Archive for September, 2006

Clothes in your closet say a lot about you

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

AS A PERSONAL SHOPPER, one of the most widely asked questions I get is “Where do you start?” I explain that I start in the same place my clients start each and every morning … their closet.

I come to every first appointment with my trusty rolling rack and a total absence of judgment.

Even I have fallen victim to the last-minute “I need a dress for that wedding tomorrow.” or the “I need one more outfit for vacation” syndrome. Being in the business does not insulate me from the same problems all of you face. It is this compassion and identification I take with me to see every client, both male and female.

I read once that we wear 10 percent to 20 percent of what we have 80 percent to 90 percent of the time. Now, I’m not sure if that statistic is completely true, but it’s probably not too far off. What that means to me is that we’re not wearing the majority of what we have. So, how do we wear what we have, all of the time?

Before I come to a client’s house, I give them some homework: to go through their closet with a critical eye. When is the last time you wore a miniskirt? If the answer is 10 years ago, get rid of it. Does anything in your closet have shoulder pads bigger than a house? Get rid of it, and fast; they’re not coming back in style. Leisure suits, don’t even think about it! By weeding out your closet first, we don’t waste time on things that should have already been gone. The only caveat I have for this step, if something is of great quality or vintage grade, keep it. These treasures are meant to be kept and possibly handed down. I find that men have as hard a time as women getting rid of things. As in Bruce Springsteen’s song, “Glory Days,” they just can’t let go of the past.

The best way to organize your closet is to have an upper and lower hanging rod. Tops, shirts and/or blouses go on top, and pants and/or skirts go on the bottom. Visually, it is much easier to see what you have if your closet is set up this way. Some people prefer to have outfits hung together. The only issue I have with this system is that you limit yourself. It doesn’t allow you to think out of the box, and put things together in a new and different way. If you can fit it, a long hanging rod is ideal for longer jacket dresses and anything that doesn’t fit on the other rods.

Once you have the two rods, I suggest sorting by weight and color. If you have extra closet space in another part of your house, it’s even better if you can limit your closet to fall/winter clothes and then spring/summer clothes. Start with dark colors and go toward light, long sleeve to sleeveless, long pants to skirts. By doing this, you instill order and reason, so that you are not searching for that favorite camel cashmere sweater you love. It’s right where you put it along with the other like-colored garments.

You should strive for a ratio of two to three tops for every bottom. People tend to notice what is on the top half of your body, because that is what’s at eye level. Don’t buy something you have no match for. Think in terms of “families” of clothing, where several pieces work together.

Another hard and fast rule is to get rid of what doesn’t fit or is soiled or stained. Again, it is taking up physical space as well as giving you more to process each morning when you get dressed. I also have clients try some of their clothes on for me so that I can gauge their fit and functionality. Sometimes it takes an outsider to deliver the truth, and maybe an outfit you think looks good doesn’t really enhance your figure. As we experience life, our style changes and our clothes are a reflection of that. Wear what fits and looks good.

Once I am gone, it is up to the client to keep up the good work. Organizing and editing your closet is an ongoing process. Each season is an opportunity to donate, dispose of, collect and consign what isn’t working. This way, it gives you the opportunity to add a few great pieces that you can’t wait to put on in the morning!

Fall Fashions are confounding… even for the pros

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

Take a look at any fashion magazine this month, and you’re bound to utter a resounding HUH??? After viewing all of the couture shows on DVD this June, I had the very same reaction. Sitting there with a seasoned colleague, we both thought “how are we going to dress women when THIS is what the designers are showing?” Well, with the summer behind us, I have made peace with the current trends, and can even give you some suggestions on how the ‘real woman’ can incorporate them into her wardrobe.

The biggest trend of the season is clearly leggings and footless tights. They started to emerge this spring, and continue be the season’s most popular. For the uninitiated, leggings (and tights) were what we all wore in the 80’s. Remember Madonna in her footless tights during her “Like a Virgin” period? The difference between leggings and tights are the weight of the fabric. Leggings are usually made of cotton with lycra for stretch. Tights are a type of hosiery, and should be worn as such. The good news for most of us is that heavier tights (with foot in tact) in dark colors and subtle patterns are the rage, and are much more age appropriate for those of us who remember the 80’s. Under a dress or bubble skirt, leggings or tights can look fun, as long as the length of the skirt or dress is what you would wear without tights or leggings.

Another continuing trend is dresses. They are everywhere! Spring 2006 showed many dresses and thankfully, they are continuing to be big with no signs of slowing for spring 2007. The good news here is there are many different styles to choose from: The trapeze dress, the empire waist, the wrap dress, the list goes on. There are enough styles to suit most figures and tastes. Dresses are easy to wear, and look great for casual outings or dressed up with a pair of heels or boots.

Like it or not, the skinny or stovepipe jean is huge! This is very bad news for most of us that have a womanly figure, and not a shape that could be confused with a pre-pubescent boy. Don’t despair, if you feel like you want to try the trend there are a few options that would work. First, wear them under a dress. This is a forgiving look with the top part of the jean totally obscured by said dress!

Longer tunic tops are also a great look with this season’s skinny jean. Like a dress, it camouflages the area you want covered up. Tunics can also be worn with capri length pants and the gaucho pant as well. If you’re feeling confident you can go with a more form fitting style or a more A-line style for more coverage. Tunic tops can also be belted to give them a more refined look.

Plaids and tweeds seem to be making an appearance this fall. As a transplanted easterner, this was the quintessential autumn look. A lot of designers showed this on the runways. As long as the fabric is a lighter weight to match our Bay area climate, I think this looks great on a lot of women and men as well. Keep in mind that one plaid or tweed piece is enough at one time. Less is more in this instant.

Layering was a popular look at the fall shows. Although designers take it to the extreme, we don’t have to. Again, keep the layers light for our climate, and you’re halfway there. This can be done with sweaters, vests and tunics. The somber color palette this season makes layering a good opportunity to add a splash of color! A sweater over a dress is another way to wear this style.

Oversize and slouchy handbags are a good compliment to the skinny jean. It seems that we have come back to the handbag that holds everything but the kitchen sink. For those who really have to carry a lot of items, this trend is the way to do that. Be careful not to overstuff so that contents are spilling out. Your handbag shouldn’t be your home office, gym bag, and makeup bag combined. A well edited handbag is the way to go.

If all of this is still a bit confusing, come to Saks Fifth Avenue in Union Square on September 19th from 5-7 p.m. for a fashion show and program called “Mixed-up Glamour”. I am one of the 6 featured stylists that will help you interpret the fall fashions, and make sense of it all. Tickets are $60 (including hors d’oeuvres and refreshments) and can be purchased by calling (650)949-3170 or at the door, the evening of the event.

If you can’t make it to Saks, I am going to be the celebrity bartender at the Montclair Bistro on Thursday, October 5th starting at 5:30 p.m. Come have a pomegranate martini made by moi and ask any fashion/style question you’ve been dying to know! All proceeds go to Wardrobe for Opportunity, an Oakland based organization that assists men and women in putting together appropriate business attire for job interviews and employment (www.wfo.org).