A Fashion Makeover With Your Own Wardrobe
Fashion consultant and personal stylist (and New Orleans firefighter) Greg Matusoff shows how to shake up your wardrobe with pieces you already own. Shoofly Magazine publisher Ellis Anderson jumped at the chance.
- story and photos by Greg Matusoff
But, as the makeover date neared, Ellis' nervousness got the best of her as she tried several times to cancel and reschedule. In the end, we set aside two to four hours on a Monday morning to rummage through her closet and have the afternoon for shopping, just in case.
This summer, when Greg and I were kicking around ideas for his new Shoofly column on style, “Window Shopping,” he suggested doing an occasional fashion make-over from readers’ own closets. I loved the concept. Greg spent years as a highly-paid fashion consultant and personal shopper for well-heeled fashionistas in New York City. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to have a free wardrobe assessment from a professional? In fact, I was so excited, I offered to be the first beneficiary.
As our appointment grew near, I rescheduled once - and tried to again. Greg wouldn’t let me weasel out the second time. True, I was anxious he might compare my small-town, casual-based wardrobe against the closets of the rich and famous.
Our plan was set and our goal was to not only create and catalog several outfits, but to start developing Ellis' personal style expression. Most importantly, we wanted her to be more comfortable in not only putting different outfits together, but to branch out and try new styles that she might not have considered before. Ellis is an amazingly creative person, but this was one avenue of expression that she hadn't explored in quite some time.
In life we all have fears and everyone's are different. One of my favorite things is to help be a part of the process for someone overcoming their fears, no matter how big or how small. Often it's facing insecurities with self-expression of how someone dresses, or it can be jumping out of a plane or running into a burning building; I love to see the transformation.
Personal expression can be a tricky thing and branching out to try something new is a feat in its own right but Ellis was up for the challenge. When she opened her closet, I was amazed at how many unique pieces she owned that I've never seen her wear.
I’m admitting right here that I’m style impaired. As a teenager, I skipped over the informal fashion training required for all American women. I wasn't interested in studying "Glamour" and "Sixteen" magazines in the afternoons or shopping with girlfriends at the mall for the latest fashion trends. What did interest me was racing my horse across the fields or bicycling across the city. Due to the times, I got a pass: In the 70s, a gal could be cool just wearing jeans, a casual sweater and some hippie love beads made in Tibet.
During my forty-year career working as a creative, I mostly hoped that people would pay more attention to my endeavors than to my outfits. That wasn’t always a successful strategy. I often overdressed or under-dressed for occasions and ended up feeling awkward. Although I have a closet full of very interesting pieces I’ve purchased through the years (with some of my favorites purchased from shops right here in Bay St. Louis - California Drawstrings (216 Main Street), bijoubel (126 Main Street), bellamar Boutique (new location, 998 Hwy 90) and Bay-tique (125 Main Street) - I rarely wear some items because I haven’t spent time thinking about how they might work together.
As I started to pull out different pieces, Ellis was looking at me like I was crazy. "You want me to wear that with that?" became the phrase of the morning.
As she walked out with her first outfit, it was evident she was uncomfortable, to say the least. She was polite about it, but her expression told me what a mistake she thought this was. We added some jewelry, changed her shoes, and I thought she looked fantastic. The outfit complimented her in every way, but she was clearly out of sorts.
This continued through outfit two, three, four, and five. Each time she had her reservations and she was not shy about letting me know. We persevered and would photograph each completed look and it was in these moments that the magic really started to happen. Ellis actually started to have fun! She would pose for the picture with a genuine smile and her reservations started to slip away.
The time was flying by and we were both ready for a break.
Within ten minutes of checking out my closet, Greg was pairing things together that I never would have dreamed.
A blue print dress and red shoes? Velvet with linen?!! Whoa! In some of the photos we took, I look as if I’m suffering.
After lunch, we went back to tackle the mess of clothing strewn about her home. When we walked in the door, it was evident that Ellis had a different mindset. The earlier trepidation was gone. Now she was looking forward to trying new things and even picking out accessories to go with her outfits. As she was putting things together, her confidence and comfort bloomed.
Finally, I caught on and started making my own suggestions. Wait, I have this piece! I’d tell Greg, and pull out something he’d missed. Yes! He’d say. That works!
Before we knew it, it was four o'clock. As we were wrapping up, we talked about a few key pieces that would extend her wardrobe, including a pair of brown boots that she's always wanted and some colored t-shirts. As I was walking out the door, she was thrilled to show me a fabulous outfit she put together on her own.
By the end of the afternoon, I was tired, but felt like I’d slipped across the border into new fashion territory.
While I don’t think the blue print dress and the red shoes combo will be trotted out (except perhaps on the Fourth of July), by the time Greg left, I was already seeing the sense of it all. When I have time now, I experiment now with new combinations. When I’m in a hurry, I have my photo album of outfits to fall back on. Choosing what to wear actually feels fun now, instead of challenging.
Greg’s parting suggestions:
Thanks, Greg! The afternoon was a real game-changer.
Throughout the day, we put together about ten new outfits, all with her own clothing. These reflect more of the artistic and creative-side of Ellis. But more than that, she has a new perspective on her personal style expression and the confidence to go with it.
And in the end, we should all feel good about our own personal expression and live an inspired life.
As always, if you have any fashion or style questions for Greg, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org . And email him at that address if you'd like to be considered for a fashion makeover in future columns!