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

Wardrobe Strategies for Career, Travel & Casual Lifestyles


Decoding Holiday Dress Codes

Posted by on 8:00 am in Articles | 1 comment


untitled-designThe holiday season has arrived and with it invitations to everything from cocktails to office parties to New Year’s Eve dinners.

They all contain those coded party terms: “cocktail,” “festive,” “formal,” “semi-formal,” “casual chic.” How do you interpret the requested attire?

Don’t stress! Let the following guidelines take the wonder out of what to wear:

Formal (a.k.a. Black Tie)

Traditionally this called for a long, elegant gown but today your choices range from a long dress to a more formal cocktail dress to dressy silk, satin or beaded separates.

What about color? At one time black tie meant a black dress, but now color is acceptable – and jewel tones, including holiday’s red and green, are perfect for winter.

750ca23fda42c87ade5720ae5a64b774When it comes to black tie formal one is expected to go all out. Wear some sparkle and shine: a sparkly necklace or chandelier earrings (but never both), a beaded or metallic clutch, and super shoes all help to complete your ensemble. But don’t overdo it; this is the time for classic elegance. And please take note: If wearing a cocktail dress, be sure it is no shorter than a touch above the knee to keep it “formal.”

Semi-Formal (a.k.a. Black Tie Optional)

This is a more relaxed version of black tie. A long gown is appropriate if your date is in a tux; a cocktail dress in a dressy fabric (lace, satin or silk) should be your choice if he opts for a suit. Elegant evening separates are also an option. And yes, shimmer and shine fit the bill for this occasion!

Cocktail Attire

“Cocktail” is one of the most common dress codes seen on invitations. It’s also the easiest to interpret. It generally means a short dress that is party-ready but silky or satiny separates are definitely appropriate. When in doubt, wear a little black dress and dress it up with fun jewelry. Up the wow factor with an interesting silhouette or color and don’t be afraid to shine bright!

7db58d60f7de41d44ed2bf467daa9a01Business Formal

This is the dress code suggestion for daytime semi-formal events, particularly work lunches and conferences. You want to wear something business appropriate that also feels dressed up. It’s almost the same thing as cocktail or semi-formal, where a short formal dress is appropriate, but the “business” part says suit – and yes, a pantsuit is appropriate – or a conservative dress. No slinky or overly sexy dresses! Let your jewelry, or perhaps a satin blouse, add the holiday flare.

Festive Attire

Festive is similar to cocktail attire, but with a holiday bent, such as a sparkly sequin dress, a sweater with hints of sparkle or metallic with black pants, or a red silk blouse with a simple black skirt or pant. Add more glad tidings with statement accents: red pumps or a glittery clutch. And if the temperature drops below freezing, you can layer with a jeweled cardigan, opaque tights and heeled booties.


Festive, Dressy or Smart Casual/Casual Chic

This is a dress-up/dress-down hybrid. The good news is you have the chance to be comfy while looking chic. But it doesn’t mean you break out the ugly Christmas sweaters (please don’t)!

Festive is all about taking a classic look or color and jazzing it up for the holidays. 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.

You could also pair a weekend staple with something glamorous—for example, a nice pair of dark jeans with a bow blouse and heeled booties or ornate flats. A pair of tailored pants with a bright cardigan is also perfect; add a scarf infused with hints of holiday hues. The goal is to be polished but not uptight!


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!


Editor’s note: Fashion photos, top to bottom: Pinterest, Polyvore, Halsbrook.com

Proper Fit Makes a Difference

Posted by on 9:40 pm in Articles | 8 comments


shutterstock_227101477A well-dressed woman knows the value of a good tailor or seamstress to fine tune the fit of her clothing. RTW is not always “ready to wear” and a proper fit is critical to making your best impression, both personally and professionally.

Here’s what Susan, an emerging business leader who worked with me on her professional presence, discovered:

“I’ve become one of my tailor’s best clients thanks to your shining light on the difference a proper fit makes. I need to get almost every pant and jacket I purchase altered, but it’s well worth it. I can’t help but observe other people’s clothing and whether it fits properly. The direct correlation between proper fitting clothes and levels of success within an organization is glaring.” 


What Does Proper Fit Look Like?

Wardrobe consultant Nancy Nix-Rice describes it well in her book Looking Good . . . Every Day: Style Solutions for Real Women: “Excellent fit means more than just ‘I can zip it.’ It means the garment flows gracefully over your body without pulling or binding, sagging or bagging. It means that garment details such as darts, shaping seams, and hems fall at the ideal level.”

Here are a few proper-fit guidelines for classic basics:


  • It buttons smoothly, even though you might not wear it buttoned. If it doesn’t even pull together you are telling everyone “my jacket is too small”!
  • The back lies smoothly across your shoulders without a bubble behind the neck.
  • The shoulder is ¼” – ½” wider than blouse shoulder.
  • The waistline curve or seams are at your natural waistline; a back vent hangs perpendicular to the floor.
  • Sleeves end at or just below the wrist bone. Note: Rolling up a tailored jacket sleeve tells everyone it’s too long and you were too lazy to alter it!

Pants/Straight Skirts:

  • They look and feel comfortable at the waist (room for two fingers gives you wiggle room).
  • They flow smoothly over hips and hang straight from the hipline; pockets or zippers lie flat against the body.
  • Pants do not bind at the crotch and there’s neither tucking nor drooping under the derriere.

Fitted Blouse:

  • The neckline hugs the base of your neck without wrinkling or gaping; the sleeve is set in at your pivot bone.
  • Bust darts point to, but stop within 1″ of the bust point; the front doesn’t gap at the bustline (this calls out “it’s too small”).
  • A long sleeve ends where your wrist breaks as you bend your hand. Note: it peeks out under a jacket sleeve 1/4″- 1/2”.

Shopping for Proper Fit

Sizing varies by manufacturer. Your size is the one that gives you enough fabric around the largest body area the garment is designed to cover.

Horizontal wrinkles are indication clothing is too tight. Too-small clothing tells everyone else you should have gone up a size. Vertical wrinkles can indicate clothing is too loose. If too loose, you risk looking a bit dowdy or sloppy.

1. Know your Body Style and shop in the right department:

  • Misses sizes fit women 5’5” and taller; Petite sizes fit women 5’4” and under. However, you might be 5’6” and find that petite fits your proportionately shorter legs or waist better so pair petite pants with a misses jacket, or vice versa.
  • Women’s sizes are shaped more generously for a thicker body. If you have a thicker torso (round or oval body style) you might choose tops in a women’s size but wear misses size pants and skirts.

2. Take several sizes with you into the dressing room. If you are “usually” a 10, take both an 8 and 12 into the dressing room.

3. If a garment is tight in one area, try going up a size. Buy to fit your largest area and have it taken in to fit the smaller areas – it’s easier to take in than to let out. (Note: Off-the-rack pants rarely fit both waist and hip. Buy to fit the larger and have the other taken in.)

4. Check garment fit using a 3-way mirror. I’m often disappointed by shops that do not have a 3-way mirror so I keep a small hand mirror in my shopping tote to be certain I can get a rear-end view.

5. Finally, test the fit of tops and bottoms both standing and seated; also, bend your arms and raise them overhead. You want to be sure you can move freely and comfortably in any garment.


Ladies, don’t let poorly fitting clothes undermine your image. Even the most expensive clothing can work against you if it’s “too small here and too big there.”  Get thee to a tailor for alterations!


It often takes two to assess proper fit. Don’t hesitate to give me a call or send me an email for a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to perfect the fit of your clothing. It will be my pleasure to assist you!


How to Wear Neutrals – Your Wardrobe’s Backbone

Posted by on 8:11 pm in Articles | 2 comments



311d3893c60d5a15c15571862343ebed-1Although daytime temperatures are still reaching into the 80’s in many areas of the country, mornings are cool where I live and the leaves are starting to change color.

Fall is in the air . . .  and this means our wardrobes need to start their transition, too. Fashion’s neutral colors resonate for fall but year-round they are best investments for your wardrobe basics.

True neutrals are black, white and grey but certain colors can be neutrals too: beige, brown, burgundy, navy, forest green, teal blue, plum, mauve. This fall, Pantone’s Sharkskin and Warm Taupe stand out among my favorite wardrobe neurtrals.

Neutrals give you the most wardrobe mileage because they can be worn often with different accessories to change their look. And, they act as backdrops for your personal coloring and best fashion colors.

Note:  Your best neutrals are those with the same undertone (cool or warm) as your own coloring. Your most flattering neutrals will be those that repeat part of your personal coloring – hair, skin or eyes.

Combining Neutrals

Dressing head-to-toe in neutrals can be a sophisticated, elegant look  . . .  but it might also be somewhat boring unless you incorporate at least two of the following to create interest: light and dark contrast, texture, a print or fabric design, an unusual or dramatic design line. The combination at the right has both texture and light and dark contrast.

A neutral colored suit, pant and skirt can play multiple roles in your wardrobe when you start combining them with a scarf, blouse or jacket in one of your “personal best” fashion colors.

What About Black?

Many of us love black for its versatility and ease in dressing; however, black is not as flattering on many women as other neutrals. Why? It’s not a part of most women’s personal coloring. The deeper neutral colors, such as navy, burgundy and forest green, are excellent alternatives to black. They express a quiet formal feeling and are often used in classic business wear.



What About White?2817f948f12cb70918b7b5912ad31d06

Yes, you can wear white after Labor Day! But bright white can be harsh or overpowering on someone with warm or soft coloring. The wrong white can also make your pearly white teeth look yellowed. Pearl, cream, and softly grayed whites are more flattering for many women since these tones are closer to our teeth color. Winter white is a sophisticated neutral to wear throughout fall and winter.



Note: Top and middle photos courtesy of Halsbrook; winter whites found on Pinterest.

How to Build a Wardrobe of Classics that Work with Trends

Posted by on 8:02 am in Articles | 1 comment


Fall is just around corner! Think smart about your wardrobe planning:

Guest post by Regina Due



When you have a career, a family to take care of, or a thousand little things that need to be ticked off your “to-do” list, trying to catch up with the latest fashion trends can feel like a waste of time.

Not only that, but trying to keep up with every fashion trend can be mind boggling – there is always something new you should know about! How do you create a “modern” style for yourself when you’re so busy doing what needs to be done? The answer is a well-stocked closet of basics and classic designs; then it’s faster and easier to have some fun with trends.

Invest in Basic Tops

Stocking up on good quality, well-fitting tops – such as sleek knitwear in neutral black, blue and winter white, and fitted T shirts in your best colors – will leave you with a good starting point for building your everyday style. Once you have piled up on the basics that fit you well and flatter your body shape, then you can treat these as a blank canvas and play with the seasonal trends you like – such as pairing a pleated skirt in a pastel or a metallic shade with a plain white T shirt, or wearing a lace midi skirt with your simple black knit top.


Find the Right Pant

Pants are staples in every woman’s closet. Whether you prefer a skinny silhouette, a bootleg, or a trouser, investing in at least two pair that flatter your body shape will give you the staples you need for any occasion, regardless of whether you are heading to work or to an evening dinner party. Once you have your classic bottom piece in check, then you can have fun with trendier items. For example, instead of your usual buttoned-up white shirt and trousers combo, pair the trouser with a statement embellished knit top or a pretty blouse with a bow.

Add Something Sheer

From sheer tops to skirts, it seems like the fashion world often wants us to show off more than we would usually dare. But you can play the sheer game by your own rules. Find classically designed pieces like a simple T shirt or a blouse that has a sheer feature, such as sheer sleeves or a sheer panel on the shoulders and collar bone area. Then you will always have a fashion piece in your closet that is classic but slightly daring to wear for a special occasion.

Invest in Statement Jewelry

Sometimes all you need is an accessory to take your look from classic to trendy, boring to beautiful. Statement jewelry is a fall 2016 trend; consider investing in a bold piece of jewelry for those occasions when you need to take your simple outfit to the next level or channel a more sophisticated style.

Add Leather

Nothing is more timeless, yet modern and youthful, than a great leather jacket. Worn for the office or for an evening gathering, with denim for running errands, or even worn with your gym gear, a leather jacket can take most anything from looking good to looking great.


Have Fun with Shoes

White sneakers (see image above) combine the classic old-school design of casual sneakers with a high fashion texture, and the result is absolutely gorgeous. Casual yet elegant, punk yet mainstream, sneakers manage to stay surprisingly versatile in a typically “high heel” world.

Image credit: Ginger and Smart


These are some of the ways you can arm your closet with lasting and beautiful staples to help take your everyday style to the next level. What is your go-to fashion staple? Share your thoughts below!

Editor’s Note:  This blog post was written by Regina Due, a fashion aficionado who loves to empower women through her writing and fashion tips. Thank you, Regina!

Your Style Guide to a Wedding Weekend

Posted by on 2:58 am in Articles | 0 comments



wedding-loveJune has arrived and with it, the busy wedding season! Many weddings today are weekend-long celebrations with multiple events leading up to and after the nuptials. This requires thoughtful wardrobe planning for guests. And if you are traveling to the wedding, you’ll also need to consider how to pack your choices.

I recently wrote an editorial on wedding guest attire for the online fashion boutique Halsbrook, featuring dress code tips and chic fashions to guide their customers in making selections for each event. In this post, I take a closer look at the rules of etiquette; and for those who have to travel to the wedding, provide suggestions on choosing wardrobe pieces to make packing easier.


First, some general guidelines:

● Don’t upstage the bride! Avoid white or shades close to white for any event; they are reserved for the bride. I also recommend avoiding red – it can steal the spotlight, another no-no since it’s the bride’s day!

● Dressing for a summer wedding means looking your best while keeping cool. Focus on wearing light, airy and breathable fabrics – like rayon, cotton, linen or silk, so you don’t get overheated during an outdoor event. Knits usually travel better than woven fabrics and can be ideal for the more casual events. Stretch woven fabrics with spandex behave more like a knit. A woven crepe or piqué might meet the crush test for travel, but all woven fabrics will wrinkle less when carefully folded. For tips on packing pressed clothes and more formal attire, watch my packing video before your trip.

● Consider separates for some of the events so one or two pieces can be worn more than once – this will help keep your luggage lighter. For example, a dress pant could be worn with a dressy blouse for a “Welcome Cocktail Party” and with another top or jacket and different accessories for a luncheon.

When planning your full weekend wardrobe, start with the main event – it sets the theme for the activities leading up to and following the ceremony:

The Wedding & Reception
Your attire should reflect the mood of the wedding and the time of day. The invitation will often note dress code but if not, the style of the invitation and the time of the wedding is the best guide to its formality: An invitation that feels casual suggests casual attire. If the invitation is more formal (heavy cardstock, engraving, tissue paper inside, calligraphy on the envelope) you should wear more formal attire. Generally speaking, the later the wedding and reception, the dressier you should be.

Consider these color and style guidelines, plus protocols, when choosing what to wear:

● For an evening wedding choose darker colors; lighter hues are preferable for a daytime wedding.

● Black should not be worn unless the ceremony is after 5 pm. If the wedding is earlier, remember to choose a color that won’t outshine the bride.

● If the wedding is in a church or synagogue, dress respectively, covering bare arms and neckline with a wrap or jacket.

● A tea length dress is a safe choice for most weddings – it can go from black tie to the beach!

● A country atmosphere calls for something in a similar feel, such as a floral dress.

● A city wedding usually calls for more sophisticated attire: a dress with a jacket for the day; a long or short formal dress for the evening. If dresses are not your style, a dressy suit is very appropriate.

● And what about the often-used code of “Black Tie Optional”? A short festive dress (one with a bit of shimmer in the fabric or with sequins or jeweled details) is appropriate unless you know others are going to wear long.

After you’ve decided on your attire for the wedding and reception, you can plan for the other events:

Welcome Party
Depending upon the venue (is it on a hotel patio or at the bride’s parents’ home?) and your personal style, your choice could be dressy pants or a soft skirt with a silky top, or a dress in a colorful print.

The Rehearsal Dinner
Consider the venue and the wedding theme when deciding what to wear, then choose attire slightly less formal than what you are wearing to the wedding. A cocktail dress worn with pumps is often the perfect choice. A dress pant with a dressy blouse and heels is also appropriate.

Wedding Day Lunch
Lunches and brunches are less formal and your choice of dress depends on the venue. A dressy pant with a long silky top, or a dress with heels and simple jewelry, is a perfect choice for a restaurant or country club. If the setting is more casual, such as an outside barbecue, jeans and a knit top or blouse with flats are appropriate.

Farewell Brunch
Brunch the day after the wedding is typically the most casual event since many people must be ready to travel home. You can’t go wrong with a knit tee-shirt dress or capri pants worn with a knit tee and jacket or sweater. Either will be comfortable to travel in and you are dressed stylishly to honor your host and hostess.


Note: If you are unsure about the dress code, it’s perfectly okay to ask the bride or her family what style of dress they prefer; or to reach to a member of the wedding party that you know.

If you still need help planning what to wear, or how to pack for your weekend trip, don’t hesitate to give me a call or send me an email for a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to be the “best dressed guest”!

Streamline Your Routine With “Closet Capsules”

Posted by on 12:44 am in Articles | 3 comments


My wardrobe strategy for smart travel packing – pack a few versatile pieces planned around coordinating colors – is one that can help you streamline your dressing every day. It’s called a “capsule wardrobe.” I use this concept when planning what to pack for every trip I take. Taking a small mix-and-match wardrobe means fewer pieces, lighter luggage. When you pack the right pieces, less is more! 

What does it mean in your closet at home?

How many times do you go to your closet and feel like you have nothing to wear – in spite of the number of items hanging there? If you create “closet capsules” within your wardrobe, you’ll be able to put together several polished outfits that you can pick at a moment’s notice. When your closet door opens up to a well-planned wardrobe of coordinated pieces, you spend less time thinking about what to wear.

First . . . what is a “capsule” wardrobe?

Simply stated, it’s a small wardrobe made up of pieces that mix and match that you love to wear. Some would preach that instead of stuffing your closet with items you barely wear, take the Marie Kondo “Tidying Up” approach and strip down to a few key staples you love.

I suggest you think more strategically: Minimize your wardrobe into a collection of pieces that not only mix and match but also streamline your dressing routine, especially for work or travel. It means you’ll no longer stand in front of your closet, wondering what on earth to wear!

The concept goes back to the 1970’s and was initially referred to a collection of essential clothing items that don’t go out of fashion – classics – that can be built upon each season with new pieces.

Today’s capsule concept refers to building groups of 5-12 related pieces that can be worn in several different combinations. Building a working wardrobe for your lifestyle is easiest when you think and build in terms of “closet capsules” by lifestyle need: work, evening, travel, etc.

5 Benefits of Having “Closet Capsules”

  1. Reduces decision fatigue – busy women have to make decisions every day; the removal of one – choosing your clothes in the morning – leaves you with more mental space and better productivity throughout the day.
  2. Reduces stress – fewer decisions means one less source of anxiety during the day.
  3. Saves time – getting ready in the morning becomes easier, quicker and more efficient.
  4. Saves money – In 1930 the average American woman owned nine outfits. Today, it’s 30 – one for every day of the month. Having closet capsules removes much of the expense from trial-and-error clothing purchases.
  5. Reduces clutter – How many times have you purchased new clothes but ended up wearing your old favorites anyway? Those favorites might just be the foundation of a closet “capsule”.

shutterstock_383581369“Closet Capsule” Guidelines

There is no one formula for a capsule, but here are some guidelines:

●  Solids are easier to mix than patterns; but a few print pieces can be the links between diverse solids.
●  Simple styles are the most versatile, and classic lines will span several seasons.
●  Each piece should work with three others to gain you the most mileage. (Note: For my travel capsules, my goal is every top go with every bottom to give me the maximum outfit options.)

It should go without saying that every item should be in your most flattering colors and styles. Versatility is worthless if all those combinations don’t flatter YOU!

How to Get Started

Ideally you start with the items already in your closet, and after a closet “clean out”.  Look at your basic and/or favorite pieces in your best colors and most flattering styles, for example:

●  Your favorite interchangeable go-to items that form the backbone of your outfits – such as a pair of skinny jeans, classic pants, blazer, pencil skirt, cardigan, silk blouse, ballet flat and trench coat – could form a capsule that can span work and casual time.

●  You might have a favorite pair of black trousers, and a teal suit. You could wear the teal jacket with the pants and now you have two looks with one jacket. Other solid colors that would work with teal, such as white, could also go with the black. And that teal/black/white print blouse goes with all pieces. This is the start of a capsule.

●  For dressy occasions, a selection of separates – such as an evening pant or skirt, a camisole, a silky blouse and a jacket – can become a capsule to meet various needs through several seasons.

●  Accessories are the glue that holds your wardrobe together, linking separate items into new ensembles. Use them to update wardrobe classics or change an outfit instantly from a day to evening look.


Spring is around the corner. You’ll be switching the clothes in your closet and doing a closet clean out – won’t you? This is the perfect time to streamline your dressing routine and consider creating closet capsules.


Do you get stressed choosing what to wear each day? Do you need help in creating capsules in your closet? Send me an email or give me a call. We can assess your wardrobe together and determine the best foundations for capsules that suit your style and streamline your routine. The first 30 minutes is complimentary!