Wardrobe Consulting Logo

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

This Is What I Know to Be True

I recently had a discussion with my marketing person over something she finds aggravating, as well curious to better understand. She was out of town and took some time to shop for herself, as she was in Atlanta working at the GA Music Awards. She hit the two big malls - Phipps and Lenox in Buckhead, and ended up at Atlantic Station. If you haven't ever had the opportunity to shop Atlanta and enjoy shopping, I would recommend a road trip. As for Jeannie, I was thrilled she took the time to have that experience herself, although I think deep down she enjoys shopping and would never admit it to me!

The first store she went into was a chain, but lends itself to more of a boutique feel. She commented that the store had only sizes 0-4 on the racks, but most of the women shopping in the store were closer to size 8 and 10. If you were interested in a garment then you needed to ask the salesperson and she would look in back. There are few boutiques in the Triangle that do that same thing. What are they thinking? Jeannie thinks it's some kind of obligation thing, as if having to go in the back will obligate the shopper in some way and make them feel like they should buy. Her response, and probably most women's, is to not bother and move on to another store.

When I started my business over twenty years ago, my clients were predominately size 8-10. The average size American was a size 14 at the time, and has gone up steadily since then.

I have several questions and statements to address what I call "The Snobbery Effect":

1. What is the actual goal of only putting a few sizes out? Limited space or pretending the shop is something it isn't. For crying out loud - really?!? Personally, if they are trying to make me feel bad about my size, then mission accomplished. Actually I take that back, it's the store with the problem, not me. I wonder if there is a fashion conspiracy that I'm just not aware of.

2. If a store doesn't have the space to put out a full size run, then put out every other size, but make sure you show your largest size. The salesperson in the store should make sure the priority is to not only greet the customer, but immediately explain that additional sizes are in back. I have met many women over the years who hate shopping, and having to find a salesperson to ask about a size is one of many complaints about what a hassle shopping can be. What about working to make it easy to purchase?

3. Lastly, shopping should be a positive experience and not something that makes you question if your size is available in a store. Look - you know your weight and size, and if that is an issue for you and you are shopping in a boutique store that only puts out small sizes, then save yourself heartache and don't support it. Remember the chain 5-7-9? Don't go there if you're an 11, because they actually make a point of stating what they carry, unlike what Jeannie experienced.

With limited time and a lot of shopping options, Jeannie was pretty turned off by the boutique and off she went. She wandered into Dillard's, where rack space and sales help was plentiful. Ahhh.... a positive shopping experience. The racks actually had a complete size run. Imagine that! Yeah, yeah, yeah, it is a department store and yes, there is more room. But the complaint was not that there was too much product! Jeannie did have success between the selection and the incredible deals. 

On the flip side, have you ever been in a store where you can't even move a hanger on the rack? This is equally frustrating. I have had the experience a time or two where several items have fallen to the floor and I have picked them up and actually either deposited it onto another rack or at a service desk. That makes it tough, too. I get that there is sometimes so much merchandise at the beginning of the sale and not enough rack space, but then space it out. Over-full racks don't help shoppers shop. In my previous career as a store manager for a mom and pop chain up North, I spent hours working on merchandising. My goal was always to make the rack as visually appealing as possible, along with shopable! Boy, I loved that constant challenge.

SO...a final call to all boutiques who put out a very limited size run - please explain your logic. I see it only in a few stores in Raleigh, but I do want to understand the philosophy of sparse empty racks with few sizes and how that makes us feel.

From my rack to yours-

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Lifestyle Dressing - What Does it Mean Exactly?

Many interesting conversations come from talking to people about what they wear and why they wear it. One such conversation is about dressing well for your lifestyle. I know people who used to dress immaculately, by their account, in high school and college, and are now stay-at-home moms, work from home, or don't want to look out of place in a business casual environment and don't put the same effort into it. Again, their admission and not my observation. My questions are always why not, and what changed about your commitment to looking the best you possibly can? It's not that I think they don't look just fine as is, but when I tell people what I do, fashion becomes a topic of discussion most of the time. I talk a lot about lifestyle dressing, and I know it doesn't mean we have to end up as one of the 10 worst dressed cities on a GQ list, or the 10 best dressed in Glamour - do you know that?

We're blessed with temperate weather and a laid-back lifestyle, but that doesn't mean you get to use that as a reason to wear the same clothes all the time. Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, Charleston, and Savannah are warmer than Raleigh, and yet, mixed in with the khakis and polos, shorts and camis, you meet people who wear regularly things like linen, ties, belts, work appropriate shirt- and sundresses, anything other than flip flops or sandals, and lots and lots of color. It fits their personal esthetic, the weather they experience, and the life they lead - lifestyle dressing to a T!

Now I know there are some of you out there shaking your head no. You love your khakis, your cargo shorts, your camis, and your flip flops. I'm all for a relaxed look - believe me! I, too, wear flip flops, a cami, and khaki shorts. What I hear most from clients is that it takes too long - the shopping, the morning routine, the traffic, and the stress of finding the right thing to wear when leaving your comfort zone. I have solutions for stuff like that. Not the traffic, of course, but the shopping, the morning routine, and the stress.  

First, you don't have to look like a model or be at your goal weight and perfect size to dress well. By dress well, I also don't mean fashion plate, but if that's what you aspire to - go for it! Mostly you simply have to find a good tailor and buy clothes that fit. Reminds me of Goldilocks - buy clothes that aren't too big or too small, but juuuust right.

Second, look at what people are wearing in the magazines you read. The pictures that have captions that read 'coming from the gym/yoga' or 'heading to/at the beach', are probably not things you should wear every day. I know, I know, those clothes are comfortable. There's a reason for that, and unless you're a trainer or yogi, personal pride and professional appearance have little to do with looking like you should be at the gym or the beach. Some magazines have a dedicated section for fashion finds or how to wear, like Real Simple or Garden & Gun. If you think you see something you like, or you see something new that is supposed to fit your body shape, go find it and try it on. 

Third, and last, take a day and pick a store. Remember when it was fun to go shopping and get lunch? Get together with a friend or two, and have fun. See what else is out there, what the designers are doing, and what might be truly out there in left field, as in who would wear this left field. Try on colors you like. If you find a pair of capris or a sundress to try on, try finding a scarf in a bold color or pattern to use as a belt. Mix and match patterns and colors in ways you've seen on tv shows, in magazines, or online. Put together a whole outfit for yourself or a friend (be sure to keep their body shape in mind - no friend wants you to feature their flaws, real or imagined). And have fun! 

So that's lifestyle dressing, just as simple as when you were a fashion conscious teenager. If you weren't a fashion conscious teenager, you've definitely had to learn to dress for your personal and professional life, both to present the image you'd like to project and to fit your circle of friends and activities, which is exactly what dressing for your lifestyle is all about.

Last tip, ironically about t-shirts. The CFDA, who hosted the awards I wrote about last week, is working with Coca-Cola to pick their new t-shirt that will be available for purchase at Target. To take a look at the new designs from young designers, and vote, visit their site.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Stepping Out

One of my goals this year was to network more within the Triangle. I'm not sure exactly what I was looking for or knew how I wanted to approach it, but I knew I had to do it. Sure, I know tons of people within my industry, whether it is store owners, managers, employees, designers, make up artists and the many other people I run into or work with frequently. But networking outside of your industry and your comfort zone is the key to broadening your business opportunities. No kidding, huh? 

My networking search started with Meet Up, the online presence for every kind of networking groups for every interest possible. Whether it is business or social, there is a group getting together at all days and times. Somehow, I couldn't get in the rhythm of a group. I discovered that my preference is to feel the connection, so my search started me to talking to others to see what they doing. 

Through my friend Jen Bradshaw, the director of Shop Local, she gave me the name of a group of women called She's Connected. Locally, it's run by realtor Ashley Gronewald from Regan and Company. The group  meets twice a month at Piebirds, a great downtown eatery. The times are convenient for me and fit in my often busy schedule. Each meeting, Ashley discusses some sort of business strategy and then we move into brief small group discussions. The two I have attended has offered up some food for thought for me. It is always about then implementing those concepts. The goal of the group is to obviously connect to one another and refer to each other's businesses. Ashley herself is a very impressive young businesswoman. The verdict is still out for me as to whether this is the group I want to join, but I have met some great women so far. While working on my decision, I did a social event called Suzanne's Secret Style Solutions at Ashley's home. Members of She's Connected and a few other guests were invited to bring three garments that are a fashion challenge for them in some way. Whether it is not knowing what garment to wear with it, if the style actually works for them, or how to wear it differently, I offered my advice and solutions. Between the nibbles, the wine, and the relaxing environment, everyone left with a little more fashion knowledge. It was a nice group of gals. 

I have also visited with a BNI group in Durham. Again, nice group, this time predominantly male. It's a large and very active group that makes sure there are enough people to talk to and network with by stating as a part of membership you need to send someone in your place if you cannot attend. I suspect the policy keeps the group fresh and provides many opportunities to meet new people. 

In the next week or so, I will continue my hunt and visit with other networking groups in between writing my Wake Living column, getting my book published, my client work, doing the photo shoot for my book, and actually having a personal life. I'm finding truth in the statement that networking is vital to help grow and develop new contacts in any industry, and it just takes work to figure out your best match. In the meantime, if you have or know a group that would benefit from having me do a short session for items in your closet that are a challenge, feel free to send me an email

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

CFDA Award Winners

Congrats to all the award winners! The ability and talent it takes to consistently create great fashion is truly amazing.

Curious to know if I was right about the winners? I got one right, and I'm not really going to beat myself up for the ones I didn't get. If you opened their lookbooks, every single nominee does fantastic things in design, and I wish them all the best of luck.

If you'd like to read about who won, who attended, who hosted, and all the other little things that make events like this interesting, check out the recap on their website.
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • LinkedIn