How to Incorporate New Fashion Trends

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Incorporating New Fashion TrendsEach Spring and Fall, new fashion trends burst onto the scene, and with them come the ever-present “must have” lists in fashion magazines and blogs.  Since I am an advocate of expressing our own unique personal style rather than being a slave to fashion trends, you won’t find me endorsing any sartorial absolutes here.

That said, for those of us who love clothes, it can be fun to add new pieces and participate in the fresh fashion offerings that strike our individual fancy.  Since the onslaught of trends each season can be overwhelming for many, I will provide some tips for incorporating select new styles into your wardrobe.

Select Just a Few…

The most important key lies in one word in my previous sentence, select.  There are far too many trends each season to follow them all.  Case in point… I just perused at least ten lists in preparation for this article and found quite a bit of variance regarding the key trends for Fall 2012.  I probably read about at least fifty trends just now, and I’m sure I’d find more if I continued my research.

The best way to have fun with the evolution of fashion without over-shopping or overwhelm is to choose wisely in terms of the trends you wish to follow.  Consult a trend list or two (a few of the best I found are here, here, and here) and choose 3-5 trends you find appealing.  These trends can be colors, styles, silhouettes, or accessories.  Just use your intuition and select the ones that resonate the most with your style aesthetic.

Shop Your Closet First

With your list of key trends in hand, it’s time to go shopping.   But don’t get in your car or on your computer just yet.  Start your shopping in your very own closet!  We often forget to consider what we have before running out to buy something new.

It’s highly likely that you can incorporate new trends by using pieces you already own.  This is especially true in terms of hot colors and trendy color combinations.  As an example, one of the “it” colors for Fall 2012 is burgundy or wine (I often see it referred to as “oxblood,” but I don’t much like that term…).  When I went to my closet, I found I had several tops which fit nicely into that color classification.  No shopping needed!  The same is true for the blue and black color pairing that is big this season.  I have plenty of pieces of both, so I just need to put them together.  Simple enough to do!

Use Accessories

Some trends can easily be incorporated through the use of accessories.  Although you might need to buy a few new pieces to participate in a desired “of the moment” trend, you can do this inexpensively through the use of accessories.  How about a burgundy scarf or belt to wear with your classic pieces?  Or a metallic necklace or bracelet to bring a little of the “sci-fi trend” into your wardrobe?

Shop “Young,” Discount, or Consignment

If you’re looking to add a few trendy items to your closet, you may not want to spend much money on this pursuit.  If that’s the case, I encourage you to venture off your beaten path when shopping.

Even if you’re over 40, you can find age appropriate accessories or simple clothing pieces (e.g. t-shirts) in stores like Forever 21, H&M, and Express.  Or you might want to try the Brass Plum department at Nordstrom or a similar junior’s section at your favorite department store.  While I don’t encourage you to buy all – or even many – of your clothes there, you can find a few fun and trendy accessories in such places for low prices. Similarly, Target is a great place to shop for trendy clothing and accessories, and if you don’t have fussy feet, you can find fun and fashionable shoes at Payless and Famous Footwear.

And don’t forget to scout your local consignment and thrift stores.  Many trends cycle in and out every few years, so you can find quality gently used pieces at very reasonable prices if you are willing to hunt around a bit.  One recommendation in this regard is to scout out resale shops in upscale neighborhoods, as you will be more likely to find hidden treasures there. eBay is another excellent resource for those who have the patience to navigate through a multitude of options.

Use Restraint

When buying trendy pieces, it’s best to keep your purchases to a minimum.  Buy a few items and wear them to death while the trend is hot.  A little goes a long way!  You’ll look current and stylish without breaking the bank or over-stuffing your closet.  Then when the next trends roll around, you’ll have money and closet space to sample those offerings and incorporate your favorites once again.

I hope these tips have been helpful to those of you who like to participate in fashion trends but don’t want to go broke or look like a fashion victim.  If you have questions about my tips or on particular trends, I’d love to hear (read…) them.  Ask away and I’ll do my best to help!

Tips for Packing Prowess

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Travel Packing TipsIn this post, I share some of my tips for effective packing. Since most of us take at least one trip per year and the airlines are placing more and more restrictions on baggage allowances, it has become increasingly important for us to learn to pack wisely.

My packing tips have been gleaned through my many years of over-packing and my subsequent concerted effort to mend my “wicked ways.”   While I still have a tendency to over-shop on vacation, my packing for the outbound portion of my trips is now much more modest and manageable.  Read on for my packing prowess suggestions…

List Your Probable Activities

Before you even open your closet to start the packing process, take a few moments to jot down the probable activities in which you will be engaging on your trip.  Is your trip for business or pleasure?  Will you mostly be sitting in offices or meeting rooms, or will you be venturing outside for open-air activities?  Will formal dinners be a part of your plans, or will you primarily be eating in casual diners?  Think about what you will most likely do on your trip, as that information will be a key guiding factor in terms of the clothing and shoes you will need.

Check the Weather Forecast

Most people remember to investigate the weather report for their destination, but I thought I’d add a gentle reminder in case this quick check slips your mind.  If you will be traveling to an area that experiences a lot of weather shifts, it’s always a good idea to find out what you might face during your time away.

For example, my recent trip was to the Lake Tahoe area, a region for which snow is a possibility in pretty much any month of the year.  I have learned to never assume that the sunny San Diego weather will follow me to Tahoe, especially since my summer skirts and dresses didn’t provide sufficient warmth when the weather turned on a dime a few years ago.  This year, I lucked out in terms of weather, but now I always remember to check the forecast and plan accordingly.

Select a Color Palette

It is much easier to maximize your outfit combinations using minimal garments if you select a color palette for your trip.  I usually recommend deciding upon one key neutral color (maybe two, if you include denim) and two other colors.

As a reminder, neutral colors include black, brown, navy, gray, white, cream, and beige.  Neutrals can be combined with each other and basically every other color in existence, so including neutrals when you pack really gives you a lot of “mileage” (pun intended…) in your travel wardrobe.

Let’s say you love to wear black.  If you include one of each key piece – shirt, pants, skirt, jacket, etc. – in black, you will have a lot of mix and match possibilities.

Shoes First, Bottoms Next, Tops Last

I find it’s best to select your shoe options first.  Shoes are the heaviest items in our suitcases, so I recommend wearing one pair of shoes (ideally the heaviest pair) and packing a maximum of two other pairs.  While exceptions exist, three pairs of shoes will generally be all you’ll need for most trips.  Select shoes that you love and can easily walk in, as we typically walk more while traveling than in our day-to-day lives. Ideally, select shoes that can be worn with all or most of the outfits you will pack for your trip.

After deciding upon which shoes you’ll take with you, choose your bottoms.  For men, this means pants, jeans, and possibly shorts.  For women, skirts and dresses may also be added to the mix.   Since bottoms can usually be re-worn at least once, you don’t need to pack one bottom per day of your trip.

Select your tops after you’ve finalized your bottom options.  Since tops generally weigh less than bottoms and shoes, here’s where you can include a wider variety of choices.  A good rule of thumb is to pack twice as many tops as bottoms.  Remember to include at least one jacket or coat (usually not more than two or three) for evening wear or cooler climates.

Use Accessories to Increase Options

The best way to increase your outfit possibilities is through the use of accessories.  Of course, this tip applies more to women than to men, but men have accessory options as well (belts, jewelry, sunglasses, pocket squares, etc.).  Accessories usually don’t weigh very much, so if you have carte blanche to over-pack anything, this is the category.

If you are a woman and love scarves, tote a few along in colors or patterns that match or coordinate with the garments you are taking on your trip.  Pack your favorite costume jewelry pieces (it’s generally better to either leave your expensive items at home or wear them throughout your entire trip) to add personality and life to your ensembles.

A Word about “Just in Case”…

There are three words that are responsible for the bulk of over-packing – “just in case.”  Many of us keep throwing more and more things into our suitcases with those words in mind.  We want to plan for every possible contingency that might occur during our travels.  My best advice also consists of three words – just say no!

While it’s okay to pack an umbrella for potential rain, I don’t recommend overloading your luggage with things you won’t need on the off chance that your plans may take a 180 degree turn.  Plan for your most likely activities and pack accordingly.  If something completely unexpected arises, you can shop for anything else you might need.  Yes, I said shop!   A change of plans may necessitate a shopping trip.  Win, win, says this shopping enthusiast…  And since you didn’t over-pack, there will be room in your suitcase for a few new purchases.

How to Determine Your Style

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Determine your personal sense of styleOne of the most important steps toward having a wardrobe that works for you is understanding your personal sense of style.  If you allow the fashion industry to dictate what you wear through its ever-changing trends, it’s likely you’ll feel somewhat confused and dissatisfied with your wardrobe.   Likewise, if you always shop with certain fashionable friends or relatives who steer you toward clothes that reflect their sense of style, you might find yourself with a closet full of garments that just don’t feel like “you.”

Defining and expressing a sense of style that works well for you is a process and doesn’t necessarily happen overnight.  In addition, style is something that ideally evolves with us as we grow and change in terms of our personality, lifestyle, and aesthetic sensibilities.  But in order for your sense of style to evolve, you have to start somewhere!

This article provides a few useful tips on how to define your personal sense of style.   You don’t necessarily need to employ all of these tips, but if you take a few of them on, I promise you’ll no longer be “Clueless in San Diego” (or wherever you live…).    You’ll gain valuable insights and hopefully have some fun in the process.

Start with Your Closet

I find it’s useful to start with your closet.  Pull out your favorite items of clothing, as well as your go-to shoes and accessories.  Single out everything you have that you absolutely love!  You know, the things you’d take with you if you were forced to evacuate at short notice.  Put all of these items aside, whether there are just five things or twenty-five or more.

Look at all of the items and jot down any common themes which come to mind.  Are there specific fabrics, colors, patterns, styles, or silhouettes that are repeated in the mix?  As an example, a few common themes for me are black/white prints, stripes, animal print, embellishment, jewel tones, jackets/blazers, straight-leg pants, and knee-length skirts and dresses.  Although I have other types of items in my wardrobe, the things I love generally fit into one or more of those categories.  What common themes do you notice among your closet favorites?

Look for Inspiration in Print and Online

Grab a few magazines or catalogs and search for style images that “speak” to you.  If you love a particular look for whatever reason, tear out or earmark the page.  Try to find at least ten or more photos that depict a style that really appeals to you.

You don’t need to limit yourself to fashion magazines.  Any magazine will work, and you can also look to the Internet for inspiration.  Many store websites feature “look books,” and you can also search through the social media site Pinterest for looks that have been “pinned” by other users under various terms.  Images may also be easily perused via photo collectives such as Chictopia (use the “Gallery” menu) and the Wardrobe Remix group on Flickr.

Again, note common themes which stand out in the images you’ve selected.  Perhaps you like certain types of prints, metallics, sequins, studs, ruffles, or other style elements.  Those types of preferences all provide cues toward your personal sense of style.

Find a Style Icon, or Two…

Last but not least, consider whether there is anyone whom you would consider a “style icon.”  This can be someone you know or a celebrity or public figure.  It might even be a character on television or in a movie.  There may be several people in your life or in the public sphere whose style you admire and would love to emulate.

Look at photos of your style icons and write some notes about the common elements of their style.  For instance, if you selected Kate Middleton as one of your style icons, you might note the following consistent features of her style:  chic, sophisticated, classic, elegant, streamlined, neutral colors, jewel tones, pumps, skinny jeans, and simple accessories.

Keep a Style File

It might be useful for you to maintain an ongoing style file (physical or virtual) to keep honing in on the style elements that are most pleasing to you.   Then you can review this file prior to going shopping (or take it with you!) so you can make selections with your style preferences in mind.

I hope these tips have been helpful.  Taking the time to define your personal style can save you time and money in the long run!  You’ll better be able to zero in on things to try on when you shop and will end up making more informed purchases.  The end result is that you’ll love and wear more of what you own.

The Power of Alterations

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Power of Alterations

If your first thought upon seeing the title of this post is, “I never alter my clothes,” you’re not alone. With the exception of having their pants hemmed or getting wedding or formal wear tailored, most people do not alter their clothing.

In this post, I present an overview of the incredible power of alterations to help you look more stylish and polished, as well as slimmer and more attractive.  It’s amazing how some simple and often inexpensive tailoring can take garments from so-so to fabulous.

Off the Rack = Not Perfect

Most people expect clothing to fit them perfectly off the rack.  If that doesn’t end up being the case, they tend to blame their bodies and think something is wrong with the way they are shaped.  In truth, it is extremely difficult for clothing designers and manufacturers to create clothing for all of the many body shapes and sizes which are out there.  In fact, it’s next to impossible.  There are just too many possibilities and permutations!

Celebrities Tailor ALL of their Clothes!

Now you may look at celebrities in their impeccably fitting clothing, even jeans and t-shirts, and think that if you were shaped like them, your clothes would fit you like a glove.  But what you don’t know is that many celebrities have each and every thing they own tailored, right down to their tank tops, khakis, and shorts.  I have this on good authority from Clinton Kelly of “What Not to Wear” fame.  No, I didn’t speak with him personally, but it’s splashed all throughout the Internet, including in this article.

Love Your Wardrobe More & Feel Amazing

I discovered the power of alterations myself about seven years ago and I have been an “alterations junkie” ever since!  My clothes are now tailored to showcase my figure’s strong suits and skim right over those parts I don’t love as much.  Please believe me when I tell you that a tailor can help you to love your wardrobe more and feel even more amazing in what you wear.

Many Tailoring Possibilities…

Here is a list of alterations that I have personally had done to my clothes over the years or have seen done to other people’s clothing (if you are in the Point Loma area of San Diego, check out Tiffany’s Alterations – I swear by her excellent work and reasonable prices!).

Alterations for Shirts and Jackets

  1. Take in at the sides (my most common alteration!)
  2. Shorten straps on tank tops and camisoles
  3. Narrow sleeves
  4. Shorten sleeves (e.g. too short long sleeved tees can be made into ¾ length)
  5. Lengthen sleeves (take down hem or add fabric at bottom)
  6. Narrow shoulders (shoulder seam should hit at the outside of your actual shoulder)
  7. Remove or replace shoulder pads (modernize those 80s and 90s style blazers!)
  8. Take up at shoulders (give a very low-cut top a more manageable neckline)
  9. Replace buttons (can really modernize a dated look!)
  10. Shorten shirts and blouses
  11. Shorten jackets (not always possible, but can be done)
  12. Add hooks or snaps to wrap-style tops (or sew shut at top)
  13. Add snaps between buttons on blouses to avoid gaping

Alterations for Pants

  1. Hem/shorten (most people know about this and have done it!)
  2. Lengthen (take down hem or add similar or contrasting fabric)
  3. Narrow legs
  4. Take in at waist
  5. Let out at waist (if seam allowance exists)
  6. Take out side or back pockets and sew shut (good for those of us with fuller hips)
  7. Make full-length pants into cropped pants or shorts
  8. Remove or add cuffs
  9. Take in seat / shorten rise (a difficult alteration but can be done)

Alterations for Skirts and Dresses

  1. Shorten (good for petites or for when styles change)
  2. Lengthen (take down hem or add similar or contrasting fabric)
  3. Narrow at sides
  4. Take in at waist
  5. Let out at waist (if seam allowance exists)
  6. If elastic waist, tighten or loosen elastic (can also replace with wider or narrower elastic)
  7. Tack down pleats
  8. Add hooks or snaps to wrap-style dresses (or sew shut at top)
  9. Take in sleeves on dresses
  10. Shorten sleeves on dresses (make ¾ sleeves, short-sleeves, or sleeveless)
  11. Add sleeves (in same or contrasting fabric)
  12. Take up dress at shoulder to make less low-cut

Give Your Clothes New Life

The list above is just a sampling of the magic that can be worked by a talented and qualified tailor.  There are many other options at your disposal!  It never hurts to ask if something can be done to improve the fit and functionality of a garment.

Often, clothing items that might otherwise be tossed aside or donated can be revitalized and given new life with a visit to your local tailor.  Of course, you’ll have to decide if the alteration is worth the cost to you.  I have to admit that I’ve had occasions of “throwing good money after bad” by altering garments I probably should have let go.  But more often than not, my alterations have been of great benefit.

I hope this post has helped to open your eyes to the power of alterations.  At the very least, I hope you’ll at least consider the possibility of tailoring your clothes moving forward.  It really can make a tremendous difference and help to amp up your style!

Shop for YOUR Life!

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Shop For YOUR Life!Before you set out on a shopping trip, it’s very important to consider your lifestyle!  This tip may seem self-evident, but I can’t tell you how many shopping mistakes I’ve seen in people’s closets (not to mention my own!) because they failed to take a moment to think about their own lives before shopping.  It’s so easy to become mesmerized by all of the beautiful things in the stores and buy things for someone else’s life instead of your own.

A few personal examples may help to drive this point home.  Back in 2004, I discovered the television show, “What Not to Wear,” and began the journey of transforming my style.  As each new episode aired, I sat at the edge of my seat trying to absorb all of the fashion wisdom being doled out by the show’s hosts, Stacy London and Clinton Kelly.

Blazers and Pointy-Toe Heels

In the early days of “What Not to Wear,” two wardrobe items often recommended for the makeover participants were blazers and pointy-toe heels. Being a good student, I set out to buy these “necessary” pieces, and of course I needed at least a few of each!  What I failed to consider were three very important things about myself and my life:

  1. I live in San Diego, not New York City
  2. I work from home
  3. I have very fussy feet

No Jacket Required…

Let’s take these things one at a time.  Those of you who’ve been to both San Diego and the “Big Apple” know that the two cities have very different climates and cultures.  In San Diego, most people dress very casually (I often think too casually, but that’s another topic…) and traditional style blazers are rarely seen in this town.  Of course, there are people who wear them, but those who work from home are probably not among that group!

Not only did I work from home, but even when I went out to client or networking meetings, a blazer wasn’t generally needed.  Business casual was usually as dressed up as I ever needed to be for my work at the time.  Sadly, the fabulous new blazers I dutifully purchased largely went unworn and were in nearly new condition when I donated them to charity a few years later.

“Taxi Cab Shoes” – Just Say No!

As for the shoes, I loved the way the pointy-toe pumps looked on my feet.  However, they were quickly relegated to the ranks of “taxi cab shoes,” shoes that can only be worn from the cab – or car – to the restaurant and back again.  Since I usually needed to walk more than a few feet at a time, I often found excuses not to wear my lovely new shoes.  Plus, the shoes were often too dressy for my standard attire and the occasions of my life.  Much like the blazers, the shoes were in excellent shape when they were donated.  I hope that someone ended up loving and wearing them!

I Must Confess… Shoe & Dress Transgressions

I wish I could say that I never make these types of mistakes with my shopping anymore, but I have to admit that I sometimes still shop for someone else’s life.   My largest transgressions in recent times have been in regards to shoes and dresses.  Since I still love the look of a high heel, especially with the skirts and dresses I enjoy wearing when the weather is warm, I find I have too many shoes that are not suitable for all-day walking (or even walking for a few hours at a time). Not long ago, I vowed to only buy walkable shoes and with each purchase, my feet are gradually becoming happier – and healthier.

Now about those dresses… I love to wear dresses, but some of the ones to which I am drawn are not only a bit too formal for my life, they also look their most smashing with those uncomfortable heels I wrote about above.  Since I can count the number of occasions in my life which call for a cocktail dress on one hand, I have instituted a moratorium on buying such dresses until the ones I already own have received sufficient wear.   I have learned to just say no when I pass by these lovely dresses in a store.  I may sigh a bit at first, but then I remember I’m doing the right thing and move on with my head held high.

Tips to Avoid Dressing for Someone Else’s Life

A few tips for you to use when shopping to avoid the mistakes I’ve made.

  • First, write a list of the activities in which you engage on a regular basis.
  • Then do your best to assign a percentage value to each type of activity.
  • The proportion of clothing types in your wardrobe should adhere to those percentages as closely as possible.

If, for example, only 5% of your life involves attending cocktail parties and formal events, only 5% of your wardrobe should consist of formal attire.  If you work in a business casual environment full-time and your hobbies include hiking, cycling, and going to the movies, the majority of your wardrobe should be comprised of jeans, casual pants (and skirts/dresses, if you are a woman and you wear them), casual tops, cotton jackets, and workout wear. Think Gap, Old Navy, or J. Crew, not the Men’s Wearhouse or the Special Occasion department at Nordstrom!

Do Your Homework Before You Shop!

Take a look in your closet… See what garments are getting a lot of wear and which ones are gathering dust.  Chances are the latter pieces were bought for someone else’s life!

Next time you shop, do your homework.   Create a list of what you really need for your unique life.  Be prepared when you shop and you’re much less likely to make costly mistakes!

Shopping and Body Perspective

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I recently found a journal entry I made following a shopping experience I had in 2004.  I titled my journal entry “Perspective.”  I’m sharing what I wrote eight years ago because I feel it’s still relevant today for those who struggle with body image issues. 

NOTE:  I have modified the original text slightly for the sake of clarity and removed references to specific sizes, as such information may be “triggering” to some and is not pertinent to the overall message.

Size – It’s All Relative…

Shopping and Body Perspective

I was in a department store buying clothes the other day.  While waiting in line to pay, I overheard a conversation between the customer in front of me and the saleswoman behind the counter.  The customer was buying a lot of new clothes and told the saleswoman it was because she had recently lost quite a bit of weight. I noticed the clothes she was buying were all several sizes larger than my current size, a size I feel is unacceptable.  I also noted that this woman was approximately six inches shorter than me.  While I would have been dismayed to be purchasing those larger sizes at my height, this woman was absolutely thrilled to be wearing that same size.

It struck me at that moment that it is all about perspective. I don’t like wearing the size I am now because I used to wear two sizes smaller (or even four or five sizes smaller during my anorexic years). In contrast, the woman in front of me loved the fact that she was buying her current size because she used to wear a much larger size. What depresses me thrills her.  Interesting how perspective affects how we feel about our size – and ourselves.

Powerful Questions

Some powerful questions came into my mind following the above experience:

  • What would be possible for me – or for any of us – if we were to change our perspectives?
  • What if I could be grateful for wearing my current size, as well as grateful for the fact that I am basically healthy and have many advantages in life?
  • What if I could focus on what’s right instead of what’s wrong in my life?

What’s Right…

Many things are right about my life.   Despite my continuing struggle with my weight and body image, a number of things are also right in that area of my life.  Here are a few things that are right for me at this point in time:

  • I no longer have lists of good and bad foods.
  • I no longer suffer from the utter tyranny of diets!!!
  • I now have a life beyond worrying about my weight and what I eat.
  • I am no longer a captive to the scale. (In fact, I no longer weigh myself at all!)
  • I am gradually learning to define myself in ways outside of what I look like, and learning to love myself for who I am instead of what size I wear.

Those are just a few things that are right in my life regarding food, weight, and body image.

Eight Years Later…

Looking back on my words from eight years ago, I am reminded of the importance of perspective in the body image recovery process.  There will always be things we don’t like about our bodies or our lives.  If we choose to focus on those things, we will be miserable and dissatisfied.  If we instead choose to focus on the areas of our lives – or our bodies – that we do like, we will experience a much greater degree of happiness and peace.

My “right things” from 2004 are still right for me!  In addition, I can add some more things to my list:

  • I am now in touch with my body and have learned to eat only when I’m hungry and stop when I’ve had enough.
  • My weight has leveled off at a point that is healthy and attractive, and I am able to maintain my weight fairly easily through eating nutritious foods and moderate exercise.
  • I have learned how to dress to maximize my unique figure, highlight my greatest assets, and downplay the areas that are not my best points.
  • I am able to look in the mirror and more readily see the good instead of criticizing the “negatives.”
  • I have fully committed to recovering from my negative body image (and I am making good progress!).

Closing Questions

For those of you who also struggle with body image issues, it might be helpful for you to ask yourself the following questions:

  • So what’s right for you in terms of food, weight, and body image?
  • What do you have to be grateful for in these areas?
  • How can you shift your perspective in a positive direction to help with your body image recovery?

We are all a “work in progress” and each new day presents new opportunities for growth and change.  We all deserve to love ourselves and our bodies, and shifting our perspective toward gratitude and appreciation can help us reach those goals.

Fitting Room Tips

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This is the second in my series of shopping tips to help you shop smarter and avoid common mistakes and pitfalls.  I invite you to check out my first tip, “Try On Again at Home,” in case you didn’t see it when it was posted.

This tip focuses on the actual process of trying on clothes at the store.  You are trying on all of your clothes before you buy them, right?  If not, then that’s the first part of the tip.  Make sure you try everything on before you buy it!   As we all know, sizing is inconsistent, even within garments from a given manufacturer, so we can’t rely on past experiences to dictate how something will fit.

Take the Time to Try Things On

I understand that you may be in a hurry when shopping or have small children in tow, but the few moments you take to try things on can potentially save you the larger chunk of time required to make returns later.  In addition, some people won’t even take the time to return ill-fitting garments.  They’ll either end up wasting their money or wearing “it will do” clothing bought during a hurried shopping trip.

Once you enter the dressing room, I have a few pointers on how to make the most of that experience.  Following these quick and easy suggestions can help you make better choices and avoid having comfort or fit issues later.

Check Out the Rear View

If you’re shopping in higher-end stores, the fitting room will likely be equipped with a three-way mirror, or there will be one available nearby.  If so, make sure to check out the fit of your potential buys from all angles.  Something may look fabulous from the front, but not so great from the side or the back.  It’s good to know how you will appear to others in what you’re wearing.

Since many discount retailers and resale shops have smaller fitting rooms with just one flat mirror, it’s a good idea to take a small hand mirror with you when shopping.  This can be a make-up compact or a fold-up mirror that easily fits into a purse.  Such a mirror will come in handy for seeing your rear view in fitting rooms that don’t include three-way mirrors.   Simply turn around and hold the mirror in front of you until you can see your back side.  This view will provide additional data points to guide you in making your purchasing decisions.

Sit Down

When trying on pants, jeans, skirts, and dresses, it’s important to know how the garment will feel when you’re sitting down.  Fortunately, most dressing rooms include some sort of bench or chair in which you can do a “sit test.”  If no seating surface is available in the fitting room itself, it’s likely you’ll find some sort of chair in the nearby vicinity.  If not, then do your best to mimic a seating position by partially squatting in the fitting room, if you can…

To do this quick test, simply sit down and position yourself as you would be seated in your normal life situations.  If you generally cross your legs when you sit down, do so and check out how the garment moves with you.  When you stand up, notice if a lot of repositioning of the clothing is necessary.  Clothing pieces that require a lot of fidgeting and fussing throughout the day are often the ones that sit in a person’s closet unworn.  Since most of us sit down and stand up many times each day, we want to make sure our clothing moves well with us and doesn’t require a lot of adjustment as we go about our daily activities.

Move Around

When most of us try on clothing, we just stand straight and look at ourselves in the mirror to determine whether or not there is a good fit.  But how many of us stand still during our day to day life?  Not many!

To better ascertain the suitability of a garment for your life, move around in the fitting room as you normally would during the course of a typical day.  Raise your arms over your head, twist around, and bend your waist and your knees.  Notice what happens to the clothing as you do these things.  Minimal readjustment after movement may be okay, but if you have to smooth and pull at a piece a lot after you move, you might be better off saying no to buying that item.

I learned this lesson the hard way, particularly with tops.  I’ve had a number of tops that would ride right up each time I raised my arms, necessitating a lot of adjustment with every movement.  Needless to say, these tops weren’t worn much due to sheer annoyance and frustration!  I now make sure to move around in the dressing room before deciding to buy something.

Consider Companion Pieces

This last tip has to do with how we might wear a garment we’re considering buying.  If you usually tuck your shirts in and you’re buying pants, consider whether or not there is enough room to do so.  If possible, do a “tuck test” in the fitting room to be sure.

If you are buying pants or jeans and like to wear heels, notice if there is enough extra length for you to do so (or if there is a hem allowance for the appropriate alteration).  You might want to either wear your heels while shopping or tote them along with you to do a quick try-on in the fitting room.

Here’s to Saving Time and Money!

The bit of time it takes to use the tips above will hopefully save you time in making returns down the line.  Implementing my suggestions can also save you money in little worn (or unworn!) purchases due to fit and fuss issues.  If you have any other fitting room tips that I didn’t mention, please feel free to add them in the comment form below.

Clothing Size Obsession

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Are you obsessed with the sizes of your clothing?

Do you refuse to buy an item if it is a larger size than you normally wear?

A recent article on the Weight Watchers website describes this phenomenon.  Many women have a specific size in mind when shopping for clothing and are extremely hesitant to buy anything larger than that “magic” size.

Size Inconsistencies

Some highlights of the Weight Watchers article include:

  • There is no standard sizing convention among women’s clothing manufacturers.  Often, the more high-end the designer, the smaller the size.  Even within a single brand, there are disparities.
  • “Vanity sizing,” in which measurements run larger than standard, is used by the majority of manufacturers today. One exception is the dress-pattern market, in which the measurements for the McCall’s size 8 correspond to the current 0 or 00 on the Banana Republic website!
  • Vanity sizing is driven entirely by marketing psychology.  Women like to fit into a smaller size and single digits sound better than double digits.
  • The average American woman is 5’4.5” and wears a size 12 top and a size 14 bottom.
  • The dream size for most women on the Weight Watchers plan hovers between an 8 and a 10.

My Reflections…

After I read the article, I reflected upon how it relates to me and my situation.  I know I feel good when I can fit into a smaller size even when I haven’t lost any weight and know it’s just a reflection of vanity sizing.  On the flip side, I feel a bit deflated when I am forced to grab the next size up when shopping for clothes.  Despite the fact that I am aware of the random nature of women’s clothing sizes, I still fall prey to the psychological pitfalls inherent in size variance.

A Plethora of Sizes!

In my closet right now, I have pants and skirts ranging from sizes 4 to 10 and tops from sizes extra-small to large.  All of these items fit me at my current body weight and size.   This fact alone should be enough evidence of size insanity to stop me from obsessing over the numbers when shopping.   In truth, I am less reluctant to grab one size larger than I used to be, but if I ever need to grab an item two sizes up, forget about it!  This size madness doesn’t work in the reverse direction, however.  Should I ever need to size down two sizes, bring it on!

No One But You Knows Your Size!

The funny thing is that unless one is wearing a pair of Levi’s jeans with the size plastered on the back, no one else knows what size we are wearing.   The important thing is whether or not the item fits and is flattering, not what size is on the tag inside the garment.

One suggestion for getting around size anxiety is to cut the size tag off after purchasing the item.  That way, you won’t need to flog yourself over the number and can instead celebrate the fact that you found something that you love and which flatters your unique figure.   This suggestion may be helpful to those of us who obsess over the meaningless numbers that are clothing sizes.  Clip it out, and then forget about it!

What Do You Think?

I would love to hear what others think about the Weight Watchers article and the issue of women’s clothing sizes.

  • What is your experience with clothing sizing when shopping?
  • Does the size of a garment affect whether or not you will buy it – or even try it on?
  • Are you more likely to shop at stores in which you can fit into smaller sizes?
  • Do you feel that the sizing of women’s clothing should be standardized, as has been proposed from time to time?

Closet Audit Tips

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When someone is interested in cultivating a new personal style and image, the best place to start the process is by doing a closet audit.  A closet audit involves going through all of your clothing, shoes, and accessories and assessing everything based upon your image goals as well as the color, style, fit, and fabric of each item.  You then release the items that no longer your body, lifestyle, and style preferences, and compile a shopping list to fill in any wardrobe gaps that have been identified.

An Effective and Liberating Process

The closet audit process is not only highly effective; it is also liberating, cathartic, and empowering.  At the end of what can sometimes be a lengthy and tiring process, you’re left with a nicely organized closet filled only with the pieces that support your image and style goals for success in all key life areas.

I feel that everyone can benefit from conducting a closet audit at least once per year.  It can be difficult to do because of the emotions that are often attached to our clothing, but it’s my hope that the questions I offer below will help make things easier.

Try Everything On and Ask Yourself These Questions

I suggest that you set aside at least a few hours to go through everything in your closet.  Ideally, you should try everything on and ask yourself the following questions.

  • Do I love it?  (Rate each item on scale of 1-10; if less than 8, alter or donate!  See “The Power of Alterations” for information and suggestions on tailoring your clothes.)
  • Does it fit?  (If it’s too tight, either donate or store elsewhere if you think it might fit again soon.  If too loose, consider alterations if you still love the item.)
  • Is it flattering?  (Does it highlight the parts of your body you love and downplay any areas you might not love as much?)
  • Is the color good for my skin tone?
  • Is it age-appropriate?
  • Is it my style?  (If you’re not sure of your style, tear photos out of catalogs and magazines of things you love.  Compare to what is in your closet. Also see this article for more tips on finding your personal style.)
  • Does it fit my lifestyle?  (We often buy things for “someone else’s life.” Your wardrobe should be appropriate for who you are and what you do.  More on this HERE.)
  • Have I worn it in the past year?  (In most cases, barring formal wear and a few sentimental pieces, items not worn in over a year should go!)
  • Do I feel good when I wear it?  (You want to feel attractive and confident in your clothes and ready to take on life’s important events and challenges!)
  • Do I receive compliments when I wear it?
  • Would I buy this item today?  (Ideally, your answer should be yes!  Wardrobe mistakes and outdated pieces should be passed on.)

Perhaps Enlist an Assistant

It can be helpful to invite a friend or family member to assist you with the process (and offer to do the same for him or her), especially if you know that person will offer honesty and constructive criticism.  In other words, don’t ask your mother to help you if she thinks everything looks good on you.  Remember, you want to edit your wardrobe down to a more manageable size and have it support your image and style goals.

Just Do It!

I hope the questions and suggestions above will be helpful to you when you do your next (and perhaps your first!) closet audit.  A closet audit may take a lot of time and energy, but the rewards are extremely powerful.   The bottom line is that you should follow the advice of Nike – Just Do It!

Body Confidence

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Awhile back, I watched an episode of “The Tonight Show” featuring a plus-sized model named Ashley Graham.  ABC had recently refused to air her Lane Bryant ad during “Dancing with the Stars” on the grounds that it was too revealing.

Jay Leno heard the story and felt ABC’s decision was ridiculous, particularly in light of the many Victoria’s Secret ads regularly shown on television.  Leno wanted to increase awareness of broadcast double-standards and discrimination toward plus-sized models, so he invited Ashley Graham to appear on his show.

Confidence, Magnetism, and Self-Love

Watching Ms. Graham on “The Tonight Show” elicited a strong and unexpected reaction in me.  When Jay Leno introduced her, Ashley glided out on the stage dressed entirely in spandex!  While she is a very beautiful woman, she’s definitely much curvier and voluptuous than most models we see in magazines and on runways (I read that she’s a size 16 at 5’9”).

While I didn’t feel the spandex ensemble was the most flattering thing she could have worn (this applies to pretty much anyone, mind you… – the outfit above is a much better option!), that’s not what struck me most about Ashley Graham.  What I noticed first and foremost was her abundance of … confidence.  She carried herself with pride and poise and looked every bit as statuesque, sexy, and elegant as any movie star who might walk onto the Tonight Show stage.  I was mesmerized by her magnetism and evident self-love.

Body Image Lessons from Ashley Graham

What can we learn from Ashley Graham?  Here are a few thoughts for women (including myself at times…) who could use a shot of “body assurance serum”:

  • Sexy and beautiful are not attached to a certain size or to a societal ideal.
  • There are many definitions of beauty, not just one!
  • If a woman acts and feels attractive, others will see her that way as well.
  • If you love your body, others will, too!
  • If you carry yourself with pride and “own” every inch of your body, you will feel more confident.

Self-Love at Any Size!

We can’t all look like Victoria’s Secret models, nor should we.  But we can strive to be our very best and love ourselves through each step of our life journey.  We can learn to love our bodies for what they do for us and for the fact that they carry us through our lives faithfully and steadily.  We can learn to embrace and celebrate our best points and release our judgment about those parts we don’t like so much (clothing can definitely help in this pursuit!).

We can end the war within and enjoy our precious, beautiful, and all too brief lives.  That is my solemn wish – for all women (and men, too) who struggle with body image issues.  We can learn to love our bodies as they are and one day stride onto the “stages” of our lives with the grace and assurance of Ashley Graham!