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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."

closet case study: laura

closet case study: laura

Back in March, I helped my good friend Laura with her closet. Laura is literally the sweetest person I know - caring, considerate, and thoughtful. She projects an aura of calm that I aspire to, which is even more amazing when you know that she is the mom of two adorable boys under the age of 3. Sometimes as I'm rushing around in my usual state of frantic activity, I try to channel her. Unfortunately, I wasn't as thorough about documenting the process as I was with Dana, but luckily Laura wrote a lovely description of our day together.

Laura's closet before

Laura's closet before

"I have known Dacy for several years now and have always admired her style.  It is uniquely her own - effortless yet chic, not trendy, but polished and put together.  I have been trying to emulate some of her looks for some time so when she offered to help me clean out my closet and refine my style I was ecstatic!  I was also nervous, I am not a size 2 (or even a size 6) so I was doubtful that her suggestions would work or be flattering for me.  However, Dacy came over and immediately put me at ease.  We started by determining my style and decided that I am a mix of Classic and Gamine.  Then she methodically went through my closet and without judgement or criticism helped me dig through over 15 years of stuff!  It always baffles me that I have a huge closet full of clothes yet nothing to wear.  Dacy pointed out that if I hadn't been able to make it work up until now, why hold onto it?  She was amazed at the amount of cardigans I had (probably 15-20), but never wore.  Dacy pointed out that many of my clothes needed a tank top under and a cardigan over, making them hot, bulky, and uncomfortable.  She also pointed out that I had lots of vibrant color in my closet which did not coincide with any of the styles I liked in our original consultation. It was actually fun and when it was all over I had 4 large trash bags of clothes to donate.  I needed someone to give me permission to get rid of all that stuff.  I am frugal and hate to waste money so it was hard for me to give away items that still had tags on them or had never been worn."

The messy middle part of the process

The messy middle part of the process

"After the massive closet clean out, we began to put together some outfits.  Dacy brought over a couple of pairs of skinny jeans for me to try (which I swore I would never wear).  I was amazed to find that I actually liked them.  They balanced out the chunky sweaters and flowy tops that I like and were much more flattering than the baggy boot cut jeans I typically wear.  She also helped me pick out accessories like scarves and jewelry to add the pops of color and interest that I had previously been trying to accomplish with colorful shirts and bottoms.   She then helped me put together some casual, easy looks that I could wear to the park or to drop off my son at preschool.  I used to just throw on ratty sweatshirts and jeans to do these things but would then feel mortified if I ran into someone I knew.  Now I can still feel comfortable yet look put together."

Laura's closet after

Laura's closet after

"At the end of the day Dacy gave me some rules for shopping.  She suggested that I stick to neutrals and look for things that can be worn independently with no layering.  She warned me to stay away from anything that I thought I could maybe make work and to only buy things I loved.  She forbid me to buy any more cardigans and suggested I look for maxidresses, slim pants, ballet flats, fitted jackets, and timeless pieces instead.  I have been following "the rules" for the last month or so and getting dressed is so much easier.  With two small children I never have more than 30 minutes to get ready in the morning and now it's a breeze.  Most things in my closet will work with a variety of pants or skirts so I have lots of options.  I'm also more comfortable since I don't have to wear 3-4 layers at a time.  My "look" is still a work in progress, but I am so grateful to Dacy for her help!  I'm actually excited to get dressed for the day now.  As a busy mom my life is often messy and chaotic but now I've learned that I can still deal with the chaos while looking and feeling better about myself."

closet case study: dana (final thoughts)

I asked Dana to write a few words about how she felt through this process and was so touched by what she said.

during our styling session - I love how happy she looks!

during our styling session - I love how happy she looks!

"For most of my life I've tried to ignore fashion. I wasn't very confident about my choices and clothes were a source of stress for me. I am generally a very open person, and have a positive body image, but it turns out that opening up the deep dark recesses of my closet to someone was nerve wracking! Dacy's thoughtful, caring, and sensitive approach eased me into the process and I ended up having a great time. She gently listened to everything I had to say and asked thoughtful questions as I dug through years of clothes I'd been hanging onto. Now I open my closet in the morning and it makes me smile because I no longer have to reject half of the things in it, which is awesome because I am not a morning person. I had no idea how much stress all that extra stuff was causing me.

The best part was having Dacy get so excited about me and my wardrobe. She helped me focus my tight budget on the key items that will help pull everything together and guidance on what not to spend my money on. It was a big lesson on keeping it simple and not holding onto things unless you really love them and they work easily for you. It seems so obvious now, but I would've never figured this out without Dacy's help, and the perfect pair of skinny jeans that she found for me! Really, in just 2 weeks, I feel this huge shift in this part of my life. It's awesome. Looking forward to more!"

(See dana's closet case study part 1 and part 2)