In my last post, I shared that I recently had a virtual styling session with Bridgette Raes. I highlighted my reasons for doing this, included excerpts from my pre-session questionnaire, and showed some inspirational images of style aesthetics that I appreciate.
Today’s post focuses on my actual session with Bridgette, including the style advice that she gave me. Please note that the session was really jam-packed with information, too much to include in a blog post, even considering the extra-long posts I often publish. I’m including enough here to give you a taste of what it’s like to work with an expert stylist and how it can benefit those who are struggling to cultivate and express a resonant and appropriate sense of personal style.
I hope you’ll find the information that I share helpful and will be able to glean useful tips to guide you in your own style journey. I hesitated about what and how much to include in this post. I have to admit that I was wary of sharing my outfit photos after my last experience with this, but I’ve opted to do so in the interest of better illustrating Bridgette’s points and the value of my work with her.
Leading Up to the Session
A few days prior to our session, Bridgette sent me a report to review. This report included her overall impressions of my questionnaire, outfit photos, and style inspiration images. She also gave me specific written feedback on each of the ten outfit photos I had sent her. It was great to be able to review and reflect upon Bridgette’s feedback prior to meeting with her, as it helped me to come up with additional questions to ask during the session.
In addition to the pre-session notes, Bridgette also sent me a color combining book based upon my personal coloring. Although she was unable to do an official color analysis remotely, she felt confident placing me in the “Winter” category based upon my coloring, the colors I gravitate towards, and the way I look in the colors in my outfit photos. She told me later that she is able to color type approximately 90% of her virtual clients and send them color booklets.
The color combining book includes swatches for base, accent, and pop colors, as well as a number of examples for how best to combine these colors in my outfits. Since I enjoy wearing black, I was happy to learn that Bridgette feels I look good in that color (as long as I don’t become a “blackcident” by wearing too much of it!). Below are the accent and pop colors that are recommended for me to wear. I was very pleased to see many of my favorite hues in the mix!
Here are a few of Bridgette’s blog posts that provide guidance on color combining and the base, accent, and pop styling formula:
- “How to Put a Stylish Outfit Together: An Easy Three Step Approach”
- “The Ultimate Mix and Match Fashion Guide”
- “Base, Accent, Pop: Adding Color to Work Outfits”
- “How to Wear Color to Work”
- “How to Wear Bright Color with Style”
General Style Feedback
Bridgette’s general pre-session feedback was only one page long but contained a lot of useful information. Here’s a glimpse into what Bridgette shared with me:
- “It looks like you have gotten yourself into a bit of a rut of repetition. I think some of this has been possibly caused by your current relationship with your body and how you are seeing yourself and your goals to become a very responsible shopper.”
- “A lot of your inspiration photos have a lot more structure to them and your current wardrobe (at least from the outfit photos you sent) is really relaxed.”
- “Some of your outfits were nice but not “you,” like you are making things work because they are in your closet.”
- “I don’t think you need a lot of clothes, but I think you can look at accessorizing more and adding some unexpected interest to your outfits so that you feel more like you in what you are wearing.”
All of the above rings true for me, so Bridgette was right on, not that I expected anything different. I do feel like many of my outfits are too similar and lack structure and/or “wow” elements. I also feel like some of my ensembles are not really true to who I am and the way I’d ultimately like to dress. I have improved quite a bit in this regard over the past couple of months (my outfit journal has been especially helpful), but Bridgette’s feedback will help me get to the next level – and faster.
My Two Biggest Style Problems
In the beginning of our session, Bridgette asked me what I saw as the key issues with my style. I identified the following two problems with my style statement:
- I am unhappy with many of my pants outfits and often feel “frumpy,” unattractive, and unbalanced when I’m wearing pants/jeans.
- I often look too dressed up and conservative for my casual lifestyle and where I live (the “church vibe” I referred to in this post), especially in my skirt and dress ensembles.
One of my issues is that I feel more attractive when I am dressed up, but then I feel like I don’t mesh well in the ultra-casual area where I live. I need to find a place of balance in which I still feel attractive but don’t appear as if I’m on my way to a church service!
Looking at the Pants Outfits
We addressed my pants outfits first. Here are a few of the outfits that we looked at (outfits I was less happy with):
Included below are some snippets of what Bridgette had to say about these outfits, as well as the advice she gave me.
Green Tee Outfit
- This outfit needs more structure. Both the top and the bottom are baggy and the result is an unbalanced look. If I want to wear a looser top like that, I need to wear a more fitted bottom (I agree – those pants were purged from my closet months ago).
- A third component or color is also needed in order to add some “pop” or interest to the outfit, as it looks unfinished as it is. Bridgette suggested a bright scarf in a striking print, a statement necklace in a bright color or interesting shape, or a belt (a last resort, as belts can be too “fussy”).
- She also recommended adding a bright pair of ballerina flats (perhaps in purple, teal, orange, or pink) to add visual interest to this and other simple t-shirt and jeans outfits.
- If it’s too hot to wear a third piece, stick with tops that include special details and leave the more basic tees for cooler weather when they can be used as layering pieces.
White Cardigan Outfit
- This is an example of what Bridgette calls a “chicken outfit,” as it looks too basic and boring (I totally agree – I put it together when I was running late to an appointment and I thought it fell flat).
- It needs something other than neutral accessories in order to give the look more interest and life. Bridgette recommended a print scarf (perhaps incorporating blue, green, and purple) and a pair of bright flats (maybe green) instead of the metallic ballet shoes.
- I can “rescue” this outfit and many of the outfits I feel are boring by adding a “show-stopping” accessory (a scarf or necklace with color) and a bright bag or shoes. I wear too many neutral accessories, mostly because I thought they would be “versatile,” but I would do better with more colorful outfit accompaniments.
Burgundy Cardigan Outfit
- My worry with this outfit was that it looked too “corporate” and Bridgette agreed. She felt it was a nice outfit that wasn’t “me” and wondered if I really have a need for tailored pants in my life (fortunately, this is my only remaining pair).
- The shoes are dressing the outfit up too much. I could dress down the look by wearing a flatter, more casual pair of shoes.
- Another way to take outfits out of corporate territory is to pull colors from tops (if we’re wearing printed blouses) and incorporate them into accessories (necklaces, shoes, bags, scarves, etc.).
Polka-Dot Scarf Outfit
- Bridgette liked this outfit overall but was willing to help me make it more interesting. She said that the looser jeans worked here (unlike in the green tee outfit – the jeans are different but also a more relaxed style) because the top is more fitted. Thus, the look is more balanced overall.
- This outfit is all about the scarf and the clean base of the rest of the outfit makes it pop.
- If I want to add more visual interest to this outfit, I could switch the black boots for red shoes or add a more interesting pair of earrings.
Overall Feedback on Pants Outfits
Since my life is so casual, Bridgette doesn’t feel I need more than maybe three pairs of jeans and three pairs of pants in my closet. She believes that once you’re “covered” in an area, you’re done and don’t need multiples. She suggested boot-cut jeans for me since I can’t wear “skinnies” due to the nerve pain I get with tight pants (my two favorite pairs of jeans – not pictured – are boot-cut).
Bridgette feels that I can show off my bottom half more than I have been doing and still look good. She told me that my body shape is hourglass rather than the pear shape I’ve assumed I’ve had for many years, as my shoulders are broad and my chest is not small. She can understand my desire to cover my posterior due to self-consciousness, but said that most people are so consumed with the size of their own bottoms that they don’t really notice mine. I’m sure that’s true, plus I tend to zero in on that spot when I look at my rear view, whereas others usually look at a person as a whole rather than focusing on one body part. I know that I look better in slimmer pants and am gradually purging the baggier fits from my wardrobe.
Bridgette also suggested I try wearing some shorter toppers with my pants and jeans. She feels it’s okay for tops to be longer than toppers in many instances. She encouraged me to step away from my preconceived notions and “rules” about the lengths of tops and toppers and just experiment in my closet. She suggested I try various combinations, take photos, and review them with her during our follow-up session. I agreed to do this and am excited to explore different options. While some of what I try probably won’t work, I might find a new outfit formula or two that will help to freshen up my looks.
Skirt Outfits and that “Church Vibe”
I only sent Bridgette three skirt outfits to review. I like many more of my skirt and dress outfits than my pants ensembles (and have actually been preferring dresses lately), but my main issue involves looking too dressed up. While I’d made some headway in toning down the “church vibe” prior to my session with Bridgette, I wanted to obtain some additional advice to help me be happier with the way I look in a skirt or dress. The first two skirt outfits were examples of looking too dressed up, but the third one wasn’t working for different reasons that I didn’t completely understand.
Here are the skirt outfits that I sent to Bridgette for her input:
When Bridgette saw the first two outfits, she felt like she was looking at a completely different person. She wondered where my life was taking me that I would choose ensembles like these over something else. She thought they were nice outfits that didn’t really seem to suit me and my lifestyle. There is no real use in my having dressier clothing if I have nowhere to go in it!
The “church vibe” often comes from the toppers and the shoes. Recently, I’ve been toning both down and the resulting outfits have looked a lot less dressy than the first two pictured above.
Blue Top with Geometric Print Skirt Outfit
- Bridgette felt I looked like I was wearing something from someone else’s closet here, as it doesn’t look like “me” at all. She saw this photo and the one next to it and thought, “Who is this person?” She likes this outfit and the one next to it for someone else but not me.
- She was happy to learn that I have shortened the skirt since the photo was taken, as that means it will be easier to wear it with flatter and/or more casual shoes (perhaps wedges or flats).
- She also recommends that I wear a top with sleeves instead of a tank so I won’t need a topper in order to stay warm. Such an outfit would look a lot less dressy.
Green Tank with Circle Print Skirt Outfit
- The shoes in this outfit are too dressy and the overall look is too conservative for me. Bridgette suggested that I wear the top half of the outfit with jeans and the skirt with a more casual top, such as a fitted t-shirt.
- Edgier jewelry would help to dress this outfit down, but it definitely needs different shoes with a more casual vibe.
- This was an outfit from last year that no longer resonates for me, but I think I can still enjoy the individual pieces using Bridgette’s suggestions.
Grey Skirt and Striped Tank Outfit
- Bridgette feels that I created more of a pear-shaped silhouette with this outfit, as the top is very fitted and dark in color and the skirt is lightly-colored and more flared. She also feels that the colors wash me out.
- She recommended shorter, more fitted – or “flippier” – skirts, which is what I’ve been moving more toward anyway (in addition to maxi-skirts and dresses). The lengths and vibes of my skirts in the photos above skew conservative, which is the image I’m trying to move away from.
- I tried shortening this skirt, but I didn’t like the way it looked. Interestingly, I tried the same thing with this skirt’s predecessor last year and had the same problem. I think I just really prefer shorter skirts now (unless they’re maxis) and have moved away from the midi lengths I used to like.
In addition to the specific recommendations I outlined above in reference to my outfit photos, Bridgette also gave me some general suggestions for improving my style. Here are some tips on outfit proportions that might also be useful for you:
- Shorter cardigans and jackets tend to work better with longer dresses and skirts. Longer toppers can be worn well with shorter dresses and skirts. The overall guideline is short over long or long over short. Long over long tends to be more of a “boho” look, so it can be okay if that’s what you’re going for.
- Sometimes you can wear a bit longer topper with a longer skirt or dress if you wear higher heels.
- The length (and fitted nature) of my toppers in the first two skirt photos above is perfect for longer dresses and skirts.
- If you want to appear less dressy, cardigans work better as toppers than blazers (even if the blazers are knit). Wearing blazers with jeans or more casual pants helps to dress them down. A good casual outfit formula is: basic t-shirt, knit blazer, jeans, fun flat shoes.
- In general, it’s more flattering to have volume only in the top or bottom half of your outfit. Pick one or the other, not both. In recent years, the trend has been to wear volume on the top and more fitted on the bottom, but both instances work in terms of figure flattery.
As I mentioned above, Bridgette doesn’t feel I need to add many new pieces of clothing to my wardrobe. She feels I would be better served in focusing on accessories, especially those in non-neutral tones. She recommended that I buy a few pairs of bright shoes in colors such as purple, cobalt, emerald, or even yellow. She believes that green is a very versatile accessory color in that it coordinates well with virtually every tone. The same is true for yellow, believe it or not.
If you’re like me and struggle to find nice pairs of brightly-colored shoes, Bridgette suggested the following brands and retailers (not to enable more shopping, but I know others get frustrated in locating the items on their lists):
- Nordstrom (particularly online)
- Lord & Taylor (she said they have the best shoe department – too bad they’re not in California!)
- Vince Camuto
- Tieks (lots of colors but Bridgette wasn’t sure they’re worth the price)
I’m going to focus on gradually adding more bright and multi-colored accessories to my wardrobe. At this point, almost all of my accessories are in neutral tones, which is not serving me well overall. I could definitely use some more color in that area to add life to my outfits.
I’m also going to spend some time playing in my closet and taking photos of various looks. In my next session with Bridgette, we’ll review some of my new outfit combinations and fine-tune them. I may not purchase many new items between now and when I next meet with her, but I will do my best to cultivate new and exciting ensembles using what I already have. Bridgette has armed me with enough new knowledge in order to help me inject some much-needed life and variety into the way I dress.
On Coming Attractions and Reader Feedback
There will be at least one or two additional posts in this series. I will definitely report on my follow-up session with Bridgette and I’ll likely share some feedback on my outfit experimentation, too. I hope you’ve found this second installment interesting and have been able to learn some useful tips that you can take forward in your own style evolution.
I welcome comments on this post as always, but I’m already aware of why many of my looks didn’t work (and some of the pieces aren’t even in my closet anymore). I’m ready to move forward using Bridgette’s advice and continue to cultivate a style aesthetic that is true to who I am and works with my body and lifestyle. It’s very possible that the resulting looks won’t be to your liking, but the only one who really needs to be happy with them is me. The same is true for you with your outfits. As long as we’re happy with how we look – and how we feel – that’s what’s most important!