I’m one of those people who often complains I have nothing to wear. I’ll try on countless outfits, stare into my closet in frustration, and ultimately end up throwing on jeans and a T-shirt. I figure you can’t feel bad about your outfit if you didn’t even try. It was this eternal frustration that lead me to consider a wardrobe edit — a process in which a style expert goes through all your clothes to help improve your personal aesthetic.
Not knowing where to even begin, I turned to GoodLooks, a site that matches you with experts and specialists catered to your specific goals and needs, like stylists, nutritionists, and career coaches. You can filter your results based on things like your age, budget, gender, and body type. This was how I got matched with Christina Pacelli, a celebrity and fashion stylist based in New York City. I'll admit that at first I was a little dubious. Pacelli's website said she typically works on celebrity shoots and with models. "Will she be able to help a freelance writer like me?" I thought. I looked down at my old T-shirt and sport shorts and decided to put my faith in the match. I booked the appointment.
The week leading up to my wardrobe edit left me surprisingly nervous. I wondered if I’d be forced to throw out all my clothes, if my expert would secretly be judging me, and — most importantly — I wondered what I should wear to my own edit. All these thoughts and more kept me occupied in the hours leading up to the session.
And this is where Pacelli comes in. She arrives (dressed impeccably) at my apartment promptly at 10 a.m. We start the session off by talking about my personal style and shopping habits. This is when I reveal what I think are my biggest fashion faux pas — things like saving things I never actually wear, and buying items that don’t go with anything else in my closet.
Pacelli's reactions are surprisingly positive. Instead of chastising me for holding on to clothes that don’t currently fit, she says that keeping things, especially jeans and bottoms, that account for weight fluctuation is both normal and practical. She also has a unique perspective on what I consider to be my bad habit of collecting random items. “I think mismatched pieces, or what you think are mismatched pieces, are fun little items in your wardrobe to think about,” Pacelli says. “They can be that unique piece that elevates your look. It can make your outfit for that day, and might surprisingly go with more things than you think.”
While thrilled that I'm not being fashion shamed, I'm still not convinced. "She just hasn’t seen how bad it is yet," I think. "Wait until we open my closet." The next phase of the session entails heading to my bedroom, where I've laid out almost all the clothes I own on my bed. We’re talking button-ups, work skirts, winter sweaters, party dresses — the works. I had attempted to keep things organized by season and usage, but as you can see, things got kind of jumbled.
This is when the real work begins. Pacelli proceeds to go through every single item on the bed with me. She asks me how often I wear it, if I feel it looks good, what I pair it with, etc. Her questions feel non-judgmental — like she's truly just trying to figure out what I like and why I'm drawn to certain items. She often holds a piece up and describes what she thinks would really make it pop, like a statement necklace or belt, and provides suggestions on how best to wear it. As we go through each item, something starts happening that I haven't experienced in a long time: I start getting excited about my clothes. “That would look great with knee-high boots!” I think. Or, “Yes, tucked in. Why didn’t I ever think of that?”
Some of the most aha moments for me come when we get to my “work” clothes. These are items in my closet that I keep around in the event that I ever need to attend a corporate-type function. I hardly ever pull these out and am honestly ready to barrel past them, but Pacelli instantly gravitates towards the pair of black pants.“These would make great going-out pants!” she says, pointing out the stylish zippers over the pockets that I’d never really noticed. “Their length is great for heels.” She then moves onto the chinos, “And these are great day pants. Like a day in the park with friends.” She also notes that with some slight hemming, my “work skirt” could double as a totally stylish going-out bottom.
And the thing is, she's right. I had created so many little mental categories for my clothes in my mind, that I was missing out on pairing opportunities. She also points out that a ton of my reasons for not loving certain items (i.e., “It’s just a little too long,” or, “It bunches a little around the stomach”) can easily and inexpensively be fixed through tailoring. "Tailoring is key, especially if you have a shorter stature," she says. "Probably half my wardrobe is tailored. A quick fix from the tailor at the dry cleaner down the street will do the trick."
As we go through each piece, Pacelli recommends that I get rid of surprisingly little. Every now and then we get to an item, and after patiently listening to my take on it, she gently explains why she thinks it's not worth keeping. She then recommends a couple items the thinks will fill a few holes in my wardrobe, like white pants and olive-colored bottoms. She calls them her "neutral accent colors," because they go with almost everything but aren't boring.
After the clothes, we move onto shoes (where Pacelli braves my unforgivably dusty closet without complaint). When it comes to this part, she's more vocal about what she feels I need to get rid of and what needs to be added to my collection. She notes that I gravitate towards flats and kitten heels, but am lacking basic black and brown boots. “A ton of your skirts and dresses are begging for boots!” she says enthusiastically.
The same holds true for my jewelry and accessories. She compliments the few pieces I have, but points out that I could elevate a ton of the clothes I already own with some bold statement pieces, especially necklaces. "With the right statement necklace, all you need is a white T-shirt and a pair of pants and you're good to go, because the necklace does everything," she says.
OK, I'm starting to get it. Anyone can put on clothes, but an outfit is really made, or “elevated,” as Pacelli often says, by the accessories. She even notes that a ton of my casual cotton T-shirts could be dressed up for a brand new look just with the right necklace.
The other thing I start to realize is that I’ve been wrong: I don't have a ton of clothes and nothing to wear. I have a ton of clothes and lots to wear. It truly comes down to pairing unexpected elements and investing in the right accessories. And Pacelli notes that the jewelry market is incredibly over-saturated, meaning you can find almost anything you want or need in any price point (i.e: buying accessories doesn’t have to break the bank).
She also stresses that the exact same individual clothing items can be styled to create multiple different outfits. To prove her point, she helps me create both an “Uptown” and “Downtown” look using the same exact basics.
“Uptown Toria” (above) as styled by Pacelli, is put together using only items I already own, like a plaid skirt and a pair of heels with an ankle strap. The second look (photo below), is more of a “Downtown Toria, inspired by Alexander Wang" look. This outfit uses the same base pieces.
The only difference is we've swapped out the heels for boots, and add a flannel shirt around the waist. The Alexander Wang bag is admittedly on loan from Pacelli, but she notes that there are a ton of places to get high-end bags at discounted prices for those of us on a budget.
I love the two distinct outfits Pacelli put together, and what’s more, I love that both looks come from things I already own. Because let’s be real, most of us don’t have the funds to throw away every item in our closet and start from scratch.
So my final assessment: while a wardrobe edit probably doesn’t have the power to change your life (does anything?), it definitely has the power to reinvigorate you about the clothes you already own. It also helps you see pairing and styling options that you may have never picked up on. I genuinely feel like I have at least twice the ensemble options I thought I did — and all with the exact same amount of actual items. It just took a fresh (and extremely fashionable) set of eyes to help me see it.
Images: Toria Sheffield