• emsteinbrink

3 Style Lessons From a Dressing Room

Three Guides for When to Buy - and When to Walk Away

On my birthday last week, I cleared my calendar and took the day off - just for me. I had zero plans - only to follow my heart's desire. (I highly recommend all women to do this if they can!) Doing a little shopping at my favorite stores undoubtedly made the list. (Surprise, surprise!)


As I was in the dressing room, it occurred to me that there are a few bits of style wisdom I want to impart. I have a hunch you've found yourself shopping in a store or online, trying something on and struggling to make a decision about whether to buy it - or walk away.


Before I launch into my tips from the dressing room, the other piece you need to know is that I recently had my colors done professionally. This was an amazing and affirming experience for me, that I talk more in-depth about in this blog post.


Having your colors done is something I recommend for all women, as it greatly enhances your ability to shop with greater knowledge. And it's why I decided to incorporate a custom color analysis into all of my styling packages this year! But here's the deal: Knowing your colors can also be binding in certain ways, and keep you from seeing the bigger picture of your overall style. More on that in a bit.... let's get to the tips!


Here's 3 important dressing room lessons that I want to share with you:



#1 Don't let color rule your decision-making.


As you now know, I'm a huge proponent of having your colors professionally done. But here's what I noticed after I got mine done. I became obsessed with color. It was kind of unexpected, because after all, I'm the expert here! It was as if my only filter while shopping was color. And when I entered into a physical retail store for the first time, knowing my colors was both incredibly helpful, but also dominated my decision making pretty quickly.


Here's where I think having your colors done can get you off track, if you're not careful. You see, colors are just one piece of the style pie. Just one tool in your style toolkit to help you achieve the best wardrobe, the best style for you. Color is an incredible tool in your toolkit, and can even be used to shift your mood when you need an extra boost of energy, or confidence when you stand up to speak. It can guide you to the items you want to pay attention to in a store or online, or help you determine what stays or goes in your closet. But then you need to take it one step further. Not only is color a big part of your wardrobe, so is knowing your own personal style and understanding which styles and shapes work best for you. This style trifecta (1. your personal style, 2. your best colors, and 3. your best shapes/styles) is where the magic really starts to happen.


In the case of my birthday shopping trip, I had to catch myself over-indexing on color. It was indeed a helpful guide for eliminating a great number of items in the store. But then I had to remember to lean into what authentically felt like me (my personal style) and what actually worked on my body (my best shapes/styles). Which leads me to tip #2...



#2 Get in tune with your gut.


I've always said that if I pay attention to my gut, it won't steer me wrong. This is true in many life situations, and has always been true in a dressing room. Let me give you an example. That day I was shopping, I found a dress in the most beautiful lavender color (you'll see the photo in my blog image above), which of course was on my color card. I love the color purple, but after seeing my color card, I realized I didn't have very much of it in my wardrobe. So I picked it up and decided to give it a try.


Once in the dressing room, everything seemed to line up. The color was spot on, the style perfect for my body type (even though it's a style I don't often grab for), it fit just right. But something was still off. Why didn't I love this? The boxes all seemed to be checked, so what was the deal?


And here's the requirement that wasn't making the cut: I didn't love it. Period. Tell me you haven't found yourself in this predicament before! Honestly, ladies, how many times have we bought something because it (almost) fit all the requirements, but didn't really light us up. Perhaps we were in a time crunch, or didn't know where else to look, or were just elated something finally fit! So we settle.


I've learned the hard way that when I settle and buy things that I don't really love, I never wear it. It sits in my closet with the best intentions, but regretfully collects dust. (you, too?) If I'm honest, I know the minute (the second!) I try something on - either at home or in a dressing room - if it's going to work. My gut is speaking to me immediately. Sometimes I listen, and other times, I try to force it, and make it work... because I want it to work soooo badly. (You feel me?) But it's been proven to me time and time again that not trusting my gut always leads to regret. So, this is my call to you: Listen to that gut of yours. What is it telling you?


This is exactly why I start with getting clear about your personal style with every one of my clients. If you don't have confidence about who you are, and how you want to show up in this world, your gut won't be able to talk to you in a clear, bold way. Over the years, as I experiment and get clearer on my style, I am more boldly able to say yes or no to something I see in store or online. And I'm more clear when I'm cleaning out a closet, too! I think a common fear that women have is that they don't have a personal style. Don't worry loves... you do have a personal style! (and I know because I have worked with a lot of women on defining their style) It just requires a little courage to dig deep into what you would truly love, and breaking down some limiting beliefs or old rules you've written (or others have written for you) to get you there.



#3 When in doubt, give yourself 24 hours.


Here's the final thing I realized that day that I do often, and think is worth sharing with you. Sometimes, I leave items I really love in the store. My gut is telling me, "Do it! Buy the dress!" But for some reason I doubt myself. In these cases where I feel indecisive, I have learned to give myself some space - 24 hours to be exact! (You know, that "sleep on it." advice?) If I find myself still thinking about that item long after I've left the store, I take it as a sign. And if I decide to return to the store to purchase it, and it's gone, well, that's another sign. Sometimes giving yourself space can allow you to get out of that emotional, irrational space (retailers love when you shop out of emotion!) and into a more rational space. This extra time gives you a chance to ask and ponder some questions:

  • Will I really wear this?

  • Is it worth the investment?

  • Can I wear this in at least three ways?

  • Do I have something in my closet that I can wear this with right now, or will it require me to purchase more things to make it work?

  • How will this add positively to my wardrobe?


Here's another tip if you're feeling indecision in the dressing room (or with something you've ordered online). Take a photo of yourself in that item, leave the store (or put it aside in your bedroom if you ordered online), and give yourself 24 hours. Look back at the photo and notice what you feel when see it again. Do you love how it makes you look? Can you sense joy, confidence, or lightness in your face, or your posture? Trust me, your body is giving you all sorts of cues! Or do you feel like you have to stand in a very specific way to make it look perfect. (That's a warning sign!) If you love everything that you see, and can imagine lots of possibilities for this item, this may be your indication to go for it. If you still hesitate, or focus obsessively on parts of your body that you don't love, or still have no clue how you'll wear this new item, then it may be a sign to let it go.


It's my hope that the next time you find yourself shopping in-store or online, these tips come to mind and save your from regret or invite you to bring something home you truly love! Tell me in the comments, which tip really stuck with you?


If you're ready to take a powerful step to propel your style forward this year and gain even more clarity on how you want to show up in your business, your workplace, and your life, I'd love to invite you to my new program (officially launched in 2022, and piloted in 2021). It's called Your Style Brand Intensive. In this 2-hour virtual session, you'll gain confidence by defining our personal, unique style, discovering your best colors (including a professional custom color analysis valued at $155) and learn what styles work for your body - not against it. Learn more or sign up here.



About Me

Hi, I'm so glad you're here! I'm a Personal Virtual Stylist and owner of Style Decoded. I'm a Midwest born fashion lover on a mission to help women show up with more authenticity and alignment at work and in their businesses through their style, and feel 100% confident in their own skin every day. Styling is my passion but it hasn't always been my job. I spent 20 years of my career in client service, advertising, developing brands, blogging, podcasting, and creating marketing and social social strategies for my clients, ranging from Fortune 500 giants to individuals building their personal brand online. To say I know a thing or two about marketing and branding is an understatement! Now, I love teaching women how to define and own their unique personal brand through style.


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