Nine Basic Wardrobe Mistakes and How They Reveal Your Insecurities

By Jenna Goudreau

Are you a compulsive shopper with a closet full of still-tagged sale items? Do you frequently open your dresser and groan because you "have nothing to wear?" Have you ever swapped clothes with your teenage daughter to try to stay with it? If so, you may be guilty of one of the cardinal wardrobe sins-and your faux pas might say more about you than you realize.

"Your clothes reflect how you feel at the moment," says clinical psychologist and wardrobe consultant Jennifer Baumgartner, the author of upcoming You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Reveal About You. "We critically examine all types of behaviors-from sex to eating and exercise-but oftentimes blow off clothing as superficial. In fact, the inner self and the external environment impact each other and are in constant communication. What you wear can be an indicator of what's going on internally."

Baumgartner, a closet whisperer who has developed the "psychology of dress," identified the nine most common wardrobe mistakes that she regularly sees in clients. She says typically there is a disconnect between the true self and the clothing. She breaks down these common missteps, what they reveal about your insecurities and how to get over it.

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Do you always buy more than you actually need?Do you always buy more than you actually need?No. 1: You Buy More Than You Need

What it says: Baumgartner likens over-buying and compulsive shopping to binge eating. "There's an emotional emptiness that you're trying to fill with clothing," she says. And because buying offers a temporary high, oftentimes excessive shopping can be a coping method to distract yourself from the real, underlying problem. However, she notes that "avoidance does not work and only makes things worse." So what began as an emotional problem is further compounded by credit card debt and a closet stuffed full with clothes you don't need and will hardly wear.

How to get over it: First, identify that you have a problem, says Baumgartner. Consider your shopping triggers. Do you have an urge to buy when you're experiencing anxiety, sadness or boredom? She suggests you find a healthy alternative like exercising or turning to your support network. Then, pinpoint the true cause of the inner turmoil-perhaps an unfulfilling relationship or work stress-and come up with an action plan to combat the real problem. "You need to act," she says. "Figure out your options and come up with a plan."

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No. 2: Your Closet Is Overflowing

What it says: If you have more stuff than space, it may be symptomatic of your shopping habits, but is more likely a manifestation of arrested development, Baumgartner says. "It's nostalgia. People embody their stuff with a moment in time." Still holding on to those size-4 skinny jeans even though you've been a size 10 for years? You may be clinging to a positive memory rather than accepting the here and now. If you know you need to clean out the clutter but don't know how or what to give away, you're stalling. She says looking in the closet will be a daily reminder that you've failed. "Something is undone and hasn't been dealt with."

How to get over it: Baumgartner says the most important step is learning to detach the emotion from the stuff. After you do an initial closet clean-out, tossing or giving away stained, torn, old and ill-fitting items, create a plan to keep it streamlined. She suggests scheduling one day a week, usually Sunday, to get all the laundry done, pick everything up off the floor and hang garments in an organized way. One helpful rule: For every new piece you buy, get rid of two old pieces. It will force you to consistently make room for incoming clothes while also making you think twice at the register.

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Are your clothes making you feel out of place?Are your clothes making you feel out of place?No. 3: You're Bored With Your Look

What it says: If your wardrobe is a sea of blah-neutrals, basics and safe standbys-you may be feeling a deep sense of boredom in your life that you've yet to articulate. "If getting dressed doesn't excite you, it may be that you're not excited with your life," says Baumgartner. There's often a lack of care to purchase new things or take the time necessary to look polished every day. Furthermore, if your clothes help you fade into the background, she says you may be afraid to take risks, get noticed or of what others might say.

How to get over it: You can go inside-out by creating a life that requires an amped up wardrobe, Baumgartner says. If you make plans to attend a movie screening, go on a picnic or have a weekly brunch with your girlfriends, suddenly you'll have a reason to buy new pieces and spend the time to get ready. You could also approach it from the outside-in, by finding clothes that excite you. "If you wear something a little on the edge and see the positive reaction, you may start to take risks in other areas of your life," she says.

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