Change Your Clothes, Change Your Life
There’s no getting around it: In order to transform your style and take charge of the messages you’re putting out in the world, you’re going to have to start spending some serious time in front of your mirror. If you want to gain control over what other people see in you, you must gather all the visual information these strangers and acquaintances have at their disposal. The only way to do that is by taking a good, hard look at yourself in the mirror.
Is this a prospect that fills you with dread? Do you habitually avoid your reflection because you’re unhappy with what you see? We bring so many of our hang-ups to that glassy surface, sometimes shunning it like it’s our worst enemy. But this is counterproductive—because even if you’re not looking, someone else is.
So much of this process is about learning how to look. And there’s lots to learn by looking at your reflection, beginning with how it makes you feel and ending with
what exactly it is that you see. Take inventory—but be nice! That’s my girl you’re talking about . . .
Your Little Black Book
The first purchase I’m going to ask you to make may take you by surprise. It’s not a new bra (though if you’ve never been fitted, you absolutely should make that item number two on your to-do list) or a little black dress. Instead, I’m going to ask you to acquire a brand-new notebook that will be exclusively dedicated to this life-altering endeavor, and to this endeavor only. This little black book—though in fact it may be turquoise, orange, or any color you choose—will be the repository of the various pieces of journaling we’re going to be doing throughout this process. Eventually, it will morph into your fashion to-do list, as well as a place to jot down the random inspirations and ideas you come upon as you go through this transformation. If you’re so wedded to your devices that you shun the idea of putting pen to paper, a digital version of the little black book is acceptable—but when I’m embarking on a
new life stage, I like having a physical object that becomes a tangible touchstone for my process.
Put on your favorite body-conscious outfit, the close-fitting, revealing ensemble you feel most attractive in and/or that garners you the most compliments, be it a work outfit, a night-out-on-the-town outfit, or even flattering workout gear. With a handheld mirror at the ready, stand before your full-length mirror. What do you see? Use the handheld mirror to get a full, 360-degree view so that you can check yourself out from the front, the sides, and the back. With your little black book by your side, jot down the answers to the following questions:
¦ What are your “assets”? What are the defining features of your face and body? What instantly stands out about you and makes you you? Your eyes, your hair, your curves, your
height, your bone structure, your coloring? Gaining a conscious understanding of which parts of your body to emphasize and reveal can turn zoned-out shopping trips into targeted, goal-oriented missions with infinitely greater chances of success. You’ll be able to nix entire categories of clothing at a glance, and you’ll have a pretty good shot at knowing what looks good on you before even trying it on.
¦ What compliments do you regularly receive from your friends? You may be too mired in self-criticism to recognize your best physical attributes, so think about what you hear from the people who love you. Are they always harping on your tiny waist? Jealously eyeing your long legs? Telling you they’d kill for your shoulders? Making lovingly lewd comments about your cleavage? The areas most often complimented are likely to be the ones you’ll want to reveal or enhance.
¦ How does the outfit you have on highlight your assets? You may know what clothing you feel best in, but have you ever analyzed why? Break it down. Is that dress nipped in at the waist? Are those straps the perfect width, giving you a defined shoulder line and appearing to shrink your upper body in half? Does that racerback tank make the most of your beautiful back? Does the color make you pop, drawing out your eyes and giving you a healthy, happy glow? Start to catalog the attributes that make this favorite outfit so great, and you’re on your way to becoming a more educated shopper.
¦ Which assets aren’t being accentuated by your outfit? Do you have a lovely pair of gams that never see the light of day? Whatever your excuses for hiding them away—“My legs aren’t really that great” or “I don’t want to look like I’m trying too hard”—set them aside. Jot down a note promising that when
we get to Chapter 6, “A Fresh New Start,” you are going to purchase at least one thing that accentuates this unrealized asset. You may feel uncomfortable the first time you wear it (more on that later), but my guess is that you will soon be strutting your stuff.
¦ What are your “liabilities,” those aspects of your appearance you wouldn’t rush to show off? I know there’s a tendency for you to go to town here, but try not to go off the rails by listing every single part of your body. Keep it positive, and be as kind to yourself as you would be to a good friend. Everyone has flaws, and styling is about downplaying those flaws and highlighting the positives. So think less “I hate my tummy!” and more “My midsection is my problem area, so I’m going to look for clothing that either flows over it or belts me in, giving me structure and the illusion of a waist” or “My arms are not my best feature—so three-quarter sleeves are best for me.”
Ninety-nine percent of my clients perceive their bodies so inaccurately that their views of their own flaws are downright comical. I want you to use this exercise to set the record straight. Are your negative misconceptions about your looks so powerful that a pattern of mirror avoidance has set in? Are you afraid of what you might see? Odds are the reality is much, much better than what you’re imagining—we are always our own worst critics.
The mirror is not your enemy. The mirror is nothing but a tool—a tool that you are going to start using, every single day, to positively skew the balance between those assets and liabilities. To draw the eye to the positives, and away from the negatives. You have so much more power to affect the outcome than you know. But you have to be brave enough to look.