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Is Your Wardrobe Really You?

With the new year just around the corner, the word “new” has increasing momentum. The beginning of every year is a new opportunity to start fresh within yourself and in your life so why not get a jumpstart on the new year now.

The best way to start this: In your closet.

You are in your closet daily—at least once—and yet it is often one of the most neglected areas in your house especially when you have a busy life or other more pressing priorities. Admit it. It is too easy just to grab a shirt or belt and toss it on without a second thought. It’s not that these items make you smile every time you wear them or you have excitedly created a combination that makes your heart sing. No, it’s really more that it is easy and gets the job done. You are clothed and out the door you go.

Before we begin, let me share a pre-emptive step with you that fashion icon and expert, Tim Gunn, advocates. Place three boxes in front of you and label them: Toss, Repair, Donate:

  • Items for the Toss Box go in the trash or recycling
  • Items for the Repair Box go either into your own sewing pile or to the tailor
  • Items for the Donate Box go to your favorite charity.

Take a minute to stop and think about this. How did these items end up front and center in your wardrobe?

  • Was it by design?
  • Are they old standbys from a past life?
  • Were they a gift?
  • Did you buy them with a gentle (or not so gentle) prodding from a good friend or friendly sales person?
  • Did you buy them because they were ‘good enough’ and you just wanted to be done shopping?

The biggest question is:

Are these clothes really expressing who you are?

Too often the answer is a weak maybe, but when you dig down deep inside you can see the honest answer is no.

It is so easy to default to something familiar and safe either because you have not had luck finding what you want, your body has changed and you feel clueless about how to clothe it or your attempts at finding an exciting style have been disastrous and expensive.
In this case, safe feels good, doesn’t it?

The truth….if YOU are missing from your wardrobe, then you will always feel like something isn’t right.


Now is the time (don’t keep putting it off or a year, 10 or 20 will go by before you know it!) for YOU to be in your closet in a truly authentic, exciting (yes, that’s possible every day) way.

There is only one way to start: honestly take stock of what you have.

And, before you run screaming from your computer, don’t worry…you don’t have to take a day off from work or sequester yourself in your bedroom until the dreary task is complete. That would send most of us running for the hills. Instead, it’s a process full of baby steps.

Critical Step:

If you don’t love it or it isn’t you, then let’s uncover why you are still wearing it?

To begin with, ask yourself questions about how you feel when you wear or even look at something. Start with what you are wearing right now.

  • Does it make you feel like you?
  • Does it make you feel good?
  • Do you love it?

Here are two examples of authentic transformations:

Annie Before
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Annie After expressing her joyously unrestrained and dashingly unconventional side
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Jan Before
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Jan After expressing her Open-hearted and Inspiring side
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You can find more examples on my makeover page:

You can have the same transformation and feel just as wonderful in everything you wear. This exercise will help you get started.

Exercise (can be done in 15 minutes!):

This exercise is an excerpt from my book, ‘That’s So You! Create a Look You Love with Beauty, Style and Grace.’*

The purpose of this exercise is to begin injecting more of YOU into your wardrobe.

  1. 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, write down the first thing that comes into your mind so you will remember to remove it later). Do it 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 something that is not you is taking up space in your sacred closet (yes, it is sacred because this is where your essence is expressed every day), you will feel overburdened, frustrated, annoyed or discouraged—or resigned to all of those feelings—every time you get dressed, and none of those is good. It is also very likely that you are not wearing this garment anyway. It is more like a security blanket, but the security is a sham.
  2. Identify one garment or outfit that makes you smile the second you put it on your body. It can be a dress, pair of pants, a pair of shoes or a scarf. No item is too small or insignificant.
  3. Lay the stranger and the item you love side by side, and get a piece of paper or a notebook.
  4. For the item that is not you, write down everything you do not like about it. Be as picky as you can. 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 perhaps it has a belt, and you do not 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, but it can’t make up for the fact that the style is so shapeless.
  5. Write down everything you like about the item you love: color, texture, fit, shape, ornamental details, the way it feels or anything else about it that comes to mind. Maybe it makes you feel sophisticated, down-to-earth, spunky or pretty. Whatever it is, write it down.

Keep these lists in your handbag, car or near your computer (if you are an on-line shopper) and use them when you shop to help you stay focused.

They are your lifelines!

The next time you try on an item, run down both lists and see how the garment compares. It is so easy to get distracted by all the choices, the lighting or the helpful “advice” from sales women or your shopping buddies. These lists will keep you from straying and buying something you don’t love.

In the end, if it has a questionable reason for being in your closet it’s time to let it go: Toss, Repair, Donate.

And, I’d like to add one last box: Keep

Sometimes fear of letting go can entice you to keep something you shouldn’t. If you aren’t sure you want it to be gone permanently, place it in the ‘Keep’ box and (this is important!) store it in another closet, the attic, basement…wherever it will be out of the way but accessible if you find you need it (and really do love it!).

Begin this special journey now and by January 1 you will indeed feel like a ‘new you!’

* Get a copy of ‘That’s So You!’ (digital, softcover or hardcover) here.

And, if you need more personalized help, let’s talk to explore the possibilities of working with me one-on-one. As one client says, “I feel a lot more confident about my image because I work with you!” and that can happen for you, too. Imagine how wonderful that will feel! Please know that there is no pressure or obligation to do anything beyond talk. Go HERE to book a time to help you get unstuck.


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