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The Top 4 Fears That Keep You From Having a Wardrobe You Love

Be honest. Do you look in your closet and think, “Wow…I really need clothes. I have nothing to wear!” You stand there in dismay trying to figure out what to do next and then, you hear it — the voices that bombard you with a list of excuses as to why you can’t or won’t get new clothes any time soon. So, you nod your head, shut the door and go about your day. Until the next day, when you repeat the same scenario.

Admit it. There’s a sense of relief when you hear the reasons why you can’t go shopping. You don’t really want to do it anyway and having what feels like a valid excuse lets you stop worrying about it…at least for the moment. Instead you resign yourself to the daily stress of getting dressed and the familiar sense of longing for clothes that make you happy. You figure that some day the timing will be right but not now.

It’s no wonder you don’t love shopping for clothes. You spend time you don’t have wandering around the stores that feel too big and leave with things you don’t love but that will suffice. After all that, you go home worn out. No feeling of excitement or anticipation of having new things to wear. You’re just glad it’s over.

Phew! It’s completely understandable why you wouldn’t want to repeat that experience anytime soon!

What’s your favorite excuse? Do you tell yourself you’ll shop when:

  • You have more time
  • You have more money
  • The stores have better choices
  • You lose weight

At the time reasons feel legitimate. The problem is that they are open-ended – you can go on forever like that. If you dislike shopping or you don’t feel like you deserve a good wardrobe, then there’s always something else that will come along to take up your time and money.

So, what’s the answer?

“You must become a priority on your to-do list. And somehow it has to become a more enticing and rewarding experience or it is easy to keep putting it off.

What’s behind each of these excuses? Fear.

  • Fear that you’ll waste time and come home with nothing worthwhile to show for it.
  • Fear that you’ll waste money on things you’ll never wear. (Often this piggy backs an overriding belief that you have to spend a lot of money in order to have a great wardrobe (you don’t!))
  • Fear that you’ll discover they don’t make clothes anymore that look good on you.
  • Fear that you’ll buy new clothes and then lose weight and have to buy more new clothes, or
  • Fear that you’ll buy clothes for your current (undesirable) weight and then you’ll feel complacent and not lose the weight you want to lose.

It’s not surprising that you’d rather stay with what’s familiar even if it’s uncomfortable than take a step that stirs up a whole bunch of new feelings that support your deepest fears.

So, now what? How do you get out of your rut and make this a happy experience rather than one that makes you feel even worse than your current limiting wardrobe?

Let’s address some of your underlying fears and then identify steps you can take to move in the direction you want to. Your past experiences are valid which is why you are reading this and looking for guidance. You want to move forward. This also says that you are willing to make some changes and take a step even if it feels uncomfortable or a bit scary.

    • Time: If you’d rather have a root canal than go clothes shopping you’ll never set aside the time to do it until you’re in pain, i.e., you don’t have anything left to wear or you need something for an event and you must shop. Shopping when you are desperate is never a good use of your time and can severely deplete your energy. Nine times out of ten it just reinforces the fear (sometimes all of them!) and makes you even more reticent to shop again before you have to, setting you up for a vicious cycle of shopping only when you’re desperate.
    • Money: Let me dispel this fear right up front. Sure, it would be wonderful to have an unlimited clothing budget, but to be honest, very few women have that luxury. In fact, it’s important to know what your budget is (no matter how big or small) so you spend it wisely. Nor do you have to shop at the ritziest stores in order to have a great wardrobe. You can find great clothes at any price point. I have things in my closet that I’ve found at thrift stores, consignment stores, off-price stores, department stores and boutiques. You name it, I’ve found clothes there. If you know how to make good choices then you can shop anywhere (I know. I know. This is why you haven’t been shopping – because you don’t know how to make good choices — but we’ll get to that).

One thing I need to point out is that bargain shopping sometimes takes more time and energy because thrift stores, consignment stores and off-price stores are often more hit or miss, and you have to filter through more racks than department stores or a boutique that you know carry lines of clothing that work for you. But, when you know what you’re looking for it gets easier and quicker either to find things or leave empty handed but satisfied you didn’t buy something just to buy something.

  • Better Choices: Wouldn’t it would feel so much easier if fashion would just stay the same for a while? Maybe, maybe not. The reality is that styles change, trends change, and your body changes…sometimes even your lifestyle changes, so your wardrobe is constantly evolving (whether you want it to or not!). There are always new choices to be made and understanding how to make them for your body, lifestyle and personality is key.
  • Weight: This is by far the #1 reason women don’t shop when they need to. Whether your body has shifted due to having children, going through menopause, health-related issues, or just getting older, its easy to mourn the days when it used to feel easier to get dressed (if that ever was true for you – for some women it was never easy and they just get worn out as the years go by), or, you just feel frustrated by the fact that you have a closet full of clothes that fit you at a different weight, and you can’t wear any of them now.

Whatever your weight is, you deserve to feel good right now. If your weight has changed, it doesn’t mean you have to go spend tons of money or buy massive amounts of clothes at your current weight if you are expecting it to change again. But you do need to have clothes you feel good in now. Focus on basic colors and garments you can mix and match to leverage your purchases and then add accessories to bring in personality. This will serve you much better than berating yourself for gaining weight or putting pressure on yourself to lose the weight. Good self-care and kindness to yourself will ease the experience and help you achieve your goal with less angst.

All of your reasons for not shopping are valid, but the good news is that they don’t have to keep you stuck forever.

  • Set aside some time. If you’re used to dashing in to Kohls 20 minutes before you have to pick the kids up at school, then you’re setting yourself up for stress and frustration. Schedule in at least 90 minutes to shop. Put it in your calendar or you’ll never do it. No matter what your schedule is you can find it somewhere if you really want to even if you schedule it a month out.
  • Shop with a plan. Have a list of priorities with you. Maybe you need new jeans and a winter coat. Or, a dress for a special occasion and a fun clutch. Even if your wardrobe needs a total overhaul do not go in as a blank slate with an open-ended list. You’ll be overwhelmed in a matter of seconds.
  • Always look for your best colors first. Scan the racks, see what colors (your most flattering colors, of course) call out to you and start there. It immediately limits the number of options you have and makes it easier and quicker to shop. If you’re looking for a dress, for instance, in your shades of green, teal or purple and all you see is gray and orange, then you’re done. On to the next item on your list or to the next store. Don’t try to make something work just because you’re there. That’s how wardrobes get out of control!
  • Be willing to try on new styles. Sure, some garments will make you roll your eyes and wonder what genius designer thought “that” look was a good idea, but there are always new options hiding on the racks just waiting for you to try them on. And, do not leave the store without trying things on – unless you really will return everything that doesn’t work before their return policy expires (I’ve seen too many closets full of clothes with tags on them), and even then I don’t recommend it. You’re less likely to take something that’s new and different (and potentially won’t work) home than you would be to bring it into the dressing room and leave it behind if it’s not right.
  • Be willing to use a tailor. So many women have said to me, I’m petite so I shouldn’t have to hem petite pants. My response…why not? A petite woman can be 4’11” or 5’4”. I’ve even shopped with women who are taller and have long torsos in comparison to their legs and petite pants fit them well. That’s a wide range and no way you can expect one length to cover everyone. And, that’s just pants. Other alterations often need to be done so allow for this cost when you buy something or else don’t buy it (and in that case you can expect your choices to be considerably limited). This is true for everyone, not just petite women. Find a great tailor and you open up a whole new world of options.
  • Complete the outfit as much as possible in the dressing room. You’ve heard me say this before, and I’m happy to say it again and again. You can’t try on a pretty dress with clunky sneakers and socks on. Most likely (I know this is true for me), you’ll feel dumpy and you’ll dislike the dress immediately without giving it a fair assessment. In this case, if you’re shopping for a dress, bring a pair of shoes with you that you’d wear with it just so you can get an idea of what it would look like finished (at the very least, take off your socks!). If you are trying on a pair of skinny jeans (and women of all sizes and shapes can wear them so don’t think they are just for tall, thin women), you’ll want to have a jacket or sweater that covers your butt and maybe even a pair of tall boots to get the full effect. It’s too easy to dismiss something when you can’t see the final look.
  • Ask for help. If the next several months pass and you still haven’t gone shopping, you might need a jumpstart. Many of my clients shop with me two or three times a year so they can get it done as efficiently and productively (and with as much fun) as possible. They know they don’t like to shop by themselves or it takes too long or they make too many mistakes so having support makes it all a thousand times easier and then they don’t have to think about it again until the next time we shop. There is no embarrassment in needing help. In fact, it’s a sign of strength and honoring yourself (believe me, I’ve done it in other areas of my life and am thankful I have). Not everyone loves the experience of shopping but everyone deserves the experience of looking great every day!

So, what are you waiting for? Please don’t just turn the page and say yeah, yeah, I’ll get to it soon. Make a commitment now. Get out your calendar and schedule a time to shop. Start making a list of what you need – just 1-3 things. Start visualizing the experience being fun and easy and stick to the date. Make that commitment to yourself and your personal self-care. Each step you take is one more step towards having a wardrobe you love. Do it now!


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Ginger Burr is a fashion stylist and personal shopper serving clients worldwide from metro Boston.