The Pocket Stylist: Behind-the-Scenes Expertise from a Fashion Pro on Creating Your Own Look

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9781592400416: The Pocket Stylist: Behind-the-Scenes Expertise from a Fashion Pro on Creating Your Own Look

A celebrity fashion stylist reveals the tricks of her trade and shows women of all sizes how to pull together their own polished, individual look.

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About the Author:

A top New York stylist, Kendall Farr has dressed many celebrities, including Halle Berry, Uma Thurman, Angelina Jolie, Joan Allen, Andie McDowell, Julianne Moore, Sigourney Weaver, and Diane Sawyer. She has also served as a design consultant for a number of fashion labels. Farr is the author of The Pocket Stylist (Gotham Books, 2004) and has written columns for Glamour and O, The Oprah Magazine. She lives in Brooklyn.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

introduction

Few things are more seductive than fashion=the transformative quality of clothes that really fit and flatter us. New clothes offer us the potential to reinvent ourselves a little bit each time we get dressed. Wearing a great outfit provides salvation on a lousy day, armor for the tough meeting, the courage to walk into a cocktail party full of strangers. Our choice of clothing can be one of our most creative forms of self-expression. The colors and shapes we wear telegraph how we see ourselves. Like it or not, in a rabidly visual, image-obsessed world wefre assessed in nanoseconds, dozens of times per day, based on what we are wearing.

I have been a fashion stylist for over fifteen years yet I often feel that when reading the top womenfs fashion magazines, I have come in in the middle of a conversation. If I have this sensation (being familiar with all the references) itfs no wonder that so many women are mystified by fashion coverage that seems to be aimed at 8Ite girls, socialites, and actresses.

Somehow, good advice is not getting through to many women. I see evidence of this every day: women dressed in clothes that donft fit properly or donft suit the shapes of their bodies. A whopping disconnect exists between what women read in fashion magazines or see on celebrity style television and what they really need to know about dressing themselves well.

Ifve written The Pocket Stylist to be your style compass in a confusing fashion terrain. You can and will be a woman who knows how to shop for the best shapes and fit for her individual shape.

You can be the savvy girl who knows how to mix well-edited trends with your classic pieces. Real personal style often has little to do with what is considered fashionable in any season (or week). Style is a state in which a womanfs own sense of what works for her body, and what does not, overrides the marketing hysteria that ushers in the newest, hottest, must-haves. Style is not only the province of iconic swans like Audrey Hepburn or Jacqueline Onassis, it is learned behavior and a simple and gradual process of training your eye to lock onto your best silhouettes and proportions in any season, any year. For now, however, letfs start with three of womenfs biggest misconceptions about fashion.

Big Fashion Misconception #1
To truly look great in your clothing you must maintain a modelfs figure. Ludicrous, not to mention really unhealthy. High-fashion models, the anointed superstars of the runways and magazines, are the rarest of body types. Many are built straight up and down like boys, but with boobs and broad shoulders. Their preternatural shapes are one in several million, the genetic equivalent of winning the lottery. Rationally, we all know this, but we live in a culture that barrages us every day with the message that extreme thinness is the body ideal of any stylish woman. Your only fashion ideal should be you at your best, and that means well-dressed for your body as it is now=not ten pounds from now, or six months of Pilates from now, but right now.

Big Fashion Misconception #2
Your style quotient is raised whenever you wear the must-haves of any season=wearing the BIG LOOKS assures that you look like you have an insider view of fashion. Just not true. Hunting down the latest runway looks=original or adapted=with no regard for how theyfll look on your individual proportions is where style ends and fashion enslavement begins.

The woman without a realistic sense of what fashion can and cannot do for her wastes her money, drives herself crazy trying to get a look, and often still feels like nothing in her closet really works. Wefve all seen her: The logos are mixed and matched; shefs an unrestrained cowgirl; a new romantic; flouncy in folklorica; or a rock chick on the prowl in crotch-high leopard and platforms. Shefs a walking billboard for the sensibilities of a design house or has embraced, all too literally, what is promoted in fashion magazines, but she hasnft cracked the code of truly individual style.

Consider two characters from HBOfs Sex and the City as examples. Carrie Bradshaw, whose wardrobe schizophrenia establishes her as the fashion risk taker of the group is, from a costume design perspective, a vividly drawn character and memorable in every scene. From a style perspective, shefs fashionfs prisoner. In an early episode, one of Carriefs outfits consisted of a Salvation Army cape that swamped her small frame (yes, capes were spotted on the runway at that moment and yes, her thrift variation was meant to bestow a kind of insider credibility on this getup), and was accessorized with white gloves and a silk flower the size of a satellite dish on her lapel; she was teetering, as always, in skyscraping stilettos.

Charlotte, on the other hand, has figured out how to dress as a stylish individual. Her look is current, not slavish: a Prada skirt here, a Chlo+ top there, suggesting that she has an eye for trends, but wears them selectively. Her clothes fit her perfectly in part because they fit her proportions.

Donft get me wrong: Seasonal trends can be irresistible. They infuse excitement into an often monotonous landscape of basics and clothing that looks the same season after season. But a little bit of a good thing may be enough. Ifll show you how to choose what works for you.

Big Fashion Misconception #3
Ready-to-wear actually is ready to wear. In fact, an affordable perfect fit right off the rack is as impossible to find as a Herm-s Birkin bag on sale. Great tailoring (and thus clothes that fit you perfectly) is the single most critical factor in raising your style profile. One universal truth about women with great personal style is that their clothes fit=really fit. Ifll show you how to find a tailor wherever you live, and how to ask for the alterations that will transform the fit of your clothes from passable to perfect.

I love fashion magazines. They are visually exciting and can be great entertainment, but their mission is not to instruct you. Their job is to report what is new and whatfs next. Their goal is to produce exciting fashion pages=and to service their advertisers. Selling ads keeps them in business. When a designer spends a lot of money on advertising, implicit in the bargain are numerous editorial mentions. Entire stories may promote his or her newest designs, meaning that much of the information and advice you get will always be weighted in the direction of the designers with the deepest pockets (regardless of the appeal of their collections). Ever notice that those token runway-to-reality-clothes-for- your-figure charts include mostly advertisersf clothing? Thatfs business, but it can be a problem if it misleads and confuses us into buying stuff that is flat-out wrong for our individual shapes and proportions.

Letfs not shoot the messengers, however. Designers need to sell clothes. They need to create runway buzz every six months to capture the attention of an excruciatingly jaded fashion press, store buyers, and assorted tastemakers who they hope will photograph, buy, and wear their newsmaking riffs on the new season.

This is no mystery to me. Ifve styled many stories for fashion magazines and been a part of this very cycle, so I realize just how confusing fashion can be. As often as not, the gulf between what makes exciting images and what youfll want to wear=and invest your money in=can be wide indeed. Add to that the celebrity factor: The media (entertainment television in particular) that covers the fashion beat has transformed getting dressed (as it relates to Oscar nominees and pop stars) into high drama. Why? Because fashion draws in women and we read, we watch, we listen, and we buy things= to the tune of billions of dollars annually.

This showbiz view of fashion as consisting of red-carpet clothes, tour wardrobes, and sitcom costumes, has established the actress as arbiter of style. Most actresses Ifve worked with have enough pressure just performing their jobs. That the media focuses on them as de facto runway models every time they walk a press line or attend a party has produced an over-the-top, near hysterical take on fashion that couldnft be less relevant to real personal style. Style doesnft come with proximity to celebrity=it comes from knowing yourself. Thatfs where I come in.

What is a stylist?
In my career as a fashion stylist Ifve spent years learning about womenfs bodies, and the fabrics, styles, and fit that will create gorgeous images in front of the camera. Ifm hired for my eye=an ability to distill what I see on the runways, on the street, in films, in magazines, and to translate trends into clothing and accessory options for my clients. I spend time with private clients helping women figure out their personal style and choosing clothes that complement their body types and lifestyles. Whether youfre a size 2 or 22, you can use a simple formula for finding the best possible proportion and fit to build a wardrobe that enhances your appearance.

Within my job description, I wear many hats. As a freelance fashion editor, who has produced stories for magazines here and in Europe, I conceive of a story idea (using a trend of the season) and choose the best clothes and accessories to illustrate the idea. I then choose the photographer, the hair-and-makeup team, and the model who will make it all come alive on the page. For print and television advertising, I choose the wardrobe that creates a stylish image of the woman who uses a product. Even when all you see on your screen is a flash of a neckline or a quick glimpse of an outfit, it is the result of racks of clothing options that have been considered by the team=the photographer- director of the ad or commercial, the art director from the ad agency, and the client=to arrive at just the right look. Ifve dressed actresses for all kinds of magazine shoots (both as models for fashion stories and for glammed-up portraits to promote their latest films) and as private clients for the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, and the Cannes Film Festival. Ifve styled album covers for pop singers and opera singers alike, and on-camera wardrobe for talk show hosts, newscasters, and sports figures. Altogether, they represent a wide array of bodies from petite women like Julie Bowen and Courtney Thorne-Smith; to curvy women like Halle Berry, Cindy Crawford, and Angelina Jolie; to tall women like Diane Sawyer, Sigourney Weaver, Andie McDowell, Connie Nielsen, and Mandy Moore; to full-figured women like models Emme, Kate Dillon, and The View host Star Jones.

Working with women over the years, Ifve been asked the same question again and again: Why canft I shop for myself as well as a stylist shops for me? You can. I have written The Pocket Stylist to help any woman of any shape and size to shop for and wear the clothes that will fit and flatter her best. Think of this guide as your own personal stylist, on hand for a consultation whenever you shop. The Pocket Stylist has been designed to guide you through an understanding of fashionfs fundamentals: the elements of proportion, fabric, and color that are the tools that designers use to make clothing that has line, shape, drape. You will come to know how these elements relate to your best silhouettes in any season, in any year.

Ifll show you how to edit your closet and replace the discards with pieces that will raise your style quotient. Wefll go on a virtual shopping trip and make choices together. I outline specifically how I shop for my private clients=and myself=and the indispensables no well-conceived wardrobe can be without. We will talk about the trends that resurface with regularity and that are worth investing in.

Ifll discuss finding a good tailor and show you how to talk to him or her. Custom-made pieces are the stylistfs secret weapon; youfll see how simple, satisfying, and unintimidating this process can be, particularly for women who find a good fit hard to find.

I will explore the critical connection between wardrobe, hair, and makeup and how all these things must work together for a womanfs best style to emerge. Advice from hairstylist, author, and Allure columnist Kevin Mancuso makes it simple to get a good haircut. Bobbi Brown, makeup expert and CEO of Bobbi Brown Professional Cosmetics, explains how to find your perfect foundation and concealer, and then what to do with them! Sonia Kashuk, makeup artist and author, shares her tips for choosing the right tools and discusses classic combinations for lips and cheeks. Dida Paraschivoiu, the eyebrow and manicure guru behind the scenes of beauty commercials and fashion magazine shoots, explains perfect arches and nail tips.

I weigh in with my favorite foundation pieces for underneath-it-all for all sizes (straight from my kit bag), plus other tricks of the trade. The old saw about buying this seasonfs hottest accessories and wearing them with clothes from past seasons only works when a woman understands context, proportion, and scale, and youfll learn how to bring a look together with accessories in all price ranges, as well as what to look for in investment jewelry new and old.

The Pocket Stylist is a portable guide to help you create a versatile wardrobe, assemble a closet balanced between well-edited trends and stylish practicality, and decide when to break the bank and when to save your money. Read on: you are now my client. Letfs open my kit bag, metaphorically speaking, and start developing your 8eye,e so you can learn to shop for yourself like a pro.

1

Form and fashion
The first thing I do when choosing any piece of clothing for a photo shoot is to visualize how the cut will fit the body. Will the silhouette flatter the subjectfs shape and size? Will the fabric drape and smooth over her contours? Will the color(s) flatter her skin tone? Are there any interesting details that set it apart from the ordinary? Only after all this do I consider its place in the current trends landscape. Because, frankly speaking, that is the least important factor in how it will look on the subjectfs body or yours.

In this chapter, Ifll ask you to look at your own clothes this way. Since the last rule left in fashion is that there are no rules, a girl first needs to have the clearest possible understanding of her body in order to pull her wardrobe together. To train your eye for your best options, you need to know the basic principles that designers use to construct the clothing you wear. Our work together begins with a brief glossary of fashion fundamentals.

SILHOUETTE: Outline of an outfit (picture a black cameo against a white background), its shape and cut. Designers first express their ideas for a season with the silhouettes they send down the runway. Most important, think of silhouette as the outlined shape or contour of your body and what will flatter it best.

PROPORTION: Individual pieces of an outfit in relation to one another. On the runways, the seasonal combinations of long with short, wide with narrow, tight with loose, that designers devise to keep things new, and which instantly relegate the trendy portions of our wardrobes to obsolete. Examples: a cropped jacket with wide-leg trousers, midthigh- length coat worn with knee-leng...

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