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Monday, April 10, 2006

Education by the Book

I continued my education this week with a newly published book: Nothing to Wear: A Five Step Cure for the Common Closet by Joe Lupo and Jesse Garza. I have a habit of reading these "closet" dream books. After a certain number of them, there really is nothing new under the sun. But I have to say, I LOVED Lupo and Garza's book. First of all, this was somewhat realistic for those of us living the churchmouse-chic lifestyle. Yes, the fashion lists included names like Gucci, and Hermes. But --- it also included the Gap, Talbots, and Ann Taylor. The closet cleaning and organizing section contained clear directions and simply shopping lists. Those shopping lists actually included WalMart, KMart and Target as suggested sources. These men are not advocating the unrealistically expensive cedar hangers (not on my budget, not in this lifetime!). They actually recommend the inexpensive plastic, tubular hangers that I adore from KMart. "All one color, all one style," they recommend. They comment that it gives your closet the look of a chic boutique.
I took another look at mine. I have white, tubular hangers from KMart. Yes, they're all the same and because KMart is affordable and accessible, I can add to my collection at any time. I'll confess, I did it because it looks neat and clean. My closet can be an absolute mess at times, any help I can get in the looking neat department is welcomed. I don't think I'm looking anything like a chic botique right now, but the closet does look pretty good.
The closets in the book are the usual gorgeous built-ins --- white shelving everywhere, custom nooks and cubbies abound. This is not going to happen in my life and my budget. I have the white canvas sweater organizers that hang from the rod as my cubbies. I have a set of white shelving from HomeDepot that my husband and I crawled around on the floor and assembled ourselves one weekend. Its not custom built, but its clean, neat, functional, and organized.
I may not be rich and famous. I may not have the trust-fund to afford stylists and custom closets. But part of living on the coattails is having the frugal version of all of that. I have a lovely closet, not the crammed, disorganized mess that so many of us in the churchmouse category own. I read books like Nothing to Wear, and I take notes. I learn, I grow. I keep an idea file (something they also recommend) so that I know what I want and what I love. I can look for repetitive themes to guide my purchases and keep my look smart and elegant and chic.
I love books like Nothing to Wear. They educate me for a fraction of what hiring a personal stylist would cost me. I went to the Visual-Therapy website. A session with the authors of this book would set me back over $4000 between the up front fee and the shopping fee. Then what would I spend on clothes?? Thank you very much. I'll take my $4000 shopping (okay, I'll take my $400 shopping!) and read the book and take notes instead.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Educating the Eye

It really does pay to "educate your eye". I have spent a long time doing exactly that and this week, I really got a payoff.
Let me explain. If you are like I am, you did not grow up around wealth or elegance. I was not surrounded by class and good taste. I never dreamed of the elegance and luxury I now find myself surrounded by everyday. Designer names meant nothing to me as a young girl. I didn't know and I didn't care. At this point in my life, I am surrounded by wealth, elegance, chic, and luxury. I can afford none of it. And yet, I want and need to "fit in" in my environment. I want to look "right" for this place.
That's where "educating my eye" comes in. By spending time in upscale stores, I can learn what designer fashion looks and feels like. I can learn to spot the classic lines and cuts. I can instinctively reach for the timeless and elegant. This lets me shop at much more budget-friendly stores and still look like the wealthy and chic women who surround me. I have come home from such luxurious places as WalMart, K-Mart, and Dress for Less with luxurious looking fashions. I have found outrageous pieces at Target, Marshalls, and Burlington Coat Factory.
This week, one of the women here commented on a blouse that I had worn recently. She was "jealous" that I had "worn it first". She had just purchased it and hadn't had the opportunity to wear it yet, when she saw me wearing mine. Since mine is a Target special from a year or two ago, I was curious. She had recently been in Nordstroms and had seen "it" and loved it.
So ---- of course, I went to Nordstroms. I found the blouse. Its very similar. Its not exact --- but VERY similar. I could see why she thought they were the same blouse. The biggest difference: the Nordstroms' blouse was $75. You'd better believe I didn't pay that for mine.
Education does pay off.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Trenchcoat Chic

As the weather begins to get warmer, I am the first to shed my coat. I look forward to the freedom of wandering about in just my clothing, without the layers of wool to keep me warm. The past few weeks here have been rather warm, in the 60's. I was the first to abandon my winter coat (and all other forms of coats).
Then I noticed something interesting. The chic women around me were not coatless. In fact, being coatless around them, made me feel a bit frumpy and undone. Something just was not right. I took a closer look. These fabulously dressed women were ALL wearing some kind of a light coat. There were a few hip-length pea coats and a few car-length spring coats, but for the most part I observed trench coats.
I had never thought of trench coats as anything other than utilitarian and plain. But as I watched the sea of black and khaki trench coats around town, I began to revise my opinion. The dark trench coat against the lighter colored clothing we all are wearing now provides a nice contrast. It highlights the cheery spring colors. It outlines the silhouette and gives a nice long, lean line to the body. Belted at the waist, it defines the figure. Open it down the front, it creates a long, narrow slash of color down the center of the body.
This is not your mother's trench coat!! Actually, it is. It is still the same basic trench. But looking at these impossibly smart looking women, I had a new appreciation for the humble trench coat.
I'm rethinking my rush to coatless-ness. I've pulled out my unlined, basic black London Fog. I'm wearing it alot more these days. I don't really need a coat. I'm surely not cold and I don't need protection from the rain or the elements. I just want the chic line and look that the basic, black trench coat provides.