While I never actually left the house naked, for years I had a closet full of clothes I didn’t particularly like. I had no real clue what might look good on me or how to put together stylish outfits.
Fashion was a mystery I’d never cracked. Maybe I lacked the gene for it, or maybe it was my upbringing in rural Washington state (where you can still, to this day, find people wearing mullets).
Then one day a few years ago, a friend recommended I contact The Closet Concierge. My life was transformed.
Our first session started with a discussion about my body shape. Turns out I’m an apple: My shoulders are somewhat larger than my hips, so all those narrow-lapel suits I’d been wearing made me look like a linebacker. We talked about my fear of color (why wear fuchsia when you can stick to practical blacks and greys?). We talked about my inability to accessorize.
We also talked about why style is important. I’d always dismissed fashion, defensively, as frivolous. My wardrobe consultant convinced me that fashion was more like a conversation, a way to signal that we’re aware of what’s going on in the world around us. I always thought that practical, “classic” clothes communicated that I was thoughtful and serious; my consultant pointed out the difference between “classic” and “outdated,” saying, “Nobody wants to take advice from somebody who looks like a banker. Circa 1990.”
We spent several hours going through every single item in my closet and dresser. We wound up with 16 garbage bags for Goodwill—two-thirds of my wardrobe, out the door.
Then she took me out shopping, filling two dressing rooms in advance with options I would never, ever have picked out on my own. I spent about three hours trying stuff on and getting fashion tips along the way—what went with what, how to tell quality construction from cheap, what was “on trend” and what wasn’t. I bought most of what she’d selected, almost all at deep discounts, since my consultant doesn’t believe in paying retail (bless her). We got all the pieces I needed for a versatile, great-looking wardrobe, and then she showed me how to put together multiple outfits, complete with shoes and accessories. We photographed the best looks so I’d have visual reminders when I couldn’t figure out what to wear.
The closet clean-out and the shopping trip each cost about $300. Refilling my emptied-out closets set me back about $1,000. But I’d spent far more than that over the years on outfits that didn’t work.
Now my wardrobe consultant and I get together about every six months to go shopping and sort through what I already have to create new looks. My annual budget for clothing and the wardrobe consultant’s help is somewhat higher than what I used to spend, but I’m getting far greater utility (as economists would say) from my expenditure.
Hubby is proud of the way I look, and I feel more confident that I’m putting my best (still sensibly shod but more stylish) foot forward. For the first time in my life, I’m getting a steady stream of compliments from other women about what I wear. That did NOT happen in the 1990s banker days. It feels great to look good—not just for speaking engagements and television appearances, but when I run to the grocery store or hang out with my book club.
I’ll never be a fashionista, but when I leave the house these days I hope I communicate that financially smart doesn’t mean frumpy.
This is the second in a series of posts on how I’ve outsourced various portions of my life. You can read Part I here.