In my last post, I wrote about “The Dark Side of Style Redefinition,” which was a topic that resonated with many of you. I find some comfort in knowing I’m not the only person who sometimes looks into my closet and wants to start over. In truth, it’s not as bad as all that. I have my emotional moments during which I hate pretty much everything I own, but those stormy times pass and I realize that I do like a decent proportion of my wardrobe. But the plan I devised during my most recent closet meltdown is already beginning to bear fruit.
In today’s post, I expand upon item #2 of what I termed my “cunning plan” for addressing my shopping and style for the remainder of the year. This step involves keeping a daily journal in which I write about the outfits I wear, where I wore them, and my feelings about each ensemble. After I wrote last Thursday’s post, I’ve gone back and chronicled my outfits from the beginning of July through to today.
After only two weeks of journal entries, I’ve already gleaned a lot of useful information that will help me shop smarter and further refine my style. Since I’ve achieved such a powerful result in this very short time frame, I’d like to share my approach and lessons with you today.
Why Keep an Outfit Journal?
As many of you know, I already take photos of most of my outfits and have been doing so since the beginning of the blog. This action has been helpful to me in a variety of ways:
- The photos have helped me to see that certain outfits really didn’t work. I was then able to identify ways in which the look could be improved the next time around.
- I could see how my style was evolving over time. This was especially beneficial during those times when I’ve felt stagnant and unhappy with my wardrobe.
- I was able to save my favorite looks in a folder so I could easily remember and wear them again. It’s good to have a selection of looks that work easily accessible to us, particularly when we need to get dressed in a hurry.
- I could see the different ways to wear various pieces in my closet, including those that were trickier to style.
Photos are great, but they only tell part of the story. My photos enabled me to see whether or not an outfit looked good, but I had no idea how I felt while I was wearing it. I also didn’t generally remember where I wore the ensemble and if the outfit worked well for that occasion. Enter the outfit journal! Such a record allows me to keep track of far more information than a mere photo can capture.
What to Include in Your Outfit Journal
Now I’ve only been doing this for two weeks, but I think it’s best to keep things relatively simple. Here’s what I am including in my outfit journal:
- A list of the items I wore, including clothing, shoes, and accessories.
- Where I went in the outfit and what I did there.
- How I felt in the ensemble. Did I feel like myself? True to my style? Was I comfortable physically? Emotionally? I may not address all of these issues every single day, but I try to capture how I felt as succinctly but comprehensively as possible.
- What would have made the outfit better? Perhaps different shoes, alternate accessories, or switching out one of the included garments.
- A rating of the outfit on a scale of 1-10.
Of course, you can modify your outfit journal in any way that suits your needs. You may wish to omit one of my categories above or include an additional data point that’s important for you and your life. The key is to capture as much information as needed to help you understand what is and isn’t working for you in terms of your wardrobe and style.
Why the Outfit Rating is Important
I’ve often written about the importance of only having items we love in our closets. I recommend rating everything we own or consider buying on a scale of one to ten related to color, style, silhouette, and fit. I suggest that we should all aim for “8”s or higher when shopping and when auditing our closets. I stand by this advice and am working to follow it more consistently myself, as I don’t always practice what I preach!
But there is another piece of the puzzle. We may love most – or even all – of the components of an outfit but not love the outfit itself! In fact, I think that’s been a considerable factor in much of the wardrobe dissatisfaction I’ve experienced as of late. I often push myself to wear my wardrobe “benchwarmers” in my outfits. I frequently pair these pieces with closet favorites, thinking that’s the best way to make them work. But one “dud” in an ensemble can completely ruin an entire look! Not that all of my benchwarmers are duds, but that’s typically why they’re gathering dust in my closet. Although I will occasionally excavate a diamond in the rough from among my benchwarmers, that’s more the exception than the rule.
Looking Beyond the Rating
Once you rate an outfit, you can then examine what could be done to increase that rating. This is an important step, as there are usually simple actions you can take to up your satisfaction the next time around. It could be as easy as adding an accessory or two to a look to take it from ho-hum to fabulous (for tips on accessorizing, see Bridgette Raes’ excellent posts). Alternatively, you may find that the lack of a particular item is holding many of your outfits back. Perhaps you find yourself wishing for an alternate fit of jeans or a jacket in a new silhouette. If a certain item comes up time and time again, this piece should be a top priority for any future shopping that you do.
Asking yourself how you could improve an outfit can prevent you from making the same sartorial mistakes over and over again. If you see that one piece of your outfit tends to be the “missing link” (i.e. you always dislike your pants or shoes), you will be more motivated to correct this area moving forward. It may be helpful to keep a list in the back of your journal of the suggestions for improvement that you make. That way, you can easily identify patterns and plan your shopping priorities accordingly.
What I’ve Learned So Far
At this point, a few personal examples may be helpful. I’m very excited by how much I’ve learned in a short period of time from keeping my outfit journal. I have to highlight another important piece of the puzzle, though. I am also adhering to item #1 of my “cunning plan,” which is to only wear what I feel called to wear. I am not forcing myself to wear wardrobe benchwarmers or trying to make a particular garment or accessory work because I haven’t worn it in a long time. As a result, all of my outfits thus far have been at least “7”s out of 10. Sure, I want everything to be at least an “8,” but my track record to this point hasn’t been bad.
I’ve found that I feel best when I’m dressed appropriately for the occasion or activities in which I’m engaged. My life is very casual, but I have a tendency to purchase pieces that are a bit more on the dressy side. I’ve learned that this doesn’t work for me, as I don’t want to stand out because I’m dressed up more than those around me. My husband has often commented that I looked like I was ready to go to church when in fact I was just heading out to run errands. In order to tone down the “church vibe,” I’m endeavoring to wear more casual shoes and toppers with my summer ensembles. Flat sandals and cardigans are working better for me than dressier heels and blazers.
It’s also important for me to feel physically comfortable in whatever I’m wearing. If I have to “fuss” with my clothing a lot throughout the day, I’m not happy with the outfit, even if it looks fabulous in the mirror or in photos. In addition, I need to feel like myself in my clothes. If I feel like I’m trying to be something I’m not, I end up hating the outfit regardless of how attractive it may be visually.
Another key point that kept coming up in my outfit journal is that I need to purchase higher quality pieces. For example, I have a black cardigan that I wear frequently during the summer, but the material gets overly wrinkly and doesn’t look as crisp as I would like. I also feel that some of my skirts are a bit too flimsy and attract static when it’s hot and dry outside. I can’t help but think there are better alternatives out there that will have me feeling happier about my outfits. I like the way many of my clothes look, but the way they feel and how well they wear matters, too.
Here are a few other points that I noted in terms of how I could improve my outfits:
- I need to make sure to wear the right color and style of bra for the outfit in question.
- If my hair is puffy or frizzy due to humidity, I should put it up! Feeling unhappy with my hair definitely decreases my overall outfit satisfaction.
- I need a good-fitting, high-quality pair of straight-leg or boot-cut jeans to wear with flats. I am still warming up to a slimmer fit and have worn the pair of jeans I purchased earlier this year. However, I also need a good pair of jeans in my standby silhouette, as I find myself reaching for my old worn-out jeans too often and end up being unhappy with the look.
- I’d like to wear pants more often in the summer and could benefit from purchasing a lightweight pair of casual black cropped pants (in a silhouette that works for my figure). I love to wear skirts and dresses, but sometimes pants are more appropriate for certain occasions and it’s often too hot for jeans.
All this in only two weeks! I can only imagine what I’ll learn if I keep my outfit journal through the end of the year, which I plan to do. Perhaps I’ll finally start to avoid the shopping mistakes that continue to be prevalent even a year and a half into my recovering shopaholic journey. I may have finally found the “magic bullet” that, when combined with everything else I’ve learned, will finally help me to buy the right things for my body, lifestyle, and personality.
My Recommendation and Some Questions for You
I wholeheartedly recommend that those of you who are struggling with your shopping and your style start an outfit journal. Try it for a month or two and see what you learn. I believe that tracking what you wear, how you felt in it, and what you could do to improve your ensembles will help you shop smarter and take your style to the next level.
Now I’d love to get your input. Have any of you kept an outfit journal? If so, what did you learn? What other methods have you used to improve your shopping and your style? I invite you to share your insights and suggestions in the comments section. I loved the comments on my last post and learned a lot from the collective wisdom we have in this community. I’m sure you’ll have a lot of helpful tips to share on today’s topic as well!