When I am going through someone’s closet, what stays and goes is not always so cut and dry. For example, I might initially flag something as dated, matronly, junior, too childish, etc., but then realize my client LOVES it. Style is so personal and subjective. It’s one of the most important lessons I have learned in the last 10 years doing this job — check your style ego at the door.
I recently encouraged one of our stylists to work with a garment she thought was unflattering on her client. I asked her not to resist, but to think of ways she could elevate it and make it work. We brainstormed, put together Polyvore collages for inspiration, and she consulted with her client for additional information that would help the process. What she learned is that she could give her what she wanted — but better.
I am in these situations everyday with clients when I realize that something speaks to them even if it doesn’t speak to me. I re-learn this lesson every time I work with someone new: It’s not MY personal style we are working on. It’s theirs. Who cares if I would wear it? They love wearing it so its my job to make it purposeful, put together, and, yes, stylish.
The Suede Embroidered Gilet
A gilet is a vest. I saw this one in a client’s closet during an audit and immediately thought, “Yup, maybe time for this to go?” I even used the “M” word — matronly. But she was unswayed. She loved it! I got to work making it work.
I paired it with a ribbed, chunky sweater instead of her go-to white collared shirt. I wanted a cozy, almost ski-lodge feel to it instead of making it so “dressed” with the white shirt. I also thought a mix of neutral textures and patterns would elevate the style of the vest.
Finally, mixing these different patterns and textures distracts from some of the details of the vest I questioned (embroidery). The patterned matte silky scarf drew the most attention, and the vest became a supporting character rather than the focal point of her look. Skinny jeans AND a pair of grey, seriously pointy-toe ankle boots finished the look. The boots, which we bought together during our last shopping trip, perfectly tied in the black/grey tones of the scarf. It gave the outfit that necessary youthful (not young) edge it needed.
The Novelty Tie
What can I say? My client loves to have fun with ties! He is a school principal and his collection of novelty ties are his way of connecting with his kids. My challenge was to make his silly, fun ties purposeful and really part of his funky style instead of thrown together with a conservative suit/blazer look. I didn’t want him to appear like he missed the mark. I had to make these ties not only fun and funny, but cool.
I decided that we needed to go all the way. With a nod to elements of dandy fashion, we carefully mixed pattern and color; made sure everything had a trim, tailored fit; and didn’t shy away from some flamboyant elements like bold-color chinos! Even for his black-and-white suit look, we opted for a funky patterned shirt instead of a solid white one.
My client loves a good craft fair. Beadeded necklaces that mix materials, boast handmade craftsmanship, and have unique, one-of-a-kind details speak to her. I certainly couldn’t fault her for that, but at first blush I thought this could go wrong. Like really costume-y wrong where the style effect is the dreaded “m” word we mentioned above. I also knew this was an integral part of her personal style and there was no way we were nixing all these pieces she loved so dearly. So, how was I going to make this work in a way that would up her style game?
First, we paired her jewelry with very streamlined classic and/or minimalist silhouettes with a lux quality. We opted for this COS sweater and the Rag & Bone bright blue soft blazer. Second, instead of a brown ankle boot or other neutral basic shoe, we opted for yellow brogues to kick her look up a notch and give it a playful tone. This tempered some of what could feel dated in the jewelry. For the last look of the series, we used the same type of streamlined clothing silhouettes and paired with patterned velvet flats that served the same purpose as the yellow brogues — kicking her style up a notch while tempering what could feel liked dated accessories.
Voila! Lesson here is beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What you may think can’t work — even if you are a personal stylist and a pro-shopper — really can.