I was sweating.
I felt hot and cold at the same time.
My face flushed red.
Breathing laboriously I tried to bring enough saliva into my mouth to form words.
I thought I might be having a panic attack induced by a profound realization that came through me like the hand of a very strong higher power.
It was moments before I was going live in my Facebook group to teach the final module of my online style transformation program BE YOUR OWN STYLIST.
It was time for me to show up and I realized this time around, it wasn’t enough for me to just to teach the concepts of a “capsule wardrobe” – it was time to LIVE it.
And I was totally, completely freaking out. On every level.
You see, I LOVE my clothes and I relished spending hours on end playing in my closet creating outfits and putting together unexpected pairings. I rationalized that it was all a part of my job as a personal stylist and while this is true (and I still delight in “playing dress-up, and encourage my clients to do so as well) I realized I needed more of a lot of things.
Not more clothes and definitely not more time sifting through the heaps of my collection, getting lost in daydreams (as wonderful and important as they are!)
I needed to focus, to buckle down and start showing rather than just telling.
It was time to get totally real and completely authentic.
It was time to actually create my own capsule wardrobe.
The term “capsule wardrobe” is SUPER BUZZY right now. Not surprising considering the shift towards more conscientious consumerism and movement away from the “fast fashion” that has marked the scene in recent years.
The fact is, not all that long ago, a woman’s closet used to be perfectly coordinated with high quality items that all worked together; and she had an outfit for every occasion.
But, we find we are no longer there.
Instead we have closets bursting with clothes that make us feel judged and overwhelmed.
Often, because of this overwhelm, we end up wearing the same thing every day – and not in a good way.
Can’t it all just be more cohesive, streamlined and approachable?
A History of the Capsule Wardrobe
The term “capsule wardrobe” was first coined by a London boutique owner in the 1970’s and was subsequently popularized by Donna Karan with her 1985 release of “7 Easy Pieces” which consisted of interchangeable workwear items. This launch coincided with women entering the workforce in droves and they needed clothes that would support them in their roles not just as mothers and wives but as businesswomen.
What is a Capsule Wardrobe?
Currently when someone refers to “capsule wardrobe” it means a selection of about 40 pieces that are interchangeable and versatile and can carry you through all activities.
There are a lot of stylists out there putting together some very pretty looking visuals flaunting their expertise and encouraging you to go out and buy all 40 pieces.
But, from my perspective, there is some serious magic missing in their formulations. Not to mention PRACTICALITY.
Here’s what is typically outlined when you look for insight on how to build a capsule wardrobe:
- Select 40 pieces
- Create outfits
- Get rid of everything else
Ummmm let’s just take a minute here and talk about #1 on that list – how the HELL are we supposed to choose 40 items? Where’s the direction? The structure? The support?! How do you establish COHESION with the items? And really, get rid of everything? Yeah, no.
Ever since that day last Spring when I announced my own commitment to the Capsule Concept, I have worked to employ (my own variations) of the methodologies to my wardrobe — to incredible result.
The exercise gave me new perspective on my clothes and helped me appreciate how little we actually need to feel supported and fulfilled – I saw, true to my hypothesis, that when we have limits, we are the most free.
And interestingly, my desire to create capsules within my wardrobe tends to align with a shift in the seasons; cold weather to warm and back again.
So here we are, with hot days of summer fast approaching.
I’m finding once again that I want more time, more energy for the things I love (not just for all my clothes – as much as I do, and always will, love them.)
And I address it all in the Capsule Creation Crash Course.
I created this offer so that in just 5 days for 10 minutes a day (or less!) you can transform your wardrobe so you can live life with ease during these easy months.
And that is always where we start when it comes to style.
With what you already have.
Your personal brand already exists in your current closet and the capsule is just a concentrated, focused way to free up more time and energy in your life because you have made all your decisions in advance.
In this course we will work through what is serving you in what you currently have and we will build from there, creating outfits within the parameters of your available selection.
And you don’t have to get rid of anything — of course you absolutely can and you likely will but instead we will be creating a section of your closet from which you can FOCUS and delight in new perspective.
So what do I really think results from the Capsule Effect? What have I seen and experienced both for myself and my clients?
Essentially more of what we want, less of what we don’t.
This is about changing your life, starting with your clothes.
And having everything you need no matter what you do or where you go.
That’s The Capsule Effect.
Helena Grant is a Personal Stylist on a mission to liberate women and help them find their most powerful expression. She works 1:1and in groups virtually and in-person. The Capsule Creation Crash Course launches Monday, June 17thand offers closet transformation in 5 easy modules along with a private Facebook group for additional support and style guidance.
You might be wondering:
Why, oh, WHY would a personal stylist be writing about a faux fur vest at the onset of the Spring/Summer season?
Shouldn’t she be trying to sell me something that’s in the boutiques and department stores right now?
Isn’t it a stylist supposed to tell me what to wear for all the cocktail parties, bar-b-ques and weddings that I have coming up?
You’d be more than right to pose any of the above questions… and you might have others of your own.
I hesitated even writing this because in many ways, it doesn’t FIT.
On the surface, this topic does not highlight the trends of the season or my outfit of the day as most stylists propagate and market.
This is about something deeper.
Even if superficially I’m writing about outerwear that I purchased over 4 and a half years ago from a brand that I had never heard of before or since from an off-sell site that no longer exists, this is about more than clothing.
I am writing this at a time when a faux fur vest with toggle buttons is quite possibly the last thing on anyone’s mind, when the weather is fighting to warm up and the blossoms are just beginning to give way to a full-blown New England spring – this is a time when ummmm hello, we are all trying our best to forget winter!
But this is important. What I’m writing here.
Mostly it’s important for me but I know it’s applicable to so many, especially women.
On April 27th, I hosted my first Style Archetype Workshop at my Boston studio space. The women who attended experienced remarkable transformation in how they viewed themselves and expressed their self-worth.
Most importantly, this time I not only lead the workshop, I also put myself through my own paces.
I didn’t expect how deeply it would touch me to respond to my own prompts meant to get to the heart of the stories we’ve been told, the self-limiting beliefs we cultivate in our psyches.
But it did.
It hit me hard.
In the best way possible, so many things came up.
And I channeled it all into completing the homework I gave the workshop attendees.
I told them:
Take the energy of today and all you learned about yourself, from your own Style Archetype Trifecta to your Style Directives, and apply it all to your current closet. Spend just 2 hours editing and styling what you already own.
Even though I knew this was sound advice and it was exactly what I needed (personally, myself), I wasn’t going to do it.
I was tired from planning the workshop and feeling overwhelmed with everything else I needed to be doing.
But, I also knew on the other side of the effort of editing my own closet was a both a palette and a canvas for me to create.
And I decided to focus on that.
One of the exercises towards the end of the Style Archetype Workshop was to think of ONE THING in your closet that, after having learned so much throughout the day, you KNOW you can let go of immediately.
For me, it was this vest.
It came to mind instantly the minute I verbalized the assignment and, frequently this past winter, I had considered wearing it. But, I always hesitated because it, like so many things, holds a specific energy I was ready to release, even if I wasn’t quite willing to let go.
I bought it in 2014 from the website MyHabit (now defunct) when I was 9 months pregnant with my daughter thinking it would keep me feeling glamorous as I made my way through the post-partum months. It was still steamy in September at the time I clicked the buy button.
Just a few days later I went into labor at 35 weeks and Belle, though technically healthy, was not ready to come home when I left the hospital.
It was an excruciating time for me.
For three weeks I commuted between our apartment and the NICU at Beth Israel Medical Center. Every night I woke up hourly to call the nurses’ desk and ask for an update on Belle’s vitals and to see how nighttime feedings had gone. During the day I spent 8 hours holding her with tubes and monitors beeping and hissing, narrating all the things we would do together once she was ready to leave and see the world with me, the one that existed beyond the picture window.
And every day, I wore this vest.
It arrived a day or two after I was discharged and I had forgotten about ordering it (as we are wont to do when it comes to online shopping…) but when I opened the box, I was filled with childlike emotion.
I tore away the plastic and gathered the bulky fibers into my arms, hugging it like a teddy bear.
When I put it on, I felt held, caressed and supported.
Walking into the hospital each day, the staff soon began dropping comments about me being a “moviestar mom”. Not only was it perfect for the early fall weather but it also magically fit it in a way that an anxious new mother needed so badly.
It served me well.
Not just during those daily trips to the confines of the hospital but beyond. I even wore it to what would have been Belle’s baby shower but instead was a welcome party where snapshots of her proved she was an exact physical replica of my husband.
I lightened the mood by joking that I wanted a maternity test all while I stroked the soft fibers, burying my hands in the deep pockets – holding it together on the outside, a wreck on the inside.
The vest became a go-to every winter since and though I am certainly one to revel in compliments, this past winter I knew something had shifted in my relationship to this piece.
Every time I looked at my closet this past season, surveying it to see what outfit I wanted to create, my eyes passed over this vest and something stirred inside me – I felt sad, leaden, weighted.
Ready to let go, a voice inside me said.
But I wasn’t ready. Not yet, at least.
And how surprising considering I talk so much about the importance of editing your closet and only having things in your immediate vicinity that you are excited about wearing, that fit right now and are seasonal.
But we often get where we need to be eventually, and now I can accept that this vest is ready to move on.
It’s ready to help someone else through something whether it be a celebration or a time when they need comfort.
I could keep holding onto it, to wait and see how I feel about it next time the winds usher in colder temperatures but, to be honest, it takes up a lot of space; in more ways than one.
It’s physical and psychic space.
And I am ready to let go just as much as this vest is ready to let go of me.
I find sometimes, not just for myself but also for my clients, that some things are easier to release than others. We know something is interfering, maybe even weighing us down and yet we hold onto it.
Maybe we feel an obligation to the item, to how it served us, or maybe it didn’t get a chance at all, and instead wallowed with the tags still attached.
Or we worry we will want it someday and look back with regret.
This might very well happen to me in a few months, a year – maybe more.
I might look back and say: what was I thinking letting go of that vest? That glamorous shawl collar and a cut that covered the hips. So what if it was ratty at the armpits, burned at the back from standing too close to a fire one day? How could I have let it go?
I might not remember all the reasons but when (or if) I do come across any feelings that resemble regret, I will recall this moment of commemoration – these words, these photos that take up less space than the garment itself.
And, instead of focusing on lack I will think about the woman, on the other side of this process, who is benefitting from the warmth of being swathed in style.
I think of this woman often when I am clearing away remnants of my past self during my own closet edits, and I encourage clients to do the same.
Think of the woman who will pick up this piece wherever it ends up. She lights up with delight wondering how anyone could let it go but grateful they did because it might be just what she needs right at that time. It might just change her life that you were willing to part with it.
I’ve cleaned out the pockets in preparation to donate the vest – two wads of tissue, an incense cone and a few stray almonds leftover from an abandoned snack.
And there was something else.
I couldn’t quite place it at first.
A few oddly shaped pieces, brittle and a deep, rusty red.
The remnants of a leaf plucked at the height of a resplendent New England fall. Given to me by my daughter who thinks every leaf is worthy of commemoration and honor.
A symbol, broken yet no less profound, of the incessant transitions we face and the beauty of letting go.
Helena Grant is a personal stylist offering 1:1 services as well as virtual courses that help women uncover the power of their personal expression through clothing. Her self-study Capsule Creation Crash Course is currently available for pre-sale. CLICK HERE to purchase the beta version and teach yourself to create a newfound harmony in your life and wardrobe.
I recently worked with a client, let’s call her Francesca*. She had her work wardrobe down pat and felt empowered and confident every day of the week.
Except Saturday and Sunday.
And anytime she got dressed to go on a date with her boyfriend.
Or go out with friends…
The reality of her closet made her dread off-duty time and she was seeking fast, easy-fix style solutions at places like Target and H&M, which she had identified was making the situation worse.
She knew there was a gaping hole in her wardrobe. But, because it represented her personal life, and not “professional,” she was seeking fast-fashion solutions that compromised her self-worth.
Lack was holding her back.
Her closet was not in HARMONY.
She didn’t feel worthy of looking and feeling beautiful and powerful in the clothes she wore to restore herself on the weekends.
As an entrepreneur she thought that only her work wardrobe deserved attention.
Listening to her, I identified viscerally with her struggle and was transported to a time that was easy to re-live emotionally, when I didn’t want to get out of bed on a Saturday morning because I felt like I didn’t have anything to wear.
Lack was holding me back.
I wanted it to be Monday when things were more clear-cut and I knew exactly what to wear.
These experiences, the ones I have lived myself or helped my clients overcome, drives me in my work as a personal stylist and also lead to my design of the Style Archetypes™ as a way to understand the most effective way for women to express themselves through their clothing.
Francesca was exhibiting a strong CEO Style Archetype™ but so many of the other six archetypes were out of balance which was interfering with her living life to the fullest – ummm hello? Not wanting to go out with her boyfriend and her friends because she didn’t like the clothes she had to wear for this activities?
Her DANCER needed attention, the energy that would enable her to embrace her curves, and her GYPSY was calling for liberation.
After our session, Francesca now cultivates her style with pieces from stores that support the newfound vision of herself.
She now has a closet that supports her life and lifestyle.
*I highly value the confidentiality of my clients and thus all names have been changed.
On April 27, 2019 I am hosting a Style Archetype™ Workshop at my Downtown Boston studio.
I will be unveiling a whole new way to understand what is YOU and how to harness the power of your current closet and make the best decisions possible in future purchases.
CLICK HERE for more information and to sign up.
The overwhelm is totally understandable and, to be honest, sometimes I experience it, too.
I know, I know… I’m a STYLIST. Getting dressed is my job and helping people make it fun and easy is what I do for a living.
Even for me, there are days that are a little harder than others. So many logistics to juggle, so many things to do, places to be. And sometimes, it’s just me in my home office hosting Touched By A Goddess sessions for virtual clients and I could probably get away with wearing something presentable on top and my jammies on the bottom.
BUT that is NOT how I roll.
Because what you were is not just a message to the world but, most importantly, a message to yourself.
Never have we had so many options and yet felt totally lost in terms of what will help us look and feel our best.
We are bombarded by: buy this, BUY THIS and yet how do we make all the pieces work together? How do we make getting dressed intuitive so that we don’t have to think, don’t need to feel judged and no longer have to struggle?
I’m on a quest to find out and I designed these 7 Style Questions to help you get to the root of how you want to feel on any given day and how to craft and outfit that will align with your desires and your needs – that’s the magic of STYLE.
1) How do you want to FEEL?
2) What do you have to DO?
3) What is the WEATHER?
4) How will you get around? What is your TRANSPORTATION?
5) What would you wear if none of it mattered?
6) WHO are you being?
7) What ONE item most closely aligns with all of the above?
1) How do you want to FEEL?
If you only ask yourself one question, let it be this one.
Let me paint you a picture: you wake up, you’re exhausted and you need to get your day underway so this first question might have absolutely nothing to do with your current state-of-mind at the time.
This is the moment when the default mode typically kicks in and you reach for what you’ve been wearing the past couple of days (maybe no one will notice?) because you want the process to be over with and does it really matter anyways?
YES. IT ALWAYS MATTERS.
Clothes are a tangible factor in your manifestation of the life you desire and deserve.
This is also the moment where your Style Directives come into play which is something I help clients identify in 1:1 session and in group style coaching.
Here are some examples of where to start with your own Style Directives but feel free to fill in your own blanks.
Turn the question into a statement:
Today I want to FEEL _______.
Today I want to FEEL beautiful.
Today I want to FEEL confident.
Today I want to FEEL unique.
Select a powerful word and watch what happens when you go to pick out what you are going to wear.
2) What do you have to DO?
What tasks lie ahead?
Where do I need to be?
What is on my calendar?
3) What is the WEATHER?
One of my adages is: there is no such thing as bad weather if you have the right gear.
This is especially applicable in the climes of the northeast where I spend the bulk of my time.
To me, a stylish woman is someone who can as easily flit around a beach as she can trudge through a slushy mud puddle in the middle of winter. It’s about being PREPARED and there’s nothing that will sap you of all confidence faster than dressing inappropriately for the weather.
Shivering and sniffling versus brazen and bold?
Put on a sweater and take your pick.
4) How will you get around? What is your TRANSPORTATION?
This is one of the few times we take care of the HOW – usually “how” is what we leave up to the Universe while we focus on the WHAT but in the instance of transportation, it’s logistical shit that must be considered.
Will you be driving? Walking? Taking public transportation?
5) WHAT would you wear if none of it mattered?
This question is a marked departure from the previous four and it invites you to take just 7 seconds to clear your mind and think: if I could chose to wear anything, what would I WANT to wear?
A vintage dress? A sequined romper? Don’t dismiss the desire regardless of how impractical it might be. Instead, acknowledge the item and take a breath while envisioning what your day would look like if you did decide to wear it. Have fun with the process. It’s good for you and your closet.
6) WHO are you being?
This question ties you into the Quantum Field which is a very scientific way of saying “the-benevolent-Universe-that-wants-to-give-you-everything-you-ever-wanted” but which responds best when you not just state what you want but you inhabit the desire.
You have choices:
Are you being the put-upon mom who is too tired to care about herself?
Are you being the billionaire who has it all?
Take your pick and dress accordingly.
7) What ONE item most closely aligns with all of the above?
Likely this item has already presented itself during your inquiry and if not, or if it needs some refining, refer to the 3 Antidotes.
DISCLAIMER: I always encourage EVERYONE to take some time to plan their outfits THE NIGHT BEFORE.
This allows time to locate everything and eliminate the morning shuffle/scramble/panic.
I know you did it in grade school… and high school… and maybe like me, in college and beyond.
It’s a strategy that works and I give you full permission to start employing it again.
These questions work at any time and best when accompanied by some space to fully expand as you step into the horizon of your ideal life.
Do yourself a favor, consider the process of getting dressed to be self-care because, after all, Your Closet is an Altar.
To hear me discuss these 7 Style Questions live, tune into a recent episode of THE HELENA SHOW where I touch on each one.
And, if you are looking to delve deeper into making your current closet work better for you, CLICK HERE to book a Touched By A Goddess virtual session. It’s my cornerstone offering and in just 1 hour we will create 3 complete looks (which represent countless outfits) that will have you rocking out at life whether it’s for an event, travel or anything in between.
Here are 7 Recommended Answers for the above
7 Style Questions:
A chiffon blouse is a must-have wardrobe staple – perfect alone or layered under blazers, sweaters and even knit dresses. Go for a print, buttons up front and at cuffs for ultimate versatility.
- Client meetings
- Pick up kids from school
A tailored blazer takes you everywhere you need to be while reminding you of how cool and beautiful you already are.
Change out the sash for a cinched belt and you have yourself a wrap dress.
- Public Transport
A stacked heel bootie supports you whether you are in a Maserati or on the MTA.
Just think of the day you would have wearing something statement-making like this jumpsuit? If you can’t make it work maybe it’s time to create a day that would be perfect for something like this?
Inhabit your desire with a cashmere crewneck that works as a tee shirt (worn against the skin) and as a layerable sweater. Accessible luxury for everyone from the mom to the multi-millionaire.
Bringing it all together with just ONE piece.
Chin up, look up for progress.
Intentional shifts provide stability.
Go fast, end up slow.
Go steady, end up fast.
The onomatopoeia of my skis made a pee-choo, pee-choo, pee-choo sound like a torpedo firing as I glided forward, climbing the mountain I grew up skiing down every winter and hiking up every summer – a mountain I have climbed from all sides and up every rock slide and frequently conquered on skis but never this way.
This was a new sensation; another step towards exploring my boundaries, the limits of my comfort zone.
Brantley my friend, and now unofficial guide when I’m seeking to do something slightly extreme, knew the route well; he often summits as the sun comes up yet somehow still makes it to work in Plattsburgh on time.
“I’m not as nervous as I was last year at this time. It was this day, wasn’t it?”
I laughed and confirmed that yes, it was this same day in 2017 that the two of us set out for a 10-mile backcountry ski to Avalanche Lake, deep in the 6 million-acre “forever wild” state park.
The temperature plummeted to 30 degrees below zero that day and a National Public Radio reporter was waiting at Marcy Dam to see who was crazy enough to be out in weather like that. It was my first day EVER on backcountry skis and it was a massive undertaking but also filled with moments of incredible bliss. You can read (or listen) by clicking HERE.
Most of that final day of 2017 I spoke about my desire to “skin” up Whiteface, a 46er in the Adirondack Mountains that is 10th on the list of forty-six High Peaks in the region that are over 4,000 feet in elevation.
And so here we were, exactly a year later ascending the man-made playground in the midst of supreme wilderness. A mountain with a continuous vertical drop of 3,430 feet (the highest in eastern North America), site of the 1932 and 1980 Olympics and affectionately dubbed “IceFace” so called for its unique boilerplate base layer.
Brantley was patient with me considering all my stops for gear and layer adjustment. He was easy, calm yet direct in his pointers and advice; the communication between expert and novice gentle but resolute.
Drag your toes as you take each step.
Look uphill – to where you are going.
Transfer your weight from one foot to the other. Be intentional.
Slow and steady wins; when you go fast you end up being slow.
My early morning internal cocktail of excitement and nerves metabolized by the time we reach the first nub of Boreen – I was pushing myself, breathing hard and feeling the heat accumulate at my core. I was a bit out of shape after the Christmas holiday but I was confident I would make it to the top.
Growing up, as I shivered every lift ride, I daydreamed about how good it would feel to climb up this mountain and ski down. It’s in my blood to feel this way. My grandfather was in the 10th Mountain Division and was known to ski up Mount Marcy (the highest point in New York State) for breakfast. His genes run deep throughout me even though I never knew him.
The early morning light turned from black to bluish grey as snowcats and snowmobiles with flashing lights rolled by leaving the permeating smell of diesel in their wake. It was a far cry from the stillness of the previous year’s journey but with more ease knowing we were still in civilized terrain, and monitored by all the ski patrollers on their morning rounds.
We approached another crest and Brantley suggested initiating the mid-way heel lift on my binding telling me the second setting, even higher, was for steeper terrain.
I giggled to myself thinking that the lift made me feel like I was in a pump, the higher setting like a stiletto.
We continued our steady pace though I needed multiple small breaks for layer adjustment and frequent changes in the heel lifts. Some of the pitches intimidated me and about ¾ of the way to the top, my ego kicked in…
You’re tired. Your hip hurts.
I can do this, I responded.
Who are you to think you can accomplish this?
I know I can do this. I AM DOING THIS, I shouted silently.
My body was screaming for mercy but knowing it was there, feeling slight discomfort in my left hip, fatigue in my muscles and listening to a pretty pronounced inner dialogue, that I was growing.
From Boreen we made our way up Excelsior which lead us to the top of “Little Whiteface” where the Cloudsplitter gondola deposits thousands of people on a holiday; ski patrol and another pair of skiers were the only other people.
We glided over to the observation deck to remove the skins from the bottom of our skis, add layers, snap the obligatory photos and selfies and officially clip into our bindings for the descent to the main lodge.
Three-thousand-eight-hundred-and-eighty feet above sea level was the perfect view to usher out the old and bring in the new.
Our ascent lasted 1.5 hours, the ski down took 10 minutes.
With every turn I remembered moments skiing here with my parents, my brothers, friends growing up and how free I had felt gathering speed on the steep decline after midstation, riding the momentum on the flattened part as Tower Ten becomes more gentle and where I always liked crossing my poles behind my back and just leaning into the front of my boots to move one ski in front of the other, turning just enough while staying straight.
Brantley skied ahead of me to snap a few photos. I raised my arms in victory for the camera.
I returned home to a quiet house, the waning crescent moon and Venus who had overseen my early morning departure were no longer visible in the bright sky, my endorphin high still intact but tempered by overwhelming fatigue from the 1,000 calories I had burned.
I took a hot shower, ate a massive breakfast and then laid down for a nap as I wrote these insights in my Tout Book (aka “journal”):
Chin up, look up for progress.
Intentional shifts provide stability.
Go fast, end up slow.
Go steady, end up fast.
1) Chin up, look up for progress – it was so easy to focus on the tips of my skis which meant my chin was tucked into my neck and my foresight was nonexistent. When I focused on where I was going, my strides were longer, more determined and I gained more ground. It made me think of being on the yoga mat: look to where you are going, my teacher often says.
2) Intentional shifts provide stability – when I focused on transitioning my weight from one ski to the other, particularly on the “stiletto steep” terrain, I felt more confident and my skis responded better.
3) Go fast, end up slow; go steady, end up fast – this pertains to the age-old parable of the tortoise and the hare. When you are climbing to great heights, slow and steady wins every time.
I’ve been reflecting on WTF these lessons have to do with the work I do and I have come to these points:
1) LAYERS ARE KEY – pretty much always, especially in winter and particularly when temperatures will be shifting. Layers add dimension to an outfit and support you with versatility because they can be added or stripped.
2) Good Gear Lasts 20 + years – notice the orange shell I’m wearing? I’ve had it since high school. I believe what we buy should support us for as long as possible and when you have the right gear (i.e. clothes) there is no such thing as bad weather.
This coming Saturday January 12, 2019 I am hosting an unprecedented group shopping excursion to the Wrentham Outlets, MA. This will be an intimate, highly curated experience for anyone willing to finally say “Today I Fix My Wardrobe”.
CLICK HERE for details and to sign up.
It’s not about the THING we are buying. It’s about the process of purchasing it, the decision-making, the experience.
This slightly philosophical statement comes from someone going through a massive phase of self-forgiveness.
For a long time I’ve been hiding behind my shame. And guilt. Two beasts of the same genus, separate species.
Here are the facts:
I love clothes.
I love new things.
I love to spend money until it’s gone.
You might imagine where this leads me.
You might also imagine how this might influence my work as a personal and brand stylist and my relationship to what I do.
I almost didn’t answer the calling to be a stylist because of a deep fear that it would propagate what I identified as an issue a long time ago.
How could helping women buy things help me with my problem of buying shit all the time?
Well, it’s actually helped a lot and on a recent Thursday morning in Boston, I had to break a vow I had made to myself and to my audience to not buy anything new until January – that the month when wardrobe investment is at its best due to retailers unloading inventory with massive sales and promotions.
What follows is an account of my experience at the Downtown Crossing TJMaxx which will forever hold a place in my heart.
Some of the content is painstakingly precise in describing (almost) everything I tried on, the pricing and, most importantly, the Q&A process behind what I eventually purchased.
There is entertainment mixed in with my insights and you might benefit from reading it because strong, distinctive personal style is all about strong, distinctive decision-making.
If you read on, thank you. Feel free to skim or just skip to the next set of dotted lines to get to the juicy bit. The TJMaxx-Induced Awakening. For just $24.99.
I needed new gloves. Plain black leather gloves, preferably lined with some sort of insulating material – wool always best. I dropped mine somewhere, my treasured ones and in the face of this loss, and with very cold, chapped hands, I allowed myself an excursion to TJMaxx to find a new pair.
I walked into the fluorescent fashion oasis with a mission. Black leather gloves or bust.
I was determined. Emboldened by my pledge to budget for the January sales at Wrentham.
But, I quickly strayed.
Of course the bags caught my attention. I’m currently interviewing for a new companion carryall and I prefer to meet this sort of purchase in person first.
Scanning the aisles of satchels, backpacks and crossbodies I reminisced about the days I would go and photograph the hardware and details in these very wire-racked, overstuffed walkways seeking inspiration when I felt stuck creating my own designs.
Handbags turned to belts – I was still in accessories so I was on the right path to finding my new gloves.
Or so I thought.
Either way I allowed myself a moment to pause at the belts. I tell all my clients to always go to the belt section and scan for something unique and preferably leather –I love a good belt and have a serious love affair with this particular wardrobe staple.
I was able to move on from the bags but it was hard not to consider the blue snakeskin print belt that was $3.99. Only size large and extra large left but it was cool, unique and even if a few sizes too big I thought it would be worth trying to wear it with a sweater dress by tying the extra length into a half knot.
I rolled it into my right hand, my focus now broken, my passion for style ignited, my pulse quickening as I thought of all the ways I could incorporate this inexpensive piece into my closet.
Maybe I could create a post about this belt? It would add some extra pizazz to my current belt collection. Maybe it would become a mainstay? Perhaps it would solve all my problems?
I found a saleswoman as I rounded the corner into lingerie and jumped at the opportunity to ask a human where to find what I was really in the store to purchase. She led me part of the way there and motioned further into the abyss.
Thanking her I made a visual note of where she had motioned but doubled back because I had seen a leopard print faux fur martini shaker that would be a perfect client gift.
Belt and martini shaker in either hand I was back on track to the glove section.
It took every ounce of me to put on the blinders past the Runway section but there was work to be done! Even one quick look for me is fatal.
The first pair of gloves that struck me was black leather with blue/black faux fox fur cuffs. They had an extra seam along the inside of the fingers so they made my hands look bulky and though I liked the flair, my go-to winter coat fell a little too long and mashed the fur. Interference.
I rounded the corner and tried a pair of leather ones with corseting running from the cuff down the back of the hand. Tech compatibility made them desirable and the lining was soft but polyester. I tried them on and my coat cuffs truncated the detailing. No good.
I returned to the wall and scanned again – a pair of genuine leather, black perforated ones jumped out at me. Wool lined. Made in Italy. Perfect. And at $24.99 so the most reasonable of the three I had considered.
I had found what I was looking for but I had already worked hard that morning and thought I might reward myself with a little meander, a detour on the way to the cash register.
The TJMaxx vortex had already tempted and ensnared its lulled prey.
Gloves flowed into scarves and, as with belts, I often recommend checking out the scarf section because you never know what you might find.
Heaps of infinity scarves and of faux fur muffs cascaded down the wall. A leopard one with a dark grey beanie attached by plastic tab caught my eye. There was no price tag but I figured it couldn’t cost anymore than $20. Maybe this one would appease my ache for something new and fresh?
To look at myself in the mirror for an analysis, I had to make my way into the Runway section – right back on the highway to the DANGER ZONE.
The beanie was cute but a bit too tight. I knew it would leave me with a severe hathead even if the way it fit my head made my bangs look super cute. I loved the cozy feel of the neck muff but these thoughts made me question its practicality:
1) Respiration and it feeling “wet” from breathing on it
2) How warm was it really? It felt warm but I envisioned a solid Boston Wind whipping right through it and
3) What the hell to do with it when I wasn’t wearing it? It would be like carrying around a stuffed animal if it wasn’t around my neck.
As I considered all these questions while looking in the mirror I decided the muff and beanie could be left behind when…
…there it was.
An off-the-shoulder Elizabeth and James dress. Bright red.
On clearance for $39.00.
My heart skipped a beat.
Body con and bold. Beautiful, a well-established designer known for quality and marked down to bargain-basement pricing.
Style angels were blaring their trumpets.
The dam was breached. If I was going to try it on I might as well try on something else.
Very quickly my arms were full and they were cranky under the weight of the garments. Also, my brain was screaming at me.
What about your pledge?
What about your promise to invest in personal and business development over clothes?
What are you doing to yourself?
But how could I not at least try the items even if I was questioning my integrity.
I wondered if WikiHow has a post on how to cultivate integrity.
Stationed in a dressing room my efficient stylist side kicked in and I began filing through the items quickly starting with dresses. The red dress was a bombshell, as expected, though skewed towards the hussie side and I quickly realized the stain on the sleeve was not the only defect; the back of the neck hem was nearly torn to shreds. It was salvageable, I could repair it and I imagined getting lots of attention at hubs’ holiday work holiday gathering.
Definitely in the consideration pile.
A Theory cable knit sweater dress was up next and at first glance seemed just the thing I would love to live in now and through the winter months but taking it off, I turned into a static cling commercial. No good though somehow the $117 clearance rack price tag swayed me and I kept it in the consideration pile.
The Velvet Vince slipdress dipped low in the back. Too revealing and not at all versatile even if it was a “steal” at $69.00.
Next onto the blouses. The silk rag and bone tie neck (Oh, how I love tie necks) assured me that it was silk but still felt like polyester and I just couldn’t envision myself ever being excited to wear it.
A poof-shoulder denim Paige button-down johnny collar– I had to ask myself do I like it for me or because I think I will get a compliment on it?? Only $39.00 but I knew it would not make it into next season and the poof sleeves wouldn’t work under layered under a sweater.
Which brought me to the sweaters.
I loooooove, love looooooove sweaters. Especially cashmere. I’m a total sucker. And this Skull Cashmere sweater did something to me. The perfect blend of everything cool and cosy. This was the piece that led me to check all my account balances and consider moving money around.
I could have done it.
Then I consulted my inner wisdom.
My typical MO is to say yes but I’m often in a position to say yes to everything and this time, it felt different – purchasing this super cute sweater I could see myself wearing multiple times would invalidate everything I had promised myself, and my audience, I was doing.
I asked myself a series of questions – the deliberation had begun.
Do I need this sweater?
Will I regret not buying this sweater?
Will I feel better NOT buying this sweater today?
And so, I put everything back on hangars and returned the 10-items card to the nice lady playing dressing room sentinel.
Nothing today? She asked. What about that red dress?
I showed her the damage and she said they shouldn’t even be selling it – ask for a steeper discount.
No, I said. I’m just here for the gloves.
I had the cashier cut the tags so I could wear the gloves out. The truth was, even the $24.99 was a stretch for me at that very moment but the purchase felt different than any I had made. Maybe ever.
I experienced true integrity and knew I had given myself the proof I needed that I could walk into a temptation vortex like TJMaxx and, wearing black leather gloves, stick to my proverbial guns.
As I headed for the escalator, the warm winter sun was streaming in through the massive glass window and it caught my face at an angle that made me feel like this decision was the beginning of something truly remarkable.
This was one small step closer to truly embodying the CEO who knows how to shop with integrity and buy a pair of leather gloves. Period.
Helena will be hosting a group shopping excursion at the Wrentham Outlets in early January. To sign up for more information email email@example.com.