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Are You Afraid Of Your Wardrobe

Nearly every day I talk to women who want to be more adventuresome in their wardrobe choices, but they are afraid. As a result they find themselves buying the same things over and over because they feel easy, familiar and safe. But, their satisfaction is fleeting when they look in the mirror and see the same old look day in and day out.

What is the basis of their fear? Even if there are multiple reasons, one of the ones I hear the most often is the fear of looking silly and feeling embarrassed about how they look.

What causes this fear?

There can be many underlying reasons that they stay stuck, but there are three that stand out. See if you identify with any of these:

  1. Are you afraid to make a mistake?
  2. Are you afraid to step out of your comfort zone because you like it and you doubt you will find anything else you like as much?
  3. Do you rely heavily on approval from others?

1. Fear of Making a Mistake

When I was in high school I was very insecure and worried a lot about how I appeared to others. As a result, I would go to any length to avoid making a mistake. In this instance I am talking about French class.

I was very proficient at reading French. I actually read Marcel Proust’s “Le Rouge et le Noir.” Trust me. That’s not easy in English never mind French. But where I really missed out was when it came to speaking French in class. I was extremely shy and very concerned that the other students would laugh at me. I didn’t like to speak unless I was sure I would do it perfectly, with all the grammar in place and a flawless accent. Now, really…how much chance was there of that? Pretty much none. I was so worried that I would do it wrong that I didn’t do it at all unless I had to.

My teacher was not to blame. In fact, I had an amazing teacher–one of my favorite teachers of all times–which made it even more sad that I didn’t take advantage of all she had to offer. In her classroom I had a safe place to practice and make mistakes so I could continually improve my conversational skills as well as refine my accent. In my case, being unwilling to risk making a mistake in front of others kept me limited in learning to express myself in a foreign language. Who knows how much more I could have learned or how much more quickly I would have increased my comfort level with my French speaking ability if I had just experimented more under her expert tutelage. Not to mention that any mistake I would have made would have been minor in the scheme of things—perhaps a mispronunciation, a wrong verb tense or misuse of a word. In other words, nothing earthshattering was going to happen if I made a mistake.

It’s the same with your wardrobe. When you venture into uncharted territory you might put an odd color combination together or wear a style that isn’t truly you just because you want to branch out and see how it feels. No harm done. It’s not like you are exposing things you shouldn’t or wearing every trend on the planet all at once. And, the beauty of it is that along the way you will find things you love and things you don’t. A “mistake” here or there is part of the experience in refining your look.

2. Fear of Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

I see this limitation expressed often in my clients’ closets, and Catherine is a perfect example. She and I had shopped together for many years. She was in her glory in the 1980’s when earring styles were big and covered a lot of the earlobe. She loved them! Of course, like everything else in the fashion world, eventually the earring trend went to the opposite extreme, and everyone wore small earrings. Everyone except Catherine, that is. I’m all for self-expression and had no problem with her continuing to wear larger earrings. The problem was that we couldn’t find them anywhere! It was hard for her to imagine wearing anything else (even though other styles looked equally good on her) and so she spent much of the next ten years feeling frustrated because her idea of perfection didn’t match what was available.

I know how scary it can feel to step outside your comfort zone, and I’m the first to admit that not everything will work, that’s for sure. But, when you get stuck seeing yourself just one way it prevents you from seeing new possibilities that could make you equally as happy.

3. Fear Others Will Not Approve (and the belief that they know better)

When Alison came to our first appointment she was wearing an elegantly ruffled blouse with a deep navy pencil skirt, a sapphire pendant necklace and platform pumps. Everything fit her perfectly and she looked beautiful. So why was she here? It took less than a minute of conversation before it was very clear. Someone else had dressed her. Because she felt unsure as to what looked good on her or what she felt in her heart of hearts would make her happy, she relied on her best friend and a fashion savvy sales woman to create a wardrobe for her. As a result, she looked lovely but felt out of sorts.

The way she liked to dress was in clothes that moved and felt a little bohemian and bordering on edgy. Rather than straightening her hair she loved to wear it curly but so many people had warned her that it was too unruly that she acquiesced and overrode her own style preferences. She did this because she didn’t feel secure enough in her own choices to create a wardrobe she truly loved. So she wore clothes that looked perfect on the outside and smiled as she received countless compliments. But, the satisfaction was fleeting because it didn’t reflect who she was on the inside. She had created a false sense of perfection and now felt trapped. She was afraid her friend would not approve, and she’d feel pressured into maintaining her current look. She needed a boost of confidence and guidance to find her own unique style and let go of seeking constant approval from others.

Is fear keeping you stuck in a style rut? Do you want to branch out, but you have tried to do it on your own in the past and never felt confident in your choices? I know the feeling. I could never have learned how (or goodness only knows how long it would have taken me) to speak French or create a wardrobe I love on my own. Yes, it’s true! Years ago (you can read more about my story on my website), I spent a lot of time and money making tons of mistakes. I was grappling with two of the scenarios described above. I was afraid to make a mistake (but made plenty in the process of trying to find my style) and I tried to fit in with whatever group of friends I was with. This got exhausting and never truly represented who I was. Not to mention that sometimes I knew a look didn’t work but I couldn’t figure out by myself what would have looked better! Thankfully, I found someone who could guide me in making choices that truly reflected my inner essence. It was a life changing experience and one that stays with me to this day—some 26 years later.

Can you have the same transformation? Absolutely! Every day I see how much the women on the ‘Who Taught You How to Dress?’ forum, which is part of the ‘Who Taught You How to Dress?’ coaching program, are growing in their abilities to put together a wardrobe and look they love. It is inspiring and gratifying to watch and support. Carla, who uses the forum regularly with great results, says:

I want to express a massive thank you for creating the ‘Who Taught You How To Dress?’ program and the online forum. It sounds overly dramatic (especially to a former Brit!) to say it’s life changing, but I truly think it is for me. The response to my stressful post this morning…WOW! I feel so much better and thanks to all the support, I know I will go on this trip looking and feeling great. I thought getting older would be really rough for me. Thanks to finding your coaching program and the confidence it has brought, I feel so good about where I am today.” — With gratitude, Carla

You can have the same experience as Carla. Join the ‘Who Taught You How to Dress?’ coaching program and begin exploring more possibilities right away…this time with guidance and support. As you practice what you learn there, your confidence will grow, and you will become more fluent in how to create a look you love. Sure there’s a risk you will make a mistake, but you will make fewer mistakes–notice I didn’t say they would go away completely–and learn something new each time you put together an outfit or shop for clothes. And, if you feel stumped as to why something doesn’t work, just jump on the forum and ask. I, and the other women in the community, will help you. The more you practice and learn about yourself the more success you will have and the greater your chances of creating a truly ideal wardrobe!

If you feel that you could benefit from expert guidance, here’s you chance to learn more about joining the ‘Who Taught You How to Dress?’ community. Click here for more information. And, if you want the added experience of working with me in-person, learn more here about the ‘Your Style, Your Way’ workshop coming up on April 6. You will have the ‘Who Taught You How to Dress?’ program to support your workshop experience before and after. It’s the best of both worlds!


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