Like many Americans, I have spent much of the past year-and-a-half trapped (more or less) inside of my home. And spending that much time inside surrounded by my own possessions has caused a fair amount of rumination on the meaning of my clutter. Namely: why do I seem to acquire so much of it? There are many psychological reasons that we hold onto physical objects, and there have been many fine books written on the topic. In this blog post, I am going to explore just two of them, both of which focus exclusively on clothing and fashion.
The first book is a helpful guide to organizing your closet once and for all: The Curated Closet: A Simple System for Discovering Your Personal Style and Building Your Dream Wardrobe written by Anuschka Rees. This book truly explains why the world of “fast fashion” and “trendiness” will never help you build a suitable, sustainable wardrobe, and why you never seem to have the right outfit at hand when you need it. This book takes you through a step-by-step process to help you discover your own style, and it asks thought-provoking questions that truly help you develop an authentic personal brand. Some tips that Rees shares include being selective in what you purchase, resisting impulse buys and sales, and not settling for clothes that itch, feel uncomfortable, or are unflattering on your body.
The process in this book starts with documenting your own style by taking photographs of your outfits for a set amount of time, and then doing a careful inventory of which outfits and particular style choices make you feel the most authentic, that most compliment your physical figure, and that you feel represent your best self. The author gives a list of thoughtful questions such as “How easy is it for you to choose an outfit in the morning?” and “How much does a lack of confidence prevent you from wearing what you like?” She instructs you to take an inventory of your closet to see what percentage of it you truly wear, and how much of it is not really your style at all. Maybe you were influenced by other people, by magazines, or by sale prices, but the author urges you to focus on defining your own personal style rather than just accepting the advice of fashion magazines on what “body shape” or “type of style” you are. This process starts with collecting inspiration, identifying patterns, and experimenting.
Ultimately, you will create your own style profile. After this comes the process of clearing the clutter that may have accumulated in your closet over time. Now that you know what looks good and feels good on your body (as well as what you don’t like), you will be in much better shape when you attack the clutter. You will have a clear sense of what you want to wear, what makes you feel strong and empowered, and what may have been an impulse or super-coupon buy. After this she goes into more specific topics as she helps the reader to build up a refined and appropriate wardrobe that truly suits your lifestyle and your needs. Her detailed sections on topics like “practical pointers for finding clothes that fit well” were truly helpful to me, and I imagine they would be to many readers. I also loved how she focused in on what causes impulse buys and spending sprees, and how to counter them when you feel like you are falling victim to a moment of shopping weakness.
This book is truly a wonderful read for anyone who is considering curating their closet and their lifestyle, and it has led me to more clear-thinking about both my clothes and my own shopping psychology. You can check out a physical copy of the book or an eBook via the Heights Libraries website.
The second book that I would recommend is an insightful guide to fashion psychology: Dress Your Best Life: How to Use Fashion Psychology To Take Your Look — and Your Life — To The Next Level written by Dawnn Karen. Karen is a fashion psychologist, and she talks about how your fashion choices can change how you feel about yourself, your environment, and your day as you experience it. She has worked with many clients to help them to dress in a manner that truly empowers them, and to make fashion choices that will help them to live in an authentic manner. In this book, she talks about starting your day with intention, and how that can flow seamlessly from what you pull out of your closet.
One of the most powerful sections in this book focuses on the emotional reasons why many of us splurge on clothes and fashion items. Karen writes that the reason our closets get so cluttered is because we wander into stores with little idea of what we actually want to buy. Many stores and businesses take advantage of this to sell us a lot of junk that we don’t truly need! To save your sanity and your credit card, the author recommends only going into stores when you truly know what you want, to not stay long, and to not get trapped by sales or splashy ads. She also talks up the idea of repetition, which can often get a bad rap in a world that is often hyper-focused on the new and the novel. Yet the author argues that a style uniform makes you iconic, not frumpy. She urges readers to think of people like Coco Chanel when they think of having a defined sense of style, and to rely on set outfit combinations and the concept of “less is more” when making fashion choices. Ultimately less choices equals less stress when creating an outfit in the morning, and less stress is something that we could all appreciate these days!
She also explores things like color theory, and how what colors you wear impact both your own mood and that of others who perceive you. I really liked this book because it did not focus on shopping and on the latest trends. It focused on psychological impact, and it gave great tips on how to dress to improve both your inner and outer life. She talks about how her focus with clients is on “styling from the inside out,” by which she means starting with an inner psychological assessment before you start shopping at the mall. She nixes the idea of makeovers and other quick and easy fixes, and focuses on the deeper meaning of your fashion choices, as well as how those choices can be used to bring a sense of control and power into your life. She also doesn’t gloss over the fact that minorities can face additional challenges in how they are perceived by society, and that this can impact their choices when it comes time to pick out an outfit.
If you aren’t convinced yet to check out a physical copy of the book, you should check out her amazing TED talk called Styling From Inside Out. This deeply personal and moving presentation convinced me to pick up a copy of the book, and I’m glad that I did.
Both of these titles were deeply helpful in figuring out my fashion style and sorting out the psychology that surrounds those choices. Some might find fashion frivolous, but really, what’s more important than the pieces of clothing that you put on your body every single day? What we choose to wear does indeed say something about us to the people that we encounter throughout the day. We can’t really change that, so why don’t we try to harness it to help better our life and boost our mood? These two titles focus on making mindful, meaningful choices about our lives and what we want them to be, which is an empowering message to hear no matter the context. Choosing to make purchases that are specific and focused and that help us to lead better lives is a great goal, and I would highly recommend checking out these titles today to find out more.