Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Power is Back!

11 days. That's how long we were without power after the December 11th ice storm here in NH. It is so nice to have hot running water and a stove again! And just in time for Christmas. :-)

It will be a few days as I get back and running here online... but you can expect new posts and a new e-zine before long.

It's nice to be back!


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Color Analysis

I've said before that I'm not too fond of all those color analysis systems like Color Me Beautiful and the like. I find them very restrictive and not very practical. I've been typed by several different color consultants, and been given a different "season" each time. I always figured that if no one could agree on my best colors, then obviously there wasn't much substance behind the "science".

Nevertheless, I have up to this time chosen to dress in "warmer" colors rather than "cooler" colors. My coloring is on the golden side rather than the pink, so it would seem that the warmer colors would suit me best.

Or maybe not.

I have come across an expert in the field of color and image who's ideas are so revolutionary and cutting edge that they turn the whole color analysis game on its head. She's pointed out how the early color analysts misinterpreted and misapplied color theory from the art world to the arena of personal image. She's unveiled the mistake of trying to harmonize your clothing with your superficial coloring...and her reasoning is actually quite astonishing. She's got thirty years of experience and a whole bunch of research behind her.

So I am going to test the waters and see what I think of her system. And when I get the results I'll let you know what I think. And if the results totally knock my socks off, I'll be certain to let you all know her name!

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.)

Monday, December 8, 2008

What Does Your Apparel Proclaim?

"The apparel oft proclaims the man."
-Shakespeare, Hamlet

You've probably heard it said that clothes make the man. And yet I much prefer the quote above.
We all know there is much more to a person than outward appearance. We are taught from a young age not to "judge a book by its cover". Even though dressing nicely has a way of improving our mood and our self-confidence, it cannot make up for a lack of character or an over-abundance of bad manners.

And yet our clothing does reflect a choice that we've made, at some level. The colors, the styles, the fabrics...they are all chosen. So there is much truth to the idea that you can learn a lot about someone from the way they present themselves to the world. You are seeing their choices, and the message that their choices send.

Too often, though, the message is not what you were intending to say! And yet, once those first few seconds of an initial encounter have passed it will take much effort on your part to change that first impression. That's just the way our brains are wired.

So, take a lesson from The Bard, and be conscious of what your apparel proclaims!

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

(Please visit my website Jennifer Skinner Online for more information on wardrobe planning.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tempted to Let It Slide?

Everyone has them.

Those mornings when you just don't want to face the day. Your mood is low, you're cranky, nothing seems be starting out right.

You look in your closet and, like a rebellious child, you are sorely tempted...to let it slide.

It's wrinkled...but no one will notice if I wear it anyway. I forgot to launder it, but I can get away with it for one more day. Pet hair...arg! Oh well....

I'm too cranky to care, you think.

When you are feeling this way, let these words of the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright inspire you not to "let it slide":

"We all know the feeling we have when we are well dressed and we enjoy the consciousness that results from it. It affects our conduct. I have always believed in being careful about my clothes, getting supremely well-dressed, because I could then forget about them."

If you make the choice to go ahead and let your low mood dictate how you will present yourself to the world that day, you will be plagued the whole day long, wondering if others really do notice the wrinkles, the pet hair, the less-than-fresh condition of your outfit. And you'll forgo the boost in mood and confidence that you could have had by knowing that you look your best. Trust me, I've been there! I've made that choice before, and have regretted it the entire day. However, when I've overruled my pouty inner child and taken the extra measures to look nice, I've been pleasantly surprised at how quickly my mood changes. As Frank Lloyd Wright says, clothing affects our conduct.

So whenever you are tempted to "let it slide", remember that you will probably regret it the moment you leave the house. Choose instead to be "supremely well-dressed" so that you can leave your wardrobe worries at home.

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.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Victoria Stilwell - Style Icon

Home again...and working to catch up on everything that accrued while I was away. Funny, isn't it, how sometimes it's easier NOT to take a vacation? Well, hopefully it only feels that way once you've returned from wherever you've gone.


While I was visiting family for Thanksgiving, I had the opportunity to watch a very entertaining show on Animal Planet called It's Me or the Dog. Actually, it was more than one episode -- for a reason I cannot fathom the network was airing any number of them back-to-back. And my mother being the dog-lover that she is, wanted to watch them all.

The take-away from this is that I was utterly impressed with the "star" of the show, dog-trainer Victoria Stilwell. She is the perfect example of someone with a very well-defined style persona and a very minimalist approach to style. Her entire wardrobe appears to be black and white, with an occasional third color, usually red. Her "uniform" consists of black, slim cut pants or jeans, heeled black boot, and some sort of blouse/vest/belt combo. It's not too often that you see such a clear depiction of stylish, minimalist dressing these days, so I was quite happy to have run across this near-perfect example to share with you. Even if her style persona doesn't match yours, there's still much to learn from her example. I'm going to be keeping my eye on Victoria Stilwell!

Here is a video clip from the show for you to enjoy:

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 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 wonder...do 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 store...you 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 TheLifeSimple.com 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!!

So...to 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 goal...no 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.)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Dressing for Halloween

Nearly everyone I know enjoys dressing up for Halloween. It's the one time of year where it's completely acceptable to dress in a manner that would normally cause someone to believe that you were totally deranged.

I've seen some pretty amazing costumes in my life, too. I think my all time favorite was...well, I can't really make up my mind. Was it the walking head-on-a-platter? Or perhaps the very real-looking wolf-man? Too many costumes to decide.

In any case, I had to come up with a costume for this year that would make an impression. No simple ghost or witch for me, it had to be good. After all, there is some real stiff competition around these parts!

After hemming and hawing, I finally decided on what I was going to be:

A cat.

Yes, a cat. Just complicated enough for me to have an edge over those who were going to go the ghoul-y ghost-y route. And not a black cat, either...too blase. I was going to be a tabby...a sassy tabby. I spent a great deal of time gathering all the elements that I would need. I thought the fur would be an issue, but ended up finding just the thing. I did end up borrowing a tail from a friend though, as my first attempt didn't quite cut it.

Finally, everything was assembled and ready to go.

Here's me in my cat costume:

Pretty real looking don't you think? I'm going to win best costume this year, I just know it!

Have a Happy Halloween!

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, October 30, 2008

The Urge Towards Casual

As of late, I have been fighting the urge towards casual.

It's a sort of laziness that steals over me at this time of year when the nice, warm summer weather is replaced by the cold, dark and damp winter. I want to hibernate...and since that is not possible, I want comfort. Comfort clothes are my little refuge against the weather.

Does this sound familiar to you? Maybe it's because you're overtired, or maybe it's because you've been sick. Maybe you are like me, and the change of seasons brings out this urge.

Now, when I say casual, I'm not talking about sweats and a hoodie. I mean that my low-heeled boots appeal more than my dressy boots with the heel height. My knits appeal to me more than blouses. Trousers appeal more than skirts. I'll let my hair air-dry and I'll leave the house sans accessories or makeup. Or I may choose to wear a weekend outfit during the week. Little things.

Because of how I've designed my wardrobe, there is not a huge image disparity between the casual end of my wardrobe and my day-to-day clothing ...so these periodic casual leanings do not completely undo the careful work that I've put into my overall image. In other words, I can occasionally relax and give in to this urge to go casual.

For a little time, that is, until my sartorial self rallies. And it always does!

How about you...do you fight the urge to go casual?

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

(For more information on wardrobe planning, please visit my wardrobe planning website.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Some Favorite Quotations

I love quotes. Whenever I'm looking to feel inspired, I turn to my collection of quotations that I've pulled together over time. Here are some of my favorites relating to simplicity and possessions....enjoy!

To have little is to possess.
To have plenty is to be perplexed.

Before we set our hearts too much upon anything, let us examine how happy those are who already possess it.
Francois de la Rochefoucauld

An object in possession seldom retains the same charm that it had in pursuit.
Pliny the Younger

It is through creating, not possessing, that life is revealed.
Vida D. Scudder

The wise man carries his possessions within him.

Every increased possession loads us with new weariness.
John Ruskin

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.
Albert Einstein

Simplicity is the peak of civilization.
Jessie Sampter

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

(For more information on wardrobe planning, please visit my wardrobe planning website.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


After bringing up Sarah Palin's image upgrade yesterday, I thought that I'd delve a little deeper.

I do realize the irony in writing about $150,000 spent on clothes just after discussing cost-per-wear and an economical wardrobe. Yesterday's post was an example of the importance of image, not an endorsement of such large expenditures. I'll just come right out and say it...for those seeking a very small closet of their own, this type of purchasing would not be the path to that end!

But it does give me an opportunity to talk about exceptions...
Obviously, Sarah Palin is not on a quest for minimalism or economy in her campaign wardrobe. Nor are the Obamas, nor are the McCains. There are exceptions where the cost-per-wear philosophy cannot be applied with any success. The campaign trail just happens to be one of them.

A wedding could be another. A prom or formal might be another. Being Anna Wintour is definitely an exception...

I bet you all can think of a couple more.

In any case, these "CPW exceptions" will vary from person to person, as will the amount spent. The point would be that unless your job absolutely utterly requires it, don't make it a habit. In fact, avoid it if you can. But if you must indulge, don't feel guilt-ridden about it, either. I know it's heresy , but there are a few occasions where a very small closet won't meet your needs.

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

(For more information on wardrobe planning, please visit my wardrobe planning website.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Palin's Pricey Image Upgrade

The world is all a-flutter over the cost of Sarah Palin's new wardrobe acquisitions. According to Politico.com, the Republican vice-presidential candidate recently spent $150,000 on clothing from Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. The issue appears to be not that Palin is going for an image upgrade, but that it is being done on the the Republican party's dollar.

Since jumping into the political limelight alongside John McCain, Sarah Palin's image has been scrutinized. Her hair, her glasses, her shoes -- well, everything, really -- have all been up for comment. A quick Google search shows just how many out there have something to say. Much of it is good; her "soccer mom" style has resonated with many women.

But Sarah Palin was facing accusations that she was not President material...something every VP ought to be...and her image had a great deal to do with this. "Soccer mom" just won't cut it when it comes to putting our trust in someone as a potential leader of the country. We associate image so strongly with authority, with ability, and even with intelligence. The hair, the glasses, the shoes all "mean" something to us...they send a message. And the message was the wrong one. Not for soccer moms across the world who adore her down-to-earth style. But for those looking to cast a vote for a competent vice-president. With this in mind, it is no surprise that a makeover was in order.

But what about the issue of the money? I agree with what Senior New Yorker editor Hendrik Hertberg had to say concerning the use of the party's funds: that all of her clothes cost less than showing a single 30-second spot a single time on a single network during prime time.

"Forking a little dough over to Nieman Marcus is no worse than forking a lot of dough over to NBC, or, for that matter, to some polling firm so it can focus-group the emotional valence of phrases like 'too risky' and 'not ready.'"

Whether or not you agree with the clothing expenditures, the whole affair is a fascinating study in the importance of image...and just how strongly we react to the smallest details of appearance.

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

(For more information on wardrobe planning, please visit my wardrobe planning website.)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

An Economical Wardrobe: Coming Full Circle

Now that you are armed with an understanding of cost-per-wear you can see how choosing to buy well-constructed, quality clothes that you will wear frequently is the cornerstone of an economical, small closet.

However, there is yet one more point to highlight in the economics of a small wardrobe: frequency and number of purchases. When your wardrobe is carefully edited down to only the clothes that you wear frequently, you will become much more attuned to knowing when it is time to replace a garment or an outfit. Not only will you have the perfect number of outfits in your closet, but you will only be purchasing clothing when you need to replace something. You'll never find yourself buying too many shirts or too many trousers. You'll never be purchasing those "great" pieces that end up being closet orphans because you have nothing to wear them with. You'll never have to guess whether or not an article of clothing will come in handy.

You will only be spending money when you need to, and only on items that you know will serve your wardrobe needs. How liberating!

But in order to get to this magical point, you need to edit down your closet. And so we have come full circle. Here we have why paring down and giving away that 80% of your wardrobe that is non-functional is actually going to save you a great deal of money in the long run.

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

Jennifer Skinner, Wardrobe Planning Expert

Thursday, October 23, 2008

And I Thought I Had A Small Closet!

What's the smallest space that you could imagine living in year-round?

Well, a fella by the name of Jay Shafer lives in a 100 square foot home that he designed and built himself. And what's more...he's designed a whole line of homes that are teeny-tiny.

These Tumbleweed Houses are becoming increasingly popular. They're affordable, they're energy efficient, and they are really well-crafted.

Check out the size of his closet:

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

Jennifer Skinner

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wardrobe Planning Q&A

Today I have some questions that have come my way via The Very Small Closet or my Wardrobe Planning Website.

From Mary: I just discovered your site and blog - it's great! I hope it's okay to ask a question. I read in one of your articles that navy is a great neutral color and it's one I like. I never know what color shoes to wear with navy pants though - what do you suggest?

Jennifer answers: Hi Mary! Thank you so much for joining in the fun here at The Very Small Closet. Navy is indeed a great neutral color, and one that I am beginning to add more of in my own wardrobe. A number of years ago, the only acceptable shoe color to wear with navy pants would have been navy itself. However, since that time, jeans have become the default "trouser" option for men and women alike. Because of this our eyes have become accustomed to seeing navy paired with just about every color imaginable. Also, the long held taboo against mixing navy and black has been lifted. Navy pants can be paired with just about any color! I do have several suggestions, though. If you are going to wear a shoe color other than navy itself, use that color as an accent/accessory color and repeat it somewhere else in your outfit, like in a scarf or a handbag. (Red and yellow are amazing when used this way). This works best when your entire outfit is predominantly navy. Another option is to wear a shoe that is the color of your hair. That way the color of the shoe is repeated in your natural coloring. This looks especially nice with the lighter brown shades. And lastly: if you are looking for a more conservative, business, or classic look, you may want to stick with tried and true navy.

Constance asks: HELP!!! I have all the books on clothes organization but I still don't get how best to hang, by outfit, color, WHAT!?

Jennifer answers: Hi there Constance! Never fear...help is at hand. First know that there are several schools of thought on how best to hang your clothes...so if you are confused, it's no wonder! I'll give you what I consider to be the easiest method that I use myself. I hang clothes by type, in this order: all blazers/jackets together, all shirts together, all skirts together, all pants together, all dresses together. Within each category, I group by color, but simply: Like colors together. My wardrobe is very small so hanging clothes in this way allows me to see everything. Now you might ask why I don't hang by outfit, and again, my answer is simple: Many pieces in my wardrobe belong to more than one outfit. And some elements of an outfit may not be suitable for hanging, such as knits. Those are folded on shelves. Hopefully this will help you in your own quest for closet organization!

Jill asks: Hi, Jennifer. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas on your site. I am a 59 year old school teacher (smart casual lifestyle). Black and dark brown look terrible on me now I'm getting older. My colouring is very similar to yours - medium to fair skin, brown eyes and reddish-brown/strawberry blond (depending on the dye) hair. I can't start to build a wardrobe, because I can't decide on colours. I am slim and average height. Any suggestions re colour combinations? I think two definite wardrobes - summer and winter with some transitional will be the way to go in Australia. Our summers are quite hot and winters can be cold. Thanks, Jill

Jennifer answers: Hi Jill! I'm so pleased that you've stopped on by my site...welcome. Oh, I can sympathize with your quest! I think our coloring is the hardest to match to colors. Black is often too overpowering, and even brown can look too heavy. Personally, I built up my wardrobe around brown as a base neutral, but I've recently decided to transition somewhat to navy. It's a softer color that looks good on me. So for now I am wearing both. For accent colors, I find that red looks great, as does turquoise and warm pink. Now for you: Don't let the fear of making these decisions paralyze you! Start with the wardrobe you have, and think of building it up slowly, a step at a time. And don't feel that once you've made your color choices you will never be able to alter them...you can alter them in the same way you built your wardrobe...a step at a time. Now for suggestions: Since dark brown looks too heavy on you, I would consider beige or taupe in its stead. Both of these colors can be exceptionally elegant (think Katherine Hepburn). The beige family also includes ivory, which is wonderful for summer. For accent colors, think first of the colors that you get the most compliments wearing, and go for those. Hopefully this small amount of advice has been helpful. Keep me posted on how you're doing!

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Quality and Care in Wardrobe Planning

We've been discussing the idea of cost-per-wear, and how this little equation can be used when making your wardrobe choices. However, you shouldn't think of cost-per-wear as the sole determiner of what to buy. There are other factors involved in building your wardrobe wisely.

The way cost-per-wear works is that the more you wear an item, the less you spend for each wearing. We've seen how this can make a more expensive item the better bargain in the long run. But two other things factor in to the economics of a small wardrobe: quality and care.

If you are interested in having a fully functional wardrobe, you need to start thinking about maximizing the number of times you can wear something. We're not talking about over-exposing the clothing in your closet. Rather, the idea is to have each article of clothing in some form of a rotation so that it gets worn regularly. Keeping an eye on quality and care will help you do this.

Quality will directly affect the longevity of the garment. The better the quality of the garment, the longer it will last. The longer it will last, the more wearings you can get out of it. This is how cashmere, at twice or three times the price of polyester (maybe more) will be a better bargain in the long run.

There is a sweet spot here, though, if you are interested in the economics of a small wardrobe. When the price of something reflects not only its quality but its label, you may be paying more for the brand name than you are for the quality. Just because something is designer does not always mean that it is quality. There are some appallingly "cheap" designer clothes out there that are outrageously pricey. Keep this in mind when you are planning out your wardrobe, and learn to spot quality independent of name or price.

Of course, properly caring for your garments will also help extend their life, improving that ol' cost-per-wear ratio. Proper cleaning and storage is definitely in order! However, the economic aspect of caring for your clothes doesn't stop there. Think also about how the type of care the garment requires will affect its overall cost to you. If something needs frequent dry cleaning, it will be more expensive to maintain than cotton that can be washed at home. Learn which items truly need dry cleaning (those that say Dry Clean ONLY), and those that can be washed by you with special attention (and many items can...you just need to know how!)

Tomorrow will be Q&A day, so come on back!

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, October 20, 2008

Home Again

I am finally home after a wonderful time spent in Las Vegas. Aside from forgetting the Tide-to-Go, the trip went without a hitch.

Here are a couple of pics from Kevin Hogan's event:

Me with energy expert Matt Shields...

...and Twitter Guru Deb Micek...
...and Fred Gleeck, Information Product Expert.

More pictures will be going up soon at my wardrobe planning website, so be sure to stop by and take a peek.

Now that I am back, I'll be continuing my series of posts on the economics of a small wardrobe. I will do another Q&A since I've had a number of great questions come my way via this blog and my website.
So stay tuned!
See you next time...same blog time...same blog channel....

Jennifer Skinner

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

In My Suitcase

I'm writing to you all from the Cleveland airport, where I have a short layover before getting back on the plane to head to Las Vegas. It's been a looooong day! But I'm excited to arrive in Vegas and check into the hotel. I've got a great group of friends and colleagues that I am meeting there for what I'm sure will be a fabulous few days with the amazing Kevin Hogan. I'm planning to post pics, so be sure to stay tuned.

Last night I packed for the trip. I've become a much better traveller since the year I went to Sweden, that's for sure! All the work I personally put into designing my own wardrobe has paid off. I can now pack successfully for a trip in very little time, taking very little with me.

For kicks and giggles, I'm going to share with you what I packed. I started with a skeleton of two tops and two bottoms that I can mix. Then I added in a third outfit, just for fun. A dressy top in case I go out. A great jacket. Enough lingerie to last the trip. Two pairs of shoes. Voila! It didn't even fill half my carry-on. I could certainly get away with just the skeleton of outfits and a few extra accessories, but since I have the room, I decided to take a little bit more. The one thing missing is a swimsuit...but I doubt I'll have time for the pool, so that's one thing I will leave home that I might otherwise take.

The only challenge in packing was realizing I had to pull out some of my warmer-weather outfits to take. We in New Hampshire have already done the great switcheroo to our fall clothes, but Vegas is supposed to be in the 80's while I'm there. Not that I'm complaining, not by any stretch!

Oh...they are calling my flight, so I'd better go!

This is Jennifer Skinner, Wardrobe Planning Expert, signing off.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Cost-per-Wear and Wardrobe Planning

The concept of cost-per-wear is a handy tool for moving beyond the idea that the price of a garment is the sole determiner of its value. Obviously, the more times you wear a garment, the less it "costs".

Take just a second, and see if you can't bring to mind the number of shirts you have in your closet. Can you do this? For illustration's sake, let's just say your number is 25. This would mean that on average, each shirt gets worn around 14 times in a year (once every two weeks or so). So the CPW of each shirt would be cost/14. Now imagine you have 1oo shirts in your closet. You're going to be wearing each shirt somewhere between 3 and 4 times in a year. The hypothetical CPW is now cost/3.56 .

Can you see where this is going? The more garments you have in your closet, the fewer times you will wear each one. The fewer garments in your closet, the more you will wear each one.

Of course, this is not taking into account that according to the common understanding of the Pareto Principle, we're only really wearing 20% of what is in our closet. That other 80% is neglected because it doesn't fit, is out of style, or is forgotton.

However... what if you've designed your wardrobe so that everything in your closet gets worn regularly? That is the goal of The Very Small Closet: To design a pared-down, functional and stylish wardrobe in which you love everything you wear and everything gets worn regularly.
A pared-down closet will lend itself to a much smaller CPW...and a much more economical wardrobe.

Next time I'll discuss how quality fits into the equation.

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.)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Interview with Tim Gunn of Project Runway

I just had to take an unscheduled break from the series of posts that I've been writing when I found this video.

I happen to think that Tim Gunn is one of the most interesting voices in the world of style. He's the Chair of the Department of Fashion Designs at Parsons, and is best known for his work on the hit show Project Runway. His book Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste, and Style is just that and then some, and is currently one of my favorite books on the subject.

This interview is with SuChin Pak. It was done a while back, but that does not diminish in any way the fun of getting a more personal glimpse into this style guru's life and philosophy. The interview runs about twenty minutes, however the bright spot occurs within the first five minutes. When asked about his personal philosophy of style, Tim Gunn replies:

We need to understand who we are and how we want to be perceived, and dress for that particular person...for that role...I mean, in our own way we play a role in life.

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Here's the video. Enjoy!

And here's his book:

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

(For more information about wardrobe planning, or to sign up for my free e-zine, please visit my Wardrobe Planning Website.)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Little Bit of Math: Cost-per-Wear

The price tag on a piece of clothing tells you one thing about the garment it is affixed to: how much the garment costs. What it doesn't tell you is whether or not the item is quality, how often you will wear it, or how many weeks, months, years you will continue to wear it. And yet so often we will make our clothing choices based on price tag alone.

The same price tag may elicit many different responses: What? That's too expensive! Eeew...too cheap for me. Cool! It's on sale! No thank you...marked down merhandise is passe. Is this price for real?

Let me introduce you to the concept of cost-per-wear. Cost-per-wear is a way of assessing a garment's true cost to you. I'm going to take a stab here and guess that most of you aren't in the habit of buying an item of clothing to wear only once. (If you are, then The Very Small Closet is probably not your cup of tea.) But let's pretend for just a moment. You buy a dress for $200 that you will wear just once. That is $200 x 1 wearing = a cost-per-wear of $200. But if you should wear that dress twice, the cost-per-wear drops to $100. If, over the course of the dress's lifetime it gets worn 50 times, the cost per wear is now $4. Another example: Let's say you buy a cheap and trendy t-shirt for $18. After two washings it's already falling apart. You wear it one more time before it gets lost somewhere in the back of your closet. Cost-per-wear? $6. Comparing the two examples, you can see that the dress (almost 11x's more expensive than the shirt) was actually the better deal.

Of course these are just examples, but you can see how the price tag of an item may not be the sole predictor of a garment's true value to you.

Next time I'll show how cost-per-wear is maximized by a pared down wardrobe.

See you later...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, October 10, 2008

Fool's Gold

As promised, the next few posts will be about the economics of having a very small closet.
I'll begin with tackling head on the idea that having a large surplus of items to wear somehow protects you from certain doom in the future should your financial world hit the skids.

The typical thinking goes something like this: If I run out of money, I won't be able to buy any new clothes. If I can't buy any new clothes, I'll have to rely entirely on what I already own. And if I don't own enough clothing then I'll run out of clothes to wear. I might eventually end up in rags. So I'd best keep all the clothes I currently own just in case.

But here's the rub: if it doesn't suit you now, it won't suit you later. There is a reason most of your wardrobe goes unworn through the year...the clothes are either too big or too small, don't fit your lifestyle, don't flatter you, or aren't comfortable. Perhaps they are orphans, without anything to be worn with. Perhaps they are terribly out of style. Whatever the reason, chances are extremely good that that reason won't change, no matter what happens in the future. I'll repeat: if it doesn't suit you now, it won't suit you later.

The goal of having a very small closet is ultimately looking your best daily. If all these clothes you are wanting to hang onto won't help improve your image...even in the future...there is no reason to hang on to them. That awful polyester suit hanging in the far back of your closet is not suddenly going to become your go-to outfit merely because your old suit is looking a bit worn. That's faulty thinking!

Ok, but what about a real disaster? What if I pare down my wardrobe and we have another Great Depression? Well, if we do, then a great many people will be in the same boat, experiencing the same hardships. If things really are that dire, there won't be many shops to shop in . Fashion will take a back seat. But you will know that no matter how many times you've worn the clothes you have on, they still flatter you. If they grow slightly threadbare, you will still look pulled together. Looking neat and pulled together will always trump wearing new clothes that don't flatter. And if you are truly fixated on a disaster scenario, just remind yourself that people in centuries past survived with only two or three outfits a year. Heck, people in THIS century make do with that or less. Even with a pared down wardrobe, your closet will still have far more than that. You'll survive!

Holding onto clothes "just in case" is like fool's gold. You think you're rich, but you're not. Learning how to build a small but functional wardrobe is where the real gold is at.

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, October 9, 2008

Economics of a Small Closet

If you've not yet heard news of a troubled economy, you must be living under a rock. Somewhere in Timbuktu. In an alternate reality.

It seems impossible to escape the bombardment of ever more dire predictions about how life as we know it is going to change...and not for the better. If we believe the worst of what we hear, we are headed for the Great Depression Redux.

Hardly the time to think about paring down your wardrobe....Or so you might think.

I've written in the past about the myriad number of reasons we hold on to possessions that no longer serve us, and one of the real biggies is the fear of an uncertain future. This is an achilles heel in the best of times, and becomes even more challenging to deal with when the chips are down. When things are going well, future difficulties seem possible but perhaps not all that probable. The liklihood of disaster is small. But when things are not going well, the possible becomes more probable, and the fear seems justified. Prudent, even.

Give away clothes? I might NEED them! No...I probably WILL need them.

Over the next several posts I am going to talk about the economics of a pared-down closet, and how clearing out and re-thinking your wardrobe can help you look your best during times of financial hardship.

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

Jennifer Skinner

(For more information on wardrobe planning, or to sign up for my free ezine, please visit my Wardrobe Planning Website.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Style, Self-Expression and Sonnets

One of my favorite discussions of free will and determinism is found in a passage in Madeleine L'Engle's classic A Wrinkle in Time. Here, one of the characters compares our lives to a sonnet. She makes the point that a sonnet is a very strict form of poetry, with exactly fourteen lines, a strict meter, and each line ending in a rigid rhyme pattern. And yet within this strict structure the poet has complete freedom. And so it is with life. "You're given the form," the character says. "But you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you."

My friend and musical collaborator David McMillen once asked me where self-expression fit into my Style Development philosophy, since I tend to work a little backwards when it comes to discovering and developing your style persona. I believe that many of the questionnaires that we endlessly fill out to determine "who we are" in order to know what to wear are a waste of time. I think in most cases it is more valuable to figure out how you want the world to perceive you FIRST. This provides you with a structure.

So my answer to David was that self-expression is then how you personalize the structure...how you "color inside the lines"...

...how you write your sonnet.

(For more information on style and wardrobe planning, please visit my Wardrobe Planning Website.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ruminations About Style

When you hear the word "style", what comes to mind?

I ask only because I think that many have misguided ideas about what style truly is. I know that for years, I certainly did.

Style does not necessarily mean "stylish". It is not synonymous with fashion, although fashion and being fashionable can certainly be a part of someone's style. It is not about radical individualism, either. One does not need to have a wildly creative persona to "have style".

Style is not to be found in all the latest trends or in all the "right" labels. It's not something you purchase. It's not only for the "in" crowd or the "young" crowd, the "vain" crowd.

Style requires a confidence in yourself that transcends the clothes you wear and yet informs your clothing choices. It is beyond money, beyond fads and trends, beyond labels. It is the consciousness and intentionality behind how you dress. It is the respect you have for yourself and others that is carried out in your appearance. It is knowing and defining yourself...not letting others define you.

And anyone, with thought and effort, can develop style.

'Til later,
Jennifer Skinner

Monday, October 6, 2008


Hello everyone....

This is just a brief post to say that after rather lengthy period of being away, I'm back! The Very Small Closet is officially open for business once again. A brand new post will be here on the morrow. Until then, cheers!

Jennifer Skinner

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Three Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Buy the Outfit

When you go shopping for clothes, what motivates you to buy? If you are like many women, chances are that your reasons for purchasing that new outfit are far more unconscious and emotionally driven than you'd like to believe. To avoid making a purchasing error, here are three questions to ask yourself before you buy.

1) Question: Am I buying this to fit in, or because it looks good on me?
We all fall prey to the whimsy of trendy clothing. We have a powerful drive for approval from others, and one way we get it is by fitting in. You can see this unconscious force in action by watching how a previously hideous look grows on you as you see more and more people sporting it. But the truth is that not every style will look good on you, no matter how popular or trendy it might be!
Key point: Know the basic lines, silhouettes and proportions that suit your body type, and don't be tempted by trends that won't suit you.

2) Question: Is this outfit for me, or for my alter-ego?
A great many of us are shopping to outfit an imaginary persona. We may be emotionally drawn to a certain look even though it has no place in our current lifestyle. And so we shop for the glamorous diva when we are really just a jeans-and-t-shirt kind of gal. Figuring out how you actually need to dress each day versus how you imagine you will, will help you stop buying clothes for your alternate personalities.
Key point: Know exactly when, where, and how often you plan to wear the outfit before you buy.

3) Question: Is it comfortable?
We are all creatures of habit, and we seek out comfort whenever we can. Don't be tempted to ignore subtle signals that an outfit doesn't feel right. If an article of clothing is too tight, too itchy, doesn't fit right, or in any way makes us doubt ourselves when we put it on, chances are that it will go unworn...no matter how good it might look on us!
Key point: Don't ignore discomfort. If it doesn't feel right, don't buy it.

Ask yourself these three simple questions before you buy your next outfit, and you will find yourself making wiser, more appropriate choices for you and your closet.

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

(For more information on Wardrobe Planning or to sign up for my e-zine, stop on by my website.)