It’s spring and summer is right around the corner. You can’t wait to get out of your winter clothes and you realize you need a few new things to add to last year’s warm weather wardrobe. So you build up your resolve, push down your chronic dread of shopping and head out to the stores. Despite your past shopping experiences, you try to remain hopeful, but when you arrive home after hours perusing the racks and more time trying things on in the dressing room, all you have to show for it is more ‘stuff.’ Continue reading…
There is no worse feeling than walking into a store and feeling overwhelmed that even with all these choices you won’t like how you look in anything in the store and that you will waste time, buy something you don’t love and leave empty handed. That leaves you feeling discouraged and hopeless!
That was exactly Marilyn’s dilemma. She is petite, about a size 12 on top and 14 on the bottom. She recently gained a few pounds and, as a result, had put off shopping until she was almost desperate. Although she had set out several times to shop, she always found something else she needed to do instead. Sound familiar?
But now, things had changed. Marilyn was invited to be a featured presenter at a weekend conference, and she wanted to look her best. Anxiety began to set in as she realized that the conference was only three weeks away. The anxiety was not about what she would say in her presentation — she had that down cold. But when she thought about what she would wear she actually considered canceling her appearance! She felt frumpy and old in everything she owned and could not imagine walking out on stage feeling that way. She knew she had to do something about that right away or she would be standing in front of an audience in a pair of worn black pants and an ill-fitting blue button down shirt and that was not an option. She wanted a new outfit that made her feel confident and sassy, but the problem was she had no idea where to start and was dreading the entire experience. So, she called me for help.
We met at a department store and after we had walked around for a few minutes and did not yet have anything she wanted to try on, I could feel her anxiety growing. She got more and more quiet with each step we took and I could sense discouragement and sadness in each of her sighs.
Finally, she turned to me and said with a slight break in her voice, “I would have left the store by now.” Without missing a beat, I smiled and jokingly said, “You can’t leave.” (Actually, I was only half joking) “I promise we’ll find what you need.”
We stopped for a minute and I asked her what she was feeling. She looked around and with a wave of her hand said, “There’s too much here. I don’t know where to start and everywhere I do look I don’t see anything I want.” I had heard this before from other women and know that this feeling of overwhelm is something many women struggle with all the time.
The truth is that department stores are big and at first (and sometimes second or third) glance can feel completely overwhelming. It is not your imagination. There is a lot to choose from. Look one way and you’ll see a sea of dresses — some sparkly and dressy, some short and flirty, and everything in between. Look the other way and you will see a wall of designers’ names, jeans in every imaginable color, not to mention shoes, handbags and jewelry counters that seem to go on forever. It can make your head whirl! And, this is not only true about department stores. It is just as easy to feel out of your element in an off-price store, a consignment store or boutique.
So, how do you break the shopping experience down into manageable steps so you don’t flee the store immediately? First of all, take a breath and begin by focusing only on these two things to start. (We’ll add more tools later.)
- Know what you need. If you go in trying to find everything all at once the overwhelm will haunt you. Purposely choose to shop for only one thing at a time. With Marilyn, for instance, our very first goal was to find her a beautiful jacket. We started in the suit section and then made our way to some of the designers — the whole time only looking for jackets. If you don’t find what you want you will know pretty quickly and you can choose to go to another store. Very little time wasted this way.
- Sort by color. While looking for the perfect jacket we didn’t look at every jacket there. That would have invited in more overwhelm. Instead, we started by focusing on finding colors that look fabulous on Marilyn. We skipped the light gray and mustard and headed for any deep purple and red we saw. By doing this we drastically reduced the amount of time we needed to find what we wanted and she knew that at least the color would be a success.
(If you do not have a current personalized color palette or know for sure what colors look great on you, review this article where I talk about the four colors that look good on many people)
Just focus on those two things for now. One more thought: Practice at different stores and see how you do. I know that, especially in department stores, there is a lot to see and it is so easy to get distracted. (No, you cannot make a detour to the children’s department to get your daughter a new dress! You know you will never go back to shop for yourself.)
Plus, sometimes a store that used to be your favorite doesn’t work for you anymore. For instance, some of my clients used to love Ann Taylor and then several years ago, Ann Taylor changed their focus and, as a result, their styles changed. I rarely go in there now because it tends to be less classic and more trendy and often has a very limited color selection. It wasn’t that there was something wrong with these women, it’s that the store stopped making what worked for them. So, it was time to find a new store.
Remember, even if your wardrobe needs a complete overhaul, just focus on finding one thing at a time for now and only the colors that look great on you. Even if you don’t buy something, the experience will be quicker and much more enjoyable.
In my next blog, I will share how to take this experience to the next level so you can continue to refine your choices and banish the overwhelm.
The long, cold, colorless winter is upon us here in the northeast, and once the holidays are over we’ll settle in for several months of dreariness (can you tell I just love the winter!). Being cold is not one of my favorite things and yet finding warm, cozy clothes and accessories that are also fun and stylish can be a wee bit of a challenge, to say the least…especially once January comes around and the stores start to think about spring!
So, I scour the stores and internet looking for things to bring light and joy to any woman’s wardrobe, and I am, of course, more than happy to share my special finds.
Here are 5 items that I feel are pretty, refreshing or just downright adorable for you or as a holiday gift…
Warmth & Style All In One! I don’t wear many turtlenecks these days (a softening jawline and all that…) so I’ve taken to adding beautiful scarves to my wardrobe. There are lots of them out there but this one just caught my eye because the color is stunning and will look good on many women. (Coral scarf featured at right. Click here for shopping info) and this one looks cozy and again the burgundy color will look good on many women (Burgundy scarf featured at right. Click here for shopping info).
Give Your ‘Functional’ Accessories a Lift! Add some cheer to your outfit with a handbag in a gorgeous color. In addition to being pretty to look at (coming in red, green, black and silver), practical and timeless, it is also vegan and cruelty-free (Click here for shopping info).
And, as an extra bonus you can use the coupon code ‘Ginger’ through the end of the year and receive $200 discount on any handbag in their collection. I have a Jill Milan bag, and it’s totally elegant.
Big, Bold & Beautiful! Cocktail rings are all the rage right now, and they are fabulous! I have to admit it is one accessory I don’t wear (most look way too oversized on me), but if I did, this is one that I think is elegant, and unusual (Click here for shopping info).
Those of you who have been shopping with me at Jewelry by Karel know how much pizzazz a cocktail ring can add to an outfit, and she has a great selection at great prices. Whether you spend a little (you can find very fun, inexpensive ones on www.etsy.com) or a lot is up to you. It’s a fun way to add a little razzle-dazzle to your holidays.
Pretty PJ’s! I am constantly on the prowl for pretty, feminine, cozy sleepwear. So much of it out there is either dowdy, purely functional or skimpy (for me that means too short) and I’d freeze! I found a fun selection at Soma (Click here for shopping info).
Soothing Comfort All Winter! Historically, winter is a time to hibernate a bit, reflect and relax (yeah, right, you say!). Well, any little bit helps, for sure. That’s why I created this delicious essential oil blend of lavender, geranium and ylang ylang.
Use it as a massage oil or countless other ways (I include a list of suggestions for how to use it with each purchase). (Click here for shopping info).
Yes, the winter is long, but please don’t become just another body dressed in gray or black trudging through the winter months…biding your time until spring. Bring light, joy and delight to your wardrobe now! These are just a few ways to do that.
Feel free to share any juicy, sparkly, fun items you’ve found during your holiday shopping sprees. Let’s help each other celebrate beauty throughout the next few months.
How often can you put an entire outfit on ‘off the rack’ and have it fit perfectly? I mean, really? If you think about it what percentage of time does this happen for you? 100%? 90%? 50%? 20%? Never? If you answered all the time or even 90% of the time, either you are one lucky woman or you are wearing clothes that don’t fit you properly.
Yesterday, I was shopping at a fun consignment store near me and tried on a jacket. It fit perfectly. Wow! I had a moment when I thought, “Yay…It fits, I’ll get it.” Believe me, that moment was fleeting…until I remembered that I need to be sure the colors were good (check), I had other things to wear it with (check, and I wore it today on a cable TV show), and I loved it (yup!).
Is this a regular occurrence for me? No. At least 75% of anything I buy needs to be tailored in some way whether it’s taken in, taken up, let out, or redesigned in some way (which isn’t as daunting as it sounds).
When you open up to the possibility of tailoring a garment you expand your options considerably. Take something that once was so-so, apply a little well-placed nip and tuck or realigned detail, and there you have it – a garment that is made just for you. Whereas if you try to wear it ‘as is’ off the rack you end up looking like you are wearing someone else’s clothes (which, in essence, you are!).
Somehow we’ve gotten it in our heads that we should be able to go shopping, try something on, and wear it out of the store that day looking great, and if we can’t there is something wrong with us…with our bodies. Let me set the record straight. There is nothing wrong with you. Our bodies are individual. No two are exactly alike. We vary in height, weight, valleys, hills and all kinds of in between curves. To think that one garment could fit everyone who is 5’5 and 140 lbs, for instance, is fantasy!
Okay, so you can all now breathe a collective sigh of relief!
So, how do you know? What do you look for? Let me share with you a formula for shopping success once you find something that intrigues you:
- Take the garment into the dressing room and try it on.
- Complete the outfit as much as possible. In other words, if you try to evaluate a long sweater while you’re wearing shorts and a pair of sneakers, chances are really good you’ll hate it. The parts are incongruent and, as they say, “A confused mind always says no.”
- Once you have it on, decide if you like the basic look. Then look for things that aren’t quite right. Here are a few quick tips to think about:
- Pants, skirts or sleeves are too long. This is an easy alteration. You can waste a lot of time trying to find something that fits perfectly and is the right length when a quick alteration can take care of it.
- Pants, skirts or sleeves are too short. Check to see if there is enough seam allowance to let it down. Do it before you wear it and wash it so that there won’t be a telltale sign you let it down.
- Too big on top. If it has sleeves, this can be a tricky alteration. If it has straps then it’s often a super quick, inexpensive alteration to have the straps adjusted so the top fits in the right places.
- Pants are too big at the waist. This is a common concern. Women either have gapping at the waist or they have to fit their waist and then it bags at the bum. Either way, if it’s minor gapping or bagging, usually it can be tailored to fit nicely. When buying a garment you want to fit the widest part of you first (whether this is your hips, waist, shoulders or bust) and then have the rest of the garment altered. Remember, it is usually easier to take something in than out.
- Top is too long. Have it taken up – even if it’s just a t-shirt. This is usually one of the easiest alterations and one that most people seem to overlook. It can take a garment from looking frumpy to fabulous with a quick flip of the hem.
- Pockets that gap. I often ask myself why they put pockets in women’s trousers! More often than not they gap. And, other than putting a tissue in the pocket who stores anything there – it will just add width to the hip line which most women don’t want to do. If yours don’t gap, you’re lucky. If they do, the easiest alteration (and it will have a big positive payback) is to have the pockets removed and sewn up. Easy and clean!
- Go from the store immediately to the tailor. Too many times if you take it home first it will sit there for weeks or months waiting to go (I know, I’ve done it!).
Those are just a few tips to get your mind thinking in this way when you shop. If you immediately dismiss something because the fit is off you will lose some really great clothing possibilities. Yes, sometimes, the alteration is just too big or can’t be done and then, you can let it go with confidence. But, you will be surprised at how often a minor tweak here or there can make a major difference in how something looks and fits.
This part is really important: Always allow for alterations in your clothing budget. If you can’t afford to make the alteration, don’t buy the garment. And, yes, this is absolutely true…if you aren’t willing to spend the money on the alteration (sometimes people say, “Well, I only spent $19.99 on that top. I’m not going to spend $15 to alter it.”), then, don’t buy it. It will never look right and isn’t worth the initial $19.99 (or whatever) investment.
One more thing: If you don’t have a great tailor, ask someone who does. This is really the best way to make sure you get someone who knows what they are doing. The last thing you want to do is entrust someone with your garment and then get it back and find it is unwearable. I have seen this happen more often than I’d care to, so finding your tailor through a referral is the best way to avoid having this happen to you.
This summer I was shopping at Nordstrom Rack and came across an Alberto Makali top that caught my eye. The colors were beautiful and the design was sparkly, ethereal and just plain pretty! But I hesitated…just for a split second, but I made note of the hesitation.
My momentary uncertainty intrigued me. What was keeping me from running right into the dressing room to try it on (although I did ultimately do that)? Was I limiting my options or was it really not me?
Have you done the same thing? Have you admired something or been even mildly captivated by something but just walked on by – determining from past experience or some nebulous fashion rules you think you remember hearing somewhere that it isn’t right: women over 40 shouldn’t wear it, horizontal stripes are a no-no, or anyone with hips needs to stay way far away from that style… (you get the idea)?
Here’s something to ponder: There’s a fine line between “knowing” yourself (for instance, feeling genuinely confident that harem pants are not for you) and ‘limiting’ yourself, and your style when it’s not necessary.
Many women pigeon hole themselves into a prescribed way of dressing and thereby limit their options and often squelch their sense of delight. Their wardrobe becomes functional and one-dimensional — devoid of any personal style and their boredom level escalates.
What is at the root of a one-dimensional wardrobe?
- For some it is a fear of stepping out and being noticed as opposed to blending in or trying to disappear.
- Some worry they will make a fashion mistake and look silly. It’s understandable that someone would rather look and feel boring than silly, but it is rare that most women will push the envelope to the point of looking silly. Their worry is generally unnecessary. Unfortunately, anything outside the norm of what they usually wear feels so foreign that they lose perspective on whether it’s trendy, fashionable, cutting edge or none of the above. As a result, tried and true (or not so true but at least safe) wins out.
- And some women are so bound and determined to “find their style” that they hyper focus on certain designs to the exclusion of all else – “knowing” that they can’t wear those things – although not always knowing where that knowing came from (and it has often been received second or third hand at best).
- Still others try really hard but can’t quite seem to figure out how to make it all work and give up from sheer overwhelm and frustration.
I hear this from women all the time. “I can’t wear that,” or, “That doesn’t work on my body,” or, “I’ve tried that before, and it just doesn’t look good.”
Sure, sometimes it’s true but honestly, more often than not it is a self-imposed fashion rule. And, most fashion rules have an exception from time to time.
The next step is: How do you move into a wardrobe that has more personality and dimension without it feeling overwhelming or making lots of expensive mistakes?
Let me go back to the Alberto Makali top I eyed. I was intrigued enough to try it on. Sure, in general I am not the bohemian type but I also know that it’s all about how you interpret any given style, bohemian included.
The top is beautiful! I did buy it.
- It fit me perfectly.
- The colors are beautiful and great on me.
- The top has that ethereal, slightly bohemian quality but in an exquisite, elegantly beautiful way.
- I wear it with more structured pants to keep me from feeling swallowed up by too much airy fabric.
- I wear it when my mood (and the temperature) is more relaxed, sultry and quiet.
- And, I got it at Nordstrom Rack so if I had made a mistake (better to make an occasional mistake than feel restricted by too many self-imposed rules), it would not have been an expensive one.
How can you translate this experience for yourself?
- Pay attention to what catches your eye. It never hurts to try something on. The worst case scenario is that it looks terrible or doesn’t fit right (and can’t be tailored) and you take it off and put it back on the rack. No harm done and often something valuable learned.
- Complete the outfit before you decide. Tossing something on with a pair of sweat pants or sneakers and a skirt will not help you visualize (unless you’re very good at it!) whether the garment has potential. Try to complete the outfit as closely as possible in the dressing room to give you as much of an idea of how it will look finished as possible.
- Listen to your heart and be practical all at the same time. Always imagine where you’ll wear the garment and how it will fit into your wardrobe and lifestyle. AND, if it is something you absolutely love, be adventurous. Hey, although mostly I wear the Alberto Makali top casually and socially, I might choose to wear it to a picnic or baseball game (not that I went to either this summer) if I felt inspired to and it made me feel good – who says I can’t!
Each of us has different parts to our personalities and part of the fun of getting dressed is not only liking the way we look (of course) but also expressing each part of our personality that desires to be expressed in a heart-felt, authentic way. Sure, there are parameters determined by your body type, your age (sometimes), and the particular occasion, but you get to put the spin on how you express your own individuality. Don’t let yourself get stuck in a rut or a hard and fast prescribed way of dressing. Exploring is part of what keeps it all interesting and fun!
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Who do you see when you look in your closet? Is your mother’s face smiling back at you from that ruffle shirt you’ve never worn? Or, is your best friend’s favorite dress hanging out in there taunting you?
Most often, in response to the question, “Who do you see when you look in your closet,” I hear:
- My mother
- My sister
- My best friend
- Myself, pre-children
- Myself, pre-30 extra pounds
- Myself, pre-menopause
- Whoever was working at the store the day I went shopping
- The store window mannequin…
- All of the above!
Is this true for you? If so, what is the first feeling that comes to mind when you open your closet to get dressed? Exhaustion? Overwhelm? Denial? Frustration? Dread? Some combination of all of these? Rarely, under these circumstances, is it joy and delight.
Guess what? When you look in your closet you want to see YOU…just you. That part of you that makes you smile, that reminds you of fun times and delicious memories (maybe the memories are of pushing your daughter on a swing, lunch with girlfriends, a successful business presentation, or a precious date with your sweetie – these are the simple pleasures that make up life). You also want these feelings to be reflected in every aspect of your wardrobe down to your nightgown and slippers!
If you’re shaking your head in despair or frustration, you are not alone. Most women will admit this is easier said than done.
So, let’s shake things up a bit. Let’s begin to weed out those garments that make you roll your eyes or cringe. They have absolutely no place in your wardrobe.
Evict the Strangers:
- Remove one item from your closet that feels more like someone else than you. If you are near your closet go there right now and do this (if not, take a big piece of paper and write down the first thing that comes into your mind so you’ll remember to remove it later). Even if you don’t know why it isn’t you or what to put in to replace it…the very first step is to get it out of there.
As long as it is taking up space in your sacred closet (yes, this is where your essence is expressed every day!), you will feel over burdened, frustrated, annoyed, despairing or resigned to all of those feelings every time you get dressed, and none of that is good.
It is also very likely that you aren’t wearing those things anyway – it’s more like a security blanket but the security is a sham.
- Identify one garment or outfit that makes you smile the second you put it on. It can be a dress, pair of pants and even a pair of shoes or scarf — no item is too small or insignificant.
Lay both of these garments side by side and have a piece of paper handy (your Nurturing Beauty Journal will do perfectly if you have your home study program “Who Taught You How To Dress?”)
For the outfit that isn’t you, write down everything about it you don’t like. Be as picky as you can be. Maybe it’s the way the fabric feels? Perhaps the buttons seem overwhelming or there are just too many of them? It could be that you dislike the pattern or the way it clings or it has a belt and you don’t like belts. Write down everything! (If there are a few things you like about it, write those in a separate column. Maybe the color is pretty if it weren’t so shapeless.)
For the outfit you love, write down everything you like about it. Color, texture, fit…maybe it makes you feel sophisticated, down-to-earth or pretty. Whatever it is, write it down.
These lists are your lifeline the next time you go shopping. Don’t leave home without them. The next time you try on an outfit, run down both lists and compare the garment.
This exercise alone will help you stay focused when you shop. It is so easy to get distracted by all the choices, the lighting, or the helpful “advice” from sales women or your shopping buddies.
Sometimes, your desire to find “something” is so great that you settle for the best of what you find which often doesn’t really measure up to anything even close to fabulous – and that’s what you are shooting for!
Now, take a long, deep breath…this is just one step in creating a wardrobe you love.
How did this exercise make you feel? Encouraged, hopeful, excited or like, yikes, now what! If you feel like this is just the tip of the iceberg for you and you need a super jumpstart before you have to buy your Fall wardrobe, then I want to invite you to learn more about the upcoming Fashion Fairy Godmother workshop.
The Fashion Fairy Godmother workshop is a 2-day, action-packed workshop that will completely revamp how you shop, get dressed and change how you view your wardrobe and personal style forever!
“I haven’t felt this confident about my appearance in years!” This is what Kathy Wilk said after attending the Fashion Fairy Godmother retreat in the spring.
BONUS OFFER: As a very special extra bonus, when you are the first person to register by Monday, August 30, you will receive a $50 gift certificate to Jewelry by Karel (she will be there with her jewelry on Sunday when we’ll talk about how to accessorize using all the information you’ve learned the previous day). Get this special bonus right here: www.fashionfairygodmotherprogram.com
MORE BONUSES: When you are either the second or third person to register by Monday, August 30, you will receive a $25 gift certificate to Jewelry by Karel. Believe me, this is one of the most treasured bonuses (and you’ll see why when you’re there!).
If you are not sure if the Fashion Fairy Godmother workshop is for you or just what the next best step is for you overall, simply fill out my “I Need Help” form (http://www.totalimageconsultants.com/i-need-help.shtml), and we’ll set up a complimentary ‘Discover Your Style’ phone consultation.
Whatever you decide to do, now is the perfect time…before you are perusing your Fall wardrobe and wondering what you can possibly wear to get you through the next 6 months! Imagine instead feeling empowered and joyful about the transition!