One closet, one stylist, one hour.
That’s what happened when I persuaded a local personal stylist/wardrobe consultant (who happens to be a friend of a friend) to donate her time and talent to a needy cause (who happens to be me).
You see, my so-called wardrobe has suffered from neglect over the past decade, a casualty of parenthood and life.
Granted, I’m no fashionista. Never have been. Perhaps this stems from my childhood. Growing up on a farm, style simply wasn’t important. And wearing a Catholic school uniform for 12 years no doubt stunted my fashion sense.
As a young lawyer in the 90s, I managed to cobble together a savvy wardrobe. Four kids later, I’d traded the suits for sweats. I was well on my way to frumpy.
It culminated in an unfortunate incident at Starbucks when a fellow customer politely informed me that my pants were on inside-out.
I just haven’t had my coffee yet, I reasoned. But I knew I needed help. A fashion intervention, if you will.
So I turned to Kathleen Healy Twistol, a personal shopper for Nordstrom and owner of Tres Chic wardrobe consulting. With 20 years in the business, surely she could guide me in the right direction.
The day of my appointment with Kathleen, I clean my closet, folding clothes and organizing drawers. Sort of like brushing my teeth extra well before seeing the dentist.
Kathleen arrives and I usher her to my closet. She swiftly culls through clothes, pulling out anything that catches her attention. Good or bad attention, I can’t tell.
As she goes through my clothing, I realize most of it is neutral-colored—shades of black, white, khaki or gray. Gray is my favorite color. That is a color, right?
I encourage Kathleen to be honest with her wardrobe assessment. “Don’t worry, I will,” she says. “But I’m no Tim Gunn. I won’t make you cry.”
"Who’s Tim Gunn?," I think—making a mental note to Google him. (He’s a designer on the television show Project Runway).
“Your t-shirts are due for a refresher,” she says, eyeing my faded, nubbed collection. They do look rather, uh, vintage.
Kathleen likes to gauge a client’s personal style before tweaking their wardrobe. I describe my style, or lack thereof, as "no-fuss." When it comes to clothes, comfort and function are key. And if it hides coffee stains and dog hair, that’s a bonus.
Kathleen also considers a client’s body type. “We want to maximize your figure-flattering potential,” she explains.
I point out one of my figure flaws, a relatively flat rear end (hence the college nickname Pancake Pants). She suggests I pay attention to pocket placement on the back of jeans in order to compensate.
As a mom of three young kids, Kathleen seems to understand how to help busy, budget-conscious moms. “Shop in your own closet,” she advises. “It just takes a fresh pair of eyes sometimes to breathe new life back into pieces.”
I mention my brother’s wedding is this weekend and I haven’t decided what to wear. She hons in on a red dress that I’ve never worn (it looked good on the mannequin so I bought it— years ago!). I asked if it should be worn with red heels. “We don’t do matchy-matchy,” says Kathleen. “Nude-colored shoes are better. Nude shoes instantly update an outfit.”
She grabs a pair of tan heels from my shelf. Bingo.
What about pantyhose?, I ask. “No one wears pantyhose,” she says. “Not even in Minnesota in January. Just dab a little baby oil on your legs for shine.”
For a summer barbecue, Kathleen suggests cut-off jean shorts with a nice shirt. Cut-offs? I recall wearing Daisy Dukes, pre-cellulite and stretch marks. Kathleen explains that today’s cut-offs are more modest.
“You could spend up to $300 on cut-offs from a department store, but why?” she says. “Instead, take a pair of your jeans and cut them mid-knee. Then wash and dry them for a ‘fringe’ effect. Then cuff them where you want them to fall.”
Kathleen says another current trend is the maxi skirt or dress that goes all the way to the floor. “The maxi is the hottest summer trend right now,” she notes. “Everyone can wear it. It can be dressy or casual.”
Pair a maxi with gladiator sandals, she suggests. “Sandals in metallic shades like gold, silver, or bronze add a bit of bling, but are versatile enough to go with anything.” I don’t have gladiator sandals and wonder if flip-flops are an adequate substitute. Flip-flops are okay, says Kathleen, but metallic sandals kick it up a notch.
Some women are influenced by a fashion ‘role model.’ Kathleen points to Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston as examples. “Their style isn’t about blending in with others, nor is it screaming ‘look at me!’” she explains. “Rather, it’s a subtle wow factor.”
I want that subtle wow factor, so I decide I need a role model. Even my six-year-old has a fashion icon: Daphne from Scooby-Doo. In my daughter’s world, it's all about purple and pink. She has pink cowboy boots (“Daphne boots") that she wears with everything. And it works. Of course, she is six.
Kathleen pulls out a black dress that I wore to my niece’s wedding a few years ago. “The LBD is a no-fail outfit for a cocktail party,” says Kathleen. (LBD is ‘little black dress’ for those of us who don’t speak fashionese.) “Take a classic dress, then add your own personal style….killer shoes or a statement necklace or bunch of bangle bracelets. Think Audrey Hepburn, with a twist.” I try to remember the last time I went to a cocktail party.
“This is cute!” Kathleen pulls down a straw cowboy hat that I bought last summer during our family vacation at a dude ranch out west.
“My husband hates that hat,” I sigh. “He thinks it looks Lindsay Lohan-ish.”
“Well, I don’t like to irritate husbands, but this hat would look great with a sundress and sandals. See?” She puts the ensemble together. She’s right; it is cute. Then I envision my husband‘s laughter when he sees me in it. “I’ll save the hat for the dude ranch,” I decide. I toss it back to the nether regions of my closet, next to my wedding dress which is crammed into a Rubbermaid box.
“In your opinion, what’s the worst thing in here?,” I ask Kathleen. Just give it to me straight.
“These,” she says without hesitation. She picks up a pair of brown leather Dr Martens shoes, circa 1993. “I wouldn’t wear these.”
“Really? But they’re cute!” I say. I think I see her cringe.
The hour zips by. Kathleen is fun and real. I sense that she gets who I am, and lets me be me. Only a little more stylish.