Just for fun, a summer lookbook I put together for a client recently:
As always, there are many more combinations to be made, but only so much time...
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Feeling like you're wearing the appropriate thing is a huge part of feeling confident in your clothing. As a former classical musician and orchestra staff member, and current "Symphony wife", and personal stylist, one of the questions I get asked most often is, "What do I wear to the Symphony?"
The great thing about the concert hall is that, while people may have felt intimidated in the past, there's no longer a dress code. (There is one for the musicians on stage but that's a whole other blog post.) The general idea is to look "nice", and there are levels from business casual to dressy that are all appropriate. There are also different kinds of concerts. While a cocktail dress would be appropriate for an evening "orchestral" concert, it would probably look out of place in the sea of toddlers and parents that attend a Sunday afternoon Family Concert.
I don’t think it’s ever appropriate to wear sloppy sweats or pajamas in public, so I’m certainly not going to say they’re ok to wear to a concert. However, I'm here to tell you that you can wear jeans to Powell Hall. You'll want to leave your sweatshirt at home, but with a jacket or nice sweater, jeans fit right in.
If I were forced to categorize the dress code, I’d probably say business casual. Since the phrase business casual is something that people struggle with as well, here’s what it means for the Symphony: for men, slacks and a more casual top (knit top or sweater). Or it can mean jeans, but with a dressier top (jacket or dress shirt). For the women, it can mean a dress, pants, or jeans (with the aforementioned dressier top half).
Need a visual? Here are a few examples:
So now that we’ve established that it doesn’t have to be a “fancy” occasion, one of the great things about going to Powell Hall is that it can be a rare chance to dress up, should you choose to do so. If you're a clotheshorse, a concert is a great chance to pull out a suit, or to wear one straight from the office if it's your daily uniform. (Suit, shoes, tie)
Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, there are many different types of concerts at Powell Hall. For the most part, I’ve been speaking of attending what are called “Subscription” concerts. These are the regular, weekly, straight-ahead classical concerts (like this weekend's Vivaldi Four Seasons). The Symphony also plays live music for movies (The Godfather in March), concerts with video game music (Final Fantasy in May), tributes to rock bands like Journey, and concerts for kids and families. For all of these, the attire is a bit more casual. On the other hand, for the yearly Gala and New Year’s Eve concerts, black tie is totally acceptable.
Bottom line is, it’s hard to mess up. You’re welcome at a concert even if you do show up in your pj’s, I just wouldn’t recommend it. For your own confidence, you know.
What do you wear to Powell Hall?
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This is a guest post I wrote last year for pinknoted.com with some helpful tips, and I thought I'd repost it here. Enjoy.
Ok, quick survey. Do you have any items in your closet with tags still on? Any items you've only worn once? If so, I'm going to bet that those items are cheapy things you picked up while grocery shopping at Target or at a fast fashion store like H&M or Forever21. When I was asked to write a post about how to avoid impulse buys and fast fashion, I knew I had one surefire tip for doing so. The best way to avoid impulse buys is to buy quality.
Why? Think about it. Would you ever spend $200 or $300 on something that wasn't absolutely perfect? Something that you knew you'd never have an occasion to wear? Something that didn't make you feel amazing? Of course not. Yet when that item is $20, it feels like no big deal. If it's taking up precious real estate in your closet, it is a big deal.
When you buy the cheaper piece, you're going to have to replace it sooner, adding to the (literally) tons of discarded clothing on the planet. Many people talk about cost per wear and it certainly applies here. If you buy a $20 dress and wear it four times before it starts to pill or lose its shape, you've spent $5 per wear, and it essentially becomes landfill fodder immediately. If you find a designer dress on sale for $200 and wear it twice a month for 2 years (because you love it so much), you've spent just over $4 per wear and you still have years of wear left in the dress.
(outfits I styled at Byrd Designer Consignment Boutique, one of my favorite places to find quality clothes at a discount.)
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, well that's great if you have the money to buy quality clothing, but I don't. I get it. I'm on a tight budget too. Have you ever added up over the course of a year what you spend on clothes? You might want to track it for a few months, because it can be pretty shocking. Do you have 5 or 6 pieces from fast fashion stores that you don't really wear, but bought because they were "affordable"? That's essentially wasted money that could have been spent on one quality piece you'll wear over and over.
There are also ways to get designer clothes for much less than retail:
When you're shopping at secondhand, vintage, or thrift stores, here are a few things to look for in a quality garment.
My philosophy is always less is more. If you're going to have less, it better be good quality. It takes some dedication and a lot of patience, but you'll end up with a wardrobe full of beautiful pieces.
...I'm getting to the point where none of my clothes fit anymore. It usually takes me a week or so to get around to posting my outfits, and something crazy has happened since I took these photos. Or maybe it's just the black dress.
These photos were taken when I was about 34 and a half weeks pregnant. I don't feel much different, but when I look at photos taken in the week since, I look so much bigger. It actually surprised me to see it. On top of that, overnight I've become extremely uncomfortable in clothes. Basically, I don't want anything touching my skin. My maternity jeans don't fit anymore, ditto for pants, and I'm down to 2 or 3 dresses that fit and I don't feel horrible in. It's funny, I was sailing right along, thinking, "oh, this whole pregnancy thing is easy!" and then this hit. Isn't that what always happens when you think you've got everything figured out? I have a feeling I'll be putting my minimalist wardrobe philosophy to the test in these next 4-6 weeks, trying to work with the same few articles of clothing that still fit.
Back to the outfit - I wore this to speak to a Moms of Toddlers group about easy ways to be stylish while chasing after little ones. It was a fun group to work with, and I'll turn my presentation into a blog post at some point. The dress is from Old Navy (also worn here and various other times), the cropped trench is from H&M several years ago, the scarf is from Target, and the boots are old Nine West.
You'll have to stay tuned for the extra large belly photos. In the meantime, any advice for me?
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!
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?"
"How do you feel wearing your current wardrobe?"
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.
My obsession with snakeskin is not going away. I love how the pattern and texture can act as a neutral, but also add interest to an outfit. It will also never go out of style. Here are some of my current favorite iterations:
Although snakeskin has traditionally been reserved for accessories, I love that it's showing up now as a pattern on clothing as well. 1) Chaus Snakeskin Print dress at Nordstrom, $129; 2) Joie Drew C Snakeskin Tank at Shopbop, $83; 3) Equipment Liam Silk Python Print Sleeve Blouse at Intermix, $198; 4) Trove Contrast Yoke Tank at Nordstrom, $35; 5) Rhyme Snakeskin Woven Tee at Piperlime, $59
I especially love the Rachel Roy shoes above, they might be added to the wishlist. What about you - do you love snakeskin too?