There’s your first power suit. And a tattered denim jacket. And a dress that still has the tags on it because you’re just not sure. It may be time to call in a professional—a consultant who goes through your closet, tosses what needs to go, keeps what’s flattering, and helps you figure out what’s missing. Here are 11 other good wardrobe consultants in the area.
“People who come to me are looking to get out of a style rut,” says Allan, who started in retail before training as a consultant. She first establishes what her client’s image goals are. “They may be starting a new business. They may be a mom going back to work. We start by talking about their lifestyle.” Allan has clients try on three of their favorite outfits so she can get a sense of their style. Ill-fitting clothing is the biggest mistake she sees. “Most people are not shopping for the right body type,” says Allan, who recommends MyShape.com, a Web site that walks people through their measurements and analyzes their body type. “They don’t know about proportion and fit and silhouette.” Allan next goes through a client’s closet figuring out what the person can work with. “We organize the closet because a lot of times people have things they don’t see,” she says. Then she develops a shopping list of what she feels a client needs and takes pictures for a style book the client can refer to.
What it costs: A closet clean-out typically takes two to three hours; Allan charges $750.
Allan’s must-have pieces: A properly fitting bra and nude pumps.
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Alston, an image consultant with Outer Skinz Image Group, has worked with Black Entertainment Television, the Black Eyed Peas, and singer Norah Jones. For the average Joe and Jane, she starts with a consultation that looks at lifestyle, body type, budget, and flattering colors. Then she goes through the closet helping clients decide what to keep, what to toss, and what to have tailored. She takes photos of key pieces and can put together a look book—she has a client for whom she compiles one for each season. Using the pieces in the client’s wardrobe, she’ll mix them in seasonally appropriate ways. A spring dress might get cool-weather use when worn with a blazer, stockings, and boots. Like many wardrobe consultants, Alston finds that poor fit is a big problem. “Larger women tend to wear their clothes too big because they think it hides things,” she says. “It doesn’t. Smaller women think they can wear anything, and it tends to be too tight.”
What it costs: Alston charges $125 an hour on average for a closet clean-out.
Alston’s must-have pieces: A white shirt—she recommends Anne Fontaine—and a nude platform pump. “Yes, you can wear them year-round,” she says.
Fisher worked in the fashion industry as a buyer. After having twins, she decided to work with individual clients. She went to London to study with Carla Mathis, coauthor of The Triumph of Individual Style, then started her own consulting company. Fisher begins with a consultation to identify her client’s style. “Most people are part classic, part trendy, part natural,” says Fisher. From there, Fisher tackles the closet, helping clients decide what’s to be donated, what needs to be altered, and where the holes are. She then goes shopping with the client and offers advice on what to look for and avoid. She says many women are wearing the wrong fabric; a small woman may be wearing a fabric that’s too heavy, whereas a plus-size woman may be wearing a fabric that doesn’t flow right. “I’ve seen a size-16 woman put a size 6 to shame with her style and confidence,” she says. “It’s all about knowing your rules and what works for you. I’m the person who gives them their rules.”
What it costs: Hourly rate starts at $150.
Fisher’s must-have pieces: The basics and a shopping list. “You want to stay focused,” she says. “You don’t want to spend unnecessary money on trendy items.”
Lynne Glassman’s mother, a former model, owned a boutique in upstate New York, and Glassman grew up surrounded by fashion. While working in education, Glassman often shopped for friends. Eventually she got certified as a personal stylist and color analyst, and she opened her consulting business, Doctor of Dress, 13 years ago. In addition to closet “surgery” and personal shopping, Glassman offers color and silhouette analysis. “You get a palette of what colors work for you,” she says. “I think that’s a critical first step. Everyone thinks they can wear black. There are other dark colors that work better for some people. I think people are most often in the wrong colors.” In the silhouette analysis, Glassman helps clients understand which shapes look best on them—from eyeglasses to collars.
What it costs: Services start at $40.
Glassman’s must-have pieces: “I don’t think anyone’s dressed unless they’re accessorized,” says Glassman, who recommends oblong scarves as an inexpensive way to enhance an outfit.
One of seven girls, Lilly grew up styling her sisters and learning to deal with different body types and tastes. After studying clothing and textiles and working in retail, Lilly launched her own company. She says most people struggle because their wardrobes are filled with “rock-star pieces that don’t fit their lifestyle or a novelty piece that they have nothing to wear with.” These impulse buys lead to a disjointed wardrobe, and that’s where Lilly says she comes in. The process begins with a questionnaire she sends to get a snapshot of who the customer is and that person’s fashion dilemmas. From there, they go through a closet edit and develop a shopping list to help the client avoid spontaneous splurges. The client can go shopping on her own or with Lilly. After new items have been bought, Lilly helps her client style the new with the old.
What it costs: $375 for a three-hour closet consultation; $125 an hour for shopping.
Lilly’s must-have pieces: A nude-colored pump, flat, and sandal: “It lengthens and elongates the leg, and it goes with everything and every season.”
After working in fashion in New York and Paris, Alison Lukes moved back to DC and began revamping closets here. The process starts with an assessment of what’s working and what’s not. As she and a client go through clothes, Lukes talks about how to mix items to turn an old piece into something new. She makes a shopping list. “The best thing about having a stylist is getting some objectivity in your wardrobe,” says Lukes, adding that one of the most common mistakes she sees is people who buy under pressure: “Really think it through before you buy something. Buy things for the life you lead, not the life you want to lead.” Lukes takes photos of pieces and e-mails them to the client with notes on how to wear them: “That way, if a client has a question or a fashion emergency, we can both refer to the pictures and take care of it virtually.”
What it costs: Wardrobe editing typically takes three hours; she charges $125 an hour.
Lukes’s must-have pieces: Perfectly fitting basics with seasonal accessories: “Spend more on the staples and less on trends.”
Helen Asenath Moody
Former model Helen Moody is honest but diplomatic. “I used to have people come up to me and ask me about the dress I had just worn in some fashion show,” says Moody, who is five-seven. “I’d look at this five-foot-four woman who was never going to pull off what I just wore. Instead of telling her that, I’d suggest something else.” Years later, she’s doing the same thing. Moody weeds out the things that must go and gives life to clothes stashed in the back of a closet by putting pieces together in new ways. The most common mistake she sees is improper undergarments. “There is no right bra; there is a wardrobe of right bras—unless you’re wearing the same dress every day,” says Moody, who suggests clients go to Sylene in Chevy Chase for a fitting.
What it costs: The initial clean-out takes about three hours, depending on the wardrobe. Moody charges $100 an hour plus a $50 service charge.
Moody’s must-have pieces: An interesting pair of colored gloves, a fantastic scarf, and a pair of wonderful boots.
After recovering from serious health problems, Moore realized how much time she’d wasted “being caught up in hating my body.” She decided that helping other people with clothes could help them feel better about themselves. Moore has found that most people hold onto clothes that no longer work for them; they’ve gained or lost weight or the color or cut isn’t right. She believes everything in your closet should make you feel fabulous. A full wardrobe edit takes about 4½ hours, including “homework.” One assignment is filling out a time sheet so Moore can see how a client’s daily lifestyle and wardrobe mesh. Sometimes a client who spends most of her time at work has a closetful of cocktail dresses. For those who need just a mini-makeover, Moore has teamed up with photographer Stacey Vaeth to create Jackie & Marilyn parties. A group of up to five friends can bring to the party up to 15 of their favorite pieces and basics as well as things they have questions about. While the rest of the guests sip Champagne and hang out, each woman gets a quick style assessment. Each then gets her makeup done before striking a pose for Vaeth.
What it costs: A 4½-hour wardrobe edit is $375; a two-day session is $650. The party package is $350 a person, and it includes a 30-minute outfit-styling session, professional makeup, a photo shoot, one print, plus snacks and beverages (such as Champagne or tea).
Moore’s must-have pieces: A power suit, white button-down shirt, black skirt, and black blazer: “Those are the workhorse pieces you can mix and match like crazy.”
When Neave dropped her children off at school, other moms often asked her how she managed to look so pulled together with three young kids. She launched That Mom Inc. after more than 20 years in retail. She doesn’t work just with moms: “Everyone has clothing needs based on their job, whether that job is as a stay-at-home mom or in the corporate world.” Neave starts by going piece by piece through a client’s wardrobe. She talks about what works or doesn’t work—and why, so the client learns what flatters her. Then Neave puts together outfits and creates a shopping list so her client can fill in missing pieces.
What it costs: $350 for a two-hour closet consultation; $150 an hour for shopping.
Neave’s must-have pieces: Properly fitting undergarments.
While working at Elle magazine, Rothman realized she missed working with “the body and real people.” She began freelancing as a stylist and launched StyleAuteur five years ago. Rothman looks to develop long-term relationships with clients, who tend to be lawyers, CEOs, athletes, and politicians. In addition to the usual closet edit and shopping, Rothman helps clients organize and create outfits for different events. She might work with someone about to go on a book tour. “I get a schedule ahead of time of where they will appear and select outfits that will either pop on the television screen or be dynamic in person,” says Rothman. “Speaking to a group at a university will command a different look than Good Morning America.”
What it costs: $175 to $225 an hour, depending on location.
Rothman’s must-have pieces: A great pointy-toe shoe and a fitted white button-down—or a white blazer if button-down shirts don’t work for your body type. “And everyone should have a pair of shades to hide behind.”
After closing Circle Boutique, Vollmerhausen kept working with several of her customers. That work grew until she officially opened DC Style Factory two years ago. Vollmerhausen begins with a closet audit, having her client try on things and deciding what’s working, what needs to be altered, and what needs to go. The biggest mistakes she unearths? “For women, I find it’s that hemlines are off. Pants are too short. You want your leg line to be as long as possible. For men, pleated pants are a problem. I usually tell them not to go over one pleat—they give you hips.” After the closet edit, she sends an overview of things that work best and what to be aware of, a shopping list, and a step-by-step guide with cost estimates for the client to reach her wardrobe goals. Then Vollmerhausen either shops for the client, goes with her, or gives her guidance on where to go. Then they meet to take pictures and create a look book.
What it costs: $100 an hour.
Vollmerhausen’s must-have pieces: A skinny red belt for women and a crisp, white collared shirt for men and women. “For women, I don’t believe you can have too many cardigans. For guys, a slimmer-cut khaki. Khaki is a staple, but most of them have too much room in the leg.”
This article appears in the September 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.
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