Leslie Willmott | Wardrobe Strategies for Career, Travel & Casual Lifestyles

Wardrobe Strategies for Career, Travel & Casual Lifestyles


Be Smart: Focus on a Healthier Lifestyle to Live a Longer Life

Posted by on 1:11 am in Articles | 0 comments

Whether you are in the middle of your career or embracing retirement, a healthy lifestyle is key to staying “on the go”. And it’s all about getting back to basics. Guest blogger Sarah Cummings shares research and tips that can help us all live a healthier and longer life:


LiveLongLifeIn this topsy-turvy life there’s one constant. Nothing lasts forever. This certainly applies to our health.

Unfortunately the older we get the less healthy we generally become and the closer the crooked finger of death creeps. While scientists and the tech geniuses in Silicon Valley have discovered many wondrous things, the secret to immortality remains tantalizing out of their reach. So far anyway!

That’s not to say, however, that each of us can’t take certain steps to improve our odds of having a healthier, happier and above all, longer life.

Practice Portion Control

Fad diets come and go. Avoid fat, eat more fat, etc., etc. It can be hard to keep up sometimes. One piece of advice that will never go out of style, however, is this – eat in moderation.

Overeating is the curse of modern times. Our ancestors simply couldn’t really afford to overeat. Today, however, thanks to the advent of industrial scale farming, food is cheap, really cheap. And we take advantage of that to the detriment of our health. So much so, that in the US, over a third of all adults are now clinically obese. Yikes!

Generally speaking, the larger your waist becomes, the shorter your life will be. Extra pounds bring an increased risk of diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, liver and kidney disease. And the list goes on and on.

Keeping a healthy weight keeps you healthier, and will extend your life. The Japanese employ a fascinating concept known as Hara Hachi Bu, or only eating until you are 8/10ths full. Considering our friends in the Far East have the highest proportion of centenarians on the planet they must be getting something right. Time to say konnichiwa to portion control!

Get Outside More

So potent an effect does nature have on our wellbeing that it’s been found just looking at photos of outdoor scenes is enough to trigger activity in regions of the brain associated with happiness. Wow! Go Mother Nature.

Getting outside, be it an afternoon in the park or a week in the woods, has been found to be a very effective way to reduce the levels of cortisol in our bloodstream. Cortisol also known as the “stress hormone”. This powerful neurotransmitter is Public Enemy Number 1 when it comes to our health.  

Raised levels of cortisol have been linked to anything from anxiety and depression to impaired immune function, raised blood pressure, increased weight gain, and even heart disease. Uh-oh!

One fascinating study conducted in 2015 followed over 100,000 American women and tried to determine the relationship between nature and longevity. The results were great new for nature lovers. Women who lived closer to parks, trees, lawns and forests showed significantly lower mortality rates than women who lived far from nature.

Get More Sleep

Getting more sleep is the single greatest thing anyone can do for their health, happiness and longevity. And the best thing is it doesn’t cost you a thing, all you have to do is roll over and hit snooze!

The importance of getting your vitamin Zzzzs is illustrated by the long list of health conditions that are made more likely when you don’t. Poor sleep has been linked to increased rates of anxiety, stress, depression and even suicide. It’s been connected to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, cancer and even Alzheimer’s. The list goes on and on.

And on top of all the physical and mental health risks to sleeping badly, it also gives you bags under your eyes and pasty skin. Urgh. No thanks!  

There are a whole range of easy wins when it comes to improving your sleep. Sticking to a regular bedtime, avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evening, banning screens from your bedroom and ensuring your bed is fit for purpose. And that’s just for starters!

Work Less, Socialize More

One thing I can guarantee that nobody has ever said on their deathbed is, “Oh, I just wish I had spent more time in the office sending emails.”

Work is obviously an unavoidable part of most of our lives. Unless you happen to have very rich parents. Lucky you! For the rest of us plebs getting the work-life balance is essential to improving our health, happiness and longevity.

The more time you spend stuck behind your desk the less time you get to spend with your friends and family. Research has shown this can be very bad for your health.

One particularly interesting study conducted by Brigham Young University estimated that not having a close social circle to be twice as harmful as obesity, worse for your health than not exercising at all and possibly even had the equivalent impact on your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Jeez! Time to get the gang back together maybe!

Well, there you have immortality seekers – nothing too complicated there. The secret to a healthier, happier and longer life, is basically all about getting back to basics and focusing on a few important things, like sleep, friends, getting into nature and eating a healthy diet. Simple really!

Sarah Cummings is a freelance writer currently writing for The Sleep Advisor. Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your research and reminding us all how critical these basic principles of a healthy lifestyle are to our longevity.

3 Weeks in Italy, 3 Fantastic Accommodations!

Posted by on 11:47 pm in Articles | 2 comments


In the absence of our “Tips for Travelers” newsletter, and since many of my readers do not use Facebook, this post features my recent travel experience . . . with a peek at what I packed to wear:



Welcome to La Pianstella

My husband and I took a trip this spring to Italy, first revisiting the hill towns of Umbria, where we had vacationed 18 years ago. Just as we did for our first trip to this beautiful area, we rented a house near Todi through Tuscany Now&More®. We had used this agency for two subsequent rentals in other areas of Italy. Our choice this time was La Pianstella, a restored 200-year-old farmhouse with extraordinary views of the nearby hill towns and the Tiber River Valley below.

Note: We were traveling with friends so the cost of renting this type of accommodation for two weeks was much less than renting hotel rooms. The added bonus was that we indulged in the comfort and conveniences of a home . . . and enjoyed divine sunsets from our private terrace.


Sunset view from our terrace

After booking the house, my husband and I decided to extend our trip a third week and drive southeast to the Adriatic seacoast to experience a different culture and landscape from central Italy. We had been enticed by articles on the ancient town of Matera in Basilicata and the region of Puglia, the “heel” of Italy.

We struck gold in our hotel search (using Hotels.com), dividing our time between two accommodations that were both unusual and of historical significance. They also provided us with the comfort of being in a home with amenities and service that were excellent! Both are owned and were designed by women, a fact that compelled me to feature them on this Blog!


Il Palazzotto Residence & Winery – a cave hotel in Matera


Touring the Sassi zone of Matera

We took a 6-hour drive from our villa in Umbria to Matera, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is amazing! The Sassi zone of Matera is a fascinating area of cave houses and churches dug out of limestone centuries ago. Sassi hotels are in caves that have been renovated and modernized with private baths, WiFi, air conditioning and heating.

We stayed at Il Palazzotto Residence & Winery, a boutique hotel partially built, partially carved into the rock. A former 16th century palace with caves where the noble owners’ servants and animals once lived, it is now a unique and intimate place to rest in the middle of an extraordinary environment.

Palazzotto Residences & Winery

Palazzotto Residences & Winery

Il Palazzotto is the creation of owner/architect Katia Vitale, whose attention to detail and appreciation of the history of the space is apparent throughout. The hotel staff was welcoming and gracious from the moment we arrived and throughout our stay. Our private room was extremely comfortable and well appointed with lovely bed linens, bathroom toiletries and accessories women appreciate, plus TV and internet connections that allowed us to stay in touch with the world. Designed with a strong sense for timeless beauty and ambiance, the hotel’s main salon and breakfast area were extraordinary, featuring decorative details that felt contemporary and ancient at the same time.

Our room, one of 10 residences

Our room, one of 10 residences

Breakfast was a wonderful array of local foods served beautifully on dishes that I wished I could purchase right then and there! As Ms. Vitale states on their website: “ ‘Home’ for Italians means haven, comfort, pleasure, friends, family and peace”. She wants her guests to really feel at home and I assure you, we did!



Lama di Coccaro – Masseria lodging in Puglia


Entrance to our room, on the terrace level of Lama di Coccaro

It was a short drive from Matera into Puglia, where we based ourselves in the Fasana – Savelletri area for a 3-day tour of the region. Puglia is one of the new “hot” places to visit and there are several luxurious hotels to stay in, but I can’t imagine any of them has the charm and intimacy of our accommodations at Masseria Lama di Coccaro.

masseria is an ancient farmhouse on a country estate. Masseria lodgings range from rustic to luxurious and most are set in working farms producing olive oil, wine or produce. Some offer bed and breakfast while others are self-catering. We discovered Masseria Lama di Coccaro on Hotels.com and were amazed with the exceptional charm of the structure and the impeccable hospitality of its owner and hostess, Marialuce Giannaccari.

From the pool to the house, via the orchard

From the pool to the house, via the orchard

We were provided with excellent accommodations in the extraordinary house Marialuce created around an ancient  stone structure. The decor is an enchanting mix of nature, art and comfort. Marialuce’s passion for the land is evident in her deliberate effort to bring the outside in: the trunk of an olive tree in the middle of a room, exposed 1000-year-old stone walls, installations created by local artisans and large photos of the local landscape. The house is surrounded by olive trees, some as old as 1000 years; the immediate grounds are lovely with a pool, fruit orchard and grapevines.

A spiritual aspect to the house is the small chapel at the side, located in a 1000-year-old cave where a Byzantine monk once stayed, that Marialuce has officially turned into a chapel where weddings can be held. Originally planned to be her personal retreat for family and friends, Marialuce followed the suggestion of a nephew who had his wedding here and turned Lama di Coccaro into the bed and breakfast that it is today.

Beautifully served breakfast

Beautifully served breakfast

Breakfast was absolutely glorious – a beautiful mix of local cheeses, meats, breads, fruits and pastries – served at a table personally set by Marialuce with antique cutlery, porcelain dishes and fresh flowers. We felt quite special, like family!

Only a few minutes from the seaside town of Savelletri, with its fabulous fresh seafood restaurants, and equal distance to the town of Fasano on the “Via Appia”, we could not have been happier with the location. From here we were able to easily visit the trulli houses in  Alberobello and drive down the Salento peninsula to Lecce (“the Florence of the South”).

Masseria Lama di Coccaro is unique and very special – we would love to make a return visit!


Arrivederci e grazie, Marialuce!




Please note: This is a non-sponsored post, reflecting my personal opinion. We enjoyed all of our accommodations so much that I simply had to share them with you!

Your Guide to Athleisure Wear

Posted by on 7:28 pm in Articles | 6 comments


I’m pleased to publish this guest post by Regina Due:


shutterstock_414431425Athleisure wear is everywhere and it’s easy to see why. This easy-to-wear trend is casual, comfortable and so stylish. But, is it right for you? Celebrities of every age have proven that this look knows no age barriers, so it just might be the time to figure out exactly how to work this trend into your everyday wear. From play to work, this guide for women on how to wear athleisure at any age will show you why this is a trend that’s here to stay—and why so many women couldn’t be happier.

1. Gym to Street

One of the most common interpretations of athleisure – the gym-to-street look – is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You finish up at the gym and throw on a couple of layers to get some errands done or meet a friend for coffee. This is the easiest way to rock the athleisure trend because many of you are probably already doing it! Stock up on light, flexible top layers to wear over your cute bra tops and tanks; athletic pants; and clean, stylish women’s trainers.

Leslie’s note: Unless you still have the tight bottom and slim hips of your youth, your top layer should cover your backside when you take your workout clothes to the street. My personal favorite is a jacket with a hi-lo hem when it’s chilly or a tunic top in warmer weather.

2. Casual Friday

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The athleisure trend can be worn 24/7 and yes, for some women even to work. Next casual Friday, try incorporating some of the athleisure aspects into your work wardrobe – but be certain your look is dress code compliant. While sneakers might not be welcome at the office, you can definitely rock jogger pants with a slouchy sweater, high-waisted pants and a flowy top (like the one you’d throw on after a yoga class) or add in subtle athletic details like racing stripes or lacing.

3. Date Night

Your next date night is the perfect opportunity to show off your athleisure style. It’s flattering, down to earth, and so much more comfortable than a restrictive little black dress. Ditch the Spanx and instead slip into a fitted midi dress and stylish sneakers; add a blazer, denim jacket, or bomber jacket to pull it all together. You’ll look casual but put together, and it will take some of the pressure off of a first date.

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4. Travel

Athleisure was born for long travel days! Whether you’re travelling for work or heading somewhere tropical, start your trip right with comfortable clothes that make you feel like you’re on vacation—even if you’re heading for a mind-numbing weekend conference. Celebrities have long rocked the athleisure airport look, and now it’s your turn.

Pair leggings with a tank and a long-sleeved shirt, topped off with a baseball cap and clean, fresh sneakers. Or, simply swap out a pair of jeans for athleisure pants. If you want something a little dressier, opt for a cotton, sporty sheath dress, sneakers, and a casual jacket. On a long flight, you’ll feel so relaxed and comfortable you might not even notice that turbulence.

Leslie’s note: Comfortable clothes for airline travel is NOT to be interpreted as “gym to street”! I’m shocked at the number of women – young and older – who travel in the same bra tops, tights and tanks that they work out in. I don’t care how physically fit you are – please cover up! I favor black leggings paired with a tank top under a long no-iron white shirt. I throw a sweater around my shoulders and I’m set for the flight. And, I prefer a slip-on shoe to a lace-up that might slow down the security check process.


Leslie’s final note:  Many thanks to Regina Due – a fashion aficionado who loves to empower women through her writing and fashion tips – for this guest blog post . . . and for letting me add my thoughts!


6 Strategies for Packing Light

Posted by on 8:04 pm in Articles | 4 comments


Woman sitting on suitcaseHow many times have you struggled with a large suitcase on a trip and returned home to exclaim, “I took way too much and didn’t need half of what I packed!” Do I now hear a vow that you will fine tune your packing skills . . . but you don’t know how?

“Pack light, pack smart” is my mantra and it can be yours, too.

My husband and I will be vacationing in Italy for 3 weeks in May, first in Umbria where we have rented a villa, then down to Puglia and the coast on the Adriatic Sea. I’ve already started planning my wardrobe, focused on day touring, dining out and entertaining friends. I’ll be packing it all into a 21-inch carry-on bag that will make plane, train and car travel easier.

How? Here are six wardrobe strategies to help you scale down to one light suitcase. I’ve also noted some of my favorite travel wardrobe pieces:

1. Limit your color palette. Keep it simple and plan around 2 or 3 neutral colors. For spring travel, my favorites are black and beige. Worn together they are a classic combination; independently both mix well with other colors. If you’re traveling to an urban destination any combination of black, white, navy and gray is good. For a beach or country trip, khaki and white are good choices for your basics. Scarves are lightweight additions to add pops of color.

2. Pack versatile pieces that can mix and match and plan to wear each item more than once. The knit jacket that I plan to wear on the plane with a t-shirt and leggings can also be worn with my jeans for touring or dressed up for a casual dinner. Consider items that can do double duty, such as a blouse that can also be worn jacket-style over a camisole, a long t-shirt that can serve as a pool cover-up, flip flops as slippers and poolside wear.

3. Take more tops than bottoms. Multiple tops will maximize the wear of a pant or skirt and tops weigh less, take less room, and are easier to launder. Unless you will be able to do machine laundry, pack tops that you can hand wash, drip-dry, and don’t require ironing. (A personal favorite for spring/summer travel is the striped tee with UV protection from Saint James.) 

4. Pack lightweight items that can be layered for warmth. Two thin sweaters (turtleneck + merino wool cardigan or pullover) are as warm as one bulky sweater, are more versatile, and take less space. 

How many pieces do you need? Two pairs of pants, plus 4 to 6 tops, plus one jacket can meet your needs for one week. For two or more weeks, I take 1 or 2 additional bottoms (pant and/or skirt) and more tops. You might choose to pack a dress instead (my go-to summer travel dress is also from Saint James). If a dressy event is on your schedule, don’t pack a “one-off” outfit. Consider a lace top to dress up your black pants.

Some of my favorite travel pieces are from J.Jill’s Wherever Collection (rayon knits that are comfortable, breathable and travel beautifully without bagging). I also love Chico’s no-iron shirts for a crisp look both day and evening. And to keep me warm on cool days, I love my Heattech t-shirts; if really chilly weather is possible in goes my down vest from Uniqlo that compresses into a little ball for packing.

5. Exercise shoe control. You really only need three pairs on most trips. For example: sneakers for exercise, a comfortable walking shoe for day, and ballet flats or heeled sandals for evening. (I don’t count flip flops as shoes since they pack flat.) Travel in one pair and pack the others. Make sure that all shoes have been broken in before your trip; cute shoes that kill your feet are a waste of space!  Note: I’m packing my new leather espadrilles for daytime walking.

6. Ignore the urge to add in “but what if . . . ” Plan what to pack based on the weather and your activities, packing for what is known as well as logical possibilities. Logical: rain, so I’m packing my lightweight hooded waterproof jacket (that does double-duty as a windbreaker on morning exercise walks). Not logical: an impromptu formal evening. (If that comes up I have an excuse to shop!)

Pack it up!

You can get more into your bag if you know how to pack it. The key is to make use of every inch of real estate in the bag. Fill shoes with rolled up socks, belts, jewelry in a soft pouch, or underwear. A combination of rolling and folding makes the best use of space for your clothing. For instructions on how to pack your suitcase, watch my packing videos. For trip-specific packing lists visit our Tips for Travelers newsletter page.

Note: Packing light requires careful planning far enough in advance. Don’t leave this website until you have also read my previous post on panic-free packing




Wake Up Your Winter Wardrobe!

Posted by on 3:18 am in Articles | 10 comments


shutterstock_732533848The holidays are over and we’re into the New Year. How I would love to hit the “total refresh” button on my closet but it isn’t Spring yet!

If winter is starting to make you, too, feel drab, you might need to wake up your wardrobe. When it’s cold or gray or snowy outside, our closets need to cheer us up, make us feel good. Does your closet inspire you . . . or is it in a deep freeze with lots of black, gray or dark brown, craving some spring-like color?

With most stores offering deep discounts during clearance sales, it’s tempting to run out and buy something new. Maximize your time and money – shop for colors that mix with your winter basics but can also move into spring. And, if your budget is tight, you just might be able to perk up your wardrobe up by shopping in your own closet – I did!

Here’s a fun and easy four-step process to guide you whether you are shopping in your closet or the stores:

1. Get inspired – Flip through fashion magazines and store catalogs and peruse Pinterest for fashion looks that suit your style. Focus on how items similar to those you own are put together to create various looks. This week I went to a few fashion retail sites that feature “Look Books” – Halsbrook, Cabi, Carlisle and Worth – to find items similar to those in my closet and get ideas to perk them up (a scarf, jewelry, a different way to wear it). I “pinned” many photos and set up my own “Look Book” board in Pinterest so I wouldn’t forget. (I do this for all of my clients but had neglected myself!)  

2. Mix up your pieces – If you’ve been wearing your clothes in the same combinations over and over, now’s the time to look at each piece differently. Lay different tops and bottoms out on your bed and start putting together new combinations – dressy tops with tailored pants and a jacket for work, or with a sweater and a pair of jeans for the weekend.

Think out of the box: Combine different textures and colors than you’ve done in the past. Take a picture of your clothing “layout” so you don’t forget it (add it to your Pinterest board if you have one).

3. Add color – especially if you’ve been living in dark colors or black since last fall. If you’ve had a personal color analysis, know that nearly any two colors in your palette can be used together so don’t hold back. (For those unexpected color mixes, a scarf or a piece of jewelry with both colors in it will link them together, and provide comfort that it works!)

Personal note: I pulled out a jacket in dark purple from my corporate days, teamed it with a yellow tee shirt from summer and my basic black jeans, and it gave me an emotional lift. It also gave my jacket renewed purpose in my now much more casual lifestyle. (Purple + yellow = an attention-getting contrast color scheme.)

A word about white: In the dreary days of January, winter white feels fresh and makes a statement among the black coat/black leggings/black boot wearing crowds. Simple yet powerful, go head to toe in winter white for the ultimate closet refresh. The key? Combine tones and textures to add interest; and sculptural accessories will keep the look infinitely modern.

4. Scarves . . . tie them on! Great for adding a pop of color and/or a print or pattern, scarves multiply the way you can wear your basics.

Personal note: My dark colored pants and matching turtlenecks can be energized with a different scarf each day. Discovery: my dark orange scarf + teal blue sweater + brown pants = another contrast color scheme and is much more imaginative than brown + beige!

So . . . when you start to reach for those dark neutrals, take yourself out of the winter blahs – dig deeper into your closet, or shop wisely, and go from drab to fab without busting the bank!

Refreshing your closet is an evolution indeed, ongoing and ever-present. And spring is just around the corner!

Easy Wardrobe Strategies for the Holidays

Posted by on 2:39 am in Articles | 7 comments


shutterstock_526014424The holiday season has arrived and with it the fun and frenzy of parties and pageants, cocktails and dinners. What to wear to meet the multiple demands of the season?

If you streamline your wardrobe you won’t waste time and energy wondering. Don’t get stressed – keep it simple and follow these guidelines:

•  Make a list of what’s on your calendar, special events you’ll be attending, and when you’ll need to go from one venue to another (for example, from the office to a cocktail party; from a day of sightseeing right into dinner; or from your child’s school event to a holiday concert).

•  The good news is that “dressing up” is no longer the norm. But you do want to look polished and put together. Choose just a few go-to pieces that will meet your needs. These looks can be as subtle or overt as you like, but the goal is that these pieces be versatile, comfortable, and stylish and make you feel great!

•  If a party invitation specifies attire such as “cocktail” or “semi-formal”, or “festive” or “casual chic” read my previous holiday post for guidelines on how to interpret holiday dress codes.


Streamline Your Dressing

Office to Party

Start with one core item and build from there. Here are three strategies for three lifestyles:

1. Career – Your core might be a dress or a suit. Use accessories and fabrics to change your outfit from desk to dinner-appropriate: Switch to a silk or silky blouse and from your classic pumps to a strappy heel for the evening.

Note: If you have a holiday business event to attend, you’ll want to wear something business appropriate that also feels festive. No slinky or overly sexy dresses! Let your jewelry, or perhaps a satin blouse, add the holiday flare to your business suit, be it with a skirt or pant.

2. Casual – Think “casual chic”. Start with a pant, legging or dark wash skinny jean. Then choose a top for each event on your list. You might find a glittery sweater on sale! And you can get lots of mileage from one pair of dark solid-color pants – no one is going to remember you wore them at the previous party.

•  If leggings are your bottom choice, be sure your top is long enough to cover your backside! If choosing a jean or pant you can opt for a shorter, more fitted top.

Casual Holiday•  Pair a weekend staple with something glamorous — for example, a nice pair of dark jeans with a bow blouse or glittery top. 

•  Slip on a pair of embellished flats or heels, perhaps something in a glittery metallic.

3. Travel – Scarves, costume jewelry and glitter – in a top, a shawl or scarf – and an evening clutch are my favorites for dressing up basic black pants and a long-sleeved black tee that can take me from museum to shopping to dinner on a holiday city visit. I’ve also packed red flats, a red belt and sparkly earrings for festive Christmas evening accents on my basic black pieces. For New Year’s Eve, I switch to gold!

A note about “sparkle”: Don’t overdo it; moderation is key but you want it to have an impact. Stick to one or two pieces of jewelry and don’t forget a dressier bag or clutch – anything that has a little bit of sparkle. Accessories should relate but they don’t have to match.

With so much else going on, now is the time to stick to what you know, and most of all, what feels good. Just because it’s comfy doesn’t mean it’s not chic – when you choose the right pieces, your simple uniform can take you through your day and into your night without missing a beat! That’s being smart!


Do you have the pieces but lack the confidence to put it all together for this season’s parties? Or do you need a little guidance on exactly what to buy to fill your party wardrobe gaps? Don’t hesitate to give me a call or send me an email for a complimentary 30-minute consultation. It will be my pleasure to assist you!