Shopping Expeditions: Plus Size Wasteland

As everyone knows, Southern California is the home to the original Cult of the Body.   It’s not the most comfortable place in the world to carry a few extra pounds, but this is nowhere more obvious than when you hit the mall.

Just because SoCal is a fit area of the country doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of plus-size ladies here – a good third of my clientele has needed plus-size resources.  And the pity of it all is… there’s just not that much choice.  And this is ridiculous.   I know the difficulties inherent in expanding your size range past 14 (the bits that get bigger differ from woman to woman, more fabric cost, etc) but the potential profit to be made is huge.

I’ll join my voice to the chorus – RETAILERS!  GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER!

When I want to take a 16+ size person shopping, I have the following options:

  • Target (has a decent size plus department, with some good style options)
  • Wal-Mart (let’s get real, I’m not going to take someone shopping at Wal-Mart – but they do have plus-size basics)
  • Department stores, various (options vary, as do prices.  Style likewise variable).
  • Plus-size specialty stores (Lane Bryant, Torrid, Curve Couture, Avenue, Catherines)

You’re lucky to have as many as three of these in one location – the stand-alone stores really “stand-alone” and are miles away from one another.   (There are fewer than 25 stand-alone stores total, including different branches of the same chain, in a county of 3 million). I treat all my clients to the best experience possible, regardless of size – I’ve scouted the stores before our trip so I know what should be there, and I have a good idea of the vibe of the store so that I can match it to the vibe of the customer – and her pocketbook.    But this isn’t making my life any easier.

I’d like to say the department stores have gotten a clue and given some serious space for plus-size ladies, but I’d be lying.  The plus-size departments are seldom as large as the coat department.    This isn’t 1980, folks – in 2018 67% of women in the United States are in a size 12 or larger.  Maybe more choice might be in order?

I’m a PROFESSIONAL.  If I find it frustrating, how do my clients feel when they’re shopping by themselves?  Ugh.  Do my plus-size clients, who have more fitting issues than a standard-size client, want to do the bulk of their shopping online?  Not usually!  (Although the online retailers are eager to get the business the brick-and-mortar shops are missing out on).

And we wonder why women won’t dress themselves for the size they’re at, letting things get worn and accepting less-than-the-best.  We’re certainly treating them like that’s all they deserve, why are we surprised?

Well, fussing won’t fix the problem – if retailers want to let good income potential wash through their fingers, it’s their folly and not mine.  What can I do?  I can tell my plus-size customers the honest truth – that we’re going to have to plan a bit more time and effort to get their pretties, but that it can be done.   The same steps (research, scout, make a shopping list, organize) will get us to our destination, sanity relatively intact.

We can do this!

Closet Cleanout: Rae

Here’s a sample of a Closet Reboot… easy mode.  (If you’d like a sample of hard-mode, check out Kim here).

Rae shops sensibly, knows her colors and how to use them to affect her emotional state, and keeps the items in stock that she uses.   What we had to work on was removing duplicates and those pieces that had outlasted their usefulness.   Then I organized what was left.   All of that is stage 1 of the closet-cleaning process.





Here you see that I’ve sectioned each type of clothing off (workout, cleaning, everyday, slightly-dressy) and then organized the clothing by color/type within those sections.  This makes it easier to grab the right thing, harder to forget pieces (when they drift off into other sections, it’s easy to lose clothing), and more visually appealing.

As I said, Rae didn’t need a ton of help in this department, although we did get rid of 3 bags of clothes!   That’s one of the benefits of having help when you clean out your closet, the help won’t let you get away with doing the job half-way.

The second part of the Closet Reboot is to make a shopping list.   Once you know what you own, you can figure out what you need.   Again, Rae is doing very well stocking her everyday life, but she needed some ideas for shopping for a few dressier outfits.

I emailed her the suggested items to fill in the blanks, and I went online shopping for her at the stores in the malls nearest her home, and made a pinboard so she could take a look at the items in question and know where to get them if she liked them.

We organize our closets in the same way that we organize our pantries –

1) What do I have?

2) What do I want to achieve?  (In the case of your pantry, what recipe are you cooking up this week.   In the case of clothing, what message do you want to convey?)

3) What do I need to buy?

As much as I like a good bit of fun shopping, you need to hit your priorities first.  A great pair of neutral slacks is more important than a trendy blouse.   And even great items have a limited life-time… taking inventory is how we know when to say goodbye.

If you’d like a Closet Reboot of your very own, drop me a line!  I’d love to help.

The Hot New Style: Individuality

The best thing about the Oscar fashion parade this year was that there was actually fashion to be had.  Beautiful women wearing beautiful dresses are a good thing, but I missed the awards ceremonies of my youth, when there was an excitement inherent in seeing who would wear what, what bit of the inner self would be revealed, who would commit a horrible fashion disaster and who would wear something so wonderful that generations to come would remember it.    If one considers the red carpet part of the entertainment (or, in my case, the whole of it), a true parade is a draw.

And in 2018 we were treated to just such a display.

Sandra Bullock in her high-necked black & gold gown showed off her signature clean lines.  Emma Stone combined the romantic red velvet jacket and pink sash with the sassy slim-cut black pants.  Camila Alves went big with a fluffy white gown and rubies.  Salma Hayek looked positively goddess-like in Gucci.   Paz Vega wore a modern take on a kimono.   And who can forget Nicole Kidman with her giant blue bow?  Different women … same venue.   Were they dressed appropriately?  Yes!

Every stylist knows that the point of the red carpet is to be seen.  And why should you be seen?  To market yourself.   How can you market yourself without words?  With your clothing and grooming.     Why would you want to fade into the background?  If you have one moment when everyone is going to be looking at you – use it.

I’m thrilled to see this come back, because it proves that individuality is where style resides.   Yes, of course we have trends to be mindful of – but right now the biggest trend is just being yourself.

You are being seen.   This is your moment.   How will you choose to communicate?

If you’d like some help with that – see my services on the side and my book, available where e-books are sold.

How to figure out what to wear to a club

“What should I wear to that hot new nightclub?”  Using the Clubbable app and your self-knowledge, figuring out what to wear becomes as easy as 1-2-3.

  • Where are you going?  Clubbable gives you the dress code and vibe for every club on your list – no more guessing!   You don’t want to look too rough when you hit Mahiki in London- save the punk rock gear for the Vandal in NYC.  This app is a great resource not only to find a club that suits your style, but to prepare your style to get in the door.
  • Who are you? You want to dress to reveal your personality and your goals.   You don’t want to represent yourself as something you are not, clubbing is about being seen – so be seen for yourself.
  • Don’t look like everyone else. Yes, you want to be on point for the dress-code.  But you also want to have enough spin on that that you’ll create interest.   One more person in exactly the same little black dress is boring – you’re one of 500.  Instead, be the one who goes above and beyond, breaks through ordinary and hits amazing.    Use color and be unexpected.

Clubs are visual places, so whatever look you choose, dial it up to 11.  If you’re a minimalist, go minimalist so hard that Yoko Ono feels over-accessorized.   This is the time to wear the architecturally interesting dress that you fell in love with on the runway.    If you’re more romantic, wear a silk dress that slides around your curves and makes the eye travel and travel and travel some more.

Example:  Let’s dress Tilda Swinton for the Vandal and Lzzy Hale for Mahiki.  

  • Tilda Swinton:   Signature color – white.   Signature style – androgynous/architectural
  • The Vandal:  Punk Rock
  • Outfit:  White leather pants, boots.  White sleeveless shirt.  White leather bracers.
  • Makeup:  Colorless lips, vivid eyeliner color used non-traditionally with warrior vibe.


  • Lzzy Hale:  Signature style – hard rock + sex
  • Mahiki:  Sophisticated and mature.
  • Outfit:  Burgandy pants-suit with black bra peeking out occasionally; leather-laced up collar; black heels
  • Makeup:  Her signature look – black eyeliner, burgundy lip.


Both women look like themselves, and they’re appropriate for the venue.  They won’t be missed.

If you’d like to check out the clubbable app…

Fashion vs. Style – Fanny Packs are Back

I am not a personal stylist.  Why am I not a personal stylist?  Because while I follow the trends, I do NOT recommend trends that look like they’re driving straight off a cliff into the sea, and that goes triple for trends I’ve lived through that crashed and burned the first time.

I mean, you didn’t see me gushing when parachute pants had their microsecond back in the spotlight a year or so ago, did you?  No.  That’s because the five people who can wear parachute pants can look fascinating in those pants any time and don’t need a trend to give them permission.   The rest of us should run and hide under the couch if they’re mentioned.   Some trends are hard to wear.

I’m an image consultant, and that means I want you to inhabit the image that reflects who you are most accurately.   I work hard to help you coordinate the messages you’re sending out and make you look great.

Fanny packs have their place.  Their place is not when one wishes to look chic, polished, and pulled together.   I see that they’re on trend… fine.  Buy a fanny pack to look chic – on vacation.  They are useful…   But figure flattery?  Oh no.  There is not a woman in this world who needs a lump in the middle of her abdomen.



CAN a fanny-pack be done well?  Sure, anything can be.

First, you can get a waist pouch that isn’t a fanny pack…


credit: ebay

Second, you can wear the fanny pack in an appropriate setting, and in a size proportional to your figure.   I wouldn’t wear this on the streets of NYC, but I would consider wearing it to Disneyland.


credit: google – but that’s a Chanel bag

So, you can rely upon me to give you the quizzical look when you try to pick up the latest trend – if that trend doesn’t suit you, I’m going to say so.  That’s my job – to help you find your style, not to keep you in the latest fashions.

Sample Color Analysis: M-DoJ

Maddie Frame

(This is a color-only analysis)

You have beautiful, mysterious blue-green-grey eyes.  These almost grey eyes allow you to wear more grey than Springs usually wear, but will tempt you into cold colors.  The natural red highlights in your brown hair are the warning that you shouldn’t wear Summer’s cool tones – you will look far more alive in the warmth that is Spring.  Your clothes exist to make you look your best – not the other way ‘round.

You are medium in contrast – that means that your best colors will not be either too dark or too light.   Keep those colors for accessories or trim and you’ll shine.  (YOU are always to shine, not your clothing).   When you want to up the intensity, add a bit more eyeliner/mascara so that those eyes are the center of focus.

Your colors are somewhat muted for a Spring – but that’s only for a Spring!  You’ll find that heathered versions of your best colors are the most flattering on your skin tone, whereas the brightest brights might be a bit much.

I’ve noticed that you tend to wear a lot of cold colors – try warming up into ivory and peach and see how many compliments you garner.


Springs have very delicate coloring that is reflected in the translucent, bright colors of flowers and leaves in their first growth.   Brightness, warmth and clarity are Spring watchwords.  Even the darkest or most neutral colors must have life to be Spring color.  “Golden” and “Pink” are the two most important Spring undertones, and one or both will be found in nearly all of her colors.    Her colors are usually blends, from greenish blues to pinkish reds to golden greens.    If you want to wrap up Spring in one word, it’s “vitality”.  If you wanted create Spring as a piece of art, you would use colored pencils.

Springs can be found with any hair color except black.  Most blondes are Springs or Summers.   If Springs have red hair, it’s auburn or strawberry blonde.  Brunette Springs are likely to have had blonde hair as a child, and blonde highlights look well on Springs.  “Ash” is not a Spring tone – “golden” is.

A Spring’s skin will always be pinkish or golden or both.  Yes, there are plenty of women of color who are Springs.   Many mixed-race women, in particular, find that Spring colors suit them perfectly.   You are looking for a certain translucent quality to the complexion, that clear golden shine, the flush that often shows on her cheeks.

Yes – strawberry red, midnight blue, peachy-pinks, golden-khaki, blue-greens, ivory.    Gold and ivory pearls are all yours.

No – black, white, jewel-tones, muted colors (whether brown or grey).  Be very careful around khaki, yellow, red and navy.

Trying to weigh down a Spring’s coloring with colors that are too heavy makes her look tired and/or muddy.  And although Springs wear some of the brightest colors around, if you put them in the jewel toned vivids of a Winter, those colors will steal all of the Spring’s vitality.  Springs, more than any season, really need to nail their exact colors.   Because of the subtle balances in color, there can be a very small difference between perfect and terrible.  If you don’t see color well, stick to your swatches!

The Capsule Wardrobe

The phrase, “capsule wardrobe” came to popularity in the 70s, but the concept has been a foundational part of wardrobe management since women started having more than one or two outfits at their disposal.   It’s the best way to maximize the value of your clothing dollar.   The concept has changed slightly in recent years, where people now talk about having a ‘seasonal’ capsule wardrobe … like you’d update this multiple times/year rather than buy pieces expected to last for five years or so.   That’s fine if you have the resources to update your entire wardrobe regularly, but since most of us don’t, I’ll just skip that for the nonce.

What is a capsule wardrobe?  It’s a collection of basic items that mix-and-match well, where items move the outfits to greater and lesser formality depending on what you need in your life.   There are very few, if any, duplicates – and no “closet orphans” – everything coordinates.  I can remember first reading about this as a child in my mother’s executive style books!  You *have* to buy top-quality, because you’re going to be wearing the items constantly, and low-quality won’t hold up.   (The original plans called for you to wear the same black skirt 3 days/wk – no, not three of the same skirt, the SAME skirt).  This was a relatively common plan when the clothing budget was a bigger part of our spending than it is today.

How to make a capsule wardrobe:   Plan.  Plan.  Plan.   (If you’d like more information, I write about how to figure out your wardrobe needs in my book).

  1.  Be honest about your lifestyle and clothing needs.  Yes, you can download a basic office capsule wardrobe plan for somewhere with four seasons online.  But does that suit your needs?  It might not!  I live in SoCal, and investing in a beautiful winter coat is … well, it’s not on the top of my list.  I just don’t need one very often.   What if you’re a SAHM?   What if you work, but in a casual environment?    What clothes do you *really need*, and what holes in your current wardrobe constantly throw you under the bus?   What do you DO with your life?
  2. Figure out your personal color scheme.  This will be reduced from your seasonal colors, into your very best colors, and then you narrow from there – you pick a basic color for your staples (jacket/skirt/slacks) and you use your white for a few tops (blouse/sweater/buttondown) and insert some brights here and there.
  3. Figure out your leather color, and stick to it.  You start with ONE color and it needs to match – belt/purse/shoes.
  4. Start with basic accessories (in your metal first, then adding some interest).  This is where you add interest and distract the viewer from the fact that, yes, you ARE wearing the same dress as you did on Monday.

So, if you do that and roll old-school, you start with a very few clothes and add gradually over the years, replacing your staples and duplicating them as you have space in your clothing budget.  If you do this, each item doesn’t just add one look to your resources, it multiplies.

This is what I encourage all of my clients to start with.  When you have a solid foundation to work from, you can start adding the “fun” bits, the less expensive trendy items that perk up the wardrobe – and then those items CAN be fun, and you don’t spend a lot of time saying, “but I have nothing to wear!”

Example of a capsule wardrobe color scheme, moi:

  • Dark basic color – Navy
  • Light basic color – Ivory
  • Dynamic colors:  Clear Red, Turquoise, Jade Green
  • Metal:  Gold
  • Leather:   Warm brown

First wardrobe priorities:

  • Ivory dress
  • Navy blazer
  • Jeans
  • Denim skirt
  • Ivory skirt
  • Ivory blouse
  • Leather belt
  • Leather wedges

Secondary wardrobe priorities:

  • Dresses and blouses in my dynamic colors
  • Denim jacket
  • Sweaters in my dynamic colors
  • Skirts in my dynamic colors
  • Alternate belt
  • Alternate shoes

Tertiary priorities:

Now I’d switch colors and start bringing in the softer shades that I relax with, like sea-green (still goes with ivory, navy and denim) and pine (goes with red, navy, ivory, denim).   Add some more tops in these colors, additional skirts.   .

All items can be mixed and matched except the “top” dressiest items and the “bottom” most casual items.   Chiffon and jersey just DON’T work together.

Creating a capsule wardrobe is part of my services, it’s part of the Closet Reboot, in stage 2 of your wardrobe makeover.  First you need to figure out who you are and where you’re going, then you figure out what you have that works (and get rid of what doesn’t), then you make a shopping list and fill in the blanks.

Capsule wardrobes can make dressing fun and easy – but they do require that you spend some time thinking before you hit the mall.