Last month, I visited my family in Toronto and saw my cousin rocking this gorgeous top from Aritzia. Immediately I went online and ordered the same top without thinking it through. After a week of waiting, the top finally arrived, and it fit me perfectly. But as soon as I ripped off all the tags, I started having doubts.
'Oh no, this top is a bit too low cut for me.'
'Is this style going to last?'
By the time I started second guessing, it's all too late because I just ripped off all the tags. I couldn't return it anymore, and I felt incredibly regretful and stupid.
Building a Sustainable Closet #1 – Create a User Journey
A common mistake we all make when we go shopping is that we focus too much on external inspirations, whether they are from cousins, advertisements, or fashion blogs. We often buy clothes that look good on other people but don't actually fit us. As we go shopping mindlessly, our closet grows larger and larger. And yet, we keep wearing the same subset of clothes, and we feel that we don't have enough to wear. According to the Wall Street Journal, this problem is so widespread that an avg. American only uses 20% of their closet. The remaining 80% is filled with regrets, and the clothes end up going to donations and landfills.
To build a sustainable closet, I believe that the first step is to understand how we currently dress and use our closet. This step is very important because we won't stop buying clothes we regret until we fully understand our style. And when we start buying clothes that we actually love, we will start building a sustainable closet that we will cherish for a long time. Today, I am going to teach you how to create a user journey and set a realistic expectation of your style!
What is a user journey?
A user journey is an exercise often used to help User Experience (UX) designers create a useful product. When mapping out a user journey, UX designers ask about the user's interaction with an existing product and note down his wants, needs, and pain points. From there, UX designers brainstorm new product features. A user journey is particularly useful in the design process, because it takes out all the guesswork. UX designers no longer have to guess hypothetically and add potentially useless features to the product because 'oh, I think the user would love to have this'.
In the context of building a sustainable closet, you are the user of your closet (product). And a user journey is a diary that details your current interaction with your closet. You write down the clothes you wear everyday and how you feel about them. Through this exercise, you will discover:
- The basic necessities your closet must have
- The nice-to-have clothes your closet doesn't need
- The style(s) you like
- The style(s) you dislike
As a bare minimum requirement, a closet should meet all your needs in real life. By writing down the activities you do, you understand the basic goals your closet needs to achieve. These goals lay out a framework for your closet. And the framework helps you buy the right categories of clothes that actually fit your real life, not your imaginary life on the red carpet.
Additionally, by writing down how you feel about your past outfits, you start seeing the styles you gravitate toward. A user journey is much more practical and concrete than the fashion inspiration you collect on Pinterest, because you are discovering your style based on the past outfits you actually wore. Conclusions drawing from real life data are always more reliable than hypothetical assumptions.
How do you create a user journey?
The goal of a user journey is to discover your style based on what you actually wear in real life and how you feel about the clothes. To create a user journey, you will do this everyday for a week.
- Snap a picture of your outfit.
- Describe your outfit formula, i.e. Wrap Top + Dress + Heels, etc.
- Note the color, the texture, and the pattern.
- Color: Black + Blue + black
- Texture: TENCEL + Linen + Suede
- Pattern: Solid + Gingham + Solid
- Describe the style of your outfit.
- Mark down the activity you do with this outfit.
- Afternoon Tea
- Write down how you feel about the outfit after the activity.
- What makes you feel comfortable in this outfit?
- I love the lightweight and breathable fabrics
- What do you like about this outfit?
- The center bow
- The blue gingham print
- What do you not like about this outfit?
- The VETTA wrap top could get unbuttoned too easily
- It was hard to keep the VETTA wrap top stay cropped because the bottom part was loose
- How can you improve this outfit?
- Replace the button with a hook
- What makes you feel comfortable in this outfit?
Repeat the same process for all other seasons because the weather dictates what we wear and affects how we dress.
As I mentioned earlier, a user journey helps you discover your style based on real life data, aka the actual clothes you wore in the past. With that being said, having good and reliable data becomes extremely crucial because it will impact your end result, aka your style and your closet.
So how to get good data for your user journey?
Here are some tips:
- Be consistent with your language. For example, 'girly' and 'sweet' are similar adjectives to describe an outfit, and you can typically use both words interchangeably. But once you pick a word, I recommend stick to the same word because having a consistent data format is important in drawing a meaningful conclusion.
- More sample data entails a more accurate conclusion. Remember learning this back in high school? So yeah, the result you get from a month worth of data are going to be more precise than a week worth of data.
- Don't omit data. Did you notice that I wrote down 'black' twice because my top and my shoes shared the same color? Yes, frequency matters. If you see the color 'black' twice, write down the color twice.
- Be specific with a big picture in mind. A color comes in different shades. For example, 'powder blue' and 'cobra blue' are both considered blue, but they are extremely different. When should you drill down to the details (powder blue) v.s. stay on the surface (cobra blue)? Well, it depends. If you just like the color blue in general and have a pretty even split between all shades of blue, then keep it general and use 'blue'. On the other hand, if you glance over all the outfits and notice that you lean toward powder blue, then be specific and use 'powder blue'.
Discover Your Style through a User Journey.
This step is my favorite part of the entire process. Once you complete your user journey and get your data, the next step is to find patterns and discover your style!
Don't be scared! This is not rocket science, and you don't need to use a calculator. All you need to know is how to count! Get your paper and pencil out, and let's start counting!
- Group all your past outfits based on activities. For example, I have work outfits, weekend outfits, gym outfits, and I-look-homeless outfits, etc.
- Within each group of outfits like say, weekend outfits
- Count how often you wear a category of clothes, ex. a sundress.
- Repeat the counting process for colors, textures, patterns, and styles.
- Rank your preferences from high to low based on counts.
- Find your favorite outfit formula, color, texture, pattern and style.
- Gather all the elements that make you dislike your outfits. For example, if high-waisted denim shorts give you wedgie, take note of that. Don't repeat the same mistake and buy another high-waisted denim shorts again!
- Discover your style.
- List out your closet must-have’s, based on your top outfit formula and the categories of clothes that you wear most often.
- Do you see any clothing category that never makes a cameo appearance in your user journey? Well, they might be your closet nice-to-have's, aka you don't NEED them!
- If you describe 2 out of 3 weekend outfits as girly, then obviously your weekend style is girly. Additionally, your favorite color and texture, etc serve as a great shopping guide.
- Do you see any color/texture/pattern/style in your closet that you rarely wear? They might not be your style.
It’s totally normal to have different styles at work vs. during the weekend. Everyone dresses differently for different occasions. Repeat this process to discover your style for various activities and seasons. Also, I want to note that some occasions weigh more than others. For example, I invest more in my weekend clothes more than going-out party clothes because I don’t go out that much.
A User Journey is Better than a Pinterest Account.
Okay, you might not have a Pinterest account, but you certainly follow some fashion bloggers, or you use Instagram to keep up with current trends.
We often see pretty outfit pictures that we feel inspired by. And these pictures influence us to some extent when we go shopping. When you see someone else wear a great outfit, and you feel impulsed to wear the same clothes. But unless you try on the clothes in real life, you will never know if they are actually your style.
By creating a user journey, you are discovering your style based on the past outfits you actually wore. Your outfit pictures may not be as appealing as the highly curated pictures you see, but they are certainly real and concrete. Your past fashion choices tell you what styles actually work for you in real life and what don’t. This single factor alone makes a user journey way more powerful than any other medium you use to discover your style.
Worksheets for User Journey
I believe that knowing our style can help us build a sustainable closet. By knowing what works for us and what don’t, we can avoid buying things that we will regret later, and therefore reduce clothing waste. But of course, there is more than one way to build a sustainable closet. In the next couple posts, I will share more methods to maximize the value of your existing wardrobe!
So are you going to create a user journey for your closet? If you are, I am here to help! Below are some worksheets you can download to create your user journey.
Enter your email to download user journey worksheets!
I hope you enjoy this post. Good luck!
Smile and style on!
( Thank you, Melanie, for letting me borrow your top)