Saturday, May 31, 2008

Learning to Let Go

How many of you have put off and put off sorting through a closet that you know is over-full with obsolete articles of clothing? And how many of you have agonized over whether or not to give an item of clothing away? Or pulled a garment from the give-away pile at the very last minute? One of the most challenging tasks we face in our wardrobe planning endeavors is the letting go of clothes that are no longer serving us.

Why is this? What is it about clothes, and other possessions as well, that brings up a palpable sense of loss when we think of separating from them? They are not living. They do not love us back. So what causes this and how can we work through it so that we can reach the peace of a pared down life?

Over the next few posts, I'll touch on a number of reasons for this strange phenomenon. Today I will discuss the first reason: Clothes represent an investment of our money.

You may feel that this is obvious, but there are some deeper issues involved that complicate the relationship. By spending money on an article of clothing, we've traded away the possibility of spending that money on some other thing. Deep down we worry that if it wasn't a good choice, we will have lost not only the money, but any other opportunity that that money could have bought for us. So choosing to give up an item that you've paid for can bring up these very strong feelings of isn't so much the item that we fear losing, it's the lost opportunities that we grieve. By holding onto the clothes we can attemp to keep those feelings of loss at bay --even though an unworn item has no more use to us hanging in our closet than it does on the discard pile.

How do you work through this? Acknowledge that there are lost opportunities. And that that is OK. And then remind yourself that the opportunites were lost the moment that you spent the money, not in this moment right now. Don't agonize over the money spent, or relive your decision to spend. That was in the past. Take yourself instead into the future, and how good it will feel to have everything in your closet be something you will actually wear.

Next time I will continue with the challenges in the process of letting go. See you then...same blog time...same blog channel....

(For more information on wardrobe planning, or to subscribe to me E-Zine, please visit my website.)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Wardrobe Planning, Closets, and Clutter

In the Simple Living News Issue #63 there is an excellent article by Suzanne Saxe-Roux titled "The Answer to Closet Clutter, A Cultural Perspective." In this article, the author talks about a phenomenon of French living that is little known to Americans -- the French do not have closets. Here's the link if you'd like to read it:

In the article, we get to hear how Suzanne Saxe-Roux and her family moved to a small village in France. It was only after relocating to a house bereft of closets , that they realized they had to figure out what to do with all the clothing that they had transported with them.

Ultimately they decided that they would have to whittle down their wardrobes quite a bit in order to make a go of it.

What I loved about this article was how this family follows the same basic procedure that I recommend to my clients:

1) Pare down your wardrobe, eliminating anything you do not love, do not need, or that does not fit or flatter.
2) Seasonally switch out your clothing; pack away winter when summer arrives, and vice-versa. Use this time to do another closet assessment and clean out.
3) Limit your outfits to a specific number.
4) Keep all the current season's clothing in view.

Now here's the best part: from the article we find out that Suzanne and her husband keep approximately one week's worth of clothes out for themselves, and that is it. Are you shocked? Amazed? In awe? You might look at that number and think "No Way! I couldn't do that!"

But I beg to differ. Nearly everyone can survive very stylishly with only a little more than that if they engage in a little wardrobe planning. Limiting your wardrobe can be the key to significantly upping the qualilty and style quotient of your closet.

So, go take a peek at "The Answer to Closet Clutter" by Suzanne Saxe-Roux. You will be very impressed...and very inspired.

See you here 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 website.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Q & A Day: Basting and Buttons

It seems that for a few weeks running it has been the fellas who have stepped forward to ask the questions for the weekly Q & A, and this week is no exception. So for this Tuesday's post, I'll be anwering these gentlemen's questions on basting and buttons.

First, Aaron asks: "Can you describe 'basting'?"

Jennifer responds: A basting stitch is a long, loose, straight stitch that sewers use to temporarily hold fabrics in place. It's quick and easy to do, but not meant to last.

And then dovetailing off of yesterday's post on The Hallmarks of Quality ,Aaron, Steve and Peter wanted to know what quality buttons are made of, if not plastic.

Jennifer responds: Quality buttons can be made from a number of different materials. One of the very best is horn, from both cow and buffalo. Modern horn button are a dull brown; antique horn buttons have a wider variation of colors and are usually streaked. Another popular material for buttons is mother-of-pearl, prized for its luster. Both of these types of buttons are quite expensive. Two other materials prized for fine buttons, tortoiseshell and ivory, are not generally used any longer, due to laws protecting endangered animals. Buttons made from these materials will most likely be found on vintage clothing and on garments made in countries without these restrictions.

However, the buttons you will most likely encounter are made from a polyester-resin blend. These might be confused with plastic...however they are very durable and through a number of special processes can be made to imitate the look of fancier buttons. Plastic buttons, on the other hand, are cheap and often brittle.

Of course, nearly any material you can think of could be fashioned into a button of some kind. But these are the most common that you will find on pieces of quality.

If you have a question you would like answered in the weekly Q & A, feel free to ask, and I will try to answer. See you next time...same blog time...same blog channel....

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

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Hallmarks of Quality

After having established the importance of quality clothing, it's time to talk about how to recognize quality when you see it.

The story goes that when someone is trained to recognize counterfeit bills, they learn to so by studying the real deal. And so it goes with quality clothing, as well. If you really want to understand the difference between a well-constructed piece and one that is inferior, get thee to a high-end clothing retailer or design showroom. Feel the fabrics, the weight of the garments, examine the stitching and the detailing. Try on some pieces, and see how well they fit. Once you've been around clothing with solid workmanship and excellent fabrics, you will have a much better sense for what goes into a quality garment.

Beyond familiarizing yourself with the look and feel of quality, there are a number of things that you can search for in a garment that indicate how well it is made:

1) High quality fabrics are usually made from natural fibers, and include cashmere, woven tweed, fine silk, and herringbone. The hand, or feel, of the fabric should be supple and smooth. If the fabric is stiff then it likely of a lesser quality. Also, beware of any sheen on suits or jackets, as this is a warning that the fabric is not up to snuff.

2) Quality clothing is usually lined. A lining helps keep the shape of the garment and protects it from any moisture and oils on the skin. But make sure that the lining fits the item, and doesn't pull the garment in any way. An ill-fitting lining will keep the piece from hanging properly when you wear it.

3) A well-made garment will have small, careful stitches that are flat and nearly invisible. If the stitching looks more like basting, puckers in any way, or doesn't appear secure when you pull on it, walk away.

4) Look to see that any stripes or patterns match up at the seams. Matching patterns is a step that is often ignored when building a garment because it is tricky to do. But it makes a huge difference in the overall appearance of the piece.

5) All hems should be double stitched, and for all intents and purposes, invisible on the outside.

6) Look for plastic buttons. This is one sure sign of a lower-quality garment. Also look to see that the buttons are neither on too tightly or too loosely. Either way can cause problems for the wearer.

Now that you are armed with the knowledge, I hope that you will feel confident the next time you need to make a quality call on an item of clothing.

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

(For more information on wardrobe planning, please visit my website and sign up for my E-Zine.)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Launch of the E-Zine

Today's post was going to be about how to recognize a quality garment. However, I have something a little different to share for today. Something I'm really, really excited about.

I've spent the better part of this weekend fooling around with different email autoresponders, trying to figure out which one I like best. Some were too darn complicated, some were too simple, some had too many ads. After a lot of test driving, I finally settled on one that seems just right.

Such a strange activity, you might think, for a beautiful holiday weekend. Why wasn't I out in the sun, soaking up the rays and taking it easy? Why was I working instead?

The answer is, I had to do it so that I would be prepared to announce to you today:

My E-Zine is ready to launch! Yay!

If you go to my Wardrobe Planning Website you will see the nifty little opt-in box on the right hand side. Just fill it in and click and you will be subscribed to WardrobeWise. It's so easy! And it's FREE!

If you enjoy what you read here at The Very Small Closet, you will love the E-Zine. I've got a lot of neat content planned, so you won't want to miss out. So head over there and get yourself subscribed.

Oh, and don't forget to show up here tomorrow for the discussion on recognizing quality when you see it. See you then...same blog time...same blog channel....

Jennifer Skinner

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Lesson in Silhouette for Men and Women

Very recently here at The Very Small Closet, I shared with you how silhouettes in fashion tend to change slowly, but once they've changed, the new look becomes pervasive.

At first, a new trend sticks out. It might look really odd, and often it has the effect of making someone look disproportionate. This is because our eye is accustomed to traveling over the lines of an outfit in a certain way. (This is true for anything, by the way: cars, buildings, even people's faces.) Introduce a new silhouette, and our eye gets "stuck" on the differences. A great example of this is the low-rise jean. High-rise pants were supposed to give you the illusion of longer legs. The lower rise, when introduced, had the effect of making everyone's legs look shorter. At first. As the trend took over and the silhouette changed, it was the new look which had figure-enhancing benefits. Essentially, the focal point of the silhouette shifted from waist to hips. For women, an hourglass figure has always been the goal: but now instead of defining a small waist, the lower rise defined the hips...which then made the waist look smaller by comparison.

Even though a new trend may have completely taken over, it still can take some time before the older look becomes "dated." But once it is, you can absolutely see how silhouette defines an era in fashion.

Check out this video for a good example of what I am talking about. See if you can spot the changes in silhouette...among other things....:

Next time I will talk a bit about how to recognize a quality garment. See you then...same blog time...same blog channel....

For more adventures in Wardrobe Planning, join me at my website!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Quality Clothing

Tonight I have a quick post for you. I'm going to take a stand and list what I believe are some common misconceptions about quality clothing:

1. Quality is not important.
2. Quality is absolutely correlated with price tag.
3. Cheap is a bargain.
4. It is better to have many lesser quality clothes than fewer higher quality clothes.
5. Quality clothes are too difficult to maintain.
6. People don't notice.
7. You need to be wealthy to buy quality clothing.
8. It's all or nothing.
9. An excellent garment isn't worth paying more for.
10. There's no real difference between garments other than price tag.

Here's the truth summed up neatly:

Quality clothing is made from fabrics that are superior, with workmanship and detailing that are superior. There is a real difference between a garment that is well-constructed and one that is not, and it IS recognizable. People DO notice. While price does not always signal quality (there are some very poorly made clothes out there with ridiculous price tags), quality items generally come with a higher price tag...sometimes much higher. Properly cared for, these garments will outlast clothes with inferior materials and workmanship, making them worth the investment.

If your image is important to you, seriously consider bringing more quality items into your wardrobe. With a commitment to quality anyone can improve their wardrobe over time.

Jennifer Skinner, Wardrobe Planning Expert

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wardrobe Planning

Over the past weeks I've posted on any number of topics related to clothing and style. But one thing I haven't yet done is talk about the difference between style development and wardrobe planning.

Style development is what most image consultants focus on. It encompasses figuring out your personal style expression and also learning what colors and silhouettes look the best on you. It covers knowing what hairstyles and makeup will complement you the most. Developing your style takes time and a great deal of insight into who you are and how you want to present yourself.

But even if you have an amazing sense of style, it still doesn't mean that you will look good day-to-day. You need to take the next step --wardrobe planning -- to build that fantasic wardrobe that will showcase that amazing style of yours.

So, what is wardrobe planning, exactly? It is:

1. Strategically translating your style to your closet.

2. Ensuring that all the garments in your wardrobe are ready to wear and are in rotation to be worn at some point this season.

3. Planning out all the elements of an outfit in advance so that you never have to wonder whether one article of clothing looks good with another.

4. Reviewing your wardrobe each season to decide what will stay and what will get replaced so that your wardrobe remains up-to-date.

5. Caring for your clothing so that everything stays in the best possible shape for the longest time possible.

6.Being aware of current trends so you can decide if and how you wish to incorporate them into your existing wardrobe.

7. Continuing to make sure that the image you present to the world is consonant with who you are and where you are going.

8. Dedicating yourself to improving the quality of your wardrobe over time.

While I think that style development is tons of fun, I think that developing a wardrobe plan is even more exciting. I'm a systems kind of person, and wardrobe planning is all about putting in place a working system.

Next time I'll discuss common misconceptions about quality clothing. See you then...same blog time...same blog channel....

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tuesday Q & A: Suits

Today I'm going to concentrate on a question asked by Matt Shields.

Matt asks: "What should a guy look for in a suit that will be "in style" for years to come??? Are there any new changes we should look for?"

Jennifer responds: This is a great question, Matt, as a good suit is an investment that will last you years if properly cared for.

To begin with, let's look at the first part of your question. Even before talking about the style of the suit, let's talk about fabric. In my opinion, the best fabric to choose would be a wool gabardine. Gabardine has excellent drape, and can be worn year-round. Look for a thread count (Super) in the low hundreds. Higher numbers are not as durable, and you will end up needing to replace your suits more often. Lower numbers just won't have the same feel that you would expect in a quality suit.

Next, let's talk about fit. If you are serious about your suits, I can't urge you strongly enough to get yourself properly measured. Don't guess your measurements, and don't go off of last year's measurements, either. Your body will change shape, however slightly, over time. Make sure you are buying a suit that will fit you TODAY. (And find yourself an awesome tailor, as well. They are hard to find, but oh-so worth it.)

Three other things to make sure of in order to avoid a fit faux pas: the hem of your trousers should reach your shoes and break once; your jacket sleeve should reach the first knuckle of your thumb, exposing a half-inch of your shirt cuff; and the shoulders of your jacket should align with your natural shoulder line. These three fit points are very obvious when they are "off", so pay extra attention to them.

Now, for style. The oversized suit has had its day, and the current trend is an overall slimmer silhouette. Look for narrow lapels, slim pants, and shoulders cut with very little padding. I've heard that gray is in as a neutral, and that there will be some more daring bright colors showing up, as well. But if we are talking style for the long-term, I'd say avoid the brights unless they completely fit your brand image. Color is one element that can easily look dated.

I hope you found this helpful, Matt...and all you fellas following my blog. See you back here again next time...same blog time...same blog channel....

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

Sunday, May 18, 2008


The newest article up at my website, titled Fashion Trends for Fall 2008 highlights the design trends that I forecast will appear in clothing lines this coming Fall/Winter season. These predictions are based in part on what appeared in fashion shows earlier this year, and also on some sneak peeks into several clothing lines' designs that are all ready to launch when fall clothing hits the stores.

Now you're probably scratching your head in wonderment, especially if you read my blog post Fashion Versus Style up at Wardrobe Planning for Anyone. It was there that I mentioned that I think the hoopla surrounding fashion shows and trend forecasting is rather ridiculous. And I hold to that opinion!

So why am I making predictions of my own?

After ready-to-wear hits the runways, mass-market design teams begin to interpret these new designs and implement them into upcoming seasons' clothing lines. Each brand label interprets the ready-to-wear designs a little differently, which is why there can be such variation amongst styles from label to label. These interpretations are the styles that you will see manifested in the stores that you shop in.

However, just because a style hits the stores, does not mean that it will catch on. Even though the mass-market designers are fairly skilled at disecting prêt-à-porter and figuring out which way the fashion wind will blow, it is anybody's guess which styles will stick and which will not. There is a difference between predicting which styles will manifest in stores and which styles will become truly popular trends. Certainly, the designers would like you to think that simply because they've designed it, it will be popular. But we all know that some things just never catch on, while other things (crocs, anyone?) defy explanation.

I don't think anyone can say with perfect accuracy what people will choose to wear until the trends actually hit the streets. And if you are a trendsetter, you don't need anyone to predict for you: you make your own predictions. So I eschew all of the predictions that attempt to give the "top ten must-haves" for the season before the season is really underway. These lists are, more likely than not, marketing ploys for lemmings.

However, I think it can be quite valuable to have a general sense of what trends the mass-market collections will showcase. If you know the styles, colors, and fabrics you will probably encounter when shopping, you can be better prepared when drawing up your wardrobe plan for the next season.

And that is why I like to offer my clients my forecast of what they can expect to see in stores in the upcoming season.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Clothing and the Friendship Factor

Yesterday's post Instant Makeover Failure discussed how too much change in too short a time period is nearly impossible to maintain. Today I want to take that thought and extend it a bit to our habits of acquiring new clothes.

We are all creatures of habit, and we all tend to gravitate towards the things that are familiar and make us comfortable. This goes for most everything: what we choose to eat, who we choose to be around, what we choose to wear. And when life gets hectic, or our spirits take a nose-dive, we are even more prone to seek out the things which make us feel comfortable and secure...the things that we feel are comforting.

Let's examine the relationship between comfort and familiarity. Say you have two is a very close friend and the other a passing acquaintance. Who would you call first if you wanted companionship? Chances are, it will be your close friend. Why? Your familiarity with one another establishes a certain level of comfort that is not yet present with your other neighbor.

The clothes that you wear frequently...the ones you gravitate towards... are like close friends. You have a relationship with those clothes. You know how they look and feel when you have them on. A new outfit, however, takes a number of wearings before you begin to feel like it "belongs" to you. It takes a while to integrate it into your current wardrobe of clothes. And perhaps the new oufit never becomes fully integrated. It ends up abandonded at the back of your closet waiting for the "someday" that you plan to wear it.

When you purchase new clothes, you have to anticipate that there will be a period of "getting to know you" with each item. And if you go overboard and buy too many new things at once, you run the risk of never successfully integrating these new finds into your wardrobe. Bring new items into your closet a few at a time, and you will greatly increase the likelihood that your new "acquaintances" will become "friends".

Next time I'll talk about why it IS important to bring new clothes into your closet. See you then...same blog time...same blog channel....

(For more information on Wardrobe Planning, please visit my website.)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Instant Makeover Failure

So many people watch the plethera of makeover shows on TV and say to themselves, "Oh, if only I had a super-famous makeover artist make me over then I could finally look fabulous, too!" We are so envious of these makeover recipients because we think that they have been given the answer to all their style woes...and we want the same magical answer for ourselves.

But the truth is, not long after that super-famous makeover artist makes over those lucky individuals, all but a small percentage will be back to looking the way they always looked, dressing the way they always dressed, styling their hair the way they always styled their hair, and going about their lives in exactly the same way as before.

Why is it that, even after being "fixed" by the industry's top professionals, these people cannot maintain their new looks?

There are several reasons for this.

The first is the problem of dissonance...the new style is so different from their previous look that it is not within their comfort zone to truly maintain. And if you are not comfortable in your clothes you will not continue to wear them.

Another reason is that true style is cultivated over time, and is based in a large part on personality. A stylist in these makeover situations hardly has the time to develop a relationship with the person he or she is dressing--or the the time to help them develop a style and build a wardrobe, rather than just the one look created for the camera.

And the third reason is the problem of takes time to make changes in your routine. If you try to change too much all at once, nothing will stick.

Your wardrobe is a reflection of many thoughts and decisions and experiences. If you try to make yourself over in one fell swoop, you will not succeed. Develop the image of how you want to present yourself to the world, and then work on becoming that person one step at a time. Integrate the new aspects into the old.

And consider that you are always a work in progress...which is a really exciting thing to be.

In the next post I'll continue with this idea and tie it into how we make mistakes buying too many new clothes at once. See you then...same blog time...same blog channel...

Jennifer Skinner, Wardrobe Planning Expert

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It's Q & A Day

Welcome to Q & A Day. Today I have a number of great questions from you, my loyal readers, that I shall attempt to answer with wit and charm. And if not that -- well, then I'll resort to words.

First, Kevin Hogan asks: "Is there some kind of a mental disorder attatched to a closet stuffed with clothes from 15 years ago that I've not worn (and I've moved in the interim)?"
Jennifer responds: Yes, there is. It called compulsive hoarding. But before anyone starts to worry, very few people with just an over-flowing closet would fall into the category of a compulsive hoarder. Most people with too many clothes just have an unrealistic picture of how many garments they actually own, how many they actually wear, and how many they actually need. They may also be victims of affluenza and the KUWTJ virus ...pesky psychological challenges, but not full-blown mental disorders. Unless the hoarding extends to spaces beyond your closet and to things other than clothes, I would say you just need to invest a little thought and time in some good ol' purging. Fifteen years is a long time to hold on to clothes you don't wear.

Next, Aaron asks: "If I want to convey a comfortable, confident image, how do I bring my evening/weekend wardrobe into harmony with my work stuff?"
Jennifer responds: It really depends on several things. A few have invested a tremendous amount into their image as a brand...and for them, there is very little difference between work/not work. They dress for their public no matter what the occasion. An example of a person with this view is Dave Lakhani. His image is consistent across the board. For the rest of us, however, there is the recognition of a difference between work clothes and casual clothes. My recomendation is that when choosing casual attire, aim for neat and clean. Unless you're off to the gym, avoid tennies and sweats. If you're wearing a cap, that should be clean, as well. Avoid throw-away T's with silly slogans (although sports team T's are allowed--especially Patriots, Red Sox and Bruins). You can also mix up the work/casual wardrobe as well. A nice button-down with jeans and loafers for example. I'll go into this topic at more length in a later post, as it is a really good question deserving of a more thorough answer.

And last, Sue wonders: Have you been peeking into my closet, Jenn?"
Jennifer responds: Oh, Sue, you caught me! X-Ray vision. Bought my glasses from a comic book ad...worth every penny.

Have a good evening, all! And come back next time for a discussion on the pros and cons of new clothing. See you then...same blog time...same blog channel....

Jennifer Skinner, Wardrobe Planning, Style Development, Image Consulting

Monday, May 12, 2008

What You Wear Is What You Wear

So there is your idealized, imaginary style persona. Then there is what is actually hanging out in your closet.

And then there is what you actually wear.

You could have the most amazing closet full of clothes...but they won't do anything to increase your style quotient unless you wear them.

As an exercise, it is very illuminating to keep a journal of what you wear each day. Quickly jot down the date, the clothes you put on, and then maybe a little note to yourself about how you felt and whether or not anyone commented on your outfit.

Look for the patterns. Which items do you find yourself wearing the most, and why?

If you are like most people, you will have a very definite set of favorite clothes which get worn more than others. If I had to take a guess, I'd say that these clothes make you feel good about yourself, and they are COMFORTABLE. In much the same way that we have our comfort foods, we have our comfort clothes.

Now sit yourself down and have a little think. WHY are these clothes comfortable? Why do you gravitate towards them over others in your closet?

The answers to these questions can help you figure out the last piece to the wardrobe puzzle. You want to be able to identify the qualities in the clothes that make them your favorites. Once you know this, you can begin to make better choices for yourself.

Join me next time for a discussion about why new clothes are not always the answer to our closet woes. See you then...same blog time...same blog channel....

Jennifer Skinner, Wardrobe Planning Expert

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Things My Mother Taught Me

My mom taught me a tremendous amount, and I am extremely grateful for her unfailing love and her wisdom. Of course, we all learn a great deal about life from our mothers. And it's odd sometimes just which little pieces of wisdom stick, or are particularily impactful. In honor of Mother's Day, I thought I would share some of the style and life advice my mother gave to me that was especially formative.

1. Red and Pink don't go together.
This was the first thing I ever remember my mother offering as advice about what to wear. I remember the moment so clearly -- I was six years old -- and I even remember the two items that I was going to pair together. While there are some who would disagree with this advice, my mom's color bias was the basis of my understanding that some things just don't go with others.

2. Wear a little makeup.
Once I hit my teens, my mother was always urging me to put on a little color. "It'll brighten up your face," she would tell me. Once we even went to a fancy makeup counter together and had our faces done. That was a special day for me, and one I'll always remember. I wore those particular colors for years afterwards.

3. Don't wear too much makeup.
Yes, there were the days I "brightened my face up" just a bit too much. Learning the fine art of just how much makeup to wear took a little bit of time and effort from my mother. Ah, such patience!

4. Do something with your hair.
My hair was always fine and stick straight and had the propensity to fall in my eyes. As a child this never bothered me one bit...but it bothered my mother a great deal. With the persistence belonging to a saint she would comb my hair and put it up so that I looked presentable. Over time, she taught me how to do ponytails and braids and how to curl my hair. I felt like a princess. Today I still prefer to have a wash-and-go kind of style...but I thank my mom for showing me how to "do something" with my locks.

5. Looks are important, but what's inside is what counts.
I was never going to be a beauty pageant winner. Ever. I was just a cute little thing with big brown eyes and buck teeth. And I was very small for my age. When I was really young, this was of no consequence. But the older I got, the more it bothered me. One Christmas, my mom gave me a present -- a t-shirt with the words "Good things come in small packages" on the front in large letters. I loved that shirt, and proudly wore it everywhere. When it started to wear out, I wore it to bed. And when it got too small, I packed it in my memory box. That phrase was the mantra I used to get me through school and life in general. My mom taught me that what was inside me was more important than how tall I might be, or whether or not I was Miss America.

6. Your brain is your best investment.
I'm lucky that I have a brilliant mom. And she encouraged me to learn and learn and read and read. I ended up pretty smart myself...and I owe it to her. She gave me an insatiable passion for intellectual stimulation, and instilled in me the idea that hard work will get you places. This gift I will never lose or outgrow.

These are just a few of the things that I remember Mom taught me. But even for these alone, I cannot thank my mom enough. Happy Mother's Day, Mom! I love you!

Jennifer Skinner, Wardrobe Planning Expert

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Story of Your Closet

The clothes that live in your closet tell a story.

You bought them, or they were gifted to you -- for a reason.

Maybe you wore them, maybe you didn't -- and that is a story in itself.

Some of these clothes get worn a lot-- some used to be worn a lot, but are no longer.

If you were to invite someone into your home, and invite them to see the contents of your closet, I am sure you would feel compelled to tell the story of the items hanging there (or not hanging...perhaps they are on the floor!). We'd need to explain how this blazer was the best purchase we ever made, or that dress was bought for a party we never went to, or how that suit is VERY expensive but we need to lose five more pounds to wear it. Oh, and over here, here are the clothes that dear Aunt Beatrice gifted you (aren't they lovely --vintage!!-- no, they don't fit...). And this is my FAVORITE.... Etcetera.

Imagine for a moment that you aren't standing there to tell the story. What if someone had to look at your closet and determine who you are from what is hanging there? Would they be able to?

The clothes in our closet are an extension of ourselves and our personalities. Because of this, there are many emotions tied to what's hanging on those hangers in that small/medium/large space behind those doors. WE know the story. OTHER people don't.

Without any blame, go through the contents of your closet. What in there is an accurate reflection of where you are today, right now? Isolate those clothes from the rest. You don't have to get rid of anything just now...just look at what you can pull from the closet that our imaginary visitor could look at and say...oh, yes, I have an idea who this person is.

Mull it over a while. You might be surprised at what you discover.

Jennifer Skinner, Wardrobe Planning Expert

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Style Persona -- From the Outside In

Too many people approach the idea of a style persona from the wrong angle. They think of how they want to express themselves without thinking about how others will perceive them. Truthfully, there are things that we wear --colors, styles, combinations and quality -- that have a specific message. Think pink. With ruffles. What comes to mind? How about a long broomstick-style tie-dye skirt? Jeans, workboots, and a plaid shirt? Short shorts, heels, and a tube-top? Unless you are clued-in about the messages you are sending with your clothes, trying to figure out your style persona is a shot in the dark.

I know that many will be up-in-arms about this suggestion, but I say: Start with how you want others to see you, then choose a style persona that works towards this end. What attributes do you want people to imagine you have? Conservative, timeless, professional -- "Classic". Unpretentious, earthy, low-maintnenance -- "Natural". Sleek, sophisticated, urban -- "Modernist". Traditional, feminine, nostalgic -- "Romantic". You could also be a "Trendy", "Bohemian", or "Artistic" dresser. Some people will be a mix of two or three -- but keeping the focus mostly on one "archetype" makes your message that much stronger.

Once you've got your focus, THEN start to figure out how you will personalize this look. Don't try to go the other way around.

Tomorrow we'll look at what the clothes in your closet have to say about you. See you then...same blog time...same blog channel...

Visit Jennifer Skinner's Wardrobe Planning Website for more information.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Three Basic Elements of Wardrobe Planning

There are three basic elements that come into play when planning a functional wardrobe:

1) How you wish to present yourself

2)What is really in your closet

3) What you actually wear

In a fully functional wardrobe, all three of these things are the same. In most people's closets, these three things are separated by a large gulf. Let me explain.

Most people carry around in their mind a picture of how they would like to present themselves to the world. The picture may be very specific or it may be very vague. It may be realistic or not. This is your imagined style persona.

Then there are the clothes in your closet. Sometimes the clothes will match up with the style persona. But often they will not. Or the clothes in your closet could outfit ten different personas at one time.

And then there are the clothes that you actually wear. I tell all my clients, "You wear what you wear." Bottom line. You put on the clothes that you feel most comfortable in, regardless of what else is in your closet and regardless of your imagined stye persona. Whenever something goes onto your body, you have, at some level, made the choice to wear it.

A classic example of dissonance between the elements is the jeans-and-t-shirt gal with a closetful of flowery skirts and blazers who imagines she would like to be seen as a classic, tailored professional.

So how do you bring all these elements into harmony? That is what I will
share tomorrow. See you then...same blog time...same blog channel...

Jennifer Skinner, Wardrobe Planning Expert

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Question and Answer, Part Two

Last week I answered some of the questions that the ladies had asked. Today I will tackle some questions from the fellas.

First up, Matt asks, "I would like your take on the same color shirt and tie. I've seen many do this, but I've always liked a contrast. What is more fashionable today?"
Jennifer responds: Matt, wearing the same color shirt and tie has been done for decades. It's a stylish option for looking very pulled together. However, contrasts are equally as good. Lately there has been a move towards mixing differently patterned shirts and ties...this might be more for the daring or edgy dresser, though.

Next, Yann asks: "Do you have any tips on choosing the colors that look good on us?"
Jennifer responds: There are many complicated methods for identifying the colors that will look good on you, but here are three quick and easy shortcuts for finding some of them. The first is to repeat the colors that are already in your personal coloring...your hair, your eyes, your skin. If the color is already a part of you, you can't go wrong! The second is to wear the colors that are the complements of your eyes, your hair, and your skin. Complementary colors are those that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel. For example, brown eyes would look good with blues and greens. The third is to pay attention to the level of contrast between the colors of your eyes, skin, and hair. If you have high-contrast, you can wear colors that are stronger. Low-contrast requires colors that are more muted.

And Aaron asks: "With men's clothes, fashions don't seem to change much. Is there anything I really need to keep up on?"
Jennifer responds: You are correct about men's fashions being slow to change. Generally speaking, it takes a lot longer for styles to shift in the men's department. Things to keep an eye on include silhouette and shape: the width of ties, the width of lapels, the length of jackets, and the roominess of the pant. Certain colors come into vogue, as well (think the rise of !pink!), as do certain patterns (think wide stripe rugbys). And every so often a fad comes bursting on the scene...remember Miami Vice? ;-) Assuming that you are not a male fashionista, you'll be fine just keeping your eye on the above mentioned points.

Lastly, David McMillen asks: "How does the need to change one's attire due to seasonal/weather change play into this? Should I start again from scratch when the time of year and temperatures change dramatically?"
Jennifer responds: I do advocate changing out your wardrobe with the seasons. Granted, a portion of what you wear is seasonless, and can be worn throughout the year. Jeans are a good example. But much of what we wear should be packed away at the end of a season. Some fabrics and colors are just much better suited to a specific time of the year. Heavy wool doesn't belong in summer, nor does light Irish linen belong in the winter. Changing out your wardrobe seasonally also gives you the oportunity to weed out the garments that no longer suit you, and to figure out what new items you will need to complete your wardrobe.

I'll be doing another Q & A next week, so do ask the questions! As for tomorrow, I'll share a bit about the virtues of having a style icon. See you then...same blog time...same blog channel....

Jennifer Skinner, Wardrobe Planning Expert

Monday, May 5, 2008

Keeping Up With the Joneses

The Joneses...those ubiquitous neighbors who always seem to have what we don't long before we even realize that we want what they now have. That infamous family that acts as the ever rising benchmark for standard of living. The people with whom we feel we must keep up...or be hopelessly left behind. The ones with whom we are always comparing ourselves.

Now, lest you start to feel bad about comparing yourself to the Joneses, let me let you in on a little secret. The truth is...everyone compares. And it's not all bad.

We are constantly comparing. Your whole construct of who you think you are and how you fit in to the big picture is built on comparisons. We learn at an early age to identify and classify things in our environment according to similarities and differences. As we grow, we learn to make inferences, to see connections and to draw conclusions. This is how we continue to expand our understanding of the world.

So if making comparisons is a natural and necessary process, what exactly is the problem?

The problem is that social comparison can easily turn into social competition. Comparing yourself with the Joneses leads to the desire to keep up with the Joneses...or even surpass them. In essence we let our peers, neighbors, and society determine for us how we should look and what we need to buy in order to be "the best". This continual, nonstop need to acquire in order to compete is extremely stressful. You end up owning things that you have no use for or buying things that do not suit you just because those darn Joneses had one first.

In order to have a very small closet, you will have to curtail your social comparison. You will never be able to have a consistent look if your look changes as often as Madison Avenue would like it to. Notice new trends and form opinions about what you like and don't like, but don't follow the siren song of the Joneses down the path of TOO MUCH TOO OFTEN.

Because the truth is, even the Joneses are trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Tomorrow is Question and Answer Day, and this time I will be answering some questions sent in by some of the fellas. See you then...same blog time...same blog channel...

Jennifer Skinner, Wardrobe Planning Expert

Thursday, May 1, 2008

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming...

Today's post was going to continue my series on how the "Paradox of Choice" leads to wardrobe planning woes. However, I am going to take a small detour this evening.

For those who don't know, I am fairly heavily involved in theatre. I've been doing shows since I was but a wee little thing...acting, directing, producing, and even writing. It's always been a love of mine. Currently I am choreographing a local production of Peter Pan which opens tomorrow evening.

Now, why am I choosing to write about this on a blog devoted to wardrobe planning and style development? The reason is that last night I had a chance to watch the dress rehearsal, with the cast in full costume. I have to say that the costumes are exquisite...our costumer Beth Signoretti has done the most amazing job outfitting all the characters. I can't say enough about it...I'm really blown away!

The art of costuming a play is really about finding an outfit that telegraphs the essence of the character to the audience...instantaneously. Everything works together in a costume to clearly communicate personality, station in life, importance in the story (lead, supporting, chorus), and even relationship to other characters. This is a tall order for but one costume!

Oftentimes in plays, and most always in musicals, the characters have only ONE costume ... and it defines them. It visually represents their character onstage. It is their BRAND. Think for a moment about Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, Peter from Peter Pan, Nancy from Oliver, Annie from Annie...see what I mean? The costume is so strongly associated with the character that if we were to see a production where the costume were different, the character (in our minds) would not be nearly as believable.

Ooooooh! Here's the point of this evening's sidetrack: Your clothing is your brand. It is the "costume" by which your audience identifies your "character". If you have ever gone to see a show, you know how quickly you make inferences about the characters onstage by costume alone. The actors don't even have to speak, and you've made some judgements. And have you ever felt decieved or let down when your first impression of the character didn't match up with the actual personality of the character?

Think about this! People expect (consciously or unconsciously) for a person' s "costume" to indicate a person's "character". This is such a powerful truth!

Beth's costumes for Peter Pan are brilliant not only because they are so visually appealing, but because she masterfully BRANDS the characters onstage. Way to go, Beth!

This weekend I will be away in Philadelphia for an Image Weekend, so I am not sure I will be able to post each night. However, we will definitely return to our "regularly scheduled programming" and the promised post on keeping up with the Joneses on Monday. See you then...same blog time...same blog channel....

(If you would like more information on wardrobe planning and style development, please visit my website.)