Fashion Friday: Closet Essentials, Part 2

This is where my little bit and I were last Sunday:

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What on Earth? 

Is that a freakin’ awesome closet? 

I’m not jealous because this is my best friend, and I’m sure if I ever lose 40 pounds she’ll let me borrow all those cute blazers! 

Seriously, this woman has a great eye.  For her 40th birthday, we spent a weekend in Manhattan and had a blast eating and shopping our way through one of our favorite cities.  She has accumulated quite a collection of handbags, shoes, work clothes, and fun clothes.  She doesn’t change sizes like I do so her outfits have multiplied. 

She has had a walk in closet, you’ll see from the before and after pics her closet didn’t change sizes, but it just was poorly organized.  She’d walk in and feel messy because of the piles of shoes on the floor and no good way to organize them.  Plus she had a bunch of wasted space and no idea how to make functional use of it.  Here’s some shots of the throngs of baskets and shoe racks that weren’t doing the trick:

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So for her Christmas/Birthday/Valentine’s present, her darling husband (who is a seriously master gift giver) hired a closet organizing company to come make over her closet!  Those companies aren’t cheap so that’s why it was her big gift this year, and boy has it made getting dressed in the morning easier. 

I sat her down for a Q&A about her closet, so listen in to the great tips she shared about what works and what doesn’t work.  You could easily incorporate aspects into your closet with just a focused shopping trip to Target or The Container Store.

Me:  What feature(s) do you love most about your new closet lay out? 

Mary:  The section that holds all of my purses, with acrylic dividers, and the baskets that hold my clutches and smaller handbags.   In my old closet, all of my purses were in plastic bins on high shelves.  It was a huge pain to get a ladder to bring down a bin and rummage for a purse (then put it back and the ladder), which made me just use one purse most of the time. I don’t have expensive purses, but I have many that I really like and now I can interchange them with what I’m wearing pretty easily. 

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Me:  What did they suggest that you never would have thought of?

Mary:  To make use of space up high, I wanted a closet rod that had a handle that pulled the rod down, but there wasn’t enough wing-span.  The designer suggested using instead a reach pole like they have in department stores.  So I can still access clothes that are up high without bringing in a ladder.  I put clothes up high that are seasonal, like now I have the summer stuff up there, and I will move them around as it gets warmer.  But since Houston weather goes from cold to warm so quickly, I can still easily grab a pair of shorts if I need.  

They also suggested valet rods, which are rods that pull-out to hang dry cleaning or an outfit for the next day.  So I try to put my outfit together the night before and hang it on a valet rod which makes getting dressed in the morning so easy.  

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I have some really handy jewelry drawers that pull out at the back of the closet and those also help me to keep my costume jewelry organized. 

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Me:  What doesn’t really improve functionality all that much? 

Mary:  The fact that I just have too much stuff, and a lot of it is similar.  We all tend to gravitate to certain brands, colors, and I found that I have many duplicates.  I struggled because they’re nice pieces that fit, so I didn’t want to get rid of them.  For example, I love a denim trouser for work.  It’s not really denim, but it’s blue and is a lightweight denim-looking fabric.  Well, I have four pair and that’s overkill.   So this process made me think about what I need and what I don’t need and just because it’s a good deal or is on sale, I don’t have to buy it.  (Commentary from the Peanut Gallery – Wiser words were never spoken!)

Me:  How do you make sure you rotate what’s in your (pretty extensive) wardrobe? 

Mary:  It’s hard to really figure that out.  I heard someone say that they would turn the hangar the opposite way after they wore an item so you could tell it was recently worn.  I’ve started to do that.  I’ll try to pass over something in my closet that I’ve recently worn and go for something else. 

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(Can y’all tell little bit LOVES her some Aunt Mary?)  So come on, it’s your turn – what works in your closet?  What definitely does not?  What item in Mary’s closet would you love to have?

Fashion Friday: Closet Essentials, Part 1

Meet my fun friend Cyndi.  She is a smart entrepreneur who is busy and colorful.  Well, everywhere but in her closet.  When we explored its depths (and I mean depths, she got a bigger closet this year), we found she wasn’t very adventuresome or colorful (except for in one category, keep reading!).

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Welcome to the first of a three part series for Fashion Fridays on Closet Essentials.  What must you have as a part of your wardrobe?  What should you ditch?  What could you change?  How should you be thinking about what’s in your closet now?

That’s what we’re going to tackle with this series.  Cyndi was gracious enough to serve as my first guinea pig!  Cyndi’s lifestyle is a mix so her wardrobe has to be as well. She owns her own law firm so a workday could mean anything from working on her computer from home (very casual), to meeting with clients in her office (professional but business casual), to appearing in court on behalf of her clients (suit is a must).  She has an active daughter so weekends are busy running errands, and she’ll rarely dress up – perhaps for an evening out with her husband since even Sunday church isn’t particularly dressy.

This is what Cyndi was doing right:

Summer Casual!  She had a closet full of gorgeous dresses in every color and pattern you could imagine.  A casual maxidress for running errands or bright sundresses for movie night or brunch with friends.  She also had an assortment of wedges that she could pair comfortably with the dresses.  A great look for casual summer weekends.

 

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This is where Cyndi was missing the mark:

Everything else.  While her dresses reflected her colorful and interesting personality, her winter wardrobe and work wardrobe was primarily made up of black, brown, bland gray, and creams.

Here’s what closet essentials Cyndi was missing:

1.  Neutral work pumps.  This is not black or brown.  These are actually less neutral than bone, taupe or gray.  And Cyndi didn’t have a single solitary pair in that color family which left her stumped on what to pair with a couple of her lovely, but rarely worn, work suits.  Now Cyndi does have some medical issues with her feet that leave many of the mass market shoes out of reach, but there are supportive shoes that can feel modern and work appropriate.

VANELi, Cole Haan, Rockport, and others all design heels for comfort, and if you hit Nordstrom’s during a semi-annual sale you can pick up some of these higher priced pumps for $100 (often well designed comfort shoes are pricier).  It will require a lot of work, and I told Cyndi she’d probably have to spend a few hours in a shoe department in order to understand what shoes offer the support she knows her feet need.  Here’s some great options:

Cole Haan Bethany wedge – colehaan

VANELI peep toe pewter pumps – vaneli

Geox snake skin embossed pumps – elina

2.  Colorful shells.  Cyndi has to wear more conservative suits to court and most of her suits were black.  However, she normally paired her black suit with a black shell or possibly an ecru or gray shell.

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My advice:  STOP!  Here is a wide open opportunity to infuse a work wardrobe with bright color.  With her skin tone and hair color, she could easily shine in reds, purples, turquoises, and pinks.  Luckily, you can nearly always pick up work shells on sale and she needs about five to jump start her work wardrobe.

This bold red patterned number from Loft comes in at under $50 – shell2

As does this mauve mosaic shell that’s on sale at Loft this week – shell3

Some blouses can go on their own or with a simple cardigan for those business casual days – like either of these from Macy’s:

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3.  Accessories.  Cyndi has virtually no necklaces or scarves.  The few necklaces she does have would pair well with a tunic and jeans but couldn’t be worn for work, and there’s not much in the way of color and texture in the scarf category either.  This is the simplest and cheapest solution.  While she mentioned she’s less comfortable accessorizing with necklaces, she was completely on board with picking up some interesting scarves.  I always start at Charming Charlie’s for entry price point color and infinity scarves are the easiest to style.

This turquoise ocean inspired infinity scarf only runs $18 – scarf

While this dot infinity scarf comes in around $40 from Macy’s (without coupons) but in gorgeous colors like fuschia, cherry, and iris – scarf2

But don’t exclude statement necklaces just because they’re not typically in your comfort zone.  It’s good to have a couple pieces that you could pair for work or a night out.  Stella & Dot or Chloe & Isabel are great places to get inspiration (and catch sales to make them more affordable).

I like this Meridian piece from Chloe & Isabel – necklace

Here were the list of tips left hanging inside Cyndi’s closet door along with a few action items:

1.  If you are wearing three of the same colors when you get ready to leave, then swap one of them out for something brighter.
Have fun – mix patterns and colors and textures!  (Here was one of OUR experiments shopping in her closet!)

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2.  Get a color wheel and tape it to your door – experiment with coordinating and contrasting instead of matching all your outfits.

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3.  Accessorize!  Throw on a scarf or necklace or interesting earrings before you walk out the door.

4.  Tailor your suits.  Take in your best fitting, most modern blazer and have at least three of your suit jackets hemmed up several inches to modernize them.  Also, consider converting them from two buttons to one button for your frame and modernizing the buttons.

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5.  Shorten your shirts.  Tunics don’t actually hide your bum, they accentuate it.  Consider instead wearing a shorter shirt with a casual blazer (in a color other than beige! – she had three).

How about you?  When’s the last time you evaluated your closet?  What are you missing?  What do you love best?  And let’s all give Cyndi a huge shout out for being the first in our series!  Next week, you’ll travel with me to my best friend’s closet reno!

Fashion Fridays: Valentine’s Two Part Special, “She Said”

I hope you joined us last week as we launched Part 1 of our “He Said”/”She Said” Valentine’s Fashion Friday special.  Well, now it’s your turn girls.

I asked and you responded.  What do wish he would or would not wear?  How would you dress your man if you got to choose?  Now I might say that just like the He Said post, She Said was more consistent on the “what not to wear” responses than on the “what you love” responses.  What a woman wishes her man would wear was all over the map and depended on the event and the type of woman.  Nonetheless, I’m going to try.

First up, The Don’ts (guys, take note):

1.  Denim on denim – it’s out.  It went out sometime around 1989.  Don’t pair denim shirts with jeans.  Which takes me to…

2.  Certain jeans – women like their men in jeans, but not SOME jeans.  These fell into several categories but the “don’t do” jeans included baggy, acid washed, too worn, dated, short, etc.  You get the gist.  Just consider buying new jeans and cleaning out your old ones fella.

3.  Ugly shoes – with all the fabulous women’s shoes out there, why are there so many ugly men’s shoes?  I actually think it’s harder to find cool shoes for men than it is to find ugly shoes.

4.  Pleated pants – now most men are still clinging to their 1990s pleated pants.  However, it really is more flattering if men wear flat front pants.  As I noted though, there were a few women that preferred the classic look of pleated pants, so it just goes to show you to talk about it.

5.  T-shirts with messages that are not actually that funny or that are gross or insensitive.  Consider ditching the message shirts.

Next up, the fun part – The Do’s:

1.  Layers/Sweaters – I think these have fallen out of favor because too many men get hot.  But if you buy in lighter weight fabrics, you can accomplish the incredibly handsome look without sweltering.

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While I am partial to the half zip sweater, you can do this in any number of styles or colors (one girlfriend specifically said, “MORE color”).  Also note the jeans.  One paired a great pair of charcoal jeans, and the other has a nice medium washed blue.

2.  Nicer casual – one way to immediately dress up an outfit is to throw a blazer on.  Even a button down with jeans automatically gets an upgrade when you don a sports coat.  Or swap out a pair of jeans for a pair of neutral pants and presto you look like you made more of an effort.  Finally, if you really want to make her swoon, try it all together (see this last example) – color, layers, a sweater with maybe, gasp, a tie!

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(All looks but the next to last two courtesy of J. Crew. Next to last two courtesy of Nordstrom’s.)

For a few tips, regardless of where you’re headed or who you are trying to impress, check out menswear websites to get ideas.  Look at this excellent J Crew Work Trip Cheat Sheet – https://www.jcrew.com/mens_feature/CheatsheetWorkTrip_sm.jsp

Or Nordstrom’s men’s landing page has great ideas on how to wear jeans or the latest shoe on the market – http://shop.nordstrom.com/c/men?dept=8000001&origin=topnav

(And I know this sounds nuts to a guy, but um, Pinterest has some great examples if you just want to send your wife/girlfriend on a quest for a fresh look!)

Run these ideas by someone first because sometimes what appears in vogue may not work well for your body type or your work/city environment.

Ladies, your turn: What do you love or hate to see?

Fashion Fridays: Valentine’s Two Part Special, “He Said”

My best friend came up with this clever idea for Fashion Fridays: a “he said”/”she said” issue of what you and he wish the other would (or would not) wear.  So I took a very formal poll, you know, Facebook/Twitter/interviewing friends, and asked what my men friends wished their wives/girlfriends would wear more often (barring lingerie, we all know they start there).  Then I did the same thing in reverse and polled my girlfriends/social media about men’s fashion.

Today we tackle what outfits or items of clothing he loves or hates.  Next week, we’ll tackle what you wish your man would (or wouldn’t) wear.  I’m sure I will get some comment that this is sexist.  But I believe that looking nice for your husband or wife is really important.  Especially since men are so visual and what they see can affect your love life.

Let me start off by saying this is the hardest Fashion Friday post I’ve ever written.  Mainly because no one is the same and you get answers all over the map.   So I think the two primary themes are this:

1.  Make an effort.  I had several guys say “just look nice” or don’t look “dumpy.”  Which translates into making an effort.  Wearing clothes that fit – not too big or not too small.  Showing you wanted to look nice for your night out or your Saturday of running errands in town.

2.  Communicate.  When some of my friends interviewed their husbands after being pressed, the answers of what he liked were as varied as the couples.  To keep a little sizzle in your marriage, find out what your husband likes you to wear and make an effort to wear those things sometimes (especially on date nights!).

With that said, I had a few specific items of feedback for Don’t Wear This:

1.  Sweats.  This was my most frequent response.  As my girlfriend said when we discussed this, you can wear cut yoga pants and a little tee and be just as comfy but look much better than you would in sweats.  Kill the sweats in your wardrobe.

2.  Ugly shoes.  This comes in all forms.  I heard “don’t wear Uggs,” and my hubby doesn’t like it when I wear flats that, in his opinion, look like houseshoes.

3.  Clothes that don’t fit.  These responses were from both ends of the spectrum.  I heard comments about bad underwear lines or tops that don’t contain your body any more.  But I also heard men that didn’t like oversized “tent” dresses.

I certainly had a few specific items of Do Wear This:

1.  What I give you.  Men really like it when you wear what they’ve purchased you for your birthday or Christmas.  Maybe this is a dress or maybe it’s a necklace, but wear your presents, especially around your man.

2.  High heels.  Now while I heard from my male friends that they like their women in heels, I also had a few married friends close in height to one another that would prefer no heels.  Nonetheless, heels won the day overall.

3.  Dresses.  Again, this wasn’t not universal, but I think this goes to the point of making an effort and looking feminine.  This can be as simple as a little day dress for Sunday morning or a cocktail dress for an event.  Especially if you are married to man who likes legs and you wear pants a lot, consider donning dresses for date night.

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(Dresses courtesy of Nordstrom.)

4.  A top that shows a “little.”  This was not for everyday wear, but for date night men responded that they’d like to see a little cleavage (not surprisingly).  There are tasteful ways to do this.  See these two examples which, if worn with the right bra, could be classy but also a little sexy.

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(Blouses courtesy of Ann Taylor.)

5.  Hair down.  I got feedback about hair length, but I also heard “wear your hair down.”

What about you?  Have you and your hubby talked about this?  Do you know what he thinks you look best in?

Fashion Fridays: To Mix or Not To Mix Neutrals

Thank you to ALL of you who answered the call for new Fashion Friday topics; I’ve got enough material to last two months, YAY!

This question came in a few weeks ago and is one I’ve confronted myself:  What are matching guidelines? I was always taught not to wear black with brown, brown with gray, blue with black – but I see all of these things regularly and they (usually?) look good.

There are five basic neutrals (all of which you should have in your career wardrobe): ivory/white, gray (everything from dove to charcoal),  black, navy, and brown (this is the messiest one to manage – from tan to taupe to chocolate).

Let’s tackle the easiest two first:  gray and ivory.  You can literally match any color, including any neutral, with these two neutrals.  I’m particularly fond of the gray/black or gray/navy combo.  It always reads super sophisticated.  Also, most women look universally good in navy and yet, of all the neutrals, tend to have it in their closets the least.  If you’ve wondered if you can mix neutrals with other neutrals, these two shades should put that worry to rest.

Are you dying over the gorgeous examples below that mix ALL these neutrals?  This dove gray cardigan paired with a black belt, white button down and navy pencil skirt?!?!  Then the buttoned up military inspired navy blouse with ivory pencil skirt and taupe accessories – mercy, it’s just perfection.

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Next we’ll tackle black.  I personally don’t love to pair navy with black, some folks do, because all too often the shades are so close that it just looks like you grabbed the wrong jacket when you were getting dressed in the dark.  If it’s done intentionally in something like a cocktail dress (I’ve seen pretty pairings of midnight blue and black), then it’s easier to manage, but I don’t do it in separates.

My theory on black with other neutrals is contrast.  If you can find a lighter shade neutral to pair your black piece with, so there’s a marked contrast between the shades, or even break it up with a bright color (like this green blouse breaking up the black jacket with taupe trouser), then that’s the best way to mix black with other neutrals.

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Then we get to our pesky friend brown.  Let me admit to a predisposition to dislike brown.  I’ve never worn it much.  Tan/khaki can come off bland and uninspired.  Middle brown shades can read badly on an assortment of skin tones.  Darker browns like cocoa are better but somehow hard to pull together in an outfit for me personally.

You see examples of way to mix browns and blacks above – I emphasized contrast.  With this color, so much depends on the shade that works for you.  It’s less important in bottoms, but it’s critical if you’re dressing your top half.  Brown and black, in my humble opinion, is VERY shade dependent.  If you’re pairing very dark brown with black you run into the same problem you do with navy.  Yet I think taupe and navy or black combinations are incredibly sophisticated as are even lighter shades of brown paired with black.

But as these gorgeous ensembles illustrate, brown does work with virtually every other neutral if the shade is right (think this gorgeous caramel and navy dress, or using an animal print to bring a brown and black outfit together).

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What say you?  Sound off?  How do you (or do you) pair neutrals?