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closet makeover

what do you know about working with plus size clients?

what do you know about working with plus size clients?


I've worked with many plus-size clients, most of whom (whether they've told me or not) have had trepidation about working with me. To put it bluntly, how could someone my size know what they need or how hard it can be? I completely acknowledge that life in the wardrobe arena has been pretty easy for me. However, I truly believe that you can find the look and shape that work for you, regardless of size. With every client I work with, I learn more about available resources for all sizes. Recently, I worked with a client who wasn't sure I'd be able to help her. Since she was pretty happy with the results, I asked her to write a guest post about her experience so that you can hear it from her perspective, not mine. Here's Annie:

"Last summer, I told three of my friends that I wanted them to find me a personal stylist for my birthday. I didn’t need them to pay for anything, just to do the legwork to find the person. Looking back, it seems so silly that I couldn’t do a simple google search, but I think that shows how nervous I was about this endeavor. I could not even find the right person to help, I needed her dropped in my lap.

I have never been a girly girl. I was a tomboy growing up. My “look” was a bunch of plain cotton tops that I thought I could mix and match with any pants. I thought I didn’t care about clothes. I never thought about putting together an outfit, or having an intentional look. I can’t include pictures of how I dressed before Dacy because I avoided the camera like crazy. There are no pictures.

I told my friends that I didn’t want someone to tell me that if I lost 50 lbs I could wear trendy looks. I have always felt like clothes are designed for a size 2-6, and they just make them bigger for larger sizes. I was worried how Dacy would be able to understand that and find clothes actually made for women like me. I didn’t want a total makeover or to become someone else. I wanted to find someone who could help me be a better version of me. What I didn’t know at the time, but realized through this process, was that I wanted someone to help me like the person I saw in the mirror.

Even though I sought out a stylist, and had met Dacy twice before she came to my house for our first session, I was still pretty nervous. I have always hated trying on clothes because it made me feel fat. I don’t go to clothing stores, I only buy clothes online. Even when I get new clothes, I would often try them on without looking in a mirror. If it didn’t feel too tight, I kept it. I knew I wasn’t going to have a lot of patience for trying on clothes, looking at myself in the mirror, and talking about how I look in clothes. I thought, after a few outfits, I am going to refuse to try on more clothes, I am going to cry, and I am going to want to stop. But I didn’t. We went through every item in my closet. I never cried, never felt fat and ugly, never wanted to run and hide.  

I stood in my closet, not in front of a mirror.  So, big win #1 – I didn’t have to see myself in the clothes, and see the look on my face when I didn’t like what I saw. That kept me mentally engaged. But the absolute best thing Dacy did for me that day was that she made it about the clothes. It was never about my body. It wasn’t my fault that the shirt didn’t fit, it was the shirt’s fault. Bad shirt! She never said my arms look fat. She said, I don’t like the way that sleeve hangs. I don’t like where the shirt hits your waist. Instead of saying I have a big waist, she said I had skinny legs. It was never my fault. That was a new experience for someone with self-esteem issues that are very tied up in my size.  

Dacy was both sweet and stern. She didn’t say why the heck did you ever buy that? She said that top did its job, it’s ok to let it go. It used to fit, it used to be in style, and that was great, but I give you permission to find something new. When I did have a shirt that I was in love with, she asked me why. I got to share my emotional connection to that shirt, how it hid my problem areas, showed off what I liked, the color was perfect, whatever. She listened, absorbed it, and took the responsibility for finding me a new shirt that would do those things for me. Because I didn’t try on clothes, or look at myself in the mirror, I didn’t know what I looked like in my clothes. I also didn’t see how those clothes fit differently over time, either because my body changed, or because they were getting stretched out or shrinking. All I knew is when I bought this shirt 2, 5, 7 years ago, I liked it. So I thought I had to keep it until it ripped or didn’t fit. If it fit, it stayed in the closet.

Dacy asked me if I bought clothes that were too small for me. I thought she meant, do I buy clothes thinking I will lose 10 pounds. I said no, I have accepted my body. But what I realized after that day, as I thought about so many things she said to me, was that yes, I do buy clothes that are too small. I got to a point where I thought pants were supposed to feel that way. It wasn’t the pants fault they were rolling at my waist, it was my body’s fault. So I bought the size clothes I thought I wore, and if the clothes looked or felt bad, I blamed myself, not the clothes.

While Dacy and I were emptying my closet, she very gently called me an organized hoarder. I was a little caught off guard. I don’t have piles of stuff on the floor, and my countertops aren’t full of collections of random things. Everything in my house has a place, and is in its place, but her comment really got me thinking. I have so much in my house that I wouldn’t buy today, but because I already own it, I keep in case I might need it someday. Isn’t that the definition of a hoarder? So, I committed to throwing away one thing a day. Every day, forever. I committed to stop buying things because it would be cute if I ever get invited to a BBQ. Now I’ll wait until I get the invite, and know that that serving platter is at Target if I still want it. I am starting to purge the stuff I have accumulated, and make much better decisions about what I do actually buy. It’s very refreshing. One more way I feel like a better version of myself.

After Dacy cleaned out my closet it took some getting used to it being so sparse. However, I knew I could wear anything that was left because we’d only kept what worked.

Next was shopping. Because Dacy said there were better plus-size options online, she sent me a link to a digital lookbook of clothes to purchase.  A ton of clothes. I think it was good there were so many. I didn’t have time to really look at the clothes she chose, and pre-judge. I just had to get online and start buying. Lots of clothes I never would have picked, and there were several stores I hadn’t previously shopped at. She stayed in the price range I had been paying for clothes all along.

The sizes she told me to buy were all sizes I hadn’t worn before. That was something I had to mentally process and it took a while. I was initially a little depressed, oh my God am I really that size?! But I knew she had taken measurements, and bought clothes off the measurements, not off the sizes.  So, I trusted her and just went with it. Well, she was right.

The day we had our personal shopping try-on session, I was excited. I have never been excited about clothes before, ever. This time, she made me face a mirror, and I got nervous right away. But again Dacy talked about the clothes, not my body. Because the clothes were the right size and fit for my body, I didn’t mind looking at myself in the mirror. I was smiling, standing up straight. I wasn’t poking at my problem areas or looking through the clothes to the body underneath. I started to see outfits, not just a way to not be naked.  

For instance, I never knew that jackets could be part of the outfit. I always considered outer layers as a warmth layer, something you take off. But she was building really cute looks for me that involved wearing a jacket all day long! What?! We had discussed that I needed a nice dress and she found it! I tried it on, looked in the mirror and said, man, I look hot! I don’t think I have said that, or thought that, in over 20 years. I didn’t want to take the dress off. Now I can’t wait to have a reason to wear it, because I know I will look good.

plus size personal styling

(the dress Annie loved: here)

The clothes she chose for me were exactly what I wanted.  Still me, just better.  These clothes really can be mixed and matched. She kept the pants, shoes, and jewelry really simple, and the tops are the focal point of the look.

It did take a few days to get used to my new silhouette. I love the way I look, but it is very different from what I am used to seeing. Now, when I get dressed, I try on several outfits, not searching for one I can handle, but choosing between multiple great choices. I love every outfit I put on. I can’t wait to get dressed. I take no more time to get ready each day, but I feel so much better when I turn off the light and close the closet door. People in my life have noticed. I don’t think any of them even realize that it’s because of new clothes, they just know I look different. I think that it’s as much about the confidence I have as it is about the properly fitting clothes. I look at mirrors when I walk by now. I walk tall, and smile."

P.S. Check out St. Louis blogger Cassie on Eloquii (one of my go-to plus size resources)'s website!

closet case study: sara's fall capsule wardrobe

closet case study: sara's fall capsule wardrobe

Capsule wardrobes are all the rage right now. First there was Kendi's 30x30, then Project 333, and now the Unfancy blog has added a whole new level of coolness to the capsule. For a very thoughtful and methodical approach, I love the Into Mind website. For me, capsule wardrobes aren't necessarily about finding crazy ways to wear things ("I'm going to wear my shirt as a skirt!"), but about wearing only things that you love and that all work interchangeably with each other.

Last spring, I started working with Sara, a mostly-stay-at-home-mom. We first worked on a post-baby transitional wardrobe (she'd just had her second son). Recently, she was ready to solidify her fall wardrobe. She'd started out with some basics and bought some great pieces on her own, but then wanted my help finding the last few pieces to pull it all together and creating multiple outfits. Since we'd worked together before, she knew I wanted to see some styles that inspired her, so she started a Pinterest board for her fall wardrobe. Here are a few of the looks she loved:

(Images: Atlantic Pacific, Karla Reed, Celebrity Street Style)

After we added a few new items, here's what we had:

Six tops, one sweater, two jackets, four pairs of pants, three pairs of shoes, and a scarf (see sources for exact or similar items at end of post). Seventeen pieces.

Here's a little of what you can do with seventeen pieces
(click on any image to start a slideshow):

Granted, Sara's activities are mostly casual in nature. Attire for rare occasions like weddings isn't included here, but there are plenty of options for date nights and other social events. If you are someone who works in an office, you could easily add a pair of trousers, a skirt, and a dress or two into the mix to multiply your options.

Capsule collections are a trend, but in reality, it's how I believe all wardrobes should work. In Sara's words: "When I open my closet now, I only see pieces that fit, that I actually wear and that are in season."
How many pieces would you be left with if your closet fit those parameters?


P.S. A few more sweet comments from Sara about our work together:

"You've changed my perspective on how I view my wardrobe and how I approach shopping. You really showed me how simple it is to mix and match items to create multiple outfits. Now I see what I need to make my wardrobe more complete and functional. When I go shopping now, I know exactly what items to look for rather than buying random pieces that simply appeal to me. I really appreciated your objectivity. You never tried to change my personal style. Rather you helped me identify it and showed me what pieces I currently have that fit that style. It was also helpful that you took the time to make a board on Pinterest and Polyvore. I ended up buying some of the items you suggested because they were perfect! All in all you really helped to boost my self-confidence. So thank you!"

Want your own capsule wardrobe? Go here to sign up for my 5 day capsule creation challenge! You'll get my capsule planner and emails leading you through the process of setting up your capsule! 

on wearing clothes that fit

on wearing clothes that fit

A couple of weeks ago, I looked into my closet, flipped through the hangers, and had these thoughts: "no, I can't wear that...that doesn't fit..that one doesn't hang right...I though that would work but it doesn't..." It was the worst feeling. It was hard to get dressed. I whined to my husband that I had nothing to wear. I felt unattractive. It's something I hear often from clients. I've certainly experienced it before, just not in recent years, and had forgotten what it felt like.

When I moved to New York in my early 20's, I gained weight thanks to an office job, amazing restaurants on every corner, ordering in every lunch break, and cold weather that destroyed my will to work out. A move to Miami and the option to run on the beach took care of the issue at that time. Ten years later or so, by this time living in St. Louis, I changed size again, this time because my admittedly lucky metabolism slowed down in my 30's (oh, ok, fine, and another period of no desire to exercise). This time, there was no reverting back to smaller sizes.

mindful closet - on wearing clothes that fit

It's the worst feeling when your clothing is tight, rubs, doesn't button, or makes you feel self-conscious. You end up only wearing one or two things because they are more forgiving. There's a simple solution: buy new clothes. I remember how I felt when I gave in and did it both of the times I mention above. It's such a relief. You feel lighter. In my experience, you actually feel better about yourself, just because there's nothing cutting into your waist or bustline, accentuating what you don't need to be constantly thinking about. When you feel better about yourself, you're in a positive place and can more easily be motivated to make changes if necessary. However, I'd like to point out that women's bodies naturally change throughout life. Sometimes you just change sizes and nothing needs to be done except
accept it.

Why do we resist buying new things in a new size? We don't want to spend the money, we're sure we'll get back to the weight we were when we bought those clothes, we think we can make do, we haven't accepted we might permanently be a new size?

This time around, it took me a few days of not recognizing what was going on before I bit the bullet and bought things that made me feel comfortable and attractive. And it worked! I was so happy to look in my closet again and see options! I felt comfortable in my clothes, which made me feel comfortable in my skin. If you're really in a transitional phase, you don't need to buy all the clothes, but you need enough to get you to the next stage or season. You shouldn't have to suffer for a summer because that's how long you need to adjust.

mindful closet - bookhou at home bag

After bringing in the new stuff, I did a mini-purge of anything that was bought only for maternity and never worked. Then I moved any clothes that I was keeping but that didn't currently fit into the basement. I did this once at the mid-way point of my pregnancy, but it was time to do it again, since I was past being able to wear much of it. This is actually one of my biggest pieces of advice. I tell my clients all of the time, but am not sure I've mentioned it much here on the blog: get the stuff that doesn't fit out of your sight. Preferably in another closet or the basement. Every second you spend looking at an item and remembering why you can't wear it is wasted time and bad energy. It also forces you to use brainpower and decision making energy that could be saved for more important topics.

At different stages of life, we have different reasons for doing this. Most of us put away our winter and summer clothes in the off-season, using the same logic - why look at it if it won't be an option to wear that day? For some people, it's just moving the formal wear out of their closet since it clearly won't be worn most days. For others, like myself and the new and expecting moms I've worked with this year, it becomes an ongoing process. I currently have only maternity clothes and post-partum clothes in my closet. Many items fall into both categories, since I've been told I'll leave the hospital looking like I'm still 5 or 6 months pregnant. I'm also starting to rotate in items that I can't wear on this particular day, but will soon be good for breastfeeding (a whole other wardrobe conversation in itself). The clothes that I love, will still work for my current lifestyle, and will eventually wear again are in the basement.

mindful closet - transition dressing

Oh, and there's a place for those pieces that you know, deep down, you won't wear again, but have special meaning. I call it a nostalgia box and lots of clients choose to use it. The shirt you wore on your first date with your husband, your high school letterman's jacket, the top you bought in Paris slightly tipsy from wine, the dress that was your mother's or grandmother's - you don't have to get rid of them, but they shouldn't live in your closet. Put them (within reason, no need to keep every t-shirt from every music festival - that's for the musicians out there) in a nice storage bin in the basement, just like you would family photos.

By following through on a few of these steps, you'll end up with a closet full of real options and less frustration when getting dressed. Any thoughts? How have you gotten through transitional phases?

(In the photos, taken on Cherokee Street, I'm wearing one of my new dresses that actually fits, old Dr. Scholl's sandals, old Need Supply necklace, and bookhou at home bag.)

five steps to a mindful wardrobe

five steps to a mindful wardrobe

So, what exactly is a mindful wardrobe? What does it look like? It's when you open your closet in the morning and you love every piece in it and every piece loves you back. It’s when getting dressed is easy and fun, not frustrating and stress-inducing. It’s when there are no longer sleepless nights worrying about whether you have the appropriate clothing for a given situation. It’s when you shop knowing exactly what you’re looking for and you make good choices. 

Believe it or not, it is possible. Here are my steps to get you on the path to enlightenment:

Step 1: Define your personal style. Before you ever get into your closet, you should know what you want to look like. This might seem unnecessary when all you’re itching to do is get in and start clearing, but it’s wasted time if you don’t do this first. For instance, if your style is boho-chic, pencil skirts are not going to get a whole lot of action and it’s better to know this going in. (Not sure what your personal style is? Check out my post on defining your style here.)

Step 2: Get rid of everything. Just kidding. Get rid of most of it though. Remember, having too many choices is draining. I like to break this down since it can be an overwhelming process, so this is the first round, the easy stuff. Here are things you should get rid of immediately:

  • Clothes from high school or college or ten years ago. If it has sentimental meaning, put it in a box. Get it out of your closet.
  • Clothes that were a gift. I know, I know, you feel like you need to wear it in the presence of the gifter. You know what? They’re big kids, they’ll have to get over it. Ask people to give you gift cards instead.
  • Hand-me-downs. Hand-me-downs are for five-year-olds (anyone else get mistaken for a boy as a kid because you were wearing your cousin’s clothes?), not for grown adults. If you didn’t choose something because you loved it, it has no place in your closet.
  • Stuff that doesn’t fit. Please please please stop hanging on to those clothes that you’ll wear when you finally get rid of that extra five pounds. Let’s face it, that might not happen for a while and when it does, these clothes will probably be outdated. Anyway, you should reward yourself with new stuff at that point!

Step 3: Going through the “maybe” pile. This is where the real willpower comes in. These are pieces that you feel like you should wear and yet you don’t. Things you’re saving for the one occasion they might be appropriate for but never happens. Things that you spent money on but never wore. Things that only go with one other piece in your wardrobe or that require purchasing something new before you can wear it. Things that make no sense for your lifestyle. Like the clothes that don’t fit, these things are not just cluttering up your closet, they’re cluttering your mind. They’re like toxic friends, spewing negative messages and inducing guilt every time you open your closet. Let them go. Tell them you are no longer going to let them intrude on your newly found zen-like state. Tell them that you can’t control their actions, but you can remove yourself from being around them.  Wait..sorry, what were we talking about? Oh right, clothes. Got side tracked into a therapy session there. Back to the point. If something’s going to get a coveted place in your closet, the answer to these three questions should be yes:

  • Do you love it? As in, so much that you want to marry it?
  • Do you feel good in it? When you look good and are comfortable in what you’re wearing, you will have a better day. You just will.
  • Is it “you”? See Step 1: define your personal style

Step 4: Make a list. After all this purging, you may realize that you have 20 tops you love and only 1 pair of pants, or vice versa. Maybe you have a closet full of cocktail dresses, but nothing to wear for real life. Make a list of what you really need and stick to it when you go shopping.

Step 5: Stop buying stuff! Seriously, if you’re buying clothes while you’re grocery shopping, it’s probably not a good idea. If it’s not on your list, you better think twice. If someone tries to give you stuff, politely decline. This is where the “mindful” part comes in, because it’s really hard to be so picky. Save your money for one beautiful blouse, rather than four impulse buys you’ll never wear. Don’t settle. You deserve better.

Too much for you to take on? Take the Making Space course and get led through the process with videos, worksheet, and a supportive Facebook group. Sign up here!

closet case study: colleen

closet case study: colleen

It's been a while since we had a case study, and Colleen was the perfect candidate for one. She contacted me because she was getting frustrated getting dressed every morning. Before we met for a consultation, I sent Colleen a questionnaire I send to all my clients (you can see it here). During our meeting, we discussed her answers on the questionnaire and clarified her needs. We diagnosed her style by looking at images from the Lucky Guide - definitely American Classic. Then we moved on to her closet. Colleen's wardrobe issues did not result from too many clothes, in fact, she's a great purger and her closet was very small and tidy.

colleen closet.jpg

Isn't it awesome?! We started to go through piece by piece to figure out why she was having so much trouble getting dressed. A lot of her shirts were boxy and ill-fitting and many of them looked well-worn. Both of these problems stemmed from the fact that they were not great quality in addition to overzealous washing, resulting in pieces that were only a few months old but were already faded and pilling. Feel free to disagree, but I believe that unless you've worked out in it or exerted yourself, most things don't need to be washed after one wear. It varies for each person and each type of garment.

Even with those problem children, Colleen still had plenty of great basics and cute pieces, but she felt like she didn't have any options because she was very unsure of how to put them together. Her workplace is pretty casual and she didn't want to appear too dressed up. She also had a fear of wearing the same thing too often. Of course, I quickly reminded her that's not usually a real issue (outside of your own thoughts) since most people are too self-absorbed to pay much attention to anyone else.

Because Colleen's wardrobe was so small, I was able to photograph the majority of it. To help her see the options she actually already had, I made a series of photo collages showing outfits she could make from her closet. I added in a few things that we already knew she was going to add to her wardrobe - a white tee, brown boots and the two necklaces.  This gave us a total of 12 tops, 8 bottoms, 1 dress, 2 necklaces, 1 scarf, and 4 pairs of shoes. She had a bit more than that, but that's what I ended up using in these images. I very quickly came up with more than 30 outfits (a month's worth!) and could have kept going indefinitely had I had more time. Here are 27 looks (27 only because it make 3 neat squares of 9 looks each!) Again, keep in mind this is only with what she already owned.

If some outfits look similar, it's because they are. Sometimes all you need to do is change the accessories from brown to black, or change a necklace for a scarf for a whole new look. If some of the outfits look simple, it's because they are. You don't always need a million complicated pieces.

After we went through everything in Colleen's closet, I came up with a list of pieces she could add to maximize her options and refresh her wardrobe. We decided her neutral would be brown to make sure that everything went together and so that she didn't need different accessories or shoes for each outfit. Here's her shopping list by priority:

First priority:
-lightweight jacket for layering in a neutral color
-white boatneck or long sleeve tee for layering
-dressier, classic brown knee high boots

Second priority:
-one more pair of work pants, in camel/tan
-1-2 fun printed blouse, other than button down, in a silkier fabric, flowier shape
-1-2 fun statement necklaces
-1-2 accent scarves
-long cardigan in a neutral

Third priority:
-(replace) brown flats
-bright or leopard flats
-(replace) dark skinny jeans

At this point, some clients like to just take the list and run with it, sometimes checking in to ask my opinion on various options. Others prefer to have me do the shopping for them. Colleen had always been overwhelmed by shopping and wanted to get a little better at it, so we planned an afternoon of shopping together.

We started at Nordstrom Rack, which can definitely be overwhelming with its racks of seemingly unorganized clothing. I asked Colleen to focus on finding one thing at a time. For instance, instead of attempting to find all the items on her list at once, we started by just searching out lightweight jackets. Next, we focused on printed blouses - easy to pick out of the crowded racks. I encouraged her to grab anything that remotely looked like a possibility.

When shopping, it was easy to show Colleen the difference between the quality of a few different pieces in the same store. She was drawn to a Vince henley style silk top, but it was about $120. For a more affordable option, we pulled a similar style from a cheaper brand, about $30. When Colleen tried it on, she could tell that the cheaper top was made of polyester and had a bulky fit. When she put on the Vince top, she sighed audibly. It was soft and draped in all the right places. We didn't end up getting that piece (or the cheaper version), but it was a great experience to have. Colleen did choose to spend a little more on a different quality silk top, from the brand Joie. Of course, being at Nordstrom Rack, it was still a great deal. She absolutely loved it and will wear it for a long time.

We moved on to the Galleria and quickly picked up a few additional items at H&M and the Limited. Colleen also picked up a few pieces on her own. Between her work and our shopping trip, she ended up with almost everything else on her list (all the pieces in italics above were purchased).

With the new pieces and the basics she already had, she'll be able to make dozens of new combinations. 

Here's a little of what Colleen had to say:

"I really appreciated your calm, cool demeanor and kind way of handling the clothes I had and the issues I had with them. I never once felt embarrassed or uncomfortable. You are great at putting someone at ease in what is obviously a really personal situation. I also liked how customized your service really is - you seem to value the fact that everyone is going to have unique issues and so there's not a perfect formula for how you interact, you can just go with the flow and tailor it to what they need most.

I learned how to tackle the Nordstrom Rack craziness and how to speed through the mall staples. I also learned you should take half days off work to go shopping so you don't have to torture yourself on the weekend!

I seriously feel so much better. I wore the jacket yesterday and just smiled whenever I caught my reflection - I felt pulled together, just like I wanted! Thank you so much. I feel a million times more confident."

the mindful closet experience

Happy New Year!

I've written often on this blog about cleaning out and streamlining your wardrobe, but that's only one side of the work that I do. The other side is making sure that you actually have clothes you love and that fit your life. Last summer, I worked with a lovely writer and editor who was in real need of someone to help her with this task. She wrote this beautiful piece for Encore Magazine about her experience, and it illustrates more than I ever could the positivity that new clothes can bring to your outlook. It seemed like a fitting way to start 2014 on the mindful closet blog!

Click here and here for page two to see the article in PDF form (credit: Encore Magazine), or read on for the text (any typos are mine)

dacy gillespie st louis personal shopper wardrobe consultant.jpg

by Catherine Rankovic

Looking through my closet was like looking through a scrapbook, a history in black and navy blue and sludgy brown. My main requirement for clothing was that it could survive a lengthy commute and the chance that I might have to change a tire. I thought black always matched black and was always appropriate. My funereal wardrobe reflected exactly how I'd felt about my day job. 

During my husband's long illness, clothes were not important, and I got out of the habit of caring. I relied on a pair of black wool trousers with pockets deep enough to carry the cellphone and pleats enough to hide it. These got dry-cleaned and pressed to a rat-like luster. 

My late husband left me some money. I quit my day job, toured Europe in a black jacket, skirt, hose, and flats, and then came home and set up my own business. Not once did I think to enhance my new life with new clothes. 

After two years, the clothes in my closet off-gassed the smells of the old office and dry-cleaning solvent. Some pieces were 12 years old. I'd inked their fraying edges and stains with Magic Marker. Their polyesters and tropical wools were severly tailored and fully lined. 

For reasons of economy and habit, I might have continued to wear them except that I had changed. I wanted color and flow and femininity.

But I still wore tag ends of the old wardrobe, held closed at the waistline with safety pins I deemed invisible. I interpreted the itch for change as a desire to go to a spa. I was about to book the most radical makeover package, when at a meeting of entrepreneurs I took the card of a young woman calling her business mindful closet. 

I liked that name. Her hair was not bleached and I liked her simple taupe shift in a textured fabric, and her belt, bag and shoes. I'd never dreamed of hiring a wardrobe consultant, but at that moment I was pierced with the perfect rightness of it.

Before the free consultation, I answered her one-page questionnaire. 

"What are your favorite colors?"

I wrote, "White and red."

"Who are your style icons?"

"Coco Chanel."

"How do you feel wearing your current wardrobe?"

"Mousy. Owlish."

People do change; I explained that I actually enjoyed myself and my life now. I confessed to not knowing where to shop, that price tags scared me, that separates confused me, and I wished to downplay a figure flaw (I have only one).

She was the only person in the world able to use such information.

"Tell me about yourself," she said when we sat down at my place. That's everyone's favorite invitation. I shared historic photos of myself and explained that I did not follow fashion. I said, "I always thought fashion was for people without brains or talent."

She said, "It's not about fashion. It's about style."

She had brought stylebooks. "Page through," she said, "and show me any style or color you like, whether you think you can wear it or not." So I did.

Then she said, "Do you mind if I look in your closet?"

I'd edited and aired the closet, throwing the dingy low-heeled pumps and orthotic oxfords into another room, and said, "Be my guest." She merely looked, saying nothing; incredibly smart of her.

"This I can still wear," I said, showing a long-sleeved black number. "And this. And this." A total of three pieces.

Even so, I wasn't ready to chuck my old clothes. They held memories. She said, "Think instead about the future, about having clothes that fit and that you will feel awesome in."

Then she measured me and said we could shop together, or she could shop on her own and in about five days return to my house with her purchases. I could try on and buy any I liked, or none; she'd do the returns.

Ecstatic, I appointed her my personal shopper. In two days, she emailed a photographic sneak preview of some selected items. I saw yellow, I saw aqua. Excitement was building.

At my house she set up in the living room her own rolling clothes rack and carried in from her hatchback big bags from department stores.

"You were so easy to buy for," she said.

Instantly I fell in love my myself in a clingy, nicely-draped magenta dress. I looked so sultry that I bought two, the second one in navy blue. She'd brought a white Calvin Klein suit in two sizes. One was too small but the other just right. I almost wept.

I'd asked her to bring a red sheath. Of the three she'd brought, one very pretty one wouldn't do because raising my arms hauled the hemline up to the oh-no zone. The next had funny shoulders. The third was a gorgeous, form-fitting eye-popper. 

I selected the white suit and a navy one; a fun textured jacket in navy and white; and five dresses, loving a floral print with a narrow patent leather belt she showed me how to wear.  "This is your real waistline," she said, fitting it an inch higher. Who knew?

And she'd brought a load of handbags. I'd complained to her about bags, showing her the only ideal bag I'd ever owned, a Hello Kitty tote, more subdued and sophisticated than you'd think. In Europe, cries of "Hello Kitty!" greeted me everywhere it went. But I understood how Hello Kitty might be a minus in the business world. 

Now for the bill. This was the kind of event one saves for, and I'd expected to take a major hit. She checked the price tags against the receipts and tallied. The total for the clothing and two great bags plus tax was $676. She emailed me the invoice that included her shopping hours.

After she'd gone off with the leftovers, I sat among my colorful clothes, marveling and wondering. It had been like a visit by a fairy godmother. The tags showed where she'd worked her magic: Marshall's. Macy's. Stein's. The future held bold business meetings and knockout dinner dates. 


boho girl

boho girl

The other day I met my friend Dana for lunch. As I was waiting, I saw this cool boho girl walking down the street. Then I realized the cool boho girl was  Dana!


I'd say we did a pretty good job defining her style! I'll take credit for half of this outfit (I thrifted the top and skirt for her) and Dana gets the credit for the other half (Target hat and Born sandals via Nordstrom Rack).

Doesn't she look great?