Monday, July 18, 2011

A Simple Solution for a Frequent Headache

This is not a tip on fashion or what style would be best for you to wear – I am no expert in that arena. But if you are a member of the I Hate To Shop For Clothes Club (to which I belong), follow me in your mind to one of the bigger department stores, and visualize a giant floor with racks and racks of clothing. I have made so many mistakes here in the past, because trying to see everything and somehow make good choices just simply wore me down.

It was some comfort to discover that I was far from alone in this experience. In fact, studies show that when faced with too many choices, people reliably enjoy whatever they end up choosing less than they do when making a choice among just a few options. (Remember this was also a reason your closet shouldn’t be overstuffed.)

I needed some guidance, because I knew shopping was a chore I could never completely avoid. Rifling through my own memories, and considering friends and even TV personalities for ideas, I found several sources of inspiration for a method that makes shopping fairly quick and easy now.

The first inspiration was the interior designer Candice Olson from HGTV. Whenever I watch her show, she is wearing a pair of classic-fit pants and a colorful, patterned top. This is her uniform, so to speak.  The clothing designer Michael Kors, another inspiration, has the perfect solution for men who don't like to shop or think about what to wear each day:  he wears black or navy suits with matching-colored tees, and that’s it.  Nothing else.  (A professor at Columbia University I once knew had the same idea – he wore a different suit and t-shirt for each season. Four outfits a year. How simple and great is that?  Unfortunately, unlike Michael Kors, I’m pretty sure he wore literally the same suit for months at a time.)

One of my friends in New York is a young woman who stands out everywhere she goes, in a good way. She only wears black. Not in the Vampira style, but simple and classic. She uses her clothes as a backdrop for showcasing her colorful jewelry and scarves from around the world. Now that kind of shopping I could get used to myself!

The key, I realized, was simplicity – singling out just a few things I would wear, and ignoring everything else.  So, inspired by simplicity-loving role models, I have come to own several pairs of identical pants and skirts in solid colors, chosen because they fit well. I stick to black shoes, because they go with everything I own. For tops I shop in a small boutique  (they have sales too!) and when I like a particular one, I buy several of the same, in different colors.

For dresses and special occasions, I prefer one small store in particular (again, few choices = less stress). And even when Mom isn't with me to give me a second opinion, I still let the advice she gave me years ago guide my final decision: "Ask yourself, what would Jackie wear?” (Jackie Kennedy Onassis was the standard for style and simplicity in my mom’s eyes.)  As in, “Would Jackie wear a dress with feathers on it?  Or sequins?  Or a slit up to her behind?”  No.  So back on the dress rack it goes.  This way, choices are made very quickly.

If there is someone whose "look" you admire, it's not a bad idea to let their style be your guide.  Whatever rule of thumb you choose for simplifying your wardrobe, it will greatly reduce your choices and you will be far more likely to end up loving what you buy.

Good luck with your goal!