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Advice from a Fashion-Phoebe

  • by Amy Salinger
  • June 21st, 2010
  • My Style

Guest post by Lisa Nielsen, The Innovative Educator

The day I came to grips with the idea that a regular person like me needed a stylist was in the mountains of Vermont after a day of skiing with some long-time friends. I shared how frustrated I was to have closets bursting full of clothes but had tremendous difficulty finding something I wanted to wear. It was at that time that I realized that though I was a 40-something with dreams of making the world a better place, I was still wearing my 20-something and 30-something clothes much of which was purchased when (and even before) we all first met. I needed an update that conveyed I was a professional to be taken seriously. So, on the advice of a few of my highly successful, and fashionable, friends I hired Amy Salinger a stylist.

I admit, at first, this seemed a little crazy for someone like me. Unlike my big business and high-fashion New York City friends, I work in education. Like others drawn to the field I love the work/life balance the career provides and have an active and fun lifestyle that has never been much focused on what I wear. As a teacher the dress code is pretty lax and in my free time I ski, snowboard, play beach volleyball, football, and dance. I hadn’t given too much thought to my appearance. But when my friend who’s also a career advice writer and speaker Penelope Trunk first posed the idea and the two-year president of the National Association of Womens’ Business Owners Melanie McEvoy and high-profile photographer Amy Fletcher resoundingly supported this idea, I had to rethink my position.

I am now in my forties and as a professional educational administrator who loves speaking to individuals, small groups and large audiences about ways to educate innovatively, I knew it was important that I presented myself well because my message would be received more effectively if I looked on the outside like the experienced and stylish professional that was on the inside.

So, I hired a stylist and learned a lot about doing so, which I’m sharing here for others who are interested in doing the same.


1) Weed your closet.
You don’t want to spend valuable time with your stylist doing things you can do yourself. Throw out anything you haven’t worn in two years. Throw out anything you’ll never really get fixed. Put aside clothes you’re thinking don’t look quite right, but you’re not sure.

2) Get a friend.
This process is a lot easier with a friend to help. She or he can help you from the start to finish. They can push you to do the weeding and let go of the emotional connection and justification for keeping your clothing. They can help you determine what fashion areas of focus should be.

3) Think about real life events.
Think about real life events that you want help dressing for. Once you do that you can think of the fashion difficulties for which you really need support.
Here are some of my examples:

  • Going to a VIP party
    I knew what suit I wanted to wear but had no idea what shoes were right, what shirt goes best, and what accessories might compliment the event.
  • Meeting a sophisticated friend for dinner
    Yes, it’s just dinner with a friend, but wearing my belly shirt and mood ring just doesn’t look right anymore. What are the best jeans, shirt, shoes, and jewelry to have a casual, but grown up dinner.

4) Get in touch with your do’s & don’ts

  • What are the fashion do’s and don’ts about which you are wondering. Be prepared to ask. For instance I was wondering:
  • Is it wrong to safety pin a fallen button on my suit?
  • When wearing a sweater should it be open, buttoned, or partially buttoned?
  • How’s my underwear?

5) What goes with this? And…Does this go with that?

  • You have those great pair of shoes, or that amazing skirt sitting in your closet. You love them! But what do you wear them with??? Have all those pieces pulled out specifically so your stylist can help you make an outfit with them.
  • You have your favorite outfits, but are you really putting them together as well as possible? This is where the stylist comes in. Be ready to try them on, or have pictures in advance, and find out how your outfits go together best.

6) Know your idiosyncrasies
Before you send your stylist off to shop for you, remember to tell her about your idiosyncrasies. While they may be obvious to you, they may not be to others. Pointing these characteristics out will result in your stylist getting you clothes you LOVE! Here were some of mine.

  • I don’t iron so stick with wrinkle free.
  • I am messy. Don’t give me light colored clothes that I will stain.
  • I’m petite and like to wear mid-high shoes7) Don’t whine. Get wine

When your stylist comes to help you sort through your clothes and then try on outfits it is wonderful, but it does get a little tedious. Make sure you have a bottle of wine and turn it into a party. Just don’t spill!

8) Have safety pins and a sewing kit on hand
When your stylist comes with all your fabulous clothes some of them may need minor adjustments and she’ll know exactly what looks best. Make sure you have safety pins and a sewing kit on hand so those small alterations can be adjusted so they look just right.

9) Get stuff altered
If you’re like me, the idea of getting stuff altered is not appealing. Well, get over it. You paid someone to find great clothes for you and there will probably be a few things that need altering. If you followed the step above, she’ll help you get it ready so all you have to do is drop it off at the cleaners.

10) Lights, Camera, Action
Take picture of yourself in your new outfits so you can remember what goes with what. You may want to get dolled up so your friends who want to look at the pictures can see you at your best.

In the end, the days of having a closet full of “nothing to wear” have become a thing of the past. Instead, I wake up each day knowing exactly what to wear, and when I forget, I can always refer to the pictures she took of me to help me remember, like the ones below.

Read why I hired a stylist in my post, Make the World a Better Place. Get a Stylist.


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