I just visited your blog and understand that you offer advice. Here is my problem:
I don't enjoy shopping, am not a thrift store person, and cannot sew. All of my clothes are old and falling apart. I used to have a personal shopper (a gay male friend you and I share in common) but we have not lived together for 13 years. What should I do?
- Woman on the Verge of Being Lady Godiva
Dear On the Verge,
Wow. Starting from scratch. I love a good challenge! Buckle your seat belts...
First of all, let's look on the bright side. This is an opportunity for a fresh start! It sounds like you have nothing to stubbornly hold onto or cherish for sentimental reasons and therefore, making an entire change is going to be easy! Now, since you're writing to me and not Martha Stewart or Sarah Palin's former personal shoppers, I'm also assuming that your funds are limited. Some might look at these challenges as daunting, even paralyzing, but I see them as a chance to relocate your creativity and imagination bones. Break free! But not in a Lady Godiva kind of way. Save that for the summer season.
I hear you about about losing your Fairy God Roommate. There is nothing like shopping with your bestest gay friend (Hi Chad, I miss you!) but don't despair! Once you are able to commit a bit of time to your personal makeover, you'll get into the spirit. Think of it as a gift to yourself and you deserve it! It sounds like you've been denying yourself for far too long.
Start with PILIBST.
Is her spellcheck on the fritz, you ask?
Why, no! In fact, it stands for:
PILIBST. It's kind of fun to say!
1. PURGE First, take all of your clothes out of your closet and making a giant mountain in the middle of your room. This could get messy but that's okay. Separate any less-than-flattering and ill-fitting clothes in a DONATE pile (large saved shopping bags come in handy at this point). Actually try things on. There should be clothes flying around the room at this point. Good rules of thumb here are: If you haven't worn it in a year, there's a reason for that. I know, your ex-boyfriend bought it for you or it might fit when you lose five pounds, but consider that after you drop it off at the Salvation Army tomorrow, someone else could be enjoying it or using it to keep warm. Keep thinking, "new start" (and PILIBST) and zap zing ta-da! You have room in your closet for your new wardrobe! That alone should help psych you out for shopping!
2. INVENTORY Look at the pile that is left including shoes and accessories (Sounds like yours is going to be small indeed, On the Verge).
3. LIST Actually grab a notepad and pen and start writing down what is missing from your KEEP pile. Record your present sizes. This will minimize the time you waste shopping and will help focus your search. Here's a list of wardrobe basics that should go on the list if you don't see them (workout clothes are necessary but are not part of this post):
Cute Jeans: Medium rise, either boot cut, straight leg, wide leg or skinny, dark washes are most flattering
Pants Suit that you can split up and wear as separates
Black or Solid Color Turtleneck and Cardigan Sweaters (wrap sweaters are a flattering alternative) and Separates
Tank Tops and Camisoles that are long enough to cover the hips
Button-up White Shirt, at least one, tailored and fitted in the waist, ruffles, anyone?
Modern Print Dresses and Skirts, knee length is best
Tall Leather Boots, black or brown
Pointy Toe Pumps, high or kitten heel
Ballet Flats, metallics or animal prints are fun...
Big Belt that can be cinched tight or loosened to fall across the hips, black or brown
Dress Slacks in a neutral color, should fall from the hip, not tight in the leg
And while we're at it, let's talk color. What's your favorite? What seems to be predominant in the KEEP pile? Find the average and begin a scheme. Since we are building you a starting wardrobe, it would be great to have items that could all mix and match with each other (and not in an 80's way, if you know what I mean...). Is Black your Neutral? Nowadays, you can make anything into a neutral (color is the new black) but that is a bit of an advanced technique. Brown and Black are wonderful places to start. Then, do you prefer muted Earth tones, like cranberry, sage, and purple, or are you more of a pastel girl? Your natural coloring is a good gage, but if you're brunette and love Navy, don't let rules limit you completely. You'll add a splash of red for pop in the accessories.
4. INSPIRATION Though I try to get my current events and interesting reading from almost anything else, I pick up a fashion magazine every once in a while. Vogue can be intimidating and hard to translate into every day fashions, but Elle and Cosmopolitan always have some good "What's New This Season" articles. Fold over the page of what you like. It's a good place to get ideas of how to put together things you already have in a new way as well. Also, I do love a good makeover show and one of the most helpful, I think, is What Not To Wear on TLC (8pm Friday nights with reruns at noon weekdays). The hosts, Stacey and Clinton, are hilarious, but if you watch how they take into account each unique fashion victim's style issues, it's all about packaging, about presenting your best self to the world in a way that is accessible to every size and shape.
5. BUDGET If you have two hundred dollars to commit to updating your wardrobe, that's a good starting point, believe it or not. Just know that the boots, suit, and jeans will take up the most of this amount. I brought my Mom shopping and after just two hours and two hundred dollars, we had started a good collection of staples for her. It was a Mom Makeover!
6. SHOPPING Yes, you can. And you can learn to love it! From now on, there is a treasure out there (your new wardrobe) and you are going to find it. And I won't make you start at Thrift Stores. Thrift Shopping takes technique and practice and you will work up to it, I promise. But in the meantime, Overstock is going to be your friend.
Now some people recommend Outlet Malls but I find them a bit of a trap and not much more "bargain" than a sale at Macy's (which is nothing to shake a stick at but I find department stores exhausting). Going to Old Navy and H & M for basics is great, but then head to Daffy's, TJ Maxx, Century 21, Marshalls, Filene's Basement, and Strawberry and if you're feeling daring, Conway. DSW Shoe Warehouse is good for discounted shoes and for jeans, you should try Blues or OMG on 8th Ave. in the 30's. Oh, that we could shell out the hundreds of dollars it would take to own Sevens and Lucky's, but you won't need those jeans 'cause you can find up-to-date Levi's in the aforementioned stores.
I hate to say it, but try things on. In the dressing room in front of a mirror. Ask fellow shoppers and sales people what they think. It's frustrating and time consuming, but it will save you time in the long run, and if you you can't return, money as well. If you wear low maintenance clothing, changing won't feel so tedious.
Look for easy care. I love silk and cashmere, but if you have to dry clean it every time you wear it it can become expensive.
HOLIDAY TIP: Didn't find the perfect belt or turtleneck? Why not add them to your Christmas List when your Mom or Aunt calls to ask what you need?
7. TAILOR You are not the only one who can't sew. And even if you can sew, sometimes it's better to outsource alterations to the professionals (like shoe repair it can be worth it). Hems and bringing the waist in are easy and inexpensive operations and can make the difference between clothing you'll wear and those that become a permanent fixture on a hanger in the back of your closet.
And that brings us to the end of PILIBST.
WHEW! I feel like Superman after he made the world spin backwards on its axis to save Lois Lane's life! But, On the Verge, you are going to feel and look like a million bucks in your new wardrobe and no one has to know that it cost significantly less than that! I mean, Lady Godiva is so "last millennium". Have fun and let me know how it goes...