Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fashionomics 101: Maximize Your ROI

A recent Wall Street Journal article, “Fall Fashion Forecast” comes to the conclusion that trend is dead.  This further emphasizes the points I made in June when I wrote,  “Follow your style- make the trend work for you”.  

But this leads to another question:  how should we manage our wardrobes?  Do you feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to add to your wardrobe?  Or, conversely, are you in the other camp and feel like you might not be able to control yourself?  

Either way, now could be just the time to assess your fashion capital and re-balance your fashion portfolio.  Here are some guidelines that I have learned:

Capitalize on your assets.  Take a long, hard look at your body from head to toe.  What are your most valuable assets that make  your look uniquely yours?  What are you working with - fabulous curves, great legs, high cheekbones etc?  Only when you know what your assets are can you make sound purchases that naturally highlight them.  Because assets change over time, be sure to focus on what is working NOW rather than what has worked in the past.  You have evolved, and your clothing should as well.

Take stock.   It's difficult to put together great outfits if you are low on inventory.  Just before the fall and spring fashion seasons hit, assess what you already own.  Do your clothes fit and flatter you?  Are they current and in good condition?  Do they represent the best version of you and the image you would like to project?  If there's inventory in your closet that's not working for you, it's time to write it off and then re-stock.  Remember the three step process: inventory, edit, and shop. Invest the time just twice a year and enjoy the dividends all year long.


Minimize your liabilities.  First know that you are not alone.  We all have liabilities that seem to stay with us for longer than they should.  Here is a sampling of some liabilities that my clients have shared over the years:

  • Shopping to fill an emotional void ("retail therapy") rather than shopping for items that are needed
  • Not shopping because there are too many choices and it seems overwhelming
  • Inaccurate or out-of-date self-image
  • Getting all fashion advice from an opinionated friend or family member rather than building your own personal style
  • Buying based on price rather than need
  • Investing in high-end items without a wardrobe plan

Whatever your fashion liabilities, make friends with them and make a plan!  Get out of your clothing rut by breaking habits that are not serving your best interests.

Diversify your fashion portfolio.  Smart investors have a diversified portfolio.  Similarly, savvy dressers have clothes for every aspect of their life; they are not just invested in one area of their life (i.e. work clothes).  A diverse fashion portfolio includes outfits for dressy parties, informal social gatherings, work, weekend activities, exercise, travel, and more.  Do you have enough of the right clothing for all of the different situations you find yourself in?  Think about how you spend your time and then add to your wardrobe accordingly.

Accrue interest. Your fashion choices tell the story of who you are or aspire to be. You should be getting results from the time and money that you are investing into your wardrobe.  Those results might include compliments from others, more confidence, and an overall feeling of well-being.  They might also result in a job offer, a promotion, a date, and so on.  Now THAT is the kind of accrued interest you are looking for, so go ahead and put your style to work!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Seasonless Style Made Simple

This time of year is tricky to dress for, even though stores and magazines would have us think otherwise.  Many of us are still in summer mode, and rightfully so - while temperatures can vary widely, there are still enough warm days that it's still a bit early to say goodbye to summer clothing.  So how do you begin to migrate your closet (and your state of mind) to fall?  Here are some tips I’ve learned on how to make a smooth and stylish transition.

Take Cover - A good rule when transitioning into fall is to always have at least one part of your body covered, whether it is your legs or your shoulders.  Try pairing a summer dress, skirt, or even heavier fabric shorts with darker hosiery to give off a sleek, fall effect.  Alternatively, cardigans, or blazers easily take your sleeveless tops or dresses into fall, and can be added or subtracted as needed.  

Embrace the Dark Side - By all means, keep wearing your summer whites and creams as long as temperatures permit, but pair with darker neutrals or one of this fall's colors.  For a list of fashion's favorite hues of the season, check out Pantone's Fashion Color Report here.

Accessorized and Dangerous -  Balance is the key concept with accessorizing.  If you wear a sundress, opt for chunky statement jewelry.   Also, don't forget to swap out your handbag.   It is time for us to say goodbye to straw and canvas bags, and hello to embossed leather and suede!  The addition of a lightweight scarf - especially one showcasing this season's prints - is another great way to embrace the new season. And why not give a nod to the menswear trend and top off your look with a fedora?

It's a Shoe In - Sandals are still fine at this time of year, as long they have more coverage and 'visual' weight than a strappy summer sandal.   With summer skirts and dresses, why not try a shoe with one of this fall's chunkier heels, or even an updated ankle bootie?  Similarly, your summer capris will find new life this season when teamed with an oxford or 'slipper' flat.

Let's Make Up - It's a good time to transition to fall makeup shades, but the switch doesn't have to be drastic.  Simple adjustments like opting for tawnier shades can make all the difference.  Swap your sheer summer lip gloss with a creamy lipstick formula.  And don't forget about your nails!  Exchange summer shades of aqua and mint green for a burgundy, purple, or deep red.

Quicker than you can say "fall fashion," cooler days and nights will soon be upon us.  Until then, continue to enjoy your favorite summer items - albeit in a fall-friendly kind of way.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Casual Chic - the solution for Austin's lifestyle

When I visited Austin for the first time in November 2003, I had been living in Toronto, so unsurprisingly I quickly fell in love with Austin’s weather.  Wearing shorts to Baby Acapulco to sip my first-ever margarita provided me with an unforgettable introduction.

I’ve also learned that Austin presents a fashion challenge for many - how do you “keep it Austin weird” while staying well-dressed?  It can be very easy for casual to slouch over into sloppy or lazy.  Readers have recently emailed me questions like:

  • How would you define “casual chic”?
  • How can one dress well during a full day that includes roles as businesswoman and soccer mom?
  • What can I wear during the Austin fall and winter, when the “seasonal” looks I see online and in stores is not imagining Austin weather?  I’m not going to wear sweaters with temperatures still in the 90s!

First, let me say that if someone tells you that “fashion is pain”, ignore them.  Whether or not the statement is true (I for one don’t think it is), the point is that you must be comfortable to appear stylish.  It is simply not sustainable to force yourself into something that either isn’t you or isn’t comfortable for the situation.  Fashion does not serve you if it doesn’t fit you, physically and psychologically.  You want to be yourself, not a mannequin.  Whether it happened in high school or last week, most of us can remember some first date where either we or our date tried too hard to impress, through excessive boasting or extravagant behavior of some kind.  How did that work out?  As with dating, your style needs to fit you as a whole person to work for the long run.    

Casual chic seems to be the unofficial dress code that embodies the Austin lifestyle.  The way I define this broadly is:

  1. Fabrics that are easy to wear and easy to wash
  2. Clothes that are traditionally comfortable to wear, like jeans, khaki pants, skirts, knit tops, cotton shirts, flowing dresses etc.
  3. A look that is stylish, personal and a bit fashion forward with the right accessories. It projects a sense of easiness and effortlessness  -  meaning one does not spend too much time to much the look together, yet everything visually goes well with each other.
  4. The outfit is not label oriented and the look does not attempt to project wealth and power.   
  5. The outfit can be used for multiple functions.  For example, most creative or high-tech industry working environment, family gathering, friends' party, after work cocktail, and some dinner party etc.

To be clear, this does not mean t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops.  There needs to be some effort to put the outfits together initially, and the looks that result can be casual but should “look” effortless.

Casual chic as described above is also the answer I would provide to the businesswoman soccer mom who needs to juggle multiple roles during a day.  Here are some examples of well put together casual chic looks.

Now, all the photos I’ve used here are fashion photos.  You absolutely don’t need to wear heels to be “casual chic”!  Use the looks from the ankles up as a guideline, and add some casual, comfortable flats (but not sneakers), and you’ll have it.

In my next post I will answer the fall-winter question.