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.

30 thoughts on “Virtual Styling Session with Bridgette Raes – Part One

  1. Really interesting post and looking forward to hearing more. I read Bridgette’s blog now too after hearing about here and actually make an effort to wear more jewelry and accessories to liven up my very black wardrobe. It has really helped me pause and think about what’s not working about what I am wearing instead of mindlessly buying more. Might consider a stylist too after I have a few months more of data. Look forward to hearing other’s experiences as well.

    • Thanks for your comment, Justine. I’m glad that Bridgette’s blog is helping you to improve your style and wear less black overall. She told me that it’s okay for me to wear black because it works with my coloring, but she’s glad I’m also incorporating more color into my outfits. She was just as fun to talk to as I thought she’d be. What you see is what you get with her blogs and videos and I just loved her! I was going to write just one post, but I could see the value in a series so I went that route. I look forward to sharing more!

  2. Debbie, how exciting! It’s great that you’re doing this for yourself. I found Bridget’s blog through you too, and it’s been very informative and entertaining. I love her expressions like “blackcident” (I’m a former blackcident) and “chicken”. I can’t wait to read the rest of this series!

    • I love her expressions, too, Kayla. She called one of my outfits a “chicken outfit” actually and offered me some suggestions for fixing it. Not only was my session with her informative, it was also fun. I laughed quite a bit, which is a good accompaniment to learning in my book!

  3. This is fascinating! I am so excited for you to get some answers and direction to your wardrobe conundrums! I look forward to reading what she recommends and look forward to seeing how you implement her advice. Does she also do any type of “image styling?” Ie – hairstyles and makeup? I am curious because I know you were recently concerned about your hair color and we talked about how it played into your style so much.

    Really looking forward to more on this. Another great post!

    • We didn’t talk about hair and make-up, Chelsea, as there was so much to discuss about my clothes and style, but I agree that those are important components to a person’s look. I’m happier with my hair color now, but it’s still a work in progress. I’m guessing that Bridgette would give input on hair and make-up, too, if asked. Perhaps I’ll delve into that a bit in my follow-up session.

    • Thanks, Mette. Some of your posts actually had an impact on my deciding to hire Bridgette, especially your closet tour video. Seeing someone with a wardrobe that she loves and that works well for her life inspires me even more to get to that point myself! I know it will likely take a while, but I want to make sure I’m moving in the right direction.

  4. Thanks for this post – and any future ones on the subject of developing a style. I think it’s very generous of you to share this process with us and I find it fascinating. I often wonder why it is so easy to fill up a Pinterest board but actually difficult to translate those inspiration photos into real life! Is it because we really don’t look exactly like the people in the pictures?

    • I’m glad you liked this post and are eagerly anticipating the series, Amy. I’m happy to share my process if it will help others. I always enjoy reading these types of posts on other people’s blogs, so I figured why not share on my blog? About the Pinterest boards, I think there are many facets that get in the way of our translating inspiration photos to real life. In my case, a lot of it has to do with my lifestyle not being well-suited to the types of looks I’m drawn to, as well as the body hang-ups and internal style “rules” that I have. And like you said, we can often like looks on others that we can’t really see on ourselves for some reasons. This seems like a good topic for a future post!

  5. I can’t wait to read the rest of this series! I love Bridgette’s blog too. Thanks for letting us live vicariously through you Debbie!

    • You’re quite welcome, Kim. I’m glad I decided to take the plunge to work with Bridgette. I hope one day to be able to actually shop with her, but for now I’m happy to do what I’m doing and I know it will be very helpful.

  6. This is really interesting. I’ve always been curious about style consultation, but I don’t think I can afford it, so I’m really looking forward to hearing how it goes for you!

    • I’m glad I can help to demystify the process a bit for those like you who are curious, Mia. I also hope that those who are unable to afford to hire a stylist can perhaps take some of what I’m doing and learning and apply it to themselves. We are all different and have varying bodies and lives, but some of the principles are universal, so hopefully my experience will benefit others.

  7. I’m looking forward to hearing about the rest of the process. I hope that this gets you to where you’d like to be style wise.

    • I hope so, too, Tonya. I’ve actually been making some pretty good progress on my own, but I feel that working with Bridgette will help to accelerate my style growth and avoid making some mistakes I seem to make over and over again. Fingers crossed!

  8. Great post, which I will read in details shortly, but what a surprise to be included in your inspiration pics: (cobalt open tunic) Must confess that my style has evolved quite a lot since then and I know have a wardrobe of only black, grey and white:) Moved away from black, experimented with colour and returned to my beloved.

    Your blog is a great read and very inspiring.

    • Thanks, Deborah! I actually love a lot of your outfits, both recent and from a while back. My life is quite different from yours, but I like minimalist types of looks and love black and white. I often like to pair bright colors like cobalt with black, but you look fabulous in your all-black ensembles. You always look so striking and beautiful – and very stylish! I’m glad you like my blog and find it inspiring.

  9. Great post and I can relate to many of the issues you discuss. Such a good idea to get someone else to look at you and your wardrobe with fresh eyes and without the baggage. I really think you could wear a crisp fresh French/nautical look, which could look casual but stylishly appropriate in San Diego. I’d consider matching it with a long bob (below chin above shoulder) to keep it edgy but simply chic.

    • I agree, Lynn, that it can be helpful to get an expert opinion, as we often have “blind spots” about our own style and appearance. Thanks for your suggestions. I like the French style and can see incorporating some of that into my looks.

  10. This was an interesting post. It looks like you are inspired by some different silhouettes and don’t know how to incorporate them with what you already have. You seem to be gravitating towards elliptical hems in skirts and tops. I notice the sleeveless white top is featured twice in your inspiration looks.

    It shouldn’t be too difficult for you ascertain how some of these new silhouettes work–just go to a store and start trying them on to see how they look and feel. At this point, I wouldn’t worry about how they interface with what you already have–I would focus on how they work on you first before I made any commitment to adding the new style to your wardrobe.

    Since you are sensitive about your posterior, an elliptical hem might be just the thing for your proportions. However, elliptical hem tops will not work with your current flared knee length skirt preference though–the shape will seem too redundant and you will look chunky in the middle, like you are wearing an old school maternity top. Elliptical hem tops work best with slim leg pants and pencil skirts. The slim lower silhouette visually balances the elliptical hem, providing a visual swing to the top.

    Look #2 with the black dress and jean jacket should be super easy for you to put together!

    My work/lifestyle is probably quite similar to yours in that I work at home and go out for meetings and lunches, all very casual. So I understand its a shift to make mentally figuring how to straddle casual and business, but it can be done, and you can create a unique look. Don’t be afraid to play around with your silhouettes to make things look fresh–the reason your clothes look so much the same is because you tend to choose the same cuts–particularly in skirts (knee length, flared at hem). Try some elliptical hems, a long straighter maxi skirt, some slim pants (try ponte knit if your size fluctuates)–and these details will really update your look!

    • Deby, I love your suggestions here. And I always appreciate your comments. I’ve learned a great deal from you. Thank you.

    • Like Terra, I learn a lot from your comments, Deby. I agree that it would be helpful for me to try on some of the new silhouettes to which I’m drawn. I know that some of the looks I like will be easier for me to translate than others, as some will require new silhouettes on both the top and bottom. I’ve been moving away from the fuller skirt styles to some degree. I’ve been liking maxi skirts and dresses more this year, as well as skirts that are narrower. Same thing with pants. I tend to be a late adopter and when I jump on board to something, it often means it’s on its way out. Fortunately, I’m not much of a trend chaser and mostly just want to feel happy in what I’m wearing (without looking like I should be on “What Not to Wear” – lol!).

      Bridgette actually gave me some similar advice to what you’re suggesting. I will share that in my next post! Thanks for your comment and ideas.

  11. Debbie, I lovel this post, and I’m a big Bridgette fan too. At age 61 I’ve found my style, and the clothes in my closet reflect my style and the casual environment where I live. At long last I’ve also made peace with my hair, and with the fact that I have delicate hair and that it does not take color well. Back when I colored it (for years and years) I had to wear my hair short. But after I stopped coloring it and embraced my silver/gray, my hair looks best long. It’s just below my shoulders currently.

    Yet I can also wholly relate to your post because back when I was in my late 40s I felt much the way you are feeling now. Back then my style was much like yours, and it was also too dressy for the laid back casual beach town where I live. Over the years I’ve learned to own clothes that can mix and match in order to be a bit dressed up when needed, or dressed down to be casual, which is most of the time. And the smaller my wardrobe gets, the easier it is.

    You have made so many wonderful leaps and gains and you are well on your way to getting to where you want to be. And your blog posts and the comments from your readers (thank you Debbie and thank you to everyone who comments) have helped me make so many new discoveries and have helped me make more good changes.

    The other thing is that even though I love all of my clothes and know that they look good on me, I always feel like something is not quite right because I’m not great about creating outfits and getting the “look” I’m after. And I’m not a good shopper. I hate to shop, which probably sounds surprising since a few years ago I bought way too many clothes, trying to find my true north in style. AND with your suggestion to use a Pinterest board helped me hit pay dirt! So, I searched for outfits that contain clothing similar to what I already own and love to wear and discovered how to mix and match in order to get the “look” I’m wanting. Perfect! Thank you!

    My other thought about your photos of your favorite outfits (and please forgive me and ignore me if I’m sounding too critical, because you know I adore you) is that those outfits are ideal for San Francisco (I also have SF roots and spend much time in the bay area) and those same outfits are way too dressy for a typical ordinary day in the area where you live in San Diego (unless you have a business meeting, or dinner) I know because I’m faced with the same problem here in SB, which is almost identical to SD. I’m very understanding of your journey, because it took me a rather long time to find the balance of how to dress and fit in, in an overly casual beach town. Now, after 35 years of living here, I’m discovering the connection that when I’m less dressed up, I’m able to make more friendships with people who share my values. More on that topic later.

    • You made some really good points, Terra, and I know you can relate to my dilemmas since you also live in an ultra-casual town. I know a lot of the looks to which I’m drawn don’t really say “San Diego” and that’s been an ongoing source of frustration and struggle for me! I feel like I’m finally starting to figure it out this year and Bridgette also gave me some advice on that topic. I don’t need to dress the same as everyone else does here, but I don’t want to stand out like a “sore thumb,” either, especially since I’m an introvert and already stand out a lot due to my height. Interesting what you wrote about being able to make friends more easily when you are less dressed up. I had never really thought about that, but I can see how I might be separating myself through my clothing.

      I’m glad you can relate to my late-forties style struggle and I’m glad to hear that it gets easier with age. Congrats on finding a hairstyle and a style of dressing that works well for you. I hope to be there soon. Perhaps I’ll stop feeling such a need to shop if I feel more comfortable with my style and what I already have. I think I’ve been searching for a feeling (of being myself and of fitting in, etc.) more than for clothes. I’ve written about that in the past, but it’s really resonating for me now that I’ve come out of the “fog” of overshopping at least a bit. I’m glad that my blog and all of the comments here have helped you to hone your style more fully. I feel blessed to have a mostly very supportive group of readers and commenters – like you!

  12. Your post made me feel like I got an unexpected gift this morning. I discovered Bridgette through you and very much enjoy her style and informative posts, so it’s going to be really fun seeing what she does for you in the context of your style. While my figure is more like Bridgette’s, I live in the same warm, casual climate as you, and work from home as well, so this is a perfect vicarious adventure.

    • I’m glad you liked this post and are excited for the series, Terry. Bridgette and I definitely talked about dressing for a casual lifestyle and location, so I will be writing about that in my second and following posts. We discussed figure flattery, too. While some of those tips will be more specific to my body type, others will be applicable to everyone. In any event, I hope that you and others will be able to glean useful information from this series even though it will mostly be about my specific journey.

  13. I am very excited to hear about your sessions with Bridgette. I adore her blog and it has inspired me to step away from black footwear and shift my core wardrobe to brown. Which is going very slow of course. And I’ve been very curious about her styling sessions since NYC is not all that far from me.

    • I’ve enjoyed reading about your wardrobe transition, Lisa, and it seems that brown is a better color for you overall. I also love that you’ve gotten some bright-colored footwear (love those turquoise ballet flats and sandals). It would be so great if you could have an in-person session with Bridgette! I would love to do so myself, but of course I am very far away. If you ever do it, I hope you decide to blog about it. I will definitely share more about my work with her, too.

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