By Angie Mizzell
Until a couple of years ago, I didn’t know how to shop for clothes. I’d look inside my closet and see clothes hanging on the rack, but I rarely felt great wearing any of them and often declared, “I have nothing to wear!”
Sometimes, in a fit of frustration, I’d make a hurried and desperate trip to the mall. I almost always spent money on something that didn’t match my style, fit well or beg to be worn again.
I reached a breaking point while packing for a family trip. It was springtime but still chilly outside. My clothes for cooler weather looked too wintery. “Dress in layers,” everyone says. I didn’t know how to do layers. I also didn’t own a single pair of cute, walk-around-all-day kind of shoes. So I ran inside a shoe store on the way out of town while my family waited in the car. I bought a pair and ended up with blisters.
Not long after that, I reached out to Megan Brandle, a personal style coach, and asked for help.
I’d wanted to work with Megan for a while but kept putting it off, because hiring a stylist felt like a luxury I couldn’t afford. But, after shopping with Megan twice in one year — once in the spring and again in the fall — I’ve curated a minimal yet functional closet that matches my personality, my budget and my lifestyle. The process taught me so much and has already proved to save time, money and energy in the long run.
Here’s what I learned:
Before you shop, determine your style. I started by searching Pinterest. I created a “yes” board, picked celebrities I love (Jennifer Aniston was one) and pinned images that caught my eye. I also created a secret “no” board. This helped me fine-tune my preferences.
Take a look at the big picture. Your wardrobe should match your lifestyle, so assess how you spend your time. What types of clothes — and how much — do you need for each occasion? I work from home and go to the gym several times a week, and I used to shame myself for wearing workout clothes all day. Megan taught me that I could! The trick was finding cute layering pieces to toss on when I leave the gym. The difference is, I no longer hide out in athletic wear and avoid going places. Now, whether it’s a casual or dressed-up setting, getting dressed is easy because I have what I need.
Edit your closet. An item should match your style, fit well and be in good condition. In other words, if you don’t love it, let it go. Tip: You may need to keep certain things until you can replace them or you might find yourself walking around with no pants.
Take an inventory. Now, it’s time to shop! On our first shopping trip, Megan and I went to Tanger Outlets. The second time, we shopped along King Street. Before I bought anything, she made a list of the essential pieces that I needed and she stuck to it.
Finally, a word on dressing for your age: During our King Street shopping trip, Megan introduced me to Madewell’s high-rise skinny jeans. This felt like opposing goals; a cross between mom jeans and teenager jeans. I was surprised when I slid them on and realized they were neither. They looked great and they fit!
Megan says, “Madewell has a thicker jean with not as much stretch in them and it gives a clean, tailored look.” Thin, super-stretchy jeans that cut the stomach and hips are less flattering, she adds. Ann Taylor’s jeans can work well, too.
The key to looking and feeling good is not about chasing trends, which can be tricky when looking to Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration. This is why understanding your own personal style is so important. Today, I follow several fashion bloggers online and often buy outfits they recommend. When the clothes arrive, I try everything on right away. If it doesn’t feel like an absolute yes, I put it back in the box and return it.
“Nothing makes you look outdated or too young faster than items that don’t fit your body well,” Megan says. “You have to invest in some quality items to mix with less expensive items. This takes your style to the next level and becomes your signature look.”
Angie Mizzell is a contributing writer for Skirt. She’s also the co-founder of Charleston Storytellers, which directs and produces the “Listen To Your Mother” show. A former television news anchor and now a mom of three, Angie writes a personal blog about creating a life that feels like home. Connect with her at angiemizzell.com.