Stuck in a sartorial rut?

If you appear stuck in your dress sense, it can (often incorrectly) be assumed that you are also ‘stuck’ in your thinking, writes Jackie O’Fee, and that can be a problem in your working life where innovation and fresh thinking are encouraged.

A few years back I worked with a delightful client whose family would tease her about looking like “Angela Merkel”. Every day she would wear a brightly coloured jacket over a simple outfit of black pants and a black top. It was certainly easy, but although I’ve previously mentioned uniforms in this column, if you work in an environment where you don’t need to wear one it is a bit sad to repeatedly wear the same look. 

I often work with clients who are a bit ‘stuck’ in the way they dress, choosing the same styles day after day with perhaps the only change being the colour – and occasionally not even that. Interestingly, in many cases these people are totally unaware of their sartorial duplication.  

The challenge is that if you appear stuck in your dress sense, it can (often incorrectly) be assumed that you are also ‘stuck’ in your thinking. This can be a problem in our working life where innovation and fresh thinking are encouraged. 

While I’m not suggesting you make an outrageous change to your look on a daily basis, I do think that if you find yourself gravitating to the same stores to buy yet another jacket / dress / pair of black pants, perhaps it’s time to revisit what you wear and look at how mixing it up can work better for you. 

If this column has made you stop and wonder if it could be written for you, it’s time to take stock. Ask yourself (and those who know you) if you are dressing on repeat. 

Check your wardrobe; is it full of variations of the same thing? 

  • Do you own large numbers of a few items? 
  • More than a few jackets? 
  • Oodles of dresses? 
  • Ten pairs of black pants? 

Chances are you are paralysed in your style choices. 

To actively break out of a style rut you need to put in some work. Spend some time trawling the internet and magazines (I’m a big fan of InStyle for women and GQ for men). As you look through the images take note of the garments and outfits that you like, and start developing a ‘list’ of new things you might like to try.

The joy of doing this in the virtual world means you can suspend any negative thoughts around your shape and even better, as you are neither trying these garments on nor spending any real money, you can be a little playful. 

The next step? Seek out some of the garments you’ve earmarked and go and try these on. This may mean putting aside your biases and going into stores that you’ve previously bypassed for being “too young”, “too cool”, “too cheap”, “too expensive”, “too old” or even “they won’t have anything to fit me”.  

Challenge yourself to shop everywhere in order to keep yourself from wardrobe paralysis. When you stick to the same stores and designers every time you shop, you run the risk of sticking to the same styles too.

Trying new items can be difficult, as what is different to you can feel incredibly challenging and confronting. 

If you are not used to seeing yourself in this way, it can be hard to accept that it works and you may second guess yourself out of something wonderful.

If this is the case, it might help to take a friend along to offer an unbiased opinion, although share that you are trying to change and choose one who won’t simply agree with you. 

If you really want help to get out of a style rut consider working with a personal stylist. More than just taking you shopping, a good personal stylist works with you to find out who you are, and to help you develop a style of dress that truly reflects that, while also considering your colouring and shape. 


Jackie O’Fee is the owner of personal style consultancy Signature Style. She works with both individuals and organisations. Further detail can be found on her website



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