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Friday, January 25, 2013

Back to the Closet

'I like my money where I can see it... hanging in my closet." ~ Sarah Jessica Parker

In a perfect world we would all have the perfect closet. Maybe like Lawrence Harvey and wife in Butterfield 8.  It's a walk in, larger than my bedroom, is painted robins' egg blue, and has built-in, robins' egg blue shelves and drawers. It looks so orderly and neat that it gives the impression that they don't have a whole lot of clothes. But that's an illusion- in order to fill a closet that size, they'd both have to have substantial wardrobes. 

This was the only photo I could find of said closet...
I've never had a closet like this, and have no reason to think I ever will. Oh, well.

The closet in my last apartment was truly horrifying- it was not very big, and the shape was just all wrong.  It had a low ceiling, was several feet deep, and I had to go up a step to get into it. Oh- and it had no lighting. At all. And the doors…little, and completely in the way. I think I lived there a year and a half yet never figured out how to deal with it. I just wore the 10% of my clothes that I could see and get to. 

So maybe you live in a crappy little apartment or house built before clothes were mass produced and people only had 7 days worth of clothing. Or maybe the builder was psychotic and felt clothing was somehow evil and shouldn't be encouraged. Who knows- but the end result is you've got a nightmare for a closet.  Perhaps you rent and can't make any real changes; maybe you own but remodeling isn't in the budget for a few years. Either way you need to make peace with your less-than-ideal closet and find ways to make it work for you like it should.

There are some closet/wardrobe situations so bad, so unworkable, that in order to make full use of your clothing I think the only way to go is cataloging your wardrobe. Even if you have a decent closet, but just too much to fit in it, this is a good option; in that case, hang what you can, and neatly fold away the overflow in containers. In many situations you don't have room to organize things so they can all be seen. If you can't see what you've got you can't plan your clothing for the next day let alone the next week without missing lots of opportunities. So, have a system for storing everything neatly out of sight- and a way to see all of what you've got- such as a cataloging system. I know it's a lot of work to create this system, but if your options are to have everything all over the place in a chaotic mess or stored away neatly then which is the better choice? Which will take more time and cost more for upkeep in the end?

One option is to have everything listed individually on file cards in a box, or maybe a photo album, subcategorized by type of garment. You'll want each card to have a photo of the item, and where it's stored. Include sections for scarves, shoes, jewelry- anything that you have to store neatly out of sight. Obviously you don't have to catalogue what's in sight, but if you do, you can quickly assemble an outfit for the next day, or even the entire week without ever reaching into a closet or dresser; just pull out your file box or photo album and pull out the appropriate cards. 

Another easier option is to just photograph the individual items, and attach the photo to the front of the container it's stored in. This works if you have easy access to the storage containers, and you don't mind having the pictures on the front. 

You get the idea. There are probably limitless ways to go about organizing your closet. Of course the  best way is to be honest with yourself about your organizational skills and what your specific needs are, and create a customized system that will make your life easier. And guarantee that you'll make the most of what you've got. Be willing to change your methods if they're not working, too- the whole point of getting organized is to make things easier for yourself.

Happy Dressing!

Friday, January 18, 2013


"Success is often achieved by those that don't know 
that failure is inevitable." ~ Coco Chanel

I started with this (now annoying) organizing bender on New Years, and have been looking at my stash of books on image with an eye to re-arranging them. In my fruitless search for an effective system, I've not surprisingly gotten sidetracked re-reading a couple of them.  'How To Dress For Success' by Edith Head (with Joe Hyam) (1967, Abrams) and 'The Triumph of Individual Style' by Carla Mason Mathis and Helen Villa Connor (1994, Fairchild Publications.)

The Edith Head book is a great dose of nostalgia- Chapter 2. is a total classic- 'How to Dress To Get A Man..and Keep Him' advises a woman to show an interest in a given subject simply because a man she's after has said interest. It seems the slant on the majority of the advice is designed to help the reader 'please' the man she's after. Even the language is old fashioned. But aside from all the entertaining and quaint advice designed to help the fairer sex in her 'man trapping' endeavors, there's a lot of solid, basic philosophy on dressing. (And the illustrations are pretty cool, too.) In Chapter 6, 'How to Build a Successful Wardrobe' she says  "building a proper wardrobe is somewhat like building a home. Think of it like a home- because your wardrobe is something you're going to live in. It must not only be comfortable, but adequate for all your needs." Her advice on what constitutes the 'basics' of a wardrobe and accessories is woefully outdated of course, but the concept of having 'foundational' pieces for your wardrobe is classic. There's a chapter on how to dress young, and one on how to use color successfully. In the chapter on color there's even a segment about 'man pleasing colors' if you're so inclined. :-) Like I said before, most of the sections are full of some common sense philosophies even if the language and specific recommendations are outdated. Even in the unlikely event that you get nothing useful from this book, it's a fun read by one of Hollywoods' most legendary costume designers. Much of what I enjoy about this book is that it is so 'of it's time.' 

The Triumph of Individual Style is written by two true leaders in the image industry.  Most consider this book to be a 'bible' for image consulting. Carla Mason Mathis is cofounder of The Body Beautiful, ( which offers image consulting and in-depth training to become a certified image consultant. Helen Villa Connor ( brings her extensive background in developing educational materials and clothing construction to Triumph of Individual Style. Where do I start with this book? To give you an idea, if you google it, you won't see it for less than $85- and that's for a used one. I've seen it offered for as much as $1,000, but I can't imagine anyone actually paying that much. And I couldn't find it in my local library system, so that route is a no go. For a new copy, at most online sources right now you'll probably pay about $250…..unless of course you go to the publisher, like I finally did- ( - in which case you'll pay $53. Whew.   

The approach here is one of developing self acceptance- they introduce art elements to explain differences in various aspects of physical appearance so you'll begin to see yourself with an enhanced level of self appreciation. In fact, there's gorgeous art throughout the book. And you can get as specific as you'd like- this book breaks things down to the point of exhaustion. It's wonderful. Chapter 1, 'line'- choosing fabrics according to the lines of your face and figure, chapter 2, your basic shape and how to choose silhouettes in clothing, chapter 3, proportions and how to balance yours, and so on. Camouflaging, bone structure, color patterns… even developing your personal style based on your innate creativity. This book is a truly wonderful wealth of information. If you love the subject, then get this book. If you are hopeless at choosing clothes for yourself, this is the book for you. Either way, look at it like this- if you spend $53 on a book that will help you forever after to avoid spending all your clothing budget on unflattering clothing that doesn't reflect who you are, then it's a great investment, right? 

Happy Dressing!

Friday, January 11, 2013

A New Page

“The beginning is always today.” ~ Mary Shelley

So, I'm back from my little break.

In a fit of delusional goal setting, I decided that during my break I'd come up with a few new topics for my blog for the coming year, and maybe even write one or two in reserve. Of course none of that happened. Instead I organized- new calendar, purged and reorganized files, bought new office supplies and organized all my business materials. And, of course, I made a New Years resolution. This year I'm going to really start marketing my business and create a database, in case you were wondering. Not exactly fascinating, or even interesting, but quite the challenge for me.

I like to keep new years resolutions down to a minimum; one, maybe two per year, and only ones I know I can accomplish.  This way I have no excuse- I'm forced to either work towards the goal, or make excuses to myself as to why I can't.  On occasion these excuses are valid, but most of the time they're just garbage.  Anyway. I also have a memory like a steel sieve, so I'd never remember more than one or two anyway.

Even if you've already made your resolutions I'd love to see you make another one or two, if these aren't things you already do.  I'm sure like everyone else you already have too much on your plate- but these two simple suggestions can make your life a much nicer place to be.

First, make a commitment to always lay out your next days' entire outfit the night before. When you do this, because you're less likely to be rushing you're better able to pick an outfit that's flattering and appropriate for the day's activities and weather, and one that makes you feel good about how you look rather than just throwing together what you can find at the last minute.  That means a more relaxed morning, too. This can have a profound effect on your life. If you don't believe me just try it for a month. The boost in self confidence alone is worth the 5-10 minutes of effort in the evening.

Second, resolve to be kinder to yourself. When it comes to our appearance, and ourselves in general, we can be very cruel. You may not have it in you to stop all negative self talk, but what you can do is when you notice yourself thinking something negative about yourself, make a point to say something kind to counter balance the negative.  Do this every time you catch yourself and you may realize you dump more negativity on yourself than you were aware of. That awareness should help you start curbing the negativity in general. Life is hard enough- there's no need to add to it! The most important thing to remember about this is that negative self talk serves no constructive purpose whatsoever, yet can not only damage your confidence but also your health. 

You'd be surprised how much happiness these two very fundamental things bring- all at no cost whatsoever, and very little investment of time. And, of course, they have a wonderful effect on your personal image.

Happy New Year, 
and Happy Dressing!