From the outside view, I have had a charmed life — loving parents, stable household, amazing friends, and cool jobs in cool cities. The world should have been my oyster. But for the first thirty years of my life, nothing made sense.
Everything was a challenge. Life felt like a quantum physics exam that everyone but me had been given the answers to. The harder I pushed, the more I tried to guess my way through that test everyone else seemed to be acing. The question, What is wrong with me? always loomed in my head.
This depressive cycle manifested itself in my wardrobe. My internal angst, loneliness, and confusion were thick layers of “mud and concrete,” showing up as baggy sweatpants and over-sized grey cardigans. I was wearing these “mumus” because I didn’t want anyone to see my insecurity. I feared that if someone paid attention to me, they would then see all that was wrong: the anxiety, the low self-esteem, the weight gain. I didn’t even like myself, let alone know or care enough to dress myself. So I donned an Invisible Wardrobe.
Clothes are a barometer for what we think about ourselves and our life. Whether it’s too-tight pants or baggy sweaters from the men’s department, I’ve seen many women over the years bear those same cloaks of shame. Now as a wardrobe stylist who has finally learned to love herself, it’s my job to help other women break free from their own mumus.
Here are the top three wardrobe indicators that tell me that a woman does not feel good about herself:
#1 Nothing Fits
As we age, life happens. Our bodies evolve. Some things become bigger, others smaller. Accepting those changes isn’t always easy, but acceptance of the present is the only way.
While in the closet of an uber-successful real estate agent, I uncovered that the real reason Abby didn’t enjoy getting dressed each morning was that she was forced to face an entire size 4 wardrobe that no longer fit. Those clothes were a constant reminder of what size she used to wear, the life she used to live, and the person she used to be.
Instead of celebrating the beautifully curvy body, amazing kids, and successful life she had now, Abby was mourning the loss of her old self. And her drab wardrobe reflected that. It was time for us to remove the past from the closet so that each morning, she could be confident and excited about the life she’s living right now.
#2 Everything Is Black
Despite black being associated as chic and sophisticated, most women I’ve met use black because they think it’s slimming. While attempting to cover their vulnerabilities and insecurities, they are also reflecting a lack of self-confidence. The notion that black makes you look skinny is only half-true: all colors are slimming if the silhouette and size of the item is flattering to your body type.
Color is something that so few women use to their advantage. I encourage all of my clients to use a red blazer or a pink pair of pants or a green blouse to show the world they are bold and unapologetic about who they are, no matter their size.
If you’re not ready to jump right into color, start by adding other neutrals. Mixing in neutrals, like grey or camel, can look very sophisticated, especially when visually interesting prints, such as houndstooth or snakeskin, are used.
#3 Your Bras Are Old
I’ve seen lots of women in their skivvies, and I can tell a whole lot about what a woman thinks of herself by the condition of her bras. Our bras are the first thing we put on in the morning. They’re constantly with us, supporting two of our most feminine parts and covering up our sacred heart chakra.
When I see a frayed and worn bra without any structure, it tells me this woman doesn’t believe she’s worthy of being supported. She hasn’t created the time or allocated the funds to put herself first in this significant part of her wardrobe. If you look down at your chest right now and see gaps in the middle, or spillage on the sides, or your shoulders have indentations from your straps, it’s time to show yourself some self-care and update your bra drawer.
Even when we don’t feel confident, dressing like we do can help us “fake it until we make it.” Your life will start to change, all thanks to the decisions you make in your closet each morning.