Loads of Clothes, Nothing to Wear?

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“I have nothing to wear!”

Yes, we’ve all stood in front of the wardrobe, huffing and puffing, surrounded by a pile of clothes on the floor, close to tears because from our three bulging wardrobes full of clothes, we can’t find a single thing to put on.

Unconscious Style

I came up with the term ‘unconscious style’ around 10 years ago to describe how women have got to the stage where their wardrobe is full of clothes, yet ironically, they have nothing to wear?!

Unconscious style and unconscious shopping can lead to a style rut, where a woman feels very bored and disappointed when she opens her wardrobe; mainly because she can’t make many interesting or stylish outfits from the contents.

The Style Rut partly comes as a result from subconscious habits which have developed from the way that the human brain works. Jill Bolte-Taylor, a Brain Scientist, describes it best in her book My Stroke of Insight:

Our left hemisphere creates what I call “loops of thought patterns” that it uses to rapidly interpret large volumes of incoming stimulation with minimal attention and calculation. Because our left brain is filled with these ingrained programs of recognition, it is superb at predicting what we will think, how we will act, or what we will feel in the future – based on our past experience. I, personally, love the color red and am inclined to collect a bunch of red things – I drive a red car and wear red clothes. I like red because there’s a circuit in my brain that get’s very excited when anything red comes my way. From a purely neurological perspective, I like red because the cells in my brain tell me I like red.
When it comes to behaviour relating to your wardrobe and therefore your image, from the way our brain behaves you can see how you may have developed habits or ‘style ruts’ in how you actually acquire clothes. I am talking about the way you shop, where you shop, what you buy, when you buy it, how you store it etc. When overwhelmed with choice on walking in to a department store we subconsciously go to our ‘loops of thought patterns’ to ‘interpret large volumes of incoming stimulation with minimal attention.

In a Shopping Style Rut?

For example when you go shopping, do you park your car in the same place and go to the same stores? Do you have similar items hanging in your wardrobe e.g. ten pairs of skinny jeans, but you only really wear a couple of them? Do you tend to go for a certain colour or style most of the time? Visit the same shops?

These are all shopping habits or as Bolte-Taylor puts is “loops of thought patterns” that have gotten our wardrobes in to a state where we feel bored. These repetitive behaviours that have now become what I call ‘style or shopping ruts’, are now defining your image, because you are shopping in the same places, in a similar order and for similar styles of garments or colours – all unconsciously.

A style rut is especially bad if you aren’t happy with your image! If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting more of what you’ve got; so by continuing to shop in the same places, for similar things and not learn from the mistakes, you are getting more and more frustrated.

Just by becoming aware of these style ruts, we can start to work out which habits we want to keep because they represent our individual personality e.g. Jill Bolte Taylor in the above quote likes red and this reflects a part of who she is. However if you seem to keep buying patterned tops that you don’t feel particularly good in; or never end up wearing, this is clearly a behaviour that is no longer working for you and we need to change it. Once you understand, or become more conscious of the reasons why you do things, you can start to become more aware of the choices you have, when it comes to your image. This empowers you to change it!

If your wardrobe has just kind of evolved and your image has happened without you really planning it, then you are styling yourself and shopping for clothes unconsciously. This can be very costly when it comes to your self-esteem so we need to break you out of this cycle!

Are You a Victim of Cheap, Fast Fashion?

We are so fortunate to have such an amazing array of accessible fashion at our fingertips, both on the high-street and on the internet. The choice is as endless as your budget! Just click your fingers (or a mouse) and you can have a brand new outfit delivered to your door the very next day.

In saying this though, the sheer volume of clothes, accessories, shoes and bags that are available to the average female shopper sometimes become a source of stress because there is just so much choice!
More and more I am hearing from women that they hate shopping nowadays (I know, I can’t believe it either!) because they simply don’t know where to start, and when they do get started, they don’t quite know where to finish!

Even when they are lucky enough to find their perfect outfit, they search on in hope of an even better bargain or more unique fashion statement and then end up going home empty handed. Yes, it’s hard to believe as women, we could be so hard to please isn’t it ladies? (wink), but it seems we have become obsessed with the female shopper’s version of the holy grail…the ultimate fashion bargain.

Due to the sheer volume of fashion around for the average shopper today, retailers, both on the street and online, have to compete even harder to sell their stock. This is leading to more sales that seem to last a lot longer, and bigger discounts which should in essence be a great thing for us shopping obsessed bargainistas, however, somewhere along the way, it has all gone too far.

A Bargain or a Waste of Money?

The endless discounts and sales have actually done nothing but de-valued what style means to us, making fashion the very definition of ‘throwaway’. Sure when things are cheap you can afford to buy more, and you DO buy more; but don’t those shopping highs feel a little empty when you get home?
Does it annoy you when you try that new discount dress on at home and realise that in reality (without your best friend telling you it’s ‘goooorgeous’) the cheap material makes you look ten years older…hmmm. I’ll just put it at the back of the closet. After all it was only £10.

Shopping for a successful wardrobe and image requires thought and planning, but the throwaway culture of high street fashion makes life so much easier (at first) because there is no requirement for sustained thought and decisions. Now you can indeed have “both” as opposed to “which one?” You say to yourself, “it’s only a tenner, who cares if I only ever wear it once” and it turns out you DO only wear it once. Does it still feel like a bargain when everything in your wardrobe has only seen the light of day once (if it’s lucky?) and now looks a bit cheap and tired?

Well, I look at it in two ways. Yes it’s a bargain if you go in to the shop with the idea that you are looking to create a one-off high fashion look that will update your style easily and cheaply. It’s a great way to get a fashion fix and create a specific trend, however if you do this with most of your outfits, over time, you will have a very costly and wasteful wardrobe. Does this sound in any way like you?

I also find as a Personal Shopper that a lot of the cheap fashion out there represents trends that are in and out quicker than it takes to get to the front of the queue in Primark and this in turn, has led to the common belief out there that fashion is not worth spending money on, because it’s unfashionable so quickly.

Define the Problem.

So is the issue that you have nothing to wear? OR nothing you WANT to wear? Because they are different things.

In my experience, everything in your wardrobe should tick the following 6 boxes:-

  • It fits you
  • You like (or ideally love) it
  • It suits your shape and colouring
  • You have the occasion to wear it
  • It’s in a condition where you CAN wear it i.e. washed, ironed, no stains, no missing buttons
  • You have the right things to complete the look, and wear it somewhere!

If an item lacks one of these qualities, it often hangs in the wardrobe, and ends up forgotten about.

For example, have you ever bought a skirt you LOVE, but have never worn it? It fits, you love it, you could wear it to the office, but for some reason it never sees the light of day? That’s because you bought it as a stand alone item, rather than having a plan for how you would make it in to an outfit.

Or have you kept something in the wardrobe that you love, but haven’t worn because every time you put it on, you just feel ‘unsure’? That’s usually because the colour/style is slightly off for your shape or colouring, but you can’t identify why (in order to fix it). It’s just your gut instinct kicking in.

Nothing you WANT to Wear

I have found that in reality it’s not that women have ‘nothing to wear’, but more that they don’t have anything they WANT to wear, so before you buy in future, learn from past mistakes. That’s the beauty of fashion faux-pas! They give us the opportunity to get it right next time.

Are you guilty of bagging a bargain only for it to never see the light of day? Do you buy things as stand alone items rather than thinking about a whole outfit? Do you have clothes in your wardrobe that no longer fit? I’d love to hear all about your Style Dilemmas and Wardrobe Challenges so I can help you solve them. Write them in the comments below and I’ll write a post specifically giving you some solutions!

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