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How Do You Deal With A Wardrobe Malfunction?

There I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror with wet hair, a round brush in one hand and my hair dryer in the other. Click…I turned the dryer on and nothing happened. No worries. I bent down and pushed the reset button and confidently flipped the switch and, you guessed it, there was silence in place of the usual deafening whir of the hairdryer. “Okay,” I told myself, “There has to be an explanation.” I tried pushing the reset button on the outlet as well as the dryer and even plugged it into another outlet just in case the first one was bad. Mild panic was setting in but I remained hopeful. I tried again and again, but still nothing.

All I could think was: You’re going to stop working now! I have a very busy day planned starting with a quick trip to the post office to mail some client orders and then off for a day of shopping with a client. Why couldn’t you stop working tomorrow when I’ll be in my office all day. I’m sure you can imagine my dismay (that’s putting it mildly) when I realized I had no way of styling my hair. Not only that but my hair takes a very long time to dry and there was no way it would be dry enough to throw some hot rollers in it before I had to leave.

Years ago I would have stressed myself out, worried about what others would think and said things like, “Oh, great! Is this the way my day is going to go?” My hair has always, in my opinion, needed extra attention and, while, to most people, this might not seem like a catastrophic event, it brought back memories from, dare I say it, thirty-eight years ago!

It was my first day at Mount Holyoke College and I was meeting the other women in my dorm. I strolled into one woman’s room to introduce myself and we started talking about what we had to do the next day. I learned that we had a swimming test (do they even still do that?) and, here’s the tricky part, we had to go right from the pool to another orientation event. There was not time to do anything other than get dressed and go.

I looked at this poor woman with horror. What do you mean? I can’t dry my hair before we go? She looked at me like I was a crazy person and, I’m sure she thought that if everyone at Mount Holyoke was worrying about her hair, she had clearly chosen the wrong school. I have to add that she had beautiful curly hair that she could let air dry and it always looked great. I, on the other hand, had thick straight (with a slight bend) hair that laid there like a mop if I didn’t do something with it. (Just in case you’re wondering, despite our initial conversation, we are still friends nearly forty years later!)

I spent the next 24 hours worrying about my hair. Everything must have worked out all right or perhaps it was traumatic enough that I pushed the experience from my memory, but I honestly do not remember what happened. I do know that I survived and that worrying did absolutely nothing to help the situation.

Did I deal with the experience differently this time? Oh, yes! I spent a few minutes reviewing my options and looking to see what other handy hair styling tools I had around the house—it turned out none worth mentioning. And, no, cancelling was not an option since my client had traveled 4,500 miles to shop with me and how would I explain that…oh, gee, my hair looks messy so I can’t make it? I don’t think so!

Instead, I decided to channel my “exquisite” energy (that’s the word I use when creating an outfit or deciding what clothes to buy). One of the things I talk with women about all the time is that others pick up on your energy. Yes, how you look makes a difference and you want to feel great about how you present yourself, but if your energy doesn’t match the look you’ve created, others will feel that and pick up on your mismatched energy. I did not want to walk around all day feeling disgruntled or embarrassed about how I looked and pass that energy on to others.

For instance, having my hair look messy was frustrating to me. I had no time to buy a new hair dryer before I left for the day, so I did the best I could with a heated brush. Beyond that I had to let my hair do what it wanted to do. I could have let the rest of my look follow suit and give up on trying to feel good about my image, but would that have made me happy and been a good representation of who I am? No. I also could have dressed in the outfit I had chosen before the hair dryer incident but apologized to everyone I saw or tried to hide or become invisible hoping no one would notice me because my hair looked terrible. This would just make others feel confused, distracted or uncomfortable because my visual message (which was well put together despite my hair fiasco) did not match my energy (which would not be well composed if I felt self-conscious).

What did I do? I promptly dismissed both of the above options and chose instead to dress in an outfit I love and pretend I purposely styled my hair a little differently. (And, I inwardly thanked my hairstylist for giving me such a good haircut.) I deliberately chose not to let one frustrating experience color my day or my interaction with everyone I saw. If anyone noticed my hair they didn’t say anything or give me any funny looks. I suspect (or at least choose to believe) it was a non-issue for them because I made it a non-issue.

I channeled my inner beauty even when everything wasn’t falling together perfectly on the outside. You can do the same thing. Your personal inner beauty can directly influence the energy you express in your wardrobe choices, and it is exactly why I work closely with my clients to determine their four descriptive inner beauty words. Once you feel confident in that energy, if something goes awry, it is relatively easy to do the best you can to fix it in the moment and then let the problem go. You can also learn from the experience. In my case, I bought a new hair dryer and a travel dryer to have on hand just in case.

If, on the other hand, wardrobe malfunctions are a daily occurrence for you or you never feel like your outfit adequately reflects who you are, then that’s a different issue. My malfunction only lasted one day. I expect that it would be so much more exhausting if you had to deal day in and day out with mismatched energy and the frustration that comes with not being able to create a look that feels like you or that reflects your inner beauty to those around you.

Take a minute to consider your own personal style. Is there generally a connection between how you feel inside and the look you create on the outside? If this connection is temporarily broken can you regain your momentum easily? If not, why not? What would you need to do differently to make this happen?

Use these questions to reflect inwardly and gain insight into the source of the disconnect (whether sporadic or regular). Then determine if there is one small inner or outer change you can make right now to inspire you and begin restoring this connection. Your solution, like mine, might be as easy as getting a new hair dryer. Or it might require more inner reflection to determine if your wardrobe is purposefully and effectively expressing who you are. Whether your insights are big or small this exercise will lead you to new areas of awareness in your personal style, and that’s a great way to begin a new year!


5 Responses

  1. Great article, Ginger. I’ve never seen you flustered 🙂 A few months ago while I was giving a presentation my pants split in the back and I had to spend the rest of my hour making sure I didn’t turn my back to my audience. I just kept telling myself that “someday” it would be a funny story! Thanks for sharing your insights on the inevitable wardrobe malfunction!

  2. Great article, Ginger. I’ve never seen you flustered 🙂 A few months ago while I was giving a presentation my pants split in the back and I had to spend the rest of my hour making sure I didn’t turn my back to my audience. I just kept telling myself that “someday” it would be a funny story! Thanks for sharing your insights on the inevitable wardrobe malfunction!

  3. Ginger this is such a great article on many levels. People do pick up on our energy that’s for sure. I bet your hair looked great and I love how you took us through the one day when this would have been a tragedy for you but now it was no more than a minor glitch that you adjusted to.

    Oh and FYI swim tests still exist. Coaches give them to athletes every now and again to measure progress. They are NOT fun. Ever while doing them but seeing marked improvement is a real joy. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Stef! Funny thing but I was not at all worried about the swimming part (as you might have been able to tell from the story). I learned to swim when I was three — my grandfather was a swim instructor. I learned in the ocean and had to take my swimming lessons early in the morning even when the water temperatures was sooooo cold! In fact, during the swimming test in college I was used as an example of how to do the breast stroke. I don’t think they cared much how my hair looked LOL!

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