Thursday, December 2, 2010

Closet Therapy for Florence - Florence Learns How to Shop

In this final behind the scenes look at how Florence found her style, Fifi and I teach Florence how to shop.

Now that Florence had become an expert on her own body, her color palette and her own style, she needed to become an expert at shopping -- in other words, how to shop like a Pro.

Here are three of my top shopping tips:

1) Never go shopping without a list. Mother never went to the grocery store without her list and Santa never leaves home on Christmas Eve without his. In our first session, I gave Florence a one-page list of Wardrobe Basics, all of which can be found in Fifi’s armoire. We used it to determine what Florence had and what she needed, which was almost everything.

2) Never go shopping without lipstick. Sound silly? Not really. Store lighting is notoriously unreliable in determining color, especially in dressing rooms; therefore, your perfect shade of lipstick is a good clue as to whether the lighting has yellow or blue undertones. If your lipstick color looks “off,” check the color of the garment in natural light, if possible.

3) Never go shopping with friends. Do I even need to elaborate on this one? For the Pro, shopping is not a social, recreational activity. Friends slow you down and even the most well intentioned can have a negative influence on your choices. Just because she’s your best friend doesn’t mean she has any taste. Remember the last boyfriend who left her with a broken heart? He wasn’t even worth a broken fingernail!

In her youth, Florence had been a recreational shopper spending hours happily wandering around stores like this one with her girlfriends.

The mix of bright colors and patterns all thrown together in a cramped space is designed to catch the shopper’s attention, but ultimately the eye becomes fatigued by the riot of colors and the mind becomes confused about how to put pieces together.

This is a place to pick up an interesting piece or two (or not) to add to a great, classic wardrobe, but it’s not a place to start building that great, classic wardrobe.

This is where you start to build your wardrobe basics, in a spacious, well lit store like Talbots or Anne Taylor, where great classic pieces that won’t break the piggy bank are organized by style and color. Clothing modules containing pieces that all work together are grouped together, and mannequins display how to pull it all together with accessories. Since they’ve done most of the heavy lifting for you, you can tell at a glance what items to pull for the dressing room.

Working from our list of Wardrobe Basics, we pulled quite a few items for Florence in the warm, neutral shades that complemented her coloring so perfectly. And then and only then did we take a quick look at the “Sale” rack where we found a few pieces that worked with several of the items we had already selected. (The old Florence would have started and stopped at the “Sale” rack.). In under an hour, we had pulled together at least five mix-and-match clothing modules and Florence left not only not feeling exhausted, but dare I say exhilarated.

After hitting a few more stores, we came pretty close to completing our list while allowing for one or two “must have” impulse purchases; after all, I’m not totally heartless. Now it was time for a little fun -- accessories. At H&M we found some colorful, inexpensive scarves and fun jewelry. At a vintage consignment store around the corner we picked up some high end costume jewelry from the 50s for next to nothing. Vintage stores are a great place to find one-of-a-kind statement pieces that can add that all important je ne sais quoi to any classic outfit, and the quality is usually far superior to what is made today. By the end of the day, it was obvious that Florence now had the tools and the confidence to fly solo.

I am happy to report that Florence’s closet is now cured of its identity crisis. You can look in Florence’s closet today and get an immediate sense of the woman and her style. Fifi is very proud.

But, before I close the book on the Florence chronicles, I have one last update to share with you. Do you remember the handsome gentleman who asked her to help him pick out a tie? Well, it seems that Florence has been picking out Alan’s ties ever since that fateful meeting in the Men’s Department at Nordstrom.

This is my latest e-mail from Florence.

“Yesterday, Alan asked me to meet him in the Men’s Department at Nordstrom after work. He had an important meeting the next day and wanted my advice on picking out the perfect tie.

When I got there….no Alan, so I started browsing.

Suddenly, there was a tap on my shoulder and there he was holding a dress shirt in one hand and three neckties in the other. Sound familiar?

‘Excuse me, Miss’ he said, ‘but, which tie do you think goes best with this shirt? You look like someone who would know.’

As I started to laugh, he put a tiny blue box in my hand. ‘Florence,’ he said, ‘would you do me the honor of picking out my ties for the rest of my life?’

Suddenly the Men’s Department at Nordstrom was the most romantic place in the world!!”

Fifi, I think our work here is done.

To read the whole Closet Therapy for Florence series, just click on the titles below:

“Closet Therapy for Florence”

“Closet Therapy for Florence – Florence Learns about her Body”

“Closet Therapy for Florence– Florence Learns About Her Color Palette”

“Closet Therapy for Florence– Florence Learns How to Shop”


  1. Great tips, M-T - especially the lipstick one! And if you can't go with a friend, "borrow" one. I just made a great boot purchase rather accidentally, when I bonded with another woman shopping for the same thing in our local Famous Footwear store. She picked out a pair my eye went to first but for some reason I didn't think would work, but when she tried them on and we talked about them, well - I just had to try them, too - and we wound up both buying the same boot. Another "borrowed" friend yesterday helped me not buy something - a winter white knit beret. I asked her if she thought I was wasting money buying another winter white hat (the one I had I thought was too small). She told me to try them both on and she compared - she said the small one I had with a tighter weave was nicer on me. I said thanks for helping me save money! : )

  2. As Blanche Dubois might have said, "I have always depended on the kindness and keen fashion eye of strangers."

    Great comment, as usual, Cynthia, and always appreciated.


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