Monday, December 29, 2014

Impression Management: Developing Your Personal Style : Knowing what your clothing says about you, Finding your fashion identity and defining your style, Streamlining your closet and Shopping for your new style

Impression Management: Developing Your Personal Style

In This Chapter

▶ Knowing what your clothing says about you

▶ Finding your fashion identity and defining your style

▶ Streamlining your closet

▶ Shopping for your new style

What you wear reveals so much about you. That’s why choosing what to put on every day can be so hard. If the clothes you put on reflect your personality, then every day you’re making choices that show the world a little something about yourself. These choices can actually affect how you go about the rest of the day. So when you get dressed every morning, you’re revealing how you feel, showing an aspect of your personality, and preparing your- self for what type of day it’s going to be. (Amazing, right? Did you realize that old sweater you put on last week may have been the cause for your chaotic day?)

In this chapter, you discover how to create and manage your own personal style so that you always leave the house feeling fabulous! And please don’t look at this as some massive project. This aspect of your life is in your control and is very easy to manage. You are steps away from walking out the door every day with a new, confident look — so get ready!

What You Wear: The Key to Confidence and a Window to Your Personality

You can find many definitions of what it means to “be fashionable.” When I talk about a personal style, I don’t mean that your clothes need to reflect what the latest issue of Vogue shows, What I mean is that your clothing should reflect you and your personality. Here’s why:

How you look on the outside reflects how you feel on the inside. Are you full of confidence or more the shy type, raring to go or in need of a nap, ready to meet any challenge or looking for any excuse to dive under your desk?

How you look affects your attitude, your decisions, and often what plans you choose to make (or, more importantly, not make). You never know what the day is going to bring, so you should be pre- pared for all situations (within reason). If you leave the house in the morning looking so-so, you’re less inclined to accept that spontaneous invitation for drinks or dinner after work. You don’t always have to be dressed up in cocktail attire, but if you look great and are confident in your outfit (even if it isn’t as dressy as you’d like), you’ll be more inclined to accept the invitation.

The way you look and feel about yourself influences your confidence. One of the sexiest things a woman can own is her confidence. You want to look fabulous at all times because, let’s face it, you should always look like the fabulous person you are! Confidence is your best accessory (see Figure 2-1). When you walk into a place thinking, “I look smashing!” others will think the same thing. Trust me.

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Figure 2-1: Looking and feeling your best boosts your confidence.

This chapter (and this book, for that matter) is all about empowering you. And the first step in grabbing some of that power is recognizing that your appearance is very much in your hands to mold; you have complete control over it. If you believe you’re not good at selecting your clothing and the process isn’t any fun, you probably haven’t yet figured out the right way to do it for you.

What to Aim for When Creating Your Own Personal Style

Personal style is about finding a look that best expresses your personality. It’s also about coordinating looks and really accentuating your physical attributes while camouflaging the areas that need a little help. In fact, your personal style is something that is going to carry you through your adult life. Yes, it may change a bit over time. And yes, it will and should incorporate some of the latest trends, but it’s not about blindly following what appears in the pages of the latest fashion magazines.

A key to creating your own style is knowing the difference between fashion and style. Fashion is what is current and in the moment according to magazines and top designers. Style is something you develop according to your personality and body type. So while miniskirts and knee-high boots may be the latest fashion, they may not be appropriate for you because of your body type, personality, or both. That doesn’t mean you have to abandon them entirely. You can incorporate parts of a particular look into your own style. If a mini- skirt is the wrong length for you, try a pencil skirt that comes to your knee.

If skirts aren’t in your repertoire at all, try a pair of boots under some great- fitting slacks. If the current boot has a pointy toe, wear one in that style and you’ll be incorporating the latest trend in a way that works with your style.

Accentuating your personality

You can shape your personal style in many ways. The choice of what distinguishes your personal style from somebody else’s, such as a specific color or chunky jewelry or stiletto heels, should be one that suits your personality. If you love to be the topic of conversation at a cocktail party, investing in statement jewelry may be the way to go. Many women feel sexier in heels, so maybe topping off each outfit you wear with an unbelievable pair of pumps or sandals is your style. (You get the drift, right?)

Feeling comfortable whenever you head out the door gives you added confidence. And this part of the puzzle is a lot of fun. It really allows you to play with accessories, shoes, scarves, and bags. Plus, it gives you the freedom to buy and wear things that are unique to you!

Using clothing to complement your personality

It’s great to experiment to see how you can bring out other facets of your personality. You’ll be surprised how a different look can make you feel. Consider these examples:

If you aren’t used to being the center of attention and tend to dress in darker or more subdued colors, try something a bit bolder. If putting on a red dress is too much at first, start with a big accessory to brighten up your outfit or try a red top with jeans to ease into dressing in brighter colors. Play around with different combinations to discover which ones you feel comfortable in. Maybe you’ll decide to dress up an otherwise plain outfit with a pink scarf. That scarf will show the world that you were careful about what you chose to wear, but it won’t do it in such an obvious way.

✓ If you love being the center of attention and are always wearing showy or ornate pieces, you may want to try toning your look down from time to time.

✓ If you have a fabulous figure (good for you!) and love to show it off, try a more subtle approach occasionally, which is also very sexy. (It may sound cliché, but less really is more.) Having a little mystery in the mix is always good.

You have to feel comfortable in the clothing that you wear. Your style is a reflection of your personality. While experimenting is great, especially when you’re developing your style, being confident and expressing your true self is the most important thing. Find out what works for you and your body type and develop your wardrobe around that.

Using clothing to project the image you want

In creating your style, you not only want to reflect who you are, but you also have to be focused on the image you want to project. While you should

always stay within your comfort zone, it’s okay to push the envelope a bit. For example, if you’re very conservative and are looking to dress a tad sexier but you’re not sure how to do it, take baby steps. Instead of wearing your little black dress with pumps and pearls, try a stiletto heel and a great pair of chandelier earrings. This takes your look from simple to sizzling with just a couple of changes, while staying within what’s comfortable for you.

Showing you’re in control

One of the great cries of women everywhere is, “I don’t know what to wear!” Now it’s one thing to say that in the privacy of your own home, but when you walk out the door, you don’t want anyone else wondering, “What was she thinking!?” You want to have control over your wardrobe and, more importantly, give the impression you have that control (even if you were in total panic five minutes before leaving the house). It’s all about looking put together as opposed to looking thrown together!

Keep in mind that looking put together doesn’t mean that everything you have on matches perfectly. To be honest, women who wear everything matchy matchy look more like fashion victims than mavens. The idea is to create an overall image that makes those looking at you think you were in complete control when you selected your outfit.

Only one item you’re wearing should pop. If you choose a patterned blouse, keep the rest of the outfit simple (see Figure 2-2). If you have an intricate necklace with a lot of beading, make that necklace the center of attention and go with one color when choosing the rest of the outfit (see Figure 2-3). This rule definitely has exceptions, but it serves as a great jumping-off point.

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Figure 2-2: Pick one item to pop in your outfit.

Yes, you can break these rules, if you know what you’re doing. Mixing and matching patterns is definitely possible, but the key is that one or both arevery subtle and the color scheme must match. For example, you can wear a pinstripe pantsuit with a floral blouse. If the pinstripe is subtle, the blouse can take more of center stage (for more on matching patterns and colors, see Chapters 4 and 5). As long as the colors in the suit and the blouse are in the same family, or one is totally neutral, you’re good to go. Before you mix patterns, be confident you know what you’re doing. If you’re not sure, keep it simple and pair either pattern with a solid.

Reflecting different moods

To reflect every possible mood, you need the clothes to do that. When you go shopping, think about how a particular item of clothing or accessory can help you expand your ability to express yourself. If everything you own is very loud, how are you going to dress when you’re in a quieter mood? Or if everything you own is very subdued, you don’t have the option of really dressing up if you’re invited to a great party.

I’m not saying that if you love wearing all black, you need to ditch your entire ward- robe. What I am saying is that if black is your choice of color, make sure you have accessories, shoes, or bags that make your outfit pop when an event calls for it. Different colors make you feel different ways, so keep your options open!

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Figure 2-3: Let your accessory be the focal point.

I love to wear all white. I think it’s extremely fresh and clean-looking. But white isn’t appropriate for all occasions. I wouldn’t wear all white in the dead of winter to a dinner party. My point? The color you wear (and the part of your personality you want to project) depends on the time and place.

Fitting perfectly — literally and figuratively

Every woman should develop her own personal style and create a wardrobe to express it. Building a style is a gradual process that happens as you find and collect pieces that fit into the big picture. Does that mean you have to look the same all the time? No. It’s okay to have subsets of style. The image you want to project at the office is going to be different than on the tennis court. But you have to remember that you’re projecting an image in both places. If you’re going to have a personal style, those images generally need to be compatible.

With that said, I know how overwhelming and confusing building a wardrobe can be. It may take some time before you have the confidence to walk into a mall or department store and instantly say, “Oh, that fits perfectly in my closet.” Finding items that are a perfect fit (and I mean that in both senses of the word) can be difficult. But look at it this way: Because you have so much to choose from, differentiating yourself from everyone else becomes a little easier, and after all, that’s really your goal.

Defining Your Personal Style

There’s no end to the type and amount of items you can purchase to jazz up your wardrobe. What you choose defines your personal style. So if the items you select are all of the latest fashion, then your style is going to be high fashion. If you choose to wear T-shirts and jeans every day, that too is a style statement. By carefully choosing what you wear every day, you’re projecting an image. The following sections help you get started in developing your own personal style.

Getting familiar with fabrics and styles

To have the confidence you need when buying clothing, you must become familiar with the different fabrics and styles. That way, when you grab an item from the clothing rack, you can be absolutely sure of what you’re buying. (For more information about what to look for, see Chapter 4.)

Keeping up with what’s “in” is also important. Picking up a fashion magazine every month is a great way to stay in the loop. And remember, the ads are just as important as the editorial pieces. Chapter 8 has the details on what to look for, but for now you just need to know that the magazines, as well as what you see celebs wearing on talk shows or the red carpet, can give you a glimpse into what’s hot. Even if you examine only one of these outlets, you’ll be able to pick up the basic trends like the latest hemlines, colors, cuts, and fabrics.

Considering your characteristics

What about you can be part of your personal style? Lots! Your lifestyle, age, profession, attitude, and hobbies all play a part in defining your personal style. Here are some guidelines:

Lifestyle: Are you a single woman living in the big city or the mother of three running an entire household? When you’re on vacation, do you head for Broadway or the beach? The answers describe your lifestyle and, in turn, help define your personal style.

Age: Everyone wants to look younger, right? The desire to knock off a few years is natural, and your wardrobe is one of the ways to do that. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to dress in the latest trends, but do it in an age- appropriate way. Some trends transcend generations. Asymmetrical necklines (see Figure 2-4), for example, were big at the Oscars and Golden Globes in 2009. Celebrities of all ages were wearing one-shoulder dresses as they graced the red carpets. It was just how they were wearing them that was different. Don’t be afraid to get in on the latest trend if it’s something you love. Just make sure you do it in a way that fits your age, personality, and body type.

If you like a current trend but feel it may be too youthful-looking for you, it probably is. This is true of fashions that reveal the most skin and are the most adorned. Use your judgment when trends veer in this direction, and err on the more conservative side.

Profession: If you work in an office, the dress code is likely different than if you work in a store or at a school. Although you have to work within the constraints of your particular industry, you should be able to express your style no matter what the dress code.

Attitude: Whether you’re a free spirit or some-one who’s more conservative, your clothing can reflect your attitude. Use your wardrobe to express yourself.

Hobbies: What you do in your free time determines your look as well. Whether you’re running errands or running on the beach, your outfit reflects your personality and what you like to do.

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Figure 2-4: One-shoulder dresses, a trend that can work at any age.

Figuring out your current style

In order to start building your closet properly, take this easy quiz. (Sorry to take you back to the 8th grade, but it’s a necessary first step!)

Pretend you’re a personal stylist who’s been hired to give you advice. Try to look at yourself as an outsider would when answering the following questions. Nobody knows you better than you do, but if you’ve never done a self-examination like this (and you probably haven’t), what you find out may surprise you. Have fun with this, be honest with yourself, and let your true personality answer every question.

Taking a style quiz

What’s your style? Take this quiz and find out! Circle the answers that best describe you:

1) You are most comfortable in

A) long, flowing dresses

B) cable-knit sweaters

C) a bikini

D) the latest trend

E) a white button-down shirt and jeans

F) a fitted sweat suit

2) When not working, you feel most like yourself

A) in a romantic vacation spot

B) on the tennis court in a country club

C) on a beach

D) in a big city

E) at home hosting an intimate dinner party

F) in your SUV with the kids

3) Your accessory of choice is

A) an armful of gold bangles

B) a strand or two of pearls

C) a rash guard

D) the new “it” bag

E) big, round, black “Jackie O” sunglasses

F) a diaper bag

4) The perfect everyday shoe for you is

A) flip-flops

B) loafers

C) barefoot

D) stilettos

E) flats

F) sneakers

5) You tend to wear

A) mostly white

B) lots of navy blue

C) bright colors

D) head-to-toe black

E) anything neutral

F) dark colors

Evaluating your answers

Now that you’ve taken our style quiz, find out who you are and how to define your look. If your answers fall mostly in the A’s, B’s, C’s, or so on, you fall pretty neatly into one of six groups, outlined in the following sections.

Mostly A’s: Group 1 — The bohemian

You are a true bohemian (see Figure 2-5). You love wearing loose-flowing, romantic tops, skirts, and dresses. You tend toward looking casual, yet pretty. Most of your clothes can go from day to night. You look like you just walked off the beach, no matter what time it is, because you have a relaxed, easy vibe about you. Your color palette includes white, off-white, white, and more white, earth tones, brown, and some beachy colors like turquoise and coral.

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Figure 2-5: The true bohemian.

clip_image026Figure 2-6: The prep.

Mostly B’s: Group 2 — The prep

You love to wear your polo shirts. You pair them with crisp pants or shorts, depending on the weather and the activity. You are likely to be seen in shorts at the country club during the day and pants at the evening barbeque. The cable knit sweater is the cornerstone of your wardrobe. Your color palette is navy blue, kelly green, and pink — all paired with crisp white, if not one another. Your wardrobe is also filled with bold prints, such as plaid, madras, and argyle, for when you’re in the mood to be noticed. The prep look (see Figure 2-6) is totally “old school” yet multigenerational and current as well.

Mostly C’s: Group 3 — The surfer chic

If you answered “C” to all or almost all the questions, you are the quint- essential surfer chic (see Figure 2-7). Your number one priority is how big the waves are. You don’t care what’s going on in the real world. Your world is the beach. You spend your mornings and evenings, and all day if possible, at the beach and out on the waves. Your outfit of choice is a bikini and rash guard, with sheep- skin boots (of course). Your color palette is red, yellow, and blue — all paired with sand or off-white. The bright colors are reminiscent of all the beautiful foliage in Hawaii. Plus, they let other surfers know you’re coming when you catch the big wave!

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Figure 2-7: The surfer chic.

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Figure 2-8: The fashionista.

Mostly D’s: Group 4 — The fashionista

If you answered “D” to all or almost all the questions, welcome to group 4. You’re the ultimate fashionista (see Figure 2-8)! You love the big city. You adore your uniform of all black with stiletto boots, stiletto pumps, or stiletto sandals. You love to dress up, be in all the latest trends, and wear all designer names. You’re never a fashion victim, and even if you can’t afford the high-end designer labels, you look like you do. You know which pieces to spend your money on and how to make the whole look appear expensive. You never miss an issue of Vogue, Elle, or Harper’s Bazaar. Your color palette is black and more black, paired with the color of the moment, which is, of course, “the new black.”

Mostly E’s: Group 5 — The classic

You’re in group 5 if the letter E came up the most, which makes you a total classic (see Figure 2-9). You have an easy way about dress- ing and are always put together and chic. You stick very close to the basics. You can buy your clothes at Gap or on Madison Avenue, or a combination — after all, a classic is a classic. Your wardrobe consists of white button-down shirts, jeans and slacks, the perfect black blazer, the perfect little black dress, and a fabulous trench coat or two. You also have a drawer full of beautiful scarves and a closet full of gorgeous purses. Your color palette is denim, white, and black, with splashes of color here and there in the form of an accessory such as a scarf or purse. Clothing is basically neutral in color. The ultimate example of a classic is, of course, Jackie O.

Mostly F’s: Group 6 — The suburbanite

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Figure 2-9: The timeless classic.

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Figure 2-10: The suburbanite.

If you answered mostly F’s, you fit comfortably into group 6, the realm of the suburbanite (see Figure 2-10). You have a casual lifestyle outside the big city. You spend most of your time taking care of everyone else, but you manage to squeeze in an exercise class, a trip to the gym, or a run out- side when you can. Errands and shuttling the kids take up a huge portion of your time, so you need to be comfortable, yet still feel stylish. A cute, well-fitting sweat suit is your go-to outfit first thing in the morning, and it generally carries you through all the day’s activities. If an evening activity is on the agenda, a quick change to slacks or jeans and a sweater or nice T-shirt does the trick. Your color palette consists of darker colors like navy, gray, and black. These colors are flattering and slimming and don’t show stains or wear and tear from all your daily activity.

Help! I didn’t have “mostly” anything

If your answers didn’t indicate a definite tendency toward one look or another, it means that you don’t currently dress in any particular style but throw on something generic to fit the activity. If that’s the case, this is an area you can work on. The easiest way to do so is to answer the questions according to how you picture yourself and see your life, rather than what it currently may be.

You don’t want to have too many styles going on at the same time. Of course, as your social settings change or your mood shifts, you want to be able to adapt your style to fit your needs at the time. But while there’s no doubt that you’ll have to massage your style regularly to get it to fit your schedule, you also don’t want to abandon it on a regular basis. Rather than attempting to develop different styles for different occasions, work on finding ways to use your personal style as a common thread in any outfit you put together.

Even if you aren’t entirely categorized by one group or another, picking a style and going with it can make life a lot easier. I’m not saying you can’t delve into other looks when the mood strikes or the occasion arises — but to develop a personal style, you need to narrow it down.

Building Your Stylish Wardrobe

After you have an idea of the direction you want to go in, you can get started searching for the tools — that is, the clothing and accessories — that can help you to meet your goal. Woo-hoo! Time to have some fun. Your closet is about to get a makeover, and so are you! The next section has the details.

Using my 10 System to create the perfect closet

Once you decide on your style direction, it’s time to focus on what you have going on behind those closet doors. Quality, fit, and style are the most important factors when creating your wardrobe. This means everything in your closet should be first-rate, whether it’s a formal gown or sweat pants. So here’s the deal about your closet (and read this sentence over and over again): Everything in it is a 10 — that is, the best — or it’s about to be. If it isn’t a 10, guess where it’s going? Yup! Out the door. Nothing less than a 10 is acceptable. No, not even to just run to the market, walk the dog, or lounge in at home.

In order for your clothing to be considered a 10, it has to pass the following test. And, yes, you must go through your closet piece by piece, trying things on and asking these five questions of every single item. These questions are in no particular order and are all equally important. Be ruthless! This is not a multiple-choice portion of the book. Every criteria in this list needs to be met or the item is out the door like a bad date!

You must be brutally honest with yourself. Sometimes it helps to have a friend with you, someone whose fashion sense you trust (but any really honest friend will do). It makes the whole process a lot more fun, and you can do it for each other, so you both benefit.

What condition is it in?

Before you even try anything on, take a look at each garment and survey its condition. Is it permanently stained? Are there holes beyond repair? Is it stretched out to the point that it no longer fits well? Is the material pilly (does it have those little round nubby things that cling to lots of sweaters in particular)? If you answer yes to any or all of these questions, you don’t even need to try it on. Toss those pieces straight onto the donation pile.

Does it fit?

If it passed the quality control test, the next step is to try it on. Does it fit? And, more importantly, is it flattering? Is it really a 10? Do you feel like a mil- lion bucks when you put it on? If not, it’s outta there.

If you have a blouse that goes perfectly with a particular pair of pants but it happens to be a little tight so that it shows off that bulge around your tummy, then it’s the wrong choice for you. Ditch it! If you feel uncomfortable about its defects, you won’t wear it no matter how well it goes with the pants. Better to get rid of that blouse and avoid feeling conflicted every time you see it than to keep it just because it’s the only blouse you have in that color.

Is it in style?

Is the piece in style? If not, is it more of a classic piece that will always be in style? Or is it a high-quality item that may come back into style? (The latter scenario is rare. Even when things come back into style years later, they’re always a bit different. Remember the shoulder pads in the 1980s? Well, when they tried to bring them back recently, the pads were on a much smaller scale and the whole trend didn’t really take off again, so those pieces weren’t worth keeping anyway.) So, if the piece isn’t a classic and is truly last year’s trend (or even last decade’s trend), out it goes.

Is it relevant to your current life?

How does this garment fit into your life? Is it an old college sweat shirt? Are they your spinning shoes, and you haven’t seen the inside of a gym in years? Is it a sweater set from your younger, more conservative days? Take stock of your day-to-day life and your activities, and then evaluate what you actually need and actually wear. Do you need office clothes, workout clothes, party clothes? It can be all of the above, but if you don’t play tennis anymore or don’t work in an office anymore, or if anything in your life has changed that affects your wardrobe, then you need to be okay with letting these pieces go. Don’t get sentimental about your old suits. If you don’t use them, someone else may be able to. Isn’t that a lot better? And just think about how nice your closet will look with less clutter!

Where to take the things you don’t want

After you know what you’re getting rid of, the next thing is to figure out what to do with the outgoing piles. Here are the options:

Charities: Any number of charities would be more than thrilled to receive the goods you’re unloading, such as homeless shelters, women’s shelters, and other charitable organizations like Dress for Success.

Vintage shops: If it’s truly a vintage piece, designer, and really worth something — just not something that still fits you or your life — you can try selling it to a high-end vintage shop.

Consignment shops: If the item isn’t really vintage or high-end but is in good condition, relatively current, and is a recognizable brand with possibly some resale value, then by all means take it to a consignment shop. You may be able to get some cash for it. Some shops pay you only if or when they sell the items (hence, the name “consignment.”) Other shops pay you upfront for the merchandise.

Nothing feels better than purging all that excess from your closet. You’ll be so happy you did. Just think about all the room you’ll have for all your fabulous new clothes. Plus, you’ll actually be able to see what great pieces you already have and can use to start putting together fashionable outfits.

Do you ever actually wear it?

This is where you really have to be straight with yourself. We all have things in our closet that we’re either “saving” or we just think we may wear some- day in this other life we’re not living. Sometimes, the piece isn’t really your style or color, but you think it’s a nice top and you may find a reason to wear it one day. Trust me, you won’t. If it’s something you put on and then change out of every time before you leave the house, you really don’t feel comfort- able in it, so don’t even bother. Just get rid of it.

If there’s even a question, a maybe, it’s out. Seriously.

Obviously, if your ex-boyfriend gave you a sweat shirt back in high school, you can keep that. Yes, even if it’s full of holes. But there better be a really good story behind any item you choose to keep that isn’t a 10!

In with the new: A-shopping you will go

Dressing in style doesn’t mean that every single item you wear every day has to be brand new. Although some women have the luxury to do that, the vast majority of women don’t have the money, the time, or the storage for all the clothes and accessories needed to accomplish that. Nor do you have to throw out every thing you already own to develop a personal style. Your shopping goal at this point is to add classic-looking basics and pieces that truly express the new look you want. That means you want to begin purchasing any fashion essentials that you’re missing.

The following basic items are the building blocks for every wardrobe. Incorporate them with other pieces to express your personality and style. When you shop for these items, consider your body type and fit when choosing the cut, length, and style that works for you. I explain how to determine what you need for your body type in Chapter 3:

Little black dress (LBD)

✓ Black blazer

✓ Crisp white button-down shirt

✓ Black trousers

✓ Knee-length black skirt

✓ Classic beige trench coat

✓ Black leather bag

✓ Dark denim jeans

✓ Pair of black pumps

✓ White cardigan sweater (to layer)

✓ Black cardigan sweater (to layer)

✓ Set of pearls

✓ Diamond studs (can be cubic if need be — just keep them small)

You may already have some of these items, but are they really high quality? If not, replace them with high-quality items. For these staples, it’s okay to spend a little more. (You can wait for a sale, but keep in mind that some of these items don’t go on sale very often because they’re always in demand.) If you don’t have the money for a new one now, it’s better to wear your old raincoat for another season and buy a really good one next year. Remember, you’re not on a schedule. Building a stylish wardrobe is a gradual process.

These staple garments are the basis of your wardrobe; they have their own style — classic — and that speaks volumes. After you establish your basic wardrobe, you’ll add additional pieces to create your personal style.

As you shop, keep these tips in mind:

Choose clothes that blend in rather than stand out. Creating a style using accessories is easier and less expensive, but for those accessories to shine, you need clothes that frame them, not overwhelm them. So make sure you have enough solids in your wardrobe. Having solids that you can wear over and over is easier on your budget and makes putting outfits together easier, too. You can do this with neutrals, which can be anything in the white, black, gray, or beige family.

Shop online or use the Web if you lack the time to go shopping. If you’re completely frazzled when you hit the mall, then your attitude may stop you from seeing how a particular article of clothing can help you to express yourself. Offsetting this lack of time are all the new ways to shop, especially the Internet. If you can’t get to a store, set aside some time at night when you can surf the Web. Even if you don’t buy anything, you can print out the type of clothes you like. Then when you go to a store, you can follow the decisions you made when you weren’t so stressed out.

Buy things you like. Even if you buy an item at a time, after a while they’ll start to match up. After all, they all suit your taste, and with that common denominator, eventually they’ll mesh. So if you see a blouse that you really love but you feel like you have nothing to go with it, buy it! Trust me, you probably already own something it will go with, or you’ll buy something soon enough that will be its perfect mate! By the way, 99 percent of all the blouses you own will go with jeans, a black pencil skirt, or classic black pants. (Just an FYI for when you say to yourself “I have nothing to wear with this!”)

Getting help from the pros

As you shop for pieces to include in your new stylish wardrobe, asking a salesperson for assistance is often helpful. She’ll know the lay of the land and can direct you straight to what you’re looking for so you can avoid wandering around aimlessly (to later purchase something you don’t need).

When you find a helpful salesperson in one department, let her know which department you’re going to next and ask who you should ask to see. Chances are, she’ll be able to guide you toward another salesperson who “gets” it.

If you think that you’re really clueless and you need more than just a department store salesperson, then you need to find a fashion consultant. A sales- person is limited to the clothes in that store, but an outside professional can steer you toward a variety of stores where you can find what you need.

Hiring a fashion consultant can also be a good first step in the process of deciding what your personal style should be. The two of you can create your style, develop a game plan, and go out shopping. Then, if need be, you can continue to shop on your own or engage the consultant on a regular basis to go on shopping trips — either with you or for you.

For more information on how sales associates, personal shoppers, and fashion consultants can help you, go to Chapter 8.