Meet George Brescia, a longtime fashion insider who has worked for big names like Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger turned personal stylist and feel-good clothing guru. But the best thing about Brescia is that he’s about much more than just telling you which colors look good together. His new book, Change Your Clothes, Change Your Life, looks at the connection between our feelings and the clothes we put on our body. Brescia has even coined the term “conscious dressing” to appeal to those who have convinced themselves that what you wear just doesn’t matter. Even better, his how-to guide culminates with a checklist of must-have items for your closet (sneak peak: it runs from “the classic little black dress” to “three to four quality bras”).
Brescia wants to be your fashion fairy godfather and psychiatrist at the same time, using your style woes as a way to diagnose how your day-to-day struggles with clothes relate to issues that go beyond your wardrobe. Some of his advice might feel time consuming at first — he recommends eschewing sales and shopping online in lieu of hitting the stores in real life — but chances are you’ll end up feeling a little more aware of how your clothes affect every aspect of your life.
Here, tips from Brescia about how you can make your clothes work for you:
1) What you wear matters.
“It’s never about just wearing the clothes. People get so overwhelmed when they think about what to wear. So they just fall asleep at it, they just pick and they don’t think about what they’re wearing. And some people get really freaked out by it. They want to hide and not be seen, no matter what. But you’re required to wear clothing by law. So the key is that no matter what you do, other people are going to see you and think about what you’re wearing. And you’re going to think about them. Take that experience and work it to your advantage.”
2) You are your closet.
“Your closet is like the window to your soul. Your closet says everything about you. But I still see this all the time: What do you not wear 80% of the clothes that you own? People don’t know what to do, so they get overwhelmed and buy things they think they should. Which means a lot of people go into their closet and feel dread. You should go in and feel joyful.”
3) Learn from the likes.
“Go into your closet and start by going through piece by piece. We all know what these pieces are in terms of what you get compliments on. Don’t you have a sweater or a dress or a suit that people always say, ‘OMG! You look amazing?’ Take those pieces and start to gather them. But don’t just think about the superlatives — it’s time to learn from them. What color are they? How do they fit your body? If you’re getting compliments every time you wear green, green is a good color for you. This is a way to teach yourself about silhouettes, colors you look good in, fabric. And then go back to gather the things you’re not wearing. Make a pile and take it to a consignment shop or thrift store.”
4) Care about what you wear.
“Getting dressed isn’t superficial. It’s not for [other people], it’s for you. It makes you feel good by taking the time and making it an important thing, then you’re going to attract what you want in your life. If you take the time to figure out for yourself how you want to feel, dressing right can help. You can’t just try hard when the stakes are high. You’re making an impression whether you realize it or not.”
5) Throw away your old casual wear.
“Casual dress freaks women out the most. Figure out what you want to say — do you really want to be wearing your boyfriend’s basketball shorts on the treadmill at the gym? And you don’t have to pay a lot for casual clothes. You can get basics at amazing prices. There’s no excuse — it’s not costly! When you’re walking the dog, you don’t know who you’re going to bump into. No one is asking you to go out in a cocktail dress. If you’re grabbing something, it might as well be cute.”
6) Don’t break your bank.
“Everyone has their own budget. When you know what you look good in, and are using your closet as a toolbox, you can shop anywhere. It’s a personal preference. Just be mindful. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on basics. Fashion and style are for everyone.”
7) When to spend.
“Splurge on things that are timeless, like a handbag or a watch. Pick a beautiful accessory. If you get an item of clothing like a great blazer, make sure there’s a longevity to it, because you can wear it with different things.”
8) Know your trend.
“When you know what you look good in already, you can chose the trend that’s right for you. If there’s a trend out there that you like, figure out how to do it so that it works for you and your color. You never want to just go out and buy trendy items. The challenge is to know what you have to work with while knowing what you should camouflage. If you don’t love your legs, don’t wear short skirts. If you have a fab back, wear something backless. A lot of times trends are going to naturally happen, so when you see something while you’re shopping, just try it on.”
9) The one thing we should all stop doing.
“Wearing clothes that don’t fit. It’s so unflattering. When the clothes start to wear you and you’re not wearing the clothes, something isn’t working. Make sure your clothes fit. Take them to a tailor. Women especially are uncomfortable if they think clothes are too revealing.”
10) Pull yourself together every morning.
“People freak out in the morning because it messes with their confidence. They second guess themselves and spiral out. They haven’t taken the time to be conscious about it and stop and say ‘no, I’m going to take control and feel and look amazing.’ Take that time.”
11) Treat every day like you’re dressing for a big meeting.
“When people are getting dressed for a day that’s really important, they pull it together. They stop their lives, they take the time and they know it’s important. When it’s just a regular day, that’s when they get overwhelmed. You’re being seen everyday whether you want to be seen or not. There’s so many different levels, so much subtext in the workplace and a lot of politics to deal with. If you really put yourself together, it brings in a whole different experience to work. Think about the people who go the other direction, and look inappropriate.”