The Wardrobe Code
When I set out to be a wardrobe stylist, after I was laid off for the second time in my interior design career, one of the things I felt was missing from the experience of working with a stylist was strategy.
And, honestly, that’s not surprising. Design work, whether it’s interiors or wardrobes, is usually seen as intuitive – and it is! But to achieve the client’s expectations, there does need to be some planning. And in the case of your wardrobe, YOU are the client.
But before we start to figure out what garments are best for you, we have to have a conceptual vision for your wardrobe – and that’s where a “muse” comes in. Have a listen to my latest podcast about how to find your own muse.
What is a muse? A muse is a conceptual vision of your personal brand, made up of visual imagery.
Why do you need a muse? To help you stay on track when you’re ready to shop. Having that vision helps you avoid buying the wrong things for your wardrobe.
How do you find your muse? Start by making a dedicated Pinterest board (you can make it “secret” if you like). Pin 3 personalities each who inspired you during your childhood, teenage and young adult years. But let the question live in your mind and continue to pin as inspiration comes to you. Edit as needed.
I’m going to make a huge declaration, here I go:
I think women today are more ambitious than they’ve been at any point in history.
We’ve got big plans for everything in our lives, and we’re so hopeful about what can be accomplished. We all wanna be the Queen Bee – which is awesome, because there’s plenty-a honey to go around.
But, so many times, I see those ambitions thwarted when the realization hits that attention and recognition go hand-in-hand.
Yes, if you want the recognition that comes with being Queen Bee of your world – your family, your job, your career – you’re going to need to be comfortable with the idea that people should notice you.
Believe it or not, so many of us were taught at an early age that drawing attention to yourself was just in poor taste – but nothing could be further from the truth. You’re not Miley Cyrus trying to prove you’re a big girl now; you’re a brilliant woman, and you deserve the recognition!
So, how to get this recognition you deserve?
First, make sure you’re ready to receive it.
Then you work hard at elevating your look. This means making an effort to look slightly better than your peers – which so many women are just reluctant to do. But, therein lies the opportunity: nobody wants to upstage anyone else.
Look, this is really simple. It’s yours for the taking (if you want it).
If you work in an office, keep it professional on casual Friday. Seriously, it’s the perfect opportunity to send a message that you mean business. Your boss will notice, your peers will definitely notice. Keep it up and raises and promotions are all but guaranteed from this point on.
If you’re self-employed, just simply keep things dressed up every time you have the chance to do some networking. And, by “networking,” I mean any time you might run into clients, potential clients, competitors and referral partners. For me, in my little town of Costa Mesa, this includes every time I go to my hairdresser where will likely see all of the above.
Don’t think “networking” is limited to mixers. It’s called personal branding and Queen Bees do it consistently. [Tweet that, will ya?]
However, inevitably, once you start to elevate your look, someone’s going to look at you and say, “why are you so dressed up?”
This question irritates me beyond belief.
Since when did looking and feeling fantastic become an affront to people? It’s probably not nice to counter with, “why do you look like you don’t give a shit?” so, instead, try to convert that ridiculous question into a compliment in your head. It’s an easy mental trick that keeps you from backsliding your personal brand.
I’m not going to lie – I was a bit reluctant to get up at so early on a Sunday.
Ahead of me was a full day. As the style chair for Working Wardrobes‘ professional network, SHARP, I was assigned a volunteer position as a personal shopper for the Men’s Career Success Graduation that started – bright and early – at 7:00 am.
Over a hundred men from the area had just completed 6 weeks of training to help them re-enter the workforce, and they needed what every job seeker requires – a professional wardrobe.
As the fog of an early morning wake-up time began to wear off, and the graduates of the program started streaming into the gymnasium of Los Amigos High School, I put on my game face and prepared to meet my first client.
I was excited to put together a new mini-wardrobe for a gentleman in need, but I wasn’t prepared for how I would feel after I finished styling them.
Hard times. Lay offs. Struggles with sobriety. Not having a place to rest at night. Everyone I talked with had overcome so much just to be able to interview for a job.
But what struck me most, was that every graduate was filled with so much hope and enthusiasm. A new start is valuable, but that extra bit of swagger that comes with a new suit is pure gold. They walked in excited and hopeful, they walked out determined and confident.
And, then, at 3:00 in the afternoon, on a day that started at 5:30 am, after an almost sleepless night because I was worried my alarm wouldn’t go off, I didn’t feel the least bit tired. I styled 3 gentlemen that day – but I could have styled a dozen more.
It was an amazing experience, and I can’t wait for the next one.
PS – If you want to be involved with a great professional organization, like the SHARP Facebook page for updates on our next event.
For those of us who work from a home office, getting presentable can present some serious challenges.
Having a home office makes it miiiighty easy to start work while still in our pajamas. We might stop by the coffee pot on the way to the office, or maybe even do a quick bit of exercise, but most of us find ourselves answering emails before we make it into the shower.
And, before you know it, it’s noon and – there you are – a HOT MESS in the middle of the day.
The fact is, it’s just too easy to start working before you go through a full beauty routine – even if that routine is only a shower, a quick wisp of mascara and yoga pants.
So, instead of working in your jammies, or dragging out your routine between emails and calls, here is a better solution:
First: decide and commit.
You may not be able to do the full sha-bang every day, but, on days that you do, commit to getting ready before you start work. This way, you can actually start your day nicely made up – instead of working with your hair in a towel.
Alternatively, on days that you decide you’re not going to put on a full face, hair and outfit, have some non-pajama “back-ups” and an established minimum beauty routine. For me, it’s foundation, blush, mascara and lip gloss.
(I feel like that should be an acronym. EMBR – Established Minimum Beauty Routine.)
Just don’t work in your pajamas please, or whatever you slept in. There’s just no way you’re convincing me you can rule your world in stinky, flannel pants.
So, homework. Take a moment to identify your backup wardrobe – what you’ll wear on days when you’re not fully getting ready. Make it something comfortable, but presentable enough to run errands in.
And establish your EMBR.
Every other year, my husband and I embark on a cross-country plane trip to visit family in New Jersey – in December.
Despite having grown up in a region of the country that actually gets quite cold during the winter, living in the temperate climate of Southern California has given me a kind of “cold-weather-amnesia.”
“Sure, it’s cold in New Jersey – this denim jacket should be enough, right? Oh, it’s 16 degrees, you say? Um … so I’ll need my wool pea coat then?
It’s in the coat closet downstairs, behind the vacuum and the Swiffer. I think.”
My point: regardless of where you live, you probably need a couple of good coats. And not just boring, utilitarian coats – good, stylish coats.
So, when it comes to choosing a coat, here’s my advice: pick two.
1.) The first coat should be a neutral with good architectural features. But let’s re-think the word, “neutral.” Neutral does not automatically mean black or beige; in fact, neutral just means not brightly colored. So that dark green coat – it’s probably a neutral. Dusty mauve – probably neutral.
2.) Your second coat should have a bit more personality. That can mean it’s a fun, bright color or has an interesting pattern or some seriously eye-catching embellishment. It’s your go-to coat for special event, or when you just want to feel special.
Ladies, I totally get it.
You’re not trying to drop your rent on a handbag. Me neither. But here’s the deal – you don’t want that “bag under $50.” In fact, nobody does.
The $50-bag is a scam; a weak salve on the wound of wanting to measure up. The $50-bag neither excites nor satisfies the discerning woman. So stop fooling yourselves right now, don’t buy that bag.
You want real leather. You want craftsmanship from someone who gave a shit. You want the figurative tip-of-the-hat from every other woman who sees you carrying it down the street.
Nobody gets any of that with the $50-bag.
Look. It’s not about carrying the status monogram bag. In fact – don’t. DON’T buy that monogram bag.
Instead, make an investment in what makes you feel good because you love the style and not because it’s what everyone else is carrying. Save up some cash and treat yourself; just do it.
Spending big for a bag isn’t like splurging on a spa day (although we know how insanely fantastic spa days are). No – spending on a bag is investing in years of self-confidence. YEARS.
So, seriously. Set aside $25 a week or a month in an fancy envelope for your “bag fund,” and stay away from that bag.
So, tell me in the comments below – am I crazy for thinking you deserve better? What is your budget for a handbag you can carry for another 5 years and how much have you ever spent on a bag?
PS – I forgot to mention in the video how much I paid for the bag I’ve been carrying for 10 years.
Have you ever received an invitation to something, only to instantly wonder, “what am I going to wear?”
Or did you ever go on a desperate shopping trip 2 days before a vacation because you didn’t have enough shorts, or the right sundress/sandals, etc.?
Listen to me now and believe me later: life is too short for nonsense like that.
Weddings, vacations, job interviews, date nights – these are the events of your life, and you deserve to be well-dressed for them. But, despite what you might think, being well-dressed isn’t an effortless endeavor. Sure, we want to think it is – marketers want us to think it is – but it’s not.
Far from it, ladies.
The truth is that you need to have a well-rounded wardrobe to well-dressed for life. It doesn’t happen overnight and it’s not “effortless,” but it’s totally possible with just a bit of planning and foresight.
Check out my 2 secrets for looking great at everything:
Tell me in the comments – I’d LOVE to hear from you! – what events do you have coming up that you need to be well-dressed for?!
About once a month, when I need to make myself feel special or confident enough to accomplish something great, I pull out my magic pants.
It was a weekend in late 2010 when I found them at the Goodwill on 19th, here in Costa Mesa, CA. Back then, I had established a shopping routine of “letting the fashion come to me.” This meant that I wasn’t looking for anything specific, I just knew that, if I shopped thoroughly enough, whatever I needed in my wardrobe would find me.
The thing about thrift shopping that most people don’t realize is, if you scan the racks with a bit of focus, quality garments stick out like a sore thumb. So, when I was searching through the pants, this particular pair caught my eye first with the pattern – a mid-century coin motif in beiges, browns and blues.
On closer inspection, I noticed it was a good quality twill pair of skinny crops. Then I checked the label – not surprisingly, it was J. Crew, but in a size 4.
(Not my size.)
Assuming they wouldn’t fit and unsure of adding patterned pants to my wardrobe (how would I wear them?) I moved on. But after a moment of searching through pants which didn’t even compare in terms of quality, I came back to these.
Although they were one size below what I normally wear from J. Crew (hello, vanity-sizing!), I decided to take a chance. I grabbed them off the rack and, without trying them on, took them home with me. I figured, at $8, I could sell them on eBay if they didn’t fit.
To my surprise, they did fit. And, not only could I fit them over my rump and actually zip up the zipper, it was like they were made for my body.
I stood in front of the mirror, admiring the day’s best thrift store score and immediately wondered what else in my wardrobe I could wear them with. The pattern wasn’t flashy, in fact it was really neutral – so I began making combinations. I paired them with tops that were bright colors, but also patterns in stripes and florals.
The only patterns I avoided were ones which were of a similar scale, because those seemed to clash. Either bigger or smaller seemed to be the way to go.
That was almost 3 years ago and, to this day, they’re my favorite pair. Whenever I wear them, I feel like a million bucks.
In this situation, I took a chance on something I would normally pass on because I could afford to. But a good find doesn’t have to come from a thrift store – I just happened to get really lucky that day. Good finds come at any pricepoint and quality level. What matters most is that they can function in your wardrobe and you really love them.
And it’s that last part that’s key; you must really love what you’re buying. Not every garment you own will be magic, but you must aim for loving everything you own.
If you want to have a magical wardrobe, you should check out my next big thing – The Wardrobe Bible. Click below to download a free chapter.
As a virtual wardrobe strategist, I’ve found that my clients tend to shop much more effectively when they have a visual guide.
In my online training program, Style Camp, they are tasked with developing a “muse board.” Much like a vision board, a muse board helps you define your style both when shopping, and also when putting together outfits with your wardrobe. (Here’s my muse board in case you want to check it out.)
It’s kind of like a fashion compass, steering you toward the right purchases.
Although I still recommend finding your individual muses, having a much wider definition of your style is helpful too – which is why I created the 8 style personalities for my upcoming book The Wardrobe Bible. Not only is it fun to figure out which personality is closest to yours, it’s incredibly helpful to have this conceptual guide when building your wardrobe.
For the next several weeks, we’re going to explore some of the personalities in the book. This week, we’re starting with my favorite – Socialite.
Having socialite style is much more about mindset than what’s in your bank account. Being of the socialite mindset means that you have a healthy appreciation for fine clothing and sexy (but reserved) style.
To see all the personalties – and other topics we’ll be covering in the book – go here and download a free chapter.
Here’s what you need to have a strong sense of Socialite style:
When I think about it, the core reason why I decided to transform my wardrobe over 2 years ago was really to make some big changes in my life. Although I was interested in fashion, I didn’t know how to make it work for myself; I was fashion conscious – but confused. Fast forward to today and, sure enough, my life is totally different.
However, sometimes I still need to make some additional big changes in my life. And the best way I do that is by creating some really original outfit creations. Check out these 4 outfits I’m wearing this week to help me make some magic.
PSST … Time’s running out on my special offer! Book a Style Camp workshop with me for as little as $200 before May 20th and get a digital copy of my upcoming book “The Wardrobe Bible” for free. That’s a $100 value! Click here to read testimonials and sign up!