‘I have all these clothes, but nothing feels quite right,’ a female client tells me during a wardrobe weed. ‘Nothing looks like me anymore.’
My diagnosis? A textbook case of ‘you’ve changed, but your clothes haven’t.’
My client had been made redundant from her high rolling corporate job, and had also celebrated a milestone birthday (the big 5-0!). She felt – in her own words – ‘a bit lost’ as to what to wear.
Nothing looked aligned with how she felt inside.
How we feel about our clothes can indicate how we’re feeling about ourselves. So when our appearance is out of sync with our emotions, it can be unsettling, like we’re being inauthentic and sending mixed messages.
If you’re standing at your stuffed-to-the-gills wardrobe every morning, thinking ‘I hate my clothes’ or ‘I have zilch to wear,’ ask yourself the following:
1. What feels incongruent? If you’ve changed, it’s important to understand how you’re different. Ask yourself what’s making your clothes feel ‘not quite right’? Be precise.
Maybe you’ve left a job, a relationship or some lightbulb moment has changed your life. And your clothes, still stuck in the past, are not in step with the changed you. You’ve moved on. The clothes haven’t.
After some self-examination, my client’s epiphany was that she didn’t want to wear suits anymore (‘I’m tired of dressing so masculine and dull. I want to embrace my femininity – I want to look professional AND be a woman.’). Bye-bye suits; hello tailored dresses. Her posture and demeanour were utterly transformed. She lit up.
2. How do I want to come across? Being made redundant spurred my client to reassess her personal brand in general – which for her, felt softer and more feminine.
When circumstances change in your life, it’s an opportunity to apply fresh ways of thinking about how you show up in the world. Ask yourself, how do I want to come across? Be precise.
Cross check that with the contents of your existing wardrobe. My client wanted to be ‘bright, energetic and bold’, but practically everything she owned was grey, navy or black. We got colour to the rescue – even a little bit had transformative powers.
Start to get mindful of what really feels like you when you dress – and also what doesn’t.
3. How do I want to feel? We all think about how a garment or outfit looks. But clothes are also intimately linked with how we feel (ask anyone who has tried working in manky old trackies).
Understanding this can be invaluable when you’re trying to identify new aspects of your style. Ask yourself, how do I want to feel when I get dressed? Be precise.
‘The new me wants to feel inspired and unique,’ my client said. A tough call in a sea of dark suits. But even if you feel stylistically hamstrung by your profession, there’s usually some wiggle room for sartorial self-expression.
I suggested work wear that still towed the corporate line, but featured some unique details – an interesting cut of jacket, colourful tops, or inspiring piece of jewellery. This can give pizazz and personality to an ensemble that’s D-U-L-L.
My client had the bucks to buy new clothes. Lots of them.
But don’t panic. Bringing your clothes into alignment with the new you doesn’t mean you need a trust fund or a fancy corporate salary. Once you’ve identified what doesn’t work anymore, a few clever tweaks can get the process going. Take it step by step, and reassess whether your new purchases are effectively telling your story.
As for my client? Things are looking much brighter – pun intended.
Like this? Last time: Boxing – and other ways to leave your comfort zone