What I learned about my style when I asked a personal stylist for help

If you opened my closet you’d see exactly what you’d expect for someone trying to look like a Serious Writer: it’s full neutral tones, gray, black, and white. I have the same sweater in four different colors and the same cardigan in five. Like much of my life, there is a routine and a uniform. At least there was, until last month when I tried using a personal stylist for the first time.

When I was putting together my Pinterest board for her to draw inspiration from, I could see the pattern in the clothes I picked. They were basic, classic, and conservative. I had no bold colors, even as accent pieces, and no patterns other than stripes. Lucky for me, stripes are a big thing this spring, so it’s only enabled my love of buying stripes that help make me feel more comfortable in my hourglass shaped body. Even with my clothing choices, I tried to be as non-confrontational and quiet as possible.

So when I received my first selections from my stylist, I was thrilled; she had honed in on my love of stripes, comfortable clothing, and had even included a dress that fits better than many of the other dresses I’ve bought for myself over the years. She really understood who I was and what clothing fit in my comfort zone.

But here’s the thing — I didn’t necessarily sign up to stay in my comfort zone, and thus, I didn’t keep everything. I sent three out of five of the pieces back to StitchFix with a note saying that I, sadly, owned enough navy and white striped shirts. I regretted sending back the striped shirt because, while I know I would’ve loved it, I also knew I wouldn’t need it. It would be just another addition to the pile of long sleeved striped shirts on a shelf in my closet.

And that was the first lesson: sometimes it’s good to be brutally honest with my closet, and with myself. I don’t need to wear the same color over and over again to be comfortable. I don’t need another striped shirt in order to be confident.

The second lesson came from looking through the different Pinterest boards the company has set up. I got inspired. I, too, could pull off floral scarves. I could pull off pink, yellow, soft pastels that I normally shied away from. Just because I stray from the monochromatic scale doesn’t mean I won’t be taken seriously as a writer, an editor, or as a woman.

This past weekend I worked a local bookfair and my first instinct told me to go with black or gray clothing — with things that made me feel like I belonged in the fringe writer crowd in my city. But as I stepped back from the closet, I stopped on a gold sweater before choosing something I’d typically pick. I grabbed that brightly colored sweater and a floral scarf and put on some pink lip gloss. I left the house feeling confident, because I knew my choice in an outfit was a good one.

The third, maybe the most important lesson, is that I can still be me, no matter what I’m wearing. I can still show my stripes. Just like the zebras (whose print I will never wear), or the tigers, I have stripes in the form of scars and tattoos and I shoudn’t cover them up. They’re part of who I am. I am a person with a deathly hallows, Gabriel Garcia Marquez quote, and semicolon tattoo. I can layer over them, use them in a new way, use them to influence who I see myself as on any given day.

I’m not sure if I’ll keep using a personal stylist. Maybe I will when I’m having a really bad week, or when I need to update my closet for a new season, or if I have a big event coming up. Right now, though, I’m feeling confident in my choices. I know that I can branch out beyond the same sweater, the same colors, and still feel like the woman I know I am. I just needed someone else to show me the way.

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