my wardrobe consult

“Ugh! I need a wardrobe consultant!” I whined to my husband.

Recently, I made the switch in my closet from warm weather wear to fall and winter clothing. As I dug in, it quickly grew into much more than a switch. It ended up being a full-blown assessment of my wardrobe, which is what I do with clients in a Wardrobe Consult.

As discussed in my last post, my style has evolved some this past year. Partly because of the change in my hair color, and also inspiration from French fashion during our extended stay in Lyon last fall (nostalgic sigh). Things were piling up – I had added new-to-me pieces to reflect my new style, but hadn’t done a closet purge in several years.

My closet is on the smaller side, so I store off-season clothing in a closet in the hallway. This is actually good, because it forces me to directly interact with all of my clothes twice a year as I make the swap.

Notice I said “good.” Not “fun.”

Sound familiar?

I LOVE helping others to organize their wardrobes and to make them more functional and enjoyable. I can do that every. single. day. My own stuff? Not so much.

When it’s your own things, your emotions, and – let’s face it – baggage, become a part of the story. Facing stuff that has been lurking in your closet for years, if not decades, can bring up all kinds of internal stuff too.

why it can be hard to assess and purge

It takes precious time – before you begin, it feels like it will take FOREVER to accomplish anything.

So many decisions have to be made, which is overwhelming, and sometimes even paralyzing.

A lot of memories come up – some good, some bad.

Experiencing guilt of purchases you made that haven’t worked out.

Finding clothes that fit at one time and don’t anymore (too small or too big), or never actually fit, can trigger negative body image messages.

Finding unworn items you like the idea of, but never really were you, nor will be, can also trigger purchase guilt.

Items are outdated or just plain worn out, but have sentimental meaning.

Items are outdated, but aren’t worn out, so it seems wasteful to purge them, even though you aren’t actually wearing them.

Managing gifts from people you love that just don’t work for you, and you don’t want to hurt their feelings by purging them.

When it’s my closet I’m addressing, I quickly get overwhelmed by decision-making. I also can get caught up in self-scolding – this time around I pulled out a bridesmaid dress from a friend’s wedding that occurred EIGHTEEN years ago (or was it 19?) and several other dresses that were 15+ years old and too big, but I had saved them anyway. Why??

I also have the “it’s not worn out” guilt around things that are still in good shape but are no longer my style. Do I keep them, just to have as options? (No. Consign them!)

See, I needed my own wardrobe consultant. Because organizing and purging, especially your clothes, is actually grappling with your sense of self and your personal history.

Having someone who is objective and who can give you support throughout the process with encouragement and gentle, honest feedback can make the process much less overwhelming and much more effective. I help my clients keep a positive perspective, avoid getting bogged down, and have fun in seeing the potential in the items that do work in their wardrobes.

It took me 6-8 hours over two days to completely go through my clothing, which was more than double the time it usually takes when I work with a client. This reminded me how helpful – and efficient – it can be to have a supportive presence to help you along! Working together, we usually get through most if not all of a typically-sized wardrobe in three hours, not only purging, but also creating new outfits with the keepers.

I had a lot of conversations with myself while I was doing my wardrobe consult. The exact conversations I have with my clients. “When did you last wear this?” “Do you actually LIKE it?” “Does it make you happy to wear it?” “Why do you feel like you need to keep this?”

And I tried to treat myself as I do my clients – with encouragement, support, humor, permission to purge, and permission to keep certain items that just can’t be let go – yet. The bridesmaid dress and other late-90s delights did go. Again, why???

I took three garbage bags of clothes for donation, and I consigned 15 items. I feel much lighter to have cleared out clothing that was doing nothing but cluttering my closet. Others will benefit from my purge, and my wardrobe is ultimately more functional without those items. I also now know what I have and what needs to be added or replaced, which makes shopping more focused and fruitful.

Ready to take the plunge into your closet in a faster, less painful, more productive (and FUN) way? Contact me today to set up YOUR Wardrobe Consult.

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grey matter

I recently met a friend I hadn’t seen for a few months for a walk. We hugged, and she said, “You’ve decided to go grey! I love it!”

To which I responded, “Decided? Sure, I guess you could say I ‘decided‘ to go grey.”

She laughed, and I did that laugh that’s more of a forced squeak accompanied by a slightly frozen smile.

Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t offended in the least by her remark. It’s just that when you’re in your late 40s, all kinds of aging stuff happen all at once. (Can you say peri-menopause? But that’s an entirely different post – don’t get me started.) The grey hair is the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

What my friend noticed is that I am no longer covering all of my grey with color, particularly right around my face. There’s still plenty of color in my hair, but not as much as there could be! My hair stylist (I love you, Bee) has been using her incredible talents to blend my grey with high- and lowlights to create a natural look for more years than I care to remember.

In the past couple of years, the hair around my face has become fully silver-white – a prelude of what’s to come eventually for my whole head. The added highlights there began to look brassy and decidedly un-natural. I also have the good fortune of fast-growing hair, meaning roots show at a rapid rate, which can be hard on the budget. So I decided to bite the bullet (this I did “decide”), and no longer color the hair around my face. Bee crafted my hair color to allow a powerful silver stripe there, which I like quite a lot. And there’s plenty of grey elsewhere, blended with lowlights.

Enough grey to be asked once if I qualified for the senior discount. That one did not elicit a laugh – not even the frozen squeak laugh. That one just floored me. Mostly because it was a woman much older than me who asked, not a teen or 20-something who might think anything older than 30 is just plain old (eloquent rebuttal at Forever Amber). I have to be honest; that one stung.

Since I’ve embraced (sort of) my grey, I get many more comments about my hair – some from friends, some from complete strangers. Most (but not all) of them are positive: “I like your grey hair.” or “Good for you for going grey!”

It is interesting that people feel compelled to comment on it at all. Friends, I get – they are noticing what’s new with me. I appreciate that they are paying attention, as long as they’re kind about it! But why do strangers feel the need, and the liberty, to comment about a natural aspect of aging? Are we that uncomfortable with it that it is an oddity?

Alyson Walsh, British style writer/blogger of That’s Not My Age, recently had an article written by the Guardian about her decision to embrace her grey. She had an “Ouch.” moment when the article was published, to which I can completely relate. She handled it with thoughtful grace that I can only hope to embody.

Everything about my business stems from the foundation of positive body image, and I am on a continuing journey towards this just as much as my clients. I have good days, and I have bad days. It sounds cliché, but aging for me has brought wisdom and a stronger sense of self. My 40s are the decade where I’ve learned to love myself for who I am, both in body and mind. Again, I have bad days. But they are now DAYS – no longer a mindset. My silver stripe (and all the 1000s of other grey hairs on my head) represents that for me.

As our bodies change with aging, it has implications on what we wear in many ways. I’ve written before about the idea of “age-appropriate” clothing, which also is trending on many style blogs. Alyson Walsh prefers the term “ageless style,” which I quite like. I feel that focusing on context- rather than age-appropriate clothing is a better approach. Women should wear styles that make them happy, regardless of age. Context is the considering factor.

I’ve had to incorporate my change in hair color into my wardrobe choices. My hair and complexion look different with my clothes now. I have had to rethink colors – less browns, more cool colors. White actually works better for me than before. My style has evolved a little as well to be more tailored/classic with more neutrals. It’s actually fun to style the silver stripe with clothes – it’s a built-in accessory!

Hair color is an intensely personal choice. The irony is that everyone sees it – it is likely one of the first things someone notices about another person. Many women (and men, for that matter) choose to cover the grey. Some would never consider color at all. Some are “hybrids,” like me. And some make choices they never thought they would make until actually faced with the reality of going grey, losing hair, or another aspect of aging. There’s no wrong choice, even though our culture has a lot to say about it.

Aging, especially for women, gets a bad rap. And, that, I fight against. I’m trying to wrap my (grey) head around my own aging, some days more gracefully than others. I do know that being true to yourself – meaning doing what feels right to YOU, not what the media or strangers or even friends say you should do – goes a long way.