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How to Dress Better and Improve Your Life

Lesson 9 of 25

Wardrobe Analysis: Exploration

Jennifer Baumgartner

How to Dress Better and Improve Your Life

Jennifer Baumgartner

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Lesson Info

9. Wardrobe Analysis: Exploration

Lesson Info

Wardrobe Analysis: Exploration

In this phase, or this stage, we have cracked you open and looked at what's there. We have given you a general roadmap and formulation as to what we need to do. We've implemented those specific changes weekly, or daily, and the change phase for both the internal and the external. We have done the job. You are wearing a green dress. You are climbing and rappelling off buildings. You are teaching your classes online, whatever it might be, okay? So then, we look at the exploration. What the heck just happened, here? As my daughter likes to say, her quote, in this stage, I should just put in quotes, "What the heck!?" And that's really what it is, here. We did what we needed to do. We can't just go like this, right? We have to actually process what it is, and in this stage, I process what's going on with the person, in terms of dress changes, how they feel. I'm also gonna talk to them about the internal changes that we've planned. I always think it's important to discuss interaction between...

me and the person I'm working with. Did they like me? Did they hate me? Did I represent their mother? Whatever it might be. And then the process, and I also very honest with the person that I talk to, what I felt. "I was really worried that you wouldn't like me, "so I didn't say what I really wanted to say, "so now, I'm gonna say it." Things like that. Again, very similar to a therapeutic intervention, where I do process the relationship. I always end my sessions, and my clinical work, with, "What was this session like, for you? "How did you think we worked together, today? "What worked, what didn't? "What did I do that worked for you? "What didn't I? "What'd I do that made you comfortable or uncomfortable?" That's a very normal part of this stage. I don't just wanna do it when you leave the work, I also wanna follow up with you. So, one or two weeks, when you've, I wanna make sure that you're still doing what you need to do. I also wanna say, "Okay, you've had some time, now what? "Do you feel more comfortable wearing those froggy socks?" Something like that. Do you feel comfortable wearing the clothing that you've made, that, maybe, has put you a little over the edge, because you deliberately wanted to wear these bright colors, or things that were far more creative, and not get stuck in the chasm, right, or the rut. So we talk about what that change is like. We also talk about how others are responding, and how you can explain to them what you're doing, things of that nature. So that's where we talk about the process. So if you all have ever had a wardrobe change, where you've gone from x to y to z, could you speak to how the wardrobe has triggered a change in your life, or the life change has triggered a wardrobe change, and really, what that was like, for you. What was that process like, for you, internally? I'll give an example, 'cause, for the first portion of my life, when I was in catholic school, it was, you always had your uniform. Then I changed schools, and went to a public school, and that's when there was that, "Oh, I can wake up, and I can wear anything I want? "Literally anything?" And there was that moment, where I was like, "Wow!" and I feel like it sparked a little bit more creativity, 'cause I had to, for me, had to put pieces together to actually make an outfit, than just being like, "White shirt, blue pants. "Okay, let's go." Yeah, so total shift, in not just your role, there's more independence, but what you do with your wardrobe. And you're getting older, so again, there's this interesting parallel between gaining more independence, as you're changing schools and getting older, and kinda moving forward, and also, having more independence, in terms of how you present yourself to the world. During that, how old were you, when you shifted? It would've been, feels like middle school, so that's a big time, 'cause it was, your first, up to sixth grade, I think it was called, and then you go straight into middle school, before high school. So at least I wasn't going into high school, at least it was middle school, so it was that time to kind of learn more about yourself. It was just interesting because I had never been in a elementary school, in a public elementary school. I don't remember, really, but I just remember being like, you're watching everybody. You're like, "Okay, what do the people "I wanna hang out with wear?" And so-- Your in-group-- Yeah. and your out-group. So middle school is a particularly difficult age. Before I was a psychologist, I was a high school science and math teacher, and while I was becoming a psychologist, I was a middle school counselor. So that whole age is really, really hard. I worked at an all-girls school, but that stuff was coming out, and to go from grade school to middle school, where there's so much transition and shift, and forming of identity, and then, not only do you have to form your identity, now you have to put on your own uniform, and make sure that you're doing it right. So that's a incredibly stressful practice, right, because you don't wanna make any mistakes. You don't wanna go too far out of your in-group. You don't wanna go to the group that you don't wanna belong to. You don't want them thinking of you this way, and then you also have to grapple with your changing body. I'm like, "Oh, I have a pimple. "I got to wear a bra, now." So it's all this kind of stuff that's very, very hard. And so it's really fascinating that, as you shifted, and had to wear your own clothing, you also had these other major, major milestones of development, which happened in middle school. But I think it made me grow more than it would've-- Challenge is good, but it's very hard, because when you're in middle school, you're trying all these things, and you are gonna get far more feedback that's unfiltered than as an adult. Adults, certainly, can be mean and cruel, but I think, when you're younger, it's more said, they just kinda get it all out, versus adults won't actually often say it right to your face, like a middle-schooler might. It's done in a different way. And of course, there are all types of aggression, and things like that, that girls and boys use in a different way, but it's heightened at that age. And as we get older, we learn to do it in more subtle, covert ways. So in that age, it's often overt and covert, so. Whether you wanna be a conformist or either the environment changes you or you change the environment, 'cause I remember, at one place that I was working at, I never adhered to casual Fridays. I always wore the slacks and shirt, and one time I did, and somebody asked me, "Oh, you own a pair of jeans?" It's just like it's so different, and I never even thought about it that way. So that's the one that I struggle with. Do you wanna stay true to who you are, and what you wanna be, or you don't wanna stick out like a sore thumb. So there are different things, so when you're dressing more formally, then your colleagues, and it sounds like that's usually, if you're dressing up, and people are more casual. The number one thing I hear, when people do that, is people will respond to you, and they'll say, these are people that are kinda agitated, "Oh, you think you're better "than we are?" or, "Oh, you think "you don't have to dress down?" So there's like a value to it. So it's like you're one-upping, right? So I think the biggest obstacle is making sure that, and you don't have to do this, but if you are open and approachable, which you seem to be, that will automatically remove that association. So you have to be aware that that may be a response you will get. It may not even be conscious, with the person you're interacting with, but when you have somebody in a crowd that's dressed up a little bit more, again, there's like this automatic hierarchy that is set up, and so making sure that if you are showing who you are, that you're approachable, you're friendly, that that association of dressing up means you might feel like you're the boss, or you might feel like you're better, or you might feel like you would never dress like the way other people do, that that completely removes that association. So that would be an obstacle that I would see all the time, with people who, they do wanna dress up, but the feel like they don't wanna be too dressed up. They don't wanna shut the communication barrier, so they might have to work harder, if they don't want that. But again, if you wanna dress up, and you don't care about how other people respond to you, do it, but that may be a response. Very common. Okay, so that's the exploration change, excuse me, stage. I could speak to my own experience, as I hear this a lot, going from working woman to stay-at-home mommy. I have a baby. I did work when I had my child, but when I got home, I stopped working, so it wasn't just, when you're changing and transitioning, it's really not the clothes, it was my stuff. It was, oh, my body, my mind, my use of what I'd been trained to do, my role, my new identity, who I was, where I spent my day. Most of my day was spent cleaning the house, making the meals, picking up my child, and I wasn't doing the work, as a psychologist. I would do it at night, with the media, but not as much, in terms of clinical practice. So I also, as I said, had to change my wardrobe. Worrying work heels wasn't gonna work when I was running around on the playground, in the mud. I had to change all that. So there was this external shift, of who I was, and then there also was the obvious internal shift, of, okay, I went to school forever, and now it doesn't matter, 'cause I'm not using any of this, anymore, but I can assess my daughter. No. (laughing) So there are things like that. So it's very difficult, it's very strange, and now I'm getting back into the full-time workforce, so again, it's like a recalibration. Do I have clothes to wear, to work? I didn't give them away, so that's good. So I kept some of them. I did not follow the wear, or make sure you're wearing everything for a year, and if you're not, give it away. I kept my work clothes, and, but it's a total, it's like, do I have heels? Are my heels, am I on the nail heads, when I wear my heels? Things like that. So I have to shift, also, who I am. Do I know what I'm doing? I have the training, do I remember it? Should I take a couple of refresher courses? Should I change my name, now that I'm married? There's all this stuff that goes into the shifting of the wardrobe, and then the shifting of the self. And often, they parallel the other. So when you're doing a change, and then the exploration of the change, you have to acknowledge that, with any change, there's an internal and external.

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!