Style Rut? 3 Reasons Your Clothes Don’t Work (And What To Do About It)

“I had no idea how much my rut was holding me back,” said my personal styling client who was in constant battle with her wardrobe. Every morning, the same issue showed up  — her clothing was wrong and she didn’t want to wear any of it. But she had to get dressed. So she’d put on the same thing that she always wore — straight leg pants, button down top and ballet flats — then went on with her day. This went on for years! And that’s how the basic act of getting dressed went from an everyday routine to an energy-zapping style rut. 

It’s similar to when a flower wilts. You may not notice while it’s happening, but then one day you’re like, “That flower died!”

clothes dont work like wilted flower yellow sunflower fountainof30  


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My client’s wardrobe had slowly wilted into an inadequate pile of clothes that no longer served her. Finally, she got tired of feeling “blah” about how she looked. She decided it was time to switch things up!

When we first started working together, I saw it clearly. She struggled with the same thing that happens to most women. She changed. Her clothes did not. And she continued wearing items that better suited who she used to be.

To properly update her wardrobe — not with just any items, but the right items – we needed to zero in on exactly what changed. Why weren’t her clothes working anymore?

This is cyclical, by the way. It happens to everyone at some point. You try to wear something that used to feel great, but then it doesn’t. That’s why I’m sharing the 3 big reasons your clothes don’t work so you too can make the proper updates to have a wardrobe and style that you love.

3 Reasons Your Clothes Aren’t Working 

1. Body Change

It’s normal for bodies to change, especially as we age. Sometimes the change is obvious like weight gain, or weight loss. Other times it’s more subtle and shows up as a reorganization of where you carry your weight. Either way, there’s a chance your proportions have shifted in which case you’ll want to get current on your body type so that you choose the most complimentary styles and silhouettes. (Go here to find your current body shape:

My client’s weight relocated around her thighs and hips which made her straight leg pants feel too confining. Once she branched out into A-line skirts and wider leg pants, she didn’t feel so uncomfortable.

How has your body changed in the past few years? Don’t beat yourself up about a different size. The numbers are all over the place between brands. And this means nothing about who you are as a person. 

Simply get the facts for your current body shape and make the updates to your styles and silhouettes that suit you now.

2. Lifestyle Change

To say that our lives were upended by the pandemic is an understatement. So of course we don’t feel comfortable in what we used to wear! For my client, it was her suits. She had a collection of beautiful Brooks Brothers pieces, but since her office had gone more casual those suits sat untouched. 

style rut brooksbrother suit jackets on hangers fountainof30

For me, it’s my big handbags. I used to pack them to the brim for my on-the-go lifestyle. But now I don’t need so much stuff when I go out as I’m less on-the-go. 

Whether it’s my client’s suits, or my large handbags, the problem isn’t just about the precious space these pieces take up. It’s the emotional attachment. We’re constantly reminded of our old lives, and often this makes us feel bad.

Every day, my client had to pass through her old suits to find something to wear. And each time she felt a pang of guilt over the money spent on clothes that go unworn.

It’s the same with my big bags. They were expensive! So I think about wearing them again, but then remember that my current lifestyle has zero tolerance to lug around a heavy bag.

Think about what’s changed in your life. Determine what pieces you no longer need, and let them go! 

3. Taste Change

Personal preferences are constantly evolving. If I think back to what I loved a year ago— it’s not what I want to wear today! You know those feminine, silky printed blouses? I was a huge fan! I’d tuck them into my dark denim, add a belt and I was ready to go! I can’t imagine wearing that look now. Lately, I’m all about red, preferably in a dress. But that will probably change soon too!

The issue with evolving preferences is when we don’t update our wardrobes to align with the new taste. Then we have too many outdated options getting in the way when it’s time to get dressed. This slows down our decision making and has us futzing around for too long in the closet. It’s much better to clear out the outdated pieces so that you’re left only with items you’re  interested in wearing.  

I’ll confess that I’ve still got several of those silky printed blouses hanging in my closet, just in case! And every time I see them I hesitate and think, “Should I?”

The answer is always the same, “Nah!”

 And then I carry on to the red section.

elysha lenkin personal stylist in red dress fountainof30
Elysha Lenkin

What To Do When Your Clothes Don’t Work

The reason your clothes don’t work is that you’ve changed and your clothes have not. You’ve got a different body, a new lifestyle and an updated taste. Your old clothes are not a match for who you’ve become.

The next step to update your wardrobe is to get rid of those clothes that don’t work! They are diluting your style and making things more confusing. Once you let them go, you’ll have less stuff, but it will be the right stuff!

Then you will see more options for what to wear. (No more bad choices getting in the way!)

Also, you won’t feel bad every time you pass over the expensive suits or the pants that are too tight. And you won’t dwell in indecision over the silky printed blouses that are no longer you. 

I recommend closet clearing twice a year as it’s the best way to keep your wardrobe fresh and current to who you’ve become. If you want help with your closet cleanout, go here: 

– Elysha Lenkin

Elysha Lenkin is a personal fashion stylist who helps women look current, feel confident and stay true to themselves. For over 20 years she’s styled hundreds of women in all shapes, ages and sizes including Carrie Underwood, Tina Fey and Serena Williams. Find your “IT” Factor by taking her free quiz here:

You may like to read more of Elysha’s styling posts like Am I Too Old To Wear That Trend? 3 Questions To Ask and Expert Styling Tips: How To Wear The Spring Summer Trends

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Feature photo: iStock

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2 thoughts on “Style Rut? 3 Reasons Your Clothes Don’t Work (And What To Do About It)”

  1. This gave me a lot to think about and a lot to do! I recently lost 35 pounds (not on purpose, I was sick), and because of surgery, I couldn’t wear anything in my closet. It’s been fun discovering my new style. Luckily I am President of a nonprofit with a resale shop so each week I take at least one bag out of my closet. It was tough at first but it does feel good now!

    • Good for you! Sometimes it takes a change of our bodies to force us to reevaluate our style. I love that you are donating what doesn’t work for you any longer. I hope you are replacing them with items that excite you.


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