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

Wardrobe Strategies for Career, Travel & Casual Lifestyles


Blazers for Fall – Trendy & Classic

Posted by on 12:45 am in Articles | 0 comments


20e32e756d2a18a16e1ce88940f16a73This season’s must-have item is not only “trendy,” it’s a twist on a classic – the menswear blazer in tweeds, plaids and flannels.

Seen in New York on the street during Fashion Week, oversized blazers are the subject of several seasonal trend reports. Versatile and practical, a classic blazer is a great foundation piece in your wardrobe. Depending on fabric and fit, it can be worn with a skirt or pants for work and with jeans and a tee on the weekend. The question for this season is:  “Is the trendy blazer the best style for you?”

The Classic Blazer

Blazers emerged into menswear as part of the English cricket club scene in the 1880s. In a variety of striped fabrics these jackets were “a blaze of color,” hence the name “blazer.” The style became subdued in the 1930s with the modern blazer looking very similar to the British Navy reefer or pea coat but the name blazer stuck. Today the classic navy blazer is a man’s most versatile tailored jacket.

The same can be said for a woman’s navy blazer. When I had to retire one last year due to longtime wear, I replaced it with Brooks Brothers’ classic two-button wool blazer. Instead of flannel or tweed (which can visually add pounds to our frame), I chose to invest in a lighter weight worsted wool. It’s ideal for cool spring and fall weather over a shirt or sweater and fits comfortably under a coat in colder weather. If I still had my corporate job in New York, this could be the jacket in my conservative navy blue suit, doing double-duty on the weekend with jeans!

How to Shop for a Blazer

Many of this season’s trendy blazers are intentionally oversized in cut and are long, stopping below the fullest part of the hip. What might look great on fashion influencers doesn’t always work for the rest of us. This longer length looks best on taller women and is most flattering on straighter bodies. So what should the rest of us do? Chose a jacket length and fit that is flattering to our body and pleasing in proportion.

Your Best Jacket Length


From Looking Good…Everyday (Palmer/Pletsch Publishing)

Jackets should be either long enough to hide the derriere or stop somewhere above the fullest part of the hip. Avoid a jacket whose hem falls at the fullest part of your hip, unless you need to look wider in that area. Consider overall proportions and how you want to wear the jacket:

– Short jackets are best with skirts or well-fitted pants in the same or a darker color. They are most flattering on curved body shapes (hourglass or triangle).

– Jackets that stop above the fullest part of the hip are best on shorter women and those whose shoulders and hips are balanced.

– A jacket that falls below the fullest part of the hip is the most versatile length to wear with both pants and skirts.

Single- vs Double-breasted

A double-breasted blazer is powerful and sophisticated but I find that it looks best buttoned up. When unbuttoned you have quite a bit of fabric moving around you. Also note that its widely spaced buttons are horizontal design details that create a widening effect so it looks best, buttoned or unbuttoned, on a relatively slender figure. The single-breasted jacket will always compliment your height, whether you are shorter or taller on the spectrum, and can be worn neatly unbuttoned for a casual look.

Proper Fit Makes a Difference

Be sure to have the sleeves of your blazer hemmed to the proper length. I prefer mine to be hemmed so a shirt sleeve peeks out just so, but they can fall at or just below the wristbone. (Note: If you have chosen the oversized look, it’s likely you can push the sleeves up for that chic casual look as seen on the model above so you may not need to add in the cost of an alteration.) For more fitting tips read my earlier post on fitting guidelines.


Note: Photo at top is courtesy of Halsbrook, an online fashion retailer offering several chic, classic and trendy jacket styles. Jacket fit illustration is from Looking Good . . . Everyday by Nancy Nix-Rice (Palmer/Pletsch Publishing).

Dressing Well at Any Age

Posted by on 12:32 am in Articles | 0 comments


shutterstock_136418018To women who are of a certain age (as I am), I say, “Don’t let age or lifestyle be an obstacle to dressing well!” When you put on an outfit that flatters you and speaks to your style, you’ll feel more confident to take on any challenge, especially since dressing well is said to boost self-esteem.

Putting together stylish outfits – for travel, volunteering or part-time work – takes a bit of effort. Sometimes it helps to seek out advice from others who easily express themselves through fashion to give life to what we find inspiring.

An easy way for us to find this inspiration and catch up on trends is to browse the pages of online senior fashion influencers. Age is no obstacle to being a fashion icon. SeniorAdvisor.com recently published a list of 20 Senior Fashion Influencers and Resources. Getting the latest tips from these seniors who have found their unique style can help you polish your look for the day, even if you are just meeting up with friends for a game of mahjong or bridge.

While the web is full of fashion influencers, there are a few I follow to help me transform my wardrobe – which is transitioning from a corporate career look to one better suited for active retirement — into a closet of trendy threads.

Style at a Certain Age

Beth Djalali is a blogger with a keen eye for knowing how to put timeless outfits together. Hailing from the Midwest, Beth has lived and traveled around the world. Blogging since 2014, with Style at a Certain Age, Beth offers style that is thoughtful and fashionable. Although Beth suggests a certain audience for her blog, any woman at any age can find ideas and inspiration in her understanding of how classic, chic style works. Her outfits of the day (ootd) feature versatile, affordable pieces that can be worn over and over again. I love getting Beth’s posts in my email each morning!

Advanced Style

Advanced Style is a blog run by photographer Ari Seth Cohen devoted to “capturing the sartorial savvy of the senior set.” His first book, Advanced Style, has become a fabulous reference for me on a “strikingly fashionable segment of society . . . amazing older women.” His blog often takes me 180 degrees in wardrobe style from Beth Djalali! I love that Ari features pictures of seniors looking fabulous in styles all their own . . . and yes, many are a bit more avant-garde than I would be comfortable wearing now but they inspire me to try something different as I get older and become less guarded!


These are only two of many fashion influencers on the web today that can give you the inspiration you need to add style to your life. Remember, when you look great, you feel great . . .  and you step out the door with confidence!


Note: Many thanks to Sally Perkins, content manager for SeniorAdvisor.com for inspiring and contributing to this blog post.

How to Pack for a European River Cruise

Posted by on 10:13 pm in Articles | 14 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