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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cyber Monday Shopping

If you have had your fill of turkey and relatives and now you are trying to catch your breath before Cyber Monday hits, I thought I would give you some quick food for thought. Can you believe I actually mentioned food again? Before you start cruising the internet and reading through the dozens of emails, all advertising cyber deals, think about the following questions, particularly if you get the bug to shop for yourself and not for holiday presents:

What makes this internet offer such a good one?

What is written in the small print - is there a minimum spend to get the deal?

Have you bought from them before?

Is it a secured site?

Does it offer free shipping and return postage?

Can the item be returned?

What is the delivery time promised? Express or snail mail? Estimated delivery time?

If it is not being offered at at at least 50% off or more, forget it. It probably isn't worth the effort.

Is it an item that will enhance your wardrobe, or just a splurge?

There are some items that are worth checking out that are worth investing in at this point in the season, and that you may have been not been able to look at previously:

  • A good leather or suede boot
  • A wool coat
  • A leather jacket
  • A classic raincoat
  • A long strand of pearls
  • A rich leather handbag
  • A good leather belt with a handsome buckle, and remember to go up one size. If you buy size 28 jeans, buy a 30 inch belt.
  • Your favorite brand and style t-shirt in multiple colors
  • Your favorite scent

Big box stores will provide the biggest draw for sale items, as well as specific designers or brand names. If you like a certain brand or designer, look at the site. And don't dilly dally! If you find something that piques your interest - go for it. I guarantee if you check back, it will have sold out.

Happy shopping, but remember a great sale on wardrobe items is only good if it’s something that will work with your existing wardrobe. This is not the time to build a wardrobe. This is, however, a great time to do a quick, and I mean quick, closet evaluation and see if you can catch any steals online to complement what you already have.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday

To all of our loyal readers:  we know you'll be sad to hear our fashion tips and tricks are finished for the week. We know you'll be too busy to read anyway since you'll be preparing your Black Friday shopping kit, and if my daughter gets her way, so will I. We'll be back Monday with a fresh blog about our holiday shopping, unless we're too busy taking advantage of the deals on Cyber Monday....hmmm.

Happy holidays, and happy shopping!

Calling All Women!

Calling all women, calling all women! Do you think you could rock this look in the Triangle? Can you imagine getting up in the morning and throwing on this cute little red dress with some black tights and boots? Would you have the confidence to go from your everyday attire, whether it is jeans or that little black skirt, and wear this dress proudly?

This dress is designed by Project Runway alum Daniel Feld, and we found it at Fashionista.com. All of his goods are not only made in the good old USA, but in NYC to boot! Think about being inside his factory in the fashion industry and seeing the production line of his fashion line. If you have never been to a NYC designers factory or warehouse, that alone is worth the trip. I will never forget my first time going to the Carlisle and Etcetera warehouse that sells previous season’s merchandise. My mother and I years ago walked down the street looking for the building and were shocked to see the lack of signage on the building front. We stumbled upon the address, and opened the door to an unlit hallway. Picture me, holding my large purse like I was ready to bash someone over the head, and my mother just chattering away.

Inside the rusted out elevator door, we puched the button for the third floor and when the doors opened we strode out into a massive open warehouse with about 100 women frantically shopping as if the goods were leaving on a freight truck in minutes. As for the ten men holding women's purses, they just looked blankly into space, probably hoping they could leave before closing. I have seen that look many times before, and it ain't pretty. Ah, the smell of a musty warehouse full of bargains. Two hours later we rode back down the elevator with packages in hand looking for a cab. That was my experience with NYC warehouses, so I can imagine what Daniel's design house looks like. To rent space alone in the NYC fashion district, you are going to need design a line that is gonna sell and sell well!

Back to my original questions. The little red dress certainly looks comfortable and actually could be worn several different ways. With a poncho, with tights, leggings, a cigarette leg jean, a long sleeve fitted t-shirt underneath for warmth, with necklaces, scarves, ballerina flats, boots, or pumps, and that is all just for fall and winter.

My theory as a stylist is that it is all about comfort and making the garment be a part of your lifestyle. Wear the dress instead of it wearing you. All it takes is a little confidence in how you look and feel in it. It could easily become a wardrobe staple and essential item to build upon. This red dress is trendy on, but only if you make it appear that way.

Give thought to wearing it for everyday wear and how it could be part of your wardrobe. Could you strut yourself into Whole Foods (my husband calls it Whole Paycheck) in that cute dress? Actually, I dress up most days and often do run into Whole Foods with heels and feel quite comfortable.   I refuse to lie down and say we don't and can't wear trendy essential clothing in the Triangle.

Someone obviously is, because stores like CT Weekends are selling European designers and are doing just fine. Daniel’s little asymmetric red frock isn't any trendier and quite honestly, is right on par with what they are showing in their store. I do believe the Triangle is becoming more and more of a fashion forward location. With the growing number of fashion shows and emerging designers in the area, fashionable options that don’t come from big box stores are increasing quickly. Wouldn’t it be great to get off GQ’s list of most unfashionable cities in America? The easy way to do that is to get comfortable with dressing with purpose and for your lifestyle. This little frock could be worn with flats for day with a scarf, and with heels at night with a faux fur poncho to theatre at the DPAC. Actually, I think I have almost talked myself into it ladies! Should we check the price first?

A final tip.....I bought an asymmetric black cotton/spandex fitted dress about five years ago when that look was quite big. It's still one of my favorites, but last season I had the hem line cut straight across and ta-da! I got a brand new look!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Black Friday Shopping Expert Tips and Tricks

Retail was up .5% for the month of October. Hooray!

What does that actually mean? Retail sales haven’t shown a positive increase in forever, and stores have traditionally relied upon heavy discounting and carrying less inventory. As you may know, Black Friday is called that because stores have taken the upcoming holidays, discounted their goods for shoppers who have the day after Thanksgiving off and can go shopping, and crossed their fingers that it would allow them to show a profit.

Let's chat about upcoming shopping for Black Friday. Is it worth fighting the crowds of crazy people all in search of what they think is the bargain of the year? If you are looking for clothing, do the research beforehand. Most stores have a pretty good idea of what will be on special sale next Friday. If they choose not to share with you that is one thing, but the information should be available. You need to weigh the savings versus the stress of it all.
I had my first experience shopping on Black Friday last year with my daughter. It wasn't pretty, but I will do it again ‘cause I love my daughter. I frequently don't do malls on weekends. There has to be a really good reason for me to shop, and the same thought applies to shopping on any holiday. A holiday is meant to be just that. A break from your job! Not that I don't love it, but the crowds kill me.

I figure I log anywhere from 15 - 30 hours alone in just one of our various malls in the Triangle on any given week. That doesn't include shopping centers, or one-stop destinations.  My car survival kit isn't quite the same as most traveling salesman's. What you typically find in my car or purse on a regular basis is meant to help with my job of shopping.

Let's compare notes and see if you are as equipped for a typical shopping expedition with a personal shopper!

·         Two bottles of water, usually cold at 10 am and warm by 3 pm,
·         a small cooler if I plan ahead, with carrots, an apple and maybe some cheese,
·         a bag of my favorite snacks, typically raw cashews or smoked almonds,
·         an empty Starbucks cup, from my morning routine and just waiting to be thrown out,
·         several ink pens, because I am forever losing them between the seats,
·         black flats, for when my heels don’t like my feet anymore and my dogs are barking,
·         straight pins and safety pins, for showing clients what the garment will look like when hemmed,
·         a jewelry chain to measure what length my clients might want a necklace made to accommodate their necklines,
·         a pad of paper, and
·         a good old fashion yellow pages.

Now let's chat in terms of how you need to prepare yourself for Black Friday, and what to expect. Do your research and have a plan. Now if you’re not going for anything in particular, then are you crazy?

1.    A somewhat good night’s sleep, either Wednesday the 23rd, or if you’re hard core and don't plan on going to bed on the 24th, forget my suggestion.
2.    A plan of action. Decide what stores are most important to you and go there first.
3.    Comfortable shoes - rubber soles are a must. The mall floor will get old quickly while fighting the crowds.
4.    An outfit with no more than two layers. A sweater that can be thrown in a purse or around your waist is good for changing temperatures in stores, the mall and outdoors.
5.    A lightweight purse with a front closure or body bag purse. Don't give pick pockets an opportunity to ruin your fun.
6.    A bottle of water and a snack.
7.    Bring your patience, because you will be waiting in long cashier register lines.
8.    Any online coupons that might be used along with regular store discounts.
9.    Walkie talkies (just kidding). A cell phone will work as well. You may lose your family member in a store. Or is that the plan?
10.  Lastly, bring your smile, as this is supposed to be fun and not too painful. Hmmm, I'm just saying.

So, what might bring me out shopping besides my daughter asking me - nothing. No discount is great enough for me not to be home relaxing. If you do happen to run into me, I’ll be sporting a large cup of coffee, an extended belly from eating way too much the day before, and possibly my mother and mother-in-law on my arm. I can't imagine why they will want to come. My mother doesn't get up before 8 am. My mother-in-law is so little and doesn't hear well, and I could easily lose her under a rack or in a corner and she wouldn't hear me yelling for her. As for my daughter, truth be told, I wouldn't trade the craziness of it all to not be with her. Soon enough she won't be as determined to find a great buy at the Gap.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fashion Sneakers v Athletic Sneakers

Converse sneakers are not only timeless, but ageless foranyone who wears them. I'm just saying....

A friend of mine at Raleigh Racquet Club was rocking herblack Converse with black jeans, print shirt and black cardigan. What I lovedwas despite being a member of the over 50 crowd, she is comfortable enough inher own style to wear them casually and for fun. TJ, is actually one of themost classy ladies I know. She is a true southerner with the most gentle wayabout her. So seeing her today in her Chuck Taylor's was a hoot!

It made me think, though, so let's get back to wearingConverse sneakers or sneakers in general as part of your wardrobe. We all wearsneakers for a variety of reasons.

* for athletic reasons when participating in sports
* for walking long distances or for travel
* for comfort, because having another type of shoe forcasual wear may be too hard to select and not worn enough to warrant purchasing
* as a fashion statement (now we are talking)

These are my thoughts on sneakers. Sneakers are a neededlifestyle item best worn with sweats, warm-up suits, shorts, capri's, andathletic wear. A regular athletic sneaker doesn’t look so good with jeans thatare blue (or any other color) unless they are more of a "fashionsneaker".

Fashion sneakers usually have a look and personality oftheir own. I love a good fashion sneaker, and when I see someone in publicwearing them it makes me smile. They’re so versatile, and can be worn with mostcolored jeans, summer casual dresses, a cool leather pant, free flowing skirts,leggings, jeggings and maxi dresses. You either get it and do it, or you don’t.Typically, I find fashion sneakers at department stores, places like DSW andonline at Zappos, like these:

PUMA: Zandy Wn'sLacoste: Meuse WOSuperga: 2750 LAMEWUGG: Laela Sparkles

Next time you go shopping for a casual sneaker, thinkabout how you actually plan to wear them. TJ's look with her Chuck Talyor'sConverse gave her an updated, but certainly not over the top, casual look (greatfor the pro-shop that she was working in, and comfortable enough to spend acouple hours on her feet). Fashion sneakers tend to offer an option for thosewho just can't pretend to want to wear a Nike or Addidas athletic sneaker withtheir everyday casual wear. So here’s to all those willing to walk on the wildside!

Shopping for Jeans

A friend of mine went shopping for jeans, and sent me the following note, which I thought I would share with you.

"Well, I went jeans shopping yesterday and now I know why all the jeans models in have their pelvises tilted back and knees bent --- skinny jeans are not flattering on upper thighs unless you've had them liposucked completely out. The way they pose keeps their thighs un-engaged hahaha. Anyway, I do like the ones I got, and they are dark in color and mid-rise. Thanks for the advice!

ps: I sure hope low rise jeans are on their way out. An average butt in lowrise jeans with tight thighs looks awful. It's like the ultimate worst thingyou could do to make your butt look unattractive: put a big 'ol horizontal line(waistband) almost at the fattest part, then make the thighs look like wads of gum stuck on top of toothpicks. The new stretchy jeans make it even worse, since they totally expose flaws, instead of holding things in place."

I wonder, how many of you have similar stories? Do share.....

Monday, November 7, 2011

Speaking at the Art Institute

Lucky for them!

Oh, to be young and so eager to make your mark in the world. I remember that feeling so well. Maybe I have been around just too darn long and am just seasoned like an avocado that is begging to be peeled and eaten. Wait a minute, am I talking about food or the students I spoke to this past week at the Art Institute of Durham?

I was invited to speak to a class of 15- 20 students ranging in ages from 18-29 years old. That is a lot of years in between! At eighteen, I was just so excited to be graduating from high school and heading to college. Free at last, free at last! As my parents dropped me at college I'm pretty sure I was not crying, but celebrating. I was eager to start working towards what I was most passionate about - fashion, of course!

The instructor at the Art Institute, Jessica Palmer, is a designer I met some months before at an emerging designer show, fashionSPARK. She designs gorgeous wedding dresses and also teaches several classes at the Art Institute. She asked me to speak to the group about what I do as a stylist. No problem for me. I went as far back as my days with dressing Barbies as a child to my first retail job and on and on. I won't bore you with all the details now, wait until my book comes out in 2012.

After I was done speaking to the group, the students each took turns stating their work interest and most recent internship. I marveled at the many accomplishments and was quick to recognize several motivated students. As I offered feedback and the dialogue flowed, I appreciated where they were at this point in their lives. So much ahead of them. I encouraged them to make the most of each internship and although they may find it is not exactly what they want to do for a career, it will offer insight to other possibilities. Recognizing opportunity and then being aggressive in what I call "a nice sort of way". It is the person who applies for a job, then follows up again and again until they hear something one way or another (Jeannie, do recognize this in me)?  Another interesting thing was that one of the students interviewed me last year by phone for one of her projects. Once she mentioned that, I giggled. I do remember that. I also remember telling her similar things to what I did the group. Here are my thoughts and motto's that I try to hold fast to myself in what I do as a stylist:
  • I am hired by people or companies because they do want to make change in their lives from where they are now. So make the change!
  • My goal is to make it a fun and non-stressful process for the client
  • A smile or laugh goes a long way especially when an outfit really doesn't seem to work well for them
  • No sense in complaining about our bodies. Everyone has something that should and can be accentuated. Beauty is truly within
  • Lastly, when I have completed my work with a client, they can expect to be able to jump into their closets daily and have the items they need for their lifestyle!

 It's all about lifestyle dressing!

I had what I call a great experience speaking to the students. Nothing is a bigger compliment in life than to provide experienced guidance to those starting in a similar profession!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Aging Fashion and Style

One of the most rewarding days in my life as a stylist......

Looking and feeling good as we continue to age

A few months ago, I got a phone call from a woman who said I worked with her mother some 15 years ago. Her mother was now in her early eighties, and had since lost her husband and remarried. She needed some help with coordinating what she had in her wardrobe. Betty's new husband loved when she dressed up and I could truly see she was quite smitten with him. Imagine being in your eighties and your husband taking pride in what you’re wearing. May I live that long and still want to wear my Spanx and heels and that Sid's eyesight still be good enough to notice I am wearing either.

I have to admit, I was quite excited about reconnecting with my client from 15 years ago. I was anxious to see if I remembered her, but also to help her with paring down her wardrobe. I expect it is very stressful for most seniors to let go of their belongings. According to her daughter Sally, Betty went shopping recently and wasn't sure about the selections she brought home. Sally wasn't convinced the items were age appropriate or a good fit her mother’s body type.

I vote for anyone over 80 years old to year whatever make you happy, feel good, and allows you to do your thing! Ok, that may be a little rash....let me retract that statement. This probably would not include pretending you are something you’re not, like a Lady Gaga wanna be or Diane Von Fuerstenberg's illegitimate sister. Lady Gaga's platform shoes and squished toes make my own tears well up in pain, and just imagine my body at 80 in a wrap dress with my breasts and belly meeting as one, other than at my waist. I'm just sayin.....

Back to Betty and her wardrobe. Betty had requested her daughter be a part of the closet consult, so she may take pictures and notes, as needed. As I approached Betty's front door, I was greeted by Sally and then Betty, and received a warm welcome from both. I just knew this would be a wonderful afternoon!

I took a few minutes to get caught up on a few crucial things about Betty’s current lifestyle and comfort needs, and then I plunged in with my routine. I had a few questions for both the ladies before going through the racks that lined the dining room and perused the table filled with her accessories. To say the least, Betty had a very healthy wardrobe! Somewhat different than most of my younger clients, and I still needed key information:
  • What were Betty's lifestyle clothing needs? Daily casual, church, or any special events?
  • Was Betty more comfortable in pants, skirts, or dresses?
  • Did Betty have any restrictions on buttoning a blouse, zipping a pant, or reaching over her head?
  • Were there certain fabrics that were more comfortable to her and others that she did not prefer?
Soon after our discussion, we proceeded with trying on many of the items she had recently purchased to check for fit and color. Betty wanted a few tops that were different than what she owned, but wasn't sure whether the trendy top was something she could actually manage. After careful consideration we found a few that were versatile enough in look and fit to spice up her existing wardrobe.

We moved on to mixing and matching tops, jackets, sweaters, and pants with her vast array of jewelry. Betty sat on a sturdy dining room chair between changes and would pop out of the chair to peek in the mirror after being put together. Outfit after outfit I coordinated with her favorite jeans and pants. It was truly a delightful experience for the three of us. Betty was thrilled with having so many options. Sally was relieved to know that her mother wouldn't stress over not knowing what to put together. I personally was so grateful to be able to connect with a client at this stage in her life and see how well she was doing. It was very bittersweet for me.

Sally was a wonderful nurturing daughter and Betty was so grateful for her daughter’s help. I felt their love and respect for one another. Of course, for any of you who really know me, I had tearful moments of remembering my relationship with my own grandmother. Betty did remarkably well and after a little catching up on one another's lives with our children, I was out the door. I'm just saying that was a consult I won't forget anytime soon.

Here are just a few tips to keep in mind if you are elderly and shopping for yourself, or shopping for an elderly relative for a gift giving occasion:

1. Check with the caregiver or mate as they will probablyhave a good read on the senior’s requirements or limitations, as well as their likes and dislikes.

2. When purchasing bed clothing, avoid purchasing items with buttons and that are floor length. Buttons are difficult to manipulate (snaps are easier) and long gowns and robes may get tied up or cause the senior to trip when getting into or out of bed.

3. Make sure all garments have a wide neck to slide easily over the head.

4. Remember to buy fabrics that can be washed frequently and will hold up, like cotton or fleece.

5. Purchase rubber soled shoes to prevent slipping or stumbling.

Lastly, buy happy prints and color. It is amazing how great people look, regardless of their age, when wearing colors other than white, beige, brown or black!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Jeans For Men

I think I have mentioned that I started this boot camp training two days a week about two months ago. I really like the format, or maybe because it kicks my butt, I enjoy the challenge. The group is made up of men and women of various sizes and shapes and I never know which of our regular 5 is going to show up, as people ebb and flow into the group.

Today’s group consisted of three women and one man. One group member, Todd, comes to really work out and seems quite focused. I, too, like to think I am focused, but then again for most that know me, I am easily distracted by the topic of fashion. Today, Todd came in and mentioned that he went jeans shopping at Crabtree Valley Mall on Saturday, spent an hour and half looking for jeans, and still came up with nothing.

I giggled under my breath and said you should have texted me and I would have sent you to look for a certain brand and told you the stores that carry it. He agreed he should have, but then again, I wouldn't have expected him to do that. His wife might have said "what are you doing with Suzanne's number in your cell phone.” LOL

Let me digress for a moment. I saw my son Scott for brunch this past Sunday and he was wearing a pair of jeans that didn't look like something I had picked out during one of our infrequent shopping trips. Could my adult son actually pick out rocking jeans on his own? Or was this a trip to the mall with another woman possibly? Anyways, as my mind began to swirl, I regained my composure and asked where he got the jeans. He stated me got them at Lucky. As in a Lucky Brand jeans store? Hooray for Scott for maybe purchasing without his mother, and yes, cool jeans!

Back to Todd. Todd went on to talk about his challenge of finding jeans that were not over the top expensive and appropriate for a 40 year old (like 40 is old). You can imagine where the conversation went from there. Here Todd was with 4 women, including the trainer, listening to us discuss the merits of men’s jeans. Stylist or not, everyone had an opinion, including Todd, who was obviously exhausted by the whole jean shopping experience.

He did try Express for Men, which I would expect to be cut for a younger guy. Macy's had their jeans arranged according to brand, which for a guy may be a challenge within itself. Most people do not want to have to go to more than one area in a store to find what they are looking for - imagine that! Todd also wanted jeans that would earn the respect of others and not feel or look generic in style, but without the high price tag. Todd was directed by this esteemed group of women to Belk Men’s store at Crabtree and then directly to Southpoint Mall that has a Lucky store. Let me just say, this whole conversation was all during our warm up. If you think any of us, including Todd, can train, talk and breathe at the same time, you are sadly mistaken. It’s bootcamp, people, and not for the faint of heart!

So, this is dedicated to all men over 35 years old that still want to show a little swagger and need some tips on what to look for when buying jeans:

1.  Consider when you will be wearing them. Will it be for work or just for casual wear?
2.  Will you wear these jeans with sneakers, boots, or dress shoes?
3.  What color is the best for your wardrobe needs? Lighter denim is considered more casual and darker is dressier in look. Keep in mind that funky washes or distressing of a jean is never timeless in style.
4. Straight leg, skinny jeans or boot cut? Skinny jeans for men is a tough look to wear successfully unless you’re in a rock and roll band, so the choices are really straight leg or boot cut.
5.  Make sure the jeans are fitted in the waist and not baggy, as jeans do stretch. If you plan to wear a belt, be sure and try it on with a belt to avoid unnecessary scrunching of excess fabric. Or plan to have your jeans tailored.
6. Try sitting down, wearing the jeans, to test comfort. Make sure you have room in the front of your jeans in the crotch area.
7. Bring along a spouse, girlfriend or anyone who will be honest with the look and the style you have chosen. If you wonder if you look ridiculous, you probably do.

A final tip. Don't expect the first pair of jeans you try on to fit. It doesn't work like that. Women may try on upwards of a dozen pairs before satisfied, so hunker down and plan to try at least three to five pairs. No two jeans are alike, even in the same brand and size!

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