Behind the Scenes: How to Maximize the Clothes You Own

maximize the clothes you own

When I started my style consulting business 15 years ago I kept clients at arm’s distance strictly for professional reasons.  It didn’t seem appropriate at the time to blur the lines.  Then I met a client I absolutely adored and decided that she was someone I wanted to know beyond just working on her style.  Even though I no longer work with this client on a professional level, we are still great friends.   Since this decision to allow for friendships with my clients, I have created tremendous relationships with so many of them and am grateful I have had a reason for many of them to spin into my world.

Last week, I flew down to North Carolina to work with a client I feel this way about.  I adore her, absolutely adore her.  To protect her identity, like I do with all clients I blog about, I am giving her an alias.  I am naming her Mrs. Wonderful because that is what she is, wonderful.

A little background on Mrs. Wonderful.  We met her three years ago when she and her family had plans to summer in New York City.  While most families go somewhere tropical once school is out, Mrs. Wonderful and her husband, Mr. Wonderful, decided they wanted to give their grammar school aged children the NYC experience by renting an apartment for the month of July.   During this time she wanted to work on her professional image and shop with me.  Mrs. Wonderful is a CEO and her husband is a lawyer and in local politics, making her public image very important.

The second I met Mrs. Wonderful we had instant chemistry.  Shopping together was pure joy and as her family has continued their tradition of summering for a month in New York, I have worked with her every year.  Given the limited time she spends in the city, we have also had dinners out with our husbands and I have gotten to know her two remarkable daughters.

Despite the length of time Mrs. Wonderful and I have worked together, I had never actually been in her closet.  We have done some work virtually yet I was starting to have concerns about all the clothes I had been loading into her closet with no real direction about how to maximize them.  I suggested a quick trip down to see her.  Mrs. Wonderful was on board and last week I took a quick flight down.  We spent an entire day putting outfits together and, with Mrs. Wonderful’s permission, I am sharing some of the outfits we created.

How to Maximize the Clothes You Own

When I help a client put outfits together after shopping I realize that it can often be the equivalent of moving a gorgeous piano into their home without giving them any lessons.  While Mrs. Wonderful was doing an excellent job with what we had purchased together, she learned from my trip to see her that there was so much more she could be doing.   Chances are you also have plenty of clothes in your closet that you can maximize more than you have been.  Let’s take a look at some of the outfits Mrs. Wonderful and I created and see if it helps you too.

Look #1

maximize the clothes you ownMrs. Wonderful owned this amazing cardigan before we met, and, admittedly, when I first saw it and how she was wearing it I told her to toss it.  Good thing she didn’t listen to me because it became a key player in the outfit building.   While I’ll admit when I am wrong, I do believe what made this cardigan work was not the cardigan itself but buying the right pieces to make it fabulous.

We did this by purchasing the Etsuko dress in Chili Flake from MM. Lafleur.  It wasn’t the plan to buy this dress to go with the cardigan, it was pure coincidence.  The belt around the cardigan was taken from the Estuko dress it came with.  For shoe options, I selected a pair of brown Michael Kors shooties and the fabulous Rumbah weatherproof boots from Aquatalia.

Outfit #2

maximize the clothes you ownI always like to style one piece multiple ways to help a client maximize what they own.  Using the Etsuko dress again I created a more corporate look by adding this Max Mara blazer.  Mrs. Wonderful owned the very cool necklace and I suggested the same Aquatalia boots in addition to the leopard kitten heel pumps from Sam Edelman.

Outfits #3 & #4

maximize

Here are two more looks using the Etsuko dress from MM. Lafleur.  Mrs. Wonderful and I were quite pleased by how versatile this chili flake color was.  On the left, we used this super soft cashmere blazer from Max Mara.  We finished the look with the same Rumbah style Aquatalia boots Mrs. Wonderful also owns in navy along with a navy pair of pumps and brown heeled shooties as alternatives.

On the right, I slipped this gorgeous Michael Kors Collection double faced topper piece to create a warmer look.  For shoes, I used the Justine block heel pumps from Cole Haan in Mocha Mousse Suede.

Outfit #5

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Moving on to a burgundy skirt and matching square-neck top from Akris Punto, these are really versatile pieces.  They can be worn together to create a dress look and they can also be worn separately.  For the first look I used that cardigan that we started with.  We added a taupe belt and necklace that Mrs. Wonderful already owned and finished the outfit with a pair of Coach pumps in a color called Fog from a few seasons ago.

Funny side note about these pumps.  I made just about every client purchase these shoes because the shade was a warm grey that was so unique.  Many clients couldn’t understand why I’d push this particular shoe on them.  After spending the day with Mrs. Wonderful she totally got it.  These shoes worked with everything.

Outfit #6

maximize

For this outfit, we removed one cardigan and added another.  This is the ever-popular Nic + Zoe Four-Way cardigan in a print that is no longer available.  We added a necklace that we recently purchased and a few shoe options, including the Mocha Mousse Cole Haan block heel pumps, the Aquatalia boots, Michael Kors shooties and Fog pumps from Coach.

Outfit #7

maximizeUsing the camel Michael Kors Collection topper piece, I layered it over the Akris Punto top and skirt.  I can’t take credit for the scarf, it was all Mrs. Wonderful.  She pulled it out of her closet and I just about died.  It worked so well with everything we have bought.  I finished the outfit with the brown Michael Kors shooties and a pair of basic nude pumps from B Brian Atwood.

Outfits #8 & #9

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Breaking the Akris punto top and skirt apart, I created these looks.  Using my very favorite button down shirt from BOSS Hugo Boss, that actually isn’t a button down but has side zips (gaping begone), I used this blazer from, I think, Ralph Lauren Collection…or it could be Max Mara, I can’t remember.  I also created a more casual look using the Nic + Zoe cardigan.  While the Aquatalia boots may be expensive, you’ll notice they have been used a lot.  The Fog Coach pumps were played in as well as the Michael Kors brown shooties.  Unfortunately, these shooties are a few seasons old, but if you want to search for them they are called the Sammy.

Outfit #10

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You may be familiar with MM. Lafleur’s Greenpoint skirt.  It is a fabulous stand alone skirt that is perfect for a business casual work environment.  Mrs. Wonderful owns it in the Oak shade, a color that mixes in beautifully with her wardrobe.  The first outfit I styled with the boucle cardigan, Akris Punto top and taupe belt.  The second look I styled with MM. Lafleur’s Deneuve top in Blackberry and the last look I used the Nic + Zoe printed cardigan.  We stuck with our favorite shoes and added some more.  In the second look I used a pair of olive Brian Atwood block heel pumps and the last look we used a pair of pumps we have dubbed the “bowling ball” shoes.  They are an ombré burgundy patent leather pair of heels from Brian Atwood.  The shiny ombré is what makes them look like a bowling ball.

Outfits #11 & #12

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Mrs. Wonderful doesn’t own a lot of black and when she does wear it she wears it in really inspired ways.  At first glance, these windowpane plaid Theory pants may look limited, but they aren’t.  On the left, I warmed up the pants with a camel Michael Kors Collection camel sweater and red suede kitten heel pumps.  On the right, I used a cobalt Stella McCartney blazer and Aerin flats that are blue and black.

Outfits #13 & #14

maximize

Here are two more looks using these Theory pants.  I think the duster in the photo on the left is Ralph Lauren Collection.  We bought it the first season we worked together.  Underneath it, we styled a simple lightweight black turtleneck t-shirt.  I gave Mrs. Wonderful several shoe options, including burgundy flats, the Sam Edelman kitten heel pumps and the “bowling ball” pumps.

On the right, I added an old Talbot’s blazer that Mrs. Wonderful bought long before me.  Under it, I added a black sleeveless blouse and a few different shoe options, including this weatherproof Aquatalia pair.

Outfits #15 & #16

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This is one of the few black pants Mrs. Wonderful owns.  I styled them two ways.  On the left, I used the Michael Kors Collection topper and sweater and finished the look with the one pair of black pumps that she owns, a cool fishnet looking pair from Michael Kors.  On the right, I kept the sweater and layered an absolutely stunning Akris Punto suede blazer she bought recently.  Seriously, when people describe something as feeling “like butter” I think they are referring to this jacket.  In addition to the black pumps, I also suggested the leopard kitten heel pumps from Sam Edelman.

Outfits #17 & #18

maximizeMy favorite pants from MM. Lafleur are the Foster Pants.  Mrs. Wonderful owns them in the Veridian shade (pictured here), Chili Flake and Elderberry.  On the left, I styled the pants with a jacket,I believe, from Max Mara and several shoe options, including a pair of leopard flats from Vionic, snakeskin flats from Rockport, a pair of brown booties and the Sam Edelman kitten heel pumps.

On the right, I styled the pants with Peserico’s popcorn blazer in grey and used those Coach Fog pumps.  Alternatively, she could also wear those Rockport snakeskin flats.  In both looks I styled the outfit with the same scarf that Mrs. Wonderful already owned.

Outfits #19 & #20

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Back to the Max Mara cashmere blazer in soft blue, I created these two looks.  On the left, I styled it with a pair of grey Peserico pants and a sleeveless ivory blouse from T Tahari underneath it.  On the right, I styled the blazer with a grey Peserico sheath dress that just about every client bought last year.

For shoes, in addition the old standbys that I used in other looks, like the Michael Kors shooties, Rockport flats, Cole Haan pumps, navy Aquatalia boots and Coach Fog pumps, I added a pair of grey kitten heel pumps from Sam Edelman.

Outfits #21 & #22

MaximizeThis Michael Kors Collection dress in camel is absolutely stunning and versatile.  In both looks, I used the classic Michael Kors merino shrug that, while expensive, gets a lot of use from the clients who buy it.  These are two shades that have long sold out, but you can always find this style in classic colors.  In both outfits I used Mrs. Wonderful’s beloved “bowling ball” pumps.

Outfits #23 & #24

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Finishing this up because I could go on (Mrs. Wonderful and I created nearly 50 looks), I am rounding this post out with the camel Michael Kors Collection dress in more suited ways.  On the left, I added the Akris Punto suede blazer and on the right a brown Max Mara blazer.  For shoes, on the left, I suggested a few styles, all which I used earlier and on the right I used her “bowling ball” pumps.

I hope this post has inspired you to learn how to mix and match to maximize what’s in your wardrobe.  My special thanks to Mrs. Wonderful for being so wonderful about letting me share these photos.   You are the best, and then some.

 

  • Anna Bartels

    I love these types of posts. Sometimes I get an a rut with my wardrobe because I am pairing the same things together. I forget that I can mix and match and come up with new looks! I love the way you style things. Not too trendy but hints of a trend. The styles presented are looks many different women can pull off!

    • Thanks Anna! What I love about my clients is they are real women in real life situations that everyone can relate to to some degree. One thing I will say about my years of doing this is that I have been blessed with the opportunity to have worked with such incredible women I’d want to know outside of working with them. I am glad this post inspired you to think differently and I appreciate your kind words about my work.

  • stacie

    Thank Mrs. Wonderful for sharing her wardrobe with us!!! These are my favorite blogs!! Since I’m on a buying hiatus for awhile, I’ve gotten great tips to try in mine own wardrobe!! Thank you, Again!! You’re the Best.

    • I am so glad this helped, Stacie! It’s amazing how much you can make work when you can’t buy anymore. I am glad this post helped you get more creative!