Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Kick-Off

Hello everyone! I hope you've been enjoying a wonderful holiday weekend. I've been out-of-town visiting family this past week, so please excuse any delay in responding to comments and questions. Once I'm home again, I'll be back replying as usual.

Yesterday was the official kick-off of the holiday shopping season. I'm not a big fan of the Black Friday mobs, but I do keep an eye on the sales from afar. Because retailers are unusually concerned about the economy this year, it looks like the sales will continue to be good throughout this season. That means it will be a good opportunity to grab up any essentials that you might need at really good discounts. I know I'll be on the lookout for a new sweater to replace one that just had an unfortunate encounter with a bleaching agent.

Have a nice finish to your weekend!

See you next time...same blog time...same blog channel....

(For more information on wardrobe planning or to sign up for my free e-zine, please visit my wardrobe planning website.)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Less You. More Them.

Today I was reading the book What Got You Here Won't Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith. In this book, the author lists 20 bad habits (plus one bonus) that prevent successful people from becoming more successful. Most of the habits were pretty obviously going to be detrimental to one's continuing success, although a few were rather surprising.

However, it was the 20th habit that caught my eye, because it relates to some of the advice I give pertaining to wardrobe planning. I'll introduce the habit first, then draw the connection.

The 20th habit that Goldsmith tells us we need to eliminate is the "Excessive Need to Be Me". He writes: "Each of us has a pile of behavior which we define as "me". It's the chronic behavior, both positive and negative, that we think of as our inalterable essence."

He goes on to share a frank discussion he had with a successful businessman who was finding it hard to praise his staff because he thought it made him "phony". After working through the issue with Goldsmith, the man "realized that this stern allegience to his definition of himself was pointless vanity. If he could shed his 'excessive need to be me' he wouldn't see himself as a phony. He could...start behaving in a way that benefitted others."

The take-away point that Goldsmith makes is this: "It's not about you. It's about what other people think of you."

The gentleman in the story above behaved a certain way because he thought it would be inauthentic of him to behave otherwise. But the message he was sending by being "authentic" was NOT the message he was intending others to receive. So he had to change his behavior -- move beyond what made him comfortable -- to actually get the result he desired.

I've written a number of articles about the mis-guided attempts we make to dress to express our authentic selves. The problem with this method of lighting on a style persona is that while WE may be perfectly happy with how we are dressing, the message others are receiving is likely going to be mis-interpreted. This is why it is so important to first dress the way you want others to perceive you. This doesn't leave out the element of personal expression, it only places it in perspective.

"Less me. More them. Equals success," says Goldsmith.
Sound advice.

See you next time...same blog time...same blog channel....

(For more information on wardrobe planning, or to sign up for my free e-zine, please visit my wardrobe planning website.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! And to all my friends outside of the states, I still wish for you all the blessings the spirit of gratitude can bestow.

Here is a Thanksgiving funny for you to enjoy:

A young man named John received a parrot as a gift. The parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird's mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity. John tried and tried to change the bird's attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music and anything else he could think of to "clean up" the bird's vocabulary.

Finally, John was fed up and he yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back. John shook the parrot and the parrot got angrier and even ruder. John, in desperation, threw up his hand, grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed. Then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute.

Fearing that he'd hurt the parrot, John quickly opened the door to the freezer. The parrot calmly stepped out onto John's outstretched arms and said "I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I'm sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behavior." John was stunned at the change in the bird's attitude. As he was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behavior, the bird continued, "May I ask what the turkey did?"

Wherever you are, whaever your plans, have a wonderful day!

Jennifer Skinner

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

An Eye for Color

In the classic book New Women's Dress for Success by John T. Molloy, there is a wonderful story that illustrates the importance of fabric choice and color in dressing well.

Molloy tells of an experiment where two women are given red jackets to wear that are seemingly identical in every way except that one is from a discount house, and the other from an upscale store. The difference seems so minimal that the participants believe the experiment will be a waste of time. The ladies are then sent around with their resumes to meet with twenty-five recruiters. The result: the lady with the expensive jacket received strikingly more call-backs and job offers that the lady with the inexpensive jacket.

Molloy goes on to explain that there is actually a discernable difference in color between cheap fabrics and expensive fabrics, but you have to train your eye to see it. He calls these colors "stylish upper middle-class" and "lower middle-class" or "blue-collar." Those who are not very familiar with expensive fabrics tend not to see any difference at all, but those with plentiful exposure have no problem at all seeing a difference.

Molloy offers a tip which he calls "cross-shopping" to remedy this situation. He suggests:
Work on one color per day. First, visit the best store in town and look at their medium blue coats, suits, blouses, scarves, and so on. Then visit an inexpensive store and look at the same garments. The differences in the shades of color should be obvious. Next time, repeat the exercise with another color. After about thirty visits, most of the women who have tried this method had no problems picking colors.

Although time intensive, this is a really good way to improve your ability to recognize a quality garment when you see one.

See you next time...same blog time...same blog channel....

(For more information on wardrobe planning, or to sign up for my free e-zine, please visit my wardrobe planning website.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Meaning of Semi-Formal

This evening I attended a party celebrating a very good friend's 50th birthday. I had been excited to go, not only because I love my friend dearly, but the invitation stated that dress was to be semi-formal. A chance to get dressed up! Yay!

Knowing this, I wore my LBD and dressy heels. The birthday girl wore a beautiful full length black dress. There were several other full-length dresses, a pretty velvet knee-length worn with dressy boots, and a smart black pantsuit with heels. A few of the men wore suits. The rest of the attendees...well...were not so dressed up.

It was interesting to see the wide variety in the interpretation of "semi-formal". Sneakers, turtlenecks and winter sweaters, cords, khakis, and even flip-flops made an appearance. The party ended up being a really good time, and my friend was the true Queen of the evening...but I could tell she was somewhat disappointed that not everyone chose to dress for the occasion. Her vision had been for a much fancier affair than actually manifested. However, classy lady that she is, she said not a word about it.

I was slightly puzzled that not everyone had chosen to heed the request for semi-formal dress. If you are invited to an occasion, it seems only right and proper to dress in the manner requested. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned that way.

And then I began to people even know what semi-formal attire is? Or perhaps maybe I was wrong in my understanding of the term.

So I did a little research online, and here is what I discovered:

According to WikiAnswers, women should wear a dress, pant suit or dress suit in silk, velvet, rayon, cashmere, high quality polyester brocades, or velour. Dress heels, dress flats, or strappy sandals are the appropriate footwear. For men, a full suit and a tie is expected. Not wanting to rely on just one source, I checked out a few more. Except for a few small changes in wording, the definitions I found were nearly identical to the one at WikiAnswers.

So how can this help you? When putting together your dressy capsule, think about finding something that will be suitable for a semi-formal event. Opt for the dressier fabrics, but choose an outfit that can also be dressed down some for a less formal affair. That way you will have something appropriate to wear no matter what the occasion calls for.

See you next time...same blog time...same blog channel....

(For more information on wardrobe planning, or to sign up for my free e-zine, please visit my wardrobe planning website.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Observation as a Wardrobe Planning Tool

When you are first sussing out your own sense of style, it is really important to develop a discerning eye when it comes to the fashions of others. It is from observing others that you will learn the most about what you like and don't like.

-You'll notice how certain types of clothing flatter certain body types more than others.
-You'll see how some color combinations just "work" and others don't.
-You'll see many creative uses of accessories, some which you'll want to emulate and some you...won't.
-And you can watch the slow evolution of silhouette changes in fashion and modify your own wardrobe accordingly.

Even long after you've figured out your style persona and have built your corresponding wardrobe, observing others can give you fresh ideas.

Here's a great tip for observation: go to the clothing stores that sell the type of clothing that fits your style persona. And watch what the shoppers are wearing. This tactic works best in the higher-end clothing stores and boutiques, since the shoppers there are probably not going to be out and about in their ultra-casual grungies. (Although they might -- quelle horreur!) These shoppers are going to be wearing the types of clothes that you yourself would wear. Observe how they've put outfits together, what type of shoes they have on, the accessories they are wearing. It's great fun, and it's really informative.

See you next time...same blog time...same blog channel....

(For more wardrobe planning goodies, you can visit my wardrobe planning website.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Agony and the Ecstasy of eBay

eBay can be one of the best places to go looking for good quality, designer labels at an affordable price. And it can also be one of the most frustrating. Here are some things to keep in mind:

* You have to know what you are looking for. Are you looking for a certain designer? A certain color? A certain size? A certain fabrication? A certain cut? Never been worn or slightly used? The eBay experience is different than a physical can't just walk in and browse. You need to either search for specific items, or browse narrow categories.

* You have to be patient. You may have to wait several months before a garment by the designer you like and in the size and color you are desiring makes its way to the auction. And if there is no "Buy it Now" option you may have to go head-to-head with other bidders, which means you'll need to be vigilant.

* Unless you are 100% certain you are buying something you know will fit, make sure the seller accepts returns. Fit is everything. Because you can't try something on before buying, you won't know how it fits, how it drapes, how it looks on you, nor can you test the hand of the fabric. But if the seller accepts returns, then you actually *can* try on the garment before making a final decision.

And here's some BONUS advice from a real eBay expert:
Craig Ernst is a friend of mine who also happens to be a retired Gold Powerseller who made over $1M selling on eBay. I asked him if he would please give my readers what he considers to be the top three most important things to know when choosing to shop eBay, and he kindly agreed. So here is Craig's "inside scoop" on buying off eBay:

Always remember that eBay is nothing but an enormous conglomeration of big businesses, small businesses, and individuals selling their wares. In some ways this is fantastic, because the variety of merchandise available is virtually unparalleled. In other ways, it's less than fantastic, because you have to be much more careful than you would just buying a sale item on Macy's website. Caveat Emptor.

I guess the three major bits of advice are:

1.) Be sure you're buying what you think you're buying,
2.) Do a little comparison shopping so that you don't pay too much.
3.) Be sure you're buying from a reputable seller.

1 - Never assume anything about the item that's not explicitly mentioned in the description. Better yet, if applicable, make sure you can verify any important features by sight in the product photos. I would think hard before buying an item with poor or no photos. If you're not certain about any feature of the product, ask the seller *before* you bid on or purchase the item. Also, be aware that eBay's had problems in the past (and probably continues to) with a small minority sellers selling name brand knock-offs and passing them off as the originals. Be especially suspicious of this if the seller if offering brand-new designer merchandise at too-good-to-be-true prices, and they are located in either Eastern Europe or (more commonly) in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, or other East Asian countries.

2 - It is true that there are great and even better than great deals to be had on eBay. In fact, sometimes you'll see something that's a steal and decide you'd better buy it this very second before anyone else gets it. But, hold on. First of all, see #1 above.
Second, take a minute to see if any other sellers are offering the same item at an even lower price or perhaps, with cheaper shipping. In the case of surplus merchandise, where many of your best deals will be found, several sellers may have bought "lots" of the same merchandise. Natural competition will force some sellers to lower their price. I can't tell you how may times early on that I quickly bought something without checking the the competition and wound up buying a $25 item that had originally been $50 (a good deal), but missed out on another auction that was offering the same merchandise
at $15 (a great deal, if I would have gotten it). Again, always check the total prices, including shipping, when checking competing offers.

3 - There was a time very recently when anyone who had done any significant amount of purchasing on eBay had at least one story about how they'd been ripped off by some seller in one way or another. The good news is that eBay has taken great pains in the past couple of years to crack down on unscrupulous sellers, and buying on eBay is honestly, safer than it ever has been. However, you still need to be mindful of exactly who you're purchasing from. If you're new to buying on eBay, I'd strongly suggest
buying only from Power Sellers (they have a logo next to their user name) who
have 98+% positive feedback, and preferably a total feedback score of at least
500. This shows that they've been at things for a while and have maintained a good reputation. Does that mean that you shouldn't buy from a newer, less established seller? Not all. You may find some of your best deals there, but be more cautious when doing so. One last thing... be sure to always read the seller's terms of sale or policies. Each seller will be somehat different, as far as returns, etc.

Bonus Recommendation - eBay has buyer protection guarantees, as does PayPal (their in-house and preferred payment processor). However, as with any form of "insurance," there are always loopholes and exceptions. The most bulletproof payment method you can use to pay for merchandise on ebay is to pay via PayPal, using your *credit card* as the funding method (as opposed to your bank account). This gives you a double layer of protection. IF you have a bad experience with a merchant, and IF you can't get satisfaction from them, AND you can't get complete satisfaction from PayPal, you can then go directly to your credit card company, who will almost certainly see that things are resolved in your favor. This may sound overly cautious (even paranoid), but when you eventually have a poor experience after buying an expensive item, you'll thank me. :-)

Thank you, Craig!!

See you next time...same blog time...same blog channel....

(For more information on wardrobe planning, or to sign up for my free e-zine, please visit my wardrobe planning website.)

"Partial" Response to the Challenge

In order to come up with a suitable response to the recent challenge, I went to visit the largest "consignment store" on the planet (otherwise known as Ebay) to do a little investigation.

Into the seach box I typed black wool pants. And 1457 search results appeared.

After just a short time, I had found a number of possible candidates:

J. Crew Ladies Black Dress Pants - Starting bid $4.99

$245 Anne Klein Black Wool Dress Pants - Starting bid $34.99/Buy it now price $49.99

PRADA Black Classic Wool Slacks - Starting bid $49.00

There were tons of options for Ralph Lauren, Talbots, Oscar de la Renta, Tahari and many, many more.

So why am I calling this a partial answer to the challenge? Because I am not endorsing any of these finds, only highlighting their availability. They *might* fit the bill - and they might not. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it can never take the place of actually handling a garment. And to truly assess quality, you have to FEEL the garment and examine the construction up close and personal.

Another reason why this is only a partial response is that everyone is at different stages of "upgrading" the contents of their wardrobes. If your wardrobe to date has been built on the offerings of Wal-Mart, buying an article from J.Crew is going to seem like an upgrade. If your wardrobe has come from Talbots and Brooks Brothers, then Anne Fontaine and Ralph Lauren are going to seem like a big step up. The idea is that every time you replace an item in your wardrobe you aim to "upgrade"...maybe just a little, maybe a lot. But according to your means.
The above selections may or may not be quality "upgrades" for you, depending on where you are personally in your wardrobe planning process.

In a future article I'll discuss the Q-P-A Matrix (Quality-Price-Art), which brings all of this into much clearer focus.

Tomorrow I'll talk about the pros and cons of using Ebay for building your wardrobe.

See you then...same blog time...same blog channel....

(For more information on wardrobe planning, or to sign up for my free e-zine, please visit my wardrobe planning website.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Exit the Bling

A few days ago, I mentioned the Wall Street Journal article that discussed how the very wealthy are turning away from conspicuous consumption. Now the New York Times joins in with an article by Alex Williams titled, In Hard Times, No More Fancy Pants. The theme is the same, the tone somewhat less sarcastic.

My favorite quote from the piece is this:

WHILE fashion is always headed in three directions, consumers are turning away from disposable style — the overdesigned “it” handbag, for example — toward high-quality pieces that will endure over multiple seasons, said David Wolfe, creative director of the Doneger Group, which forecasts fashion and retail trends.

And then there is this:

Julien Tornare, the United States president of the Swiss luxury watchmaker Vacheron Constantin, predicted that his industry would move toward a period of “subtle luxury.”
“I think people are going to go with more conservative, not ostentatious — something more discreet that only the connoisseur would know and appreciate, not the bling bling,” he said.

The really great news for everyone is that if "high-quality pieces that will endure over multiple seasons" and "conservative, not ostentatious" are fashion and retail trends at the luxury level, we can expect a trickle-down of this trend through all strata of the retail market. Or at least we can hope!

Having a Very Small Closet has always been the "secret" to having a chic and functional wardrobe. But in a society focused on consumerism and "more is better", the method seems quite counter-intuitive.

Now with renewed interest in downsizing and frugality, we of the small closets just may find ourselves going with the grain, rather than against. And we will be doing it oh-so-stylishly.

See you next time...same blog time...same blog channel....

(Please visit Jennifer's Website for more information on wardrobe planning, or to sign up for my free e-zine.)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cool News and a Challenge

Tim Blair of has featured me and The Very Small Closet at his blog. You can check out the blurb here.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Reader Mary posted a request (or is it a challenge?) on yesterday's post: "Okay Jennifer - it's time for you to SPILL! I want to see some posts where you find good quality, stylish clothing that's affordable. Give us an example of something - anything!! For me, extra points if it's a great wardrobe building basic like a great pair of pants."

I've been mulling over exactly how to address this one...give examples of the items I personally wear?...scour the internet for good deals?...take my camera and pounce on unsuspecting mall-goers? I've been avoiding this issue because I personally believe that one person's "affordable" is another person's "expensive". And depending where you shop, how you shop, and when you shop, prices can vary wildly. That's why I've been focusing on how to recognize quality when you see it...because you really can find quality at all price points.

Nevertheless, I will do my best and return to you all with "something - anything!" in the very near future. :-)

See you next time...same blog time...same blog channel....

(For more information on wardrobe planning, or to sign up for my free e-zine, please visit my wardrobe planning website.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Are You a Recessionista?

You know when Forbes publishes a list of The Thrifty Billionaires, the times they are a-changing. Robert Frank, writer for The Wall Street Journal Online examines this growing trend among the uber-wealthy to curtail conspicuous consumption in his article The Penny-Pinching Billionaires. He predicts that with the downturn in the economy, "Thrift will become the new bling; the absence of status symbols will become the best status symbol of all."

Enter the recessionista. According to Word Spy, a recessionista is "a person who dresses stylishly on a tight budget." The word entered the language around 1993, but has recently become a real buzzword. In the last month I've run into this term countless times....before that, merely a handful. It would seem that being thrifty is not only wise, but hip, as well. Everyone wants a seat on the recessionista train.

Which is a really wonderful thing!
If it's done well.
Because there's frugal...and then there's cheap.

I still maintain that 1) a woman should purchase the best quality clothing that fits in her budget and 2) we don't need nearly as many clothes in our closets as we've been led to believe. Buy fewer clothes, and you'll have more to spend on the clothes you do buy. This philosophy applies to all budget sizes, and works in all economic climates.

Another key idea is to divorce yourself from the status of the label. Become very familiar with what quality looks like and feels like, because you can find quality at every price point. Granted, the really good quality items are probably going to be a little more spendy, but not always.

I have a feeling that the word "recessionista" is only in the beginning stages of popularity. The word is cute, it's catchy, and it puts a positive spin on what could otherwise be a really touchy subject.

Are you a recessionista? How do you feel about the word?

See you next time...same blog time...same blog channel....

(For more information on wardrobe planning, or to sign up for my free e-zine, please visit my wardrobe planning website.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Happiness in Boots

It's getting cold here in New Hampshire. We've moved beyond the transitional fall weather, and are precarioulsy close to the snows of winter. Any day now, and the snow will arrive. Although I'm really not fond of cold weather, there is one thing about the cooler temperatures that makes me happy: I get to wear my boots.

In fact, boots are an integral part of my fall/winter wardrobe. I have three pair: a knee-high, low heeled boot to wear with my knee-length skirts; an ankle boot with a 2" heel to wear with my trousers; and a fancy tall pair with a 3" heel for dressy occasions. As far as my shoe wardrobe goes, these three pair will last me through the winter and into early spring.

Deciding on boots as a mainstay was an easy decision for me...I want to be able to wear socks when it's cold! And I have the most comfortable, warm, snuggly cashmere socks that are a dream with boots. Because the boots keep me warm, the tall boots, knee-length skirt and blazer combo is one of my signature looks this time of year.

Deciding on just three pair for the season was a carefully made decision. Just like my clothing wardrobe is pared down, so is my shoe wardrobe. Three pair seems to cover all the bases stylishly, while also allowing me to alternate shoes from day-to-day. (Doing this is important not only for your shoes, but for your feet, as well.)

The one boot style I've not embraced is the bootie worn with skirts. Even going monochrome, the look still shortens me considerably...and when you are just shy of 5', every inch of height (whether illusion or not) counts! But I also find the look to be too trendy for my style...I think it reminds me too much of the 80's fashion I was hoping to forget.

How about you? Do you find cold-weather happiness in boots?

See you next time...same blog time...same blog channel....

(For more information on wardrobe planning, or to sign up for my free e-zine, please stop by my wardrobe planning website.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

An Audrey Hepburn Video "Look Book"

Recently I wrote an article for my e-zine and website titled "The Look Book: A Great Tool for Wardrobe Planning". The article described what a look book is, and gave several different examples of the types of look books you may want to create.

One of these was the Style Icon Look Book:
"[A style icon look book] is exactly what it sounds like: a collection of images of a person whose style you admire…usually someone famous. The benefit of a book like this is that you can examine how one person has developed an image and built a wardrobe consistent with that image over time. You’ll see how they maintain that image over a number of different activities and events. And for the really famous style icons such as Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Onassis, there are plenty of books already available that document their style. "

As it so happens, not only are there plenty of books available, but YouTube has a wealth of video lookbooks of many different style icons.

Here is a really fun one of Audrey Hepburn:

I hope you find this inspirational!

See you next time...same blog time...same blog channel....

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Folly of Sewing Your Own Wardrobe? Perhaps Not!

Good evening from Very Small Closet Headquarters!

All throughout my teens and beyond, I worked in the costume shop of a repertory theatre company in Salinas, California. It was there that I learned to sew, to mock up patterns, and to do a modest bit of tailoring. I loved being involved in the creation of some truly amazing costumes. The designers and first hands were unbelievably talented, and I was really lucky to be able to learn from some of the best in the business.

Although I graduated from the costume shop with some decent sewing skills, I never really achieved the proficiency required to sew my own wardrobe. I did try...I have made some really nice outfits for myself over the years...but sewing is a time-consuming hobby, and my end products didn't really seem to be worth the time investment. Then, too, I discovered that bought patterns had the terrible habit of producing ill-fitting garments...and instead of the "couture" look I had been imagining, my clothes always had that unmistakable "homemade" look. I even tried some of the pattern-making software available, but still had problems.

Considering the incredible time investment, the lack of good patterns, and the deplorable fabrics available in the local fabric stores, I decided that trying to sew your own wardrobe from scratch was folly indeed.

But the funniest thing has happened...I've noticed that a great number of visiters to my blog and website are sewers...and some pretty impressive sewers, at that!! all you sewers out there, this post is for you! :-)

I'd love to do a post on the pros and cons of sewing your own clothing...and who better to help me out than all of you. I'm interested to hear all about your adventures in sewing...your motivations, what advice you might have, and how much of your wardrobes you sew yourselves. Please feel free to introduce yourselves here, or you can contact me through my wardrobe planning website.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

Jennifer Skinner

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Seasonal Statement Piece

A very classic and chic wardrobe that focuses on well-made, quality clothes in mostly base neutral colors is an absolute perfect canvas for a really smart style strategy: the seasonal statement piece.

A seasonal statement piece would be that article of clothing that is just so dramatic, eye-catching, colorful, or fashion-forward that it would never work in a regular wardrobe because it is too memorable.

But the fact that it is so memorable is exactly what makes it so very fabulous in the very pared down closet. It becomes your defining style piece for the duration of the season. And just when you've tired of it, the season is over, and you may happily pass it on to its next happy owner.

This can also be a great strategy for those who are really budget conscious. If the majority of your wardrobe is built from basics that you've assembled very frugally, the seasonal statement piece can be the one article that you devote a little more money to. As long as the rest of your wardrobe fits exceptionally well and is in good repair, this one piece will create the illusion that the your entire wardrobe is equally as posh or expensive.

This strategy is also wonderful for those who want to avoid appearing trendy and yet would like to look current. Your statement piece can be the one thing in your wardrobe that is a little trendier than all the rest. By itself, the fashionable item says that you are aware of current trends, and know how to wisely choose from amongst them all. Using this strategy you will be able to achieve the balance between understated and fashion-forward that you are striving for.

What items make for good statement pieces?

Jackets, coats, shoes, scarves, and jewelry tend to make the best pieces, because you can wear them with the majority of your wardrobe. But if you are bold, why not go for an amazing skirt or fantastic sweater. It's up to you how you envision your statement piece fitting in your wardrobe. Just remember that the idea is to call attention to the piece and to wear it often throughout the season.

See you next time...same blog time...same blog channel....

(For more information on wardrobe planning, or to sign up for my free e-zine, please visit my wardrobe planning website.)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Book Review: Freakin' Fabulous

Freakin’ Fabulous: How to Dress, Speak, Behave, Eat, Drink, Entertain, Decorate, and Generally be Better Than Everyone Else, by Clinton Kelly

This review is a reprint from the latest edition of Jennifer Skinner's Wardrobe-Wise.

Leafing through Clinton Kelly’s new book, my eye landed on the quote, “ If you don’t have fit, you don’t have style. End of story.” And I was hooked. Amen, say I!

This is no mere tome on style. This is a hilarious and yet factual romp through all areas of personal expression. Clinton Kelly acknowledges that your image encompasses far more than just appearance…although your appearance is the first thing others will see and judge. How you speak and behave, how you eat and drink, how you decorate and entertain all contribute to your overall image. And Clinton Kelly spares no barb in giving you the information that will give you a leg up in all these areas.

Of course, my primary interest was in the wardrobe section, the first in the book. If I was hooked before, I was in love when I read about his experience with French style:
“Then, by the time Friday rolled around, I noticed something weird: People were wearing the same outfits they wore on Monday! I had never witnessed anything like it. It seemed the people of this strange, foreign land cared more about quality than about quality. How un-American! They actually paid more for clothes that fit them well and wore them more often. They didn’t care if someone from the office saw them in the same outfit twice in the same week. Mind boggling!”

For anyone with a collection of style books already on their shelves, this one probably won’t have much new to offer in the way of wardrobe advice. But what it does have is a ton of witty commentary, oodles of pictures, and lessons in such things as grammar, picture hanging, proper use of utensils, cooking for guests, decorating your home, and much, much more. If you’re interested in making the very best impression, check out Freakin’ Fabulous by Clinton Kelly. You’ll have a grand ol’ time learning how to be “generally better than everyone else.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Take Action

So, you're not quite happy with the state of your closet.
But you have plans!
Perhaps you are an avid collector of style advice. You might even have every book out there on wardrobe design and wardrobe planning. You know precisely how you're going to reconfigure your closet to be organized. In fact...the next big chunk of time that comes your way will be dedicated to making it all happen.
And yet...

It doesn't.

You open those closet doors and...whammo...instant overwhelm. You think maybe I shouldn't start just yet...maybe I don't really have enough time...I really should think about this some more.

Is this you?

How is it possible to want change so badly and yet never take action?

Here's the truth: If we think something is too far out of our reach, we will have a tendency to abandon the project. And organizing an entire wardrobe from start to finish is an enormous task.

Even though many wardrobe plans give step-by-step instructions for paring down and organizing, as long as we think of the job ahead of us as ONE giant task, it feels nearly impossible to procede. We become overwhelmed by the distance from here to there, forgetting that building a wardrobe is a multi-step process that will most likely not happen in one fell swoop.

To combat this overwhelm paralysis, keep in mind:

As long as you are taking steps in the direction you want to go, change will happen. If all you are doing is waiting for the perfect time to begin, you'll stay right where you are right now. In the grand scheme of things, isn't it better to be moving towards your matter how slowly...than not moving at all?

Decide today to take action. Make something happen, even if it's small. And then do it again the next day. And the next. Before long, you will have accomplished enough to feel empowered. And then there will be nothing stopping you from reaching your goal!

See you next time...same blog time...same blog channel....

(For more information on wardrobe planning, or to sign up for my free e-zine, please visit my wardrobe planning website.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Study In Contrast-The Very Large Closet

Melanie Charlton Fascitelli is a closet designer. But she doesn't design just any old ordinary closet. These closets are e-nor-mous.

Check out these couture closets:

I know what I think...
What about you?

See you next time....same blog time....same blog channel....

Jennifer Skinner, Wardrobe Planning Expert

Monday, November 3, 2008

I Just Gotta Say It

Once upon a time, daughters borrowed their mothers’ clothes. A special occasion warranted borrowing mother’s jewelry, mother’s pricey cashmere, or mother’s high heels. Young girls sought to emulate the sophisticated, feminine styles of the grown women in their lives. Today the opposite is true. Today it’s teen Hollywood fashion that sets the standard of what to wear, leading grown women to seek to adopt the youthful styles of their children‘s generation. Women who refuse to “get with it” risk being labeled “mumsy” or “frumpy” or “dowdy”. Today, the ultimate fashion faux-pas appears to be actually dressing your age. What a strange irony!

Youth is about testing the waters, experimenting with different interests and different personas. It’s all about discovering who you are and how you ultimately want to express yourself. In your teens and twenties this is not only expected, but it is appropriate and even desirable. The goal, however, is to finally arrive…or, as the French say, to “be finished”. This is the mark of maturity.

We have somehow become convinced that if we are stable we are stagnant. We’ve bought into the lie that being stylish is equated with the changeable and quixotic, and that any attempt to be consistent is seen as giving up. Or worse…you have become OLD. No longer do we see arriving at a mature image as being a goal of style. Rather, the goal has become the trendy appearance of youth. Youthful = Stylish. Mature = old and frumpy. We just don’t want to grow older! Nor does the younger generation. And if all the grown-ups want to be young, why grow up in the first place?

Once upon time, maturity was something to be proud of. It was something earned, and not bestowed. Why? Because it was equated with being responsible for your own life. It was the sign that one had graduated from the immaturity of childhood. It takes life experience to gain a deeper understanding of the way the world works. It takes practice to learn how to develop deep and lasting relationships. It takes hard knocks to really appreciate the blessings in your life. There’s just no getting around it…wisdom comes through living. And to live means to gain in years. Yes…it means to grow older.

When we think about the ideal leader of a country, I am fairly confident that “youthful” and “trendy” are not the foremost qualities we are demanding. Would you vote in a candidate that had Britney Spears or Zac Ephron as a style icon? Would you want someone who worships the cult of youth as Commander-in-Chief? Of course not! (At least I hope not!) Inherently we recognize that the Rubicon flows between youth and maturity. The Rubicon is not for straddling. Caesar knew this, and we should too.

As adults, let’s reclaim style. Let’s live by the credo that the goal of style is to “be finished”. Not frozen in time. Not stuck in a rut. But no longer experimenting with the changeable styles of youth. Let’s be proud of our years and the wisdom we’ve gained. Let’s seek to be the role models rather than the followers. Let’s once again let maturity be something that is envied and aspired to, rather than something that is to be avoided. Yes, let’s reclaim style.

See you next time...same blog time...same blog channel....

(For more information on wardrobe planning, or to sign up for my free e-zine, please visit my wardrobe planning website.)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Art of the Minimum

Fourteen years of dreaming and two years of planning. That's what it took to finally get to hike the Applachian Trail. I'll never forget standing on top of Springer Mountain in Georgia that Easter my partner and I began our hike. I had no idea then that a few weeks later we would be off the trail, having made it as far as mid-way through the Smokies, some 200 miles or so. I had injured one knee severely, and the other less so. But you know, I wouldn't trade the experience for all the world. It was amazing.

So exactly what clothing went in that pack of mine?

Here's my list:
1 pair winter weight polypropylene long underwear
1 pair summer weight polypropylene long underwear
1 pair spandex running pants
2 pair wicking T-shirts
1 fleece jacket
1 pair fleece pants
3 pair wool socks
3 pair polypro sock liners
1 fleece hat
1 Gor-Tex rainsuit
2 pair undies
2 bras
1 sun hat
1 bandana
1 pair flip flops

and of course...1 pair Asolo hiking boots.

And that was all!
Basically I wore the running pants and a T-shirt to hike in. In the evening I'd change into the long underwear and fleece. (This was end of March in the mountains...our water would freeze at night). The two T's were alternated from day to day. Each evening, I'd do "laundry" which would hang on the back of my pack the next day to dry. The rain gear did double duty as windbreakers. I carried what I considered the least amount necessary without being foolish. My daily alternates served as dry spares in case of emergency.

The entire amount (less what I was wearing) filled half a stuff sack. Talk about a capsule wardrobe!

If you've ever been backpacking, you know it all comes down to the ounces. Backpackers will even cut a toothbrush in half to save the weight! So everything that goes into the pack is carefully scrutinized...with the main question being, is it necessary? So I mastered the art of the minimum...and clothing was no exception. From this experience I learned how to reduce the amount of clothing in my "closet" to the least amount necessary.

Once you've deduced your minimum, everything else is cake!

Oh, and in case you're wondering, I've since lost much of my enthusiasm for wilderness living.
Since hiking the AT, I've discovered that I'm actually quite fond of soft beds, hot showers, clean and stylish clothes... and a closet that you can't carry on your back!

See you next time...same blog time...same blog channel....

(For more information on wardorbe planning, or to sign up for my free e-zine, please visit my wardrobe planning website.)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Smallest Closet I Ever Owned

Back when I first began this blog, I related the tale of how my year in Sweden as an exchange student started me off on my journey to a stylish and very small closet. But this year in Sweden was only the beginning. I learned a lot that year abroad, but I certainly did not return to the US as a maven of wardrobe wisdom. Far from it!

There was yet another formative experience that would contribute to my simplified closet...

When I was around ten or so, I stumbled across a book in the library on the Appalachian Trail. I was enthralled by the tale of traversing the eastern seaboard in one long adventure. Curiosity aroused, I began to read anything and everything I could on this experience called "thru-hiking". How magical, I thought, to spend six months in the wilderness with only a pack on your back and the trail underfoot. High mountain summits, pristine mountain streams, wildlife galore. I was hooked. I wanted to hike those 2000 plus miles from Georgia to Maine, too!

It took sixteen years, but I finally did start that thru-hike.

And on that journey I had the smallest closet I've ever owned: a 5200 cu, 5.5 lb Dana Designs Terraplane backpack. A few years earlier I had been flummoxed by two suitcases. Now I had but one: for not just clothes, but everything I would need to survive for days at a time.

I learned quite a bit about wardrobe planning from that experience!

Next time I'll share just how I designed my completely pared-down backpacking wardrobe. It might not have been stylish...but it sure was functional!

See you then...same blog time...same blog channel....

(For more information on wardrobe planning, or to sign up for my free e-xine, please visit my wardrobe planning website.)