Practical Wardrobe Wisdom

Jun 24, 2015 | Body Line Analysis, Wardrobe Tips

Typically when a client comes to me, it’s fundamentally because they are dissatisfied with the way their wardrobe is working, and they want to do better. A simple trip to the mall becomes a battle zone. Getting dressed in the morning can induce panic attacks. An invitation to a formal wedding feels like a personal insult from the person who so presumptuously assumed you’d be able to find what to wear. It’s just getting dressed, right? Why does it have to be so hard? I hear you. So, what to do?

You don’t have to watch the above talk to understand today’s post, but I highly encourage it.

The impulse is, of course, to combat this issue by creating rules. Past you has created a mess of things, and she can’t be trusted. Therefore, clearly we must put in place a series of “detailed procedures” to ensure that in the future you will choose the right pieces to create the right wardrobe. These rules ought to be so specific that they completely prevent the possibility of screwing it up so long as we follow them. Those rules might go something like this:

“Always wear scoop neck, never wear V neck.”
“Always wear blue red, never wear orange red.”
“Always wear brown eyeliner, never wear grey eyeliner.”

Right? Wrong. Let me be clear, rules have their purpose. But rules alone, no matter how specific, no matter how seemingly fool proof, will not get you what you need. Why? Essentially, because you are intelligent, and rules, no matter how cleverly designed (and yes, that includes by yours truly), are not. If you want to use the rules to rationalize buying a top that doesn’t suit you, I promise you will find a way. On the other hand, your intelligence may present you with something utterly perfect for you, but you will pass it up if you follow the rules to the letter (and not because they are inaccurate rules, but simply because crafting an effective personal image demands a flexibility that no set of rules can encompass). You’re even probably smart enough to exaggerate the rules enough to prove the rules don’t work.

                                         "See, I …

                                         “See, I told you this Gamine thing doesn’t work.”

Rules alone may lead us to worse choices than we made with no rules, because rules essentially shift the burden of decision making outside of oneself. That is, after all, what makes rules so appealing that we are willing to purposefully limit our own freedom. The truth is, there is no way to shift the burden of decision making about your wardrobe and your image and also get the result you desire. What we need here, to borrow from Barry above, is a kind of “practical wardrobe wisdom.” And like the more general sort of practical wisdom above, this “virtue” has two main components, which are as follows:

1. The WILL to create a satisfying and excellent personal image
2. The SKILL to know how to do it

Number one can only come from within you. It’s not something I can teach you, give you, or do for you. The good news is that, unlike practical wisdom in banking, there is no real moral imperative to have the will to create the right wardrobe. You can simply opt out, and mainly the only person who will be affected is you. The pain of wardrobe frustration and lack of confidence in your appearance may simply not be enough in your life to become greater than the pain of having to take responsibility for changing those things, and that is perfectly legitimate. The decision to stop worrying about it may be the best one you ever made. On the other hand, I do personally believe that as my teacher Marie Forleo says, “how you do one thing is how you do everything”. Sometimes wardrobe woes are just that. Other times, struggles with one’s personal image truly can be a mirror reflection of greater issues in our lives. I certainly don’t have all the answers on this topic, but whatever you choose, I hope that proper consideration will result in feeling good about your decision.

So that brings us to number two. Teaching the skill of knowing how to create a satisfying and excellent personal image is what I do. Every one of my services is designed not to simply provide rules for you to follow or not (though guidelines will most certainly be given 😉 ), nor to take the burden of responsibility for your personal image out of your hands (I can’t and anyone who says they can is hustling you), but rather to empower you by teaching you the skill you need to succeed. The kind of rules I teach are flexible, and my aim is to teach you the self-awareness to know when and how to bend them, how to improvise, and to do so in the service of the right aims. (If you bend the rules and improvise in order to say, rationalize compulsive shopping or please your husband, that will probably not get you much of anywhere.)

Like any skill, some will have a natural talent for it, or previous experience that allows them to pick it up more quickly than others. Some women can probably read my blog and follow me on pinterest and get all of the information they need to develop this skill. Many would benefit greatly from a Personal Color Analysis and Image Analysis, while still others will need more intensive one-on-one guidance, or a service offered by someone else altogether. It doesn’t really matter what the trajectory is, so long as the goal is not a rule-following wardrobe, but instead one that is wisely chosen.


  1. This is so, so good, Rachel. I AM SUCH A RULE FOLLOWER. GAH! Really I’m just a perfectionist who uses rules to excuse her inability to be/choose/do anything less than perfect. I’ve been reading a lot about the connection between perfectionism, fear, and self-doubt lately. This is exactly what I needed this morning. Thank you! <3

    • Thanks, Monica, So glad it helped!

  2. Wonderfully written, Rachel.

    • Thanks so much 🙂

  3. I love this post, Rachel, especially how you say the rules exist to support good aims, not the other way around. The ‘letter of the law’ problem you address here is pervasive through every aspect of life, and If you can overcome it in your wardrobe, the transformation could potentially spread and remake your whole world. I hope everyone can mature enough to experience this epiphany.

    • I totally agree! Because our appearance is so inherently linked to our greater sense of identity, it is in no way a superficial matter.

  4. Beautifully written and inspiring!

    • Thanks, Neena!

  5. This is so intelligent and so helpful. Thank you.

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