Hey - we've updated our Image Inspiration and Delightful Distractions pages.  Head to the top of the page.  Enjoy!

I've been getting some questions about "invite only" shopping sites.  Mainly, "What are they?" They're a fairly recent addition to the shopping world, essentially extensions of the age-old "secret sample sales" that happen in fashion districts in New York and LA (Milan, London, Paris, etc.)

The websites offer a variety of designer (both big name and up-and-coming) clothing, shoes and accessories.  A couple of them offer men's and children's clothing, and some, like Rue La La and Hautelook, even offer perfume, makeup (like Stila!) and home decor sales. 

Items are usually offered at better than 50% off.  I'm currently stalking ideeli for a particular pair of 85% off heels to pop up in my size.  Another nice aspect is these are not super-model sizes.  There's usually a broad range, instead of just 0's and 2's.  These are good sites for scoring deals on those investment items. 

Want a tiny taste of what's available today?  How about the fabulous wrap dress below from Gomatta Girls for $45 instead of $395?!?  Also comes in black, white, and a pale blue floral.
Or either of these two Anne Klein dresses from ideeli for $92 instead of $168!  Love them!
To get free access to any or all of the sites, simply click on the logos or links below.





And remember - moderation in all things.  Don't get sucked into obsessively checking the sites everyday.  This is just another way of casting a wide search net when fishing for wardrobe additions.  All the sites give you the option to sign-up for email alerts or their RSS feeds.  The email will preview what's going on or coming up and you can decide if it's something you want to check out or not.  Enjoy!
All right, let's talk about Style Files!!  If you already keep one, this post will hopefully offer a few ideas about ways to expand or organize it.  Or motivate you to share your great ideas with us!  If you don't keep one, or don't know what I'm talking about, allow me to explain. 

A Style File is a collection of inspirations to help you express your own style, dress better or more creatively, and use your wardrobe more efficiently.  These little pictures and notes help us avoid wardrobe ruts and "Closet Blindness" moments that occur.  You know those times; when you're standing in front of your clothes but can't come up with anything to wear.  A Style File is the miracle cure.
Here's a pic of one of my own Style Files and one of the empty folders waiting to be filled.  I use the Briefcase Files from Levengers.  Bought them years ago for work and despite all the use and abuse I've put them through, they still look brand new.  I LOVE that they're see-through and double sided!  At a glance I can instantly see what types of things are tucked in there.  While rummaging through my office supplies for a better Style File option than a manila envelope, I found them tucked into a tote and literally shouted for joy that I'd kept them.  They're perfection. 


I checked out Levenger to see if they still had them.  And they do!  Currently they're offered in these lovely soft shades. Click here to check them out. 


They also have these on sale, though from the picture they don't look nearly as durable.  Check them out here for yourself.

So - what do you put in a Style File?
  • Any image you find inspiring and would like to incorporate into your style!
  • Expand beyond fashion magazines.  While pictures of complete outfits are the basis of a style file, inspiration can come from anywhere.  Fast Company recently profiled a Dutch architect and the photos of how he used black and white texture in one of his buildings translated very well to fashion.  I also posted a week or so ago (here) about a thank you card I received with fantastic color pairings.  Into the file it went!
  • Add images for both items you own as well as those on your wish list.  I recently added a picture of a great outfit with a floral skirt.  My skirt has different colors but the outfit will still work. 
  • Add items for their details alone.  Sometimes you might only like the accessories in a picture.  Tear it out, circle what you like, make yourself a little note, "With blue blouse = date night!" and add it to your file.
  • Use your modern technology.  You can take quick pictures with your cell phone that you probably always have handy.  Print them out and add them to your file. Make notes to yourself on your PDA of choice (iPhone, Palm, etc.)  I love taking screen shots when I'm browsing the internet and I've been known to call and leave myself a message with an outfit idea when I have no other means of recording it at that moment.
How do you organize your Style File?  The options are virtually endless but here are a few tips:
  • By season.  You can have your Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter folders.  If you live in a relatively season-less state (I grew up in AZ) you could try the following.
  • By Occasion.  A Work folder, Sunday folder, Casual folder, Date Night/Party folder.
  • By Type of Inspiration.  Right now I have a folder strictly for color inspiration.  Different pairings and combinations that I use to inspire an outfit for any occasion.  You could also have a folder for "Full Outfits", Denim, Pants, Skirts, or Suits.  Each folder would contain inspiration for how to wear each of those pieces.
  • Don't forget to spring clean every once in a while.  Ditch images you no longer like and have fun reorganizing into a new method.  It'll help you see your Style File in a whole new light.  *A note about cleaning out your Style File - if, like me, you have young children, consider storing away the pictures to show them later.  They'll probably love seeing how you dressed "back then." 
If you're still skeptical of the benefits of a Style File, just try it out for a while.  I guarantee you'll find new outfits in your closet you never knew were there.  You'll take a few healthy steps out of your style rut and start wearing the same pieces in new ways.  Which pretty much equates to new clothes!  It'll help you define your personal style if you aren't sure what it is.  As you collect things for your file you'll start to see patterns emerging.  It also helps you when shopping.  If you have pictures or notes of things you need or want in your wardrobe, you can better target your search.  So start printing, snapping, snipping and ripping (out of your own magazines, of course!) And discover a whole new wardrobe world through your Style File!

SHARE YOUR STYLE FILE TIPS!  How do you organize it?  What do you keep it in?  Where do you find the inspirations to put in it?  Leave a comment and help spread good style.

One of the perils of online shopping is the inability to try things on.  You're just not sure whether the item will fit you or not.  As I've mentioned before, knowing your measurements will alleviate much of that fear.  Never trust sizes - they're never the same between designers and stores.  But it's very rare to find a shopping site without a Size Guide.  Clicking on this handy little link will give you a chart (like the one pictured here from Banana Republic) outlining the basic measurements associated with that item.  There are usually specific size charts for jackets/outerwear, blouses, dresses/skirts, jeans/trousers as well as for regular, tall, petite, and plus.

Now, it's easy to measure your own bust, waist and hips in front of a mirror.  But any kind of length measurement without help is much harder.  Bending over to look at the tape measure obviously doesn't work.  Pressing the tape along your body almost always results in a wrong number.  But here's a little trick to determine if the length of an item will suit you or not.

Grab a flexible tape measure (these are dirt cheap at fabric stores!) and a small metal binder clip.

Fasten the binder clip onto the tape measure so that the little arms are directly over the desired measurement.  Now head to your full-length mirror! 

Say you want to know where a skirt that measures "21" from natural waist" will hit you.  At the knee?  Above the knee?  Just hold the 0 end at your natural waist and let the tape measure hang.  The binder clip provides just enough weight for the tape to hang straight and the little arms show you right where the 21" will be.  And because the tape is hanging, like the skirt will, you get an accurate measurement over your stomach and hips. 

This works with dresses and pants as well.  Try it and take advantage of that free-shipping a little more confidently!
A very funny reader sent this question in response to my latest post...
Q:  Great advice!  But what do I wear while I'm GAINING weight?

A:  As funny as the comedic timing was, it's a truism!!  We all go through this and it's not a fun road to travel.  Trust me.  The answer can pretty much be boiled down to something we all learned as kids - Stop, Drop and Roll.  Stop watching so much television.  Drop the number of calories you eat.  Roll yourself out of bed to workout every morning.  or Roll on in to the gym after work every day.  Whatever works for you.  And I know, it's easier said than done.  Trust me.

If you HAVE reached the state where your waistbands are a bit too tight, you can try this little trick I learned while in that first phase of pregnancy where your own pants are beginning to be uncomfortable but maternity pants slip down your belly.  Take a hair elastic, the kind you would use to put your hair up in a pony tail.  (Rubber bands are too long and the thin ones snap too easy.)  Slip the elastic through the button hole.  Now slide one end of the elastic through the other and tug.  The elastic will now be cinched around the button hole and you'll have one free loop in your fingers.  Stretch that loop over the button and Voila!  You've got a little more wiggle room until you either a) grow enough to fit into maternity pants or b) shrink enough to fit your clothes again.  This trick works best with jeans (the metal buttons are sturdier) and you obviously have to wear your shirts untucked.

Thanks for sending that in!  I got a good laugh.  And best of luck with either the pregnancy (that weight gain is well worth it!) or battling your little bulge.
Q: I'm finally losing weight (for good this time!) and have lost enough that my clothes no longer fit or look good.  I still have more to go, but what should I wear until I hit my goal weight?

A: Indeed a conundrum and I'm not making a joke!  This is a happy but difficult time. (Don't they say the same thing about pregnancy, when your weight is going the opposite direction?)  I'm actually in the same phase myself and enjoyed compiling this answer for you.  It helped me as well!

I always research answers.  Looking for the best style advice available.  And weeding out the bad!  I actually read the suggestion that you should wear a "poncho" while you're losing weight.  Say what???  Sure.  Let's throw a broad expanse of fabric over our shoulders, hiding any shape, and let it fall down from one of the widest parts of our body, our breasts.  Great idea.  I don't think they realize that any tent-like shape will just make a person appear larger.  A poncho pretty much only looks half-way decent if you're a small person. 

One question we have to ask ourselves is, are we talking short-term or long-term weight you're losing?  Short-term as in, "I just had a baby and will probably be back in my previous clothes by the end of the year." or long-term as in, "I've been battling this blasted bulge for twenty years and I'm finally winning the war!"  Short-termers tend to have "skinny" clothes and little else.  Long-termers may or may not.  You definitely sound like the latter so I'm going to guess that, like most people, you probably have a range of smaller sizes in your closet.  So gird your loins and try on some of those smaller sizes! Do NOT beat yourself up if they still don't fit yet.  They will soon!  And if they already do, you'll be a happy camper.  You might also consider organizing your closet by size - largest to smallest - and work your way through them as you lose weight.

If you do find yourself needing/wanting to purchase some new items, consider the following:
  • Wrap dresses! Wrap dresses!  Wrap ANYTHING!  Skirts, blouses, etc.  They get smaller with you by simply wrapping them tighter.
  • Tailor a little bit.  If you've dropped two sizes, take your best pieces to be altered.  It'll be less expensive than buying them in a new size.  Check out the recent post about Tailoring.
  • Avoid anything boxy.  Something that fits your shape now will look MUCH better as it gets a little baggy than something that was boxy and ill-fitting to begin with.
  • Don't spend a ton of money.  Depending on how much weight you still have to lose, you might have to repeat this cycle a few more times. (Target has excellent inexpensive options!) But don't think of the new items as a waste either.  Consider the clothes an investment in yourself (you deserve it!) as well as a donation.  You'll wear them very often then donate them where hopefully some other woman will wear them on her way to a healthier weight.  Pat yourself on the back for being a philanthropist!
  • Don't forget your intimates!!  That bra probably needs updating at this point!

  • Wear what you have in a new way.  Button down shirts that are too big?  Go retro and tie them over a fitted tee. Cute! Or leave them completely unbuttoned and wrap them around yourself, crossing the button side over the buttonhole side, and tucking them into pants or skirts that fit you.  Very fashion forward!
  • Buy neutrals but amp up those shoes!! (Click here for my soap box speech about the benefit of great shoes!)  When buying those few items, keep them neutral and you'll be able to mix and match them into many more combinations.  Offset the neutrality with fabulous shoes in great colors!
  • Think Shrink!  Like the wrap dresses, think of pieces that will shrink with you.  For example, a light cardigan with not too much structure (as in not too fitted, without a complicated design) will hang straight now, creating a vertical line.  As you continue to shrink, you button it, then later, cinch it up with a belt.  Make sense?
  • Watch those accessories!  Accessories (just like prints) should be proportional.  Tiny, delicate necklaces & bracelets will emphasize your size in an unflattering way.

Set yourself a time limit.  This applies if you have nothing much in your closet that looks good.  If at the end of, say, 3 months, you haven't lost the weight you had hoped to, still buy something that makes you look good.  If you DID lose the weight you planned on, buy something in your new size.  Either way, you'll look and feel better.

And finally, you may ask, "Why not just thrown on the sweats or leggings and stick it out to the end?"  What you see in the mirror has a PROFOUND affect on your psyche, your self- esteem, and your attitude.  You've been working hard.  Rewarding yourself along the way will keep your motivation from waning.  Congratulations!  Keep fighting the good fight! 

No matter how many messages I leave, Giorgio (Armani, that is) still hasn't come 'round to measure me for a custom wardrobe.  Nor has Ralph (Lauren), or Nannette (Lepore), or Tommy (Hilfiger), Karl (Lagerfeld, Chanel), Carolina (Herrera) or any other of the many designers I like.  You either?  Didn't think so. 

Until they do, we're going to have to employ that tried and true method of having our clothes tailored.  Altered to fit our own unique bodies.  And it's always a shock to me when women tell me they've NEVER had anything tailored.  Have you ever bought a suit with your husband or pair of dress pants?  Notice how it wasn’t even a question that the pants and jacket would be tailored to fit him?  And how the hem of the pants probably wasn’t even finished?!  I wish women's clothing worked the same way.  Women have more curves so how is it we don’t naturally tailor things to fit those curves?!  

Why to Tailor and When!
  • The bottom line?  Off-the-rack clothing that we buy every year is made for averages.  And while there are special options for petite, tall and plus sized women they can hardly be expected to fit every one of us like custom made.  You and I may wear the same size but how we fill those clothes and end up looking in them is completely different. 
  • A few alterations can make a $30 dress look like a $300 dress. A lot of the frustration of style and shopping is the never ending search for the pieces that make us look great.  Many times those pieces are NEVER going to be found without a little help.  They're probably hanging in your closet right now, just needing a little tweaking here and there to reveal their true perfection.
  • Tailoring is truly being budget conscious.  The clothes you own will fit you better – thus you’ll feel and look better in them – ergo you’ll spend less money shopping because you’ll already have items in your closet that are wonderful.  AND you’ll take better care of them (wouldn’t want to ruin those perfect pants that make you look so great!) – ergo you’ll need to replace them less often.  Get the picture?
  • Don't waste money tailoring everything.  You should still shop in appropriate sections (plus, petite, regular, etc.) and look for things that generally fit well.  Then just rely on a tailor to tweak it into perfection as needed.
  • Some things aren’t worth the money to tailor.  Poorly made clothes in cheap fabrics will likely not be worth the expense.  Put the money instead toward a better overall item.
  • Tailoring can still add up so spread out the cost.  Start with items you aren’t totally in love with until you find a tailor you trust.  Then alter the ones you wear (or WANT to wear) the most and every few months have something else tailored until your wardrobe truly fits and flatters you.
  • Clothes can be taken in up to 2 sizes.  If you've recently lost weight, enjoy buying those new "skinny jeans" but also take your best existing pieces to a tailor.  You'll get more years out of your clothes and have more options in your wardrobe.
I had started this post a while ago but ended up working on others instead.  I knew I had to finish it when my copy of InStyle's fall Makeover issue arrived and there was a great article about tailoring.  Here were some of their tips:
Dresses  & Blouses -
  • Cinch the waist.  If it twirls loosely at the waist when it's on, it will look better taken in.
  • Bring in the bust.  Always wear the right bra to your fitting so that you get the proper alteration.  That means, if you always plan to wear your padded "add-a-cup" bra with the dress or shirt, wear it when you go to the tailor!
  • Shorten the hem.  Many hems that fall below the knee (mid-calf frumpers!) will look better AT or just below the knee.
  • Rein in the arms.  Add structure to a loose, floppy sleeve by giving it a bubble hem.  Simply tighten the elastic until it looks right.  I did this last year with a Banana Republic dress I bought for a wedding and upcoming parties.  The sleeves had elasticized cuffs but hung loosely around my arm.  I quickly unpicked the little seam, shortened the elastic, and closed up the seam.  They looked so much better!
  • Trim the waist.  Even a flouncy blouse needs shape.  Bring in the sides slightly for a slimmer, more flattering fit.  I would also add - raise the hem as necessary.  Most tops shouldn't hit below the top of the thigh.  It adds visual pounds and shortens your legs.  
Pants -
  • Tighten the seat!  Even loose-fitting trousers should have shape.  Take in the seat of the pants so the fabric doesn't bunch together.
  • Narrow the inseams (on baggy pants).  With slimmer inseams the pants will fall gracefully from the hips without heavy breaks in the fabric.
  • Raise the hem. (where necessary) Bring the shoes you intend to wear most with your pants to the fitting.  Have each pant leg pinned separately since your limbs aren't always the same length.
Blazer - For years I have employed these same tips for tailoring a blazer.  Suit jackets and blazers look INFINITELY better after a little tailoring.  And I've only ever found one jacket that fit so well it didn't need it.  All the rest did and it was totally worth it.
  • Slim the sleeves.  For a more streamlined, feminine look, taper boxy sleeves so there is added separation between your arms and waist.
  • Nip it at the waist.  Give your blazer instant shape by having the sides brought in.
  • Watch your wrists.  Too-long sleeves are an immediate giveaway of an ill-fitting jacket.  They should hit at your wrist.
Choosing A Tailor
Don't live in Thailand?  Me either.  It's a veritable hive of fine tailoring.  Superb skill at fractions of US prices.  Would be nice to just jet over there as needed.  But excellent craftsmen are to be found on our home turf.  I've never once had a Nordstrom tailor return anything but perfection.  And they've even altered clothing I didn't purchase at Nordstrom.
Asking around is your best option.  You'll probably get advice on who to visit as well as who to stay away from.  If that doesn't yield any results, check out online resources, such as the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals, Craigslist, etc.

So whipstich! that wardrobe into shape!  And smile in your closet a little more often.
A woman once told me, "I hate to shop.  It's like running the gauntlet and always getting destroyed."

She didn't have any real personal style and her daily outfits consisted of whatever she could cobble together from a very muddled wardrobe.  No real surprise, considering the wardrobe consisted of random pieces she'd grabbed when she or someone else had forced her to go shopping. 

A few days later I saw an episode of this hilarious Japanese show (highlighted below) and it struck me that for many women who hate shopping, it must feel just like running this gauntlet and coming out the other side feeling crushed!
The woman called me her "Shopping Therapist" but I prefer something a little sexier.  Maybe continue the Asian theme with Style Samurai.

Ever since, it's been fun categorizing the skills of those I'm shopping for, or with,
in terms of karate ranks. 

Newbies with no idea what to buy or where? 
White Belts. 

Shoppers who've confidently shopped before but are stuck in a style rut? 
Green Belts.
Skilled shoppers looking for inspiration or to discover different stores/sites? 
Black Belts. 

While Image Interpreters is all about the WHOLE image of a modern modest woman, shopping is a huge factor.  So we're glad to announce our new shopping section is complete!

The Shopping Section will highlight the best stores and sites we find. Simply click the little pink shopping bags in the sidebar!
We'll keep it fresh with tons of information about the stores/sites, what they offer, price range, what they're best for, what to avoid, etc.