How many times do you start to get dressed in the morning, put on a shirt you love, but can’t remember how you styled it previously? Trying to recall the time you were beaming as you walked into all your meetings that day, confidence radiating, owning your outfit, genuinely expressing yourself. You looked good and felt good, and it showed. But what were the pants paired with the jacket and the accessories again? Time is of the essence, and now you have to walk out the door in five minutes, no time ponder, and you pull on the first thing you see.
We lead lives with full schedules, constantly juggling and jumping from one thing to the next. Sometimes we overlook the importance of getting dressed and the power of what we wear. Creating a daily visual reference for you to engage with and help remember how to wear outfits is a solution to streamline efficient dressing. It’s also a prompt to approach your style through a new lens – try things you’ve never worn, but have been curious about wearing, then cataloging.
A lookbook is a visual guide of complete outfits that I style together for clients with existing pieces in their closet and capture in a photo. It’s a tool applicable to everyone who gets dressed in the morning, men and women, no matter your wardrobe size, style, or circumstances. A clear roadmap with affirmed suggestions of what to put on your body, supportive of who you are, your lifestyle, and how you want to express yourself. We do, after all, have to get dressed each day! My suggestion is to do it with intention because it pays dividends.
You can create a lookbook on your own without a stylist, and I encourage you to give it a go. It’s a photo folder on your phone that allows you to add to each time you get dressed in a new outfit you put together and like. It’s as simple as taking a photo in front of a mirror. Capture what you’re wearing, head to toe. Then save the image to a separate photo album that becomes an accessible resource and evolving catalog of your personal closet. It’s that simple. Even after I develop this for clients, these new looks empower them, and they regularly update their folder with dynamic styles they pair together long after our sessions.
Maximizing what you own and love takes a little creative thinking, clear perspective, and willingness to try something new. Anyone can create their own lookbook. Here are four easy, self-guided steps to help you wear everything in your closet and build your personal lookbook:
1. Build a clear vision
A little self-reflection and discovery go a long way. Start by asking yourself questions, and understanding your body, personality, and lifestyle is where you should begin. The key is, be honest and constructive with yourself. Ask yourself questions about what you currently own and wear, how pieces feel and look on you, and if they make you happy, bored, or dull when wearing them. Do you feel like an enhanced version of yourself when you put on everything in your closet?
More specifically, why do I own tattered white t-shirts – are these something I would wear to work? Or out of the house for that matter? Are bootcut jeans flattering on my 5′ 0″ frame? Does a flesh tone top wash me out? Why am I still wearing my blazer with the stain on the collar? Is a black pump necessary for my start-up job? Is a black pump something I even like or am comfortable wearing? My longtime favorite top is too small on me, why am I holding onto it? Identify how you want to show up for yourself each day that’s conducive to your professional, social, or personal environments, and you’ll start to notice you’re spending less time stressing over what to wear with a refocus on making proactive choices.
2. Open up physical and mental real estate
Your wardrobe should no longer consist of unworn, aged, or ill-fitting clothing that doesn’t suit you or your life (or perhaps some piece never did in the first place). There is a misconception that closets full of stuff equate to lots of options and endless looks. When, in reality, it can be stifling and overwhelming to approach jam-packed racks and drawers. Culling through sections at a time is manageable, and you’ll begin to see the immediate impact. You don’t need to hold onto a necklace (that’s not your aesthetic) out of guilt because it was a gift. If it’s never been worn, it’s time to part ways.
Early in my business, a client called me after an initial edit to say, “there’s hardly anything left in my closet.” We affirmed that she wasn’t wearing any of the pieces we removed (she chose to resell/donate the items), and I encouraged her to spend some time with what remained for a few weeks to see how she approached getting dressed with less before adding back. Soon after, she followed up to share that she felt a huge weight lifted every time she walked into her closet and was wearing pieces in new, thoughtful, and exciting ways. Why? Because we removed the noise. Clearing physical real estate in your closet can open up mental space and signals a fresh perspective.
3. Explore new possibilities and remix
Once you start to clarify your style vision and reduce the noise and clutter, you can begin to experiment with new outfit ideas from what you already own. My rule of thumb is, try something on that comes to mind or catches your eye before entirely snubbing it. You never know how a garment will fall on you, or pair with something new until you put it together on your body. What appears on a hanger is not anywhere near how it will drape on you. Be realistic in the fit, if it applies to your lifestyle, and flexible enough to know to bring it to the tailor for reworking. Create a scenario to couple with outfits. Is this a weekend dinner outfit? Is it a brunch outfit? Can I spend the day running errands comfortably in this elevated look? It may feel slightly farfetched at first, but that’s because you’ve never paired the pieces together before.
Often, my clients struggle with wearing a garment in more than one or two ways. They want to wear a new piece that they love, but unsure of how to utilize beyond their immediate choices. While I do come in to help them with this, it’s all about honing your eye to look at new styles in a different light. Once you test the waters with a new outfit, you’ll be delighted to know what that feels like and how to revisit stepping outside of your comfort zone. Curiosity will magnify your creative thinking and yield a comprehensive collection of clothes.
4. Add, reference, repeat
Creating a personal lookbook does not need to be a daunting task. No need to induce pressure when this is easily achievable over time. When you get dressed in an outfit you love, take a photo in front of a full-length mirror and add it to an album on your phone. Start with one look, then keep adding. The more you hone this habit of capturing what you wear, the more likely you are to reference it each morning. This is, in a way, permitting yourself to step up your game by pairing with a different earring, or ensuring your shirt is fully pressed. Once you get going, it’s always there to support you in the privacy of your closet and phone.
Lastly, pay attention to compliments. My Uber driver, two years ago, shared a story with me after he asked me what I do for work. He saw a photo of a man’s outfit he liked on Instagram – the person referenced was also about his height, 5′ 4″ same as him – and decided he wanted to wear this outfit of his own. He had similar clothes hanging in his closet; he just never thought to style them together. He wore the full look the next day and received enough compliments to take notice. What did he do? He took a photo of himself and stored it in a phone album so he would remember to wear it again. Be confident in what you wear, it shows.