Style Advice from Mom

The best wardrobe advice I ever received did not come from a blog, magazine or makeover show…it came from my mother.  I loved to shop with her.  She could spot the word ‘sale’ across a selling floor, knew without trying on an item whether it would work or not and understood that you can be both comfortable and stylish.  Whether in my personal wardrobe or my professional consultations, I find that her wise words often come out of my mouth.  Read on for some of her tips and wisdom.

Have the right outfit and the occasion will follow.  My mom was a tough fit, so when she found something that fit right off the rack and looked great, she never concerned herself with where and when she would wear it.  She trusted that the right occasion would present itself and it always did.  (This pairs nicely with my belief that it is always easier to say ‘yes’ to an invitation when you have something to wear!)

 When you love something and it works, buy two.   Mom felt that there was nothing worse than having to retire a clothing item that was perfect in every way and then not be able to find it – or something comparable – again.  So our home was a little like a mini-boutique, with “back stock” of our most favorite items.  I still do this today – and recommend that others do it as well – for those must-have, wardrobe staples:  a shaped cardigan, crisp white blouse, great looking flats and so on.

Pay retail only when necessary.  My mom believed in only paying full price on an ‘investment’ item like a winter coat, well-fitting pant or blazer.  For the other items she believed that you should shop on sale or discount.  I keep this sage advice in mind when I advise clients that they should shop twice a season… at the beginning for the items they must have to complete their wardrobe and at the end for the items that are not critical, but nice-to-have.

Don’t settle for less than great.   I learned at a fairly young age that “good enough” rarely was when it came to my wardrobe. If the item wasn’t a winner (color, style, shape, etc.) and I didn’t love or at least really like it, then the item stayed in the store.  (I grew up on LI – the land of the shopping malls – so there were always other options.) As a young girl my mom taught me to be discerning and I still am today – both for myself and my clients.

Carry a bag that’s big enough to hold life’s essentials.  More often than not, my mom carried a bag that was, as she often said, big enough to hold the kitchen sink (smile).  While the size of her bag may have been overkill, the contents were not… aspirin, band aids, breath mints, a nail file, hand lotion, safety pins and so on.  Call it the “nurturer” in me, but I like the idea of having whatever I – or anyone else around me – might need.

If you have to ask, don’t wear it.  This was my mom’s party line, whether the question centered on the length of a skirt, if something went with something else, if the outfit was appropriate for _____ (fill in the blank) and so on.  This taught me that if I had even the slightest hesitation, I probably shouldn’t be wearing the item or outfit in question.  Ironically enough, I deliver this same message every time I speak to corporate groups about image and professionalism.

Don’t save good clothes, wear them! My mom believed that clothing should be worn and enjoyed…not saved in the closet for some ‘special’ occasion.  She believed that there was no day more special than today… and I couldn’t agree more.

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