How many times have we opened our closet — full of expectation of what it might offer — only to walk away in frustration, muttering, “I’ve got nothing to wear.”
One of the best ways to make a clothing budget stretch is to hone your “mix and match” skills. You can certainly do this within the parameters of your existing wardrobe: Try pairing different shoes and a purse to dress up a more casual outfit. Add a belt where you’ve not tried one before. Or bring in a good girlfriend or trusted family member to look at your clothing options with fresh eyes. A cornerstone to success with this approach is to find pieces that can be “dressed up” or “dressed down”.
But don’t forget to keep this mix and match approach in mind when shopping. You’ll get more bang for your buck in the long run if you supplement your core purchases with varied accessories. It’s easy, and the versatility will give you more options.
One great option to accomplish this objective is a fun, printed dress. You can pick accessories to match the various colors in the print and—whether you add sparkling, strappy sandals or casual peep toe flats—you can make a single dress the most versatile item in your wardrobe.
We’ve used some options from our own Clothes Mentor inventory. This Sandra Darren dress for $18 certainly has its own personality. Add the Calvin Klein pumps ($20) and Cole Haan clutch ($36)– both boasting a slightly metallic sheen — and you’ve added a touch of glam.
But now, take the very same dress and add a pop of color with BCBGeneration shoes ($20) and Apt. 9 Crossbody ($10), and you’ve got a bold, but slightly more casual look.
That’s two outfits for $104 — not too shabby when you think of all of the other pieces in your wardrobe that the accessories might complement!
How do you mix and match your style? Any tips for generating versatility in your wardrobe?
Interestingly, two of our most popular posts on our store Facebook page have been e-cards that we shared. In short, they are funny quips about escaping everyday life, and –go figure — they resonated with a lot of people:
I thought to myself, what would I take with me if I were to run away? For a minute, I thought about the material things I would want to pack: iphone to play Candy Crush, ipad to read trashy romance novels, laptop to surf the web with all the pressing things that I need answers to immediately (such as today’s quest to understand the various options in recycled shopping bags or yesterday’s rush to determine the best type of tomato to grow in my garden this summer).
But those were thoughts that quickly dissipated. In fact, escaping my gadgets is probably one of the main reasons I want to run away. We often think we want to run away from the constant “Mom, Mom, Mom….” or the ongoing “Honey, have you seen my….” messages that bombard us daily.
But, in truth, when all is said and done, I don’t want to escape the people I love. I want to escape the pressures of our everyday life that I associate with them.
So, my list has changed. If I were to run away, tops on my list to take with me would be my daughter, my husband and my parents.
Of course, if I were to pack the suitcase, there are also three fashion accessories I wouldn’t want to miss:
- A cool scarf—Chevron and neon preferred—to deal with the wind at the beach or the wind blowing through my hair as we drive somewhere warm in a convertible.
- A funky statement necklace—preferably something colorful with a nautical theme that I can switch between dress-up and casual.
- A Maxi dress in Dazzling Blue or Cayenne Orange…bright happy colors that match just about any mood and any occasion.
What would you take with you if you were to run away? Maybe we don’t actually need to run—maybe a “staycation” could accomplish the same thing…but I better get shopping for the “necessities”!
I’ve been checking out some of the trends coming down the line, and while I may not ever consider some of these wacky designs to be haute couture, I am pleasantly surprised by the playfulness in what I see.
For so long, everything was serious. We worried about the economy and wars, health care costs and mounting debt. Today, we worry about the economy and wars, healthcare costs and mounting debt, and seemingly endless options of bad news.
But, there is a certain resilience that is starting to peek through like the buds blooming in the garden after winter’s slumber. And while it certainly doesn’t pack a punch in meeting ongoing international crises, fashion gives us an opportunity to lighten up.
Life is short and life is precious so we ought to embrace things that bring a smile to our face and a lilt in our step!
Check out these trends:
Now, would I wear these fashions to the office? No. An errand? Might be fun. Finding happy, even frivolous diversions from real-life stress can be good medicine.
Do you ever dress in a way that just brings a smile to your face to brighten your mood? If so, what are your go-to pieces?
Okay, I know the advice: when you are looking for a job, networking is key. When you need to find your next big break, the current wisdom seems to be to call those you are connected to—preferably in positions of power or authority—and ask them out for coffee. But after receiving about five (5) requests for coffee each week, and trying to honor everyone’s request, I am honestly facing burn-out.
And I’ve heard it from others, too, so I know I’m not alone. The reason? The coffees are generally coaching sessions for the requester and we sense our to-do list growing longer as we chat. Now, before I get painted as the bad guy, just know that I love helping people. I own a store that focuses on helping others and taking care of women as they pursue their dreams. I want them to buy clothes at an amazing price that makes them feel beautiful and powerful. I want women to take care of one another too—offering a free private room for networking and events just to help us connect as friends and mentors.
But I know I’m not on trial so I don’t have to defend myself. This is just honest feedback for those seeking mentorship, advice and a helping hand in their networking efforts. All I ask is that the conversation be reciprocal. Be a little interested in me and be a little interested in my business. Be interested in how you can help one of the women I met with earlier in the week, just as you are interested in how I can be helpful to you.
Let’s make this a mutual give-and-take and then the coffee will taste so much sweeter.
And, even though we are friends or we will be friends after our hour-long chat, please remember that you are asking me to extend myself and my network for your benefit. Please remember that I need to be able to envision you doing whatever it is you want to tell me about. Do you want to run a hospital? Then you probably should not wear sweatpants and Uggs with hair pulled back in a messy pony. Yes, you look cute and young and vibrant. But no, I can’t see you leading a team with patients’ lives in your hands.
You want to be in fashion? How about wearing an outfit with smart coordinating accessories? Make sure to showcase some of that jewelry you made that you want to begin selling to local boutiques. To get an internship with some of the law firms in town, make sure to wear nice clothes that enable me to see you clerking for the brightest legal minds (or at least the legal minds with internships available)! A nice handbag, nicely manicured hands, dress pants and peep toe pumps would be appropriate and appreciated.
And a final ask: please come with an agenda in mind. Think through the conversation. I always am more pulled into the conversation and feel more excited to help when I sense effort has been made by you. I appreciate that effort and feel respected. I want to help you because you valued me.
I know I’m not unique in these thoughts so try applying them in your next networking meeting. A little time and effort—in appearance and in preparation—will go a long way toward engaging the other person and motivating them to help. Offering your own time, energy and ideas will make the other person feel like you are in this crazy life together, which in my book always results in a win-win.
What are some of your best networking tips and suggestions?
Let’s review: I love personality tests and think StrengthsFinder 2.0 is one of the best there is. We can apply those tests to play to our strengths and make success come easier. Like StrengthsFinder 2.0, I do not believe we are broken with a need to be “fixed” but, rather, that we are perfect “as is”. It follows then that we should try to swim downstream using our strengths rather than constantly trying to motor upstream against our natural tendencies.
When we have a more holistic and healthy view of our positive attributes, we can bring them to the fore in positive ways.
One way to do that is to dress in a way that reflects who we really are. No need to wear a pinstripe suit (even if it is the office norm), if your personality type is bold and gregarious. And, maybe it isn’t the best choice to wear a cute, sweet floral print if your personality type is more structured and ordered. It doesn’t mean “never do it”, it just means that it probably doesn’t suit you on a daily basis—and particularly those days you want to play to your strengths.
Let’s talk about two members of the Clothes Mentor Team:
- We have a Team member who is bold and beautiful. She has a personality that is larger than life, a beauty that is way more than skin deep and everyone wants to be her friend. She has big goals and big dreams. Her dress usually reflects her personality. She wears bright colors and lots of jewelry—and usually colorful matching shoes and handbags. That is the “bold” side of her personality. But the “achiever” and “competitive” side also craves some structure and a look that has her ready to argue her case in court. That aspect of her personality is reflected in structured blazers and business casual pants. One day, she decided to go super casual and she wore a simple black pullover sweater—unstructured. She was out of sorts the entire day. I thought she looked comfy and cute but she was absolutely not herself. She was not dressed in a way that made her feel happy and secure because it didn’t reflect her personality.
- Another Team member has a strength where she always likes to be prepared…very prepared. She is known for thinking through all possibilities—good and bad—then coming up with the best answer. She dresses with incredible style that is reflective of what’s in front of her. Cold weather coming? She is prepared with layers. Busy day expected? She has on (designer) jeans that allow freedom of movement and swift action. Her hair is always perfect and so is her makeup. One time she was a little under the weather, and she just couldn’t take the steps she normally would to ensure her pulled together nature was, well, pulled together. As a result she was out of sorts — and not just because she wasn’t feeling great. Her clothes reflected her state. Her personality was not shining through and it showed in her look. Wouldn’t you know that the next time she worked she was back in “pulled together” mode and customers were happily engaged with Miss Poised and Polished.
So what about me? Well, I tend to be a dot connector and a chaotic thinker. I am big picture and big idea. Do I dress that way? Not with any regularity (thus the chaotic thinking). Consequently, there are times when I feel out of sorts or that I am just not “together.”But when I do put on an unexpected scarf or a unique brooch that others may not think to wear, or if I put on a color pattern or a style combination that is a little “left field”, I feel happy. I really do. I may not be consciously aware of it but it works for me. The trick is now being a little more conscious about it so I can be connected to my strengths on higher levels by manifesting them in the way I present to the world.
And you can do it, too.
What are your strengths? Are you fiercely individualistic and do you dress that way? Do you have a big personality and do your clothes reflect it? Or, are you more demure and gentle—wearing clothes that are soft and approachable but not veering into frumpy and dowdy? Sometimes it is just a tweak we need to get to the right place. Look to your own personality profile as you dress to get a little guidance.
What tips do you have to best reflect your personality in how you dress?
I confess. I am completely into testing for personality types. A personal favorite is StrengthsFinder 2.0. I love it and think it’s an incredibly valuable tool for both personal and professional interactions. The main takeaway from StrengthsFinder is that you can better understand and play to your strengths. And if you are on a team, you can play to the strengths of others. It reminds us that while no one is perfect, we don’t have weakness that must be “fixed”, either…we are not broken. Consequently, if you are playing to your strengths, success comes more easily and naturally.
But then I started to think about strengths in terms of fashion, wondering whether the clothes we pick every day are a reflection of our personalities or are they a reflection of conformity—or perhaps worse, a reflection of neither! At Clothes Mentor we have the benefit of having StrengthsFinder results across the entire team because we employ it for professional growth and development of the staff. In that context it’s interesting to examine if the clothing worn by the team truly reflects their personalities and whether their sense of style and fashion really helps them play to their strengths.
I’ve observed that the Team members who seem the most comfortable in their skin are usually wearing clothes that reflect how I would describe their strengths.
They are the happiest, most productive and most positive team members. And I also noticed that on the days when they do not dress in accordance with their strengths, they do in fact seem a little out of sorts. Then they will say how something that they are wearing is bothering them. A couple of examples of dressing to your strengths by similarly dressed Team members illustrates this point:
- One team member is very other-directed. Her strengths are in developing others, being empathetic and being “positive”. She generally wears simple lines and doesn’t go for big splashes of color or print. Her focus is never on her but on others.It is the fact that she is blessed with natural beauty that makes her stand out in a crowd, not her outrageous clothing choices. One time she fell in love with a jacket that came into the store. It was gorgeous. But it was also a bold animal print. She tried it on. She loved it. But she also knew that she would never wear it—it was too busy and bold for her. She went with a more subtle jacket—still animal print—and she carried herself differently and looked more comfortable in it. She ended up going with an animal print jacket; but the one with a pattern that matched her strengths.
- Another Team member leans toward military like structure. She likes clear guidance and drives toward execution. Her clothes are also simple and practical but for a different reason. She also wears little color and few prints, but it is because it isn’t practical and functional for what she is doing. One could argue that as a mom and a woman, we are always focused on practical and functional but in our hearts we know that isn’t true. One of her favorite phrases is “I just haven’t got time for that”. That is her approach to fashion. She loves beautiful things and has an eye for designer wear like no one else I know. But her appreciation of designer fashion is based on practicality—higher end designers have a skill about making things beautiful and functional, just like our Team member. She always looks pulled together but the colors are neutral, the cuts are classic and the clothes are interchangeable…perfectly mix and match.
So what is your personality type and are you dressing to reflect who you are? So many of us get caught up in the navy blue pinstripes or the yoga pants and t-shirt life that we forget that we actually feel better—and are likely more productive—when our style reflects our true nature. Think about it and we’ll talk more about what you can do to achieve this fashion fengshui next time!
Valentine’s Day often gets a bad rap: Too mushy; Too silly. “I don’t need a day to express my feelings” or “I’m not in love so it isn’t a holiday for me.” To all those reasons, I say, “Not so fast!”
You’d think with all of the negative events and stories that pervade the news casts every night – from bullying to wars and senseless violence – we’d relish the opportunity to celebrate love. What better way to lift the winter doldrums than with a splash of color and some affection? Simple yet powerful.
It’s true that Valentine’s Day can feel a bit like a Hallmark holiday, but who doesn’t like a little silly to bring a smile and to feel happier? So what if you don’t have a soul mate to exchange long, deep, meaningful, looks over a bottle of champagne and a dozen roses—or if you have a young kiddo constantly underfoot that keeps you from doing it even when you want to? Here are three ways to celebrate the holiday regardless of your circumstances:
- Be nice and say, “Happy Valentine’s Day” to strangers. You may be their only Valentine that day and sometimes it is just nice to hear the words.
- Go ahead and buy the paper valentines. Pass them out to your co-workers and/or the neighborhood kids. Splurge and by the ones with candy, bookmarks or fancy stickers attached.
- Wear red. Yes, that is probably the toughest one of all because you are clearly proclaiming that you are, in fact, celebrating Valentine’s Day. But it will make others smile, it will make others remember what day it is: a day that is supposed to be dedicated to l*o*v*e.
And when you wear red (or at least wear a splash of pink), how do you do it without going overboard? Forget the pants, the shoes and the handbag…those are all too tangential. Let’s go for the red coat, the red jewelry and the red tops—and if it is a patterned top, make sure that red is the dominant color. Put the statement on top, out front and center.
Going out for Valentine’s Day? A red jacket makes the perfect statement. Paired with a little red lipstick, it can be a wonderfully sexy and romantic look. Rubies—real or faux—are warm and inviting too. Put on some pendant earrings or a short jeweled necklace. Don’t focus on bangles or long necklaces — keep the color next to your beautiful face.
And most importantly, enjoy the holiday. Remember the day is about love—feel it and share it! How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Do you take a minute to spread a little Valentine’s Day love?
Angel Second Class. Still trying to earn his wings. Remember Clarence from “It’s A Wonderful Life”? His job was to show George Bailey what a difference he had made in the world, the value of friendship and the importance of love. It wasn’t easy but Clarence did it. He earned his wings, not by telling George how he should feel but rather by showing George and allowing George to discover answers for himself. Clarence did it in a loving way and the result was a miracle.
Have you ever felt like that with a friend or colleague? They ask you for advice and guidance, you muster up your best wisdom and they just can’t hear you? While it could be something serious—like a relationship or a job situation—it can also be as simple as how we dress or present to the world:
Does this dress look good on me? Do I look fat?
Do you like this color? Is it too much?
Should I wear this on an interview?
In truth, there is never a right or wrong answer. In truth, the question is not whether I would wear it but “how does it make you feel?” Do you feel beautiful, strong, powerful and ready to take on the world? If yes, then wear it no matter what another’s opinion might be. Remember, that personal truth of how you feel will shine brighter than any color or style you put on.
Now, it doesn’t mean that as friends we dodge the aforementioned questions. There is much to be said for a courageous conversation. Please, please, please tell me when I have spinach in my teeth. But maybe it is time to be less judgmental and to remember that clothes, make-up, nails and accessories are allowed to be FUN. Life is short — buy the shoes. Life is short — cut the hair. Life is short — go for it!
The other day, we had a customer put on a dress that we never, ever would have picked for her. She was slightly overweight and the metallic print dress was form-fitted. Recipe for disaster, right? Guess what? She looked stunning and she knew she looked stunning. The dress didn’t hide her weight—it did make her look womanly. Her husband stopped by after picking up lunch and she modeled it for him. He beamed. She beamed. And they left the store, purchase in hand, radiating together and looking forward to the business event where she would wear the dress.
I confess that if she wasn’t so excited when she saw the dress, I might have dissuaded her from trying it on. I probably would have gone for something more conservative given the nature of the event. But my job wasn’t to put her in my box of opinions. My job was to show her the options, show her how to wear it and let her inner-voice guide her. My job was to be her partner and friend, not her judge and jury.
And the look on her face—the look smart, feel smart, be smart look that I love—because she found a unique dress at a great price that made her feel beautiful, was such a reward. Supporting her to fall in love with herself was like earning my wings.
I hear that she had a great time at the dinner and I couldn’t be happier. How do you earn your wings when a friend asks your advice?
A new year, a new me. A new year, a new ____ ? There’s always so much talk this time of year about all the things we want to change and who we want to become to be truly, madly, deeply happy ever after.
The fundamental problem with those types of plans (while I fully support the notion of resolutions) is that we don’t change who we are at our core. While it’s true that if I walked across hot coals or broke six boards with my forehead, I would be deeply changed, the reality is that I’m not going to do those things. They just aren’t on my bucket list.
So if this tiger’s stripes won’t change, how am I ever going to get where I really want to be? I go back to this tried and true notion: fake it ‘til you make it. It works. Sometimes, in the process, I need to earn my Academy Award by acting my way through situations and changes. Which character will I play? The strong dame or the sultry siren? The choice is mine and if I’m in character, then I get to write the story.
Try it — especially at work. Got a tough presentation to give to an even tougher crowd? Remember you are on stage. If Beyoncé can be Sasha Fierce, you can be Sasha Fiercer. We tried it at Clothes Mentor. We gave our team members secret agent names and they were charged with delivering on their secret mission. Agent Sugar was charged with giving a little southern style love. Agent Lively was charged with making the party fun. Agent Bold & Beautiful was charged with keeping the machine moving and the team engaged. It worked and everyone had fun doing it.
So maybe I’ll give it a try. One of my goals this year is to be my husband’s arm-candy. Yes, I am his partner. Yes, I am his wife and the mother of his child. Yes, I am his friend. Yes, I am his greatest sparring partner. Now, I want to be a little something different after 10 years of marriage: his arm candy. The three pieces I plan to put into place to get to the goal—in full character mode—are:
- Dress. Ha, you thought I was going to say dress up or dress sexy or some other adverb after the word “dress”. Wrong. On days I work at home, which are growing in frequency, I don’t get dressed. I stay in my jammies and keep my head in the computer. Hubby never does. He exercises and then dresses—nicely. A sport coat every time he leaves the house. I am simply going to get dressed to be ready to take on the day.
- Pay attention to details. I have written in other blog entries about nails, accessories (scarves), shoes and adding a splash of color to outfits. No need to belabor the point. I am going to do it and I am going to do it with greater intention. Arm-Candy stands out in a crowd, she doesn’t blend in to the wall paper!
- Say “I love you” more often. Ah, got you on this one. It requires no extra grooming and no starvation diets. I am simply going to tell him I love him more often so that he feels extra special and recognizes that “Arm Candy” loves her man. That makes everything sweeter—like…candy.
The last point will probably be the hardest but worth the greatest effort. What would your secret agent name be—and how would you get there?
After going to bed on New Year’s Eve, I had a dream that I hope sets the tone for my 2014. I was walking along and I found a $100 bill on the ground. The details of the dream are fuzzy but the important part is found money. I recollect spending a large part of the dream searching for the owner (it’s a dream, people — not how I might handle things in real life), but in the end it was my $100. How would you spend $100 if you found it today? I know there is the commitment to charity and the need to save for the rainy day. But let’s just take the whole New Year, New ____ theme and decide how to prioritize $100 in the context of what women too often feel are “indulgences”:
- Hands. I would indulge in having my nails done. My reasons are both professional and personal. I shake a lot of hands. I review customer’s clothes to buy for the store and I handle sales transactions at the registers. My hands are on display a lot. They look tired and worn. My nails are not kept and my mother used to always remind me of how people notice. The personal side is simple—I feel prettier. I feel dressed and ready to go. I feel more “girlie” and I kinda like it.
- Hair. I might indulge in a fun new hair color or cut. I feel like I’ve been growing out my hair forever but I spend a lot of my time hoping it’s worth it when I get there. Jennifer Lawrence’s sassy pixy or Miley Cyrus’s new bold bob remind me that hair is a fun accessory that can change a look and shape an attitude. Refinery 29 has reported that the hair color for 2014 is platinum blond. I have spent a lot of time as a “natural” blond so maybe a little more platinum sparkle could be a fun 2014 leap.
- Health. This is a serious and much-needed indulgence. It has more with giving myself the time than the actual monetary expense. I need to take better care of myself and a few new exercise DVDs might get myself moving. I belong to the gym, so it isn’t about how I spend the $100, it is more about the motivation factor. It’s fair to say that being outside in the cold or working out in a group simply don’t do it for me.
Now, as the owner of Clothes Mentor, I would be remiss if I didn’t also give us a few clothing “indulgences” that will help me look FABULOUS in 2014. They are simple and do not have to be expensive so I might not even use the entire $100!
- Scarves. An infinity scarf—or any scarf—worn multiple ways is eye catching. Think about how many times you’ve noticed the cool way a woman ties or wears a scarf. I am amazed at how often even quiet customers will compliment and query about how a scarf is tied when worn well. There are a million apps and internet sites to show you how and staying warm is always the ultimate “win” with scarves.
- Colorful shoes, tops or pants. I know it is winter. I know we all want to wear black, brown, grey and every other neutral color. But a little color brightens your spirits—and the spirits of everyone else in the room. I want to wear more color blocking in 2014—patches of color that may or may not be those you’d typically see together. I like pink and orange, and I love any color with winter white. No matter your size or age, no matter the occasion, color is always a good answer to “what should I wear.”
- Smaller handbag—of really good quality. Right now I carry a tote. Not a small tote but a heavy tote with every paper I may need at the store, even when I am nowhere near the store. I carry it to the hair salon in case I have a few minutes to work, to the grocery in case…I don’t know, in case I have an urgent need to type a memo in the produce section. Sometimes I am even the bag lady and carry multiple totes: one for papers and one for the entire medicine cabinet, multiple hand sanitizers, aspirin, bandaids. I have so many things but strangely I never have what I need and I also never remember what I do have. It would be a good measure to purge and carry just what I need in an appropriately sized bag.
How would you spend $100 you found on the ground? How would you “indulge”? Wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014—with lots of unexpected treasures lying at your feet!