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How many pieces in your wardrobe have rarely – or even never – seen the light of day?

Nine out of ten times, do you find yourself reaching for the same clothes, leaving the majority collecting dust at the back? If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. A 2018 study across 20 countries found that the average person doesn’t wear at least 50% of their wardrobe; it’s even higher in the USA at 88%, and 73% in the UK.

Why?

There are certainly instances where you’ve bought something only to later wonder what on earth you were thinking. If you’re like me, this can often happen on holiday when you’re wearing your vacation goggles: that cowboy hat looked amazing on the ranch, but now that you’re back home, you look ridiculous!

But one of the leading reasons we don’t wear our clothes is because we don’t know how or where to wear them. Perhaps you’ve bought something that’s a bit different and you’re worried others might not like it? Or you’ve spent more than usual and you feel you have to save it for ‘best’?

Whatever the excuse, what it often boils down to is a lack of confidence.

A lot of women increasingly find themselves stuck in a style rut as they get older, losing the confidence to experiment with their style no matter how much they’d like to.

It might be because you’ve been a ‘mom’ for so long that you’ve lost your sense of self, or because your body has changed over time. Or maybe those ageist articles dictating what you should and shouldn’t wear over a certain age have left you feeling concerned about being judged.

So you play it safe, automatically gravitating towards the same pieces, leaving the rest of your wardrobe feeling sad and abandoned. For example, a very common ‘safe’ option is wearing black or navy. But while there’s nothing wrong with these colors, if you’re wearing something because it makes you feel safe, there’s a problem. Because what you wear should make you feel fabulous. Fashion and style are something to enjoy and have fun with, not make you feel small and timid.

So what’s the answer?

Having confidence is all well said and done, but you can’t just magically develop it overnight. It takes time.

But there are simple ways you can grow in style confidence so that you feel comfortable wearing those unworn pieces.

#1 – Declutter

I don’t advocate a regular ‘spring clean’ of your wardrobe, but it’s worth going through it from time to time and removing those items you’ll never wear again.

Don’t eliminate based on trends, because they can – and most likely will – come around again. Instead, focus on your emotions: when you look at a garment, how does it make you feel? If it evokes any negative feelings, whatever the reason, it’s time to say goodbye and donate to a charity shop.

Conversely, don’t just remove something because you’ve rarely or never worn it. Again, think about how it makes you feel. As a lady once said to me: “I don’t even care if I look good in this skirt I’m wearing; every time I look at it, the print makes me smile.” But that’s exactly why she did look good in it – because she felt great, that shone through. So if a garment gives you a warm sense of joy or even a chuckle when you look at it, then it’s a keeper.

Also, be careful about clinging onto clothes that no longer fit ‘just in case’; most of the time their existence just makes one feel pressured and demoralized, so unless they really give you positive motivation, they aren’t worth keeping around.

#2 – Start small and don’t worry about getting it wrong

Once you’ve started to edit your wardrobe, it’s time to begin incorporating those fab, yet rarely worn, pieces into your outfits.

Don’t just throw yourself into the deep end straight away; start small. Merge those unworn pieces with ones you feel more comfortable in, such as pairing a dress with your favorite shoes. Or that funky handbag with jeans and t-shirt. This will help you gradually step out of your comfort zone and you’ll increasingly start to have more fun and be more experimental, willing to wear previously unworn pieces that add attitude and personality to your outfit.

And you don’t need to worry about getting it wrong, because others will just love seeing a ‘new you’ and its transformative effect on your confidence. So you’ll be even more boosted by the compliments you receive!

#3 – Don’t just save for ‘best’

So many clothes – especially the more expensive and/or glamorous ones – go unworn because we’ve mentally resigned them for ‘best’. Now, I’m not suggesting you should start doing the cleaning in a sequined dress (that said, if you want to, no one is stopping you!), but the issue is how we define ‘best’. More often than not, we set such a high bar that, unless we’re off to a black-tie ball or the Queen is coming for tea, the item will never see the light of day.

Why can’t every day be ‘best’? You deserve to feel your best every day, so you should be wearing clothes that reflect that. Otherwise, you’re essentially telling yourself you don’t deserve to wear something today because it (and you) aren’t special enough.

You may think this sounds a bit farfetched, but scientific studies have proven the impact wearing clothes can have on our mental wellbeing. For example, a survey of 100 women found that, when feeling low, over 50% reach for jeans while 57% wear a baggy top — whereas just 2% would wear one when happy. And we’ve all heard of ‘lucky pants’; we know that they aren’t actually imbued with luck, of course, but when you wear them, they have a placebo effect of making you feel better and more confident, and good things follow. Similarly, another study in 2012 found that we perform better and pay more attention when wearing lab coats because we feel smarter. So it’s time to start wearing those clothes that make you feel fabulous!

Remember, too, that if you’ve invested in quality it will be more durable, so you can wear it without worrying it will fall apart. It was designed to stand the test of time.

Equally, don’t worry about being over- or wrongly dressed for the occasion. Today’s dress codes have blurred, and evening glamour has permeated into daytime wear, so there are far fewer occasions where only certain outfits are appropriate.

In particular, the dreaded ‘Smart Casual’ is a great opportunity to wear something more glitzy. Just follow the simple formula of pairing something more party-ish/formal with something relaxed, and you’ve nailed it. For example, partner that statement blouse or sparkly top with jeans, or balance your flamboyant skirt or trousers with a simple t-shirt or knit. Or simply dress down that chic printed dress with sneakers, pumps or flat boots.

#4 – Fill in the gaps

Now that you’re wearing more pieces, you’ll see clearly the gaps in your wardrobe. With a new, confident mindset you can stop gravitating towards the same familiar looks and instead choose new, interesting pieces that are full of personality and you know you’ll wear.

Many women are still cautious about online shopping for clothes, but it’s perfect for allowing your personal style to flourish. There are so many more options online, so you can discover new boutiques and brands rather than being limited to what’s in the nearby shops. And even well-known brands have much wider ranges available on their websites than in a store.

I recommend creating a Pinterest board of your existing items and adding to it new pieces that have caught your eye, so you get a feel for whether they’ll work. And the best part about shopping online is that you can try something on in the comfort of your own home and see how it will work with the rest of your wardrobe. With most brands these days offering free online shipping and returns, and online security better than ever, you’ve nothing to lose, only something to gain!