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closet makeover

closet case study: julia

closet case study: julia

I recently did a mindful closet makeover with Julia, a really sweet, down-to-earth, eco-conscious professional musician. She asked for my help in part because she liked how I incorporate second-hand and thrifted clothing into my own wardrobe. Before we met for a consultation, I asked Julia to start a Pinterest page so I could get an idea of things she loves. Over lunch, we talked about how she felt when getting dressed and how she would rather feel. She wanted to feel put-together and professional, while still feeling like herself - pretty much what we all want. Next we talked personal style. We discovered that Julia loves the boho style, but she also really loves an avant-garde or arty slick (in the Lucky Guide vernacular) style. She's drawn to interesting design details in fabric, like draping, ruching, and asymmetry.

About a month ago, I posted a quote by Micheal Kors on the mindful closet Facebook page that Julia told me was a bit of a revelation for her. The quote was:  "70 percent of the clothes you own should be meat and potatoes. 30 percent should be icing and fluff — that’s colour, pattern, shine, accessories. Too many women get the proportions the other way round, then can’t figure out why they can’t get dressed."  Julia recognized herself in the group with the backwards proportion of meat-and-potatoes/icing-and-fluff.

We sped up the closet makeover process a bit and Julia did a lot of sorting before I got to her house. However, I did still want to see everything, so she pulled out her winter wardrobe and her "fancy" clothes for me. So many times, we just need another pair of eyes to point out possibilities we hadn't seen before, and this was the case with a lot of the clothing Julia had relegated to winter or formal wear. 

Trying things on - isn't it amazing what a difference a different waistline and hemline can make?

Trying things on - isn't it amazing what a difference a different waistline and hemline can make?

It turned out that Julia really did have almost everything she needed. The ballet flats she had only worn for concerts would go with her skinny jeans for casual wear. The strappy sandals she wore for her wedding worked with summer dresses.  The basic knits she had previously ignored provided the perfect background for a fun scarf. Julia just needed help styling what was in her closet. We were able to come up with many outfits that had the right mix of bright and happy with basic and balanced.

This is an example of an outfit that is cute, but just isn't Julia's style - too preppy. The sweater went in the donate pile.

This is an example of an outfit that is cute, but just isn't Julia's style - too preppy. The sweater went in the donate pile.

As it turns out, Julia's secret talent is writing. She wrote this incredible summary for me: 

 "I had such a great time with Dacy and feel so much more comfortable in my clothes now.  Prior to meeting with Dacy, I was pretty sure I had absolutely no style.  Now, I don’t mean I was walking around helplessly naked or anything, but my thought process was more like: is it comfortable, can I feel relaxed enough in it to do my job, and most importantly does it cost less than a zillion dollars?  Another thing I enjoy is buying clothes that are gently used at thrift stores.  Are you picturing me as a hobo now?  It really wasn’t that bad.  I never looked homeless but I never felt put together either, minus special-type occasions. 

 Dacy had me start a Pinterest board to find out the styles I liked.  It is really fun, like flipping through a magazine of only photos.  With Dacy’s help, I discovered I do have a style that I prefer.  I also, it turns out, kind of like the clothes in my closet.  With Dacy’s help I now know how to put them together, and actually wear more than four or five combinations of clothes."

Gorgeous! (and those are the wedding shoes)

Gorgeous! (and those are the wedding shoes)

"Prior to our mindful closet time together, I had a funny notion that certain clothes were too fancy for “normal” (non-fancy!) days.  While it’s true I can’t wear gowns daily (nor do I want to) I can wear, say: my wedding sandals with skinny jeans.  Another thing I was trying to do was wear a crazy-insane-amount of combined colors.  (I do sound like a hobo now.)  I have to wear black for work and thought during the times I didn’t, I should really live it up.  I had this notion that if I wore happy colors, I would be happy too.  It seems like a nice idea, but what it really meant was taking lots of time to get ready in the morning.  I would put something on with zany-bonker colors, eat breakfast, feel totally uncomfortable (and wasteful for not wearing all of the clothes in my closet) and then change into the drab four or five combo outfits mentioned earlier. 

With Dacy’s help I discovered that I literally have loads of options in my closet.  Getting dressed is fun, quick and I do feel put together now.  She very kindly guided me how to combine the clothes I have.  Even though I didn’t even know I needed it, she gave me permission to get rid of the clothes that I wasn’t excited, happy, or interested in wearing.  I have more room in my closet to see the clothes I do like now.  I learned a lot in the process and found the time extremely valuable."

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closet case study: heidi

Heidi was someone who I would have never thought needed my help. She's beautiful, successful, fashionable, runs a beauty company, and also happens to be my favorite yoga teacher. As I wrote to her in response to her request for help, I imagined her closet to be a magical place. Appearances can be deceiving, however, and Heidi's closet really did need some help! 

Heidi's closet before

Heidi's closet before

As always, I wanted to chat for a while first about her style and her needs. Heidi loves classic chic looks with personality. Her style icons are Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn. She was going through a bit of spring cleaning and wanted to change the energy surrounding her closet. She was also having a hard time getting dressed in the morning. She knew she had some fabulous items but wanted help putting them together. She told me that she felt very comfortable in the uniforms she puts on for work (yoga clothes for teaching yoga, and concert black for this other little job she has ;) Associate Concertmaster of the St. Louis Symphony), but it was every day dressing she was having trouble with.

Another before shot

Another before shot

Heidi lives in an awesome 70's modern house nestled into the side of a hill, surrounded by trees. The master bedroom has four small closets and there is a cedar storage closet in the spare bedroom. When we got into her closet, it was clear why things were overwhelming to her. Formal performance gowns and cocktail dresses were side-by-side with jeans and tees. We sorted everything and got rid of a few things she didn't love (Heidi is banned from buying anything from Ann Taylor ever again). To make the morning routine easier, we needed to separate the formal clothes from the everyday clothes. We delegated one closet for evening - only cocktail and formal dresses and shoes. Gowns she wore very infrequently and clothes that she wouldn't wear again but wanted to keep for her daughter went in the cedar storage closet, as did all out of season clothes. Purses and luggage went in what was originally meant to have been a toiletry or linen closet.

Heidi's closet after

Heidi's closet after

Next, we took the pieces she was having a hard time with and styled some more casual outfits with them. As with her dress selection, Heidi had all the evening shoes she'd ever need, but was lacking some basic casual shoes, like ballet flats and casual sandals. After she did some (thoughtful) shopping, here are a few examples of what we came up with.

These were both pieces that Heidi needed help dressing down. How cute are those flats on the left - Target, $12!

This blouse was easy for evening paired with a pencil skirt or black pants, but can work for day as well with denim.

Here's what Heidi had to say:

"Having Dacy's help with my closet was absolutely amazing! I was so impressed by how she helped me to organize and sort through my clothing, and also how great she was at putting new outfits together with the clothing I already own. As a result, I feel like my old clothes are new again! She also gave me a list of 'holes' in my wardrobe, basically a few things to buy so that I can tie together more outfits with what's already in my closet. Dacy was so thoughtful about helping me to decide which clothes to donate, which clothes to put into storage, and which clothes to keep. She has inspired me to organize other spaces in our home, and our home is already looking more beautiful and feeling much more peaceful with less clutter. Thank you so very much, Dacy!"

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)

closet case study: dana (part 2)

As we plowed through Dana's closet, I started to notice that there were a few key pieces missing. Dana didn't really have many true basic layering pieces, like white and black tanks and tees, jeans that go with everything, or shoes that could work for a variety of events. The saddest part to me was that she didn't have any pieces in the mod style that she loved so much and was so "her".

One of the things that she had told me in advance that she'd like to add to her wardrobe was a pair of stretchy, dark, skinny jeans. She warned me that she was a hard size to fit, but I picked up a couple of pairs of the Rock Star jean from Old Navy on my way over to her house, and they fit perfectly. These were important to have, because any top that had "interest" worked easily with them, instead of trying to match those tops to a pair of pants with a green and brown plaid, for example. She also had a great pair of wide leg lightweight denim that she just hadn't thought to pair with simpler tops and that became another important basic.

a little inspiration from jackie

a little inspiration from jackie

I'm not sure that I've ever met a girl with as few pairs of shoes as Dana. Her shoe wardrobe was sorely lacking - no real pair of dress shoes, one pair of flat sandals that were falling apart, no brown every day work shoes. She did have some flat black boots she loved and that went with lots of things and she had a cute pair of round-toe wedges that she never wore. The wedges worked well with all the dresses she loved and with her new skinny jeans.

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As I mentioned, Dana's on a budget, so after the purchase of the jeans, we only had about $75 to work with. Luckily, I'm a thrift fanatic, so I thought I could still get what she needed. 

Here's where knowing your personal style comes in handy - since Dana loved the 60's mod and 70's boho looks, everything going forward should fit into these styles. That way, there's more likelihood that everything will work together as a cohesive wardrobe.

(click image to see sources)

(click image to see sources)

These are the building blocks of Dana's style:

A-line minidresses and miniskirts (mod)
Wide leg jeans (boho)
Skinny pants/jeans (mod)
Ballet flats (mod)
Strappy metallic flat sandals (mod and boho)
Flat boots, black and brown (mod)
Tunic tops (boho)
Jackets to layer over dresses (just practical, I guess)

From this list, she had some things, but she still needed:

A-line minidresses and miniskirts
Ballet flats
Strappy metallic flat sandals
Brown flat boots
Jackets to layer over dresses

Saturday morning, I set out to see what I could thrift (one of these days I'm going to write a thrifting guide to St. Louis). I had one of those super-successful days, and found lots of good stuff. I got her a black miniskirt, a denim miniskirt, a boho tunic, a pair of metallic strappy sandals, and two cropped trench jackets for about $21. 

old navy cropped trench - $7.50, gap denim skirt - $3, (another) old navy cropped trench - $4, ann taylor black skirt - $3, aerosoles sandals - $3, vintage tunic - $1.50

old navy cropped trench - $7.50, gap denim skirt - $3, (another) old navy cropped trench - $4, ann taylor black skirt - $3, aerosoles sandals - $3, vintage tunic - $1.50

I also had a very mod graphic print shift dress in my closet that I had bought last summer and planned to wear all winter with black tights and boots. Since I wore it exactly once, and I knew that Dana would love it, it went to her. It made me so happy to see it on her and see how happy it made her. She wore it to a STL Symphony concert and said she "felt like a star". Much better than languishing in my closet.

So, for about $50, along with her edited down closet, Dana has a really great set of ingredients to work from. There are still a few more things she could use, but she (and I) will keep an eye out for the perfect options.

(See dana's closet case study part 3 and part 1)

closet case study: dana

Recently, my friend Dana asked for some help with her spring wardrobe. She told me that she had a few pieces that she wasn’t sure how to wear and that she had a few things she needed to buy. I didn't go into the day thinking we'd have too much to do. We started by having a lovely lunch, and then paged through the Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style. I wanted to get an idea of styles she really loved so that we could judge pieces she already owned by that standard. Dana was very “meh” about all the styles in the book, to the point that I was getting a little worried, until we got to “mod”. “I like THAT, and I like that, and I like that…” Ok, done. If you know Dana, you know that she has a good boho vibe going on already, but I would have never guessed that she was so into 60’s and mod looks.

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We headed into the bedroom. Dana has a small closet, your typical 80-year-old-house-sized closet, but I'm telling you, it was like one of those clown cars. I couldn't believe how much she actually had packed in there once it started coming out. "I never know what to do with this, this I wear with this one other thing, this I need something with this exact shade of green to go with, this was a gift..." And so on. For a long time. I was getting overwhelmed. Just when she would tell me, "ok, I think that's it", I'd ask, "What about those storage bins on the top shelf?", and she'd remember that, oh yeah, those were also full of sweaters she didn't wear. Finally, I said, "Dana, the problem is not that you can't make these things work. No one could make them work. Plus, you don't even like them that much to begin with!" The low-key-only-need-help-with-a-few-options session was clearly going to be more than that.

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Dana has had an interesting style evolution. At some point, she had decided that she wanted to upgrade her self-described "t-shirt and jeans" style, so she started trying to add pieces with more interest into her closet. By the time I saw her wardrobe, almost everything had "interest", and therefore nothing worked with anything else. She's also on a tight budget, so she felt bound to all these pieces because they "might work" and she'd have them "just in case" she needed an option without spending money.

After her bed was covered in clothing, we started with the obvious decisions. Things that didn't fit, things that were a gift, things that were worn out all went in the donate pile. I pulled everything to one side that she really loved, that she was excited about when she talked about them to me. This was maybe ten or twelve pieces.

Then we started the long process of evaluating all the "maybe" pieces. It's hard to let go of something that you've held onto with the hope of making it work. It's hard to accept that, actually, it's not going to work. Out went the mud colored pants, out went the awkward-length skirts, out went the tops that only worked with one specific cardigan over them. 

Happily, there were also many pieces that did work. Dana just needed an outside pair of eyes to tell her that it was ok to wear x shirt with x pants, and that x dress didn't have to be relegated to dressy events, but could actually be worn to work as well.

before

before

during

during

after

after

I wasn't kidding when I said long process. We worked on Dana's closet for 5 hours. By the end of our session, she had gotten rid of three or four large storage bins of clothes, but more importantly, she had a new perspective on her closet. She realized that hanging on to all of these one-hit-wonder pieces in her closet was actually making getting dressed harder, not easier. She was able to accept that sometimes things just don't work and that you shouldn't beat yourself up about trying to make them work. She realized that, actually, you can have most things in your closet work with most other things, and if that's the case, getting dressed in the morning becomes much easier.

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Stay tuned for Part 2, in which we put together outfits and add a few new pieces.

(See dana's closet case study part 2 and part 3)