Owning it all is not as crucial as it is to own the look.  Over the weekend I traveled to Los Angeles to excavate a client’s closet and build a fresh and useable wardrobe.  We had a fantastic, fun day together.  By 1:15 a.m. the next morning, we absolutely could not go on for one more minute in her closet. I had a crystalline moment of clarity about the state of her wardrobe. Owning a lot of clothing isn’t as important as owning the overall look.

Her wardrobe consists of so many amazing pieces of clothing, a fashionista’s dream in many ways.  But, what she owned in labels and high design, she lacked in understanding of what to do with it all.  The totality of her collection is a broad assortment of designs, lines, patterns, textures, colors, motifs, and messages.  But, the same assortment has a very scattered focus.  This brought me to conclude that owning it all is not as crucial as it is to own the look.

My client, like many of my clients, has tons of fine clothes.  As we were reviewing each piece in her stuffed closet, she would remind me of her frugality.  “It was 70% off, Joseph!”  And several times I retorted, “Yeah, but obviously it doesn’t really matter because the price tag is still on this dress.” It didn’t matter how great the savings are if she hasn’t yet figured out how to wear items like these.

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What this treasure trove of a wardrobe reveals about my young client’s shopping habits is that she is a collector.  She shares this collector trait with many other clients.  So, I know from a lot of experience that  unfocused collectors of high fashion do not understand that owning it all is not as crucial as it is to own the look.

Walking through her childhood home, I could definitely see where the collector gene comes from.  Sumptuous textiles abound on the floors, walls, and windows all over the entire home.  Sometimes I’d look down at the floor, already stunning, replete with mosaic designs, only to find a gorgeous carpet nearby that I wanted to roll up and take home for my house.  This abundance of sumptuousness isn’t lavish for its own sake.  It is downright eclectic, if not eccentric, design.  To be clear: I loved every inch of the place.

But the rules for home décor do not apply as easily to decorating the body.  When it comes to dressing the body, you have to know what you stand for.  Your values, passions, and purpose should be made clear through your personal style.  In the case of my client, she is absolutely interested in developing her visual persona.  So, to successfully turn the corner, we have to develop a consistent look that she wears on a constant basis.  As she continues on this path, she will see that owning it all is not as crucial as it is to own the look.  This is what I mean by “owning the look.”

I want to also share with you that having closet talk with my client was not all bad news.  It’s an extremely sensitive situation to tell someone how ineffective their clothes are – and why this is the case.  It’s possible to feel pummeled to pieces after reviewing many pieces of clothing that do not support its owner.  But she was a very good sport about it. Most especially, I always try hard to make hearing the unabashed truth a fun experience.

If you shop like you are a ‘kid in a candy store,’ be careful! I love that feeling and get it every time I walk into Le Bon Marche, in Paris [pictured]. But if you don’t learn how to be a good curator of your personal style, you will one day need to learn the lesson that owning it all is not as crucial as it is to own the look.

To do this work, we were armed with her personal color palette, and her self-directed personal style profile results. With this information, we could review each piece and its merits – or lack thereof.  Her personal style profile revealed that she is stylish, imaginative, and striking.  While reviewing these jaw-dropping pieces hanging in her closet, she saw a pattern develop out of what she owned. At one point, she exclaimed, “See Joseph! I do like to be very bold and do enjoy unusual things!”  She realized in that moment how accurate her personal style profile is.  I didn’t make it up. She came up with the answers that set the blueprint for our work together.

So when she more deeply understands that owning it all is not as crucial as it is to own the look, she is going to feel like she can release herself from the pieces that are not the right kind of bold and unusual clothes for her.  Whether the clothes add unnecessary age to her visual presentation, or that the colors do not optimize her natural beauty, or that the patterns and textures wear her, and not the other way around, many things that she has collected do not flatter her from the outside in.

At one point I said to her, “When you put this on, you are hiding behind the façade of this design.” Clothes should not just reveal that you have the cash or the courage to own them.  To own the look is much deeper.  It is about being naturally confident in who you are with no agenda to prove anything to anybody.  That’s the most confident you can ever be.

If you can own it all, that’s one thing.  But when you own the look, I will offer a hearty “Bravo!” on a look well-done.

Joseph Rosenfeld helps successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs transform their self-confidence by improving their personal style.  Get Joseph’s free report that helps you know “7 Ways to Transform Your Personal Style”.