Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Closet Therapy for Florence – Florence Learns About Her Color Palette

Once Florence began to understand and appreciate her own body and what the right clothes could do for her (See "Closet Therapy for Florence - Florence Learns about her Body") she then needed to learn what the right colors could do for her.


For Florence the world of color was a confusing land where everyone spoke a foreign language – “toasted, tinted and tertiary……lions and tigers and hues, oh my!!!”

In order to make sense of this strange world, Florence had “had her colors done” by an “expert,” who had taken one look at this blue-eyed blonde and declared her to be a “Summer.” While summer is the hottest season of the year, the colors associated with its seasonal color palette are cool – steel grey, icy pink, sky blue. The typical Summer woman often has blue eyes, will have a pink or rosy tint to her complexion and probably had flaxen hair as a child.

Florence’s closet was full of the cool pastel colors of summer and, like most blue-eyed blondes, she loved her pink lipstick. But were the cool colors of summer right for her? It is easy to mistake a blue-eyed blonde for a classic Summer woman; however, Florence’s complexion showed me what I needed to know. Now it was time to show Florence.


I put Florence’s left hand on a silver metallic drape and her right hand on a gold metallic drape. “Now,” I said, “look at your hands and tell me which one looks better?” After giving it some thought, Florence replied, “the right hand looks better. Somehow, it just looks younger and smoother.”

Next came the earring test. Gold earrings were clearly more flattering on Florence than silver. Florence was beginning to catch on.

Now for the final touch – a dab of sunny coral lipstick on Florence’s lips. “Wow,” she said. “Look at that! My face looks brighter and younger. I had no idea lipstick could make such a difference.” In fact, Ladies, the right shade of lipstick makes all the difference.




Florence has bright blue eyes, warm honey-toned skin and golden blonde hair.

While the cool colors of the Summer palette drained all the life from Florence’s face, Florence began to see how the warmth of the Spring palette breathed new life into her delicate features.

Lovely Jody Foster is my favorite example of a beautiful Spring woman.


I took out my color drapes and set to work showing Florence what the right colors could do for her.

When we finished, I gave her a pocket-sized set of Spring color swatches as a guide and told her not to worry about all those scary color terms that had intimidated her in the past. “Some of these colors will be more flattering than others, but if you stick to this guide, you really can’t go wrong, because these, Florence, are your colors.”

Like a beautiful Spring morning, Florence began to blossom before my eyes.


There were two final areas to cover in our discussion about color.

1) Neutrals: Since we will be building a classic, versatile wardrobe for Florence, neutrals will be playing a key role. All neutrals are not created equal. One man’s beige is another man’s taupe. In other words, neutrals, like their brighter-colored cousins, are either warm or cool. The neutrals we choose for Florence need to be warm (i.e., yellowy beige) rather than cool (rosy beige).

2) Color Placement: The color that really counts is the color closest to your face. Florence has a great pair of wool crepe trousers in steel grey which we will be keeping. In order to make this cool color work for Florence, we will top it with a warm yellow sweater and a brightly patterned scarf that will pull the warm and cool shades together and/or a tweed jacket that will do the same. Get the picture?


Time for the three of us (Florence, Fifi and me) to go shopping. Stay Tuned as Florence learns how to make the most of her shopping experience.  Click here.


Pictures and graphics from www.carolthompsoncosmetics.com

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Closet Therapy for Florence – Florence Learns about her Body

In my previous piece, I introduced you to Florence and her schizophrenic closet (See: "Closet Therapy for Florence"), and we saw how, with a little guidance from me, Florence was able to channel her inner Fifi and find her own style. Now when you open Florence’s closet instead of seeing “The Three Faces of Eve,” you see Florence, a woman whose daytime style is casual chic and sporty and whose nighttime style is classic and elegant. So, how did we get there? Well, here’s a little behind the scenes look at how Florence found her style.

The first order of business was to make Florence an expert on her own body. Like most women, when Florence looked in the mirror, all she saw were the bits she didn’t like. Before she could update her wardrobe, she needed to update her perspective.


To do that, we started by deconstructing and evaluating each part of her body from top to bottom. Then we put it all back together. Florence began to see how each part worked together to create the whole, and she started to appreciate that whole – her own unique proportions.

For the first time in a long time, perhaps ever, Florence looked in the mirror and saw the whole woman. Through the prism of this new perspective she could clearly see what did and did not work for her body type and why.

Florence’s body was rather boyish when she was young. Age and children have taken her body from rectangular to tubular. Like many of my clients, she does not have a defined waist, which gives her two very good options.




Option 1: Florence can let her clothes create a waistline for her. This Bill Blass blouse with ruffles above and below the nipped-in waist will give the illusion of a tiny waist on any woman, and the ruffles gives a feminine flair to even the most boyish figure.

Since Florence is small busted, the ruffles down the front of the blouse are very figure flattering.

Jackets structured along the same lines will also go a long way to creating feminine curves for Florence.





The waistline on this adorable little cocktail dress hits Florence right under her bust line, which is very flattering for women with Florence’s body type; plus+ a higher waistline makes your legs look longer.

The detail of the diagonal bow cutting across the front minimizes any tummy issues while simultaneously enhancing Florence’s small bust line.

Florence has nice shoulders, firm upper arms and a lovely long neck, all of which are showcased in this strapless dress.




Option 2: Florence can bypass the whole waist issue by wearing a tunic top with skinny jeans or leggings.

This vintage-inspired, pleated top in silk is available at Nordstrom.

You don’t need a tiny little waist to look feminine in this graceful and flowy top.

Because Florence is tall, she can carry off this bold print beautifully. And those lovely bell sleeves just cry out for this season’s hot accessory – big, bold cocktail rings.




An unstructured swing coat with big collar and cuffs in a great neutral color, such as this Shawl coat from Barney’s, is perfect for Florence.

This versatile, understated statement coat can be worn over almost anything in Florence’s wardrobe from skinny jeans (add a fringed, cotton scarf) to a dressy day dress (add a large Hermès square).

This is a go anywhere do anything coat that is also a great signature piece for Florence’s wardrobe.


The next step in Florence’s transformation was to find her perfect color palette.  Click here.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Closet Therapy for Florence

The average Frenchwoman’s entire wardrobe fits neatly into an armoire, and she wears everything in it. By contrast, Surveys show that the average American woman’s wardrobe is bursting through the seams of her walk-in closet, and she wears less than one-third of what’s in it.

Every morning the American woman opens her closet, stares at its bulging contents and says the same thing, “I don’t have anything to wear.”  How can this be? What’s wrong with this picture?

Here’s a clue:

French Fifi and American Florence walk into a store. Each tries on a blouse.

Fifi wrinkles her nose and asks, “Est-ce bien mon style?” (Is this my style?)

Florence looks at the tag and asks, “Is this on sale?”

Get the idea?



Fifi chooses each piece she buys with great care. She likes a bargain as much as Florence, but she won’t buy something just because it is on sale if it is not bien son style. As a result, she wears everything in her armoire because everything in it is bien son style.




Fifi will walk out of the store with the perfect little white blouse which will look fabulous with at least five other pieces in her wardrobe.


Florence’s closet, by contrast, is stuffed with stuff she never wears because she does not ask herself the right question at the store.

Florence will walk out of the store with a fuchsia top that doesn’t go with anything she has, and she will never get around to getting the anything that it would go with because, in fact, the color doesn’t looks quite right when she gets it home, so she’ll never wear it. But, hey, it was 50% off! Can’t pass that up, or can you?

After years of shopping this way, Florence’s closet is experiencing a major identity crisis, and I have been called in to help.

Florence is a woman of a certain age (“une femme d’un certain âge”), by which the French mean any woman over 40. It’s a polite way of saying, “It’s none of your damn business how old I am, mon cher.”

Florence runs a successful business from home, the last of her children has been packed off to college, and after two years of widowhood, she would like to start enjoying a social life again, particularly the company of the opposite sex; but before she can do that, she needs some serious closet therapy.

A survey of Florence’s closet shows that, as I suspected, it breaks down into roughly three sections:

(1) Flo the Frump: This section contains the uniform of the American woman who has given up on her appearance – sweats, shapeless sweaters, T-shirts, flip-flops, sneakers and worn-out slippers. True to form, the clothes she wears most whether working at home or running out on errands come from this tiny section at the front of her closet – the grab and go section.

(2) Flora the Floozy: The other tiny section in the very back contains items that she wears when she wants to play “dress up.” With a few exceptions, it consists of items that are not flattering, if they ever were, as they are too revealing, too tight, or just too, too much. In short, they are not age appropriate and they look cheap because most were bargain and impulse buys.

(3) Where is Florence?: The rest of the closet contains a dizzying mish-mash of unrelated items. Here we find the fuchsia top that she bought along with other items like it still wearing their tags. Here and there among the mass of mismatched items are stuffed power suits from the 80s and other reminders of younger, thinner times, what I like to call the Nora Desmonds of a woman’s closet who wait for Mr. de Mille to call them for their close up – a call that will never come.

Florence leads a busy, complicated life. The last thing she needs to face each morning is a complicated, schizophrenic wardrobe. What she needs is a wardrobe of great basics like those in Fifi’s armoire. These are the great classic pieces that are versatile enough to be dressed up or down at a moment’s notice for any occasion -- your “go to” pieces which form the backbone of every well dressed woman’s wardrobe. Think Chanel and casual chic.

I go over my list of Wardrobe Basics with Florence and we get started. Flo the Frump can stay, for now, if Florence promises never, ever to let her appear anywhere other than in front of her computer screen. She agrees. Flora the Floozy is banished to the bin.



The dizzying mish-mash that had overtaken the bulk of Florence’s closet like creeping moss has been removed.

Over the next few months, Florence channels her inner Fifi and begins to pull together not only a great wardrobe, but a great sense of herself and her own style. Flo the Frump is making less and less of an appearance.

Florence discovers a love for scarves and displays a great knack for picking the perfect accessory that will add that all-important je ne sais quoi.

Family and friends begin to notice and clients are responding positively to Florence’s new sense of sleek confidence.

I get regular updates.

Yesterday an e-mail arrived from Florence.

“Just had to tell you the latest. I was browsing in Nordstrom and a handsome gentleman came up to me with a dress shirt in one hand and three neckties in the other.

‘Excuse me,’ he said, ‘but, which tie do you think goes best with this shirt? You look like someone who would know. You’re so put together, and I love your scarf.’

“We had dinner together last night. I think he might just be my style. What do you think?”

I think Fifi and I are delighted.  For the next step in Florence's therapy, click here.
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