Once upon a time, in my former life as fashion news editor of a weekly magazine, I relished dressing up. I wore heels not only in the office, but on the commute there and back. I wore sequins on a Monday, accessorised every outfit and nothing in my wardrobe was saved for “best”. Getting ready was a joy, and clothes made me feel good.
These days, I look at my wardrobe and feel lost. Putting a great outfit together seems beyond my capabilities. A career change, two babies and a pandemic will do that to you, even if you did work in fashion for more than a decade. After giving birth to my first child in 2019, I decided I wanted to do something with my personal training qualification and began working for a local PT alongside freelance fashion copywriting. When I wasn’t in Lycra (or a million layers in winter), I was sat at my kitchen bench in loungewear, or jeans and a t-shirt if I felt like making an effort. Sequins-on-a-Monday me was someone I no longer recognised.
While my body hasn’t changed hugely after having children, my lifestyle has. Hannah summed it up perfectly in a recent post on her personal Insta: “I spend more time playing on the floor with cars and dinosaurs and less time sneaking an Aperol Spritz into a working lunch.” The post was talking about how she feels lost, style-wise, post-baby and post-pandemic. And, much like when I talked about the same thing on The Leopard’s Insta, it resonated: 3550 likes and a lot of comments. Seemingly, we’re not the only ones wondering where our style mojo went.
For me, I knew that my wardrobe no longer served me and my lifestyle. It was full to bursting – despite numerous clear outs – which meant every time I opened it to get dressed I felt overwhelmed, panicked and reached for something safe. Something comfy. The sartorial equivalent of the big black knickers you wear after giving birth. It was time to call in reinforcements. Paying someone to declutter my wardrobe had always seemed like a faintly ridiculous, wildly indulgent thing to do. Something rich people or celebrities did. But I was seriously considering it. I needed someone to be brutal. To tell me that no, I did not need the fringed skirt and sparkly crop top I wore once on my hen do in 2015. It looked way better than it sounds FYI.
On the recommendation of a friend, I contacted Sophia Lormier, owner of Fine Tuned Wardrobe, a service that helps you to reorganise, restyle and resell your wardrobe. Describing herself as a “sustainable stylist”, Sophia is passionate about helping women find their true sense of style sustainably. “As I’ve got older and have more knowledge on climate change and the state of our landfills I know we can all do our bit for a change. I used to be a shopaholic, so I’m speaking from experience when I say that over-consuming things we don’t need is a real problem.” says Sophia. “Helping clients to see that they don’t need to buy new, that they can get creative with what they already have and also help the planet at the same time is a win-win.”
Sophia offers styling sessions, re-selling services, sustainable outfit sourcing and the full Fine Tuned Wardrobe experience – “a whole wardrobe restyle, to rebuild the foundation of the wardrobe of your dreams” – which is what I booked in for. First, we had a consultation via Zoom (Sophia offers this for free) where we discussed why I needed her help and what I wanted to achieve from the session. After a couple of minutes, I felt like I’d known Sophia forever, and, as a fellow 30-something mum, she really got me. After the call, she asked me to take pictures of three items of clothing I loved, three things I didn’t like and three things I’d like to wear more of, along with my wardrobes and drawers in all their messy, overstuffed glory. She made some suggestions of how I could utilise the space better, advising me to invest in drawer dividers and slimmer velvet hangers to create extra room in my narrow but deep wardrobes, and created a mood board based on the pieces I’d shared with her, along with some images of people whose style I admired. I noticed that the blazer and dress from my “don’t like wearing” pile were on there and when I asked if that was intentional, Sophia explained that it absolutely was – her aim was to show how they could work with other pieces I loved and inspire me to get creative with my wardrobe.
On the day of the clear out, Sophia was, in the best possible way, ruthless. We went through every single item of clothing I owned with her asking me if I loved it, when I last wore it and how it made me feel. It was a surprisingly emotional process and I found that there weren’t many things that I could honestly say I loved or felt good in. Sophia sorted the pieces into three piles – yes, no and maybe. It was only when I had decided I loved or wanted to keep something that she would comment, often exclaiming, “I LOVE this” – she reserved judgement until I’d made a decision as she didn’t want to influence how I felt about something. Watching the “no” pile mount up felt strangely cathartic, if a little daunting. My once 100 pair strong collection of heels was rapidly disappearing before my eyes, which tugged at my heart strings, even though when I tried them on I winced in pain and wobbled all over the place.
Once the piles of clothes had been sorted, Sophia sent me off to have a cuppa while she began styling up outfits. This was the really fun part. She put together combinations I’d never have thought of before and showed me that I shouldn’t think of things as seasonal – a dress I’d considered only for summer looked great layered over a floral shirt, while black shorts were made winter-friendly with tights, boots and a chunky jumper. Of course, some pieces are very obviously just for summer/winter, but I was surprised at how many could be styled to transcend the seasons. There wasn’t one outfit that I didn’t like, and Sophia also made use of my long-neglected bag collection. To my defence of “I don’t need a handbag though because I have one of those pram bags”, she replied: “So make the pram bag for the baby’s things and the handbag for your things.” I told you, ruthless.
Eight and a half hours later (I worked on a magazine for ten years, I had a LOT of clothes) Sophia had bagged up what felt like more than half of my clothes and shoes, and left me with a neat, edited wardrobe and drawers I could actually open. All of my clothes, shoes and handbags were visible – something Sophia says is key. Out of sight out of mind and all that. As she loaded up her car, I had a major wobble – it was a pair of (never-worn) pink velvet heels that set me off. “Where are you going to wear them? Sainsburys?”, Sophia asked. Point taken. The next day, when I WhatsApp’d her to ask whether it was normal to feel like I had made a huge mistake in getting rid of all my things she reassured me that it absolutely was, and that I could get anything back if I really wanted it, but first, I had to ask myself three questions: When will I wear it? Do I feel good/comfortable in it? Do I want it back because I want to wear it with my new outfits or do I just love the idea of it? If I could honestly answer yes to any of them, she would send it back to me. Needless to say, the answer was no.
After the wardrobe clear out, Sophia sorted through the “to go” pile and divided it into pieces to resell (via platforms like eBay and Depop, her own Instagram or at pop-up shops) or pieces to donate to charity, women’s refuges or the homeless. The money made from anything sold is split 50/50, and Sophia estimated she could resell about 60% of the clothes I got rid of. I was also left with a repair pile – pieces that needed dry cleaning, altering to fit better or dyeing. Sophia told me I had to sort them straight away, otherwise they’d sit unworn for another six months. The day after our session, Sophia emailed me with mood boards featuring the looks she’d styled up – an easy reference point on busy mornings – along with recommendations of things to buy to prolong the life of my clothes, such as bags to protect cashmere and knitwear, a de-bobbler to stop things looking tatty and a steamer for crease-free clothes in an instant.
As I waved Sophia off, her car full to the brim of clothes from another life, clothes full of memories, I expected to feel a bit sad. Instead, I felt lighter. I felt like I had rediscovered the joy of getting dressed and excited to wear something that wasn’t just jeans and a Breton top or Sweaty Betty leggings and a sweatshirt. The next day, I wore on of the looks Sophia styled for me – handbag included. And the day after that, and the day after that. Since our session, the loungewear days are less frequent, and because of that I enjoy them even more. It might sound a bit over the top to describe a wardrobe clear out as life-changing, but it really was. I felt like me for the first time in a long time (albeit a new me), and for that I am eternally grateful to Sophia. Oh, and the sequins stayed – I just won’t be wearing them on a Monday anymore.
A full Fine Tuned Wardrobe session (3/4 hours) costs £350. Sophia kindly offered her service at a discounted rate for this feature.
Sophia’s Tips For a Successful Wardrobe Declutter
The secret to a successful wardrobe is to be ruthless and honest with yourself otherwise you will most probably end up with what you started with. A good foundation is key in a wardrobe, and that’s knowing what your style is, what you love to wear and what makes you feel good and empowered. If you use these as the premise when clearing out your wardrobe you will not go wrong.
If you’re struggling to get rid of something, ask yourself these questions:
Do you love it?
This is very important because so often we have clothes that we don’t love but that take up space in our wardrobes making it harder to see the clothes we do love.
When was the last time you wore it?
If you haven’t worn it for over a year it’s probably not love, but lust. That or you are holding on to it for sentimental reasons.
Does it fit you right now?
The reason I say right now is because don’t want a wardrobe full of “when I lose weight clothes” because there is nothing worse than ill-fitting clothes making you feel rubbish. If it doesn’t fit – and by that I mean its two sizes too small – then it’s got to go.
To people who think paying someone to help them with a wardrobe is too much of an indulgence or unaffordable, what are the reasons to invest in a service like FTW?
Do you know what people think of this but it’s the total opposite. I save you money and make you money in the long run. I help you stop making those costly wardrobe mistakes still with tags on in your wardrobe. I help you identify what your true style is and help you create outfits from your existing wardrobe, saving you money. Anything that is missing I help you source it sustainably from preloved shops or online.
I also make you money as anything that is not serving you anymore i sell it for you on commission.
I was the mum who felt a huge loss of identity after my daughter was born. I didn’t know the person looking back at me. I wasn’t the woman I was before. The turning point for me was letting go of the old me and accepting the new me, lumps and bumps and all. Before you can reclaim your style you have to be willing to accept your new body and your new life. Then wear things that genuinely make you feel good and confident, not the leggings with a jumper that are just comfortable, but that dress you always save for best or those trousers that you haven’t tried on because you worried they won’t fit you yet, give them a go and have fun creating new looks that fit your lifestyle today.
Night before prep is the way forward for busy mums. If you spend a few minutes before bed planning an outfit it will save you time in the morning and stop you from reaching for that “mum uniform”. Prep according to the plans you have, pop it on the back of your door with shoes and accessories too.
The art of shopping your wardrobe has got to start with a good old clear-out. Getting rid of all the items you don’t love or don’t fit you is key to owning a wardrobe that you will enjoy shopping in. Then, lay the remaining clothes out and play around with different combinations. Say you always wear a shirt with jeans – why not try wearing the shirt under a dress showing off the colla. Little changes like this will instantly make you feel you have a new outfit and get you excited about your wardrobe again.
The secret to a feel-good outfit is YOU and the confidence you carry. You can be wearing head-to-toe designer but if you don’t have the confidence from within you will not feel good in it. When I work with clients this is a big part of what I do. Helping you to feel confident from within is so much more worthwhile and long-lasting than just putting on an outfit.
If you’re struggling to break a fast fashion habit, here are some helpful pointers:
1. Don’t worry too much about trends. Trends make us feel like we must buy the latest fashion.
2. Shop for your style and body that way you won’t make those impulse buys.
3. Make a shopping list of items that are missing from your wardrobe so you are focused on what you actually need.
4. Buy preloved or secondhand pieces.
5. Invest in quality pieces that will last.
When it comes to disposing of unwanted clothes sustainably, the most obvious way is charity shops but they are so inundated with stock that they can’t always take everything you donate. I encourage clients to help those in direct need such as women’s centres and the homeless. Any items we don’t sell I donate to worthy courses on my clients behalf. Also, there are lots of charities online that take clothes to reuse the fabrics, so that is definitely worth looking into.
Follow Sophia on Instagram for more brilliant sustainable styling tips.