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Comfort Zones vs. Hard Limits

Anyone who has ever seen a makeover on TV has seen someone taken from one look to another virtually overnight.   Can I do this for you?  Yes.  We can find someone to do your hair and makeup, I can treat you like so much raw material, and in a few days, you’ll be a whole new you.

But.  If I do that, you might find the woman in the mirror makes you cry – and not from joy.

Clothing is intensely personal.   My philosophy is that we should reveal the woman you are within, show the world the “real you”.   That can take us to places where you’re not just outside your comfort zone (which is necessary to make change) but pushing into places you’re not ready (now, or maybe ever) to expose.  Those are your hard limits.

Hard limits are the colors, the textures, the shapes – whatever – that you are absolutely opposed to.   The ones that make you angry.  That make you want to cry.  The things that when you see them on yourself, you want to rip off all the clothes and hide in your bedroom for a week.   This differs from person to person.  Some folks have very few limits, some folks have quite a lot!  Sometimes when we shop together, we find hard limits you didn’t know you had… this happens, and it’s okay.   Learning is always good.

This is very different from the comfort zone, which is composed of the things you’re used to – you might or might not be emotionally attached, the comfort zone is just “easy”.    Sometimes comfort zones contain bad habits that we’re just used to.  It often contains self-imposed limits that we’d like to leave, if only someone would tell us that it’s really okay.   Comfort zones become stagnant, which is why we need to constantly push ourselves to leave them.  That’s why you employ an image consultant!

One of the arts to image consulting is gently shepherding you into new ideas, new places, new colors – without stomping on your heart.   My job is to come alongside you, to encourage you to try new things, to introduce you to the woman you can be with as much (or little) change as you’re comfortable embracing today.  Sometimes I’m a little like a mother – “No, you may never wear that in public again.  Toss it now.”  and sometimes I’m a cheerleader, “Oh, you look wonderful!  Please wear that tonight!”, and very often, I’m a lot like a counselor, “Okay.  You don’t wear that color because X – we can work around that”.

That’s what makes me a good image consultant.  I have ten thousand ideas and I’m endlessly enthusiastic.  I love color and cloth and am passionate about Beauty.  But with all of that – I care about my clients, and my final goal is to leave them happier and more fulfilled than the day they met me.

I’m never going to push you past those hard limits, as stubborn as I will be in getting you out of your comfort zone.  Communication is the key – and caring is the difference.

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Accessories are Everything

You have heard the words 1000 times – that accessories change everything.  The more minimal your wardrobe, the more this becomes true.

Today, we’re going to do a quick visual exploration of this.

Same outfit.  Same day.  Same lack of makeup.

In the picture to your left, I’m wearing an eye-catching bracelet, a pair of colored necklaces, large teal earrings, and a feathered hair-ornament.

In the picture to your right, I’ve flipped the hair ornament out of sight (I wanted to keep my hairstyle the same), and removed all my jewelry except my wedding ring.  In the picture to your left, I look pulled together and artistic.  In the picture to your left, I look pretty plain.

In the second set of pictures, I’m wearing the white shirt and dark skirt that I recommend everyone have in their wardrobe, still no makeup, hair in a bun.

First picture (top left) – no jewelry.  Second picture.  Gold necklace, bracelets, earrings.  Simple, classic.  Third picture, removed necklace, added scarf.   Without changing my pose, without so much as changing how I arranged my sleeves or my hair (which I would, if I were really styling these looks), I’ve changed the look of the outfit – just with an accessory.

In the second row (starting bottom left), I wanted to show that garments (particularly toppers) could also be considered accessories for the purposes of mixing and matching your outfits.  In the first picture, I’ve added a navy jacket.  In the second, there is also a scarf.  In the third, I’m wearing a fitted vest.

Clothing comes, clothing goes – but accessories are forever.  They rarely wear out, and they’re a fantastic way to sneak the “real you” into even the strictest dress code.   They are one of the easiest ways to make your wardrobe far bigger than what you see hanging in your closet.

Use them wisely.

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Western Adventurer

In her book, “Dressing Rich”, Leah Feldon identified several meta-types of upper-class woman in America.  I highly recommend her book – but it was written in 1982, so a few things have changed.   One of the things that I believe has changed is one of the types, which she calls, “L.A. Throwaway”.

“[LATs] are young, or they look young (thanks to the best cosmetic surgery money can buy), and are very health and body conscious.  Their fashions confirm their wealth – diamond stud earrings, gold Rolex watches, Louis Vuitton bag, Yves Saint Laurent jacket and blouse. .  . but there is always something that is a throwaway – three year old Levis (worn with the Saint Laurents), or maybe cowboy boots – always something there that lets you know that even though they are are obviously swimming in money they are still “real folk”.”  – Leah Feldon, Dressing Rich

The LAT has morphed into what I’m going to call the Western Adventurer.   The Western Adventurer is easily identified by being extremely health and body conscious, because the most important element of this style is looking good in a bikini – regardless of whether one ever wears one.  She spends a substantial portion of her beauty budget on the spa, on exercise classes, and on her hair.  A golden glow is part and parcel of this look.

The Western Adventurer is always up for the next thing – she changes exercises, cleanses, and spa treatments constantly.   Does she wear makeup? Yes.  But she wears natural looking makeup, and is seldom seen with a red lip except perhaps for a wild night on the town.   Natural is her call word – the Western Adventurer wants to look as her look comes from her lifestyle, which is very important to her.

She’s called the Western Adventurer because this is the woman for whom a bucket list is her most important to-do.  She’s constantly travelling, and she usually wears a little something from her wanderings, whether it be an alpaca sweater from the trip she took to the Peruvian Highlands or a bracelet from her yoga pilgrimage to India.  She always accessorizes!

Clothing with drape that moves well with the body is essential to the Western Adventurer.   She’s not found in a suit unless her job requires it – and even then, the suit won’t have the sharpness that one would find in New York City.   Good fabric is very important to the Western Adventurer, but her version of “good fabric” includes hemp and organic cotton as well as the luxury versions of wool.   She wears a lot of neutral colors.

How does the Western Adventurer earn her money?  Ideally she’s some form of entrepreneur, or works at least partially from home.   Her career, while important to her, is part of her lifestyle, not the reason she gets up in the morning.  (Or if it is, she wouldn’t admit it).   California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado are the primary stomping grounds of the Western Adventurer – but you’ll find them in every state, every country … and of course, all over the world on their travels!

Examples of Western Adventurers in public life:  Kate Hudson; Gwyneth Paltrow; Richard Branson; Cameron Diaz; Rachel Aniston.

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Always Prepare

This is why you *always* set out your clothing in advance of an important event:

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I do not know what happened to my favorite dress.  I do not remember having someone splatter me with grape juice the last time I wore it – or I would have dealt with the stains at that time.   (Those stains are in the middle of my back!)

But I had time to try to salvage it, fail, and prepare my second-best dress for my meeting tomorrow.   I’ve also put out the jewelry that I will wear, sorted out my business bag, written down directions, copied out notes – I’m ready.

Even though my very favorite dress won’t be ready for anything at all, ever again.