How UX-ing my wardrobe helped me UX my career

Lauren Friedman
4 min readFeb 5, 2021


During one of my first “real” jobs, I lived for the strut. The walk from my bus stop to the office took me past the front of the White House during the Obama years, and I relished watching staffers wave security passes through the front gates as I wiggled by in the pencil skirts and heels I’d always fantasized of wearing.

My passion for getting dressed up even led me to creating an illustrated fashion blog with a tagline “always an excuse to dress up.” Every night after work, I came home to create and illustrate a story around an outfit from my newly expanded closet: my grandmother, a clothes lover, had a stuffed closet and I was the only granddaughter. She had a fuchsia Christian Dior skirt suit with big gold buttons and a floor-length, polyester, high-necked, long-sleeve gown in technicolor swirls she wore once on a cruise. She had Ferragamo heels, a Gucci purse, and a drawer full of silk scarves. Around this time I was writing and illustrating my first book, 50 Ways to Wear a Scarf, and to uncover treasures like this drawer, filled with scarves and scarf tying how-to pamphlets with ties I’d never seen, set the course of the book and the course of my life.

Me and Grandma Enid. She passed away soon after my first book came out.

(Notably, I used a lot of UX design principals during the book creation process, even though I didn’t know what they were called at the time: competitive research, affinity mapping, card sorting, and evolving from low- to high-fidelity were all key parts of the creation process.)

I ended up building a career around my love for fashion, serving as my own boss and acting as a stylist, consultant, and illustrator for over ten years. I wrote and illustrated two more books on fashion, 50 Ways to Wear Denim and 50 Ways to Wear Accessories.

Then in 2017, I decided to move to the home where I grew up, Ann Arbor, Michigan, after almost a decade in Washington, D.C. Settling in and adjusting to a different city with a new lifestyle, my instincts were telling me to run a heuristic analysis on my work and professional life. Delight (that wiliest of heuristics), no longer seemed to apply to the love of fashion at the root of my work. In fact, it was proving to be a Major Problem.

Not only did Ann Arbor represent a completely different sartorial vibe from D.C. (here, dressing up could mean wearing your “nice” Birkenstocks instead of your old, raggedy pair), but I was changing bodily as well. I gained weight. I was diagnosed with a chronic condition, which led me to disavow myself from all uncomfortable clothes, including my underwear, my bras, my pants, my shoes, or anything else that did not make me feel soothed and comfortable. My fashion no longer “fit”, and it felt weird and sad to no longer love something I used to adore.

Slowly but surely, my wardrobe began to reflect my actual life. It was a lot easier to focus my attention on finding the right pair of jeans that improved my user experience as a jeans wearer than it was to listen and act upon the sound of the inner siren telling me how my work no longer fit my passions. Truthfully, it took me about three years to really hear and understand how it was time for a career shift, and then suddenly, this knowledge was as loud as a bang, as clear as a lone tree on the horizon in a field, and I’m not sure I would have been able to know what to listen for had I not determined how to be comfortable in my skin.

My evolution into the UX field felt like a natural integration of the sum of my experiences. The culmination of research and design baked into so much of my professional background made the three months I spent getting my UX Design Certification from General Assembly a joy — here, I had the strength and the community to help me learn how design outside of my own biases and opinions, to be objective yet empathetic.

This past week was an important bridge in this life and career transition. I’m applying for jobs (hi! Are you hiring!?), and I’d gathered my talents for styling, photography, and design in order create new branded content, shooting flat lays and headshots for my website and portfolio. Incorporating my new UX skills into my literal toolbox, books and rulers and pencils and markers now sharing space with a tablet and stacks of wireframes and user flows sketched out with big fat Sharpies.

This was the bridge into the place I have wanted to be for a very long time. The day before the photoshoot, I’d dropped off a what felt like the final comb-through of clothes that no longer served me to my local PTO thrift shop. They were the pieces I was holding onto out of fear — it felt crazier and scarier to let them go rather than face empty space.

Instead, on this photo shoot day, my closets were emptier but they were also friendlier. I knew exactly what to put on that would make me feel good and polished. My clothes were ready to support me moving forward. They’d given me the space and strength I needed to begin again.



Lauren Friedman

I am a UX writer and designer, author, and illustrator, who is passionate about creating radically empathetic spaces.