Virtual Styling Session with Bridgette Raes – Part One

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve seen that I often link to articles written by style expert, Bridgette Raes.  Bridgette is a New York City based personal stylist and blogger who writes frequently about creating a cohesive wardrobe, the power of color and accessories, and how to shop wisely.

I love Bridgette’s witty writing style and refreshing attitude toward fashion.  While many other stylists focus predominantly on current trends and continuously shopping to keep up, Bridgette is far more pragmatic and realistic in her approach.  I can see why many of her clients have been with her for years and rely on her helpful, no-nonsense advice!

Style Expert, Bridgette Raes

I recently had a virtual session with style expert, Bridgette Raes.

Working with Bridgette & A New Series for the Blog

After being an admirer of Bridgette’s for several years, I finally took the plunge to hire her for virtual styling help.  I had a Skype session with her last week and plan to have a follow-up session sometime next month.

Today’s post is the first in a series in which I’ll share my experience of working with Bridgette Raes to improve my personal style.  I will start with the preliminary work I did prior to the session, which is the focus on today’s post.  In a post later this week, I’ll write about the session itself and Bridgette’s recommendations for me.  Future installments will focus on the ways in which I implement Bridgette’s advice, as well as my report from my second virtual styling session.

Why I Hired Bridgette to Help Me

I decided to hire Bridgette because I’ve been feeling a bit stuck in some aspects of my personal style and felt I could use some advice to take me to the next level.  While I could have reached out to a stylist in my local area, I opted to work with Bridgette instead for several reasons:

  • I have come to know Bridgette and her approach through her blog, and it resonates well with me.
  • She is also familiar with me and my blog and I felt she would be mindful of my compulsive shopping problem and not steer me toward excessive purchases or “trend chasing.”
  • She is in my age range (over 40, but I’ve got a few years on her…) and also has a fairly casual work-from-home lifestyle.
  • I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on styling services, so I thought a few strategic virtual sessions would be the best option for me at this time.

Bridgette’s services are not cheap by any means, but she has over two decades of style and fashion experience under her belt.  I knew she’d be able to offer me a wealth of expert advice even in the short time frame we’d be spending together.  Now that I’ve had my first session with her, I have to say that hiring her was a great thing to do!   I know it will be money well spent and that I’ll likely end up saving myself money in the long run.  If you’re at all considering working with a stylist, I can definitely recommend hiring Bridgette (I don’t get any “kick-backs” for making this recommendation – I just believe in her!).

The Preliminary Process

Now that I’ve provided sufficient introduction, let’s move on to the virtual styling process.  First off, I had some work to do prior to my session with Bridgette and it took me a few hours to get it all done.  Step one was completing Bridgette’s online pre-styling session questionnaire.  This questionnaire was very comprehensive and really got me to think about where I am with my style, what’s working for me and what isn’t, and the changes I would like to make.

I’ve written about these issues before on the blog (see all personal style posts here), but I think it may be helpful to include some of my answers to Bridgette’s questions here.  Below are a few of the questions and excerpts of my answers (there were many more questions and I wrote a lot more, but this is a good representation).  If you’re struggling at all with your personal style, it may be beneficial for you to take the time to reflect on these questions for yourself (see this post for more style questions and answers).

What do you want to learn from your personal style consultation?

I feel that I have some blind spots when it comes to how to best dress for my body type.  I have a long history of eating disorders (mostly anorexia, in my teens through thirties) and have lingering body image issues.  I am very self-conscious about my bottom half, so I tend to dress in order to hide those areas.  I’m sure there are other styles that would look good on me besides what I’m wearing (and maybe the things I’m wearing aren’t the best choices!), but I have difficulty seeing myself clearly and making those determinations.   I am pretty set in my ways when it comes to the silhouettes I wear and I would like to break out of my comfort zone a bit, or at least have a plan for doing so.

I would also like to get clearer on my personal style, as well as the best way to dress for my lifestyle.  I have a tendency to dress up a bit too much for where I live (a very casual place) and what I do (most of which is also very casual).  I tend to dress ultra-casually at home and then have to completely change whenever I leave the house, unless I’m going for a walk or to the gym.  I would like to be able to wear comfortable clothes when working from home that I could also wear for other activities (perhaps adding another layer and some accessories to take the look out of the ultra-casual home mode).

I still have too many clothes and many of them don’t get worn all that often.  I would like to learn how to better use what I have and understand what I might need to buy to pull my wardrobe together better.  I would like to stop buying so many clothes and buy fewer of the right types of clothes – and accessories.  I am doing much better since I started my blog, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.  I’d also like to stop making so many shopping mistakes.  I probably only get it right about half of the time, which is much better than in the past (maybe 1 out of 4 items were smart purchases last year and before) but still far from ideal.

I know that overcoming bad behaviors and cultivating a cohesive and workable wardrobe doesn’t happen overnight.  I’ve been muddling along and trying to do it on my own for a while with varying levels of success.  I need some help to create a plan and a roadmap to help me get to where I want to be.

How do you feel about your overall image/personal style and wardrobe right now?  How would you like to feel?  What do you think is not working?

I often feel overwhelmed by my wardrobe.  I have about 140 items of clothing, which is about half of what I had in January 2013 (and about a third of what I had a few years before that), but it still feels like too much.  I like a lot of my clothes but I don’t always love my outfits.  I started keeping an outfit journal at the beginning of July and that has helped a lot.  I realize that the “missing link” for many of my outfits is the bottom half.  I often love my outfits from the waist up but not so much from the waist down.  I tend to like my skirt and dress outfits better than my pants outfits, but I could probably do better with skirts, too.

I like the colors and patterns I wear, as well as many of the shapes and styles, but I feel there is too much “sameness” among my outfits. I wear too many knits and many of my garments are quite similar.  I would like to incorporate different types of fabrics and garments into my wardrobe and focus more on higher-quality, more “special” pieces. I would also like to add more creativity and a bit of “edginess” to what I wear.

I would like to feel attractive, stylish, and physically comfortable at the same time.  I often feel this way in dresses and skirts but not as much in pants.  I like to wear pants and jeans, especially as they are often more casual, but I don’t feel the way I want to feel in most of my pants outfits!

What overall image do you want to project?  What message would you like to communicate?

I would like to look sophisticated and classic but with some creative and edgy elements thrown into the mix.  I think I do okay with the first two much of the time, but could use some help with the creative and edgy parts of the equation.  I would like to be approachable (I think I am) and attractive (sometimes…).

I would also like to feel “appropriate” for the occasions of my life.  As I mentioned above, I often feel too dressed up.  I think that’s because I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area, which is a dressier and more stylish place than San Diego!  I am okay being a bit more dressed up than most of the other people I’m around, but sometimes the discrepancy is too great and I end up feeling out of place.  I would like to avoid that, but I still want to feel like myself.

What are your favorite colors?  Please list them.  Are there any colors that you would not wear?

Black (I know it’s not your favorite…), white, charcoal grey, cobalt blue, burgundy/wine, purple, emerald green, fuchsia, teal, red (blue-red), navy.   I used to be a “blackcident,” but I’ve cut way back on how much black I wear.  I love to wear black and white with jewel tones.  That’s my favorite combination!

In terms of colors I would not wear: beige, brown (would maybe do dark brown), and pastels.  I don’t generally wear yellow or orange, but have a few pieces in these shades.  I tend to prefer saturated versions of all colors.

What else would you like me to know?

I want to look attractive and have fun with style without shopping all the time. I want shopping to take its proper place in my life. I’d eventually like to be one of those women who just shops for a few new pieces at the beginning of each season to freshen up her style.  I want to have a smaller (maybe 100 pieces?) and more cohesive wardrobe and I’d like to focus more on higher quality items.  I was too focused on “more, more, more” for many years, but now I want my mantra to be “better, better, better.”

Some Style Inspiration

In addition to completing the questionnaire, Bridgette also asked me to collect some images of styles that resonate with me.  This was relatively easy for me to do, as I have an online style inspiration file that I’ve been compiling and editing over the years.  I save photos of styles I like from websites, blogs, and fashion forums, and I periodically look through these images for ideas on what to buy and how to mix and match my current closet pieces.  Sadly, however, I haven’t been able to fully translate my inspiration looks into my own personal style.  But that’s part of why I hired Bridgette!

Below are some of the looks I shared with Bridgette.  To view all of my inspiration looks, along with explanations of why I like them, check out my Pinterest board.

Style Inspiration - Skirts & Dresses

A few of my style inspiration photos – skirts & dresses.

Style Inspiration - Pants & Jeans

Some more style inspiration examples – pants and jeans.

Coming Up in Part Two

Bridgette also asked me to forward her photos of up to ten of my outfits to review with her during our session.  I selected some of my least favorite looks to discuss with Bridgette, as well as a few ensembles that I liked but felt were too dressy for my lifestyle.

In my next post, I will share what Bridgette’s advice was for me about the outfits in question, as well as her overall suggestions for improving my style.  I’ll also highlight the steps I’m going to take prior to my second virtual styling session with Bridgette.

Our Style Journey Never Ends

I feel strongly that a personal style journey never really ends.  It’s something that evolves as we age and as our lifestyles, bodies, and aesthetic preferences change.  That doesn’t mean we have to continue to shop all the time, however. Rather, we can make subtle changes over time that gradually take us in a different style direction.

Style is a very personal thing and is different from fashion.  Here are a few inspiring quotes on style vs. fashion (also check out this great post from Jill Chivers on that topic): 

Fashions fade, style is eternal.” – Yves Saint Laurent

Fashion is what you buy.  Style is what you do with it.” – Source Unknown

Fashion is what you’re offered four times a year by designers.  And style is what you choose.” – Lauren Hutton

Fashion can be bought. Style one must possess.” – Edna W. Chase

Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.”  – Rachel Zoe

In Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this first glimpse into my virtual styling experience with Bridgette Raes, and I hope the entire series will be helpful to you in your own ongoing style journey.

If you’ve ever worked with a stylist and would like to share your experience, I welcome that information and I’m sure your fellow readers would enjoy reading it, too.  Likewise, if you’ve embarked upon a style rejuvenation on your own and are open to sharing your process and learnings, that would also be interesting and informative reading.

I’ll be back later this week with a summary of my first Skype session with Bridgette Raes.

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