Last week, I watched a video from style expert Bridgette Raes on fashion psychology and closet personality types. I found the insights presented in the video so fascinating that I decided to address a blog post to this topic. I believe that many of you will also enjoy these concepts and may learn some things about yourselves through Bridgette’s wisdom.
Window to the Soul
During her eleven years of working as a stylist and spending time in hundreds of women’s closets, Bridgette Raes has encapsulated five main closet personality types. She strongly believes that our closets really “tell on us” as people and that how we dress, shop, and manage our wardrobes can be reflective of all parts of our lives. Whereas many people feel the eyes are windows to the soul, Bridgette considers the closet a window to our internal realities. In short, “messy closet, messy life.”
Before I delve into the five closet personality types and comment on them, I want to mention a few key points. First of all, most women fall into at least one of the types, if not several. The majority of us are a combination of two or more types.
There’s nothing wrong with having a closet personality type, as long as it’s managed at a healthy level. However, the extremes of each type can become problematic. But as with all things in life, awareness is the first step toward change. Once we’re aware of a way of being that isn’t working for us, we can decide upon and make any necessary adjustments to our behavior.
The Five Closet Personalities
Bridgette’s five closet personality types are:
- The Pauper
- The Hoarder
- The Sentimentalist
- The Devaluist
- The Identifier
Below, I will briefly describe each type and share my personal insights and experiences. While I don’t fit into all five types, I definitely know others who are prototypical examples of each category, and I’m sure you do, too.
The Pauper is someone who tends to be “cheap,” not only with things in her life but also with herself. This woman is characterized by a ridiculously overstuffed closet filled with very inexpensive items, most of which were purchased on sale or were a “good deal.” The Pauper may or may not be on a limited budget and may even be quite wealthy, but will not buy expensive things. In fact, she is afraid of the prospect of purchasing expensive things and scoffs at the “quality over quantity” proposition.
Paupers tend not to have passionate relationships with any of their clothing. Instead of telling you what they like about a particular garment, they’ll brag about how little they paid for it or what a great deal it was. For these women, it’s all about the satisfaction of getting a deal. What they don’t realize, however, is that they actually waste a lot of money and don’t get good cost-per-wear out of what they own. Many of their “great deals” are rarely worn and weren’t even worth the small amount of money they paid for them.
I have definitely been guilty of Pauper behavior, particularly in regards to my frequent consignment store purchases in recent years. As longtime readers know, I adhered to the “quantity over quality” approach for years and was always looking for more, more, more. However, I am not a true Pauper personality type, as it was often more about the clothes themselves for me than the deal, and I also spent an inordinate amount of money tailoring the items I bought.
During my two-year stint as a wardrobe consultant, I came across my fair share of Pauper types. Such women had steadfast limits for how much they would spend on a garment and would never spend money to alter a $10 item (whereas I believe this can often be worthwhile, even if an item was given to me!).
This closet personality type is a much better fit for “yours truly”… Hoarders have a compulsion to want to amass and accumulate large quantities of items. The purchasing behavior is motivated by an internal need, and there is a psychological thrill associated with buying things. Hoarders are the type of women who find it extremely difficult to leave a store without buying something.
While hoarding behavior can verge into the pathological, as portrayed by the television show “Hoarders” and other similar programs, that’s not what Bridgette was referring to in her video. Rather, she was referring to textbook “shopaholics” just like me and many of you. In fact, she mentioned this blog as a resource for hoarder personality types who want to change their ways (also recommended were April Benson and Jill Chivers).
Of course, this is my primary closet personality type and has been for much of my life. Shopping has long been my main hobby and served as a means of stress relief, avoidance, self-esteem boost, loneliness abatement, and a whole host of other purposes.
For years, a large chunk of my time was occupied with shopping, outfit creation, managing my extremely large wardrobe, and planning future purchases. I continue to spend too much time on these activities, partially because I’m still working on finding alternate ways of meeting my psychological needs. But I can see a light at the end of the tunnel and am now much more able to leave stores empty-handed. I’m a recovering shopaholic and a recovering hoarder personality type!
This type of person has a very difficult time letting go of her possessions. The Sentimentalist has a strong emotional connection to the things she owns and fears that if she gets rid of a particular item, she’ll lose the feelings and memories that are associated with it. According to a psychologist who works with such people, the anticipatory anxiety around letting go is a far greater problem than the letting go itself. Sentimentalists get stuck in the fear of what will happen after they let go of something, so they basically hang on to everything.
It’s okay to keep some things that hold cherished memories, but this can become a problem when virtually everything in a closet has sentimental value attached to it. I once worked with a client who had taken over every closet in her large house with her substantial wardrobe. She had clothes dating back thirty years or more and everything had a story surrounding it.
This woman found it extremely difficult to let go of anything that had been given to her by her deceased parents and relatives. She hadn’t worn most of those clothes in many, many years, but felt compelled to continue to hold on to them anyway. She was a textbook Sentimentalist and although we made excellent progress on paring things down over the course of a full day together, it was a painstaking process. Fortunately, she was ultimately able to keep a few favorites and let much of the rest go.
Devaluists are people who don’t value themselves enough, and their wardrobes are often a reflection of how little time they are giving themselves. These are the women who throw themselves together haphazardly each day and may end up leaving the house wearing stained, torn, or worn out clothing. Many moms fall into the category of Devaluists, as they generally take care of everyone else first and settle for “crumbs” for themselves after giving, giving, giving to others all day long.
While I don’t identify with this closet personality type myself, I worked with quite a few Devaluists whose closets were either barren or filled with old, tired clothing. They spent all their time and money on clothing for their kids and either didn’t buy clothing at all for themselves or did so as an afterthought. Many of these women could afford to buy nice clothing for themselves, but they just didn’t take the time to do so.
Devaluists need to focus more time on self-care and make themselves more of a priority in life. Such women need to learn that the more they give themselves, the more they’ll have to give to others. There’s a reason we’re told to put our own oxygen masks on first in the event of an emergency on an airplane. When we meet our own needs first and foremost, we are stronger and better equipped to take care of those who need and depend upon us.
This closet personality type is pretty much the polar opposite of the previous one. Identifiers are completely consumed with themselves and their physical appearance. They tend to be narcissistic and are very worried about the opinions of others. They are frequently preoccupied with logos, as well as expensive handbags and shoes.
While most women have a bit of the Identifier in us in that we like to look nice and value others’ opinions, this can get totally out of control for some people. A dangerous situation is when a person has a combination Hoarder and Identifier closet personality type. I’m reminded of the television show, “My Shopping Addiction.” Many of the shopaholics profiled on that show were obsessed with the acquisition of designer clothing, shoes, and accessories, often to the point where they were in danger of being evicted from their homes. Of course, those were extreme examples, but too much focus on the external can also harm our relationships and make us very shallow people.
Although I’m not proud to admit this, I have quite a bit of Identifier in me. I definitely spend too much time and energy on my outward appearance and ruminate too often about what others think of me. These are both things that I’m working on and I’m making good progress on changing, but I still struggle with such issues.
Bridgette Raes recommends that Identifiers do some serious soul-searching in order to develop more internal depth and become less consumed with the external. This blog has been a big part of that journey for me and has helped me both to cultivate self-knowledge and contribute to others. Plus, laying my soul bare for all to see is helping me to care less about others’ opinions and accept myself more fully.
What Are Your Closet Personality Types?
Now that I’ve summarized the five closet personality types as identified by Bridgette Raes, I’d love to get your input. Which closet personality type or types best fit you? Are there any other types that were not covered in Bridgette’s list? What can you add to this discussion?
I am planning to do a part two on this topic with advice for addressing the various closet personality types. Bridgette has graciously agreed to answer questions and I will formulate her responses into a follow-on blog post. If you have any questions for Bridgette, please post them in the comments section or send them to me.
I also welcome any feedback you have on the information discussed in this post. I always value the spirited discussion that takes place following my posts. I hope this article will elicit thoughts and insights that will help all of us to cultivate more workable wardrobes moving forward!