Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Nothing To Wear On New Years Eve?

Believe it or not, there's probably a fabulous New Year's Eve outfit hiding in your wardrobe. Here are step-by-step instructions for last minute party shopping in your closet.

Step 1 – Start with a simple outfit
Step 2 – Create statement accessories from your jewelry box
Step 3 – Add the party spirit
Step 4 – Wear it all together, spin in front of your mirror and…VOILA! Drab is transformed into dazzling!

Step 1 – Start With A Simple Canvas
A simple outfit will be the frame for the sizzle you create in steps 2 and 3. Create a simple outfit. It can be colorful, neutral, or embellished with some details. It doesn’t matter, just choose pieces that are in good condition and fit well. Here are three options, go with one of them or create something else that is easy and comfortable.

Sheath dress you usually wear for work (or your go-to little black dress)

Print blouse and your favorite jeans
Cardigan sweater/blazer/suit jacket, t-shirt and dress pants

Step 2 – Make A Statement
Accessories will turn your plain clothes into a fun outfit. The jewelry this season is big and bold. If you have a big-honking necklace that fits the trend, wear it with your outfit. If not, create one using one of these ideas.

Hang a big holiday ornament on a neck wire. A neck wire is a chocker necklace shaped from a thick wire or metal strip with a hook on it for hanging a pendant. Use glass ornaments, swarovski crystals, inexpensive glitter snow flakes or anything special or fun. (thanks Fran Cothran for this idea!)
Hang several holiday ornaments on separate ribbons and tie them at different lengths around your neck.
Mix and layer loads of necklaces of different lengths. One or two strings of pearls look too dainty and old-fashioned. But wear 5 to 10 pearl necklaces of different lengths, sizes of pearls or even colors of pearls and you’ll look modern and chic. The key here is to layer necklaces made of similar materials or colors i.e all natural stone beads, or all similar metals, or rhinestones or glass. Here are some pictures to give you some ideas.

Step 3 –Party It Up
Accents of sparkle or shine will to turn your plain clothes into party attire. Add a few accessories with satin, metallic, sequin, beading, or crystal details.
Add one more big piece of jewelry like a cocktail ring or stack of bracelets. You can pile on bracelets or watches using the layered necklace strategy in step 2. Or buy an inexpensive cocktail. You’ll find some at Claire’s or Topkapi at the local mall for about $5.
Party shoes can be boots, heels or flats. Attach clip on earrings to plain shoes to dress them up.
Keep your handbag small, an evening bag or clutch works great.

If you want arm coverage with the sheath dress, add a sweater with sparkly trim, or long satin evening gloves or Secret Sleeves (a long-sleeve shrug/scarf).

Step 4 – Step Out The Door
Put it all together and walk out the door! You’ll look fantastic! I’d love to hear about the outfits you created! Would you post a description or a picture of your outfit in the comment section? Happy New Year!

Two clients were the Muses for this post. Thanks Ladies for the inspiration!

Note, I thought Secret Sleeves were so cool, I became an affiliate.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Tale Of Two Images

With more people working from home and business casual becoming the dominant dress code in corporate America, there’s a tendency to dress more and more casually for business meetings and interactions. Does what you wear really make a difference? Aren’t results really based on your capabilities and performance in business?

Recently, I got to be a “guinea pig” and experience the power of image first-hand. Through some fluky circumstances during an audit of a tax return, my information was reviewed twice by the auditors and I had the opportunity to be represented by two separate CPAs. Both CPAs had the same documentation to work with, responded to the same audit requests and each conducted separate meetings with the auditors. Both CPAs had years of experience and a track record of resolving audit issues. One CPA’s negotiations resulted in disaster and the other’s in amazing success.

What was the difference? My image at the CPA meetings. Here’s a summary of what happened…

CPA #1

CPA #2

Outfit For CPA Meetings

Casual and fashionable. Jeans, fashion t-shirt, cardigan, funky jewelry, sandals, very little make-up

Professional and fashionable. Tailored dress, platform heels, formal makeup, fresh manicure and pedicure. (The image represented my business)

How The Clothes Felt

Comfortable. I dressed down because I had lots of materials to carry and we were friendly and knew each other for several years through networking. And besides, there’s no need to dress when you’re the client, right?

Empowered and professional.

What Happened

CPA communicated with me in a casual way, saw my business as more of a hobby than as a “real” business (even though we’ve been networking together for years), prepared for 1 hour for the audit meeting, represented me from a position of weakness, and failed to support the expenses.

CPA communicated with me in a professional way, saw my business as a growing small business, prepared for hours for the audit meeting, represented me from a position of strength, and demonstrated the validity of expenses to the auditor.

The Results

Disaster. The inquiry turned into an endless inquisition.

Success. The inquiry was resolved in one meeting to the satisfaction of all parties.

What’s the moral of the story? Whether you like it or not, what you wear does matter. The world does judge your professionalism, capabilities, talents, success, and honesty based on your image. The ramifications of those judgments trickle down through every aspect of your business and affect all your communication. The results you get really are influenced by your image.

For image to really work and support you, it must be authentic, be practical for your life, flatter your body, make you feel empowered, AND represent what you do. When you have an image that does all that for you, then your expertise, experience and talents shine through.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Green Is The New Black!

A new crop of natural fabrics are hitting the fashion scene. Some materials are new to the fashion world, such as soy, bamboo and hemp. Others have been around for years, but you may not have known they were natural, like ramie, rayon and modal. While others have been used throughout human history such as, cotton, wool, linen and leather.

These fibers are breathable, comfortable and feel beautiful on your skin. Many of the plant-based fibers even have natural sunscreen, anti-bacterial and anti-static properties. Here is a snap shot of these natural fabrics the their green (and not so green) aspects.


Soy fabric is made from proteins that are extracted from oil pressings and tofu whey. Soy is called “vegetarian cashmere” because it is soft, warm and tends to fuzz. It breathes even better than cotton. Soy works well for sweaters, underwear and socks. Soy fabric cannot withstand high heat.

Soy plants are grown without pesticides and the production of soy fibers turns a material that would otherwise be waste into a useable resource.


Bamboo cloth is made from fine, fibrous material inside bamboo stalks. Bamboo fabric is soft, absorbs perspiration, dries quickly and contains a natural antibacterial agent that fights odor and resists mold and mildew. Bamboo fabric works well for intimate garments that need to breath, like work-out wear, underwear, socks, t-shirts, pajamas, bath robes, towels and bed linens. Note, bamboo shrinks on the first washing and has a tendency to pill.

Bamboo is the world’s fastest growing plant with a quick cultivation cycle and it’s fabric is biodegradable, recyclable, renewable. Note, bamboo viscose fabric is not the same as bamboo fabric. Bamboo viscose is made from bamboo pulp and uses chemical-intensive processing methods.

Hemp, Linen and Ramie

Linen (flax), hemp (the marijuana plant) and ramie (a member of the nettle family) are made from plant stalks. Fabrics made from these fibers are smooth, lint-free and wrinkle easily. They “breathe,” so they are cool in warm weather and warm in cool weather. These fabrics work well for general apparel (jeans, dresses, jackets), accessories (handbags, hats, belts, scarves) and shoes.

Hemp is naturally insect resistant, so it grows without any insecticides or herbicides. Flax is weaker than most weeds and needs herbicides for conventional cultivation. Organic flax is cultivated with sustainable farming practices and is more eco-friendly than conventional varieties. Conventional processing of flax and hemp plants generates lots of wastewater while organic varieties are processed while the stalks are still the fields using the natural dew.

Ramie is fast growing and can be harvested two to six times a year. Processing ramie fibers is chemical intensive.

Organic Cotton

Cotton fabric is made from the fibers that surround the cottonseed pod. Cotton is soft and comfortable when worn next to the skin and cooling to the body in hot weather. Unlike conventional cotton, organic cotton retains its natural wax, so most weaves drape beautifully and softly reflect and absorb light. Cotton works well for any clothing worn close to the body, such as underwear, sleepwear and general apparel (jeans, shirts, skirts, dresses, etc.)

Conventional cotton uses more chemical pesticides and fertilizers than any other crop. Organic cotton on the other hand, relies on sustainable farming practices to lessen impact to the ecosystem.


Wool is made by shearing the thick winter coats of animals such as sheep, goats, rabbits, alpacas and llamas. It is also recovered from the hides of animals used for food and leather. Wool is flame resistant, warm, breathable and absorb moisture without feeling damp. It work well for coats, sweaters, mittens, scarves and fine tailored garments, such as suit jackets, pants, skirts and dresses.

Wools can be a renewable resource in cases where the coats re-grow each year in animals that survive the harvest. Typically, wool fabrics are dry-cleaned using chemical solvents. Wool knits can be hand washed gently in cold water and laid flat to dry.


Silk fibers are collected by unraveling the cocoons made by silkworms. Silk is soft, delicate, lustrous, absorbs moisture and is comfortable in all seasons. Silk is very versatile and is great for evening wear, daywear and underwear.

In conventional silk production, the silkworm is killed before it emerges from the cocoon to preserve the single long fiber that is used to make the finest silk fabric. In the production of “peace” or “vegetarian” silk, the worm is allowed to emerge from the cocoon and continue it’s life cycle. This type of silk isn’t as strong because the silk fiber is cut when the worm creates a hole in the cocoon to hatch. Typically, silk fabrics are dry-cleaned using chemical solvents. However, they can be hand washed gently in cold water and laid flat to dry.

Rayon (Viscose, Modal and TencelTM)

Rayon is made from tree cellulose. It is lustrous and breathes well. Viscose rayon is silky and drapes well. Modal rayon is smooth, soft and absorbs 50-percent more moisture than cotton. Tencel rayon stretches, dries quickly and has a peached (suede-like) texture. Rayon fabrics wrinkle easily and shouldn’t be wrung or twisted. They works well for evening wear, business wear, lingerie and knits.

Rayons are made from trees. However, chemicals are used to process the tree cellulose and convert it to fibers. TencelTM is the more eco-friendly form of rayon. Trees are cultivated and harvested using sustainable forestry practices and the cellulose is processed in a closed-loop system reclaiming and reusing the chemical and wastewater components. Most rayon should be dry cleaned. Some Modal and TencelTM knits can be hand washed and air dried flat.


Leather is made from the skins of various animals and reptiles. It can be delicate and soft or stiff and durable. It works well for shoes, bags, gloves, and clothing such as coats, jackets, pants and skirts.

Conventional leather is made using chemicals such as heavy metals, acids and organic solvents to tan (remove hair and preserve) the skins. Eco-leather is made from hides tanned using vegetable products. Organic leather is made by vegetable tanning hides of animals that were raised organically. The animals do not survive, no matter what tanning process is used.

How Green Is Green?

The sustainability and impact puzzle is complex. There are lots of groups that will tell you what green "really" is. In truth, it’s up to you to decide how you want to define “green.” You can consider the source of the material – is the fabric made from chemicals, plants or animals. Or you can consider all or part of the life cycle: cultivation and harvest of the base material, fiber processing and dying, energy used for transportation to market, cleaning and care after the material is made into a garment, use-life and final disposal of the material.

There's no right or wrong, choose the fabrics you love and the green elements that resonate with you and let your idea of green evolve with your experiences. Happy Earth Day!

Thank you Kiana McFarland and Julie Urlaub for your help with the research for this post