. Not once did I think to enhance my new life with new clothes. 

After two years, the clothes in my closet off-gassed the smells of the old office and dry-cleaning solvent. Some pieces were 12 years old. I'd inked their fraying edges and stains with Magic Marker. Their polyesters and tropical wools were severly tailored and fully lined. 

For reasons of economy and habit, I might have continued to wear them except that I had changed. I wanted color and flow and femininity.

But I still wore tag ends of the old wardrobe, held closed at the waistline with safety pins I deemed invisible. I interpreted the itch for change as a desire to go to a spa. I was about to book the most radical makeover package, when at a meeting of entrepreneurs I took the card of a young woman calling her business mindful closet. 

I liked that name. Her hair was not bleached and I liked her simple taupe shift in a textured fabric, and her belt, bag and shoes. I'd never dreamed of hiring a wardrobe consultant, but at that moment I was pierced with the perfect rightness of it.

Before the free consultation, I answered her one-page questionnaire. 

"What are your favorite colors?"

I wrote, "White and red."

"Who are your style icons?"

"Coco Chanel."

"How do you feel wearing your current wardrobe?"

"Mousy. Owlish."

People do change; I explained that I actually enjoyed myself and my life now. I confessed to not knowing where to shop, that price tags scared me, that separates confused me, and I wished to downplay a figure flaw (I have only one).

She was the only person in the world able to use such information.

"Tell me about yourself," she said when we sat down at my place. That's everyone's favorite invitation. I shared historic photos of myself and explained that I did not follow fashion. I said, "I always thought fashion was for people without brains or talent."

She said, "It's not about fashion. It's about style."

She had brought stylebooks. "Page through," she said, "and show me any style or color you like, whether you think you can wear it or not." So I did.

Then she said, "Do you mind if I look in your closet?"

I'd edited and aired the closet, throwing the dingy low-heeled pumps and orthotic oxfords into another room, and said, "Be my guest." She merely looked, saying nothing; incredibly smart of her.

"This I can still wear," I said, showing a long-sleeved black number. "And this. And this." A total of three pieces.

Even so, I wasn't ready to chuck my old clothes. They held memories. She said, "Think instead about the future, about having clothes that fit and that you will feel awesome in."

Then she measured me and said we could shop together, or she could shop on her own and in about five days return to my house with her purchases. I could try on and buy any I liked, or none; she'd do the returns.

Ecstatic, I appointed her my personal shopper. In two days, she emailed a photographic sneak preview of some selected items. I saw yellow, I saw aqua. Excitement was building.

At my house she set up in the living room her own rolling clothes rack and carried in from her hatchback big bags from department stores.

"You were so easy to buy for," she said.

Instantly I fell in love my myself in a clingy, nicely-draped magenta dress. I looked so sultry that I bought two, the second one in navy blue. She'd brought a white Calvin Klein suit in two sizes. One was too small but the other just right. I almost wept.

I'd asked her to bring a red sheath. Of the three she'd brought, one very pretty one wouldn't do because raising my arms hauled the hemline up to the oh-no zone. The next had funny shoulders. The third was a gorgeous, form-fitting eye-popper. 

I selected the white suit and a navy one; a fun textured jacket in navy and white; and five dresses, loving a floral print with a narrow patent leather belt she showed me how to wear.  "This is your real waistline," she said, fitting it an inch higher. Who knew?

And she'd brought a load of handbags. I'd complained to her about bags, showing her the only ideal bag I'd ever owned, a Hello Kitty tote, more subdued and sophisticated than you'd think. In Europe, cries of "Hello Kitty!" greeted me everywhere it went. But I understood how Hello Kitty might be a minus in the business world. 

Now for the bill. This was the kind of event one saves for, and I'd expected to take a major hit. She checked the price tags against the receipts and tallied. The total for the clothing and two great bags plus tax was $676. She emailed me the invoice that included her shopping hours.

After she'd gone off with the leftovers, I sat among my colorful clothes, marveling and wondering. It had been like a visit by a fairy godmother. The tags showed where she'd worked her magic: Marshall's. Macy's. Stein's. The future held bold business meetings and knockout dinner dates. 


pretty little liars' personal style

This has been the summer of binge-watching TV series - House of Cards, Scandal, Orange is the New Black... and one that I'm not entirely proud of - Pretty Little Liars. It's a total guilty pleasure, about four high school aged girls trying to figure out who murdered their friend. Although it's mindless entertainment, it's pretty suspenseful and engaging. From a fashion perspesctive, it's fun, because costume designer Mandi Line has clearly enjoyed defining each of the four core characters' styles. 


From left, there's Emily Fields (played by Shay Mitchell), the sporty tomboy; Spencer Hastings (played by Troian Bellisario), the preppy debutante; Aria Montgomery (played by Lucy Hale), the punky artist; and Hanna Marin (played by Ashley Benson), the girly homecoming queen. I thought it would be fun to imagine what each characters' grown-up style would look like, so here goes: 


Emily's boyish style

Spencer's classic style

Aria's edgy style

Hanna's girly style


Do you watch the show? Did I get the girls' styles right? Which one are you most like? 



obsessed with: snakeskin

obsessed with: snakeskin

My obsession with snakeskin is not going away. I love how the pattern and texture can act as a neutral, but also add interest to an outfit. It will also never go out of style. Here are some of my current favorite iterations:  

Although snakeskin has traditionally been reserved for accessories, I love that it's showing up now as a pattern on clothing as well. 1) Chaus Snakeskin Print dress at Nordstrom, $129; 2) Joie Drew C Snakeskin Tank at Shopbop, $83; 3) Equipment Liam Silk Python Print Sleeve Blouse at Intermix, $198; 4) Trove Contrast Yoke Tank at Nordstrom, $35; 5) Rhyme Snakeskin Woven Tee at Piperlime, $59


I especially love the Rachel Roy shoes above, they might be added to the wishlist. What about you - do you love snakeskin too? 

my 5 favorite pinners on pinterest

my 5 favorite pinners on pinterest

As a personal shopper and wardrobe consultant, I use Pinterest as a tool to track my clients' style likes and to gather inspiration for them. I've also gotten quite a few friends hooked on Pinterest. One of the first things people ask is "how do I know who to follow?" It can be pretty overwhelming to just select a category and see the thousands of things pinned every minute, so I thought I might suggest a few places to start. There are many, many fashionable people on Pinterest, but these are all people who also pin often so you'll get a steady stream of inspiration.

photo by Jennifer Young via

photo by Jennifer Young via

Justina Blakeney at One of the top pinners on the site, Justina has over 1.2 million followers. Her perspective is earthy, natural, and bohemian, with pins about motherhood, food, fashion, and home design. 

Mrs. French at Mrs. French has even more followers (over 4 million!) and her pins are often dreamy and romantic images. 

Dree Harper ( is a personal shopper, stylist, and regular contributor to my favorite site, She pins a wide range of things, from fashion-forward style, to vacation spots, to inspirational quotes.


photo : oh darling photography
photo: oh darling photography

Joanna Goddard's pinterest page ( is how I actually keep up with her super-popular blogA Cup of Jo. Lots of pins from her blog posts.

Joslyn is perhaps my favorite blogger. Her style is minimalist and artistic and I love how she writes honestly about handling life with a full time job and two daughters. I never get tired of reading her blog, and her pinterest page ( just as beautifully curated.

So, anyone inspired to check out these pinners? Have any of your own favorites to recommend?