Sole sense: making the case against stiletto heels

Saturday, February 13th, 2016

Maybe 2016 will be the year when women say “enough is enough” to mega high heels. As a stylist, I’m the first person to appreciate the aesthetics of heels as they add height and enhance the shapeliness of a woman’s legs. Heels vs. flats also instantaneously dress up any outfit.

Since the mid 90’s however, I’ve watched as heel heights grew from three to as high as six inches. Every time I see a lady teetering awkwardly on her stilettos, I ask myself why she would subject herself to such torture. My only explanation is that many women have bought into the fashion industry driven hype that a five-inch high heel, like a glass slipper, magically transforms them. Christian Louboutin, author of the quote, “High heels are pleasure with pain”, also has this to say about their allure:”The higher the better. It’s more about an attitude. Higher heels empower women in a way.”

The myriad health risks associated with consistent high heel use are well documented. A 2013 Women’s Health Magazine article “What Happens To Your Body When You Wear Heels” explains that wearing a four-inch heel puts 30% more pressure on the front of the foot, thus stressing these bones and nerves as well as tightening the Achilles and adjoining tendons of the ankle. The article goes on to list the other unfortunate body parts victimized by consistent high heel use, such as knees, hips, and lower backs.

To all you stiletto wearing diehards, I invite you to step into some of this year’s high heel alternatives, such as block heels and sleek pumps. Who knows? You may like the way your feet feel and your legs look in these shoe styles. Having lived through decades of shoe trends and advised clients for years on their wardrobes, I can honestly say that moderate heel heights win the prize for both elegance and sexiness.

Sole Sense: 2016 Shoe Trends

J.Crew kitten heel shoes
$370 – jcrew.com

Black shoes
riverisland.se

Kate spade shoes
katespade.com

Talbots shoes
talbots.com

Four decorating steps to a stellar bedroom

Sunday, June 14th, 2015

If the amount of time we spend in rooms is a measure of their importance, then bedrooms, above all other spaces in our home, deserve preeminent status. Experts estimate that sleeping alone takes up one-third or twenty-six years of a person’s lifetime. When you add in all the other activities that happen in bedrooms, they should be thought of as a home’s nerve center. I begin and end each day checking emails and organizing my life from the comfort of my bed.

I chose our bedroom as the first room to decorate when my husband and I bought our historic house in downtown Greenville, South Carolina one year ago. We spent almost every waking hour of the five months leading up to our move from Washington, DC tackling the task of selling our home of thirty years. Now I fully understand why many folks prefer to undergo multiple root canals than endure one of life’s most stressful experiences. I knew I immediately needed to create a bedroom oasis that would soothe the memories of living in chaos and out of boxes.

I applied my wardrobe styling skills to help me with this decorating project, and in doing so, I discovered the similarities between dressing people and dressing rooms. The creative process I followed resembles the one I use with clients who hire me to elevate their image. Whether your boudoir requires a complete overhaul or only some minor tweaking, answering these four questions will help you construct a roadmap to transform your space into a design showcase:

1. What are the issues with your bedroom now? Do you lack adequate storage space or lighting? Perhaps your bed treatments look more shabby than chic. Start by listing and prioritizing what you need and want in your enhanced space;

2. Does your room reflect your personal style? Since we seek congruity between our interior and exterior selves, then it stands to reason that we also want to leave our style imprint on our surroundings. If you adore modern minimalism, but your duvet and pillows look like they jumped out of Country Living Magazine, then perhaps you and your bedroom suffer from irreconcilable style differences. Greenville interior designer and home stager, Karen Roberts, says that when individuals follow their gut decorating instincts, they end up loving where they live;

3. Are you holding on to items well beyond their expiration date? Although a coat of paint often revitalizes a tired nightstand, sometimes other items need to be kicked to the curb, like the lamp that dates back to your dorm room days. Editing, a stylist’s polite term for purging, frees you to advance your decorating aspirations;

4. How do I create a vision for my bedroom? Once you determine what you need and identify your authentic style, then look at home decorating books, magazines, and online decorating sites for inspiration. Browse stores for one-of-kind statement making pieces. As Roberts says, “thrift store furnishings with a fresh coat of paint or new upholstery do wonders for making a retreat unlike everyone else’s on the block.”

Having completed your homework, selecting your room’s core neutrals and accent colors is a perfect launch point for building your dream bedroom. Wearing colors that illuminate your hair, eyes, and complexion boosts your image just as choosing restful room shades sets the stage for relaxation. Let’s say you go with the new grey-beige hybrid “Greige” for your walls, and white for your woodwork and window treatments. Imagine dressing your bed in shades of blue, one of this season’s trending color palettes, and accessorizing with pops of Marsala, Pantone’s rich red wine color of the year.

Turning your attention to your bed is the next logical decorating step. Since it is your room’s focal point, it deserves to be dressed in the best bed coverings, like those from Parachute Home. This Venice Beach, California company offers luxury bedding at an accessible price point. At Parachute Home, you can purchase superior Egyptian cotton sheet sets, duvets, and duvet covers in five soothing colors. Parachute Home products are custom- made in Tuscany by skilled artisans “who have been weaving world class bedding for over sixty years”. The company also sells additional items to complete your sumptuous sleeping experience, like cashmere throws, pillows, and scented candles.

Upgrading your bedroom is an investment in yourself. Think of how good you will feel each night when you settle into your beautifully decorated bedroom haven. As the song goes, “Sweet dreams are made of this.”

White wash your wardrobe

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

Whether you follow fashion tradition about when to wear white or allow the weather to dictate your color choices, fashionistas everywhere agree that now is the time for white. Besides the fact that white keeps you cooler in hot weather and always looks fresh, this enduringly popular color is having its day in the sun. Models sporting white from head to toe grace the pages of leading fashion magazines. Linen pants, white lace dresses, white satchels, and white Birkenstocks are among this season’s trending items.

Whites definitely take a beating. Not only are they dirt magnets, but unexplained stains invariably magically appear on white clothes. I always examine my whites closely each year at the beginning of spring. Sadly, this season I parted with my favorite pair of white Adriano Goldschmied jeans because they had started to turn yellow, an affliction common to whites. This was a blow since they lasted me four summers and fit like a dream. I replaced them with light-weight BCBG skinny jeans which actually suit Greenville summers better than my treasured AG’s. I also bought a paper thin white tee-shirt and a white cotton cropped eyelet sleeveless blouse from the Gap, which I plan to wear with my summer pants. For the past few summers I’ve searched for that perfect white summer dress but haven’t found it yet.

This might be an ideal time to purge your closet of worn out whites since stores are well stocked with white clothes and accessories. Buying a few key white pieces also instantly updates any wardrobe. Sales already abound in spite of the fact that summer’s official start date is still weeks away. If shopping is in your future, please let me know if you come across any amazing white dresses during your travels.

White Wash

Alice You white shirt
$24 – houseoffraser.co.uk

Banana Republic wide-leg pants
bananarepublic.gap.com

Birkenstock white shoes
$91 – thehut.com

Marc by marc jacobs bag
barneyswarehouse.com

What to wear to keep the cold out

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Last night as I watched newscasters report on storm Juno while being pelleted by snow, I felt very grateful that I now live in Greenville, South Carolina. Winters are extremely mild here, but we still wake up to frosty mornings. If you live in an area that gives you a dose of winter, it’s crucial to know how to dress for the cold. In a nutshell, the cardinal rules of winter dressing include strategic coverage and use of smart layering techniques.

When temperatures dip, I get out my Winter Silks. If you haven’t heard of Wintersilks undergarments, they are the best invention since sliced bread. For those of us in the South who avoid buying heavy sweaters and wool slacks, Wintersilks easily make our lightweight clothing cold weather appropriate.

I’m also a big fan of turtlenecks. I have a long neck and when it gets cold, my entire body feels cold. On the other hand, plenty of people find turtlenecks confining and prefer to wrap scarves around their necks and call it a day. I’m a turtleneck snob. They have to be made of thin gauge cashmere or a wool blend so that they fit nicely under crew neck sweaters, blouses and cardigans. I love my Uniqlo, Vince and Kate Spade Saturday turtlenecks the best.

Cold weather wardrobe guidelines also emphasize keeping your hands and head covered. Contrary to popular opinion, scientists now believe you only lose about 7 to 10 percent of your body heat through your head. This is great news for me since I am still searching for the perfect winter hat that is stylish and doesn’t give me an instant headache. When I find it, I’ll certainly blog about my discovery. It goes without saying that wearing the right footwear in winter is essential for safety and warmth. If trekking through snow and slush is in your winter forecast, make sure you invest in boots that are lined and waterproof, as opposed to just water resistant. Not all socks are created equal either. Wool socks, like the Smartwool brand, do the best job of keeping your feet toasty.

My thoughts go out to all of the folks who are enduring Juno. Keep the faith and stay safe and warm.

Keeping the Cold Out

Michael Kors long sweater
marissacollections.com

ONLY black top
$22 – only.com

Elie Tahari coat
saksoff5th.com

Equipment black pants
$445 – net-a-porter.com

Inverni clothing
$310 – farfetch.com

Whistles wedge booties
$250 – johnlewis.com

Slouch beanie
$100 – black.co.uk

Style tips for overworked women

Monday, August 25th, 2014

In last month’s posting, “Fashion confessions of a wardrobe stylist“, I talked about my journey through a style challenged period and the lessons I learned about how to look good when every day feels like a marathon. Here are the five style saving strategies I developed to help me during busy and stressful times:

1. Downsize your closet. Get rid of what you don’t wear, so you can quickly locate the items in your closet.

2. Uncomplicate your daily dressing routine by using fewer clothing and accessory pieces to create an outfit. The classic dress, for example, answers a busy woman’s prayer. Slip it on, pair it with a statement making accessory and shoe, and you are ready to take on the world.

3. Buy versatile pieces. A busy woman’s core wardrobe should consist of functional pieces that offer endless style possibilities. Let’s revisit the classic dress again. Wear it over a sweater or blouse and it turns into a jumper. Pair it with a trendy moto style jacket, and you’ve created the ultimate date night outfit.

4. Find your style formula. Every woman has a fashion profile, based on what looks best for their body type and suits their personal style and budget. During unusually busy periods, it’s best to stick to tried and true styles.

5. Build a personalized Look Book. Snap photos of the favorite outfits you create and store them in your phone or laptop. Keep a fashion file of looks you like and take the file with you on your next shopping trip.

What style advice do you have for the perpetually busy woman?

Three steps to a streamlined closet

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014
Live with less

This year I broke with my tradition of not making New Year’s resolutions, and I made one. I vowed to buy and keep less of everything. My gathering days are over; now I wish to experience the sensations of sitting in an open room, opening a half full drawer, and eyeing clear kitchen counters. In other words, I don’t want my house to become what George Carlin hilariously described in his famous 1986 Comic Relief performance as just “a pile of stuff with a cover over it”.

Perhaps Carlin’s insight into the importance we give to our stuff (“Their stuff is sh.. and your sh.. is stuff.”) inspired stylists and home stagers to use a kinder, gentler word for de-cluttering…editing. However you choose to describe this process, I’ve steadily engaged in it for several years. I regularly donate or consign clothing, furniture and housewares. Every six months or so, I go through files and throw away as much paper as I can. In spite of the hours I’ve invested in this effort, I still find myself surrounded by too much of everything.

Recent life changing events gave me the boost I needed to seriously scale down. My husband and I made a decision to sell the house that has been our home for thirty years. Each room of this charming four story Victorian brims with belongings. We also live in a well stocked apartment in Greenville, SC. In less than six weeks, the interior of our home must be cleared from top to bottom and take on a minimal appearance to attract buyers. Next week, we move out of our apartment and into a new home in Greenville.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. My editing has reached a feverish pitch. I spent the past two days flagging furniture for consignment at Southern Housepitality and mercilessly streamlining my wardrobe, breaking only for a closet consultation with a client! My time was well spent. I now have less for the movers to do, and a wardrobe I love to wear. The following three recommendations helped me reach my desired outcome:

1. Become a detached observer. Until you remove your emotions from the editing equation, you will not part with possessions.
2. Once is not enough. I advise that you go through all your clothes, shoes and accessories at least twice. The third round was the charm for me, even though I agonized over which items should make the final cut.
3. Say yes. Ask yourself these questions to help you decide what should stay and what should go: Will I wear it enough to earn the space it occupies? Does it deserve a ranking of at least 8 on a scale of 1-10 for style, fit, and quality? Can I wear it with an array of other items I own? Do I really need duplicate items?(for example two black cardigans or two raincoats)?

I’d like to hear from you kindred spirits out there bent on living with less?

Tis the season to be stylish

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

Has the Grinch stole your style? if you’ve dressed down and dowdy for this season’s festivities, there is still plenty of time to go glam. Give yourself permission to defy convention by dressing up. Wear beads, sequins, brocade skirts, and high heels. I guarantee that others will notice and enjoy how you look.

Perhaps Santa will bring me this outfit on Christmas.

Holiday Chic

Seven little secrets to good grooming for busy professionals

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Among the pearls of wisdom penned by basketball great John Wooden is this gem: “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” When it comes to image management, many folks naturally credit clothes, accessories and interpersonal skills for the parts they play in shaping a pleasing image. According to a 2006 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers however, much of the credit for a powerful image should go to good grooming.

In 2011, I interviewed human resource directors and managers of companies in Greenville for an article I was writing on what to wear to a job interview. They unanimously agreed that grooming ranked high on the list of data points they consider when interviewing candidates for employment. Little details like shined shoes, clean clothes, and manicured nails matter more than you think. Your good grooming habits may very well give you an added professional advantage over another less well groomed individual.

Wherever I go in my job as a wardrobe stylist and personal shopper, I always need to present a polished and attractive appearance. I rely on these seven tried and true grooming secrets to keep me looking my personal best:

Create fashions for five – Reserve 20 minutes each Sunday to create five entire outfits for the week. Hang all of your selections in one section of your closet. Always base your clothing and accessory choices on your work and after work commitments for each day. Make necessary edits as your schedule changes;

Always XYO “Examine Your Outfits” – Look for wrinkles, stains, lint, missing buttons, and loose threads, and take steps to restore your outfits to a grade of A+;

Discover steaming – Steaming garments saves time and is gentler on fabrics than ironing;

Plan for Emergencies – Keep a first aid apparel kit in your desk and in your car containing items such as these: Tide to Go pen or an equivalent stain remover, lint roller, extra pantyhose, sewing kit, small rag, spray on odor neutralizer for clothes, and shoe polish;

Have backup – Always keep an extra outfit at work in case your lunch lands in your lap;

Use a mirror – Check yourself out in a full length mirror before leaving the house each day. At the end of each bathroom break, glance at your clothes, hair and face in the mirror. Also look at your teeth for any telltale signs of the spinach salad you ate at lunch. Brush your teeth or use mouthwash after eating spicy or garlic infused food;

Be kind to your clothes – Follow recommended washing instructions. Wash your clothes inside out and on a cold, gentle cycle, with like colors and fabrics. Use the dryer sparingly, and always select a gentle setting. Remove clothes promptly from the dryer and place them on hangers.

What are your good grooming secrets?

Groom Yourself for Success

And the winner is….emerald

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

The Pantone Color Institute selected emerald as the color of the year. Associated with harmony, nature, and rebirth, emerald suits warm as well as cool complexions, and illuminates eyes and hair. Both versatile and becoming, this award winning hue complements blue, yellow, black, purple and red. An emerald blouse livens up a neutral suit, and an emerald print silk scarf instantly adds sophistication to jeans and a t-shirt. I posted 32 enticing emerald items on Pinterest. Perhaps some of these pieces will inspire even the color shy to go green.