Client Outfit Sample: Nurse to Seminar

K is a nurse.  She often needs to go to meetings at work, and seminars to keep up her professional education.   She doesn’t need to wear a suit or office clothes, she does need to look like who she is – someone with 25 years in the field.  She’s very capable at her job, if entirely uninterested in office politics or getting ahead.

She very strongly prioritizes comfort.  Her primary style element is water, and she’s a Spring.

Outfit purchased this week + scarf purchased earlier this year.   Shoes to be purchased next.


Voila – an easy, comfortable outfit made up of basics that she can mix and match.  Also, she looks like herself, something that’s gone missing from her wardrobe for a while.


Proportion is everything

I am fortunate to have the best BFF in the world… and fortunately for you, my BFF and I

  • are the same height
  • are the same age
  • are within 5lb of the same weight
  • wear the same size clothing
  • look good in exactly the same colors

We’re taking as many variables out of this figure analysis as we can, and hopefully this will help you see how very important proportion is – and why we almost never share clothes.

In the pictures above, K and I are wearing *exactly* the same shirt, purchased on the same day, in the same size, and our respective versions of blue jeans.  (K needs to stand up straighter… and I need to use hairspray before photo-ops.  Oh well!) On the left, we’re wearing our shirts and denim in the correct proportions for our body types.   On the right, we’re not.

These are K’s new clothes.   I think her husband owes me flowers for how great those jeans look on her… but the same outfit on me?  Oh NO!  I look stubby and I could barely walk.

Oh, but let’s try my new sweater and skirt on… Why does K look so out of proportion?  Is it because the skirt hem is set to balance my wide shoulders and create hips, when she’s got hips from God instead of the closet?

I don’t know that I can more clearly explain to you that your clothes look good (or bad) on you because of proportion and personality, not just weight and age.

Please stop beating yourself up in the dressing rooms of the world.  Just because you and the clothes don’t work together doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.  It’s the clothes, dahling.

Let me know in the comments if this helped you.


Fashion vs. Style: Why things are so boring

I’m going to quote a line from my book here…

Fashion is an art form whose nature is to grasp the emotions of the moment and express them in the form of clothing.   Used properly, one says, “there is a fashion for hats made out of silly string”.   Fashion for the masses is generally translated into less artistic forms – but it is still supposed to represent the zeitgeist of a moment in time.

So, then – fashion is a reflection of society.  When society goes through a profound change, so does fashion.   When society is static, so too is fashion.   Fashion designers try to force change, try to create movements… but they throw out ideas like confetti and nothing sticks.

Our society has changed in the last 30 years, but the changes have been gradual.  There hasn’t been a radical moment of switch.  So our clothing has likewise gradually changed, moving between silhouettes in a kind of rhythm, one moment boxy, the next fitted.   The bones of what would be considered a normal outfit have changed not at all.*   We’ve gotten to a point now where there are so many designers throwing so much out that one can wear very nearly what one pleases.  Can I shock you by telling you that it used to matter where your hemlines landed or how tight your pants legs were?   Women have picketed stores for changing the fashions too radically, affecting their pocketbooks – because it used to be a social necessity to dress according to the fashion of the day.

Compare clothing in 1980 to clothing of today.


Compare this thirty years to the thirty years between 1900 and 1930.


You absolutely could not have switched these outfits without being arrested or assumed to be in costume.   But the clothes from 1980?  A bit of tailoring and a trip to the makeup counter and you could wear the *same outfit* and be utterly unremarkable.   That’s a boon for those of us who prefer to invest in good clothing and to develop a style based on the available fashions, but for those who are in the business of creating fashion, it must be maddening.

When will we see the next big change in fashion?  When we see the next big change in society.   What will that look like?  I don’t know.  Fashion, after all, is a reflection.  You’d have to know the future to predict what we’ll be wearing.

My advice is to enjoy the show that fashion offers, to get an idea of the gestalt and to see what’s sticking this season, but don’t get worked up about it.  Accessorize with the item of the moment to get that extra edge to your look, and keep your basics basic – and perfectly suited to you.  The lack of a change in Fashion gives Style the upper hand, and I for one am going to enjoy it while it lasts.


*I had a moment the other day, watching a young lady walk down the street, dressed to rebel.  Combat boots, jeans, tank all in black with a red & black flannel tied around her hips.  I felt so sorry for her… trying to rebel when she’s wearing the same uniform that girls wore to my junior high.  Shocking she was not.


Why swatches?

Why do I use swatches in my color consultation work?

  1. Not everyone can see color equally easily.
  2. Color names are variable and unhelpful when identifying specific shades – Chinese blue, for instance, is also known as hot turquoise.
  3. It’s easy to forget which shades you look best in.
  4. It’s easy to forget how well your best colors work with one another, and why you should stick to them.
  5. Store lighting is notoriously terrible.
  6. Emotions color our choices.
  7. I use them for my own reference when shopping online for a client.

One thinks of color blindness as a straight line thing that the person without the color sense would know about, but that’s not how it works.   I found this out one night shopping with my best friend, someone I’d shopped with for more than 20 years.  We were looking at a pile of shirts, and she pointed at one and said, “Look at the beautiful purple ribbon!”  The ribbon was chocolate brown.   I’d known her for decades, and that was the first time either of us had realized that she wasn’t just a bit disinterested in the finer differentiations of shade, she actually *could not see them*.

Why shouldn’t she have the tools she needs to get the right colors?  That’s where swatches come in.dsc04912

I make my own swatches, so I make them big enough to put down on a garment in the store and see if they match properly.  I use cardstock as a backing so that I can write notes to the client  – it’s not just about your season, or even your best colors, the colors have their own uses according to your particular coloring.

My aim is never to make anyone permanently dependent upon me.  I want to empower my clients to maintain their image and wardrobe on their own… and that means they need those swatches.



Wardrobe Lists – Accessories

Have you ever had an outfit planned in your head and everything came together… except you didn’t have the perfect bit of jewelry, belt or scarf to pull it together?  This sort of wardrobe emergency happens just as often as not having the right pair of dark pants – perhaps more often, or more tragically, because it’s the accessory that will elevate the outfit from basic to beautiful.

Accessory shopping seems like it is ever-available, after all, even Target has a substantial scarf selection.  However, the really great finds can be a bit harder to come by – at least if you don’t have the budget for high-end jewels.

Make a list.  Make a list just as you do for those wardrobe items that you’ve been hoping to add but haven’t found yet.  Keep the list on you, in your purse… and if you’re going somewhere you know that great accessories hide, review it before you leave.   It’s something of a rule of thumb that the item you’re missing when you’re getting dressed is an item you don’t think of when you’re browsing the racks.

Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt to have an anti-list, a list of items you’re just not allowed to bring home, because you already have a dozen.

This would come in handy … if, for example, I had a client whose color was oxblood, I’d tell her to get that list out.  Not every year is an oxblood year, and it’s a wonderful, vibrant, take-no-prisoners color.  Does she need a scarf or a purse or a belt?   She’ll be able to find something quality this year.

Your core list of accessories should be as well planned out as the core of your wardrobe.  Past that, beautiful abandon is always a delight… but remember those moments of, “if I just had a narrow belt…” to keep you (and your budget) focused.


Whatever happened to Public Beauty?

I often watch historical documentaries, and have noted that in both WWI and WWII, women were asked to beautify themselves for the purposes of public morale, and more specifically, the morale of soldiers on leave.

When did we lose the concept that we contribute to the overall beauty (or ugliness) of the landscape?   Is it too prideful for this generation, or does it pinch the ability to do as we please?  Do we think ourselves invisible because we aren’t famous?

Dressing nicely and behaving graciously contributes to the public well-being.  If I leave one person with a smile on their face because my outfit was unexpectedly beautiful, or if my smile warms one heart, then I’ve made the world a slightly better place.

This is why I’d like to see all of us dress more like our true selves – did not the philosopher say that Truth is Beauty, and Beauty, Truth?

Even if we aren’t the Beautiful People, our efforts make the world a more beautiful place.


The Devil’s in the Details

When you live in a world where everyone is wearing whatever they want… and whatever they want is usually some variant of “t-shirt and jeans”, what’s the difference between the mom at Target and the fashionista?


Detail includes fit and texture and drape and fabric quality… and detail includes accessories.

Can I encourage you to dial your accessory game up a few notches?   That doesn’t mean that you have to wear things you don’t want to wear – no.  It means I’d like to see you wear the things that you love, the things that make you incredibly happy, the things that feel most like you.

Those lovely, lovely things in the bottom of your jewelry box*, the ones that you don’t wear because you’re afraid they’re a bit “much”.  Drag them out and figure out how and when to incorporate them into your daily life – a great accessory can be your “brand”.

I want to -once again- beseech you to spend more time on fit and drape.  I have found that it is entirely possible to source high quality clothing at a discount.  I have to travel a bit, and the selection isn’t as good – but the clothing is visibly more stylish.  I picked up a white t-shirt today, I bought it entirely because of the neckline and drape.  It was $8.  Find the town near you with the wealthiest people, shop the Marshalls and suchlike there.  A 30 minute drive for me equals designer goods at drastic reductions… same store in my town?  Forget it.  If you can’t find it at a discount, make yourself a wardrobe list, stick to it like glue, and save up one item at a time.   Quality lasts.

A really *great* t-shirt can be dressed up.  A style-less t-shirt cannot.   It’s worth your while to find the good one, and take care of it properly.  Fabric with good drape fits better, looks better, feels better.   Now, when I say, “a great t-shirt”, I assure you that I do not mean a t-shirt covered with distracting details… this is supporting cast, not a lead character.  Most of the time I find that details on knits reduce the overall look of quality.  (If you want a lace shirt, buy one – but don’t buy a cheap lace covered t-shirt).

Other details include grooming, which is essential if you want to look stylish – you’re better off working your hair/makeup/nail/lingerie game than you are buying the very latest anything; and leather goods (shoes/purse/belt).

So, if you’re wondering what the difference is between two women in t-shirts and jeans, and why one looks expensive and the other doesn’t?  Details.   It’s all in the details.

Dial yourself up to 11 and let the compliments start rolling in… people like people who look like themselves.


*(If you’re a minimalist and always feel as if you “have” to wear more than you’d like, but would rather just have one good ring … same advice applies.  Dial yourself up to 11, even if that sounds, on the surface, like dialing yourself back.  Nope.  It’s all in differentiating yourself from the crowd).



A Face Full of Character

All this talk of beauty as youth + riches gets a bit depressing… but while it’s true, it’s not the whole picture.   Women in their middle years  (and women with larger features) have always had a certain draw.  So, what is it?

Character.  One’s life is writ large upon one’s face – one’s strength, fortitude, courage, and intelligence are apparent to the careful observer.  The larger the features*, the more interesting the face.

When someone is looking at you, they want to know something about you.  Large features are more expressive, they tell the world more about who you are.   A face that’s worn into itself is likewise more expressive than one that’s just finished settling into its adult shape.  (One does earn one’s face).


With enough character, the observer might not even notice that “beauty” isn’t as objectively apparent.   That’s why most professional models are chosen for individuality (and large features) over perfect beauty.  Be interesting, be yourself – it’s always a win.


*cartilage grows forever – yes, your nose is bigger than when you were 21, and so are your ears.



Mix & Match Wardrobe

In order to have a mix & match wardrobe, you need to start with a color scheme.  What color scheme should you start with?  Your best colors, of course!

This is why the clothes in carefully curated stores like  White House/Black Market look so great – they’ve chosen everything with a limited palette, and the store works as a whole.   But you are not a store, you are an individual.

What happens when you have a small selection of colors, or at least are working within the seasonal colors?  Everything matches!

I was scouting a mall yesterday, and this outfit grabbed me and dragged me into the store – very nearly literally.  It couldn’t be more me if it tried, and it looked *better* on me than it did on the hanger.  But I didn’t just get one outfit…

I have *seven* outfits.  (Maybe six, I’m not totally sure about the pine green skirt, I think the shamrocks throw it off).  And because I tend to buy clothes in green, ivory, geranium, or turquoise, additional shopping is only going to add to the number of outfits that I end up with.

Of course any print makes a strong statement, but this print suits me perfectly, so I don’t mind making that statement often.

This is how you make a small closet big.

Of course not everything in my closet matches everything else … there are variants of mood and fabric weight/texture… but in general, I don’t own any item of clothing that doesn’t go with at least three other items of clothing.

Hope this inspires you to give a limited palette a try – as you can see, it’s anything except restrictive.


Choose your models wisely

So, you’re shopping away online or rooting through magazines, looking at the pretty pictures and wondering… “will this look good on me?”.  The tendency is to find something that you like and wish it into figure flattery or to see someone whose figure you like, and hope the clothes will get you there.  Neither work.

What does work is noticing the model wearing the clothing and seeing what commonalities she has with you, as regards figure and coloring.   All models have idealized, elongated figures – but how elongated?  How many curves?  This varies.

And sometimes you can get a clue by reverses – when you find an elongated, thin model and the clothing looks terrible on her, but it looks bad because it makes her look ridiculously long and thin (this IS a thing), a bit of a gawk… well, if you’re neither tall nor thin, you might find that the item in question looks better on you than on her.

Look carefully at the model and see – if the item works, why does it work?  And if not, why?

You’ll get a better idea of how the item in question is likely to fit you.