I think of my work with clients as either a style renewal, which is typically with a new client, or a style refresher, which is often with a returning client. I have previously talked about the differences between a renewal and refresher, but I have never broken down the steps they share. So that’s what I’m doing in this post. Of course, all situations are different, and rarely do I call out these steps explicitly when working with a client. I think of them as a frame of reference.
A style renewal involves exploring a completely new style by overhauling large parts of the wardrobe and committing to a significant change in your daily look. You’re learning how to dress your body in ways that make you feel fab, and about the style personas that tickle your fancy and suit your lifestyle.
A style refresher builds on your existing look and assumes you have a great wardrobe base to work from. You’re in tune with what works for your body type and lifestyle, and regularly hone your evolving sartorial preferences in order to add that next layer of fabness to your style.
Clients reach out to me for a style renewal when they’re starting a new job, relocating to a new climate, moving into retirement, need help dressing a changing body type due to weight loss or gain, are experiencing a major shift in style persona and need help easing into the change, or are reaching a milestone age and want to look the best they can. Clients reach out to me for style refreshers when they need help selecting the right pieces that complement their existing wardrobe and refresh their style for the season.
A 7 Step Process
All seven steps apply to both a renewal or refresher. The first three steps are of greater importance for a renewal because a drastic style change requires extra soul searching and wardrobe planning. The last three steps are particularly important for a refresher because you’re making sure that what you add to your wardrobe works with what you already have as you evolve your look.
A style renewal typically runs the course of a retail season, whereas a refresher is normally over a shorter timeframe.
Step 1: Introspection
It’s important to think about the internal factors that are all about how YOU impact your style. Here we are talking about how your style preferences, your body type, and your need for outfit variety impact your style.
Your style preferences, which can change over time, attract you to items before you’ve even tried them on. Body type guidelines provide a solid starting point when you’re not sure how to create conventionally flattering outfit proportions. These guidelines have however relaxed over time, so once you know the basics, you’re equipped to manipulate them to create an edgier outfit that is just flattering enough. Your need for outfit variety has a noticeable impact on your style because you’ll adopt new trends faster, and have a greater assortment of colours, silhouettes, fabrications, textures and patterns in your wardrobe if your need for outfit variety is high.
Step 2: Extrospection
It’s also important to think about external factors, which are all about how YOUR CONTEXT impacts your style. Here we’re talking about your lifestyle, climate, environment and budget.
After analysing how the internal and external factors affect your style, it’s time to create a list of flexible style goals. You’ll revisit this list throughout your renewal or refresher to keep you on the straight and narrow, and change them if you need to.
Step 3: Fit & Proportion
These days there is no one way to fit a garment because fashion has moved beyond stringent guidelines. On the one hand this is fabulous, because it increases outfit and silhouette variety. On the other hand, having four fits to choose from — body-con, tailored, fluid and oversized — makes things more complicated.
You need to understand the differences between these different fits and decide on the fit that you are targeting for a particular garment. It helps to start with conventionally flattering outfit proportions, because they provide a good starting point. After that you can decide on your figure flattering priorities and consider moving away from the conventional guidelines to create more outfits that are just flattering enough.
There is room for every fit in your wardrobe depending on the garment, your style, your body type, and your dressing mood.
Step 4. Closet Review
The closet review involves a thorough closet edit AND an analysis of what remains. The result is a clear idea of what you need to add. I encourage editing your closet in one session so that you don’t lose momentum. Block out four to six hours and get it done. Ask a friend or family member to help out in order to lighten the load and have someone on hand for a second opinion.
Closet edits and reviews become faster, easier and more accurate the more regularly you do them. Practice makes perfect. A seasonal, or biannual edit and review is the minimal requirement, whereas monthly closet edits and reviews are even better. Knowing what you have in your closet at all times and knowing how you currently feel about each item allows you to make more informed purchasing decisions and create a larger assortment of outfits.
A thorough closet review allows you to compile a list of the items that you need and eliminates the risk of duplication. Getting this far means that you have a shopping list that takes into account everything that you’ve learned about yourself, your context, your fit priorities and your current wardrobe. The list is usually quite long for a style renewal, and shorter for a style refresh. And you might even feel set for the season and not need to add to your wardrobe at all.
Step 5: Shopping
Armed with the shopping list and your style goals, it’s time to purchase the pieces to complete outfits with your existing wardrobe items. It’s also time to add a layer of fashion so that your style is current and evolving.
Of course, Rome was not built in a day, money does not grow on trees, and time is often an elusive commodity. It’s unrealistic to expect to tick every item off your list in a single season. Concentrate on what you will need to wear over the next few months and work within the constraints of your budget. What you can’t find or afford this season can roll onto next season’s shopping list.
The shopping list and your style goals should be FLEXIBLE. They are there to prevent you from shopping for a fantasy life, but they aren’t cast in stone either. Use your list and your goals as a guide but feel free to tweak things along the way. Organized emotional shopping is a good thing, and sometimes your best style epiphanies come to you at the end of this process.
Be patient, picky and practical when shopping for wardrobe items. Do not be swayed by items that aren’t quite right just because they’re on sale. Remember that a small alteration can often create perfect fit, and that a high item return rate is inevitable when shopping online. Expect to make a few mistakes along the way. We all do.
Step 6: Outfit Creation
It’s extremely important that you try on your new wardrobe pieces back in your dressing room at home with the existing items in your wardrobe. That means taking the time to have an outfit creation session at home and embracing the chaos. Make sure that you can create outfits with the new pieces and that you are happy with the results. Ask yourself whether these newly created outfits are in line with your current style goals and aspirational style. Note the items that are still missing and add them to your shopping list.
Ideally an outfit creation session is in order each time you bring home something new. It doesn’t need to take very long, and you need to know how to wear the new item if it’s going to earn a place in your wardrobe.
I emphasize outfit creation at this stage in the process, but of course it happens all the time. Like when you’re reviewing your closet, or when you’re out shopping for new items. The important thing is that you’re thinking about how your wardrobe items relate to each other, and not thinking about them in isolation. Each wardrobe piece should fulfill a dressing need, be used in more than one outfit, and spark a certain amount of joy.
Step 7: Keep Evolving
Evolving your style helps you to stay current, avoid the dreaded style rut, adapt to changing needs, and discover successful new looks. Those who thoroughly enjoy fashion tend to prefer enormous outfit variety, chasing the trends that tickle their fancy each season, and changing up their look quite frequently. These people evolve their styles at a faster rate than “uniform dressers” who prefer a wardrobe of updated classics, and stick to a few tried-and-tested outfit formulas.
The process of creating a wardrobe that you love can be a lot of fun. It’s also hard work, time-intensive and expensive if you haven’t updated your style for a while, or are building a wardrobe from scratch. Without making the investment of following these seven steps, it is all too easy to end up with a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear.
Refreshing your style becomes easier, faster and more enjoyable every time you complete the process. The more you follow these steps, the more intuitive they become. You will be in tune with your current style preferences, wardrobe needs, and the contents of your closet, and it will be easier to make informed shopping decisions and create outfits that make you happy.
And just when you have it all figured out and are at peace with your current style and wardrobe, the internal and external factors that affect your style will change. That’s why our wardrobes are a continuous work in progress. Relax into your style journey and enjoy the ride. After all, the most important thing is to have fun along the way.