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

Wardrobe Strategies for Career, Travel & Casual Lifestyles


How to Pack for a European River Cruise

Posted by on 10:13 pm in Articles | 6 comments


shutterstock_91851119European River cruises have become very popular and for good reason. They provide scenic, effortless sightseeing, transportation from one beautiful port city to another, and you don’t need to switch hotels every few days.

How should you pack to enjoy excursions, dinners and evening events while traveling by riverboat?

I just helped a client plan for her Rhine River cruise in August and my husband and I are getting ready to depart for a Danube River cruise this month, so the answer is top of mind right now!

Packing light is key

You’ve chosen to vacation via a riverboat, not an ocean cruise ship! There are distinct differences between the two that impact packing:

•  Riverboats are limited in size by the dimension of the river locks and the height of bridges. Individual cabins range from very compact to small unless you have a suite.
•  Storage space is minimal so even if you wanted to pack a different outfit for each day and evening, there is little room for it. Closets are quite small and drawer space is limited.
•  Luggage is stored under the bed so it’s not possible to live out of a suitcase (as I usually do in a hotel room).

This is the time to pack light. My client and her husband, as well as I and mine, are each packing one 21” rolling bag (that can be checked or carried onto the plane) and a smaller “personal item” to carry on the plane (a tote for the ladies, a canvas briefcase or duffel for the men, that will fit under the seat).

Wardrobe tips

River cruises tend to be more casual than ocean cruises. Cruise lines send out helpful packing lists with the cruise itinerary but you need to be the one to research weather forecasts. Dress for comfort and function. For cooler climates, layer; for warm, pack breathable fabrics. (See my post on How to Choose Smart Travel Fabrics.)

ŸŸ•  To avoid over packing, take a “less is more” approach to your wardrobe. Each piece should work in a variety of ways and be able to be worn more than once while still looking fresh. This is when a capsule wardrobe takes top billing! Pick a color palette that mixes and matches. I plan around 2 basic colors (neutrals are best) and 1 accent color.

ŸŸ•  Choose fabrics that are easy-care and won’t wrinkle. I love the rayon/spandex knit separates in the Wearever Collection by J.Jill that can go from day to evening and be worn comfortably even in very warm weather. And the no-iron shirts from Chico’s always look crisp.

ŸŸ•  For shore excursions sporty, casual separates (pants, shorts, skirts, tops) in lightweight knits or woven microfibers are ideal. And many of the new hi-tech fabrics have sweat-wicking qualities and don’t absorb odors so you can wear them more than once. Note: Some riverboats offer laundry service but be prepared to hand wash and drip dry items you want to wear frequently.

ŸŸ•  For evenings aboard, “resort casual” attire is appropriate. Yes, you may see some fellow travelers go right from touring to dinner with only a simple “tidy up”, but I prefer to freshen up with a change of clothing: my no-iron shirt will top a black pant for dining onboard; the look changes with accessories (costume jewelry or a scarf).

ŸŸ•  For special occasion dinners when dressier attire is suggested, consider packing 1 pair black pants plus 2 or 3 dressy tops; or 2 or 3 pieces of “statement” jewelry to wear with the same black knit shift dress. Pack a colorful shawl or scarf to create even more looks with simple basics. Fellow passengers will admire your creativity while envying your smart packing.

ŸŸ•  Plan for changeable weather. Pack things to span temperature swings and enable you to be outside regardless of weather. You’re in a town for only a few hours and you need to make the most of it! Choosing lightweight pieces that pack into small spaces is key:

            – A lightweight waterproof hooded jacket. This can also serve as a windbreaker if you choose to take a bicycle tour. Note: Many riverboats provide umbrellas but I always pack a small collapsible one that’s easier to manage.
            – A down vest that stuffs itself into a tiny pouch (Uniqlo’s are great and well priced). It can be worn over your clothing or as a base layer under a windbreaker.
            – Leggings are a fabulous space-saver. Add a pair to a summer tunic dress for cooler destinations on your trip.
            – I always pack a short-sleeve tee in the fall or winter in case of a heat wave and a long sleeve Uniqlo Heattech top in case of a cold snap in the spring or summer.
            – And don’t forget a hat to protect you from hot sun.  Wallaroo has a nice selection of packable styles with a UPF 50+ rating. I roll mine up to tuck it into my carry-on tote.


Take no more than 3 pair of shoes – travel in one, pack two. You’ll want a comfortable walking shoe with good ankle support for day excursions, as the terrain is likely to be uneven. A rubber sole is recommended for onboard. For evening, simple dress shoes or sandals that will also work with everything. I often favor ballet flats with formed rubber soles that support my feet and make walking easy (check out the ones featured in our recent Tips for Travelers newsletter). Be sure to change your day shoes for another pair at night to give your touring feet a rest.

Packing tips

ŸŸ•  Roll your knit pieces to fit them tightly into your suitcase; use compression bags to fit bulkier items into smaller spaces.

ŸŸ•  I prefer to pack non-knits via the interfolding method (view my video for the how-to).

ŸŸ•  Separate your shoes and tuck small items, such as socks, inside each to create more space in your suitcase.

ŸŸ•  Ditch your pretty cosmetic and toiletry bags – they are much too bulky! Divide your items between 2 or 3 clear zipper lock bags and pack them into the crevices in your suitcase. The new Ziploc© slider quart-size bags have a gusset that enables you to stand them up on your sink.

Bottom line on packing for a river cruise: Pack light, pack smart . . . and bon voyage!


Note: For a personal testimony on light packing for a European river cruise, plus a detailed packing list for a fall trip, see Susan Foster’s article in our Tips for Travelers newsletter.

Update: I just shared details of my summer river cruise in our August 2017 newsletter


Polish Your Look With a Scarf

Posted by on 7:25 pm in Articles | 8 comments



shutterstock_137942699Practical and versatile, scarves are valuable accessories that can expand your wardrobe, update an outfit and polish your look.

Scarves can also be used to help project your personal style – some prints say “classic” while others express a more “romantic” or “dramatic” feel. Multi-colored scarves are excellent tools for linking separates in different colors. And as a bonus, a scarf worn near your face draws attention up and away from figure challenges!

Good scarves never go out of style – by investing in scarves you love and following current scarf tying trends you can use a great scarf for years.


What’s Your Best Scarf Look?

Just as there are elements of clothing design that suit one body type better than another, there are certain types of scarves that are a better fit for some women than for others. Color is not the only consideration – fabric, shape and size are equally important to creating a flattering look:

● If you are petite, you need to be careful that a scarf does not overwhelm you. If it seems that all you see is scarf when you look in the mirror, the scarf is wearing you versus working for you.

●  If you have a very full bust, stay away from scarf volume at your bustline. An oblong lightweight scarf tied in a long vertical line will be much more flattering.

bc2728ac313dde0e145739398c28463c●  Tie a scarf around your waist to highlight a narrow waistline or give the illusion of a waistline curve. (Slip a colorful scarf through the loops of your jeans and tie a knot – instant polish!)

● If you are tall and thin, you can wear larger scarves and fuller fabrics. If you are just the opposite keep in mind that a scarf tied near the neckline draws attention upward, creating a taller, trimmer appearance.


Scarf Design Basics

●  Oblong (typically 15” x 60”) scarves are considered the most versatile for tying, although a large square can be folded into a triangle or rectangle before tying, providing options. My personal favorite is a 36” square that I can wear at my neck, around the shoulders, or tie at my waist.

11-125-pashimina1 (1)●  Silk scarves are the easiest to tie and drape beautifully. 

●  What about synthetics? Only the finest silky polyesters can come close to the beauty of silk. However, silk-like polyesters have an advantage in wrinkle resistance and ease of care.

●  Cotton scarves are casual – wear them only with your jeans or other sportswear.

●  Wool and rayon challis scarves are nice when there’s a chill in the air but they are bulky to tie. If it’s just the color you’re after, try draping them over a shoulder instead. 

●  Multicolor print scarves are more versatile and a better investment as they will work with more things and can unify different color combinations of solid pieces.

● An “infinity scarf” is a continuous loop of fabric – easy to drape and does not require tying.


How to Shop for Scarves

●  A scarf should be an integral part of any outfit – avoid scarves in colors that don’t match or complement anything in your wardrobe.

●  Only invest in scarves in your most flattering colors. A print that has a touch of your hair color in it will be particularly flattering. (Note: This is the value of having a personal color analysis and shopping with your color palette.)

●  A print with white/crème or black in it will be more versatile than one without as you could also wear it with either solid as a complementary accent.

Smart packing tip: One black dress (or a black pant and top) plus 3 different scarves can give you a weekend of different looks! That’s traveling both smart and light!


There’s More Than One Way to Wear a Scarf

A beautiful scarf can benefit from a simple tie or loop treatment that allows the design to show fully. Pinterest is a great resource for inspiration.

12-123JoanneCocoonFrontLgrAn easy way to hold a scarf in place is with a scarf ring. Hermès has a beautiful collection (and many photos of how to use them), but you can find a wide assortment at much lower prices on sites such as Etsy.

If making more than a loop stumps you, you’ll find many scarf tying tutorials online as well as how-to apps for your smartphone. I love Nordstrom’s video on their blog – 4 scarves tied 16 ways. I also recommend downloading the free Hermès Silk Knots app to your smartphone. Set aside an hour, pull out your favorite scarves, watch the videos . . . then stand in front of a mirror and practice, practice, practice!

Smart travel tip:
Need a dress wrap in a hurry? Take the large square scarf you packed and tie the two pairs of adjacent corners together with tiny square knots, forming two “sleeves.” Slip your arms through and voilà – a kimono wrap! This is a lovely way of showcasing the center motif of the scarf, whether worn while traveling or to an event at home.


How to Care For and Store Your Scarves

●  Keep your scarves clean, pressed and ready to wear. Scarves carry oils from the neck and hair. I have my silks dry-cleaned; most synthetics can be carefully hand washed (be sure to save any tag you clip off – carefully! – for a reminder of care instructions.)

●  Give your scarves the respect they deserve. An overstuffed scarf ring or a drawer or basket filled with scarves tossed in randomly makes me shudder! In either case, finding the right scarf to polish your look could take you forever.

I used to keep my precious Hermès scarves in their beautiful boxes but it slowed down my dressing routine. Now hanging, they are a joy to see each time I go into my closet – and I can choose one quickly.

●  Separate your scarves by color, fabric and or size and shape, then consider these techniques:
– Oblongs and infinities hang nicely on scarf rings. Fold lengthwise first and hang just once scarf per ring.
– Medium to large squares can be folded once and draped over the bars of tiered pant hangers. I use the velvet-coated hangers with bars that pivot – I can hang 2 scarves on each bar and easily see the colors of all.
– Large cotton, wool or gauze squares and pashminas should be folded on a shelf.


How are you curating the scarves in your own closet?  Let us know in the comment section below. If you need help contact me for a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to polish your wardrobe with scarves.


Picture notes: Bottom three from Looking Good . . . Every Day by Nancy Nix-Rice, in which you will find an excellent chapter on scarves!

New Year Resolution: Streamline Your Wardrobe

Posted by on 7:30 pm in Articles | 3 comments


Guest post by Alexandria Heinz


A New Year means time for new resolutions. If you’re constantly on the go and looking for a way to simplify your life, this could be the time to resolve to streamline your wardrobe. How? With a capsule wardrobe, a curation of stable pieces that you can mix and match. A capsule wardrobe can save you future time and money and assure that most of your clothing goes together.

The first step to creating a capsule wardrobe is to clean out your closet. This might be something you dread doing, but with the help of the flow chart below created by American Eagle, it won’t be so hard! Just answer a few simple questions to determine if you should keep, trash, donate or sell your items.

Make sure to dispose of the items that you’re not keeping within a week and store or organize items that aren’t seasonal in order to streamline your closet. If you travel frequently, organize your essential travel pieces in a certain section of your closet to make packing easier.

Happy New Year and good luck!



Flow chart by American Eagle



Leslie’s note: The flow chart by American Eagle first appeared in a post on capsule wardrobes in AEO, the American Eagle Outfitters blog and is reprinted here with permission. Why not print it and tack it in your closest for ongoing reference? That’s what I did!

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.