from ‘meh’ to ‘fab!’ in a single step

Here is a trick I share with all my clients because it is so stinkin’ easy to remember and to do. It’s all over the fashion blogs, and it is the primary reason stylish people look so, well, stylish.

Are you ready?

the third piece rule

Add a third piece to what you are wearing. That’s it.

You have to put on a top (1) and a bottom (2) for coverage. Add a distinctive belt, scarf, jacket, colorful or interesting sweater, or statement necklace (3) – instant ensemble! You can even feel daring and add a 4th and 5th element, like a hat, bracelet, or fun shoes to further express your personal style.

meh

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My stripey Breton shirt is kind of fun and is a favorite. I LOVE stripes. See my logo up there? I really love stripes. But even with the fun stripes, this outfit is kind of blah. With the high boatneck cut and long length, the shirt looks like a sea of stripes, which throws off the balance of visual lines for the outfit. (Another thing I talk about with my clients all. the. time.)

baby bear steps

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Lookey there. I added my third piece, a chunky jeans belt, and partial-tucked my shirt to highlight it. The sea of stripes is now balanced by the belt, and the partial tuck adds definition to the overall lines of the outfit, while maintaining an easy style with softer lines than a shirt tucked in completely.

mama bear

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Even though the belt acts as a third piece, let’s take it a step further. For me, I consider the partial-tuck and belt part of the basic ensemble, since I almost always use them when I wear jeans (and often other pants) to create balanced lines for my body.

Look at what the polka-dot scarf paired with the stripes does for the outfit! This is still a really simple, casual ensemble – great for knocking around on a gorgeous spring day. Adding the scarf shows I thought about my outfit. It also creates more balance by adding vertical flow to the visual lines. And pattern mixing shows even more intentionality and polish.

papa bear

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The structure of a jacket instantly adds polish to any outfit. A jacket particularly ramps up style when paired with jeans. It can be a blazer, military-style, denim, knit, leather, you name it. Jackets should fit well in the shoulders, provide definition, and full-length sleeves should hit at the base of thumb.

I’m going for a French-inspired look with my Breton stripes peeking out from a belted navy blazer. I did tuck the shirt in fully to maintain the clean lines of the jacket.

I love this blazer. It fits perfectly and will be so much fun to wear this spring.

goldilocks!

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To fully embrace the French look, you need a silk scarf. This one is Emilio Pucci, and I really love the vibrancy of the blue geometrical design. See how it pulls the whole outfit together with a pop of color and polish? Casual, but intentional. And this outfit makes me feel great. That’s what it’s all about.

Outfit details:

Breton-stripe shirt – JJill – old (I will be so sad when it dies – it’s been a great staple); jeans – JCrew – old; belt – SO old, but another great staple

Blazer – Sharagano Suits; polka-dot scarf – JCrew; silk scarf – Emilio Pucci; loafers – Cole Haan. All are from Nu Look Consignment in Minneapolis! I had great success during their winter clearance sale a couple of months back.

 

choosing a handbag

ndwc_fall 2016 handbags

reader request

A client recently asked me to write a post on handbags. She said, “How do you choose a handbag? Write a post on that! I never know what is the best thing to carry.” That’s because there are so. many. choices. And you have to find the one that is right for you.

Handbags, like accessories, are very personal choices. You can follow trends, but what works for one person may be disastrous for another. When choosing a handbag, think carefully about both style and function.

Here are some guidelines to help you select something you will love.

match your activities

What kind of handbag you carry says a lot about who you are. Back in my college days, I prided myself in not being a “purse girl.” I had a leather book satchel that I loved, and if I wasn’t going to class, I grabbed my wallet and headed out. If my college self could see me now…

There are so many choices for handbags. Being intentional about what you carry not only meets your needs, but also expresses your personal style, which feels great.

I have a 2-3 different handbags for the warm season and for the cold season. I also have a couple of small dressy handbags, one a deep purple and one black, for the rare occasion that I really dress up, and one formal clutch. Each of these are classic in design so that they won’t go out of style, since I use them so infrequently.

For the everyday handbags, I like to have slightly different sizes for different needs. As I said, I tend to fill up my handbags – I like to be prepared for whatever might come up, like weather (small umbrella and sunglasses), stopping for groceries (fold-up reusable bag), minor injuries (I once was without Bandaids when my then 3-year old daughter had a major crash and required many of them – I’ve carried a little first aid kit ever since! Mom guilt.). I have to be careful not to get a handbag that is too large, or I will fill it up and be lugging around too much weight all the time!

I like multiple pockets on the inside and outside of the bag, so I can put my phone and keys in a handy place, zip my wallet into a safe place, store my sundries without them making a mess. Pockets are a high priority for me, so I make sure any bag I select has them. I hate rootling around in the bottom of the bag to find something.

I’m currently looking for a high quality crossbody bag that isn’t too sporty or too small to use when I’m working with clients. During personal shopping sessions, carrying a handbag along with the clothing we collect for try-ons can become cumbersome.

Different bags serve different needs – embrace your lifestyle and find something that fits it well.

When choosing your own handbag, really think about what its purpose will be. Is it something you’d like to use as a work satchel/tote? A larger, structured leather tote is a great choice for you. Something to throw on while you’re out and about with the kids? A crossbody or hobo-style shoulder bag could work well. Something for traveling frequently? Again a crossbody or a large tote with a smaller handbag for once you arrive. Or something to make a bold style statement? The sky’s the limit!

Different bags serve different needs – embrace your lifestyle and find something that fits it well. Otherwise, you will feel frustrated. Choose a color or pattern that appeals to you (it does not have to be black or brown!) and make sure it feels comfortable to carry it. I’ve had purses that constantly slid off my shoulder – talk about feeling frustrated! I rarely choose shoulder bags because of this.

Sources: Image 1, Image 2, Image 3

pay attention to size

In terms of function, make sure the bag is large enough to hold everything you must carry, but not too large. A bag that is over- or under-filled can look wonky. If it is a crossbody or shoulder bag, make sure the strap or handles are the right length to fit your body comfortably.

If you are a petite person, you want to select a bag that does not overpower you. Choosing a smaller bag will look more balanced and be easier on your back.

invest in quality

It is worth it to spend more on a handbag that will last. I can be kind of hard on my handbags. I take care of them, but I’m always accidentally banging them into things, I tend to carry a lot in them, and they get regular use. I don’t like to change bags with every outfit, so I tend to use the same one for weeks at a time, which can lead to faster wear and tear. Higher quality construction holds up better to my clumsiness and to regular use.

don’t be afraid to have fun

Black and brown are very functional colors, but don’t be afraid to branch out! Handbags do not need to match your shoes, and a statement color can add polish to your outfit. Red is a gorgeous statement color that goes with almost everything. Burgundy and rich jewel tones are great for fall, and summer brights add a lot of fun to outfits in the warm seasons. There are also so many beautiful shapes, prints, patchwork, appliqués, embroidery or embellishments that make handbags true works of art. Choose something that speaks to you, and carry it with confidence.

shop new-to-you

I buy all of my handbags new-to-you. That way I can buy higher quality without blowing my budget as well as know I am practicing sustainable consumerism. I find amazing handbags at consignment stores – there is always a great selection, varying from mall brands to high-end designers, that are barely used – if at all.

New-to-you online shopping venues thredUP and the RealReal have a great selection of good quality handbags. Both websites provide photos, dimensions, and item specifics and are very accurate in reporting the level of wear of their products. Handbags are final sale on both sites.

In the Twin Cities, Fashion Avenue is a great place to find high-end designer bags at ~1/3 their original cost. Think Kate Spade and Coach on up to Chanel, Prada, and more. A personal shopping client recently found a gorgeous burgundy (a fall trend color) Longchamp shoulder clutch there.

Elite Repeat (St. Paul) and Nu Look (Minneapolis) consistently have lovely designer handbags, and Turn Style (multiple locations) has a wide range of more affordable to designer bags.