Girl Talk: 'You Are What You Wear'

Can your wardrobe change your life? Jennifer Baumgartner thinks it can and explains in You Are What You Wear.

You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Reveal About You

Publisher: Da Capo
Length: 272 pages
Author: Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner
Price: $16.00
Format: Paperback
Publication date: 2012-03

Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner is “a psychologist who analyzes closets” and her book You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Reveal About You is a self-help book designed to make readers “think more deeply about the patterns surrounding the way [they] dress”.

Baumgartner is quick to note that this book is not about teaching someone how to transform a business look to an evening look by switching out some jewelry and a handbag, nor is it simply about helping people figure out what colors fit their complexion. Instead, Baumgartner is trying to make connections between clothing and state of mind. “There are all kinds of stylists who can offer your image a surface fix: a little makeup here, a pencil skirt there,” Baumgartner states. “That is not what I do.”

Instead, Baumgartner lists several “fashion flubs” such as a 50-year-old mom wearing her daughter’s clothing, and contends “If you think these are merely examples of fashion ignorance or style apathy, you are underestimating the real meaning behind your clothing choices. Our clothing is a reflection of what we are thinking and what we are feeling. Often, wardrobe mishaps are simply our inner conflicts bubbling to the surface.”

The book opens with a wardrobe challenge that involves several dozen questions about clothing-- past, present, and future. From “who dressed when you were younger” to “how often do you shop” to “do you have a style icon for each stage of your life”, Baumgartner wants readers to analyze every aspect of their wardrobe.

In the chapters that follow, Baumgartner covers specific clothing issues—purchasing more than you need, keeping clothing forever, wearing overly baggy clothing, wearing overly skimpy clothing, obsessing over labels. She provides general advice—such as her “golden wardrobe ratio for cleaning out a jam-packed closet: for every three items in the closet, two must go” and throws in some psychological terminology—such as the Social Readjustment Rating Scale: “on this scale, life events are given a numerical value based on the level of stress they induce, from coping with the death of a spouse to enjoying a vacation”.

Through it all, Baumgartner maintains that clothing is not just about a look but about life. Most chapters focus on one or two of her clients (Baumgartner is the founder of InsideOut, a wardrobe consulting business) and the impact Baumgartner (or Dr. B as her clients often call her) has had on their lives. Consider Megan—the case study in Chapter Seven “Working for It: When You Find Yourself Forever in Work Clothes.” Megan, “a physician, lived in her scrubs. Both in and out of the hospital, she wore heart-and-puppy-dog-print smocks with white rubber clogs everywhere and anywhere. Megan worked in her scrubs, relaxed in her scrubs, did errands in her scrubs, and even slept in her scrubs”.

And, according to Baumgartner, it wasn't just Megan's wardrobe that needed more life--Megan's life needed more life. Megan didn't just need new clothes; she needed to have a little more fun. By the end of Megan's InsideOut makeover, she had not only a new wardrobe, but also a new identity that included playing kickball and speed-dating.

On the one hand, it doesn’t seem like someone should need a psychologist to tell them that wearing scrubs all the time or wearing an outfit that showcases your bra to work isn’t a good idea. On the other hand, we’ve all probably seen people at work, at the grocery story, or even just walking down the street and wondered, at least briefly, what were they thinking. Kate, the case study for Chapter Five “Your Cover’s Blown: When You Bare Too Much” was one of the what was she thinking types.

Here's a peek at her “work” attire: “Kate teetered toward me in the sky-high heels. I can certainly appreciate a beautiful shoe, but these needed a matching pole. Her body-hugging skirt left little to the imagination, including the lace thong underneath. The white button down, the one item I had thought would be conservative enough for wearing to work, was unbuttoned low enough to reveal a seemingly endless line of cleavage. I could see why she had attracted attention.” Kate, however, could not and did not until her employer said something and even then still didn’t seem convinced.

What convinced her? They went to the bar, once with Kate in her super sexy clothes and once in a more appropriate outfit. Soon Kate was dressing more professionally and tastefully “and more and more, she enjoyed the company of men rather than the objectification she had received from some of them”.

Baumgartner showcases many success stories in the book and with phrases like “closet constipation” is often witty and fun. And in doing so, she fulfills the book jacket’s promise to help readers break out of fashion ruts, “look current at any age” and “create a balanced, beautiful wardrobe”. Additionally, she shows why some people are drawn to a, for example, too young, too beige, or too sexy look.

Still, it seems a bit of a jump from “dress well for the body you have” or “stop your closet from overflowing” to believing that “the slightest change in your wardrobe can lead to a domino effect of adventure, discovery, and great memories”. In the Epilogue, Baumgartner states “Here we are at the end of the journey. If you have taken anything from this book, I hope it is that your closet contains so much more than your clothes. It holds your story. In this small unassuming space, you can find where you have been, where you are, and where you need to go.”

Can your wardrobe change your life? Baumgartner, and her clients, certainly believe so. The rest of us may have to wait and see.


The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.