A few times on my blog, I’ve mentioned how lost I feel when I’m shopping for clothes. It’s a little embarrassing, because, as an “artsy person” I’m supposed to be good at that. I used to be good at it. I used to be fearless with my berets and blue nail polish and mary janes. I used to scour magazines for the latest fashions and trends in clothing and then I would hang out at the mall for hours, trying things on, picking through sales racks, putting together outfits. Then I started working in the corporate world. A pair of striped corduroys I was fond of became known as the “seizure pants” at the office and I knew I needed to calm down and grow up my wardrobe. I traded in my platforms for pumps and school girl skirts for suits and sweater sets.
Every once in a while, a pair of black and white wing-tips would sneak in, a messy hair style or some untucked shirt-tails, but I had the “business casual” dress code pretty much nailed.
Then I stopped working. Then I had kids. Then I gained weight. Then trying on jeans was torture. Then I didn’t have money for clothes or time to shop. Then it wasn’t fun.
I went shopping when I had to and bought things that weren’t the worst thing I tried on.
Then I lost 35 lbs. Then my business started to grow and I had a little spending money for new clothes. Then I started to enjoy trying on clothes. But even then, as I shopped, I didn’t know what I was shopping for. I just bought clothes that I could wear around the house, to paint in, to the playground and a couple of nice things for church.
Then my business took off and I gained 30 lbs. back and was so busy that I wore my hair in a bandana most days. Ill-fitting, paint splatter sweatpants became my security blanket. My job became the excuse for the holes in the sleeves, the year-round crocks and the faded, baggy sweatshirts. I would laugh about it and say I didn’t care…but I did. Of course, I did. It was just easier.
Then I was asked to be on the Nate Berkus Show and be in BHG and Women’s Day and Flea Market Style Magazine. It was my dream…and my nightmare. They didn’t just want to film and photograph my house. They wanted to film and photograph me. A panic ensued. I went shopping to find the “perfect outfit”, only to come home with a few things I felt mediocre about.
I had to give myself a few pep talks. Remind myself to celebrate and stop being so hard on myself. To be content in all things.
In Spring of 2012, I drove myself to the ER in the middle of the night with acute chest pain. A few days later, my gallbladder had to be removed. A few months later, I woke up to how unhealthy I had become. The baggy, paint-splattered sweats was just a symptom…an outward expression of my self-image. The heart of the matter was that I wasn’t taking good care of myself. I drastically changed my diet, I started setting limits, I started saying no more often, I started striving for balance, I started exercising and I started losing weight.
I cut my hair and retired the bandanas.
I got rid of all of the ill-fitting, paint splattered clothes…
…which was hard and liberating at the same time.
For about a year now, I’ve been waiting to hit my goal weight and then I’ll do some serious clothes shopping. Then I’ll accept the services Ella, a personal stylist local to me, offered. Until then I’ll just wear jeans and t-shirts and freak out every time there’s a special event.
No. That won’t do. Photo shoots and events and workshops and book signings are happening more often. I’m ready to drop the “mom excuse” and the “too busy with my business excuse” and the “I’m not at my goal weight excuse”. I’m ready for my clothes to be an outward expression of my creativity, success as an entrepreneur and evidence that I am not hiding in the shadow of my house.
So, I took a step and made an appointment with Ella of Start Close In.
We’ve exchanged some e-mails about my styles, my likes and dislikes, my expectations, my budget and my goals.
She’s been working on some pin boards for me based on those e-mails and then came out this morning to go through my closet.
I decided I would just wear sweats and a t-shirt when I answered the door. That’s my uniform and I might as well make her face it head on! Now, honestly, as I was waiting for her to arrive, I started to fear that the meeting would be a total disaster. She would pick and nag and roll her eyes and rub her temples at what a fashion mess I was. There was none of that. At all. Ever. Ella immediately set me at ease by asking me to pick out my favorite piece of clothing. I went right to the black and white polkadot shirt with the tie in the front.
“Oh yeah, I like that one, too!”, Ella assured me.
She instructed me to put it on with skinny jeans and boots, as I would wear it. From there, she started to pull out other pieces that would work with that shirt. She then started piecing together other pieces from my closet and creating outfits for me to try on.
She started where I was comfortable. Grays, blacks, white, jeans, boots, layers, scarves. She showed me how to add that extra element to take an outfit from nice to that-girl-is-really-put-together.
I was actually ready to get rid of a lot of clothes, since a lot of them are too big on me and on the frumpy side, but she showed me how to rework them by rolling up the sleeves and, in the case of this cardigan, had me put it on backwards, which looked surprisingly cool and not at all like I was wearing a cardigan backwards.
She even worked with my chucks, which made her very endearing to me.
…and she put together pieces I hadn’t worn in weeks, months, maybe even years in a couple of cases.
…and gave me permission to wear a sparkly necklace with a sparkly tank.
She started freaking me out when she cinched things at the waist and made me tuck things in. I also found I’ve been wearing my skirts at the wrong place on my waist! Who knew? She paired a floral boutique skirt I was going to get rid of with a white prairie-style shirt from the GAP and made me pull the skirt up to the smallest point on my waist and then tuck in the shirt. I was pink-faced and flustered, but I was obedient. I wasn’t sure at first, but then I realized it looked so flattering and like a super-cute dress. We paired it with boots, lacy boot socks, a vintage chunky red necklace that belonged to my grandmother and a vintage apron a reader custom embroidered for me…
I have a photo shoot coming up on Wednesday and this outfit is the winner for the shoot…
By the end of the session, Ella had pulled out all of the clothes from my closet. We got rid of the ones that weren’t flattering or I wasn’t in love with and she put everything back in my closet, sorted by outfit.
She also made a list of the clothing we talked about to round out my wardrobe…some poly-cotton blend dressy t-shirts in bright colors, a classic white button-up shirt, some fun shoes, a few colorful pieces of jewelry and some skirts.
In a few weeks, we’re going to hit the mall together, so I can try on some new clothes and learn how to shop for clothes with purpose. When she left, I felt energized and excited about stepping out of my comfort zone a bit.
Here are some of my favorite things I learned today…
- I had some thin scarves that I never wore. She twisted two together to make a thicker scarf and it looked amazing.
- I can wear a necklace and a scarf at the same time. Mind blowing.
- I have a waist and Ella even suspects I’m still buying clothes a size too big.
- She pulled out jewelry that I haven’t touched for years and showed me creative ways to mix and match pieces.
- Rolling up sleeves or a pant leg will show off a skinny part of my body, highlighting my weight loss
- I should let cardigans fall open, showing the line of my waist inside.
- Ella introduced me to lip stain and I can’t wait to go buy a few tubes.
When I first thought about working with a stylist, I was a little resistant to it, because it sounded so fancy and uppity. But, I had the opportunity, so I went for it. Ella’s approach was so down-to-earth, though. She’s a big fan of TJ Maxx and Target and Kohl’s. She wanted to work with everything I had before even mentioning buying something new. In fact, her entire philosophy is about working with EXTRA-ordinary women…not celebrities and big wigs. Just regular women who need a little (or a lot of help.) I was looking up her pricing, so I could share it with you and was surprised to see that for the month of October, she is offering “Personal Pricing.” You can set your prices for her services, so it works with your budget.
She lives in the DC metro area, but she can go through your closet with you through Skype and help you shop through Pinterest, so if you’re interested in working with Ella as a personal stylist, you can contact her through her blog, Start Close In.
I’ll keep you posted on the shopping trips and the outfits! You can see what she did with my closet and some of the looks she created for me on Ella’s Instagram.
I didn’t realize this post was going to be so long or so emotional for me to write! It just sort of came out as the words formed in my head and I started to type. For me, this entire experience isn’t just about the clothes.
It’s about an outward expression of what’s inside.
Disclosure: This is not a paid promotional post. Ella and I wanted to work together and she didn’t ask for anything in return. I’m writing this post because I want to.