You’ve won the lottery. Should you hire a stylist?

I love makeover shows. I used to love watching What Not to Wear as a teen: seeing unflattering secret camera footage, watching a woman’s entire wardrobe being trashed while the host stylists bombard her with sassy asides, and then shopping at glamorous boutiques in NYC. Occasionally I’d be confused by the outcome, because the women often seemed to end up looking more matronly by the end, but I mostly enjoyed seeing the huge, dramatic reveals.

Now I know better, though.

The whole point of these shows, which are just another variety of the American reality TV industrial complex, is to manufacture drama by putting people in extremely uncomfortable situations and capturing their reactions (remember those fun house mirrors where they had women show outfits they’d normally wear?). They have to make some kind of massive change happen so they can show the before and after videos. Who cares about the woman’s actual desires and practical concerns for lifestyle? Put her in bling and in white pants! Stilettos! Cut off all her hair and color it platinum blonde, who cares if she’s a busy mom who can’t dye her hair every two weeks!

Stylists are a crutch, and not even a particularly effectively one. They overstyle people into oblivion, put them in impractical outfits, haphazardly toss on unnecessary accessories, and pressure people into wearing uncomfortable heels. Makeup is piled on and hair is cut into often unflattering shapes, just to force some change. The result is people with deer-in-headlights who look like they’re wearing costumes that don’t reflect their personality.

Maybe outside the makeover reality show dimension, stylists can be helpful. Usually not, though. Read on to find out why they’re not the solution to style woes.

Read moreYou’ve won the lottery. Should you hire a stylist?

9 wardrobe essentials you’ll actually wear

When I see articles discussing the best pieces for your closet, most of them seem to include items that are impractical, expensive and/or difficult-to-find good versions of. Leather jackets are common, except you can’t get them wet and they’re hard to clean. White button-down shirts are on every “wardrobe essentials” list out there, but most of them are see-through. And for some reason half of these types of lists include Manolo Blahniks (retailing for approximately $625).

I never understood these lists, so I mostly ignored them when I was learning how to dress. It’s a good thing, since I wouldn’t have known how to incorporate them into my daily life as a student or young professional, so it would’ve been a waste of money. That said, I do have a leather jacket but I wear it maybe ten times a year when the weather is just right for it–crisp, cloudless spring/fall days. But again we get that maybe ten days a year in the eastern U.S.

Here’s my complete list of nine essentials for my wardrobe. It’s what I’ve discovered works best for me personally. You might disagree or have other preferences, but the below is what’s been working for me for years and makes up the core of my wardrobe. It’s what I wear about 90% of the time.

  • long-sleeved silk shirts
  • medium wash jeans
  • black trousers
  • light coat to mid-thigh length
  • shift dress
  • structured jacket
  • white sneakers
  • black loafers
  • black tote

It’s kind of a uniform, and allows easy mixing of pieces for work and casual wear. I basically switch out jeans for trousers when I’m dressing casually and then I’m good to go. Below is a more detailed discussion of each item.

Click the images to get through to sources and retailer sites if you want to get a closer look.

Read more9 wardrobe essentials you’ll actually wear