Because... getting dressed should be fun!

Because... getting dressed should be fun!

Category: Shopping

Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

Happy day, fabulous readers!

It’s that time again… Valentine’s Day is around the proverbial corner. Back in December, I had the privilege of pulling some style picks for Augusta Magazine to be featured in their February issue. That was a real trick in the weeks running up to Christmas, when all stores are focused on the holiday chaos, and finding items you can count on being available in two months qualifies as a minor miracle. I wanted to keep the picks local, and so loved some of the Valentine’s idea picks that didn’t make it past the magazine editors that I want to share them with you! Thank you, again, to all the stores who loaned me their beautiful pieces; these photos don’t do them justice. (These were down and dirty shots before returns to their stores.) Please feel free to send the URL to your S.O. if he or she needs a little nudge, there’s one week left!

Clutches

Not every Valentine gift has to be romantic! Finding something for our BFF’s may be even more important than one for the guy in your life. I love the personalization on these Katie Loxton multipurpose clutches! They are great for organizing your tote, or holding documents when traveling, and would make a lovely (and very reasonably priced!) Valentine for our sisters (by blood, law, or love) who stick with us through thick and thin. If you are planning ahead for a June wedding, there is even one for your bridesmaids! I couldn’t resist, and bought “Fabulous Friend” for my bestest for Christmas. You can find these (and so many other goodies) at Swank in Augusta and Evans.

Champagne Flutes

Thinking about popping the question? Flutes make a lovely Valentine’s Day gift… and foreshadow a wedding toast! These gorgeous rimmed pieces by Vetro have a familiar old elegance paired with a simple modern shape. Not part of a couple? Buy one for you and for your best friend so that you can share a drink together, no matter how far away he or she may be. Don’t save the best only for special occasions. Every day is special! You can buy them in either silver or gold, or maybe you prefer one of each. These lovelies come from Charleston Street at Surrey Center.

Statement Bracelet

Who doesn’t want a little bling for Valentine’s Day? This would add sparkle and drama to last year’s floral frock, or glam up your jeans and a silk tank on a warm spring evening. Choose that spring evening carefully though, you might distract someone on the course! The easy-on stretch makes it a wonderful choice for those who struggle with clasps, or for those with hard-to-fit wrists.  You can pick up this bold sparkler at Capsule at Walton’s Corner. If you haven’t heard of Capsule yet, they just opened on February 1st, so hop on it and check out one of our newest Augusta boutiques!

Bow Ties

Yes, I did include something for the man in your life, or the woman with an independent sartorial sense. These silk stunners combine just the right combination of soft spring color and jaunty flair. They transcend age boundaries and feel fresh with jeans and an oxford, or dressed up in your Sunday best for Easter services. Tied-it-myself says you are a man (however young) of accomplishment! These (and many others) are available at Low Country Clothiers on Fury’s Ferry Road.

Senn Designs Necklace

This design by local artist Susan Senn-Davis simply stole my heart. “Bee mine?” or maybe “You are my Queen Bee”? Mixed metal pieces are a great way to give intentionality to other disparate baubles you may want to combine. The rugged texture of the pendant and soft sheen of the beads are flattering to those of us with some experience, and the grey of the hematite is a beautiful way to highlight the sparkle of “wisdom highlights”! This little lovely (and others by the same artist) can be found at Soho (of Augusta, not NY!).

And just in case you are in need of a little self-Valentine-ing…

Suede Ankle Strap Sandals

Rose Gold Superga Sneakers

Rose gold is still having a moment, and why not? It’s flattering to a variety of skin tones, and a metallic sneaker oozes casual glam. Sneakers and a dress? Yes, please! Perfect for spring break at the beach. Or for kicking around and running errands in town? Of, course. And let’s not forget for that bachelorette weekend away with your besties? Ideal! Maybe you are more of a ruffles or heels woman? Not either/or, but Yes, AND! These beauties don’t make you choose, and they bridge the winter/spring divide with style. Ruffled suede heels with a delicate ankle strap are feminine and elegant. The heel says I can go anywhere I want. The suede nods to cooler weather, but the sandal gives it longer wear in our warmer climes. I can see this woman in a dinner dress, or faded jeans with an ivory silk blouse and thin gold necklace… If these are must-haves for you, take your happy feet to Shoes at Surrey and tell them Liz sent you!

What would you like to receive for Valentine’s Day? Let’s start a conversation in the comments below! I love to hear from you!

Stay Stylish!

Shoe Wardrobe

Shoe Wardrobe

Shoes, shoes, SHOES! Some people love ’em, and cannot imagine life without a variety. Others see them as a necessity to cover their feet to get into stores and restaurants. The latter are usually the ones asking me what shoes do I really need? (Read: How few can I get away with owning?) As with any wardrobe choice, your personality, lifestyle, and values should be your main determinants, so let’s explore what that means when you go shoe shopping.

Before You Go Shoe Shopping…

Know your body. Most guides suggest shoe shopping in the afternoon when your feet are their widest, but mine are wider when I first get up, so that’s when I go shopping. Make sure to go when your foot is at its chubbiest! When you try on a shoe, check the material of which it is made. Leather shoes will stretch a bit. Fabric less so, and plastic/PU/vegan leather: not so much. You want your shoes to fit snugly enough that nothing slips, but not so tightly that they pinch. If the insole is very padded or cushy, there will be more room after the padding compacts. These should fit quite snugly. Make sure to wear the socks that you will wear with the shoes you are buying, or knee high hose for dress shoes. Most shoe stores or departments are carpeted. Toodle those feet in your potential purchase onto a non-carpeted part of the store (with permission, of course), to make sure they feel comfortable on a hard surface, and not only on the rug! If you always put insoles or liners of any kind in your shoes, take along a new pair to slip in the ones you are trying. You don’t want to get them home only to find the fit not generous enough for your favorite gel pads. If you need orthotics, you already know how that dramatically limits your shoe options. You may find going with a brand you know and trust, and customizing the color with shoe paint can be a great way to add variety to your choices.

Your Lifestyle and Personality

Please, think about your lifestyle before you buy. That darling bejeweled pair of satin stilettos could be a staple for the red-carpet walking starlet, but maybe not for the carpooling mom who spends hours standing at the side of the soccer pitch.  If you wouldn’t be found dead in the gym, the $150 for those cross-training shoes might be better spent elsewhere. (Unless the guilt motivates you…) Shoes are a fantasy escape for many women, and since they fit through many size changes, they can be one of the most uplifting purchases!

In a previous post, I mentioned that I could survive (in the Navy) with four pair of shoes: PT shoes, boonies/work boots, oxfords, and pumps. Those covered the basics of what I needed in uniform, and gave me what I needed for any particular day. I still find those four basics a great place to start a shoe wardrobe, and the equivalent of those 4 are often my basis for travel packing. If I have all 4 in my suitcase, I know I am ready for anything! (No, I do not take dress shoes camping!) If you live in a place with very distinct seasons, you may find that you need a seasonal variety in some categories. Our summers here are unbearably hot and sticky, so I have dress shoes and dress sandals in my shoe wardrobe, and casual shoes and casual sandals.

A Dress Shoe

I know, you never go anywhere that needs a dress shoe. Well, having a pair you can rely on for solemn or festive occasions is a lifesaver. And a pair of pumps can take your jeans and a tee or blouse to places your favorite flip-flops or tennies just can’t. (Especially if you swap out your everyday tote for a smaller bag or clutch!) For most women, I suggest a dress shoe or pump in your haircolor. A shoe in this shade goes with everything, and creates a pleasing top and tail effect that draws the eye of the beholder back to your face, where it belongs. Many women default to a black pump, the kind you find on every wardrobe-must-have list out there, but unless your hair is black, try another shade. If you change your hair color often, or a brown shoe doesn’t seem dressy enough, look for a pump in your skin tone. That elongates the leg when wearing a dress with bare legs, and looks great year round. So does a metallic shade that reflects your hair color, like pewter, silver, platinum, or gold. Try on dress shoes when you are out and about doing other shopping. You can find a pair that you like that is comfortable, rather than panicking when you need a pair and settling for the first thing that you can stand that “matches.”

A Casual Shoe

By Casual Shoe, I do not mean flip-flops or tennis shoes. I think of those as leisure or PT shoes. I am thinking of a low or flat leather or fabric shoe. Yours might be a ballet flat, loafer, or oxford. It depends on your personality, fit issues, and wardrobe. Maybe I should call this a Nice-Casual Shoe. This should be something you can wear with trousers, skirts or dresses, maybe even shorts if that’s your style. If you have a very relaxed personality, maybe yours is a boat shoe, or espadrille. Another woman’s casual shoe might be a pointy-toed flat. I have a pair of pewter oxfords that have become my fast favorite this past winter, for both casual, and work

A Work Shoe

Long, long, ago, the US Navy issued me a pair of boondockers. They had to be one of the ugliest pair of shoes/boots I had ever put on my feet. I learned to appreciate their steel toes, and how comfortable they were to march miles in. I still have mine, and wear them for yard work, and take them camping. Now you probably don’t need a pair of steel-toed boots for work, but what is your work shoe equivalent? Many teachers I know swear by Dansko clogs. Those are their work shoe. My shoe of choice is flat or low heeled pump most of the year, and a low heeled boot in the winter. The pewter oxfords I mentioned above are great for my work now, and fill the function of a casual shoe as well.

A PT Shoe

Please, please, please do not go running in your old Keds. If you are going to run, or do whatever physical training you do, please buy the right kind of shoes for the job. Have your feet professionally fitted. The people at our local Fleet Feet are great at helping fit your foot, and find the best shoe for your foot. It is worth it to pay an expert. It costs far less than the medical bills that shoes with poor support can create! You can always go find your next pair on-line at a discount.

To Think about When Choosing a Shoe

Toe and Heel Shapes: Unless your personality calls you elsewhere, a toe shape that reflects the shape of your nose or chin will be most harmonious, and flattering. I prefer pointy-toed shoes, and have a pointy chin. A gently curved almond toe flatters most women. If your feet are very long, you may prefer a snip toe or a more rounded toe, and if your feet are small, you may like a shoe that is more pointy. Heel shapes are important for the back view. (Something we would often prefer to ignore.) If you have a curvy shape, you should look for a curvy shaped heel, and a straighter body shape should look for a straighter heel.

If you cannot walk comfortably heel-to-toe in a pair of shoes, please leave them behind! There is nothing elegant or sexy about a woman doing the “Frankestein walk” because her heels are too high. I have seen women in heels so high that they are unable to straighten their legs, creating a pulsating flamingo effect as they walk… (My husband even noticed one in the Target parking lot, and stopped me to ask me why a woman would do that. I ventured that she thought the shoes were sexy… He replied that there was nothing sexy about moving that way.)

Scale: I touched on heel shape and substance above, but even more important than shape for a heel is scale. A chunky wedge looks great on a larger scale woman. In the same way, a dainty strapped stiletto looks better on the woman with smaller scale ankles and calves. The width of the straps plays into scale, too! Thicker straps are good for larger scale women, medium straps for most of us, and thin straps for the thinner or more petite. If you are heavier, look for a heel with substance. High is fine, but that stiletto draws attention to the contrast between your more generous frame and the skinny heel, and makes you look wider. (Or about to topple over.) A thin woman may look bony in a very chunky heel.  Look for shoes that reflect your own physical characteristics.

Vamp:  The vamp is the open part on the top of the shoe. We generally think of lower vamp shoes as dressier, and higher vamp shoes as more casual: pumps vs. oxfords. A more open vamp creates the illusion of a longer leg, which flatters many of us. The sandals here have a high vamp, but if worn by a woman with skin similar in color to the straps, will not appear as a high vamp shoe. In black, they would have a shortening effect on a fair skinned woman. Ankle straps and shoes that tie high up on the foot create a shortening effect that is flattering for women who want to shorten their legs. (I have yet to meet one!) If you need the leg length, but really want to rock those ankle straps, find straps in your skin tone, and of the proper scale. Some women avoid low vamp shoes because they find toe cleavage unappealing. That is a matter of personal taste; try each pair. Knee high boots create a low vamp effect because of the unbroken line from knee to toe. Ankle booties in your skin tone create less of a line, but if you always wear them with pants, then a pair the color of the trousers you wear most often with them is the best choice for length.

What are your must-have shoes? Please share in the comments below! I love to hear from you…

And I must add a thank you to Catherine at Not Dressed as Lamb for the Link Up!

 

 

 

My Spring and Summer Style Picks (A Work In Progress)

My Spring and Summer Style Picks (A Work In Progress)

I have what Rudyard Kipling called in The Elephant’s Child, ‘satiable curtiosity. I am curious about everything, so last fall, when the Spring/Summer 2018 fashion shows were in the news, I was making notes. Not looking for clothing! Just noting what style inspirations, colors, and ideas were showing on the runways. Like most of us, I am a mass market shopper (and consignment shopper); I don’t buy from the runway.

I jot down the trends I see, and start pulling images that interest me from ads, catalogs, and magazines. I save on-line images as well. Over time I start to see commonalities in the images. These common threads are trends I may be interested in trying. Maybe it’s the sherbet colors/pastels trend. Or the bright yellow color trend. (Love the color, but it doesn’t love me, so I’ll skip it for clothes thank you, but a great beach tote? Or a bracelet to stack with others?) Thanks, but no thanks is the vinyl/plastic trend for me. Although, a bubble umbrella like the one I had when I was a child would make me smile!

In a previous post I mentioned that I try to work a French 5 Piece Wardrobe plan. This is for me. It’s not something I regularly suggest to clients, unless they have a planning and structure bent. I keep a working Polyvore board with my next season’s 5 thoughts on it, and pop on new pieces as I see them. This is a great way to have a visual to go along with the Wardrobe Wishes list in my calendar. It lets me see how my chosen 5 may work with the rest of my wardrobe. I pile more than 5 pieces on my board, and move them about and play with them, adding and subtracting over about a month to see what sticks, what keeps my attention, and what doesn’t. It’s far less expensive to make choices this way rather than buying and (possibly) returning.

The five pieces I chose for this board make my heart feel light, and support my 2018 Style Resolutions. Pink is one of my happy colors, which considering that I used to hate pink, is a real style revolution; a pink purse feels playful. The trouser jean looks fresh to me after all the seasons of skinny, but not hippie chick like some of the flares I am seeing. (They are fab for the right personality, but not mine.) The patterned dress (should) suit my shape, the colors are palette friendly, and the pattern looks like confetti! That says “fun” to me! The mint blouse is still an if… I am not a fan of long sleeves, but love the softer shade for spring and summer; it feels cool and calming. Maybe another sleeve in that color? Same for the pale rose shoes. I love the low walkable heel, and the soft-but-not-white shade. I do have concerns about keeping them clean and finding polish for them… So they may be struck off; I have high need for practicality.

How about you? Where do you find your style inspiration? Are you a planner, or more of an impulse buyer? How do you describe your style? I love to hear from you… Please feel free to share in the comments below!

Thanks to Catherine at Not Dressed as Lamb for the Link-Up!

How Do I Shop?

How Do I Shop?

When people find out that one of my services is Personal Shopping, they have one of two reactions… “Ooooh, that’s fun!” or “I need you. I HATE to shop.” Shopping can be fun, or at least less painful for those who hate it, but my shopping methods are probably different from your average trip to the mall. And they are remarkably similar if I am shopping for myself, or for a client. What most people want to know is: How do I shop for me?

Research

Like previous generations of shoppers, I do larger, less frequent shopping trips during the year. Twice a year would be ideal. Yes, I know I will need to hit the shops for new socks, tights, undies, and athletic wear during the year as things wear out, but for seasonal wardrobe shifts, and style updates, less often is better for me, and my budget. Planning is key to keeping a budget-friendly and integrated wardrobe, so any shopping trip starts with research. I will not head out to purchase without knowing what I own, and what I want to add to my wardrobe. I am not a let’s-go-‘n-see-what’s-at-the-store shopper. Yes, I do window shop and browse the stores to see what’s there, but browsing is normally research.

I think about what season or occasion I need to dress for, what I already have, and what I want or need. I research the trends to determine what I might see at the stores, and whether there are any I may wish to try. I review what is already in my closet, and go through my out of season storage box to determine what will be making it into my next season’s capsule.

An Aside: Last year, I decided to try a modified version of what’s known out in Weblandia as the 5 Piece French Wardrobe. No panic necessary! This doesn’t mean you have 5 pieces in your wardrobe. It means that each of the two fashion seasons, Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter, you restrict your purchases to 5 items that you have carefully selected and that reflect your aesthetic (style personality). There are lots of different versions and “rules” out there, but in my seasonal 5’s, I do not include replacements of basic pieces, jeans, etc. that have worn out or been stained beyond good use. Knowing I was only going to buy 5 “fashion pieces” made me much more selective about trends to play with, and about quality. Both are good things to consider being more selective about. I will continue with this plan again this year, although I may need to add and extra piece or two as I am struggling with some weight gain, and many of my S/S pieces may not fit… I’ll know more in March when I swap out my winter capsule for spring.

Make a List

To help choose 5, I keep (in my calendar) my Wardrobe Wishes. It is no more than a running list of items I have seen and would like to buy. Maybe I saw them in a catalog, on-line, in an ad, or when out shopping with a client. Frequently, I add something that I have noticed is missing from my wardrobe. Maybe a pink and grey scarf would pull together two or three tops and bottoms. That sounds like a wise purchase. When I add to the list, I date the addition, and where I saw it. I also periodically strike things off the list, which helps me remember that the gotta-have-it urge usually passes. The pieces that stay form the basis of my seasonal shopping list. After research and consulting my Wardrobe Wishes, I make a list of pieces I want to add to my wardrobe, and note where I am likely to find them. Some of my research time is also spent pre-shopping on-line to see who stocks the items I am looking for, and how much they may cost. On my list, I include the item, color or colors that will play best with what I already own, and make a note of my budget for the season. Usually, I try to list only 4 seasonal items and leave room for a serendipity purchase, because sometimes you just run across that Most-Amazing-Hero!

At the Mall (or Wherever!)

Now it’s time to head to the shops. I dress in comfortable clothes that are easy to take off and put back on. I wear shoes that slip off, and wear (or tote along) dress shoes if that is what my list will look best with. I take my color swatch. I make sure to wear the right kind of under garments for my shopping list; shopping for a prom dress in sneakers and a sports bra is and exercise in frustration! At the mall, I often make two passes. The first pass is reconnaisance, a quick walk-by to see who has what in the windows, whether there are any new stores, and a walk-through of potential shops to determine if it is worth coming back for a look. If I don’t see my color palette, and style personality, it’s not worth another pass. (I know, I might miss an amazing clearance item in the back of the store, but that’s fine with me. I have given up FOMO for the sake of efficiency, and sanity. After this first pass is a good time to stop for a coffee, and a trip to the rest room…

The second pass is all business. Now is the time to pull pieces and try them on. I take multiple sizes to the dressing room and max out the item limit. (Which is often more a guideline… Just ask politely.) The fewer times I need to return to the floor the better. Things that don’t fit are hung separately, or taken right out of the dressing room. Many stores have return-to-stock racks just for this purpose. If there are items I want to purchase, I buy them, and may ask the clerk to hold them for me (unless I need them to coordinate with another item elsewhere). If I really like those grey trousers, but want to keep looking, I will ask the sales clerk to hold them until the end of the day. I can come back for them if they are the best, or let him or her know I am no longer interested.

If I haven’t found what I am looking for, I may order on-line, but I make sure the company’s return policy is friendly before I ever hit the checkout button, and like the dressing room, I order multiple sizes unless I know a brand well, and trust their sizing.

At Home

Once I get home, I take everything out of the bags, and hang each up on proper hangars. If something new is replacing an old piece, the old one is pulled, or tossed in the laundry to be washed for the charity box. Before putting each new piece into the closet, I spend some time mixing and matching my new purchases with my basics and other seasonal pieces. I want to confirm that each new purchase will play well with the others already in my wardrobe. Only then do the tags come off. I pop my new buys into the closet with others in their category, and try to wear them in the next week or two, just in case there is a flaw or manufacturing defect. It’s much easier to return and replace a newly purchased item while you still have the receipt, rather than one that’s been hanging in your closet with the tags on for 3 months. (And if you don’t feel like you want to wear a new piece right away, maybe it wasn’t such a good purchase… Weather exceptions and special occasion wear notwithstanding.)

This may seem like a lot of work for something that the fashion industry wants to sell as entertainment (shopping), but I enjoy the research, and planning and consider it part of the “fun.” Especially when I see the results in both my closet and bank account!

How about you? Do you plan your shopping, or do you just pick up pieces as they strike your fancy? Have your shopping habits changed? Would you like them to? Please share in the comments below. I love to hear from you!

 

 

Trend Watch-Floral Blouses

Trend Watch-Floral Blouses

I know florals for spring are a recurring trend, but wow. Gucci went over-the-top, madly floral from head to toe in Spring/Summer of 2016, and has continued with that theme. It has finally bloomed across (sorry) the mass-market ready-to-wear that most us shop. Above, you can see a few I have fallen in love with…

Floral blouses of every hue and variation are on-line, and showing up in the stores. I struggle with floral blouses, because on my  “femme d’une certaine age” person, those lovely florals can look plain old old lady, unless they are styled with a youthful twist. For my style, a floral blouse with dress trousers would be a no go, but with a pair of frayed cropped jeans and booties or sandals, great! (I’m not sure I’m sold on a blouse I can only style with jeans…) Keeping the texture sheer helps lighten and modernize the look as well. Abstract and oversize florals, like the ones showing up this season, can be easier for more mature women to wear without looking dated. Realistic and ditsy florals are often better left to the young who can wear them with an ironic twist. Even the more traditional spring ginghams and polka dots can be seen combined with floral embroidery for those who like their flowers less flowery.

Floral shoes are everywhere. This is a trend I can jump all over! Tapestry, embroidery, or just plain print. I have a pair I pull out every summer, and would love to add this navy embroidered lovely from White House Black Market to my collection, but I am trying to leave room for serendipity in my Spring/Summer 5. (And I know I really do not NEED another pair of shoes!)

Floral jewelry was everywhere this past winter, and some darling pieces can be picked up for a song and worn to death this spring and summer. Sequins are another huge SS2018 trend, and quite a few of the clearance necklaces at Talbot’s right now combine the floral and sequin trends. If statement necklaces are your thing, you may want to check them out! I can see one thrown on with jeans and a tee for a fresh and relaxed look. Or tuck one inside the collar of an oversized boyfriend shirt.  Even Lands’ End is running with this one, so you can find your floral fix everywhere, and at a price point that makes your wallet happy.

If just dipping your toe in the water is more your style, take a look in your own jewelry box, and scarf pile. You probably have a floral motif in there somewhere. Maybe an old brooch? Dig them out, and enjoy a touch of spring now, even when the warm weather seems like it will never come.

How do you feel about florals? Love ’em? Hate ’em? Let me know in the comments below! I love to hear what you think…

And thank you to Catherine at Not Dressed as Lamb for the Link-Up!

 

What’s Your Wardrobe Budget?

What’s Your Wardrobe Budget?

Many people with whom I speak are under a false impression. They think that I want them to spend lots of money on their wardrobes. Nothing can be further from the truth! I am all about a budget, and being responsible with your finances. More years ago than I would like to admit, I heard a finance guru say “If you don’t manage your money, it will manage you.” Having had many beans and rice days, I appreciated how my money had been managing me and my emotions. It has taken a long time, but I am getting better at money management.

You Gotta Know Where It’s Goin’

Every finance and budgeting resource begins with the basic of tracking your expenses. I sat down last weekend and updated my wardrobe expense tracking to find that I still have some money left in my annual budget. Woo hoo! Now when you hear wardrobe expense tracking, please don’t be impressed. My wardrobe expense tracking system is a brown 6X9 envelope with “Wardrobe Expenses 2017” written on the top. My initials are on one side, and hubby’s are on the other. There are 2 paper clips inside one for my receipts, and one for his. (Yes, the paper clips are color coded. I’m like that.) On the outside I keep a running total on each side of the envelope. High tech? No. Functional? Very.  When I started doing this, I was afraid to find out how much I was spending. I quickly learned I was dropping $10-$20 frequently, resulting in lots of spending and lots of waste. After a year or two, I found myself spending less often, and making better choices that were longer lasting, and yes, more expensive. A budget made shopping less stressful and I was loving my wardrobe more.

How Much Should You Spend?

Even if you don’t yet have a system, let’s think about a budget for next year! Most sources say you should be spending between 3%-10% of your household budget on clothing annually. The percentage you choose will vary depending on the number of people in your family, and your wardrobe requirements. Before you panic at those percentages, some historical perspective might be helpful. Americans spend less of their budget on clothing now than they have at any point in the past (excepting war rationing years). Clothing is cheaper than ever, but people make up for that by buying lots. The average woman has more clothes that she doesn’t wear than clothes she does. A woman’s wardrobe in the 1950’s could fit into one good sized suitcase, maybe excepting a heavy winter coat. Most of us today couldn’t imagine fitting our clothing into three suitcases! Working with a client, I find 5% a good place to start an experiment. For our family, I divided our 5% between the two of us, and that has worked for us so far. If you make all your purchases on the fantastic plastic, you should be able to access analytics from your card company at the end of the year that may help you get a handle on how much you spent.

Conscious Spending Methods

Knowing where your money goes is important, but knowing HOW it goes matters, too! Are you a piddly spender who makes lots of little purchases frequently? Or are you a big bash spender who shops once or twice a year and gets everything you need at once? The latter used to be more common, the former seems to be more the rule nowadays. Some surveys record that many Americans buy a new clothing item weekly. That’s 52 pieces a year! I know women who break down their annual budget quarterly, and buy for a season, and others who ration out their money monthly and save for larger purchases. Any and all of these can work. It depends on you and your habits. I find I am somewhere between the twice a year shopper, and the monthly purchaser. I plan to buy 5 new specialty items (non-basics) twice yearly, and replace basics as needed and found throughout the year. (PS: Replace means that the old piece the new one is replacing goes away. This should be self-evident, but I have worked in closets holding 10 pair of black pants, 8 of which never are worn.)

Do you have a clothing budget? How do you parcel out your spending? If you don’t, why don’t you? Please share in the comments below!

Many thanks to Katherine at #notlamb for the LinkUp!

Abundance… When does Enough become Too Much?

Abundance… When does Enough become Too Much?

How much is enough? In the immortal words of Larry the Cucumber… “I don’t know; how much stuff is there?” (Larry was answering Bob’s query about how much you need to be happy.) It’s funny how that number shifts. Unless you are well on your way to a minimalist lifestyle, I would say that most us have more than we need in our closets, but need is a very relative term… I have no magic item count for an ideal wardrobe. That varies for every person. I have seen people happy with everything from 15 to 300 pieces. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before adding something to your closet. (These are also good questions for a Wardrobe Audit!)

Does it fit my lifestyle? (AND my budget!)

Is the item in your hot little hands something you will wear? Or, as Bridgette Raes asks “Where are you going in that?” A fabulous dry-clean-only millennial pink skirt suit may be a perfect fit, and a great deal, but if you are a classroom teacher of littles and spend your evenings with your own children on the sidelines of the soccer pitch, maybe it is best left on the rack.

As an Image and Wardrobe Coach, people often think I am all about designer clothing. If that’s what makes you happy, and it’s in your budget, fantastic! I shop at all price points, and always try to work within a client’s budget. I may push outside someone’s item-price-limit (i.e. Jane will not pay more than $50 for a pair of shoes.), because the client is not thinking about cost-per-wear and total budget, but about price.

Do I already have something similar at home?

(Or: How many pair of black trousers are in your closet?) Your easy find may be black pants, or colored tees, or tennis shoes, but realistically: How many do you need? This is another Know Thyself (KT) question. How many weeks’ worth of clothing do you feel you need before repeating an outfit? How often do you do laundry? If you are looking at neutral basics, those can be worn more frequently without anyone noticing, but bright or patterned tops do stand out more, so you may find you want more variety. According to a 2015 article by a denim expert, the average American woman owns 7 pair of jeans, and 25 percent of American women own 10 or more pairs. Both groups only wear 4 pair regularly. Are those new jeans going to change your world, or just going to keep the unworn ones company?

Is this a replacement for something I already own? (Corollary: Will I get rid of the piece it is replacing?)

If you have worn something out, or worn it to a lower level of refinement, replace it if a new one still serves your purposes. I try to ask myself, “Do I love this XYZ more than the one I am replacing?” Ideally, a yes means that the old and trusted one can now retire! If you do buy a replacement, what are you going to do with the worn out one? I know people who have new pieces with tags still on, but they are wearing the threadbare one because the new one is for “good.” Really? Get over good. Any day I am still breathing qualifies as good.

Can I make at least three looks with this piece and what I already have at home in my wardrobe?

Here’s the question to help prevent sad and lonely Wardrobe Orphans. You love that breezy boho blouse because it is so different from the closet full of fitted tops you own. Great! Maybe it’s time to try a new silhouette! What are you going to wear with it? Do you pair all those fitted tops with wider legged bottoms for flattering volume and proportion? Then blousy boho top will need a pair of narrow trousers for balance. Do you have any, or will you need to buy a new bottom to make it work? Buying an outfit is fine, but keep in mind that you will only be wearing that outfit one way, and may tire of it very quickly. How about looking for a more fitted top with the same feel that you could wear with at least three bottoms you already have at home? Or go for the experiment, and be ready to buy more narrow trousers later if you like the new look!

Do I love it? On a scale of 1-10 is it at least an 8?

This can be the hardest question of all. There are lots of ways an item can be an 8. Maybe you are tired of cold wet feet. Those new boots, although not your favorite look, will make your winter morning commute more bearable every day for 4 months of the year. That ranks as a 10 for me, but might not for another woman! Ranking a potential purchase comes down to really knowing your values and personality. If you are all about comfort, then that gorgeous scratchy sweater may be a 2 for you, but a 10 for someone else.  I see lots of color impulse purchases. Someone loved the color (10), but not the fit (4), or feel (2). Make sure the whole garment is an 8, not just one aspect!

So, When is Enough Too Much?

Abundance becomes too much when you can’t keep what you own in order, you can’t keep track of it, or can’t stop buying. It is very easy to confuse want and need, and to fall into the buy-something-new-for-a-mood-boost trap. (AKA: Retail Therapy.) If you feel like your closet is out of control, you may want the help of someone like me, or if the shopping habit has become an issue, check out Jill Chivers’ amazing site, My Year Without Clothes Shopping.  I have completed a few shopping fasts since we moved to Georgia, some for Lent, and twice for a year each, and learned new things about myself each time! If your abundance has become too much, a fast might be just the ticket to appreciating what you do have. If a year seems a bit drastic, maybe just a shopping free month, or start small with a week. Apparently, Americans add about 52 items to their wardrobe yearly. That’s something new each week. Yikes!

Do you have enough? Or too much? Do you define it by number? Or some other way? Please share in the comments below!

The Perfect Handbag

The Perfect Handbag

I spent years looking for the perfect handbag. I don’t literally mean years wandering the Earth in pursuit of the perfect bag, but I might have had a wee obsession. Pretty much anywhere I went that had anything vaguely resembling a handbag, I would look. This led to some amusing, and some incredibly practical purchases, and quite a bit (Oh, let’s just say a lot!) of wasted money. It wasn’t until much later that I thought to spend  time thinking about what I thought made a handbag “perfect.” Let me make something clear; I despise (No, that is not too strong a word.) the tyranny of “perfect.” There is only one perfect, and it’s not found on this Earth. I prefer: Ideal for you now. This is where I struggle with the what-every-woman-MUST-own lists discussed in a previous post. At some point I discovered that there is no perfect handbag, or even ideal, but there is the handbag that best works for at this point in my life, and for particular occasions.

Here are a variety of questions to ask yourself before exchanging your cold hard cash (or credit card) for a new bag…

Know Thyself Questions

  • What is my life like? Do I need a bag that is easy to clean? (Maybe that cute suede hobo isn’t such a good idea…) Where will it live at home or work? On the floor? In a drawer? In a coat closet? On the dining room table where spills happen?
  • What do I want this bag for? Everyday? A special event like a wedding? Travel?
  • How much do I like to carry around with me daily? Am I the kitchen sink woman, or a  phone, credit card, and lipstick woman? Or am I  somewhere in between? (If you are the kitchen sink woman, know that you will spend more time and money at the doctor’s office later!)
  • Do I want a bag du jour (the latest trend), or one that will stand the test of time?
  • Do I want to change bags often, or have one that goes with “everything”? (Note: There is no bag that goes with everything. There are bags that go with your everyday everything!)
  • How much do I have to spend? How much do I want to spend? (These are two very different questions!) Am I willing to spend more than I want to get what I really like? (Note: I would NEVER suggest you spend more than you have to get what you really like!)
  • What size and shape bags are best for my personality, body shape, and scale?
  • Is brand important to me? Do I like carrying a recognizable bag? Do I like logos? Or do I prefer to go stealth? (Be honest here…  It is a pity to spend a fortune on a bag just to find out you don’t want to be advertising for a particular company. And it is OK to want a bag with someone else’s initials if that makes you happy!)

Know Your Bags Questions

  • Do I prefer a shoulder strap? How long? A cross body? Maybe a handheld satchel is more my speed. Or does it need to be convertible to handle all these options? Some women prefer a wristlet or clutch.
  • How much structure do I want? Soft and squishy, or more structured? What shapes do I like best? Soft and rounded? More angular? Taller than wide (North/South) or wider than tall (East/West)? Frequently there is a connection between angularity and structure, but lately there are structured round bags everywhere, and square squishy totes, so be sure to keep your structure and shape preferences defined.
  • What materials do I prefer? Fabric and PVC (even when called Vegan Leather) are, for the most part, less long wearing than leather. If you have issues with leather bags, expect to replace yours more frequently.
  • Do I have a hardware preference? I have seen a woman reject her (otherwise) ideal bag because the hardware was silver colored and she only wears gold.
  • What colors do I like best? What goes with the majority of my outfits? Do I want a bag that blends with, or stands out from my outfit? (Hint: A black or camel handbag stands out like a sore thumb on many women; a handbag in the same color as your hair goes with all your outfits, because you wear your hair wherever you go.)

If this seems like an awful lot of questions to ask before heading to the shops or to your computer, take a moment to think about what else you could do with the $25-$2,500 (or more!) one can spend on a handbag. (Movie, or family vacation…) Spending time thinking through what your ideal bag looks/feels/smells/carries like is well worth the time it will save you shopping. Think of it as the shopping equivalent of Measure Twice, Cut Once.

Do you have a favorite bag? Or did you, but it is no longer right for your life? Please share in the comments below!

 

            

 

Style/Fashion Myths

Style/Fashion Myths

Myth: Black shoes go with everything.
Reality: Black shoes go with everything only if you have black hair! Otherwise, shoes the color of your skin or hair go with everything!

Myth: Don’t wear navy and black together.
Reality: Navy and black worn together can look very chic when combined intentionally! The same goes for black and brown.

Myth: Never wear white after Labor Day.
Reality: If you look good in white, wear it all year long!

M: Don’t mix metals.
Reality: Mix away! To make it look like you meant it, make sure to choose at least 1/3 of one metal.

Myth: Flats are more comfortable than heels.
Reality: A low heel can be more comfortable (and better for your feet) than flats!

Myth: You shouldn’t repeat an outfit during the week.
Reality: If the outfit is made of neutral basics, no one will notice, especially if you change your accessories!

Myth: Clothes need washing after each wearing.
Reality: Clothes last longer the less they are washed. Many clothes only need an airing before wearing a second or third time.

Myth: One size fits all.
Reality: One size fits no one well!

Myth: There is something wrong with my body; I can’t find clothes that fit.
Reality: There is NOTHING wrong with my body; there is something wrong with these clothes!

Myth: A $5 shirt is a good deal.
Reality: A good deal is defined by Cost Per Wear. If you only wear that shirt one time, it cost you $5. But the $100 dress that you wear once a week for two years costs you less than $1 per wear. Think CPW, not cost!

Closet Sabotage

Closet Sabotage

Sabotage is a funny word. It comes from an old French word for shoe. In particular, a kind of wooden shoe. Sabotage is an apt word for the malicious mischief we do to our own wardrobes (and often budgets!). When I speak of a wardrobe, I imagine a set of coordinated clothing that fits the lifestyle of the owner, expresses his or her personality, flatters, and makes the wardrobee (Yes, sometimes a new word must be invented.) happy. What are the most common acts of wardrobe sabotage? You commit wardrobe sabotage when the clothing you buy…

Doesn’t Fit YOUR Lifestyle

I see this one all the time, and have been guilty of this act of sabotage more than once! Maybe you are a new mom who lives in jeans and tees, and spends your day nursing a newborn and trying to remember what the floor looked like before it was covered in children’s toys. You find yourself trying on a darling little black cocktail dress, dry clean only. You don’t remember the last time you had a cocktail, and while you may have regular dreams about an enormous margarita, you cannot imagine when you might actually have one. The babysitter, margarita, and dress (on sale) combined would cost more than a week’s worth of groceries.  Shopping for a life you do not lead is a bad idea. The brilliant Bridgette Raes calls this “wishful wardrobing”. Now, this does not mean that you should not buy something to make a new outfit for the holidays, but maybe rather than that dry clean only LBD, you should look for a new happy-making ( and nursing friendly) washable top to wear with jeans or dress pants, to which you can add some extra sparkle for New Year’s Eve. Even if you can’t afford the sitter, you can have your party at home!

Doesn’t Fit Your Personality (or Body Shape)

I love hippie chick flowy boho dresses and tops; they look airy, carefree, and easy, but when I put them on I feel like a clown, or like I am pretending to be someone I am not. I am more comfortable in a different aesthetic, and that’s just fine. I get my boho on with jewelry, or maybe with my sandals, or a scarf. That works for me. I have learned to steer clear of the cute little gauze spaghetti strap top that would show more skin than I am comfortable with, and doesn’t cover the foundation garments the girls require. It is perfectly fine to love a look on someone else, and not feel obliged to add it to your closet. The (also brilliant) Jill Chivers talks about appreciating fashion like art or architecture. She talks about loving the Eiffel Tower, but not needing to put it in your living room. I feel that way about lots of clothes. I can love that cute little military styled jacket with the brass buttons and red trim, and not need to add it to my closet!

Doesn’t Play Well with Others

Before handing over your hard-earned money, if you cannot think of at least 3 ways to wear the item you are about to carry to the register, it may be best to leave it behind. There a few ways we commonly sidestep this guideline. Wearing that cute floral cold shoulder top with three different jeans does not count as three ways! Can you wear that top with three different bottoms? Maybe with your jeans, your black dress pants, and your casual chinos. It might be a good choice. Can you imagine wearing it in three different situations? On a play day? Or running errands? How about to work? On a date, or girls’ night out? Not every purchase will work in three different situations, but you should be able to make it work for more than one. Does the coloring work for you, and what you already own? If you are rebuilding a wardrobe from scratch, you may need to buy whole outfits; if you already have a closet full of clothes, you shouldn’t need to buy a whole outfit to make one piece work. If you do, it’s probably best left at the store.

Exception to the Situations Guideline: Workout Wear. Wear it for working out. Please. Leggings are NOT pants. I don’t care what the Spanx ads show. They are ads, with women who are paid to show off their assets. If you are being paid to show off yours, rock them, but most of us are not that woman.

Wardrobe Orphans

When we buy clothing that corresponds to one of the above acts of sabotage, those pieces often end up being wardrobe orphans: unhappy items (often with the tags still attached) that hang in your closet making you feel guilty, wasteful, and sometimes plain old foolish. Maybe it is time to do a Marie Kondo and thank the piece for the lesson it has taught you, and release it to be loved and used by someone else. Or it may just be that you need help finding ways to wear those orphans, and help them find their lost family. Those are the kind of things an Image and Wardrobe Coach can help with!

We all make mistakes, learning from them is the key! Which kind of sabotage are you most frequently guilty of? Let me know in the comments below!

Playing Saturday Share Link-Up with the lovely Catherine at Not Dressed Like Lamb