Building a wardrobe

Clothes shopping is actually incredibly simple if you keep in mind that you’re building a wardrobe, not simply purchasing a sweater or an outfit.  Of course by now you should have guessed that I’ll be recommending a professional.  The good news is, you don’t have to pay for a professional wardrobe consultant (unless you have the money and the wardrobe – then by all means).

Most major department stores offer a free personal shopper (the catch is – it’s polite to actually buy something).  Simply call the store and make an appointment.  They will ask some details about what you’re looking for and your size then they’ll shop for you ahead of time and take you to a private area to try the items on.  They should also give you an honest opinion but remember to take your own counsel as well.

This will be cheaper if you pick one neutral color (black, grey, brown, white) and build around it.  When money allows, you can build a second wardrobe around a second neutral color.

Buy the best quality basics you can afford (i.e., black heels, black skirt, white blouse) and buy one or two “fashionable” items each season to keep your look current.

Know what colors and styles look good on you and buy only within that range.  It doesn’t matter if that sweater is an amazing deal if you don’t look good in baby blue.  You’ll end up hating it or worse, wearing it and looking bad.

Only buy items that fit you well or can be minimally altered to fit you.  Most major department stores have a tailor on staff or find an independent one that you trust.  A good tailor is worth their weight in gold.

When you shop, don’t look at the price tag.  Take the item into the dressing room, try it on and ask yourself what you’d pay for it (keep in mind that you have to be able to afford it).  Then take a look at the price tag.  Is it under what you guessed?  You might want to buy it if it fits into your wardrobe.  Is if over what you guessed?  It goes back on the rack.

It is better to have a smaller, more versatile wardrobe than a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear.  Don’t forget that when you come upon a combination that you love, take a photo of it for future reference and quick dressing.

The clotheshorse

Let’s admit it, you have corners of your closet that you haven’t peeked at for years (and I’m not speaking metaphorically).  Everyone is at least a little bit of a clotheshorse.  It’s not the least bit pretty – especially if you end up wearing one of those little gems that’s stained or horribly out-dated.

So let’s start with the easy stuff.  Sort through all of your clothes and anything that’s stained, ripped or otherwise unsuitable for viewing (I’m talking to you “period panties”) needs to be tossed out immediately.  Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $200.  Throw these items directly in the trash because if you haven’t fixed them by now, you’re never going to.  Just let them go.

This part is a little bit harder – donate anything that is out-of-date or inappropriate for your current lifestyle.  Those jeans from high school gotta go.  Same for the sundress you bought for your vacation to the Greek Isles a decade ago.  The clothes from your ‘ska-punk’ period – donate them to a good cause.  I know you’re emotionally attached to them but take a picture and move on with your life.

Gather up what’s left and place them on hangers, turned backward in your closet – when you use it, you can hang it properly.  At the end of a year, anything you haven’t worn (unless it’s for very very special occasions), get rid of.

You’ll probably need a few things for your wardrobe now so happy shopping (just do it within reason).

p.s.  I recommend purchasing a few nice, classic pieces but I’ll be getting into that on a later blog.

Such a pretty face

When it comes to make-up, less is more particularly as we get older.  In my totally unscientific experience, men prefer a more natural look in most settings (read: daytime hours).  Keep the dramatic make-up to evenings out.  Having said that, unless you have flawless skin, rosy lips and dark lashes you’d be best to put on the minimum amount of make-up to achieve the aforementioned “perfection”.

While some of us are quite happy to shop the pharmacy aisles for our supplies, this method can be a hit-or-miss in terms of getting the right products for our skin (or worse, we stick to the same shades year-in and year-out making us look dated).

The cosmetics department at a major retailer can offer a better experience in terms of being able to try before you buy however the drawback is that the person selling you cosmetics is usually only versed in the product line she (he?) represents.

The best option (and surprisingly affordable when you consider the education) is a make-up artist who should not only know cosmetics inside and out, know how to correct flaws/enhance features and can teach you a variety of looks (think one for daytime and one for evening).  In the long run, the make-up artist can save you money and embarrassment.

And please do not forget to remove your make-up before going to bed – good skin is the foundation for good make-up.

Direct from my desk – week 4

My darling readers, yes – I’m speaking to both of you, you don’t love me enough to write so once again you’ll have to make due with my opinionated ramblings.

You’ll have no doubt noticed that this past week’s blogs have focused on what you look like.  Now your mother might have told you that it is what is inside that counts and she’s right to a degree – but who is going to want to open a present that looks like it’s gone three rounds (and lost) with the delivery service?

While I won’t tell you what color your hair should be or what type of clothes you should wear, I will tell you that you should put yourself in the hands of professionals in order to create the best you possible – whatever your personal style might be.  Looking good will help build your confidence and confidence is what will draw people to you.

Your crowning glory

There are a world of commercials talking about what a difference the right hair products can make and they’re correct.  A good color and cut can carry you through your worst day with just a touch of moisturizer and your favorite jeans.

Hairdressing is one of those things that you shouldn’t just “wing it”.  If you like your friends haircut and color, ask her where she gets it done.  Don’t be afraid to ask complete strangers as well – most ladies understand how important a hairdresser is.

It may be more money than you’re expecting to spend so you may need to budget and save up for your visits.  A good hairdresser will give you a cut that will look good even when its growing out.  Ask for a color close to your own shade so roots aren’t so evident and you can extend your time between visits.

During your consultation, in addition to the usual information, make sure the hairdresser knows how long you plan to spend on your hair each day and what your styling skill level is.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions while they work on you and make sure that before you leave you know how to re-create your style.

Make sure you budget for hair products.  You may not want to buy every product that the salon is trying to sell to you but buy the products you absolutely can’t live without and ask the stylist for comparable products available at the pharmacy.

Show off those pearly whites

People love a great smile.  Don’t be too self-conscious – your teeth needn’t be perfect but they should be the best that you can do.  Teeth can be an indicator of general health so it’s also about putting your best foot forward.

First – ask your closest friend if you have bad breath.  If they indicate that you do, you may need to speak with your dentist – more on that below.

You should absolutely be brushing your teeth at least twice a day if not after every meal.  There is a plethora of toothbrush and toothpaste options these days so keep trying them until you find a combination that works for you.

Flossing should also happen twice a day but you may have to work up to it.  Start with attempting to floss once a day for a month, then bump it up to twice a day.  You should also keep floss in your purse for any after-meal touch-ups you may need to make.  Your gums will thank you for it.

Ask your dentist about the best course of treatment for your teeth.  Be aware that he might suggest things that you quite simply can’t afford.  Don’t be deterred, simply ask if there is a lower cost option.  A good dentist is willing to work with you within your cost bracket or offer a payment schedule for treatments that don’t have alternatives.

Shiny, happy people – part 2

The skin on your face, neck and decolletage require special care.  This is definitely a place where you’re going to want to research and choose your products carefully.  If your grandmother hasn’t told you yet, your neck is going to tell your age long before your face will, so don’t skip out on taking care of your neck.  French women are known to spend a small fortune on cremes for their decolletage because this too will betray your age.

Educate yourself on the ingredients of your creams and don’t believe the pitch given to your by salespersons – remember, their job is to sell you products.  Some drugstore products can work very well however you don’t get to try the products before you buy.  At the department store, you can try the product before you buy however the person is educated in their employer’s product line.  Spas will also sell you products but you will get a more in-depth chance to try them on your body before buying.  You may wish to visit a cosmetic dermatologist to get products for your skin type but remember, they’re also getting a commission on what is sold.  Be aware and advocate for yourself.

Shiny, happy people – part 1

You may not be thinking about it but your skin says an awful lot about your health.  Men may not be thinking, “wow, I want a really healthy chick.” but their genes are pushing them in that direction.  Healthy = fertility, even if you’re not consciously aware of it.

For your body, start with a scrub.  You could go buy expensive bath products and if that makes you happy, by all means do so.  If you prefer to go the less expensive route, use salt or sugar in the shower after you’ve soaped up but always be gentle.  I wouldn’t do this more than once or twice a week depending on your skin.  Your goal is exfoliation, not scrubbing through your skin.

Use a body moisturizer according to your skin type.  This could be anything from absolutely nothing to slathering on the olive oil before you take a shower.  Be aware of how different ingredients affect your skin and eliminate products accordingly.  We’re going for dewy soft skin but don’t believe the hype on every product bottle.

Take care of any anomalies in your skin.  Eliminate blisters, callouses, warts, etc.  Go see a dermatologist if necessary.  Use sunscreen.  Nothing will age your skin as fast as the sun except for maybe hard living and cigarettes.  Drink water, eat healthy and exercise to get a good sweat.

Your skin is an advertisement and you want him to be begging to touch you.

Put your best foot forward

Why a pedicure, especially in the middle of winter?  Because there is nothing worse than curling up with that cute guy only to feel your feet catching on the sheet because they’re so rough (if the sheets can feel how rough your feet are, so can your beau).

While cute polish may take care of the nails, the rest of your feet need attention too.  Follow the same instructions for the quick and dirty manicure but also:

  • Use a foot scrub in the shower once a week.
  • Use an emery board or foot file to clear up patches of dead skin (if using a foot file, lay down a towel to catch the dead skin and be gentle!  it’s essentially a grater for the feet).
  • Moisturize your feet – this is probably easiest right before bed.  I find that petroleum jelly and socks work best and keep the sheets clean.
  • If you’re really bad at shaping your own toenails, go to a professional.  Again, bring your own tools.
  • Use moleskin to prevent blisters.  Don’t be embarrassed to shop in the foot care aisle of the pharmacy – take care of those tootsies!

Give yourself a hand

Ladies, take a moment to look at your hands.  Considering that we never hide our hands, do they truly represent how you want the world to view you?  Not sure what I mean?  How would you feel being served food by someone with dirty fingernails.  Exactly!

While I don’t suggest talons, I do suggest keeping your hands clean, soft and well-manicured at all times.  It’s easier than it sounds:

  • After each time you wash your hands, use hand lotion (unless you’re handling food immediately afterward).
  • Keep an emery board in your purse for quickly fixing a nail.
  • If you’re hard on your nail polish, consider going naked, wearing clear polish or resigning yourself to frequent touch-ups.

If you decide that you prefer to go to a salon rather than doing your nails at home – bring your own tools!  No, this isn’t a suggestion, it’s mandatory.  That blue liquid isn’t going to keep you from getting someone else’s nail fungus and it doesn’t matter how high end a salon is, hygiene is your responsibility.

Don’t know how to do a manicure, here’s a quick and dirty primer:

  1. Remove all previous nail polish.
  2. Shape nails with emery board into a squared-off oval shape with all nail approximately the same length (go with your shortest nail – they’ll grow out together).
  3. Wash hands and push back cuticles gently.
  4. Apply base coat, then two to three coats of polish followed by a top coat.  Wait 5 minutes in-between coats.
  5. Clean up edges carefully.  Give your nails a good hour or two to dry before you attempt anything fancy with your hands.