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CategoryAll posts under‘Save vs. Splurge‘

My Life as a Fashion Maven

I am a fashion maven. Not a stylist, not a consultant, but a maven. 

The definition of maven reads as follows: One who is experienced or knowledgable in a specific subject; an expert or a connoisseur. After years of being a fashion stylist, I realized that what I now did was much more than that. The goal of my current business is not just to dress people, but to teach them how to do it on their own through my expertise. I have gathered a ridiculous amount of information in my almost 15 years of running this business and nothing gives me more joy then sharing my absurd knowledge with the masses.

 amycloset

 

My career has seen many twists and turns. At this point I literally think I have seen and done it all. People always ask me how I got into this business, how I maintain my client list, so on and so forth. I decided it was time to tell the story, to answer all of the questions about this crazy career that I essentially decided to get into with no formal training or experience. When you are 23 and you decide you want to do something, you do it. You have no fear of failing and the unknown is everything, so how can it be scary? You have no stability in life yet so instability is your norm. That is the best way to start a business my friends, with no back-up plan so you have no choice but to succeed.

Firstly I had to decide who and what I was about. I thought I was going to be a photo shoot stylist. I had moved to Chicago after college in Boston with NO connections, but isn’t that what Google is for? I literally sat at my computer and looked up fashion stylists and asked for advice or opportunities. Chi-town peeps are good people so they actually responded to me. I was introduced to an agent who would go on to represent me for commercial work. This proved to be a great introduction, but let me be clear, in all my years of photo shoot styling it barely added up to paying my rent. It is grueling work that always seems to be “for your portfolio”. Unfortunately that does not feed me (my stomach or my shopping habit).

 

 

sketches

 

Although I literally made no money, the beauty of that connection is that my lovely agent went over to Harpo (that’s Oprah’s production company for those that live in a hole). Remember, I was in Chicago at the time where she was filming her show. I got an amazing call from my former agent one day asking if I wanted to come to Oprah’s studios and meet a senior producer about doing “behind the scenes makeovers”. Um, yes please. When I arrived, the producer asked if I worked with individuals and I said yes. I figured it was a little white lie since that didn’t seem too far out of my wheelhouse even though I had never officially done it before. And voila, my first personal client was born.

This was a whole new world to me. Now I didn’t have to rely on an agent to call me with a job, I could build my own business with personal clients. First up, branding. I had to create a logo for my business so I began to question who I wanted to target. I had to build a website (Ok, I hired someone to do it) and start marketing the hell out of myself. My original logo included the girl to the right who obviously was an image created in my likeness. I grew to hate this bitch. Why is she so damn perky?? Eventually I re-did my branding years later and switched to a more sophisticated fashion sketch. I am SO sophisticated yo.

My Life As a Stylist collage

 

Photo shoots were mostly a thing of the past, but I did enjoy doing them every now and then while I was building my business. They looked great on my site and showed off my more creative side since you can really get crazy when you are telling a “fashion story”. That gal on the top left is from one of my early shoots. WTF. Why did I wrap tulle around her waist and put a dirty white trench coat on her? Was this story about ugly dressing? Ah, live and learn. But hey, I got to style Kate Moss. Yup, that is definitely the one and only supermodel Kate Moss in the top right shot. Ok, I was actually the assistant on that shoot, but it was one of the most surreal moments of my life. She was nice as hell and running around naked because she doesn’t give a shit. She was super friendly and I still have a girl crush on her. The rest of the images are from one of many magazine spreads I did much later in my career. When you are in NYC you have access to everything fabulous so you can really go all out with the styling. As much as I love doing shoots, they really pay jack shit and the amount of work is cray. I am too old and too materialistic to work for donuts.

 

by sign

One of my favorite thing to do is host fashion events. This one was at a Bloomingdales in Short Hills, NJ. As you can see, my face is on that poster. I am sure you can imagine this was highly entertaining for me. For this particular event I was literally just walking around assisting customers with styling possible purchases. Seriously, it was great! You get paid very well for them to basically use your name and image to promote an event. I have also hosted fashion shows at Macy’s before which is WAY more work. Showing up and smiling is one thing, putting together 20 looks for a runway show is an entirely different beast.

 

How I became a stylist 7

 

Over the years I have gone on television a bunch of times. Sometimes I am just commentating on trends or awards show style and other times I am pushing products that someone has paid me to do. I’ve got to be honest, there is good money in product pushing, but talking about bad fashion on a red carpet gives me a certain kind of high. I have also been on not one, but two reality shows. Seriously, I couldn’t make that up. The picture above is from a segment on Arise 360 I did with a fellow cast member from a show called Million Dollar Shoppers on Lifetime. It was crazy. Filming that show took years off my life. People think being on a television show is the most glamorous thing in the world, but I have never worked harder on anything in my life. You never stop working in production, the hours are insane. The glamour of it after the fact is definitely fun, but the journey to red carpet arrival is like climbing a mountain. A really big mountain.

 SassNStyleworkshop

 

In addition to hosting events, I also do Sass N Style workshops. This is the biggest one I ever did with 250 people in attendance. I had 2 models, a man and a woman, that I styled to showcase the concepts I was highlighting. I LOVE talking about style to large audiences, both men and women, of all different shapes, sizes, lifestyles and socio-economic backgrounds. Everyone gains something different from attending and leaves with a better sense of understanding their body and how to dress it. It truly is the best feeling when attendees reach out to me after the workshop to tell me how it has affected their confidence. It is the reason I do what I do, it is why I now call myself a maven!

 

Styling:reality show

As I mentioned, I do love the glamorous part of my job. I am mostly running around in the trenches, but on occasion, I do get to be in front of the camera or walk a red carpet. The picture on the left is from the first reality show I did with Tommy Hilfiger on CBS called “The Cut”. How funny do I look? That picture never looked like me, I am not a pouty kind of gal. It was my press shot that didn’t get much airtime since I was kicked off first. Oh yea, I lasted 5 days before I was sent to no-where New Jersey to rot away in a hotel. Note to readers: If you are on a competition reality show you are not allowed to go home when you get kicked off. You are sent to a far off place until filming is done. That is where all the crazy happens because you start to lose your mind and every 3 days another reality show loser shows up. That is a whole other very insane blog post…. The image to the right is a truly happy moment. I was all dolled up and on a very real red carpet for Million Dollar Shoppers in a fancy dress (that I returned the next day). No one ever actually owns the dresses they wear on the red carpet!

Fashion styling is hard work for the most part, you are lugging things, up long hours, killing yourself physically and smiling for your clients at the same time. With that said, imagining myself in a cubicle or doing a “regular job” seems insane. I realized early on in my career based life that I was going to live a life outside of the box, that my creativity was going to be the driving force behind my life. Don’t ever let society tell you what you can do, be the master of your own journey.

Your IT Bag

Your bag is like the cherry on top of the sundae of your outfit. Basically, it can make or break it.

I believe in owning a fabulous bag. It is, in my professional opinion, the most important element of any look (except possibly your winter coat). If you are one of the millions of people who DO NOT switch their bag everyday, then it is DEFINITELY the most important element. This means that you should not only absolutely love it, but it should be completely functional. Before choosing your IT bag, ask yourself what you use it for. Do you carry a laptop? Do you lug around file folders? Are you constantly carrying all of your children’s random things? Also, what type of strap works for you? Typically there are three options: Hands-free cross body style, over-the-shoulder and shorter straps that ONLY go over your forearm. Owning a bag that is specifically functional for your life will make you love your it even more.

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Another very important thing about choosing your IT bag is understanding cost per wear. Basically, how often are you going to wear it? If you never switch your bag out, spend more. If you use different bags everyday, spend less. No matter what the answer, it should still be quality. The bag in the picture above is the biggest splurge I have every made. It is a Christian Louboutin, but of course I got it on sale at Saks. Still, it is WAY more then I have ever spent on one item. And guess what, it is my best purchase ever. Why you ask? Because it is not only completely functional for my life, but it goes with everything I own and is totally my style.

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This bag was also a splurge, but I still got it on sale at Nordstrom Rack. It is Jimmy Choo and it is awesome. The camel color is one of my favorite neutrals because it goes with everything. It is a pretty simple style so it will be timeless. The truth is that expensive bags are truly just better. The wear and tear is WAY less then even middle priced bags going for anywhere from $250-$500. Choosing a price-point is very personal and I certainly understand that. Some of you reading this right now are saying, “That’s middle priced!!???!!!”, and the answer is yes. “Normal” bag prices can range from $30 all the way up to $5K. Prices go way beyond that, but that is the typical range.

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The bag above is from one of my favorite mid-range designers, Rebecca Minkoff. The best part is that you can find her at almost any discount designer store so I never pay full price. Are you recognizing a pattern yet? I strongly encourage you to ONLY buy a bag at a discount store like TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Rack and Off 5th. There is typically a fabulous selection and you can almost always get a good quality leather bag for half the price. I implore you not to buy fake leather, it looks fake! There is no need to spend full price on bags unless you are buying something like Chanel. You want the quality without the crazy price tag.

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As for nighttime, there are two types of bags that work for everything. The first is a larger leather clutch (or even smaller cross body style) for dinner or date night. You want something that is a little dressed up, but not some sparkly, crystal clutch. Using your daytime bag will lessen the look. It will instantly take something fabulous and drag it down to boring.

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The second style is for evening. Think small, sophisticated, sassy, classic and fabulous. I would stay away from leather. Satin is the usual option, but can end up looking a little tacky. Don’t buy the typical clutches in the “evening bag” section, it lessens your entire look into some cheap frock. There are so many fantastic options now for nighttime just like this sparkly, hard case option from Aldo. Plastic clutches are really in right now (I swear they are cooler then that sounds), but I think they are more of a fad so don’t invest too much. All I ask it that you keep it fun and modern. Be sure to make sure it actually fits your stuff and doesn’t just look cool. And, make sure it adds to your outfit, it should not be an after thought, it is part of your entire look!!

 

Your IT Bag

All of the styles above are great options based on what most ladies need in their wardrobe. Owning a basic black bucket bag is good for your every day bag, but beware, there are no pocket dividers in them. If you typically lose things in your bag, this might not be the best option for you. The bottom right luggage color bag is awesome because it has two handle options, over the shoulder AND cross body. There are a lot of designers doing this right now, yea! We should also not forget that having a stylish weekend getaway bag should be part of your repertoire. A great bag completes your outfit. Why would you put on something fabulous and then grab for the closest bag and ruin all that effort? You won’t (now:).

leather tote, evening clutchweekend bag, snakeskin clutchhobo bag

Become a Master of Flea Market Finds

I was not always a master of the flea market.

Like many things in my life, learning how to conquer a flea market took time. I learned from the best (my friend Danielle) who truly had a knack for it. We would go every Saturday to a crazy flea market in Chicago (think jewelry to car parts) in search of nothing more then something awesome. I would watch her sift and easily find gems hidden among the crazy piles of what looked like crap to me. But she saw something different. She saw the diamond in the ruff, she saw the sparkle, she saw the prize. This is where I began to hone my flea market shopping skills. First lesson learned, don’t go looking for anything in particular, go looking for everything. Your treasure will find you.

 

Kirppistelyä

 

Flea markets often look just like the picture above. They are overwhelming, un-merchandised mazes of everything from old shoes to cool records (you remember those, don’t you?). Sometimes it seems endless, there are tables upon tables with piles of “junk” scaring the average shopper into giving up. Don’t give up, follow these simple rules for becoming your own mater of flea market finds:

1: Accessories, mostly baubles, are the easiest thing to sift through. Your treasure hunter skills should be honed at any jewelry vendor that catches your fancy. Additionally, this is typically where you will find the coolest stuff that is in the best condition. There are so many amazing vintage pieces waiting to be loved by you, both real and costume. Price points can range, but this is a pretty inexpensive way to build your collection. And it is easy to sift through without having a coronary.

2. Fur is plentiful and the lovely ladies of the 50′s have lots to give. Some of my best vintage pieces involve some sort of fur. If a full fur coat isn’t your thing, check out the amazing hats and scarves. Yes they may smell a little funny, but at a quarter of the price they would be sold for in a store, you can get it dry cleaned!

3. Patience is a virtue. One of the reasons I LOVE flea markets is because you are not looking for anything in particular and there is a great joy in moseying along. My whole life is built around shopping off a list for clients so during my own shopping time being free of that makes me really happy. Remember, going to a flea market is about the experience and rushing through defeats that. Rest assured your treasure will find you if you let it….

4. Bargaining is fun. Nothing is ever what they say it is, so negotiate. It is almost offensive if you don’t! Half the fun of finding your new treasure is telling everyone what a steal you got it for. Like any good negotiation, you should not throw out the first number. But once they do, play ball.

 

flea market amy

 

This is one of my favorite pieces I own from a flea market. It is totally vintage and it is totally awesome. I practice yelling, “It’s fake!” to people who are about to throw paint on me, but it is actually very real. I figure some grandma really wanted me to have it and since I am buying it second hand, I am saving it from filling up unnecessary space in a landfill. Plus, I look really fabulous in it.

 

flea market amy 2

 

This dress was brand new and still had the tags on it when I found it. She is by DVF and only cost me 50 bucks. Occasionally  you  do come across these rare gems, but it is once in a blue moon. I am pretty sure this was a sample that never found a home…. Until I met her. It took an entire roll of double stick tape to hold it on (which is most likely why it was a sample), but I know for a fact that all of the older gentleman at the wedding  loved me. Apparently they still call me, “The girl in the dress”. Boo yea.

 

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This is just a small compilation of some of my favorite pieces I have acquired over the years from flea markets all over the world. I have not only traveled this great country in search of my latest and greatest treasure, but I have crossed oceans. The BEST flea market I have ever been to is in London and it is called Portobello market. Seriously, it is dope and I could have sifted my way through that thing for 2 days straight. Once you fully become a master of the flea market, you will actually get a high from your finds.

flea market collage

So now is the time for all of you who want to cheat the system. Those who want to look like they are genius flea market shoppers, but truly are not prepared for the tizzy it may cause. The collage above is filled with great look-a-like options to purchase directly from the internet. You can look like a master  of the flea market without ever leaving your couch. I won’t tell:)

coral Italian horn , cheetah fur coatstone cuff , western leather belt

 

5 ITEMS EVERY MAN SHOULD OWN

Own less, style more by building your wardrobe correctly.

There are very few men in this world that LOVE shopping. There are even less that know how to do it correctly. This is not a slight against all of the male population (although it may sound like it), just a very researched observation. Let me save you from yourselves and get you back to watching football. That is a lot of stereotypes in one paragraph:)

 

 

The video above says it all. What are the 5 items that every man should own to build the best wardrobe possible? It is simple, not overly complicated and will make getting dressed boarder line pleasurable. You will actually have pieces to wear to ALL occasions no matter what event you are being dragged to. Even for the men who do love fashion, building your bro style will be made easier by starting with these 5 items.

 

Men's Essentials

Let’s jump right in, shall we? For starters, every man no matter what his age, socio-economic background or size needs to purchase these 5 must have pieces. Here goes:

  • Classic white button down
  • Casual yet sophisticated blazer
  • Dark straight-leg jeans
  • English leather loafers (or oxfords)
  • Snazzy pair of aviators

 

It is all in how you mix and match the pieces with other items in your repertoire that make the look uniquely yours. As for the afore-mentioned variables including age and size, you need to be true to yourself. That means, be realistic about what size you are and WEAR CLOTHING THAT FITS. Most men go the “too big” route, but either direction is going to be detrimental to your fashion health. You should recognize that you do in fact have a body and show off that the gym has been kind to you. If you haven’t been bench pressing lately, wearing your clothing too big for comfort will only make you look bigger. All clothing should skim the body slightly. It should not be falling off or clinging to you for dear life. As for choosing the specific style, I leave that up to you and your personal taste. Remember, simple is typically better to get more use out of these basics.

Club Monaco blazer, Gitman Vintage oxford button down shirtAcne Studios black skinny jeans, Calvin Klein loafers and Ray Ban aviators

Cut Out Shoes

Usually when one thinks of cut outs, they think of club wear or something scandalous. But let me tell you there is a way to wear cut outs without showing too much skin and can be worn either during the day or at night. My fancy gold cut out heels happen to be for nighttime but there are plenty of options for casual daytime looks.

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This look is perfect for a casual daytime outing. Staying with the neutral color palette makes all these pieces very practical in anyones wardrobe but the best piece to have is a pair of TOMS. Being on my feet all the time, I’ve learned that there are very few shoes that are bearable to wear all day. TOMS have been my very best friend in terms of keeping my feet sane throughout the day. These gray crochet TOMS are not only SUPER comfortable but still very cute and you are still giving back to a good cause!

cut out toms

If you’re looking for something a little fancier, these Sam Edelman stacked heels are great for a night out. White is an essential color for summer and is still very versatile. Having the thicker heel makes these heels more comfortable than your typical stiletto, which is great news because heels can be a woman’s worst enemy sometimes. Men definitely invented them:)

cut out sam edelmans

If you are looking for a dressier daytime sandal, I have two options for you. The Sigerson Morrison sandal is a much higher price point but you can tell why. The laser cut detailing is amazing and even though there is a lot going on, there is an convenient zipper up the back making it easy to take the shoe on and off. The Sam Edelman black leather sandals are better if you want a more simple sandal for a much more reasonable price point. No matter which shoes suits you more both have fun cut outs and add some funk to your summer wardrobe!

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cut out shoes 7

 

 So now when you wear cut outs you can still be conservative but with a little fashion flair!