Here’s the scene.
I walk into a store. Pick up an armful of things I like. And head back to the dressing rooms.
Thirty minutes later, I’m freaking out + can’t make a decision to save my life.
Here’s what’s happening. My brain is clogged with thoughts like “Nothing fits” and “I don’t know what to do.” These are dead end thoughts. They don’t do anything to help clarify the problem or find a solution.
I need to reframe these dead end thoughts into a question. Then I can answer them (with a yes or no), make a decision, and move on.
Here’s how it’s done.
“Nothing fits me.”
(1) Tough love first: Using gross over exaggerations isn’t going to fix anything. And what kind of self talk usually comes after a statement like that? Down-on-your-body trash talk, that’s what. Refuse it.
Remember, that kind of negativity is poison — and totally within your control. The things you tell yourself can either feed insecurities or starve them. Choose to starve the little bastards.
(2) Realize that we are all in the same boat. No woman magically fits into everything she tries on. Not even Beyonce. (Love you, Bey!)
(3) Here’s the solution. (And the reason that Beyonce looks amazing in everything she wears.) Size up so the garment fits your widest part, and then take it to a tailor. She can then take it in for you + make it fit like a dream.
“But that costs money.”
Add $20 to the garment price.
Yes or no, would you pay that price for it if that was the price on the tag?
If your answer is no, don’t buy it and keep looking.
Side note. $20 is my rule of thumb. Tailoring may be a little more or a little less than that depending on what you need to have done. If you want to get a more accurate number, research tailors around you + see what they charge for some typical alterations.
“But that will take time.”
Yep. Taking things to get tailored takes time.
Try factoring that time into your shopping trip. Can you just swing by a tailor after you leave the store?
Or look at your calendar real quick. Yes or no, is there a day this week that you can take 30 minutes and go to the tailor?
If the answer is no, don’t buy it. Keep looking.
“I’ve tried on all these clothes, and now I’m feeling overwhelmed. Which ones do I get?!”
I’ve been there … too many times.
I used to get anxious in the dressing room because I didn’t have a plan or a budget — and I felt guilty about spending money. Typically I’d get so anxious that I’d just leave the store with nothing.
Let’s say it together: MASSIVE TIME WASTE.
In fact, that wasted time was what compelled me to start living with a capsule wardrobe + share it with you.
Now I fill out my wardrobe planner before I ever set foot in the store. I’m happy to report that thanks to that little bit of preparation, I haven’t felt that anxiety. Get yo’self one here.
If you’re reading this in the dressing room though, that’s not going to help much. Here are some simple questions to help you make a quick, good decision.
- Name 2-3 outfits you can make with this piece.
- Name 2-3 occasions / places where you’d wear this piece.
- Would you reach for this piece tomorrow when you’re getting dressed?
What kinds of obstacles do you face in the dressing room? Ask away in the comments — and I’ll try to answer your questions as best I can.
Do you have any tips on making quick, smart decisions in the dressing room? Share away — I want to know your secrets! :)
My typical obstacle in the dressing room is – after careful consideration I decided to buy simple, grey ballet flats. Went shopping. Visited every single shoe shop I could think of. NONE of them had anything every remotely resembling grey ballet flats. Felt depressed. Then, accidently, found absolutely gorgeous skirt. It’s breathtaking and I prefer it over EVERY single piece in my wardrobe. And I know, that reaching for that piece will be first thing I’ll do tomorrow morning. And next morning. And maybe even next.
Shoud I buy, knowing that it’s not in the budget and also, I’m still gonna need grey ballet flats?
PS Grey is my favourite color, without any doubt. Half my closet is grey – I use it as a basic color, ‘couse I look rubbish in black. Is it also a problem in States, to find grey shoes and bags? In Europe, at least in my country, its almost impossible – selection is so poor (everything in black, cognac or beige), that I usually have to order things online.
I just had to reply, because I also love grey as a neutral – I feel it’s less harsh than black and a bit more trans-seasonal. A while ago I decided that grey ankle boots were the thing I needed…but so far no luck finding them! (I’m in the UK.) So I share your opinion and your frustrations!
Hi 5! :P
PS I live in Poland and I do agree – finding grey fall/winter shoes is the hardest of all….
Isn’t it a little fresher to combine all that grey with black, brown, navy or burgundy shoes? Don’t get me wrong, though, I do understand the frustration on planning out the perfect capsule wardrobe but not finding the actual items you planned for in the sea of sameness that is our highstreet…
My issue is finding pieces that will work well with *multiple* outfits. I tend to buy things with an outfit in mind, but then I get stuck only wearing that outfit. I would love tips on mixing and matching pieces to make 3-4 outfits with one piece.
I know buying basic pieces is the way to go, but I find that buying basic pieces for me means more “casual” wear – cute tanks I can tuck in to jeans, shorts, skirts, but these don’t work well when I need to dress up a little for a night out. I’d love advise for this dilemma, too.
Thank you so much in advance!
I also have an issue with dropping more money on “better quality” clothing. Like, the J.Crew chambray vs. the American Eagle chambray. I noticed that some of your capsule pieces are on the pricier side. Can you give insight into how you choose the expensive chambray over a more inexpensive, and possibly equally good, alternative?
I don’t know if it’ll help you, but in planning my fall capsule (LOVE this idea) I actually started with each top and wrote down a list of the complete outfits I could make with it, down to shoes. (I was trying to calculate how many different outfits I could make, but it also helps to think of novel combinations to “try on in my head” every piece with every other one.)
I’ll probably print out the list and stick it in my closet for when I’m lacking inspiration. I’m not really visual, so the list is enough for me, but you could probably do it with photos or an app as well.
This exercise also made me realize what I was missing and what would help me “stretch” my wardrobe to make more outfits.
ARC – brilliant! I’m working on my list now. Thank you!
Rebecca N says
I always have the issue of buying one piece, like a top, and think it will go well with the jeans, shorts or skirt I have at home, only to get home and find out that isn’t the case. It’s frustrating! I also have a hard time finding pieces that work with multiple outfits, especially skirts. I might have a top that works with skinny jeans or shorts but they never go with my skirts. My skirts have their own tops that only go with them, which brings my capsule wardrobe up to more like 45 items. I need to work on this for fall!
Great tips! I always ask myself, “will I regret spending the money on this later?” and “do I LOVE it, or just really like it?” Those questions (and the question of “where will I wear this?”) always get me through trying on clothes. If I always feel like I’m getting too overwhelmed and can’t make any decisions, then I take a break and sometimes leave the clothes on hold and go to get a drink or snack and walk around before going back to decide on anything. It helps clear my mind and I can take a look at my budget and say, “is it worth it?” which is always the biggest thing for me.
Since discovering your blog, I’ve started asking myself, “Would I want this to be one of the three ____s I own?” That has brought me some clarity. I also try to not buy anything I wouldn’t want to wear that night, or the next day. I still have trouble determining how well things will wear — stretching out, pilling, etc. — which of course has a huge impact on how wearable they are.
I often feel pretty good in the dressing room when I’m trying stuff on. I don’t know if it’s because I also go shopping to perk myself up, and once I’m out there in the world I usually feel fairly upbeat and “up for anything,” or if it’s because I often shop with my sister who encourages me to buy more “unique” clothes…but the problem is that often, when I get the garments home, I feel unpretty in them — either just blah or worse, when I’m actively like “why did I buy this?!’ I think it’s because on my own, in my own private heart and bedroom I want to dress more plainly than my idealized version of myself. Like, I truly *like* being in the dressing room, seeing all the pretty clothes and trying them on, and I generally have a good body image, but once I buy them I’m just sort of like, “where am i REALLY going to wear this fringed shirt?” and back into the closet it goes. :-/
Love you blog! Love the clean format and the photographs especially! xo
This is exactly what I do. At Anthropologie in particular- everything looks so pretty and unique and then when I get home I find that it’s too much of a statement shirt for me and I rarely wear it. (After spending so much on it!)
This is hard and I’ve definitely been in this situation! If I’ve already made the purchase, but realize a couple days later that it actually isn’t a piece for me, I make sure to return it. That way I don’t waste my money on things I’ll never wear. I always make sure to leave the tags on and save my receipt.
These are great tips! I make myself think of 3 different things I can wear the piece with before I buy it. If the piece doesn’t work for this rule, or maybe is a bit of a splurge, but I still want it, I do the 24-hour cooling-off period (which isn’t quick, but it helps me :)). I walk away and if 24 (or more) hours later I’m still thinking about and wanting the piece of clothing, I go back for it.
The first time I tried that trick I thought that it would never work and that I’d only get more obsessed, but I’d say that 7 out of 10 times, I actually forget about it or think of things wrong with it or find something else I’d rather have. This is great for sales – the other day I went to Mango, which is one of my favorties, and everything! was! on! sale! I wanted ALL the things, but I made myself go home, and the next day I couldn’t remember a single thing from that sale.
Also, a good tailor can re-work clothes you already have – I had a pair of bootcut jeans made into straight legs, and a puffed-shoulder jacket reworked into having a regular shoulder that didn’t scream 2008. I found a tailor by my office so I can stop by on my way to work or during my lunch break, so it doesn’t feel like a chore or an extra trip.
Must say, our styles are soooo different but I like your blog a lot. And it’s inspirational. I have managed to downsize my wardrobe and haven’t bought any clothes for last two months.
Because I have small waist, I would like to get many items taylored. But where I live in Finland, there isn’t actually any tailors! Sewers aren’t appreciated and the income is small. Partly this is because clothes are way too cheap in shops!
Hi, I just found your website and I am impressed. Many helpful tips and your writing style is great. I spend waaaay too much time here ;)
I also starting pairing down my wardrobe a while ago and I must say your wardrobe planner could have saved me some time and nerves. This post I can totally relate to. Nothing fits me… yeah, been that, done that.
Btw, if you want to save on the tailor, get a sewing machine. I am no seamstress but shortening pants or a top is easy to learn, especially in times of youtube. And once you get the hang of it, it will not take you that long. Perfect for a rainy sunday afternoon. I am rather short and have to alter a lot of pieces so the investment (time and money) payed off already.
Cheers from the Netherlands!
My issue is that I find an item I really like online, say green army pants, but it’s often out of my price range. So I fixate on finding a better deal for that “type” of item. I search high and low for a couple of places that have it and then try to pick the best deal while still taking quality into consideration. But oftentimes I find myself wishing I’d bought the higher-priced, “better” version. I think I often settle for the second- or third-best. But I often don’t know how to decide whether it would be better to splurge or save on a particular item, whether it’s “worth it” in the end.
I love your blog, I only discovered it recently and really enjoy checking in regularly. I am planning my wardrobe detox soon to see if I can live with a paired back selection for AW. I really like the buy less, buy better philosophy.
My tip for when you have a dressing room crisis (for those times when I think I do like/love something but am not sure if it’s right for me) is I ask myself how would I feel if one of my friends turned up wearing that item? Would I feel a bit envious, think oh I love that, and I wish I could wear something like that? If so, it usually means that I do love the item but just need a little bit of courage to try something new or wear something bold. If you think you’d go for it once you’ve had someone else’s approval of it, then don’t wait for someone else to wear it first, be bold and go for it if you like it!
Excellent tip. I sometimes do that, but I always think of someone specific. Like my sister, whose style I like so much that I think I could just happily switch wardrobes with her. I don’t have this with many other people, so if I can envision my sister rocking something, and me liking it on her, than it’s likely to be a succes :)
Caroline, I so appreciate tips like these! You’re the sweetest for sharing your wardrobe wisdom :)
I have found so much peace and clarity when shopping by going into a store with a game plan and a list. My current capsule is made up of blues, whites, olives, blacks. So, when I shop I don’t even bother looking at things outside these colors. I also like to keep a running list on my phone of things I need to complete my capsule so I don’t derail. If it’s not of the list, I don’t buy it. Makes the entire shopping experience so much less overwhelming :)
One thing I have learned the hard way is to not be brand loyal. Also, if everything comes from the same store then my wardrobe is really boring. I have a pretty good eye for fabrics that will last, but I like to buy more expensive brands “thinking” that they will give me more. I know that if I see a piece at Marshall’s that look great it will likely last just as long as a similar piece from Patagonia. Plus my real budget is Marshall’s not Patagonia:)
Caroline, I really love your idea of one plain, one statement and one in between! I believe it has changed my life. Seriously!
I think you are right about not being brand-loyal. I think you can keep in mind the brands that fit you well, but be open to other brands. There are stores I walk into and think that all of their clothing is poorly made and doesn’t fit well, but then I may find one of their pieces at the thrift store, give it a try, and discover a new favorite.
One thing that gets in my way when shopping is that my style and taste in clothing does not match up with what I actually wear. I love the look of shorts and mini dresses paired with something more modest on top, and I’m always drawn to this style while shopping, but I get into the change room and then remember “oh right, you can’t wear these” I have a very obvious scar all down my right thigh, so I know I’ll never feel completely confident wearing shorts and mini dresses, but I also don’t want to wear something I don’t love, because I personally hate maxi and midi skirts and wearing jeans everyday gets repetitive. Since reading this blog I’ve really refined what my style is, but I still can’t reconcile it with the way I’m comfortable dressing :s
That’s hard, and I’ve experience that too. As I’ve aged, I don’t love my thighs, and that limits a lot of what I wear. I don’t wear shorts.
I’m 37, have kids, stay at home and homeschool them. So while I love dresses and skirts, they’re not practical for my lifestyle. My style preferences actually don’t go along with my lifestyle at all.
Any tips on reconciling your personal style preferences with your lifestyle, if they don’t mesh?
Just a major ditto here! I am 35 and homeschool my kids and it’s hard to figure out a pulled together look that makes *me* feel good, without looking or feeling overdressed or impractical. I don’t want to wear yoga pants every day, but I’m not going to wear skirts and heels at home :)
Steph M says
Why ever not? I don’t wear them often because it’s not my everyday style, but I definitely get dressed for the day before we home school. Hair, makeup, nice outfit. It makes me feel great and more productive for sure! I will often change into heels when we leave the house, though. Flats are for home! :)
My big question is how much of your shopping do you do in stores and how much do you do online? I tend to do a lot of my shopping online because I have small kids, but often something shows up and doesn’t fit right and then I feel like I’ve wasted my time. Do you have certain brands that you just know will fit well?
I used to have the same troubles in the dressing room that most people have, and sometimes I still do, but building a new wardrobe through frequent thrift store shopping changed how I do the dressing room (I posted about this on my blog: https://patternandbranch.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/thrift-store-shopping-plan-of-attack-part-2/ ). Now I grab everything I’m interested in (usually a large volume) and quickly try things on, noting my gut reaction. If I can tell I’m trying to convince myself on a piece, I leave it behind, but if I try something on and I LOVE it (sometimes you just KNOW!), then I go for it or try it on just once more to assure myself. By the time we’re adults, we’ve been shopping for a long time and we know more instinctively than we give ourselves credit for what does and doesn’t work for us. I agree with what you said above–no trash talking your body. We can look great at many different sizes. Try not to make judgements, try on a lot, and keep the things you feel good in (assuming they’re affordable). It IS possible to have a good experience, at least some of the time. :)
Emily Watz says
I love this post, Caroline! Lately, I’ve been piling up old clothes weekly out of my closet to take to Goodwill. I’ve wanted to start purchasing QUALITY items over quantity but could never seem to justify it with all these clothes taking up my closet space. This release of clothes felt great but now I have nothing to wear, ha! Then I read this & now I feel like I know what to do next! Something you said about your outfit capsule really struck a chord with me; the less time & money spent on rationalizing & feeling anxiety on your wardrobe, the more time you can spend traveling or doing whatever you love to do (& look good & confident doing it!).
Thank you, thank you, thank you. :)
Monika Faulkner says
Your “add $20” idea is a GREAT tip, dear Caroline…I’m definitely going to start using that when I go shopping!! And not just to factor in some leeway for tailoring; I’m famous for justifying a purchase by telling myself that “it’s only X number of dollars”…when I probably wouldn’t want the piece quite so much if it cost $20 more!! ;)
It is different concept on take decission in the dressing room. I appreciate