Because... getting dressed should be fun!

Because... getting dressed should be fun!

Category: Wardrobe

Choosing a Color Palette for Your Wardrobe

Choosing a Color Palette for Your Wardrobe

Hello there, fabulous readers!

Recently, I was working with a client who had a Personal Style Consultation some months ago. In the interim, she had been texting me when shopping to ask whether an outfit was “working” or not.  Although the styles were great, I would regularly ask her if they had the XYZ (my shorthand for random item!) she was looking at in a different color, one more flattering to her warm coloring. She clearly is a warm palette woman (although she’s not had a full color consult). Over time, I realized that there was no coherent color scheme to the pictures. She was choosing pieces in colors she loved, but with no plan for color in mind. At her Closet Inspiration session she asked for help to see how to best use what she owned, and how to work her new purchases into her (already very full) wardrobe. When I got a peek into her closet, I could see her problem. It was a beautiful rainbow (Organized by color! YAY!), but because the colors were warm and cool, bright and muted, light and dark, it was a challenge to take advantage of the bounty in there.

Choosing a Color Palette for a Wardrobe

Two by Two

When a client needs an entirely new wardrobe, we start by looking at her personal coloring. Is she warm or cool complexioned? What is her Value Contrast? And is her coloring overall lighter or darker? If she’s warm, I would help her choose two warm neutrals (like camel, olive, brown, warm navy, tan, or ivory) that suit her and her personality best.  If her coloring is cool, I would look at grey, dove, charcoal, flannel, navy, taupe, rose brown, and white, and we’d pick two that suit. After choosing her two neutrals (that reflect her overall coloring and Value well), we would choose two  accent colors from the color wheel. (Ideally, I look for colors that make my client’s skin and eyes glow!). You can go on and add more neutrals and accents, but two and two is a great place to start.

What If You’re Not Starting from Scratch?

Polyvore of Warm vs. Cool Neutral Women's ClothingTwo Neutrals

Even if we want a wardrobe overhaul, most of us are not starting from scratch. (Our wallets thank us for that!) As described above, with this client I started by looking at her coloring, and then at what she had in her closet. She is a medium to light warm complexioned woman. We took an analytical approach, and started looking for pieces in just four colors, two neutrals and two accent colors (more like color families). I began by pulling the warm colors I saw the most of, olive and tan/khaki. I left behind the blacks. Black (although easy to find at the stores) is not flattering on her, nor does black play well with the colors that make her glow.  Black is not a must! (Contrary to popular opinion, no one MUST wear black!)

Since this client struggles to find bottoms that fit well, on our first grab, we took two neutral trousers, one olive and one khaki. Then our goal was to find two tops and two toppers to create a column of color that she could spark up with her accent colors. Aha! Only one bottom had tops and toppers to coordinate. The best part of this neutral core approach is that she could see her wardrobe holes and start on a strategic list for future shopping trips. Once we pulled some tops and toppers in the same color families as the trousers, we began to play around. Now this woman is vibrant! She has warm blue-green eyes, and WOW! her personality just shines, so all neutral outfits would never feel “her”.

Two Colors

Then I started looking in her closet for colors (vice neutrals). As I said, she had a rainbow in there. She owns oodles of salmon/coral/russet, and since this color makes her look radiant, that was an easy pick. She can wear these lovely sunset shades with both her olive and tan neutrals, and with them in combination. We took some time to play in her accessories, and found scarves and jewelry that looked fabulous together. Once we were working with light and medium warm colors, it was easier to create outfits. Then we moved on to different combinations, including a salmon top with a russet cardigan over it. Although an atypical combination, it looked amazing with both neutrals, and she started to see how fewer color options, carefully selected, would give her great looks with less stress.

By the time we finished, we had about 20 pieces on her bed, and literally hundreds of outfits for her that spanned a variety of seasons.  She had felt like she needed more clothing, and all that was already in her closet! She also had a great start on a (very small!) shopping list that would make her pieces even more versatile. (It was necessary to put leopard print shoes on that list, BTW!)

She had a few turquoise tops, so we chose those as her second accent color, and found even more accessories to make these play well with her olives and tans. One of our favorites was the turquoise top under the olive cardigan with the olive trousers. She had the perfect necklace that created an effortless and intentional look at the same time. After that she added another accent of a purple that makes her happy, and plays well with her olives and tans. We separated a large number of tops in cool blues, greys, blacks, and whites, and moved those out of the way. She may donate those, consign them, or overdye them to create more flattering colors.

Not only does this two and two method provide a framework to get a grip on an overstuffed closet, it’s a fabulous way to pack for a trip! But more on that next week…

Let’s start a conversation below!  I love to hear your thoughts! What is your favorite wardrobe color combination?

Stay Stylish!

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

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!

 

 

 

Myths About Wearing Black

Myths About Wearing Black

(AKA: Black is NOT the Only Chic Color!)

Black, black, black, black, black. Black, black, black, black, black, black, black. It probably comes in black. It only comes in black. We only have it in black. No, I am not talking about the Model T, or the first telephone. I am talking about the tyranny of black that reigns in fashiondom and the retail world.

I get it. Black is easy. And cheap clothes usually look better in black than in other colors. But black is not the only color! And it is certainly not the only color that looks chic!

Ten plus years ago, when my hair was still much darker, black was not only one of my best colors, it was my hands down favorite and default. My coloring is cool, and was brighter and more vivid back then. I looked good in black, and as a petite person, coming across as a little intimidating and authoritative was not something I minded. (Especially in the classroom…) Black was my signature color, and I often had a hard time finding clothes in black. (There used to be a bias toward making petite clothes in “girlie” colors, which I found downright patronizing.) As luck would have it, now my coloring is much lighter with my grey hair and softening skin color. I am still cool, but the black of my younger wardrobe looks harsh and unflattering on me. I still have a few black items, and a cocktail dress; since those are usually not worn in the bright, harsh light of day, but in the dimmer and more forgiving lighting of evening (and with extra makeup), I can still get away with them.

Myth: Black looks good on everyone.

Reality: Everyone CAN wear black, but many should not. Much of the population does not look their best in black. (In daylight!) Women and men with cool, dark, and bright coloring look good in black. That leaves out most of us. Those with warm, dark coloring look better in warm neutrals: dark chocolate browns, dark eggplant, dark olive. Those with warm light coloring look better in warm lighter neutrals: camels, ivories, olives, warm greys. Cool, light coloring looks better in lighter neutrals, like cool greys and taupe. Black has a tendency to make under eye circles more intense, the shadows and wrinkles around our mouths deeper, and chins double. (Who needs any of that?!)

Polyvore Women's Clothing Illustrating Columns of ColorMyth: Black makes you look thinner.

Reality: Any dark color can make you look thinner. Especially in contrast with a light color. Any color will make you look thinner when worn as a column from shoulder to knee, or to ankle! If your coloring is warm and light, black will drag the eye of your beholder away from your face (where you want attention to stay) and to the black item. The contrast with your natural coloring will appear heavy and pull you down, especially that pair of black pants that you bought to make your bottom look smaller. Colors in harmony with your personal coloring will make you look healthier and happier. When you look healthy and happy, no one notices your thighs or your tummy!

Myth: Black looks chic.

Reality: Neutrals look chic (of which black is just one!), especially when in a column of color, or as accents with each other. Ivory from head to toe, topped with camel? Yes, please! Grey trousers and a sweater with brown crocodile accents? Gorgeous! Olive with cognac? Rich! Navy from head to toe? Lovely! Camel with oxblood accents? Oh, my! International Orange? No, not chic. Yes, cheap clothes will usually look more expensive in black than in other colors, but if it looks cheap in its other shades, it probably doesn’t deserve a place in a wardrobe that you want to last.

Myth: Black goes with everything.

Reality: Anything black goes with, other neutrals go with, too. And often much better! Especially if the other colors have warm undertones. Love coral? It looks even better with ivory, olive, chocolate, and warm grey than it does with black. Yellow? With black it can look bumblebee, but with grey? That’s a home run! Turquoise with chocolate? OMGoodness! Pink with chocolate, navy, grey, ivory, taupe, basically anything. Yum! Purple and olive? Yes, please! Oh, and lavender with chocolate? Luscious! I haven’t found a color yet that doesn’t work with navy. Yes, even black does. Let’s play with all the crayons in the box, not just the black ones!

What is your favorite (not black) color to wear? What’s your favorite neutral other than black? I love to hear from you! Please share your thoughts in the comments below…

 

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

Occasions of Dress

Occasions of Dress

My apologies for the delayed publication of this post… I’d love to blame Technical Difficulties, but it really comes down to Operator Error.

Gone are the days where women or men had one outfit for Sunday Best, and another for the rest of the week. Now we have closets full of clothes, and people regularly complain that they don’t have what they need for the occasion at hand, whether that be a baby shower, or job interview.

One of my favorite books about fashion and style is The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish. I reread it regularly, and refer to it often. It is a book for anyone interested in the history of style and fashion in America, and the history of women in American society. In it, Linda Przybyszewski refers to a collected group of brilliant and determined academics as the Dress Doctors, who were “fashion influencers” long before the existence of social media. They believed in elevating everyday life by applying the principles of art and the occasions of dress. These multi-talented women found themselves relegated to the Home Economics departments of universities, and found a way to thrive and be taken seriously. “Home Ec” was an art, not merely a necessity. They preached that beauty can and should be found in the quotidian. After all, that’s where most of us live. The Dress Doctors considered dress to be:

one of our social duties for two reasons. First, because the world has to look at us whether it wants to or not. Second, because the world has work to do, and an inappropriately dressed individual can be distracting. These two reasons explain why “making the most of your looks is not vanity.” The effort “indicates proper self-regard and consideration of others.”

In The Lost Art of Dress, Ms. Przybyszewski outlines the Six Occasions of Dress  for older children and adults. These included: (1) School, (2) Spectator Sports and Active Sports, (3) Street, Travel, or Work, (4) Housework, (5) Afternoon Affairs or Tea, (6) After-Five or Formal Evenings. From what I see on the streets today, categories 1-4 seem to have collapsed into one for many Americans, unless they work in an office with a dress code at a level above Business Casual. Category 5 has disappeared completely for most of America, unless you count happy hour. After-Five and Formal Evenings still hold a place, albeit for most of us, very rare.

I am not the only person who has noticed that in our current culture, for many, dressing for the occasion is dead. I am called into workplaces for employee training for exactly that reason. (Or because employees are taking their work wear cues from Hollywood and Pinterest.) I have witnessed church wedding attendees in cargo shorts, logo tees, and flip-flops. (The wedding party was in full length dresses and tuxedos, so no, the wedding was not casual.) Even beach weddings with flip-flops don’t usually go to the cargo shorts and logo tees extreme.

Many blogs and articles complain about the “casualization”of American dress, and give myriad reasons for the shift to “dressing down.” Everything from ignorance of propriety, laziness, lack of discipline, the obesity epidemic, and fast fashion have all been blamed for sweatpants culture. The “high” cost of clothing is my favorite… This excuse does not come from those in the industry. Cost cannot be the reason. We buy more clothing than ever, and still spend a lower percentage of our income on clothes than we did in the 1950’s, when (after looking at lots of photos) we were certainly better dressed! More than anything, I think it reflects the infantilization of our modern American society.

Since the 1960’s and the Youthquake, maturity has taken a beating. Our culture has been chasing youth, or the illusion of youth, for more than a generation. We don’t even grow-up anymore. We “adult”. What rubbish! There are privileges that come with maturity as well as responsibilities. Why not celebrate the privileges rather than cling to immaturity. There is nothing wrong with a youthful attitude (I think it’s a necessity), but dressing like a teenager usually comes across as childish rather than youthful. Previously, one of the privileges of maturity included what you could wear. Women in their 20’s were not seen as mature enough for the elegant styles designed for a woman in her 40’s. I remember looking into my mother’s closet as a girl, and wondering when I would be old enough to wear some of her beautiful things. (Cocktail pretties, and later, a stunning silver St. John knit gown!)

For those whose parents were busy chasing an extended adolescence, and missed out on the education of what to wear when, I have taken liberties with the Dress Doctor’s 6 Occasions for our modern age. Your wardrobe needs to fit your life, so if you never attend weddings or eat out at nice restaurants because that violates some deeply held principle, don’t worry about that category! Most funerals are not planned, and shopping is the last thing you need to be doing when grieving, or supporting those that are; please make sure you at least have something that fits the Solemn Occasion category…

School/Work

School:  At one time, elementary school children, high school students, and college students all had their own styles of dress. Now, university students can be seen at class in their pajamas, and many other students attend classes dressed for athletic competition, or they look ready to clean out the garage. School is the child’s equivalent of work, and students should be dressed for it. Not necessarily shirts and ties, but in comfortable, not ready-to-roll-in-the-dirt, clothes. (Or where I live: ready-to-go-hunting clothes.) Creating a distinction between school clothes and play clothes (as in previous generations) creates a structure that supports the business that study is. When I taught in a school with uniforms, I (and other teachers!) dreaded out-of-uniform days for the attitude shift in the children. There was less respect for others, and less concentration on schoolwork. When students dress for play, they demonstrate play behavior and manners from the first bell to the last.

Work:  The same principle applies to adults and work. Unless you are a yoga instructor, or personal trainer, you don’t need to wear fitness gear all day long. I understand the appeal of athleisure, but by definition, work is not leisure, so save athleisure for non-office time. If you work from home, like I often do, and are caring for children or slipping in housework between business calls, dress in a manner that you will not find you embarrassed if a client or business associate drops by, and throw an apron over your clothes if you worry about stains. (I wear mine when having coffee because I am a mess.) Check your business dress code. If you need to make up your own, unless your job requires dirty physical labor, it is usually better to find yourself overdressed than underdressed.

Leisure/Play

Going to a game? Playing after work or on the weekend? Gardening or hitting the building supply store for work on that project? Great! Wear what works for your sport, hobby, or project. And think about where else you may choose to go. Please think twice before going to brunch after spinning at the gym. You don’t need to be marinating in your own juices for the next two hours, especially at a restaurant.

My husband and I take ballroom dance classes, so some of my leisure/play wear looks like what someone else might wear to a wedding. That fits my lifestyle, but maybe not yours. I keep a box of clothes to wear for yardwork and camping under my bed; they don’t need to take up my valuable closet real estate.

Occasions

Festive: In festive occasions, I include events such as wedding or baby showers, dinners out for celebrations, casual or daytime weddings, and other similar affairs. Often these outfits are brighter in color, or have bolder patterns than work wear, but if your workplace is more casual, you may have pieces that cross over well. A brightly colored dress, or trousers with a cheerful blouse can usually fill in the gap, especially with some added sparkle. Leave your work tote or everyday bag at home. Try something smaller and less utilitarian.

Solemn: As I mentioned above, solemn occasions are not usually planned. A court date or jury duty, funerals, or other important appointments are less of a stress if you already have something appropriate to wear. My least favorite appointment is being called to help someone buy an outfit for a funeral, even if it is a privilege to help during a difficult time. If your work wear is conservative and neutral, you probably have what you need, but if most of your clothing is leisure wear, making sure you have a neutral trouser outfit with a subdued top, or a easy to throw on (not party) dress in your closet can be an emergency lifesaver. This is the time to leave the sparkle at home, but adding a bit of subtle sheen looks like you made an effort.

If you find you need to buy a new dress for a festive or solemn occasion, and they are rare in your world, please don’t spend a fortune on your outfit. Are you really going to wear it again? If not, look at renting, or check out the consignment stores in your area. The cost per wear on party outfits is a budget buster! Spend your money where you make your money, not on a party frock!

Special Event Wear

Other events are much dressier. Does your company have a holiday cocktail party every year? Or do you have formal occasions to attend? I used to have two dresses for the military ball we would attend each year. We moved every three years, so I would just alternate years. If anyone was bothered that I wore the same dress, that wasn’t my problem. Now I don’t have any, because our life doesn’t require gala wear. Buy for the life you live. If clubwear doesn’t fit your life, then leave it behind in the store, no matter how cute that little dress is… I have a few dresses I wear for ballroom dance events, and these can cross over for cocktail parties and other (exceedingly rare) events of that type. I am looking for a new dress to wear for my son’s wedding next fall, and am hoping to find one I love that I will be able to wear again.

What categories of dress do you need for your lifestyle? Did I leave out a category that is a must for you? Please let me know in the comments below; I love to hear from you!

 

2017’s Top 5’s

2017’s Top 5’s

NB: Some of today’s images were found in my Camera Roll. Apologies for their ultra-amateur nature!
As an Image and Wardrobe Coach, lots of people ask what are my favorite pieces. I’m not always sure why, because my favorites are not necessarily going to be someone else’s favorites. I have written about how I find Must Have lists problematic, and what my personal Must Haves are, and thought it might be a good idea to look over my Camera Roll from 2017 and figure out if my faves correlate with my Must Haves! There are lots of missing days, but between my phone and Stylebook app, I hope to find out what my real workhorses were in 2017.

I should probably explain… This list will look really ordinary! I have a very structured (some call it “boring”) wardrobe, built around a small color palette. This approach doesn’t work for everyone, and certainly not for many of my clients, but it’s how I like MY closet to work. My neutrals are Grey, Navy/Denim, and White and my accent colors are Pinks/Wines, and Turquoises/Teals. I get my sartorial kicks from playing with accessories: shoes, scarves, and jewelry. So leaving out the kicks (another post, maybe?), my most worn basics in 2017 were:

Tops:

Bright Navy Linen Blouse (no collar)

This and the same style in white listed below were clearance purchases from Talbot’s a year or two ago. I love linen for our hot summers, and can live with the wrinkles! The blue is fabulous for fall when I want darker colors, but still need cool. This with my white jeans is a three season go-to, and I can work different looks just by changing the accessories…

3/4 Sleeve Gathered Waist Chambray Shirt

A consignment shore purchase in 2016(?). I was unsure how I would like it, but it is the one shirt I am always impatient to get back from the wash. (It inspires me to iron, and that says a lot!) In general, I am not a collared shirt fan, but mine has a Y-neck and gathers under the bust that make it a more feminine choice than your average chambray shirt. I wear it with trousers to take them down a notch, over a sheath dress to make it look like a skirt, and with jeans when I’m feeling it. This shirt is a three season piece and will stay in my winter capsule and move into spring to rock the denim on denim trend that will be hot again in 2018!

Teal Gathered Neck Blouse

One of my fall/winter purchases, the green flatters my skin and eyes, the loose fit lets air circulate, and it gives the color I crave in fall and winter. To top it off, it has 3/4 sleeves, which are a must for me. It was one of my Baker’s Dozen Capsule pieces and went right from the laundry back onto my body. No ironing necessary! I wear it with any of my trousers and jeans, and expect that when it finally dies, I will be one sad woman… (If anyone at Loft is listening, you could make my shirt again!)

Confetti Spot Shell (Wine/Pink/Grey)

This is a another Talbot’s (sale) item bought in the fall, but it became an instant favorite. It is lightweight and airy, and the wine background makes it great for our warm falls and winters. The bright pink splashes give it life, and in our recent cold snap, I’m loving it over a turtleneck. It’s a little apron-y styled like this, but in a good way.

White Linen Blouse (no collar)

I am a hot mess, so what am I doing with a white shirt? Well, it can be bleached, and that sorts out most of my problems. And a white shirt goes with pretty much everything, as long as it’s your white, and doesn’t create contrast issues. I love blue and white, and grey and white for hot weather. They may be neutral combinations, but they feel “cool” to me. Most people splash into brighter colors in the spring and summer, but I work in reverse… I wear more colors in the winter, and more neutrals in the summer.

Bottoms:

White Gap Jeans

Purchased last spring to replace an old ill-fitting pair that taught me how practical white jeans can be, this pair wears like iron. As stated in the white shirt review, I am a hot mess, but bleach can sort a multitude of sins, and so can a little white chalk. These are a 3 season wonder, too, and I even regretted putting them away for the winter, but expect that will make me even more happy to see them again in the spring. They work with every top, and were a backbone of my fall Baker’s Dozen Capsule. They will look cute with my new confetti spot shell, and I just hope I can fit back into them by the time March arrives.

Skinny Jeans

An inexpensive pair of Levi’s (Denizen) from Target, they have more spandex and are thinner than I like a jean to be. Although, this does make them perfect for our hot summers, and the weight gain I have been plagued with this year. I love them for travel, as they are comfortable to sit in for road and plane trips, and that alone is enough to earn a spot in my closet. They will stay in my wardrobe even if they aren’t faves, just because they are so darned practical, and are the only jeans that still fit comfortably. (Arrrgh!) I wear them with any of my blousy tops, to balance the silhouette.

Levi’s 501’s

I love, love, love my old Levi’s 501’s, but they are just too heavy for most of the year here. Last spring I cropped them and left the raw edge to fray because I was not buying a new pair of jeans at some ridiculous price for the frayed look that I wanted to try. Once the weather warmed up, away they went to be broken out again for my winter capsule, and they are making me so very happy. I love the frayed crop with a short boot, ballet flat, or wedge. It feels extra casual with an edge, and just the other day, a woman stopped me to ask where I got my “cool jeans.” Go figure! (Here’s that chambray shirt, too!)

Blue Cropped Kick Flare Trouser

I picked this fave up at Banana Republic a few years ago before the one at our mall closed. (And a sadness came over the land…) I wore them about twice a week for more than a year, and put them away this winter. We’ll see how I feel about them come spring, and if I can even squeeze into them. I love the sass of a kick flare, and how they give a little more air circulation than a long trouser. The only drawback to these is that they are dry clean only.

Little White Dress

This was another clearance item a few years ago at the Gap. It lived in the back of my closet, unworn for months because I couldn’t work up the courage to wear a white dress. (What’s with that?) Then we took a trip to Hawai’i. All sorted. I wore it there, and then had no reason not to break it out regularly. With wedges, sandals, jean jacket over it, belted if I’m feeling sassy, loose if it is hotter than blue blazes. It’s a perfect foil for jewelry, and a colored shoe. Another bleachable white natural fiber. Thank you Clorox!

Not very interesting sounding are they? So, how do these Top 5’s compare to my personal Must Have list? Not very well! To be fair, many of my personal Must Haves fall into the accessories side of the clothing camp, and the above list is only tops and bottoms. Only one top made my personal Must Have list, a white knit top. It hung unloved in my closet this year while the white linen did all the heavy lifting. Maybe I should edit my list, but as you will find “the perfect white shirt” on almost every other Must Have list, I don’t think I’m too far off! As for bottoms, my personal Must Haves included a Narrow Trouser. My Kick Flares are narrow every other way, and so are my white and skinny jeans, so I have that one covered. My Little White Dress fits my Day Dress Must Have perfectly. I might even be able to stretch my Chambray Shirt to cover the Denim Jacket listing… If so, I did cover all my clothing Must Haves!

Do you track what you wear? What are your most worn pieces, and are they your favorites? Or do your favorites fall into some other category? Please let me know in the comments below! I love to hear your thoughts…

 

 

Style Resolutions

Style Resolutions

I’m not much of a resolution maker… I love the fresh start of a new year as much as anyone, but sticking to resolutions is not my strong suit. I prefer to take each day or hour new as it comes and start fresh where I am rather than wait for someone else’s marker. Since the end of the year is a good time for reflection, on the holiday break, I took a look back at my style in 2017 (Thank you, Camera Roll.) and made choices about some tweaks I’d like to make to my style in 2018. Together, these three resolutions are geared to help me spend less and embrace my style.

Mix It Up

This year, I want to be more creative in how I combine pieces in my wardrobe. I tend to shy away from patterns, and pattern mixing. (That would be the Classic in me!) I want to add some patterned pieces to my wardrobe, and mix them together instead of relying on my standard solids. Another part of this mix-it-up resolution is to be more intentional, and really work on keeping my seasonal capsules tight, and not letting extra pieces creep in. I am more creative with boundaries than a closet rod full of clothing, so to encourage my creative genie, I need to keep my art box in order. (Looks like I may need to re-evaluate my winter capsule, and adjust it to support this resolution.)

Play More

I hope to combine the Mix-it-Up with more playful dressing. I find it easy (I think we all do) to default to my uniform, and I want to make at least one day a week a Play Day where I make sure to step out of my comfort zone with color, or pattern, or maybe silhouette. I know that lots of these Play Days will break the “rules” of proportion, color, line and design, and/or composition, and keep me from looking my best, but I’m okay with that, because messing about is how we learn, as long as we are doing it consciously! The most important rule is to stay true to my personality.

Dress Weekly

When I had a go-to (work in an office) career, I wore dresses/skirts far more than I do now. I used to wear one every other day, so I had quite a few day dresses and a couple of versatile skirts. Since leaving my “real job” for Image Coaching (Which is a real job, btw!) I have gotten into a jean and trouser rut. It’s time to get out! My goal is to make sure I wear a dress or skirt at least once a week (and not just to church on Sunday…). Since I prefer dresses to skirts (one and done) and find the fit easier as well, it looks like new additions to my wardrobe need to stay dress focused.  That should be a real challenge! (I am easily distracted by sparkly shiny baubles…)

Do you have any style resolutions for 2018? If you do, please share them in the comments below! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Building a (Wardrobe) House

Building a (Wardrobe) House

A lovely woman named Victoria (in a Facebook group I play in) likened building a wardrobe to building a house. She had been having trouble because she had been buying all kinds of lovely things, but still didn’t feel like her style was growing. Then she realized those beautiful accessories were like the throw pillows, and paintings in a house. Until you have a foundation and walls, and furnishings, all the trimmings in the world won’t help! I loved her analogy and asked to borrow it. With her permission, I am going to push the analogy further to examine how a wardrobe is built. Thank you, Victoria!

The Blueprints

Your blueprints are what determine how your house is built. Your wardrobe blueprint is your plan. It should take into account your terrain (your body shape), your budget, and your needs. Your needs are determined by your lifestyle, values, and personality. Choosing a palette can help give your plan definition.

The Foundations

I’ll be lazy here and let Foundations be foundations. Your underthings. Here I include panties, bras, camis, socks and hose, and myriad other bits. Shapewear, too, if that’s your thing. As frilly and flimsy, or sturdy and practical as you like

The Structure

The Structure is the studs, plumbing and ductwork that hold your house together and make it liveable. Your wardrobe Structure is the basics you come back to day after day. These are the workhorses of your wardrobe that you can always count on. For one woman that might be jeans and a tee, for another–a skirt suit, another–a dress. They are usually simple pieces in solids. Your basics should be versatile and comfortable. (No, that does not mean all yoga pants.) A wardrobe full of Structure pieces will keep you protected and covered (like an empty house) but get boring very quickly.

The Furnishings

At home, the furnishings are what make your structure livable. You could live in an empty house, but it’s much more comfortable with beds, tables, and chairs! Your wardrobe Furnishings are different from Structure pieces. You might think of them as wardrobe Heroes, pieces that definitely stand out. It could be the color, cut, pattern, or detailing that makes an item a Furnishing item rather than a Structure piece. Frequently tops, and statement accessories fill this category. You don’t want to wear them day after day because they are quite memorable. A wardrobe full of Furnishings with no solid Structure leaves you with a closet of nothing to wear. (Kind of like a room set up outside… It may look fabulous, but you don’t want to be sitting there when the rain comes!)

The Decor

This is the place you can get into trouble, or be a really easy way to revamp your look. At home it’s throw pillows, bedding, artwork, and knick-knacks that you choose to spark up your home. This is often where we indulge our personalities and quirks. If your furnishings are bright and complex, you may keep the rest of your decor items pretty simple. Or you may be like Iris Apfel, and everything is over-the-top. You wardrobe Decor pieces are your Accessories: shoes, scarves. jewelry, hair baubles, watches, purses, even phone cases.

Remodel

Most of us don’t start from scratch and build a whole new wardrobe.  That is usually reserved for those poor souls who have lost everything due to disaster. The structure is there, the foundations are solid (or may need some shoring up), but most of what we are doing is a remodel. Maybe you have outgrown your old style, or are simplifying. To remodel, you still start at the beginning with a plan, and then work through the list to see what you can still use, and what needs repairing or replacing. And if you want, you can always call in a contractor. I love to help with wardrobe remodels!

What is your favorite piece of clothing? Is it Foundation, Structure, Furnishing, or Decor? What do you have too much of? Or need more of? Please let me know in the comments below! I love to hear what you have to say…

Wardrobe Tips from Military Life (Part 2)

Wardrobe Tips from Military Life (Part 2)

Previously, I shared a few things I learned about dressing from my short time in the military, and (much longer time) as a military spouse. I have come to realize that many of my attitudes about clothing and wardrobes come from this part of my past. It can be illuminating to poke into our past to see where some of our values and attitudes about dressing come from…

A Wardrobe Can Fit in a Suitcase (or a Seabag!)

I have this ideal of my wardrobe fitting into a suitcase. Actually two. One for clothes, and a second for shoes and accessories! It may be a holdover from carrying a year’s clothing wardrobe in a seabag. A seabag is the vertical green duffle bag you receive as a Navy recruit to transport all your new uniforms from boot camp to your future schools and duty stations. Everything except your cover (hat) and uniform to travel in was to fit into your seabag. (Please note: Uniforms have changed since the 1980’s!) Civvie Parallel: If you plan well, your clothing wardrobe can fit into a suitcase, and take you far. Any trip less than a household move does not require a 70 pound suitcase!

UOTD (Uniform of the Day)

In the military, depending on your duties you have a UOTD. This tells you what to wear. One day you may dress in a working uniform, another in a service uniform. You have what you need for everything from scrubbing bathrooms and repairing equipment to attending a military ball. You may not have a lot of options, but you are covered for all occasions. Civvie Parallel: Make sure you have what you need for the life you live, and the unexpected (funerals, jury duty, visiting your lawyer, banker, or accountant) You don’t need a lot of options, but your wardrobe should cover all the bases!

You Can Survive with 4 Pair of Shoes

I had some lovely shoes before I joined the military, and plenty of them, but I never wore them nearly as often, or learned to take care of them, as I did in the Navy. The 4 included: running shoes, boondockers (work boots, and I still have them), oxfords, and pumps. They were all incredibly comfortable and practical. Civvie Parallel: If you feet aren’t comfortable, you won’t be comfortable. When I pack a suitcase to travel, I often start with the shoes. Do I have what I need for all the different adventures planned on this trip? (But I probably don’t need more than 4 pair…)

Pumps and Trousers

I know the pumps and trousers look is ubiquitous, but in my 1980’s new-university-graduate mind, trousers and jeans (and anything else) were worn with flat shoes. Heels were reserved for skirts and dresses. When we were fitted for our dress and service uniforms, we were instructed that either oxfords or pumps were our shoe options. Oxfords with a skirt? Pumps with trousers? I certainly didn’t see either as a fashion statement, but it got me out of my default habit of trousers and oxford style shoes, and skirts and pumps.  Civvie Parallel:  Mix up your silhouettes and see how you like it! Sometimes we get into a rut, and forget we have other options. Trousers with heels can rock! So can a skirt or dress with oxfords!

What attitudes about dress come from your childhood? Or from your university and early post-uni days? Please share in the comments below!

 

 

Colors and Neutrals

Colors and Neutrals

Sometimes I feel like a Color Convert, or maybe a recovering Blackaholic. Either way, I have seen the light! (Horrible science pun, I know…) I appreciate all the colors of the rainbow, and feel obligated to spread the color gospel.

Color Preferences

Some color preferences are universal; some are cultural, and some are purely personal. Most of us have a favorite color, and interestingly, different favorite colors for clothing. As children, these colors are usually the same, but as adults, we often choose a favorite clothing color that becomes a default. This handy sorting mechanism may save time shopping, but it can also be limiting, or downright unflattering if we choose a color that doesn’t suit our personal coloring. Many people think you can tell a lot about a person by his or her favorite color, but often those favorites go back to experiences we have had, either positive or negative. If you had a horrible time in middle school, and your school’s colors were garnet and gold, you may avoid those colors like the plague. If you were on the winning team and your team color was orange, you may associate orange with success. Time spent thinking about the colors you love and despise and why can be a small journey into your past and therapeutic to boot!

Neutrals

I know many a woman with a sea of neutrals in her wardrobe. By neutrals, we mean those colors that are not found in the rainbow, black, white, navy blue, grey, brown, tan/khaki, taupe, camel, and variations on these. To confuse the issue, there are colored neutrals as well! Colored neutrals are those rainbow colors with enough black added so that they work as neutrals. Deep burgundy, dark olive, deep teal, eggplant, and other similar shades are colored neutrals.

WarmCoolNeutralsA wardrobe full of neutrals may allow you to mix and match almost everything in your closet, but your outfits will often feel lifeless and draining, unless you add color with accessories. I see many women who buy bags full of neutrals because they are afraid of making a color mistake. Neutrals are “safe.” Furniture retailers and decorators will tell you the same principle applies to upholstered items; customers will regularly default to the safety of a neutral. The world does not need more beige sofas or walls!

The Tyranny of Black

Bridgette Raes, a New York stylist, coined the term “Blackcident” for those women whose wardrobes overflow with black. I hear (and myself often gave) all kinds of reasons for black-heavy wardrobes. “Black makes you look thin.” “Black clothes look more expensive.” “Black looks good with everything.” “Everyone looks good in black.” “Black is chic.” “Black hides stains.” And on, and on… Most of these are opinion rather than fact! Recently, I was in a dressing room with a client, and a mother nearby was shopping with her petite, fair-skinned, blond, high school daughter for (college) interview suits. They found a darling navy sheath dress with cream trim and a coordinating jacket. Then mom saw a black crepe dress and matching jacket. The sleeveless black dress was perfect for daughter’s figure; the neckline was flattering, and her bare arms helped break up the dark color, but when the young lady put on the jacket, she looked overwhelmed, and unwell. As the daughter hemmed and hawed, mom was determined that the black suit made her girl look sophisticated and serious, rather than like an orphan in mourning.

Be Bold:  Pick Another Neutral, or Two!

So instead of black, how about a different neutral, or two, or three? Even if black was a great color for us when we were young, it can often be harsh and aging as we grow in wisdom. Since letting my natural grey shine through, grey has become my new black. I have been transitioning my once black-heavy wardrobe into one relying on grey, white, and navy as neutrals, depending on the season. (I still have a few black pieces, but these have become the exception, rather than my rule.) For the warmer complexioned, how about a trio of ivory/light tan, olive, and warm navy? These would look amazing paired with coral and turquoise for accent colors.

How about you? Do neutrals form the backbone of your wardrobe? Or does your closet look like the rainbow? Please let me know in the comments below! I love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

 

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

My husband and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary at the end of the month, and spent more than half of our married life gallivanting around the world for his job. On my walk this morning, I realized that even though we have been in the same house for 10 years now (I really feel the need to move!), we have shared 7 different homes since we wed. That is a lot of moving, and it taught me a lot, even some things about style and fashion! So here are 5 style lessons moving has taught me…

Style is Regional

People used to ask if I was stocking up on clothing before we moved so that I wouldn’t have to go shopping, especially overseas. While I would stock up on things I thought might be challenging to find (new bras, or narrow shoes), I preferred a wait and see take on style. Style is incredibly regional, even with social media and mass market retailers. I also do not like to stand out like a sore thumb/stereotypical American tourist, so I spend quite a bit of time people-watching in our new home to see what looked natural. This holds true even here in the US. What looks completely in line in New York City can look a bit harsh here in Augusta, Georgia.

Dry Cleaner/Hairdresser

Two of my priorities after finding a place to live were finding a good hairdresser and dry cleaner. This is a quality of life issue, so I would ask anyone with a good looking cut where they had their hair done, especially if their hair texture was similar to mine. Any recommendation whose name came up repeatedly would be my first choice to try.  I would also accost anyone particularly well dressed to ask what dry cleaner they trusted. It can be awkward to put yourself out there to ask, but I never had anyone refuse to answer. If you explain that you have just moved, and that finding these professionals can be a challenge, most people will respond positively.

Planning Is Essential

This may sound in conflict with the style is regional piece, but this focuses on preparation. Before you pack out your home to move overseas, you need to think through 3 lists: (1) The Things You Will Carry With You, (2) Stuff for Your Express Shipment (You will see it in a few weeks and need to be able to live with it until 3), and (3) The Slow Boat Shipment (you will see it in 3-4 months). On one of our overseas moves, the children and I were staying with my mother for 4 months while my husband was in a class across the county. That meant packing everything we needed for summer in the South, summer and fall in the Mid-Atlantic, and Winter in England. Well thought-through planning made the whole adventure far less stressful than it might have been, an continues to make travel a dawdle, rather than a stress. Pack for a two week trip in a carry-on. Give me half an hour. Let’s go!

 

Travel Light

If you saw us load up that station wagon to travel to my mother’s house for that 4 months, you wouldn’t have thought we were travelling light! I think it probably qualified as a miracle that we got 4 people’s clothing, all our homeschool materials (I forgot to throw that wrench into the works!) and some toys for the boys into the back of our Subie Wagon. If we’d tied a rocking chair to the roof, we’d have looked like the Clampett family. (Buy me a drink sometime and I’ll tell you about the engine overheating on that trip from Georgia to North Carolina.) When it came time to fly overseas, we each had one large suitcase, and our carryon/backpack. (We shipped the school books.)  That large suitcase had to hold everything we would need for the next 3-4 months. To this day, I prefer to travel light. I rarely check baggage, even for a trip of a week or more, I’d rather wash in the sink than have to haul around a lot of luggage. If you forget something and it’s really important, you can probably find something similar where you are headed, and you’ll have a souvenir of your trip.

Go With the Flow

I may be a planner, but I have learned not to assume the plan will go as planned! It’s great to have a Plan, and even a Plan B, or Plan C, but sometimes you just have to throw it all to the wind and go with what’s right in front of you. When we lived in England, we took a Christmas holiday in London. We rented a flat, brought our tree and presents, and spent a fabulous week. It even had the courtesy to snow as we walked to Mass on Christmas Eve. One of the trip highlights was an afternoon Christmas dinner at the Savoy. Our children still fondly remember that experience 12 years later. The booking had been planned months in advance. My outfit, on the other hand for that special day was completely go-with-the-flow. I would have frozen in the dress I had brought for our special dinner, so I threw on an ankle length black-on-black plaid kilt (the one I wore to walk to Mass in) and some sweater I found in my bag. My Hero accessory was the shoulder grazing chandelier earrings that my sons (aged 16, 12 & 11) had given me that morning. (They were carefully chosen for me at Accessorize by three boys with their own meagre funds. I still have those earrings, and wore them on a Christmas holiday date with my grandson last year!) Even our waiter commented on the “unique” earrings I had on that evening… The boys were chuffed, and it was all good! It still is.

What style lessons have you learned from strange places? Please share in the comments below! I’d love to hear your stories…