Spring Forward

Arthur Elgort for Vogue via Vogue.com

It is officially spring on the calendar. Which means regardless of the temperature outside something shifts in our minds and we just can’t or won’t put on anything  winter related anymore – even if we get an unseasonably cool day. It is the opposite of early fall, where we wait for any dip into the 60s as an excuse to wear our new fall coats and boots. As the days are now longer we are jumping at the chance to shed coats and bare our (hopefully) pedicured feet in open toed shoes.

Hopefully an enjoyable pedicure....image via reasonablywell-julia.blogspot.com

Of course my dream closet is a huge room where everything would all be in one space. In reality most of us are limited to the confines of some sort of spacing issues. My 5-year-old son is always asking why my  formal dresses are in his walk-in closet. “Because.” I get to answer that way because I am now a mom! In Pennsylvania we get to visually enjoy the rotation of all four seasons, the exception being this past winter. I thought I was being proactive in buying my kids’ snowgear early this year but it proved to be a  waste of time and money.  We all know Murphy’s/Mom’s law clearly states that they will not be the same size in snowpants and boots for next winter.

Way too many boots.

I am so jealous of my friend Erin in Atlanta who essentially has 2 seasons – as she puts it “warm and warmer” – because I dislike our cold weather and because it simplifies the wardrobes of her family. The grass always seems greener…pun intented.  But here Spring has sprung in our closets it is time to take inventory. The goal of your closet is always to simplify, unless of course you enjoy chaos and confusion to start your morning. So anything you will not wear now take out. Don’t worry – if we get it a freak snowstorm you are only storing it in your own home so you can always go get it. Know your own body – do you run cold, do you run hot? After having kids my body sweats anytime the temperature is over 40 degrees so anything with wool in it goes. Same for anything furry, velvet, or generally just heavy for me to even look at. I know that even if it is cold the sun is stronger throughout the day so I prefer to layer instead of throwing on coats anymore. Scarves in lighter weights, brighter colors are a perfect fill-in for the morning chill.

Even the always amazing Rachel Bilson has trouble pulling this off. photo via jose perez/splash news
If you are truly in a four season climate than wait before you clutter your closet with strapless sundresses and shorter skirts. Unless you are an editor at Lucky shopping magazine, are in your early 20’s, or work at Anthropogie,  it is really hard to pull off that whole layered sundress with tights and cardigan look for your everyday life. Don’t clutter up your space with too many options. As much as it might be a pain try to change your closet over according to the weather where you live, even if it is truly for all four seasons.  It will be easier to work with less and save you time getting dressed in the morning.

photo via http://cleanfeelsgood.blogspot.com
Okay, now it’s out. What to do with it? This depends on your space options. In an ideal situation if you have a guest bedroom closet you commandeer it. It is your house, you probably don’t have guests who visit and take up a whole closet so you deserve to use it. Again, one of those perks of being the adult mom in the house. Hopefully that gives you enough room so that you can leave things hanging rather than having to fold up everything. The exception to this is sweaters – DO fold to avoid those funky shoulder marks and to prevent the fibers from growing and stretching on the hanger.  Does that closet have a shelf?

Use baskets or containers to swap out things in you keep in drawers. I take out my turtlenecks and exchange them with bathing suit cover-ups. I swap tights with bathing suits. Whatever is not being used goes into the basket at the top of my guest room closet.

If you don’t have the option of a guest room closet there are other ways to store. Plastic bins can work for short-term storage.  The preference is to store clothes where the humidity is under control, and the temperature stays on the cool side. If you are really stuck consider storing inside unused suitcases.  Basements, if unfinished are not the best place. You are better off finding options for under the bed or sneaking out areas of your kids closets if possible. Plus you want to eliminate inviting bugs of any kind. If there is any bit of dirt on the clothes it acts like attracts bugs like Lindsay Lohan to bad decisions. And now imagine if the bugs stay and decides to start a family – yuck.

This bin of sweaters looks like a great place to raise my kids!

*Insider tip– Put scarves somewhere you will see them so that you will wear them – your coat closet downstairs? Right in your bedroom closet near your clothes so you can see the colors? This shower ring idea from Pinterest is genius, simple, and inexpensive. You can also put to use the back of your door, any door really.

photo via pinterest
*Insider tip– clean before you stow. It will feel like an annoying waste of money now but you will be so happy later that you took the time to do it. You will be so upset come fall if you take out a coat and see a coffee stain that had time to set in all summer and now has no chance of being cleaned out.  Take winter coats, sweaters, anything that needs repair (buttons, threads loose) to the dry cleaner before you store it. REMEMBER TO TAKE THE DRY CLEANING PLASTIC OFF WHEN YOU GET HOME. The dry cleaning plastic bags are meant for transport, not for storage. If left on the plastic can cause humidity and damage the fibers, even causing discoloration.

"Did I ever take that blue dress to the drycleaners...?"pic via people.com
I know, so very wrong of me to go there with Monica but it was just too obvious. Happy Spring Cleaning!

A Happy Closet

Recently, my family and I attended a convention for my husband’s line of work. The convention was at a Disney Resort in Orlando, Florida.  Disney World itself was hot, tiring, overwhelming, confusing… very much like childbirth.   And just like labor you kind of block out the bad parts and have this strange feeling that you would do it all again. During the convention we were very fortunate to have a spouse’s breakfast with two guest speakers, Bobbie Thomas, the Today Show Style Correspondent and Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author of The Happiness Project. Although these may sound like two very different presentations, there was a lot in common between them.

The uber-fabulous Bobbie Thomas.

Both women were warm, funny, genuine and excellent speakers. I truly felt like I was having a conversation with a girlfriend as opposed to sitting in the audience. Bobbie had some amazing tips. For example, don’t commit “shoeacide” – when the whole outfit looks great but you fail with the shoes. They don’t have to be the trendiest or tallest but make sure they are in good condition and in line with the rest of your outfit.  Visit her website to see her demonstration on cardi-wraps, one of her must have basics. I swear she can do no less than 63 outfits with a cardi-wrap with options to flatter everybody’s shape and size. The overall theme to Bobbie’s presentation was not how to make over your style, but very much how to create a wardrobe that reflects who you are – through color, fit and personalizing your outfit with accessories. I absolutely loved how she said that your clothing is a way for you to “talk to the world without words.” So very true!

If you are not familiar with Gretchen’s book, The Happiness Project, it is her personal journey researching how to be “happy” and what that word really means. It was  helpful that she spoke with actual concrete tools that we can use to achieve a happier everyday life. One was  as basic as energy – really, truly, getting enough sleep and exercise.  Also, knowing your own body and senses – make yourself and your body comfortable – get enough to eat, ensure you have the right lighting, temperature control, smells that feel good around you. One of the biggest results from her research was how much clutter affects  our mood. Gretchen stated the obvious but often overlooked, “Outer order contributes to inner calm.”

So often when I go into someone’s home and into their closet so much is revealed. Sometimes the whole not wanting to get dressed thing comes directly from the way the person’s closet looks. We all would like a closet like Oprah’s that looks like our own personal boutique,  I’d even settle for her bff  Gayle’s closet!

Oprah's own store, I mean closet. via oprah.com

Yeah…but that’s not going to happen considering mine isn’t even the size of her shoe island. But who says you can’t make the best use of your own space?  If your wardrobe is the suit of armor that we use to face the world every single day, than shouldn’t that suit of armor be granted a dignified space? It deserves a space where you go in and everything fits you – inside and out. That is achievable, even without Oprah’s resources. Little touches to make the space more inviting will make you want to go into your closet, want to take care of it and in general be a great place to start your day. Is there a paint color that you love but it just doesn’t work  in the rest of your home? Maybe it is something ultra-girly like “frosted lilacs?” Then paint your closet walls that color. Or  try a very cool geometric print wallpaper. If you are out and see some beautiful fabric boxes why not buy those for storage in your closet. A funky runner rug, unusual chandelier, whatever it is make sure it makes you smile every time you enter your closet.

photo via pinterest

Recently, I helped a client who had multiple closets around her home but her main closet was practically empty. She was suffering from the classic “I have nothing to wear.” Consolidating her separate closets into one organized by color and function gained her a whole “new” wardrobe.  Only things that were extreme to summer, winter, or formal ware were removed and the result was a cohesive collection that gave her a lot of versatility. Organizing by color creates a huge impact visually and is pleasant for the eye. If you take care of your wardrobe it will take care of you. Empty your closet of the useless clutter and I promise you will feel lighter as well.

A "happy" visual

*Insider tip –  Although it may be an investment upfront, buying the best matching hangers that you can afford will give your closet that “boutique” feel, regardless of the size. It is also vital for taking care of your clothing items so that they don’t get stretched out because of improper hanging. It sounds trivial but if you buy a more quality item it will be in your closet for years to come and multiple wears if it is taken care of when not being worn. I simply prefer the look of the classic wooden hanger with small notches at the tops. However, they are heavier and take up more room in your closet.

Another new and popular item is the felt “huggable” hangersfirst made popular by Joyce Mangano. Knockoff versions can be found at many different stores and price points but make sure the quality is there and they can support heavier items.  See what works for you and pick out the best for your budget.

Wooden hangers from Hope Depot
joy mangano hangers via tidyhouse.com

*Insider tip – Sign up and follow blogs and websites you like! It is the easiest way to have tips and relatable advice sent right to your inbox. Hopefully you will follow mine and I strongly suggest signing up for the words of wisdom from both Bobbie and Gretchen. I think it will soon become obvious to you how a  happy wardrobe makes for a happy you.

 www.bobbie.com                                      www.happiness-project.com

A closet psychologist?

Closet clutter - on its way out.

A client of mine and her daughter recently referred to me as a closet and wardrobe psychologist.  We laughed about what a great title that is because there is so much truth in it. There are so many reasons behind what we buy and why.  Your clothing is a huge reflection of who you are.  We would like to think we are better than that, but we all tend to initially judge someone based on their appearance.  Your clothing says a lot about you.  In turn your closet speaks volumes.  Just because you bought it doesn’t mean you are wearing it, and there are countless reasons why. Taking out the contents of your closet can be a metaphor for taking out the contents of who you are.  I know how dramatic that sounds but it is true. The only way to effectively have a wardrobe that works for you is to honestly and truly examine yourself, your needs, and your lifestyle.  This same client had a beautiful collection of colorful sweaters – all hand knit by herself.   However, she hated the way they looked on her. They were chunky knits and not all of the colors worked for her.  She said she loves to go into the knitting store in her free time and buy these beautiful yarns. We talked about channeling that into something more productive – maybe knitting baby blankets to donate to hospitals, knit caps for chemo centers –  things that would be a creative outlet for her knitting, make her feel good, and eliminate the clutter from her closet.

Not compatible with 4 inch heels...

When I was in my early twenties and managing a boutique, my job required me to be dressed up every day. My social life included lots of events, weddings, parties with friends, and frequent date nights with my husband. Fast forward a few years, I’m staying at home with a 2-year-old, a newborn, and a wardrobe that did not fit my needs. I didn’t want to face it at first but covering my expensive wardrobe with spit-up and food and earning a high dry cleaning bill was not working for me.

On the opposite end I have a friend who has been at home for several years now with 3 children.  Her husband was recently promoted to a partner position at his job. This means they have to attend more functions and events that require her to need some dressier options in her wardrobe. Like many busy husbands, hers is not known for his stellar communication and planning skills in terms of their social life. Too often she would get faced with a last-minute “We have to meet the very important so and so for a very important dinner…tomorrow night.” The very opposite of me, she is not a clothing shopaholic. Given the choice between Pottery Barn and J. Crew, she will always pick the home decor store. Her husband was actually telling her to go and spend money on some new pieces of clothing to wear. Finally she took a couple of days and went shopping. Sending me pictures via text message, we were able to go slightly out of her box but not so much so that she would be uncomfortable. She now has a few go to pieces  in her closet for when these situations arise, eliminating any last-minute stress.

The insider tips from this post are from two unlikely sources – a 5-year-old and an octogenarian.

*Insider tip Wear what feels good. 

A stylin' 5 year old.

This is Hayden. In a perfect world I would dress him like a J.Crew crewcuts model. We tried to go down that path with no good results. I bought him boy’s skinny jeans to wear with a rocker t-shirt. He looked so cute. He also cried about the pants and how they felt. (Yes I am a bad mom.) And then, a far worse incident occurred. I bribed Hayden with a lollipop (I am a really bad mom) to wear his new skinny jeans to a party because “mommy thinks they look so cool on you.”  Hayden came downstairs dressed in his sister’s jeggings, telling me they felt “extra weird”. Apparently while putting away the laundry my husband accidentally put our daughter’s “jeggings” aka really skinny jeans away in our son’s closet…really not a good look.  At 5 years old Hayden prefers swishy pants, aka wind pants. They don’t have the “diggy button thingys” or adjustable button waistbands that hurt him in his side. They allow him to run and jump and play and sit criss-cross applesauce comfortably at school. All important things in the life of a 5-year-old.

The always well-dressed 80 something Uncle Jack.

* Insider Tip“To thine own self be true.”   This is Jack. We call him Uncle Jack because he is a close friend of our family’s. He refers to this Shakespeare quote often, as it tends to be his mantra for living life. It also applies to your wardrobe.  One of my clients is learning to become a yoga instructor. Her kids are all in college right now so her lifestyle has changed. Her philosophy has too. She likes things to be beautiful yet simple and practical. For her, it makes sense to spend money on good quality stylish athletic clothing that she can wear in and out of the studio. When you buy something think about YOUR lifestyle and needs.  A fur coat is beautiful, but completely nonsensical if you live on the beach in Florida. Unless you are the guy in the Burger King commercial, in which case you might need a real psychologist.

Photo via theburgerboy.com

The Fashion Police

Photo from Flicker davidsonscott15

Did you watch the red carpet at the Academy Awards  this past Sunday? It is my idea of the Super Bowl.  I love the pre-show better than the actual ceremony. Thank goodness it is not real life for the rest of us. Can you imagine going into your local Starbucks and seeing this?

Photo from Perez Hilton
And as if that wasn’t bad enough you would  see….

photo from ryanseacrest.com
And he would  ask

“Who are you wearing?”

You might get through that okay, mumbling something about your t-shirt that was on sale at Target.  Then later that night you sit down and flip on the E Channel only to see…

A group of people dissecting and commenting YOU! Your figure, outfit,  hair,  shoes, basically all of YOU!  Shrinking  in horror you decide to camp out in your home for the next week. You go incognito to the grocery store to pick up the necessities – ice cream and magazines only to open the magazine and find.

Can you imagine if this was real life? How horrible would that be? Although if you are wearing garters like Mile Cyrus to Starbucks, we may have to talk… Thank goodness THIS IS NOT REAL LIFE. As glamorous as walking the red carpet looks, there a million things about it that I would never want to suffer through. Even as beautiful and talented as these movie stars are they still have to enlist an army of people to package them that way. We are so lucky because we can take chances in our lives and not have to suffer the consequences in front of millions. If you find a funky necklace or a bright pair of jeans you want to wear, you should try it. I promise you that no one will come up to you and make a citizen’s arrest. Real life is not the red carpet. It can be if you want it to – just promise me you won’t listen to the snide comments on the sidelines.  If people are looking at you it is probably because they lke your look and are wondering if they could take that risk.

*Insider Tips – Confidence will ALWAYS be your best accessory. Whatever your look, hold your head up high and have a smile. AS Kit De Luca famously told Vivian in Pretty Woman – “Work it. Work it, baby. Work it ! Work it. Own it.” If you like it wear it! Don’t paint yourself into a corner and feel you are limited by what others expect you to look like. Take that risk on the shoe that you like, even if you are afraid it “really isn’t you.” Have fun!!. One of the best parts about being a girl is that we can dress however we want every day. I’m glad I’m not walking the red carpet but I am also glad I am not a guy walking the red carpet with the only choice being a variation on a tux. We have a rainbow of colors and a myriad of textures we can have fun with it. The key is to make an effort because we can!

Goldilocks and the 16 pairs of jeans (on the floor) –

One pair is too tight, another too long, too short, too big, too low, too high, too flared, too narrow. I found this out recently when I was trying to get dressed and they all ended up on the closet floor. I had it in my mind that I wanted to wear jeans but really there was only one pair that I LOVED. And of course they were in the wash. And yes, I debated pulling them out of the dirty laundry to wear them.

I have multiple pairs of jeans that I can and should get rid of. Something holds me back.  Oh but I paid so much for these! If I just loose those last 5 pounds! These are so comfy for when I am just going to lay around the house. The beaded denim I just have no excuse for… But it doesn’t matter if I spent a lot on them if I continue to go out and buy more in search of the perfect fit. I won’t really lose those last 5 pounds – at least not in the places I want to! And I have never put on jeans to “lounge” in. That’s what my workout clothes are for! …but that’s another story.

I am not listening to my own advice that I tell clients and friends. Which is – take the time to find a pair that you LOVE. I realize this is easier said than done. But there is a way.  Go to a store or department that specializes in denim. Use the knowledgeable staff who know denim and the fits and the rises. This will save you money and time. Locally, Chantilly Blue on State Street in Kennett Square  is fantastic – the owner and her staff are virtually denim whisperers. Tell the staff your issues, tell them a price point – (keep in mind a good pair is worth every cent and there is a difference in the quality of denim and fit). Then try, try, and try some more.  Sit in them. Bend over in them. Do not buy unless you are IN LOVE!

Then buy 2!  Hem one to wear with flats and one to wear with heels. If you want take a sharpie marker to the tag and write S for shorter on one and L for longer on another. Once you have these 2 basic pairs then you can go out and look for additions to your denim stock. Try sticking with the same brand but vary the wash – maybe lighter for spring? Darker for fall? Add in a color – white really is great all year round. Maybe go for a crop pair. Vary the leg – do you want a skinny pair? Wide leg? Flair? Ask the staff and they will know which styles are most complimentary to your shape and height – not all trends work for all bodies.

Then go into your closet with confidence and wear your denim! Imagine yourself like Goldie Locks going in and going right for Little’s Bear’s chair and knowing everything is going to fit just right.

So now I need another pair of Paige Premium Denim, Canyon Ranch Flare, dark rinse – which I vow to take right away to the tailor to hem shorter for spring to wear with cute flats.

* Insider tipsalways wash new denim once – even if it is brand new before taking it to the tailor. It ensures any initial shrinkage is taken care of right away. And be sure to ask to keep the original hem so no one but you knows they were altered.  Bring the shoes you will be wearing with the jeans with you so the tailor can shorten accordingly.