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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Raleigh Denim

My own little high...

Maybe instead of being a wardrobe consultant/fashion guru/stylist, I was meant to be an ambassador of good will for clothing style. Wait a minute, that’s what I do! I love watching people emerge from a fitting room and either have that aha moment of looking great in what they are wearing or the look of eeek! not so good.

Last night was no different. About two months ago I began working out with Kris Jackson, who conducts group boot camp training out of her basement and the back yard. She is as diligent about her work outs as she is about her diet. I love Kris for both those reasons. For me, it has proven to be just the kick in the butt I needed to get rid of the some of the belly fat I have been storing for about two years. I wanna say it was menopause, but honestly it was living the good life of baked brie and wine on summer weekends.

Oh yes, back to last night. One of Kris's clients is Sarah Lyntvineko, co-owner with her husband Victor of Raleigh Denim and the Curatory downtown. Kris thought it would be great to offer her clients an opportunity to check out Sarah's store and for me to help by offer styling tips to clients in at an early evening party. So, if you know a store you want to have schedule a private party at, give me a call and/or speak with the owner or manager. It happens a lot more than people think. Back to last night - it was just that, a party. Very low-key, no-pressure jean fittings and fashion advice.

Women were trying jeans and I was styling them with shoes from Main and Taylor and jewelry from Christine Jones Jewelry. Raleigh Denim offers premium jeans for men and women. I was loving the deep teal blue and spruce wash jeans. Both are versatile and wonderful in color. Raleigh Denim also offered earlier this year a white jean with a black dye component on the inside that gave the jeans a white/gray faded tone. It was a great color combination that provided a unique option for people not wanting to do the stark white. Since I am all about wearing white all year long, this would be an easy option for those that are still suspect of this ‘white’ trend.

One after another, women emerged from the fitting room in all shapes and sizes, modeling jeans of various styles, including a newer high-waisted look. Not like the look Jessica Simpson made the news for, but a sleeker, more modern high waist. For women that are short waisted not so good, but for those who were petite in height or tall, the look was really nice and flattering. It was amazing how it elongated their legs. Then again, seeing Sarah in her high-waisted jeans and rocking 5 inch spruce green suede heels made us all salivate. Her genes, believe me, are not the norm.

Many people wonder if price matters. I loved seeing how a premium jean versus a Gap or Levi's jeans sit on a woman's body. I have always said you get what you pay for. Then again, most people can't afford or justify a pair of jeans for over $200. And I’m not knocking the Gap or Levi’s - they’ve been in business a long time, and make great jeans, it’s just that there’s something about a pair of premium jeans that makes it worth the money.

One of the many styling questions that I got last night was what type of boot to wear with what jeans. Do I do black belts and boots, or brown belts and boots? Either works, and it’s a matter of preference. Brown is a little softer and tends to blend versus black is more sharp in contrast.

I also talked about gold and silver jewelry and accessories. One of the things I like most that Christine Jones has done more and more of this season, is combining chains that are in several finishes. She often combines one or more of gold, silver, pewter and copper. Most people can wear both gold and silver, but often choose just one to incorporate into their wardrobe. Stepping out of that comfort zone is often hard, but that is frequently what I try to get clients to do. There’s nothing more freeing than trying something new and discovering that, if you like it, your wardrobe has just expanded itself without a single additional purchase!

Last night I spoke to several women about buying one key item a season that may be slightly different from what they gravitate towards. Items from the Curatory gave women a chance to do just that, with many different looks, including a beautiful black wool coat with a front buttons and back full zipper. Truly stunning! There were also several tops that were short in the top and longer in the back. Now....let me just say, that look is not for everyone. And it may not be appropriate in a corporate setting, but certainly great for a night out.

What I enjoyed most last night was the relaxed buzz of the room. It was a smaller space, filled with women bonding over jeans! Imagine that. Then again, John the expert employee who runs the shop, was quite mellow himself. I had to giggle when one gal came out in a plunging deep v-neck top fully exposing her cleavage and the top of her bra. I had to comment that I expected John has never seen a breast, to which he replied "never" and slyly grinned. One of those moments that’s like asking him if he’s ever encountered a woman that hates to shop for jeans.

As the evening wound down and I packed up, the proverbial icing on the cake was when someone asked about my skin in a complimentary ‘what products do you use’ kind of way. I mentioned the new product line I was using, Rodan and Fields. Of course, she asked my age and I actually told her my age. In my mind I will be 29 or maybe 39 forever. Ahhhhh.........what a fun night!

Monday, October 24, 2011

J. McLaughlin

Good for North Hills! Kane Realty must be doing something right because they just snagged another well-known small chain to move into North Hills, and I think it’s a great fit. J.McLaughlin has plunked down a small store next to Francis King Stationary, and near one of my favorite eatery's, Vivace. Good for both Kane Realty and brothers Jay and Kevin McLaughlin for realizing North Hills in Raleigh would be a perfect market for them.

With the recent announcement of the closing of Tyler House (one of my personal favorites for clients), I really began to look to see who could fill the gap. No, I am not going on the record to say that this new store will do that, but it is sure good to have them here. I have already stumbled in and met the manager, the lovely Erin Wallace, and her few sales associates. I remembered I had been to another store in Florida with my mother this past spring, and my mother mentioned she had gotten some her favorite sweaters at the store.

So, I began eyeballing the racks and then proceeded to gently rifle through to see if there was something I could potentially buy for clients. Let's start with the quality....yes, I mean, yes, and yes again. I am not seeing made in China. The colors and patterns are bright and often something I had to squint at. I love me some bright, but I am not seeing how orange and yellow will translate for fall here. Blue and yellow maybe but in a belt buckle pattern, I am just saying. The black, browns and grays in the spandex henley seemed most on the mark.

My favorite item by far was a chocolate suede skirt with a flattering waist and body style. It was mine for the taking, as I knew my client would be thrilled. I continued to make my way through the store, and I noticed that they carry at least four different body styles of dress. The wrap, the a-line pullover, the classic shirt dress, and one called the Panama. I'm liking that there is a style to fit most every body type, but tall women beware, it may not be for you.

The sweaters also grabbed my attention for both men and women. Again, the attention to detail and the quality was wonderful. I also got the feeling of what I often see some other boutiques stores do. Only put out X amount of sizes and styles and keep the rest in the stockroom. I hope that doesn't end up being the case, because I think most shoppers don't think to ask if their size isn't there. I know space is sometimes an issue, but there are a lot of shoppers that don’t think to, or simply won’t ask for a larger size.

Moving on to accessories…I am all about a nice leather tote. As I was checking out with Erin, I kept glancing at a beautiful soft yellow bag. I was almost afraid to ask to have it taken off the high shelf above. One or two things would happen. I would ask to see it and try it on my shoulder and try and justify the purchase or I would squirm at the price and wait until the end of the season. Needless to say, I behaved! Other items I could have easily wrapped up and carried away were some wonderful rich colored silk and cashmere scarves, belts that would have added a touch class to any outfit that needed some panache, and lastly, dynamite small clutches! The store does have a distinct client feel and if you haven't figured that out with this blog than maybe you need to go see for yourself. I expect when word is out, many shoppers will flock in droves. In the meantime, since the store manager said they aren't big on advertising, saunter on by and let them know I sent ya!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Power shopping at its’ best.

I often get the question where do I personally shop. Well, I shop all over the place. Sometimes in town, always when I am away. I always like to check out stores in regions other than our own. I find different areas of our country buy obviously for their weather, demographic and surrounding influences. And as you can imagine, if I am in a store looking for items for a client and see something I like, I make a mental note to go back and pick it up or I buy it.

I like a bargain like anyone else, but quality and fit is the number one priority. I don't settle for items that don't feel good or that I don't feel wow in. Just because I am tall, doesn't mean I don't have my own style challenges. I would be lying if I didn't say I don't cock my head in the dressing room and make faces in the mirror after putting a garment on. I even break out in a giggle every once in a while.

I also have specific designers I like, and I know which stories carry their lines, and they sometimes come to town for trunk shows. If you haven’t been to one, it’s a great experience and I highly recommend it.

One of my favorite designers came to town Friday, Kay Unger, just in time for my power shopping excursion. Somehow Kay’s dresses fit my body like a glove. A good glove, and her newer line is called Phoebe and is designed by her daughter. I met Kay a few years ago at the same trunk show. She is in her 60's, slim, dark hair, and full of spit and vinegar. It’s obvious that she is well seasoned and loves coming to do trunk shows - it’s a great opportunity for her to speak to the women who wear her things about what they like and what they love.

Last time we met I told her I was a stylist, and we chatted briefly as she juggled several clients. This time, I arrived at the store at 10:10, knowing if I was ever going to power shop this was the time. I had to catch a plane in two hours and I was going to be focused and try only what wowed me. I was also gonna work the friends and family discount. Good clothes (tailored well, nice fabrics) are so darn expensive, but I know I will wear one of her dresses for years.

This is what happened in the 25 minutes I was there. They wanted to introduce her to me. I said we met two years ago. "Hey, Kay,” as I extended my hand, “I am Suzanne Libfraind, stylist. I have to catch a plane but I want to try a few casual dresses, not business but a dress that can go casual as well."

Kay was wearing a v-neck ruched and gathered to one side leopard print dress. Cute, but not screaming gotta have. She pulled a muted beige and brown weave with a cowl neck. Hmmm, thoughts begin swirling. Tried it on with my cowboy boots and walk out for Kay to adjust the belt. She yanks the neckline over my shoulders, making it an off the shoulder garment and opening up my neckline - it's a wow dress! I loved the belt - a supple leather with gold framed holes and buckle. Not the usual flimsy belt that often comes with dresses. Now that is a bonus!

Of course, then I proceeded to talk business. How could I stand there and make it all about me when I have five minutes to talk shop?!? “So Kay, how is the newer line Phoebe doing?” She stated that it was doing quite well and that she found people were enjoying the everyday appeal. We chatted about my motto of lifestyle dressing and she heartily agreed. Her leopard print dress is one of her favorites this season because it is easy to toss in a bag and bundles up in a suitcase. Yes, easy care fabrics. I can't say it enough, everyone wants things that are low maintenance. Just like friendships should be, as I always say. 

How refreshing it is that a designer is so personable and listens to what the customer is saying. I did giggle as she tried to get me to try several other dresses including a great looking black sweater cape that would have been a wonderful addition to any wardrobe. Very fresh and nice lines. I didn’t try it but only because I already bought something similar earlier this season.

So that was my power shopping - in less than 25 minutes at a trunk show I tried 4 dresses and chatted with Kay about what she was doing to keep up with the times and economy.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Wondering what you might wear for, say, a themed holiday party or maybe at the office holiday party? Or a winter wedding? Come join us at the All Occasion Venue Tour and Fashion Show, held at The Mill Room in Wake Forest on October 23, 2011. Two of the VIP seats could be yours! There’s a guaranteed party dress waiting for you to feast your eyes on – one of the shows is a red dress show benefiting the American Heart Association. No need to always wear a LBD when heading out to holiday parties (or any party, really).

TO WIN: Post your story on Twitter with an @savvysuzanne mention or at the Wardrobe Consulting Facebook Page, and tell us about your holiday dressing wardrobe malfunction. Was your zipper not zipped? Did your outfit bunch in unflattering places? Did holiday eating cause you to gain 5 pounds, and you looked like a stuffed sausage? The funniest wardrobe malfunctions win two VIP tickets to the event.

Like or Follow Wardrobe Consulting to qualify – that’s where we’re announcing the winners!

Fleming’s Steakhouse Contest

You might be wondering how fashion and wine fit together, but it does! Fleming’s Steakhouse has launched their signature wine, Forty-Six Diamonds Toscana 2009, and we’re giving away gift cards to so you can taste it! The basics: Forty-Six Diamonds Toscana 2009 is a collaboration between Fleming’s Wine Director, and Il Borro Winemaker Nicolò D’Afflitto. And this is where wine and fashion meet – Il Borro is the winery owned by quintessential luxury designer Salvatore Ferragamo. Fleming’s is located at Crabtree Valley Mall, so I think a little shopping, eating and drinking is in order, don’t you?

TO WIN: In honor of the Forty-Six Diamonds release, post a picture of your favorite piece of jewelry on the Wardrobe Consulting Facebook page or tweet your entry to @savvysuzanne by Oct 30 and explain why you like your jewelry piece so much. Whether it was a gift from a deceased relative you loved, your first ‘real’ jewelry purchase, or simply a cheap impulse purchase that wears well with everything, we want to know! Best stories get the gift cards, and it won’t hurt if I love the picture, too!

Like or Follow Wardrobe Consulting to qualify – that’s where we’re announcing the winners!

Wardrobe Consulting gets some great swag, and we like to share!

Be sure to Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for details.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Boots.....you gotta have them.

The cold weather is finally beginning to make its’ way to our state! For many people, boots have been a year round wardrobe staple, similar to the newest trend of wearing white jeans all year. So let’s chat about wearing and rocking boots all year round.

The style that comes to mind that I see most is cowboy boots. Case in point, this past spring when the market was flooded with ruffles and flowing floral dresses that came to mid-thigh or long ankle-length peasant skirts, both worn with cowboy boots. I must admit I saw more young women and gals in their mid twenties sporting the relaxed look. I loved it, and even saw the return of the short denim skirt, layered strappy tees, big earrings and boots for a fun summer look. I love that shoes and now boots are season-less and that if people see Taylor Swift wearing her boots it somehow becomes more acceptable.

I purchased my first pair of cowboy boots back in college (just a mere 10 plus years ago) by Nine West and still have them. For those of you that know me or have seen me you know that the ten plus years ago is joke and that I actually have a daughter, Kelsi, who herself is in college. No need to do the math!

So about 4 years ago I bought a pair of basic tan Frye boots. I have worn them with long skirts, leggings and long sweaters, jeans and my favorite dresses. I no longer feel like I need to wear them out West only. It is amazing that anything goes, as long as you wear them with confidence. Along that line, UGG's have made such an impact on the market for the past 6-8 years that I am at the point that all I can say is “Really?” How many times can something be reinvented?

Check out these sequined puppies that I saw recently at Belk’s:

So, if you are insistent on wearing these, here are the ground rules:
  • You must be no older than 13 years old and no taller than 5'3''.
  • You must not like or know what a valley girl is.
  • You may not wear any other sequins on your body (that includes scarves).
  • You must not try and match any other garment on your body with the color of your sequined UGG's Pair with jeans, leggings, jeggings, short neutral one color skirts, no longer than 19 inches.
  • Lastly, when the sequins begins to fall off, color the bare spots in with the same color marker bought from a craft store.
  • Don't expect to want to wear them more than one season. You will tire of them. OMG, I sound like my mother! I never tire of things that are funky.
  • If you insist on buying them, then rock them out girls!
So we have covered cowboy boots and UGG's, so far. What’s new this season?

Skinny, chunky, lace ups with rubber soles, textured or weathered with a burnout look, buckled boots, over the knee, snakeskin, fabric and all heel heights and toe boxes.

Before purchasing boots here are a few things to remember:
  • Brown boots can be worn with black, camel, navy, dark greens and most every color clothing.
  • Black boots are not a must for your wardrobe.
  • Think about what you will wear your boots with to determine whether you want a shoe, ankle, under your knee or above your knee boot.
  • Try thinking out of the box, but remember to only select a boot that has a comfortable foot bed and heel height that is good for walking. This is when comfort must meet style, no matter what the models are wearing on the runway. You never want your boots or shoes to send you running to the podiatrist.
  • Check the boots you have already in your closet to have them polished or re-soled. A little polish can really make an old boot look wow!
  • Lastly check out www.zappos.com for a huge boot selection. They even have a foot specialist available to answer questions. Take advantage of the free shipping.
Before I close this blog, I have to mention that this idea came from my good friend, who loves a bargain and generally does quite well. She has her own sense of style and I am thrilled with the ways she shops consignment stores looking for hidden treasures. She sent me pictures of all her boots, asking which can be worn and which should be tossed. Here are my suggestions:

  • Love the short black boot- wear it with pants or jeans and a black or tweed blazer.
  • Ugg's  - save for bad weather but limit the use. Been there done that!
  • Love the tan boots with flower around the ankle. Pair them with tights of all colors and wear with dresses, skirts and leggings!
  • Black slouch boot will also be good with leggings or skinny jeans and longer jackets and sweaters.
  • The tall black boot with the chunky heel, I think I would consign or pack away for a while. 
If you want to purchase anything new this season, I would go for a textured or weather looking brown boot.

Good job girlfriend!

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Fond Farewell To Tyler House

So this past week one of my closest retail friends decided to call it quits and close her store. I have known Jennifer Huggard, owner of Tyler House, for about as long as I have been in business. I realize it simply wasn’t feasible for her to call all her friends and let them know, but it was a shock to read it in the mail. I was opening up my mail last Sunday after a very long ride home from Charlotte after Charlotte Fashion Week. I was so tired, and concerned that I might doze off, I made Jeannie talk business with me the whole way home. She really wanted to zone out herself and send me an email about things up and coming, and I knew the comment of how is your book coming along would be said, but for me I needed to stay awake. More coffee was really not the answer, but pushing conversation with Jeannie was. I finally get back to Raleigh and pull in around 2pm, and gather my mail out of the mailbox. I see a letter from Tyler House and realize it wasn't a bill.

“Dear Friends,
     Over the past seventeen years I have had the privilege of owning Tyler House, the store where I worked while in school and first began to learn from Mr. Tyler the skills of being a good merchant. As I face the end of my lease, I have decided it is time to begin a new chapter in my life......”

Jennifer goes on to say she will be starting a sale and will begin to reduce prices to prepare to close her doors. I don't gasp or grab my chest often, but being tired, I did both and started to tear. I quickly call Jennifer to ask if she and John (her husband) are ok. She replies yes, but her aunt was not. I remembered Jennifer mentioning that her aunt was quite ill, and that they were only three years apart in age. Her aunt, who really was like a sister had been there for her own sister, Jennifer’s mother, when she was ill so many years before.

Jennifer wanted that same time with her aunt and plans to travel with her retired husband. No, it wasn't that the business wasn't doing well, it was that Jennifer wanted to trade her very hectic life to one filled with travel and family. I repeated many times how happy I was for her and glad that she had made such a wonderful choice. Most of us spend our lives working day in and day out not taking enough time to evaluate what is most important to us. I think Jennifer has it right!

For me I sat down to calculate the many losses it meant to me, as Jennifer has not only been a friend but a true supportive business confidant over the years. This is my top ten list of what I will miss most about Tyler House.
  1. The greeting I receive from Ann Suber every time I walk in.
  2. That Jennifer is always, and I mean always, very accommodating and will never let a client walk out unhappy.
  3. Jennifer takes back most everything even after a month or longer. This is not Nordstrom, it is a boutique mind you!
  4. Jennifer will always try and get a garment if requested by me for a client, even if she knows chances are slim.
  5. The store is always clean and well dressed!
  6. I will especially miss Tot's very southern twang and conversation
  7. Jennifer and I know one another so well we almost have a secret code when something happens in the store that makes up both want to bust out and laugh
  8. Jennifer knows so much about fit and body type and the merchandise she carries that I can always pick her brain.
  9. The way Ann Suber has no problem asking a client of mine a random question that usually catches me off guard.
  10. The back room and office has always been one of my favorite places to hang out with Jennifer and Claire, her assistant, because we can chit chat about retail locally.
In finishing this list, I realize what I will miss most about the store closing is that for me I am not sure I can fill the void of what the store carried for my clients. Jennifer has done a great job with private label. For the many people that thought she bought for the conservative client, I say not. I could always find that piece that would bring on the wow factor. So, if there are any local merchants out there, I hope you have the opportunity to hop on some of the vendors that Jennifer had relationships with and grab them quick.

I do expect to keep in touch with Jennifer and catch a lunch or dinner, but it won't be the same. Tyler House is like my favorite high heels and robe all wrapped up into one. Be sure and drop by and catch some of the great savings before she closes her doors. I sure hope that Mr. Tyler is smiling down on Jennifer because she has been gem to so many and we will long remember her when wearing our Tyler House duds!
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