Are You in a Style Rut?

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on November 09, 2012
3 min read

Feeling stuck in your all-brown wardrobe or same old, same old makeup and look? It's easy to get into a habit or keep a look that worked for you… once.

But it's a new day now, and maybe it's time for a change. Read on for the dos and don'ts of getting yourself out of a style rut.

A style rut can be hard to see in the mirror. Someone else might have to point it out to you.

"We often lose self-objectivity and are not mindfully examining aspects of our lives because our behaviors have become habitual," says psychologist Jennifer Baumgartner, PsyD, author of You Are What You Wear. "We avoid acknowledgement because that may then require change, or we deny the fact that we are in a rut because accepting is too painful."

To determine whether you're stuck in a style rut, ask yourself:

  • Has shopping gone from pleasurable to mundane?
  • Do you buy the same items over and over again?
  • Are those around you able to predict which outfit you will likely wear?
  • When you dress in the morning do you feel uninspired and underwhelmed?
  • Do you wish that you could dress like someone else, but don't have the emotional energy to make the change?
  • Do you find that inside the wardrobe and outside, in your life, you are merely going through the motions?

There are clothes you hold on to because you love that they look great on you, or you keep them because they're purple and purple is your favorite color.

And then there are clothes that you hold on to because they bring back a memory unrelated to clothing.

Both types of clothes can lure you into a style rut. They're familiar. Sometimes too familiar.

Baumgartner suggests getting items that carry sentimental or emotional value out of your routine use. "Our wardrobes should be composed of emotionally neutral objects," she says. Hide them or donate them, she says.

That can be hard to do. "Sentimentality plays a huge role in hanging on to things way past their expiration date," says New York life and career coach Lois Barth.

She suggests taking a picture of the items you hold near and dear. "When you're feeling those moments of wanting to reminisce, all you have to do is fire up the computer."

Much like crash diets, crash makeovers rarely work.

Before you chuck all of your clothes and makeup, or lop off all of your hair consider this: "As with most behavioral tendencies, we gravitate toward the mean, the center," Baumgartner says. "We may attempt a bold makeover, but eventually we return to wearing what we feel most comfortable in."

Small tweaks are more effective and long lasting than a huge overhaul. For example, you may be a fan of an A-line dress, but rather than throwing out all of your dresses and only wearing pants, try different styles of dresses, include accessories, or play with color.

"Find a way to break the rut in small incremental ways, do one thing each day that shakes things up and makes you uncomfortable in a good way," Barth says.

It's natural to grow and evolve, and when we consistently opt for the same-old, same-old, there most likely is some form of a rut going on that may be bigger than clothes and makeup.

"Check in with yourself when you look in the mirror and note how you feel about how you are presenting yourself to the world," Barth says. "Transformation happens from an inside-out and outside-in kind of way, and by appropriately honoring 'stretch don't break' our vitality from life expands."

Start small and grow.