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wardrobe consulting

a mindful shopping evolution

a mindful shopping evolution

I don't really have to shop anymore. Don't get me wrong, I still buy clothes whenever I need them, but I don't have to go out on expeditions any more or just browse for that thing I didn't know I needed until I saw it. Over the last few years, I've learned a lot about my style, my preferences, and what works for my lifestyle and I know from past experience will actually get worn.

saint louis personal shopper



I keep a running list of what I'm looking for at any point in time. When I see something that fits the bill, is high quality, and a good price, I just get it. Unlike most other things in my life, I don't feel guilt about it. 

Example: before I was pregnant, I had a pair of black Paige jeans, which were a pretty useful wardrobe staple. These jeans were great and super comfy, but they had ankle zips (lesson learned: don't buy pants with ankle zips, it limits the type of shoes you can wear with them). I sold those (lesson learned: if you buy good quality, you can usually get some money back when you get rid of them), and kept my eye out for another pair. While I was looking, and while my body adjusted to having created a human, I wore a cheap pair of black jeans from Old Navy that served a transitional purpose. I decided that this summer, at the Nordstrom anniversary sale, I'd see if I could finally replace that pair of black denim. I tried on a few pairs, the AGs were amazing, on sale for a good price, and the decision had already been made. Easy. 

The other day, I had a few minutes in between appointments and stopped in at The Vault. I tried on a bunch of things and found a few that had been on my list to be replaced. Since they were resale, it was great quality stuff for Gap prices. The things that worked, I bought. Took 30 minutes, tops. 

I'm certainly not saying that I have it all figured out. I still buy things that I don't need or things that don't hold up as well as I hoped they would (looking at you, Banana Republic cardigan). However, I honestly feel a lot less anxiety around whether I'm making the right decisions when shopping. If only I could find a way to get that feeling about the non-clothes-related decisions in my life! 

So, to keep myself accountable, these are the other things currently on my list: a cool bag that fits my laptop, grey cardigan, lightweight casual fall jacket, and Birkenstocks to replace current ones (hoping to find them on end-of-summer sale). Anything else will have to be super-special to even be considered.

Apparently, this works for my clients too. I sent out an email to all my clients this month, reminding them to book time for the fall. I got several responses to the effect of this one from Diana: "You taught me so well (how to know my style, weed out my closet, go shopping for one item at a time and with a list made ahead of time) that you might have taught your way out of job with me! I learned so much from having you as my personal shopper. Thanks to you, I feel confident in my clothes and am able to go shopping when I need to." and Persis: "I've learned something about which of my habits are abiding preferences, so the trip we did together was a very important step in the right direction." and Joanne: "The time that we spent with you last spring still influences how we shop, dress, etc.  As we clean out our closets and shop for new items, we think about how you helped us and the advice that you gave us.  I think that your sense of style, wardrobe planning skills, and the encouragement to get rid of what we're not regularly wearing have influenced us the most. I still don't like shopping, but working with you has helped me to put together outfits for myself with less stress." 

The whole process is more than a one-time reboot, it's a constant learning process

client lookbook

client lookbook

Just for fun, a summer lookbook I put together for a client recently:

st louis personal stylist
st louis personal stylist
st louis personal stylist
st louis personal stylist

As always, there are many more combinations to be made, but only so much time...

exceptions to the rule

exceptions to the rule

In general, my philosophy is that if there is anything, any little thing, that bothers you about a garment, you shouldn't buy it. The reasoning is that those little things will never go away and will keep you from reaching for that item when you go to get dressed. Therefore, it ends up never being worn, and you'd have been better off not buying it in the first place. But...every once in a while, there's an exception to the rule. 

parker trey print blouse nordstrom

I would be my own worst client, because I'm super picky about what I like. I shop a lot and buy little. When I ordered this Parker blouse from Nordstrom, I was hoping it would meet all my criteria. It did...except. It didn't stay in place. The shirt slips back so that the low v-neck ends up at my adam's apple, and the hem shows my tummy. Not good. But I loved it! I love the print and the shape. I love that it can be layered for cooler weather, but is breezy for warm weather. I love that I can wear it with my favorite black pants for a dressier look or with boyfriend jeans for a casual look. I love that it's silk but not too delicate for wearing around a one-year-old.
I even asked for advice on Instagram

mindful closet saint louis personal stylist

I finally decided that my love for this top would override the rule. I'll always have to wear a camisole, and pin the blouse to the camisole so that it can't slip up. I can also use fashion tape for times when I don't want to wear a camisole. It's not the most elegant solution, but to me, it's worth it for a piece that I'll wear again and again.
What do you think? Should I have stuck to my guns?

P.S. These are my absolute favorite camisoles. They are silky, so nothing clings to them, long enough so they don't ride up, and affordable. Oh! And they have adjustable shoulder straps, which are the best!

P.P.S. This post contains affiliate links.

 

a tip to avoid impulse buys

a tip to avoid impulse buys

This is a guest post I wrote last year for pinknoted.com 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 Shopstyle.com and ShopItToMe.com 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 Ebates.com and TopCashBack.com (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.

on wearing clothes that fit

on wearing clothes that fit

A couple of weeks ago, I looked into my closet, flipped through the hangers, and had these thoughts: "no, I can't wear that...that doesn't fit..that one doesn't hang right...I though that would work but it doesn't..." It was the worst feeling. It was hard to get dressed. I whined to my husband that I had nothing to wear. I felt unattractive. It's something I hear often from clients. I've certainly experienced it before, just not in recent years, and had forgotten what it felt like.

When I moved to New York in my early 20's, I gained weight thanks to an office job, amazing restaurants on every corner, ordering in every lunch break, and cold weather that destroyed my will to work out. A move to Miami and the option to run on the beach took care of the issue at that time. Ten years later or so, by this time living in St. Louis, I changed size again, this time because my admittedly lucky metabolism slowed down in my 30's (oh, ok, fine, and another period of no desire to exercise). This time, there was no reverting back to smaller sizes.

mindful closet - on wearing clothes that fit

It's the worst feeling when your clothing is tight, rubs, doesn't button, or makes you feel self-conscious. You end up only wearing one or two things because they are more forgiving. There's a simple solution: buy new clothes. I remember how I felt when I gave in and did it both of the times I mention above. It's such a relief. You feel lighter. In my experience, you actually feel better about yourself, just because there's nothing cutting into your waist or bustline, accentuating what you don't need to be constantly thinking about. When you feel better about yourself, you're in a positive place and can more easily be motivated to make changes if necessary. However, I'd like to point out that women's bodies naturally change throughout life. Sometimes you just change sizes and nothing needs to be done except
accept it.

Why do we resist buying new things in a new size? We don't want to spend the money, we're sure we'll get back to the weight we were when we bought those clothes, we think we can make do, we haven't accepted we might permanently be a new size?

This time around, it took me a few days of not recognizing what was going on before I bit the bullet and bought things that made me feel comfortable and attractive. And it worked! I was so happy to look in my closet again and see options! I felt comfortable in my clothes, which made me feel comfortable in my skin. If you're really in a transitional phase, you don't need to buy all the clothes, but you need enough to get you to the next stage or season. You shouldn't have to suffer for a summer because that's how long you need to adjust.

mindful closet - bookhou at home bag

After bringing in the new stuff, I did a mini-purge of anything that was bought only for maternity and never worked. Then I moved any clothes that I was keeping but that didn't currently fit into the basement. I did this once at the mid-way point of my pregnancy, but it was time to do it again, since I was past being able to wear much of it. This is actually one of my biggest pieces of advice. I tell my clients all of the time, but am not sure I've mentioned it much here on the blog: get the stuff that doesn't fit out of your sight. Preferably in another closet or the basement. Every second you spend looking at an item and remembering why you can't wear it is wasted time and bad energy. It also forces you to use brainpower and decision making energy that could be saved for more important topics.

At different stages of life, we have different reasons for doing this. Most of us put away our winter and summer clothes in the off-season, using the same logic - why look at it if it won't be an option to wear that day? For some people, it's just moving the formal wear out of their closet since it clearly won't be worn most days. For others, like myself and the new and expecting moms I've worked with this year, it becomes an ongoing process. I currently have only maternity clothes and post-partum clothes in my closet. Many items fall into both categories, since I've been told I'll leave the hospital looking like I'm still 5 or 6 months pregnant. I'm also starting to rotate in items that I can't wear on this particular day, but will soon be good for breastfeeding (a whole other wardrobe conversation in itself). The clothes that I love, will still work for my current lifestyle, and will eventually wear again are in the basement.

mindful closet - transition dressing

Oh, and there's a place for those pieces that you know, deep down, you won't wear again, but have special meaning. I call it a nostalgia box and lots of clients choose to use it. The shirt you wore on your first date with your husband, your high school letterman's jacket, the top you bought in Paris slightly tipsy from wine, the dress that was your mother's or grandmother's - you don't have to get rid of them, but they shouldn't live in your closet. Put them (within reason, no need to keep every t-shirt from every music festival - that's for the musicians out there) in a nice storage bin in the basement, just like you would family photos.

By following through on a few of these steps, you'll end up with a closet full of real options and less frustration when getting dressed. Any thoughts? How have you gotten through transitional phases?

(In the photos, taken on Cherokee Street, I'm wearing one of my new dresses that actually fits, old Dr. Scholl's sandals, old Need Supply necklace, and bookhou at home bag.)

the happiness project and having too many choices

the happiness project and having too many choices

I am constantly overwhelmed by the amount of choices in my life. I love going to a restaurant with a set menu - no choices! You know the Cheesecake Factory menu? The one that is more like a catalog than a menu? It makes me anxious just to think about it. On a more serious note, I've also been paralyzed by choices of which life path to take at various points in my life - after college, after grad school, after moving to various cities. I once heard on an Fresh Air interview that President Obama has completely removed as many minor decisions from his daily life as possible so that he can save the decision making for the important things. For him, one of the choices he removed was what to wear every day. Makes sense to me.

While I certainly am never going to wear the same thing every day, I think that it's interesting to think about limiting our choices in our wardrobe. My sister and I were having a conversation recently about our closets and how we both purge them obsessively (in fact, she got up from the couch right after our conversation and got rid of a few things). She mentioned the book The Happiness Project, which I had heard lots about but never read. When I got home, I checked it out from the library. Here's what the author, Gretchen Rubin, had to say about cleaning out clutter:

"Having few clothing choices made me feel happier. Although people believe they like to have lots of choice, in fact, having too many choices can be discouraging. Instead of making people feel more satisfied, a wide range of options can paralyze them. Studies show that when faced with two dozen varieties of jam in a grocery store, for example, or lots of investment options for their pension plan, people often choose arbitrarily or walk away without making any choice at all, rather than labor to make a reasoned choice. I certainly felt happier choosing between two pairs of black pants that I liked rather than among five pairs of black pants, the majority of which were either uncomfortable or unfashionable - and which made me feel guilty for never wearing them, to boot."

Thoughts?

(Read more of Gretchen Rubin's work at http://www.happiness-project.com/)

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."