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How to Dress Better and Improve Your Life

Lesson 11 of 25

Wardrobe Analysis: Case Study

Jennifer Baumgartner

How to Dress Better and Improve Your Life

Jennifer Baumgartner

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Lesson Info

11. Wardrobe Analysis: Case Study

Lesson Info

Wardrobe Analysis: Case Study

This is based on a client that I worked with. I've obviously anonymized and changed a lot of things to protect the person. Mrs. X is a 30 something who has returned to school. She has had, yeah. She has had serious medical problems, financial difficulties, and weight gain. Alright, so the question is, what would you do? Now obviously, you don't know what you would do, because you don't know anything more about this woman, but if you're in the exploration phase, the exploration phase simply means asking the questions, figuring out more about her. So if you wanted to know more about this woman, if you wanted to kinda crack her open, what would you ask? What are some things that are important for you to know to alter the external, what she wears, and the internal, what she wants from her life? How would you find that out? What are the questions you would ask? One of the first things that comes to me is because the life changed, has it changed, and the medical condition, has it changed h...

er weight? Now, does the clothes that she have, whether its looser or tighter, how can you make that change, in other words, at least give her a better outlook and feeling. I would ask her what does she return to school for, what is she studying to achieve, what's she trying to become? What is the goal, yeah. Mm hmm. Okay, so Mrs. X, here are some things that we found out when we just explored. She used oversized clothes to hide her body because she did have weight gain, it was from medication. She was very self-conscious, she had a large chest, so she was very self-conscious about her chest, she wanted to cover that. She had a lot of items that were inexpensive, but they were also low quality and she had financial concerns due to her medical issues. She didn't want to use any of her money when she already was using it to pay medical bills and also preparing to pay for school. She wore a lot of worn-out, stained, and ripped pieces, because she didn't want to draw attention to herself, because she felt like she already stood out because of her medical issues. Her clothing was not interchangeable. So she had a lot of these like, separate pieces, and none of them worked very well together and she was afraid to try to put them together because she didn't want to make a mistake, again, afraid of standing out, because she already felt like she stood out with medical issues. She had all the casual pieces like sweatpants, t-shirts, she felt like she was stuck in a rut, and she didn't really have any clothes for her new life which would be returning to school. So those were the major things that came out when we were just kinda cracking her open, working on the exploration phase with her. The next phase is the formulation phase. So this is just kinda the general road map. This is where does she want to go, what might she want to do? So let's pretend you're Mrs. X, you've gained a lot of weight, you feel self-conscious about your chest, you have medical problems, you don't want to stand out, you are entering a new phase in your life where you're going back to school. What would be something that you might want to change, or get better? I would say, how to find good quality clothes that lasts longer and it keeps it's look in order to at least have a good outlook, 'cause you can find good clothes in secondhand stores, for example, at good quality, but still looks good, and at least it changes how you feel. So like an investment piece that makes her feel like she's actually engaging in self care. Anybody else? If you were Mrs. X, what would you want for your wardrobe, or just for your life? Well, I'll tell you what we decided. We examined that she really wanted grownup clothes, as she called them grownup clothes, which for her, were just classic items with a twist. She wanted clothes that were casual, comfortable, but not sloppy. There is a difference between wearing clothes that she thought were like, kinda sloppy like her sweatpants and ripped and stained t-shirts, but clothing that really could be just as comfortable, like a dress that she could throw on that wasn't you know, that was presentable. She also felt like she needed to cover her chest, but not hide her chest. There was a difference between being appropriate and being ashamed, and she didn't want to do that anymore. Because she was starting school, she did want to become more social. So she wanted to meet friends in school, she wanted to socialize more, she wanted to be prepared in school, and in terms of the socialization in school, she felt like she needed to strengthen her social skills, and she also wanted to reduce her anxiety about standing out in a crowd. So kind of her overarching goal was finding some things that made her feel comfortable on the inside and out, and facilitated a connection with others and identity in her new role by using her wardrobe to help her do that. The last, or the third stage for her was the change stage, and this is where we really came up with a specific, kinda, behavioral changes. So let's say we're taking out our weekly calendar, okay, and I take out her weekly calendar, and I'm gonna prescribe some activities that she can try to try some new clothes, try some social skills, be comfortable in who she is. What are some things that you might have or do, to kinda test these things out, or, yeah? Maybe have her attend, you know, when you go in school, there's always different group activities, or they may have something where you need to work in a group. So maybe have her try to, with one of her new wardrobe pieces, test it out. Go to one of those events. Right, so testing out, too, it's really her comfort. So putting her in an outfit that kinda makes her feel a little like, "Ooh, I'm out of my comfort zone," but then also putting her in a situation where she might be uncomfortable, which is socialization. Right. Absolutely. What else? Well, in this day in age, I fear taking about, now if this patient X is in this time, online you can find a lot of groups and people who donate or help students that are in need. As far as clothes is concerned, different things are concerned, she can take advantage of those resources in order to change some of the outlooks on things that she can't afford doing. Right. There are counselors at school that can help with those things. There are different student boards that can help and such. Okay yeah, absolutely. Yeah? I was just thinking, what about, I don't know just like, some positive feedback. Like once she is trying on some new and different outfits, photographing her in those outfits and so that, when she's not feeling great about herself, she can look at them and go, "Hey you know, I look pretty good in this," and it's a reminder that. Yeah, often when we don't realize how nice we look, and then we might look back at pictures, you know, we always have those like, tragic 80's pictures where we don't look as, we thought we looked better than we do, but a lot of times, we don't think we look good. We're often our biggest critic and sometimes we look back and we say, "Well, I don't look that bad, I looked fine, I looked nice." So that's, yeah, that's important to kinda see that what you perceive and what is, are often very different things. So yeah, letting her see that she looks fantastic. So this is actually what I did with her. We did exactly what you said, we bought a higher price point items with better quality and materials because it would last longer and it saved her money. We found clothes that fit the narrowest part of her body that she felt comfortable with that kinda floated away from those areas that didn't feel as comfortable. We did buy her some tops, like a deep V, but we put a camisole under it, so she didn't feel like she was covering, but she was still appropriate. We used soft cotton fabrics that feel comfortable, they were in jersey fabrics, but she wasn't wearing sweatpants, okay? So she was wearing dresses and different like sweater-blazers and things like that. We got her foundations garments, so making sure that she felt like she was properly supported, she was covered, things of that nature. We also helped her, we looked a lot at jewel tones, so colors that she felt were beautiful and saturated, but didn't make her stand out too much and we kinda created outfits so she knew what to do, they all were interchangeable so that she didn't make a mistake. We also looked at pieces, the accessories were the pieces where she felt like she can take more risk, so we used the accessories and had a little more adventure. Then in terms of her internal, I had her do exactly what you said, like kinda social exercises, deliberately making her uncomfortable, not to the extreme, but putting her in social situations. We also did in vivo experiments with me, so she would practice socializing with me, we would do role play in terms of introductions, open-ended questions, conversation continuation, as well as conversation conclusion. A lot of times when people are nervous socially, it's not just that they don't know what to say, it's that they don't know how to get out. (Jennifer laughs) So teaching people how to do that. We also looked at the impact of non-verbal cues, like posturing. Do I want to talk to you? No! Do I want to talk to you now? Yes, I want to talk to you now! Okay, so there are different things are posturing, looking at you in the eye in a non-aggressive way versus looking away. So we practiced all those things when we worked together. And then also we did like, a to-do list. So I schedule like, weekly events that she can go to, making sure that I put it on the calendar. If I'm not putting it on the calendar, she may not use it, and then picking out outfits so that, we did it slowly so she felt more comfortable. We started with like, a jersey pantsuit, and then we moved to a more colorful dress, and then we tried different fabrics, and then we kinda like, did that over the month, or a couple months to make her feel more comfortable, and of course, I assessed her with that. We also did the online social network. You talked about getting the clothing through online, but you can also have, people can socialize online first, creating a network groups and then she can take the initiative, she can invite them out for coffee or meet them in person. And then we also, you know one of her big things was explaining her medical condition to people, so we did role play. "Alright, you know this person's staring at you, "they want to know. "What do you say to explain what's going on "while still maintaining your privacy "and feeling comfortable?" So we did that as well. In the exploration stage, we looked at what happened, and when we're exploring what happened, there were a couple of themes that came out. Number one was overexposure, not wanting to show too much and that was making her feel really uncomfortable. Once she made the shift, she felt like she was still expressing her body, she wasn't covering it up, but she wasn't so exposed where she felt like she didn't like what she was doing. There were also concerns about cost and we talked about you know, cost per use and wear, so really making the investment. The other piece was that she had money, but she also felt guilty. Guilty about spending any more on herself and we talked about how clothing was a form of self care. She had been through a lot genetically, why wasn't she allowed? Where did she learn that she wasn't allowed to take care of herself? And we actually processed a lot of the guilt that surrounded self care, it had actually nothing to do with her budget, and everything to do with the stuff of her value, what she was worth, what she deserved. We also looked at this understanding of fresh start for the year, where she was going into a new season of her life, where she was socializing, she was becoming a student, she wasn't just her diagnosis, she was a lot more than that. So taking about that shift and what it's like for her to really, gain a new identity outside of her medical issues. In the future, what was next for her? Wardrobe, skinny jeans with boots. She didn't want to try more color in her wardrobe. We looked at accessories for her, just a little more flare. We also talked about improving her public speaking, so having her take public speaking classes which in the beginning, probably was a nightmare for her, but now, she felt a little more comfortable with it. Making sure that she joined more clubs kind of, beyond what she felt comfortable with, so things that weren't necessarily in her field, but that were in her interest. We also had her join hobbies, things that she wanted to try, just things that were on her bucket list and then, learning to meet others in there process, while pursing her dream.

Class Description

Every time we buy a piece of clothing and choose an outfit to wear, we’re saying something about who we are. Our dressing behaviors are like windows into our psyches, exposing our deepest feelings, desires, conflicts, and problems.

Author and clinical psychologist Dr. Jen Baumgartner will begin by looking at the general principles of psychology of dress and fashion, then dive into the nine most common dressing difficulties—from buying more than we need to being bored with our look to avoiding mirrors.

In this fascinating course, Dr. Baumgartner will not only help you examine your wardrobe and how it reflects your emotions, but will teach you how to modify your choices so you can make real improvements to your life—both inside and out.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Understand the principles of acquiring, assembling, storing, organizing, and removing.
  • Identify which of the nine dress difficulties applies to you.
  • Stop buying items that you don’t really need or want.
  • Avoid always being in work clothes or mom jeans.
  • Formulate a strategy for changing your behaviors and revamping your wardrobe.


Yolanda Azpiazu

Loved it! Incredible class, so interesting and filled with new concepts, I am a big fan of the author and I admire her for the way she suggests us to analyse things with curiosity and looking "bellow the water", rather than judgement. Thank you so much for this wonderful class Dr. Baumgartner.

a Creativelive Student

It's about how you dress, but really, it's about how to use the way you dress as a lens to better understand yourself. Packed with useful information and tips, highly recommend! Thanks Jenny!