• emsteinbrink

Not ready to invest in your wardrobe?

Five things you can do now to elevate your style - without breaking the bank.


In my conversations with women over the past year, I've found one common factor: Women are uncertain about investing in their wardrobe right now. So many changes have led to this uncertainty. Obviously, the pandemic is a huge driving factor of the uneasiness we feel, but more specifically:

  1. Working from home and not feeling a need to dress up

  2. Losing a job and worried about money

  3. Starting your own business and trying to be careful with expenses

  4. Interviewing for a job and waiting to see what your dress code will need to be

  5. Weight changes - just getting by with your wardrobe until you get to a certain weight goal


I get it. The last thing you want to do is spend money on a new wardrobe with so much uncertainty flying around. I've heard women say, "What if I buy now and then it becomes irrelevant in the coming months?" Or, "I'm working from home in my slippers and yoga pants, and won't be returning to the office anytime soon, so I'll just wait it out."


While you may feel hesitant to make any grand moves with your wardrobe, the reality is that what you choose to put on every day has a big effect on your day. Brain science has proven that what we wear has a impact on our mood, our behavior, our attitude, and even our interpersonal connections. In addition, psychological research has shown that what you wear also impacts your productivity levels, focus, and your confidence.


Secondly, can I just offer a friendly reminder that life will never be without uncertainty. Change is the fabric of our lives! If we live our lives in limbo, waiting for the perfect circumstances to come along, that day may never come. Then, what of those days we spent waiting?


We all know we feel better when we wear things that make us feel good, so what can we do in the interim? Luckily, I've got a few ideas for you. Here's 5 things you can do now to elevate your style - without breaking the bank.



#1 Get Dressed, it's time.

The number one way to elevate your style right now without breaking the bank is to actually GET DRESSED! Now before you say, "Ellie, really?! Can we get to the actual tips already? And are you telling me I have to get out of my yoga pants?" Yes, you do. Let me tell you, making a habit of getting dressed every day will not only be a confidence boost, but also increase your ability to focus and get seriously productive while you work. I think that getting dressed is the simplest way to start showing up as the woman you want to be. As James' Clear writes in his book, Atomic Habits:


"Your identity emerges out of your habits. Every action is a vote for the type of person you wish to become."

What James Clear teaches us is that creating (or ending) habits isn’t about achieving a finite outcome - like getting to your ideal weight or writing the book or organizing your closet. It’s about the daily experience of becoming the person you always wanted to be.

I believe that your style - and putting things on your body that feel authentic to YOU - is like casting a vote for the woman you want to be. Style isn’t about “dressing the part," dressing in a way that others’ expect of you, or dressing to fit in. It’s about getting curious about who you are, and then having the courage to show the world the real you.

So, go put on something that lights you up some day this week - and CAST THAT VOTE for the woman you want to be.


Curious about the tie between style and productivity? Learn how style may just be the productivity hack you need.



#2 Get Clear on Your Style

Another zero cost thing you can do now to elevate your style is to simply get clear about what your style is. After all, Iris Apfel so wisely tells us that:


"To have style, you have to know who you are." - Iris Apfel

Knowing who you want to be when you walk out of your closet every day, and how you want others' to perceive you is a critical first step in building the closet of your dreams. We are all guilty - yes, me included - of having things in our closet that we bought as a means to an end. Or we bought in a frenzy, but didn't love. Or, we bought because we were out of options. Or we bought on a whim, then once we got it home realized we didn't really want it, but didn't want to put the effort into returning it. No matter what the story is for you, these items clutter up our closets and cloud our ability to dress in a way that feels authentic and expresses your personality.


When working with my clients to define their style, I encourage them to dream a little. Get that mind trash out that says we have to dress in a certain way, or we have to fit a certain standard. The way to finding your true style is letting all of those inhibitions and barriers go, and boldly claim what it is you (and only you) would really love. What would light you up most? What would be the greatest expression of your personality? What shows the world the truest version of you?


Read more about how to define your personal style.



#3 Detox, Baby

Once you have gotten clear about your style, cleaning out your closet is the next natural step you can take to elevate your style. How does this elevate your style exactly? Well, for one, it removes anything that doesn't fit, you don't love, isn't your style, or is just never worn, as well as items you are holding onto out of guilt or shame. (Anyone still holding onto a splurge purchase that they can't get rid of because "I paid good money for that!", even though you don't love it?)


Beyond that, I firmly believe that a cluttered space equals a cluttered mind. You can't find peace or clarity when unnecessary stuff is clouding your view.


"When you live surrounded by clutter, it is impossible to have clarity about what you are doing in your life." - Karen Kingston

Secondly, clearing out allows you to see clearly what you have to work with right now. Detoxing with my clients is a critical step when I'm working on their Style Transformation because it gives me a chance to see what we're really dealing with once the stuff they don't want or need is cleared out. For example, if you're holding onto jeans that don't fit now, but that you plan to fit into once you hit your goal weight, that's something I consider not wearable now, even though you perceive it to be. This is a time to get brutally honest with yourself about what you love, and what isn't working for you, and what doesn't fit right now. Only then can we achieve clarity. It's from this place that I'm able to recommend what should be added to complement their wardrobe and to allow their personal style to shine.


Find my favorite questions to ask during a closet detox.



#4 Shop Your Closet

My favorite thing to do with my clients - and for myself when I'm feeling bored with my closet - is to get creative and shop my own closet. If you've been following along, and decided to clean out your closet, you may very well discover some things you had forgotten about, but love. These are the best discoveries, IMO. Whether or not you discovered something "new" in your closet, the key is to get creative. One of the things I love to do for my clients is to show them how to wear the things they love in multiple ways.


Here's a few ideas to get you started and the creative juices flowing:


  1. Stop categorizing your clothes. A lot of women do this. They have their closet organized by "work" clothes, "weekend" clothes, and "going out" clothes. Or, at the very least, when they see an item in their closet, without even realizing it, they label it. This is a mistake because it tells our brain there is only one use for those clothing pieces. In reality, we can get a whole lot more mileage out of those clothes. For example, I love blazers, and I wear them not only for work settings, but also on weekends with jeans and sneakers. Or as a light jacket over a sweatsuit or joggers.

  2. The 3 ways to wear rule. For every item in your closet, you should be able to come up with 3 ways to wear that item. For example, I have a black jumpsuit from J. Crew that may seem kind of fancy at first, because of it's dressy material, but when styled in different ways, I can wear it in different settings. For example...

  • One way I can wear this jumpsuit is on it's own, with heels and a clutch and fancy jewelry for a night out. (probably the way most of us would assume to wear it)

  • A second way I can wear it is to add a blazer and work heels or boots and now it's appropriate for work.

  • A third way I can wear it is to add a layer underneath (a t-shirt or turtleneck) and add sneakers for an easy one and done weekend look.

3. Re-create an outfit from Pinterest. This is one of my favorite challenges to do when I'm getting bored. I - like many of you, I presume - have Pinterest boards devoted to fashion, style or your dream closet. Put one of those outfits into reality by challenging yourself to re-create it using what you have in your closet. Even if you don't have the exact pieces - use what you have and do your best. Don't go for perfection, go for capturing the spirit of the outfit! I love this for two reasons: 1) it keeps you from boredom in your closet, 2) it helps you channel your ideal style into real life.



#5 Build Slowly

Listen, maybe an entire wardrobe overhaul isn't right for you at the moment, but you can take baby steps towards building the closet of your dreams. When I'm working with my Style Transformation clients, I create a wardrobe checklist for them. Essentially, a wardrobe checklist is a shopping list of things we want to add to their closet that will help bring their style dreams to life. You can do this for yourself, too, and start chipping away at your dream closet. I suggest creating a wardrobe checklist - or as I like to call it, a wish list - every season. I create one for myself every season, too, which helps me stay on track with my budget, and also helps me get grounded on what I would really love vs. what is an emotional, frivolous purchase that I don't really need or want. A wardrobe checklist is a combination of things you want and things you need (like replacement items for things that have worn out, or getting things that fit your size now.)


The bottom line is that you need clothes that make you feel good and like your best self right now. This message is relevant for every one of you, but especially those who are working towards a goal weight. You need things now that you can wear. And trust me, when you start wearing things that make you feel amazing now, I guarantee it will accelerate your progress towards your goal.


Or how about if you're working from home part or full time, and unsure when you will return to the office? To you I'd say this: It's time to come to terms with the fact that this may be your new reality. So ask yourself:


  • What do you want to feel like every day when you "go to work?"

  • How do you want to show up on Zoom to your co-workers or clients?

  • What impression do you want to make - whether it's online or in-person?

  • Does your current outfit choices give you energy, focus, confidence and motivation throughout your day?


Gone are the days when showing up in a messy bun and sweats (consistently) is going to fly.


If you've been telling yourself that you have to sacrifice your style because you can't - or aren't ready to - invest in your wardrobe, I hope this post has given you a fresh perspective, and the confidence that there are things you CAN do now that will make a huge impact.



Here's one more idea for you...

I'd like to give you one more idea when it comes to taking a big step forward with your style, without breaking the bank. And it's this: I created a brand new program this year, a 2-hour virtual session called Your Style Brand Intensive, which allows you to gain confidence in your personal style, your best colors, and the best shapes and styles for your body. This session was dreamt up because I saw women wanting so desperately to do something about their style, but felt uncertain about investing in their wardrobe. This session allows you to make a small investment, while giving you big results (in the form of increased confidence and clarity in your style). And when you are ready to shop for new items, you have the option to work with me, or do it on your own, as you'll have the tools and information from this session to make better decisions about your style. Learn more - or sign up for this intensive now.


So tell me: Which one of these tips are you ready to put into action today, this week? Tell me in the comments - I'd love to hear from you! Or just drop a hello! I'd love that, too.



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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