Because... getting dressed should be fun!

Because... getting dressed should be fun!

Tag: wardrobe planning

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!

 

            

 

Saturday Reading (Watching or Listening, too!)

Saturday Reading (Watching or Listening, too!)

What’s on your nightstand? Or in your bag for when you have a few minutes in a waiting room, or at the bus stop? Maybe on your phone? Since it is Saturday, I share a little light reading/watching for your weekend…

A few months ago, I picked up Beauty and Cosmetics 1550-1950 secondhand. What a treasure! I love history, but not the memorizing dates part; my passion is the how-people-really-lived part. Sarah Jane Downing shares fascinating tidbits, gorgeous paintings, and old advertisements. It is a glorious peek into how our concepts of beauty have changed, and the lengths we go to to achieve “beauty.” This little volume  sent me down a rabbit hole of history exploration… I found more than 15 other Shire Library titles that I simply must read! Aaaaarrrgh!

One of my favorite YouTubers is Justine Leconte, a French fashion designer living in Berlin. She is in the middle of a series about planning and creating a capsule wardrobe, and I had to laugh when I realized that her color plan for fall is startlingly similar to mine! There are thousands of capsule wardrobe posts and videos out there; Justine’s series stands out for its great explanations. (And her endearing accent!)

Catherine Summers, of Not Dressed as Lamb, looks at style with a witty and irreverent attitude.  In this post, she takes a critical look at the idea that we “must wear what suits us.” I love what she says about wearing what makes us happy, and expressing our personalities with our clothing choices. Fortunately, flattering and happy-making do not have to be mutually exclusive! Catherine has some very perceptive readers, and the comment thread is usually worth scrolling down for…

One of my favorite spots for visual inspiration is You Look Fab. I love a dress and sandals, or flats when the weather is hot (which it is here a LOT), and Angie’s recent post with dress and sandals/low heels is a great springboard. You likely have something similar in your closet. Check her out here.

Any favorite fashion/style articles or bloggers you follow? Let me know about them in the comments below!

 

 

Adapting on the Fly

Adapting on the Fly

Any of you out in weblandia who follow my Facebook page have probably seen my Sunday Reminders. I am a fan of laying (or in my case hanging) out my clothes for the next day as part of my bedtime routine. This lowers my stress in the morning, and as I am less creative when I have just woken up, I am happier with an outfit that I planned when I was more alert! The bonus is fewer surprises in the morning; you know, the “#$%&, that shirt is in the dirty laundry” surprise or the “two different colored socks because the light was bad” surprise.

So what happens when the day doesn’t go planned? Adapt on the fly! Planning (and a carefully chosen color palette) makes that easier. Monday was a great example. I had a casual business meeting on my schedule, so I hung up this outfit: White Jeans, Blue Silky Blouse, Jewels, Turquoise Suede Wedges. I was sorted for the day. Monday dawns. My meeting was cancelled and my grandsons needed watching because they were both home sick from school… (That cancelled meeting turned into a blessing!) My adult day turned into a quick grocery run and hanging out with a sick Kindergartener and 2 year old. So the silky blouse went back in the closet, and a easy-wash tank in (almost) the same color replaced it. Sandals took the place of my pumps. Was I a little dressed up for child-minding? Maybe, but I felt good and put together in what I was wearing. I was ready to get out the door in a hurry to help, and feeling together is a valuable asset when children are cranky!

Do you hang out (or lay out) your clothes the night before? What is your least favorite morning dressing surprise? Please share in the comments below!

 

 

My Wardrobe Musts

My Wardrobe Musts

A few weeks ago I published a post about all the Must Have lists, and thinking about your lifestyle to determine YOUR Must Haves. Everywhere you look are wardrobe must have lists. I enjoy reading what others think are wardrobe musts, but these lists do not send me running off to the shops, because usually the writer’s life is very different from mine. One of the most comprehensive (beautifully illustrated and witty) is Nina Garcia’s 100.  but since my life is not nearly as jet-setty as hers, that 100 doesn’t work for me. Tim Gunn has an interesting list, as well, and I especially love his “sweatsuit alternative” (something comfy cozy and still presentable). In the interest of transparency, and satisfying some askers, here’s my 10.

#1 Narrow Trouser: I’m short. No euphemisms necessary. (Although I do like “fun-size” and altitudinally-challenged.) For me the standard trouser needs to be narrow, even when I am carrying extra weight. Wearing big pants just makes me look bigger. Most other lists have a skinny jean here, but I’ll throw my denim on with #10.

#2 White Knit Top: I have cool coloring, so mine is soft white. I love a white top for how cool it feels in May-October. (And for the fact that I can bleach it to get out all the food I drop on myself.) A nicely fitted white tee is harder to find than it should be, and unfortunately needs replacing frequently. (It’s the Goldilocks thing, people: not too loose, not too tight; not too thick, not too thin; not too long, not too short; not too high-necked, not too low-necked.)

#3 Colored Shoes: I know, everyone says you need a black pump, but unless your hair is very dark, they are not the most flattering choice. I love colored shoes, because most of my clothing is neutral.

#4 Sparkles: I would grab my big silver hoops if evacuating. Yup. Trivial, but they always make me happy and I love how they look with #9. If not those, then a fun necklace. Most likely turquoise.

#5 Big-ish Tote: This one is all about scale. If you are a large scale person, your large tote will dwarf mine. My current fave is 14.5 in X 6.5 in X 10.5 in. That wouldn’t be large on someone who is 5′ 10″, but on me, it’s plenty large. Bigger than a handbag, smaller than a tote, my everyday bag. Much bigger and I look like a child carrying Mummy’s handbag.

#6 Day Dress: Throw and go. That’s one of the reasons I love me a dress. That and the fact that in our unbearably-hot-for-6-months-of-the-year weather, a dress means less places the fabric is touching your body. No Waistband=More Coolness. Air circulation is a godsend.

#7 Short Cardigan: The long boyfriend (or grandpa) cardie is too long for me. (See shortness issue in #1) I opt for short; then, it also looks better with a dress. I am still looking for one I can turn around and wear buttoned up the back…

#8 Watch: Yup, again. I am old-school. Yes, this is a generational thing. Most of the under-30’s I know don’t wear a watch (unless they are medical personnel.)   I like a watch. As a matter of fact, I love my watch. It’s old, scratched, and sturdy; it has proven to be the best clothing/accessories purchase I ever made. Thank you LLBean!

#9 Neckerchief: Anyone who knows me, knows that this is a signature for me. Maybe you prefer long scarves, or maybe a scarf would never grace your neck. I can’t explain why they make me happy, they just do. Ideally, this neckerchief would be the same color as item #3 above!

#10 Denim Jacket: This is another signature item for me. Mine is years old, from Target. The one before that was Levi’s. Who knows from where the next one will come? It casual-izes any dress or trouser, and wards off the chill in frigid air conditioned spaces. Layered with a cardie underneath, it handles most of what qualifies for winter here in the CSRA. Other items move in and out of my wardrobe with the seasons, but the jean jacket is there 12 months of the year. Some day, heaven forfend,  I will pull it out of the washer to find it has come from togetherness. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. And a halt to all superfluous activity until a suitable replacement is found.

Looking over this list, everything here is rather mundane, and would certainly be the first things I would throw into a suitcase for almost any trip. It just goes to show that it is the personality of the wearer, and how she chooses and combines her basics that makes all the difference!

What are your top ten? What would you throw into your bag if you had to leave home in a hurry? 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!

 

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!

 

 

Boutique or Rummage Sale?

Boutique or Rummage Sale?

When you open your closet, what do you see? A mini-boutique of custom selected clothing, all just right for your shape, size, and coloring, chosen to maximize your assets and your options, and able to dress you well for any occasion? Or does your closet feel more like a stuffed-to-the-gills hodgepodge of color, size, and shape, with nothing to wear? The closet dream, or the closet nightmare?

The nightmare is usually the result of shopping without a plan. I know, planning sounds boring, but wardrobe shopping without a plan is kind of like going to the grocery store drunk, hungry, and without a list. (If you don’t drink, imagine letting a toddler fill the grocery cart. You’ll have the same result.) You come home with an empty wallet, a kitchen full of snacks, pizza rolls and ice cream, and no staples to make the week’s meals. This seems to be how much of America wardrobe shops. (Just head to the mall on Saturday afternoon if you aren’t sure. Or, watch a couple of haul videos on YouTube.)

The fabulous mini-boutique is the result of discipline and planning, combined with a dash of serendipity.  Now, discipline has become quite the dirty word of late; the first entry in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary for discipline is PUNISHMENT. A further entry lists the synonym SELF-CONTROL. That sounds so much better! Self-control means that I am the one choosing what comes into my boutique. I want it to represent my boutique’s brand or concept. For my closet, I want it to represent my personality and values, so I am willing to wait for the right thing, instead of the newest thing that the shops are pushing this week.

More about wardrobe planning next week…

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