Because... getting dressed should be fun!

Because... getting dressed should be fun!

Category: Wardrobe

Center of Attention

Center of Attention

When you dress, what is the center of attention? You or your clothes? People often think that as an Image and Wardrobe Coach, I am all about the clothes, but that would be untrue. My focus is on my client, and keeping my client the center of attention, not the client’s clothes! Your clothes should reflect who you are, your best you, not someone else’s version of you.

Who’s Wearing Who?

Have you ever met someone, and you feel like you have known them forever, or they just seem familiar to you? Believe it or not, that is often a result of dressing with authenticity. Some call it style synchronicity. The outside reflects who they are on the inside, their personality, values, and lifestyle. When you find out more about them, there are no unpleasant surprises, and that kind of inner/outer integration creates trust. You leave feeling that you know that person better, and are likely remember the person, not what he or she was wearing.

Contrast that with attending an event where you met a woman, and later could not remember ther face, or name, but you did remember the purple dress she was wearing? Or the striped shirt he had on? Maybe you are watching a television interview, and you can’t keep focused on the person speaking because his tie is shouting “Look at ME!” In these cases, the clothes are wearing the person.

Sometimes we want our clothes to draw attention. Maybe you are going hunting… Yup, that particular shade of orange is a fabulous fashion choice! If you are speaking in front of a large group from a stage, again, something very eye-catching may be a great way to keep the audience’s focus; they aren’t seeing your face and expressions, so you need to appear larger than life. Most other times, though, the wearer should be the center of attention. We want to keep people focused on our face and expressions, what we refer to as our communication center.

The Flaw in the Plan

Fashion magazines, sale flyers, ads, runway shows… These visuals are often our main source of new fashion images, but these may not be the best place to pick up outfit ideas! They are a fabulous springboard for inspiration, but the carefully staged shots we see everywhere are designed to place the focus on the clothes. The whole point is to sell the clothes, not the models wearing them, so buying (or imitating) the outfit from top to bottom is likely to create a style and personality mismatch! One in which the clothes are doing the wearing. Another frequent inspiration is celebrity fashion, which although more wearer-focused, is still the product of a celebrity stylist, often with a “look” that is identifiable from client to client. Now, those celebrities may have similar personalities, but when you recognize the stylist behind the outfit, by the outfit, that should be a warning flag!

An Easy Way to Check the Focus

One of the easiest ways to check the focus is probably laying right at hand… Yes, I mean your smartphone camera. Take a full-length selfie after you get dressed in the morning (it only takes about a minute) and look at yourself in the picture. What do you notice first? Your face? Or is it the way your trousers are catching on your booties? Others see us far more like a camera sees us. The picture helps because when we look at ourselves in the mirror, we tend to focus on what we want to camouflage first, to see if that has been taken care of… or we skim past the bits we’d rather not see. Neither gives the more objective view of the camera lens. Try it for a week, and look back over the week’s pictures. What do you see?

Imitation is the Most Sincere Form of Flattery?

Imitation is the Most Sincere Form of Flattery?

The familiar quote above is from CC Colton, although others have said similar through the ages. In our social media (especially Pinterest) age, where are the lines between imitation, inspiration, and cultural appropriation?

Imitation and Inspiration

I will say flat out, that I have no answers here! This is all interpretation, unless you are dealing with patent law, and piracy, neither of which involve flattery, merely profit. For fashion or style, I define imitation as the the duplication of another’s look. Maybe, you are trying to duplicate one of Kate Middleton’s maternity looks for a baby shower. You find the same dress, and the closest possible shoes, but alas, you cannot duplicate the jewels! Understandable, so you go for a matching set you have that is similar. You are trying to recreate her look. That says imitation to me. Pre-teens do this all the time; I am sure most of us have seen two or three together, (sometimes more!) wearing matching outfits.

Inspiration works on a much looser principle. You like someone’s look, and you take something from that look, and make it your own. Maybe you use the color scheme, or the proportions, or the way she mixed her jewelry, but you do it using your own items, in a way that works for your personality, shape, and lifestyle. I have a client who loves Katherine Hepburn in her wide legged trousers and crisp white shirts, and Nicole Kidman’s modern interpretation of that same Elegant Chic. My client would be swamped in wide legged trousers, and does not wear woven shirts, but she takes her inspiration from the color combinations, and simple accessories they use.

Cultural (Mis)Appropriation

Talk of imitation and inspiration often leads to a discussion on cultural (mis)appropriation. This is a messy topic, and much like the author of this article in The Atlantic, I do not want to only live the culture of my Irish, German, and Alsatian ancestors; I would look silly running about in a dirndl and shawl. (Although a pint of Guiness would not be a strain…) I can see how taking elements from another’s culture, using them for profit, and not giving credit is a problem, as the author of this Thoughtco.com article elucidates. Years ago, I was astonished when a folk-dance enthusiast and instructor commented on a necklace I was wearing. She recognized it as an antique Kuchi Wedding Necklace (I think…) and asked how it came to be in my possession. She told me these necklaces were very special pieces, and rarely left the family. When I put on the silver necklace that was a gift from my mother, I was not pretending to be an Afghan bride. My mother saw it at an estate sale, and thought the craftsmanship beautiful; it is a work of art.  I wear it with that same appreciation. I appreciate its beauty even more, now that I know more about it.

Most of us are past the imitation phase in our lives, so, where do you find inspiration for your outfits? Please share in the comments below!

 

10, 20, 30

10, 20, 30

Fashion lists are everywhere! The Top 10 Items You Must Have for Fall. 20 Things No Woman Should Wear after 40.  30 Things Every Woman Should Own by the Age of 30. Magazines and fashion websites are full of these lists. Hooooey! I don’t think there is any clothing that is a must-have for EVERY woman. My must-haves and yours will vary widely. Mine includes a pair of red shoes. You may have absolutely no need for red shoes. I do not need the ubiquitous black pumps on almost every list… Not anymore!

To Thine Own Self Be True

This is where the rubber hits the road. Personality, values, and lifestyle. These are what will create your personal must-have list. I know a woman who wear jeans almost daily, and life without them would be unimaginable. I know another woman who has not worn a pair of jeans in more than 30 years, and sees no reason to change that. The list requiring The Perfect Dark Jean is not for the latter, nor is the one calling for a tuxedo jacket for the former! Know yourself, know your lifestyle, know your values.

Categories (and Perfect)

What can be learned from the lists is categories of clothing that may need to be addressed in your wardrobe. Note the MAY! When the list calls for The Perfect White Shirt, and you are a warm-complexioned mom with 3 preschool children at home, who despises collars because they make you feel like you are choking, the white shirt is probably not for you! (Yes, that sentence was waaaay too long!)  Let’s take that shirt and think about the purpose it serves… Its category: light colored top to pair with jeans, skirts, and shorts. Maybe your Perfect White Shirt is a nicely finished ivory tee that can be machine washed and dried. The Classic Trench? Look for rain protection, in a 3 season weight. Your values may prohibit the Perfect Leather Jacket; if you love the look, find yourself a casual, rough and ready jacket in some other material. I despise the tyranny of the Perfect Anything. Perfection is not attainable here on Earth… (Settling for good enough is a problem for another post.)

What Categories Fit Your World?

If you are a yoga instructor, you will need a week’s worth of yoga gear. The rest of us, not so much. Sorry. Your life may require special clothing for work, and more casual presentable clothes for “play.” If you spend your days in the C-suites, your wardrobe should reflect that. If you never go clubbing, skip the bodycon dance dresses. The one category I do believe everyone needs to cover is the “something appropriate to wear to a funeral, or for a meeting with a lawyer or accountant.” For one woman that might be a sheath dress and a jacket, for another, dark trousers and a nice blouse. You do not want to have to run out and buy something at the last minute when you are, or someone you love is grieving. (Sorry I can’t be there for you… I have to go to the mall.)

Spend some time thinking about how you spend your time, what is important to you, and what makes you happy. Write down what you discover. When you don’t, you waste money on clothes that your closet wears, and still lack what you need. Much of what I do as an Image and Wardrobe Coach is help people figure those three things out. Some call it closet therapy!

I told you red shoes were on my list. What’s on yours? Please let me know in the comments below!

Back to School Shopping? Shop Your Wardrobe First!

Back to School Shopping? Shop Your Wardrobe First!

What is it about all the back to school shopping ads that makes me want to pick up my purse, and head to the stores with a list? Years of early training sets habits that are hard to break. Back-to-school used to be the second largest driver for clothing retail, right up there with Christmas. As a girl, I remember my mother taking me to the store for new school shoes to replace the grown-out-of pair from the previous year, and new blouses to wear with my uniform skirts. The skirts rarely needed replacing; they wore like iron! Most of the school shopping for the year was done, and unless a growth spurt sized me out of something, that was it. I continued the habit with my sons. Now I have no one at home to back-to-school shop for, but the drive is still strong!

Out of Season

A frequent client complaint is that the items in the stores don’t match our seasons, especially for those of us who live in warm climes. Here in Georgia, we may very well be wearing sandals all the way through November. By the time we need cold weather gear, the stores have moved onto resort wear, and spring items are on the shelves. My (not so sympathetic) response is PLANNING. You know the “cold” will come. It does. Every year. Plan for it. I don’t know when Planning and Budgeting became dirty words. Both are powerful tools, and pack a real punch when used together!

Budgeting

Do you have a clothing budget? If not for yourself, how about for your family? I would venture to guess that the answer is no. Most of the people I talk to, unless they are in finance, don’t bother thinking about a clothing budget. They may choose an amount they want to spend on Christmas shopping or on a personal shopping trip, but overall, most Americans seem to have lost the concept of a budget. At one time, back-to-school shopping had to be saved up for… Now, we can buy almost anything we want on credit. No worries, right? Recreational shopping (aka: malling, retail therapy, hitting the shops) wreaks havoc with a budget, unless you have the discipline (another out of fashion word) to keep your wallet in your pocket, and wait for the right item at the right price. Many financial calculators put the amount you should spend annually on clothing at anywhere from 5-10% of your total budget. (If you are dressing a family, your number should be at the higher end of the range.) Just knowing how much you have to spend makes you a more careful shopper.

Pre-Planning

One of my favorite quotes about planning is from Dwight D. Eisenhower (a man who knew something about preparation). He said that when preparing for a battle, “plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Your wardrobe is no different! You should have a wardrobe that flatters you, fits your lifestyle, supports your goals, makes you happy, AND fits your budget. This does not happen by accident! I firmly believe that you should always have something in your closet appropriate to wear to a funeral, or to a meeting with a lawyer or financial professional. (Emergency shopping for these situations tends to lead to poor and/or expensive purchases…) A ready-for-your-life wardrobe is possible, but only if you think before you buy. Do you know what you need? I see clients who think they need a new pair of trousers, only to find they have three with price tags, hanging in the closet unworn. Please, do your closet, your bank account, and the planet a favor. Start in your own closet. Instead of spending three hours at the mall, spend those three hours going through what you already own. You are going to stock your own personal boutique. Put on some music. Grab a glass of water. Try things on just like you would in the store. (Bonus: You can grab the right shoes, too!) If an item does not fit, suit you, or you wouldn’t buy it from a store today, it probably does not deserve a place in your boutique. Bless someone else with it. There are hundreds of articles and videos about how to do a wardrobe audit.

Planning

Now that you know what you have, you probably have a better idea of what you need. Were the two tops you wear with your workhorse trousers past their prime? Did you finally say good-bye to those too tight/too baggy/too faded jeans? Take a close look at what you have, and what you need to buy to make outfits. Start your list. You don’t need to list “pink button-down shirt” just because you got rid of one. Is that really what you need, or do you need a flattering light colored shirt to wear to work, and with jeans? Maybe a dark colored jacket would pull together those trousers and blouse to give them a professional edge. Maybe you just need some casual pants that don’t say yoga. Once you have a plan, and know how much you are willing to spend, you can head to the shops.

Now, Shop!

Armed with a list, and aware of your budget is a great way to make a shopping trip easier, whether at the mall, or online. You don’t need to waste time looking at everything (and consequently find nothing). If you know what you are looking for, you are more likely to bring home something you need and will wear. If you don’t love it (unless you really have nothing left at home) don’t bring it home. If a trip without a purchase feels like a waste of time, think of the trip as a money saving reconnaissance mission!

If all of this sounds like too much work or is too stressful, you can always call a professional… I would love to hear from you!

 

Fads, Trends, and Classics

Fads, Trends, and Classics

When you look at the thousands of items of clothing available, it can be hard to decide what to buy. Do you want an item that will be out of style by next year, or something that will be a wardrobe staple for years? There is room in every wardrobe for both. Is the dress, trouser, or shirt you are looking at a fad, a trend, or a classic? How do you know?

Fads

Fads are the one hit wonders of the fashion world. They come and go as quickly as a summer rain. A fad may be “huge” for one season, but often lasts about a year. Fads tend to have a very limited appeal, and are first adopted by the the JrHi-Uni age crowd. Fads often start with street style; some fads are regional. There may be a fad for your city, or region of the country. If the fad has a broader geographical sweep, you will find it in the fast fashion outlets. If the fad survives and grows to be found more broadly in retailers catering to a wider age demographic, it has matured into a trend.

Trends

Trends are the fads that have grown past the teenage/university student age market. They have a much broader appeal, and have often been adapted for an older demographic. (The first skinny jeans were a fad only the very young and thin could wear, but retailers soon adapted the cuts, and silhouettes. Originally, there were no “curvy skinny” jeans!) Trends stay around for about 2-5 years. When the rest of the market adopts the trend, it loses its cachet with the young and they move onto the next fad/possible trend.

Classics

Classics are pieces that have stood the test of time, they neither come nor go, but are found year after year. Classics form the basis of many wardrobes; many people think of them as boring, but classics can be a great foundation on which to build. Classics vary over decades; the blue blazer of the 1980’s will not fit anything like the blue blazer of 2017, but it is still recognizable as a blue blazer. Dress trousers are an easy item in which to see the shift in silhouette. Take a peek on the racks at Goodwill, and you will see a “classic” black dress trouser of multiple silhouettes.

Time decides the fate of all fads, some even endure long enough to become classics… Jeans, Statement Necklaces, and Breton Shirts are just a few.

 

Mood Dressing

Mood Dressing

Control Freak?

When I suggest to people that they choose the next day’s clothing the night before to save time and stress in the morning, the most common reply is “But what about my mood? I may not feel like those clothes in the morning! Then I’m starting all over again.” I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic, but who’s in control in that situation? Are you in control of your mood, or are you letting your mood control you? If you have been up all night long with a sick child, and are now going to the doctor instead of work, I understand you need easy, wash and wear comfort clothes. Go change. The suit and pumps you chose last night aren’t going to cut it for the day’s activities!

Dress for How You Want to Look and Feel

I would posit that on 90% of the other days, you don’t even really know what kind of mood you are in (except the Need More Sleep and Coffee mood) when you get dressed in the morning! To be honest, I’m not sure I want to see what the Need More Sleep and Coffee outfit looks like… The problem with letting your mood control your dressing is that moods are temporary. They flit from one place to another, up and down all day long. Do you really want to drag a lousy morning mood along with you all day? I suggest that dressing for how you want to look and feel is a better choice. Studies by a UK researcher in the showed that when people wear superhero shirts, they feel more likeable, and test subjects wearing white coats (doctor-type) do better on mental agility tests. What we wear affects not only how others perceive us, but how we ourselves feel and behave.

Try it for a Week

So, let’s do some science! Make yourself the subject of a dressing experiment. Take two minutes at bedtime Sunday evening to lay out or hang up your clothes for Monday. Repeat each evening. (I know a man who does this on Sunday for the whole week! That’s a bit much, even for a planner like me…) See if your mornings aren’t less stressful. Then come back and let me know how your experiment went. Please do, I am insanely curious!

 

 

Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti Day

Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti Day

How important are routines to you? You may think routine boring, or you may love it… Either way routines are essential. They are one way our brains save time and energy for more important work. Some people have routines for almost everything, and find themselves at a loss when they are thrown out of order. My years of teaching taught me a great deal about the value of routine for small people, and even more so for myself (especially as the one in charge of littles)! But… we have to be careful that our routines don’t become ruts from which we cannot escape.

What is a routine?

A routine is “a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program.” Some synonyms: procedure, practice, pattern, drill, regimen. (Oxford Dictionaries Online) My dad was a procedures man, even down to choosing his clothes for the day. He alternated what he called Blue Day and Brown Day. I used to tease him mercilessly about this when I was a teen and college student. The tables have turned, and he is laughing at me from Heaven as I admit to running a Blue Day/Pink Day schedule pretty steadily for the past few weeks. It’s not completely conscious, just more of a “I wore blue yesterday, so I feel like something different today…” kind of thing. I remember asking him in a smart-alecky tone where grey fit in. I was answered with “Grey can go either way; that’s why I always pack a grey suit for business trips.”(Along with both blue and brown day ties!)

How Can a Routine Help?

You can use a clothing routine to make getting dressed in the morning faster and easier. When getting ready for bed, I check my calendar and the weather (thank you smartphone!) and hang up my clothes, including underwear and accessories, for the next day on a hook inside my closet door. It takes about 2 minutes to do while I am still awake, and saves far more than 2 minutes in the morning. My creativity level is zero first thing in the morning. If you want to change your mind about your outfit, feel free, but having a default automatically lowers the AM stress level! Another plus to preparing in the evening: no morning surprise that something you want is dirty, torn, or just plain trashed. Also mismatched socks or shoes are less likely to surprise you later in the day!  Dirty Secret: We go to church on Sunday evening. I dress for Mass right before we leave, and when we get home I hang my outfit back on the hook to wear Monday morning if the outfit suits the day’s schedule. Ta-Da! Monday morning no-brainer! (Today includes crawling about under our house, so the dress can wait for tomorrow.)

When the Routine Becomes a Rut.

When we were living in Spain, and I was home-schooling our sons, one winter was particularly grim, and cold to boot… Mondays were almost unbearable, and I fell into the Monday morning black turtleneck, denim overalls, black buckle booties rut. Every Monday, for weeks on end. It was convenient, and saved brain space, but was adding to my Monday Blues.  If you are bored with your clothes, you may be in a rut. How to climb out? Maybe your rut is capris and a tee. Jeans and a logo tee. It might be a dark suit and white shirt. Start small. Add something extra. Maybe a necklace, or shoes that aren’t flip flops. Maybe your daring could be a pocket square. If you are a jewelry queen, your challenge could be to take something away. If you wear bold jewelry, try something more delicate. Dainty pieces are your go-to? Try something more assertive. Change is good, and teaches us new things about ourselves. Chances are you have pieces in your closet you never wear. Why not put one of them on today?

 

 

Personal Shopping

Personal Shopping

Not Retail Therapy

I enjoy personal shopping with my clients. It’s not that I love shopping per se, but I see shopping as a puzzle to be solved, and a way to try out new ideas. You have holes or gaps in your wardrobe puzzle, and my job is to help you find the missing pieces. To solve the puzzle, I spend time getting to know you; I want to understand your personality, your values, your goals, and what you already own. This helps me to see the final picture the puzzle should make, and to make choices that are a good “fit” for you . (Sorry, the pun took over and forced its way in…) Your body shape and coloring play into the puzzle solution as well. I will probably stretch your boundaries, and ask you to try things you might never have given a second thought. I plan out our trip to make the best use of our time, and take care of many of the stressors of shopping. Your job is to come prepared, and with an open mind. I make no money from the stores we visit. I work for you, and want you to get great value for your money and have a wardrobe that makes you happy!

Fashion Feast or Fashion Famine

I shop all price points, from Neiman Marcus to consignment shops! My job is to know the trends, do the research, and find the pieces that will complete your puzzle and not break your budget. Fashion is fickle. Some seasons everything appeals, fits, and is fabulous for you. Other seasons there is nothing to be found, even under the most obscure rocks. Recently, I went on a personal shopping adventure in California with a lovely lady who was in the middle of a life transition: she was moving, changing jobs, and taking on new personal responsibilities. Being out of town, I couldn’t do much of the pre-shopping or planning I would normally complete before meeting a new client. She was ready to buy, but most of the items in the stores were not her personality, not her colors, and not her silhouette; we did find a few gems for her to buy in her sizes and colors on-line when she returned home. Afterwards, I sent her a Polyvore with ideas for her to use as she heads to the stores on her own.

I’ll Take a Friend

It pays to have someone along who knows you, your style, and your needs when you head to the stores with your hard-earned money. Many people take a friend to help, but that may not be the best way to get what works for you. As a trained professional, my job is to identify the best out there for you. Not what I like, not what I wish I could wear, not what the celebrity mags say is all the rage. In my client’s words “I loved your blend of straightforward yet kind, down-to-earth yet highly knowledgeable approach to coaching the way I see myself and wardrobe choices. I look forward to practicing another way of seeing in the days ahead.”

 

 

 

Choosing Colors

Choosing Colors

I was talking to a young woman the other day who asked me “How does having a color palette help with a wardrobe?” It made me realize that there are probably others out there wondering the same thing.

Can’t I just wear the colors I like?

Sure! You are welcome to wear whatever colors you love, but wearing colors that suit you and your personal coloring make you look healthier and happier. Sometimes we are instinctively drawn to our best colors, and other times we are drawn by our associations with certain colors. Have you ever had someone ask you if you were feeling well, when you felt just fine? It is likely you had on a color that was not one of your best. If you are wearing a color that is good for you, people will not notice the color, but just how great you look. They may even suspect you have a secret, are in love, or have won the lottery! Some colors we wear well, and others wear us.

What good is a Personal Color Analysis?

Having a Personal Color Analysis and a palette, gives you your own personalized crayon box of colors. The Absolute Color System has 18 different palettes, with colors custom selected to play well together. Your combination of genes makes you unique, so from your personal palette are chosen signature colors. These are the colors that enhance your skin, eyes, lips, and hair. After a Personal Color Analysis, you will know what colors suit you best, how to choose combinations that flatter your shape and your coloring, and how to use the psychology of color to your advantage.

How can knowing my colors help me make good shopping choices?

When the clothes in your wardrobe all come from the same palette, they play nicely with each other. That means that you will have more options for mixing and matching, and fewer wardrobe orphans–those pieces that you struggle to make work with the other things in your closet. Colors have different properties of lightness and darkness, brightness and smokiness, and warmth and coolness. When you mix warm and smoky with cool and bright, the result is less than harmonious, and often downright jarring! Buying items with the same color DNA creates a related and versatile wardrobe. Using a palette when shopping saves you money, because what you buy will go with what you already have, saving you money by preventing closet mistakes. Using your palette to skip past colors that aren’t good for you saves you time browsing and in the dressing room, and I don’t know anyone who wishes they had less time! A small investment in having a Personal Color Analysis pays huge dividends in saved money and time in very short order.