Mix ‘Em Up

I want to share an e-mail I received from a client I worked with over a year ago.  We had done a closet expedition to help her transition from stay-at-home mom to teacher.  She had a nice selection of separates, accessories and shoes to which she added some basic pieces to give her a more professional look.  In her e-mail, she said she had been able to make 135 different outfits by using different combinations.  She took Polaroid photos of each outfit in order to keep a record of which combinations she had used.   She also reversed the hangar of each garment worn so she could easily tell which she had already worn.   Then, when she started through for the second time, she reversed each hangar back to its original position.   She said that some of her students had even commented on her variety of outfits.

I thought this was amazing.  Now, I’m sure that not everyone is as organized or creative as this lady but it shows how you can get a lot of mileage out of your wardrobe by looking at new possibilities.   Let’s suppose that you have 10 different trousers and skirts and 10 different tops.  If the colors and styles are compatible, you can make 100 different outfits.  Now, let’s say you add a jacket and a sweater set.  Then add some accent pieces – belts, jewelry or scarves.   The possibilities are nearly limitless.

If you are like me, it is easy to get into a habit of wearing a certain top with a certain bottom without thinking outside the box.   Or you may have many tops and bottoms but they run the gamut of the color wheel so many combinations cannot be done harmoniously.  Any top and bottom that needs to be worn together, like a suit, is considered a costume and does not give the flexibility of separates.   However, by building a wardrobe in modules, you can have a wide variety of different looks that will adapt to your lifestyle whether you are a stay-at-home mom or work in a business setting.

A module consists of the following:

Top – Blouse, shirt, or tank top.  If you buy the same item in different colors, choose different sleeve lengths.  (4 each)

Bottom – Skirt or pants  (3 each)

Overtop – Jacket, cardigan sweater, or vest  (2 each)

Accessories – Belt, handbag, and shoes

A module should be limited to three colors complimenting your natural coloring.  Possibilities might include black, plum and a white or perhaps brown, cream and teal.  If you have a module as listed above in your colors, you have 24 different looks.   As you add other items, you expand the possibilities.   Let your creative juices flow!


Purses, Purses, Purses

If you follow the fashion magazines, you know the new important statement is to carry a dramatic handbag.   These new bags come in every color, texture and design.  They must be big and the prices start at expensive and go up from there.

Let’s look at why the purse has become so important.  As you are probably aware, imported clothing has become more expensive due to the diminished value of the dollar against other currencies.  People are buying fewer high priced garments and retailers are responding with sales starting earlier in the season.   This is all good for us, the consumer.   However, designers have discovered that purses are not as subject to seasonal style changes and are a very profitable part of their total business.  Thus, they offer a wide variety of styles and colors that are promoted as “must haves” with prices in the stratosphere.

I am struck by the size of the newer bags.   Looking through a promotional magazine from one store, I saw that the size generally starts at 12” X 12” and goes up to 23” X 35”.    This seems more like a piece of luggage than a handbag.  With the large bags being so popular, ladies are naturally carrying more items in them – gym shoes, lunch, baby bottles and diapers, you name it.    This is a windfall for chiropractors but our bodies are telling us that we are not designed to be beasts of burden.   From a style perspective, purse size needs to relate to your own body scale.   The handbag should be a total part of your outfit and not the center of attention.  If you are petite, a smaller–scaled handbag is needed.  If you are 6’ tall and large boned, you can probably carry one of the 10” X 17” bags.

The variety of styles can be puzzling as well.  Many bags offer cargo pockets, fringes, zippers, or rivet details.  These bags will never be formal so they work better with jeans or a casual outfit.  The material from which the purse is made helps determine where it will be appropriate as well.  Napa leather is more casual while smooth leather or reptile prints are more formal.   Purses with lace or fur trim will no doubt become dated much more quickly.   I would suggest finding a bag that works for the majority of your schedule.  If your world is mostly blue jeans and casual tops, one of the casual purses should work just fine but if the bulk of your time is in a suit environment, I would suggest choosing a classic style that will still work for casual wear.   For you jeans gals, be sure to have a cute clutch for that dressy occasion.  Nothing can ruin the look of a great party dress and heels like toting a big bag with rivets and fringes on it!  And have you ever seen a bride at the reception porting a large, leather shoulder strap bag?!

The last criterion to keep in mind is your build and facial structure.  If you have an angular build and/or angular bone definition in your face, choose a structured bag that is geometric.  If you have an overall soft, rounded, feminine appearance, choose a bag that has a rounded and soft feel to it.    By taking your bone and facial structure into consideration, you handbag choice will support your total look.

I hope these guidelines will be helpful when you are making your next investment at the handbag counter.  Don’t forget that any color works as long as it harmonizes with your general wardrobe.  Gone are the days of matched shoes and bag.  For you business women who need to carry a computer or business bag, choose one that has a section for your purse items.   Carrying a purse and business bag is cumbersome and takes away from your professional appearance.