“Never Pay for Shipping” and Other Questionable Shopping Advice

The March 2018 issue of the AARP Bulletin sent to all of AARP’s members is a special report entitled “What They Know That You Don’t:  Insider Secrets of Doctors, Plumbers, Cops, Mechanics, Vets, Waiters and 14 Other Pros.” While I am happy to hear what I perceive to be surprisingly sophisticated tips from a Benjamin Moore color export on choosing paint — for example, consider the effect of sunlight from the south versus light from the north on the feeling of the room — or the tough realities of property value from a real estate expert, I found one segment of the special report seriously wanting.

The Bulletin quotes a “veteran online shopper” identified as a “relationship manager” with a Texas firm. A veteran online shopper?  Is there anyone reading this blog who is NOT a “veteran online shopper”?

She advises comparing for identical items across similar stores — such as finding an item at Nordstrom and checking Macy’s “because they’re constantly having sales” to see if she can buy the item on sale. Apparently managing her relationship with Nordstrom is not a consideration. Be mindful that this strategy can seriously affect the livelihood of small boutiques in particular, which do not have the luxury of Macy’s to keep moving huge amounts of merchandise out the door as fast as possible. Does Nordstrom or the boutique provide you better customer service than Macy’s? Does having Nordstrom or that boutique available as a resource mean something to you? Would you be happy if Macy’s becomes your only option?

She writes that she always waits for sales at her favorite store. This is not necessarily great advice. If you need something specific — perhaps a dress that fits and flatters perfectly in the exact color you’d like, in time for a wedding next month — and you find it, grab it! Waiting for a sale is not good strategy. Items sell out. It doesn’t matter if you put it in your online cart. You might well have to wave your perfect purchase goodbye.

Then the “veteran online shopper” chosen as AARP’s expert on the subject veers significantly off course. Her dubious advice comes in the statement “I never pay for shipping.” She goes on, “If it’s not free shipping, it’s not for me.”

The issue with this pronouncement is that the cost of shipping is built into the cost of merchandise, and what ultimately matters is the total amount you pay. Does it make sense to pay $50 for an item with free shipping, when the same item can be had for $40 or as much as $43 with $6.95 shipping?  Of course not.

If you’re shopping on a website such as Amazon or eBay, you’ll find that some sellers offer free shipping and others do not. It should make no difference whatsoever if what you are trying to do is to purchase the item for the lowest cost.

One additional footnote:  The advice giver is not in the AARP demographic — she’s identified as being 37. There’s nothing wrong with advice from a 37-year-old, to be sure, but given the advice provided, perhaps AARP would have done well to tap someone over 50 with commensurate years of shopping experience.

Jewels of Inspiration

Every year, I would wrap up my jewelry blog at TrulyJewelry.com with a montage of recently published photos of spectacularly beautiful jewels. This year, for this TrulyBecoming.com blog, I wish to inspire with photos of a different theme.

Actress Julia Roberts, who turned 50 in October, is spotlighted in the December 2017 issue of InStyle magazine. She was crowned People magazine’s “World’s Most Beautiful Woman” for a record fifth time, and as the subject of a fashion photo shoot, she knows how to address a camera. But the photographs by Carter Smith and the fashion styling for the magazine (those responsible for hair, makeup, manicure and prop styling are identified but the overall fashion stylist does not appear to be identified) have put together one of the most exquisite fashion spreads I have ever seen.

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Roberts is photographed in fashions with a Western wear theme, wearing flowing dresses, Southwestern jewelry, and cowboy boots. The above shot, featuring a lacy white dress by Chloe, is reminiscent of Runaway Bride.

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This second photo features the actress in head-to-toe Dior.

Find the styles that flatter you and give you joy, and make them your signature look. Wishing all my readers a joy-filled 2018.

Among 101 Ways to Look and Feel Stylish This Season

Over the decade, writing innumerable pieces about image and style, I have found inspiration in many a “how to” list put together by the editors of various fashion-focused publications. There are nuggets of wisdom in most all of these compilations of tips.

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For instance, the September 18, 2017 issue of People magazine suggests “100 Ways to Look & Feel Stylish This Fall.”

Some of the tips, like the opening item, “1. Accessorize like Selena Gomez” is a promotion of the actress’s 11-piece handbag collection with Coach. Many other specific handbags, shoes and items of makeup are included as items that each claim a number on the list.

Other tips are trend specific:  “5. Layer a slip dress over a turtleneck.” “12. Carry a daytime clutch.” “14. Sport some sassy socks.” These tips are likely to have a short shelf life, and should be considered in conjunction with this tip: “9. Pick and choose your trends.”

Other tips are evergreen bits of advice. For instance, “10. Make something old new again.” People quotes Jenn Rogien, costume designer for Orange Is the New Black:  “Every season I dig in the back of my closet and pull out something I haven’t worn in a while and wear it on repeat. It doesn’t cost anything, but it still makes you feel like you refreshed your wardrobe.”

That tip works well in conjunction with this one: “97. Take inventory.” The editors elaborate: “Do you own eight black shirts? Yet you still have your eye on another? Be honest with yourself. Write down everything you have and keep the list by your closet so you know what you definitely don’t need the next time you shop.”

Yet #97 conflicts somewhat with #98:  “98. Commit to your #OOTD.” Regarding the choice of one’s “outfit of the day,” People quotes Stacie Brockman, cofounder of a branding firm: “Instagram has made everyone terrified about re-wearing outfits for the sake of being sartorially outed, but there’s nothing chicer than a Steve Jobs-level uniform.”

I’ve written several time in this blog about the benefits of uniform dressing — finding one’s authentic personal style and sticking to it. Taking an inventory can be helpful in evaluating what might need to be replaced or refreshed. And if your personal uniform regularly includes black shirts, you should be on the lookout for new ones to replace any that are looking tired.

There is something wonderful about going through one’s closet and rediscovering items that haven’t been worn in a while. If these items make you look and feel great, let them have another day in the light. These are gifts you give yourself.

Let me add another tip: If there is something wonderful you have enjoyed wearing that is getting to the point of having seen better days, kind in mind that you may be able to replace it exactly, thanks to the worldwide market that is eBay. Brands and lines that have been discontinued may be alive in the form of vintage items currently available for sale, sometimes in brand new condition with the original tags. Vintage items are almost always going to cost far less than comparable new items.

You may also discover that your favorite designers or brands have additional items from previously released lines that you can be quite sure will prove to be flattering — a certain cut of jacket, style of pants, handbag, shoes, even a specific item of jewelry — because you already have like items in your wardrobe.

Think about any favorite item you wish you could replace, and take a look on eBay. You may be surprised and delighted with what you find.

There’s a High Price for That Low Price

I was going to write this month’s post on quite a different fashion-focused topic, when an article in the November 17, 2016 edition of the  Los Angeles Times caught my eye.

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This year, the U.S. Labor Department investigated 77 local Los Angeles garment companies that were supplying some of the biggest clothing stores in the nation, writes reporter Natalie Kitroeff, and found that many of these factories pay workers much less than the state minimum wage. “Investigators uncovered labor violations in 85% of the cases, the department said, and found that the companies cheated workers out of $1.1 million.” While even Nordstrom and Macy’s had ties to garment makers that did not pay minimum wage, “the retailers with ties to companies that had the most offenses were Ross Dress for Less, Forever 21 and TJ Maxx. Workers were paid as little as $4 an hour, and they got $7 an hour on average–$3 less than the state minimum wage. . . .”

Although the garment companies and some manufacturers that act as intermediaries between the factories and the retailers were ordered to pay $1.3 million in lost wages and damages to workers, the retailers “avoid any repercussions for hiring factories that violate labor laws. The Labor Department can only penalize companies that directly employ workers.” Keeping their distance from the factories by working with several layers of suppliers, the business model shields the retailers from liability.

Ruben Rosalez, a regional administrator with the Labor Department, said that the problem is “that retailers have not increased the rates they pay manufacturers in years. ‘The retailers are setting the prices. They’re saying, “Make this shirt for this amount,” but it’s the workers at the end of the chain that are getting screwed,’ Rosalez said.”

According to Rosalez, retailers “hire monitors to make sure their suppliers abroad are following the law but don’t do the same level of inspection in the U.S. . . . The stores ‘want to be able to meet demand on a quick basis. It’s cheaper to do it here as long as no one is looking,’ he said.”

Spokespersons for Ross Dress for Less and Forever 21 both responded to the reporter by email that they take these labor issues “very seriously” and are cooperating, as Ross puts it, “to make sure that suppliers understand the law.” Representatives of TJ Maxx did not return a request for comment. Kitroeff reports, “It is not clear whether the retailers are still doing business with clothes makers that underpay workers.”

Next time you consider buying that $18 jacket or $9 dress, consider how it’s possible for something new to be sold that cheaply. There’s a high price for that low price.

All is not lost. If you’re on a strict budget or enjoy scouting for bargains, shop online instead and head to eBay, where you can find all manner of brand new items with their original tags, purchases made that have never been used, from vendors all across the United States (yours truly included).

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For instance, among the big trends of this season are 1980s styles, padded shoulders included, along with floral prints, ruffles and metallics. I have a vintage $1,215 Judy Hornby Couture pink and silver metallic silk dress with a ruffled hem, purchased at Marshall Field’s, brand new with tags, listed for under $200.

You can find the dress at http://www.ebay.com/itm/JUDY-HORNBY-COUTURE-1215-Pink-Silver-Foiled-Floral-Silk-Dress-80s-NWT-38-B-/171021327963?ssPageName=STRK:MESE:IT

I would love for the dress to be worn and enjoyed this holiday season.

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Authenticity in Personal Style

As any image consultant worth her salt will tell you, your style should reflect your personality and taste — the authentic you.  As fashion pushes out the next trend and the next, urging you to try and buy, it can be fun to expand your horizons and see what works for you. Ultimately, however, the style needs to suit you. There is never one cool or right way to dress.

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Along that line of thought, the media has been full of examples that exemplify the call to authentic style. Consider this wonderful thought from fashion icon Iris Apfel, published in the September 2016 issue of Real Simple:  “To me, the worst fashion faux pas is to look in the mirror and not see yourself.”  The charming photograph of the little girl in her mismatched prints is by Stephanie Rousser.

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The August 12, 2016 issue of the Los Angeles Times contains an article by Adam Tschorn:  “It’s what Adele wears to an Adele concert: Not the type to mull over myriad choices each show, she wears one Burberry design.” Literally, Adele, wears one custom-designed dress (of which she owns 10 copies). The dress is a “floor-length gown that nips in at the waist, has a crew neck, three-quarter-length sleeves and a multicolored floral sequin pattern that dazzles and sparkles like mad under the lights.” She finishes the look with comfortable flats, not high heels.  This is the epitome of uniform dressing. Every detail has no doubt been considered — what neckline is comfortable, what sleeve-length feels good, and what is most flattering. Having found the perfect dress, Adele sticks with it.

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Authenticity too sometimes means that not everyone is going to approve of your fashion choices. In the September 2016 issue of Glamour, associate fashion writer Lauren Chan defends her choice of a dress that, once posted, elicited comments about how unflattering it is. Chan responds: “Here’s where I call bullshit: Unflattering is just a code word for ‘not slimming,’ and shocking as it may seem, this size 12 woman doesn’t choose clothes for the sole purpose of appearing elongated, slimmer, or sucked in. ”

Chan continues:  “Curves are all well and good, these commenters seemed to be saying, as long as you wear Spanx and head-to-toe black and stay away from stripes (never mind stripes and ruffles).  In other words, while we’re embracing women of all sizes as never before, we’ve yet to accept that successful dressing doesn’t mean minimizing our bodies.”

Chan’s conclusion is worth contemplating: “So know this: If you hate what I’m wearing, I can take it! But I like my curves, and I don’t want to ‘flatter’ them away.”

When you look in the mirror, see yourself. Embrace the authentic you.

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Comfort: The New Key to Chic Dressing

There’s an exciting movement afield, a theory of dressing embraced by fashion icons that works for every woman of every age. Going far beyond the incorporation of athletic wear into daytime dressing, the trend reflects a new recognition of the importance of comfort.

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The April 2016 issue of Vogue features the theme “Tomorrowland” and poses the question, “How will the future family live and dress”?  Vogue‘s prognostications include “ultracomfortable day chic.” Discussing the photo of model Joan Smalls wearing a Vetements shirtdress and Boss pants, Vogue comments:  “‘Unfussy’ isn’t a new ideal, but it has great currency. We all want to be, finally, liberated from physically constricting clothes–and sartorial foolishness. That’s why a loose top and lounge-y, laid back pants are the shape of things to come.”

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“Get Punk’d” urges Alex Frank in the March 2016 issue of Elle magazine, spotlighting design labels Vetements, Off-White and Gosha Rubchinskiy: “This new establishment is turning fashion on its head at a time of upheaval in Paris–some would call it a crisis.” With the departure of Raf Simons at Christian Dior, Alexander Wang at Balenciaga, and Alber Elbaz at Lanvin, Elle  notes: “into that void stepped a bunch of upstarts who have very new ideas about what is chic.” These designers “represent the dramatic, refined, thought-provoking end point of so many recent trends. . . . All these trends have been leading us toward this:  a uniform that’s as cool as it is comfortable, the zenith of cozy and casual to keep you looking unbothered in a twenty-first century spent in uncomfortable airport terminals and in line for the next available treadmill.”

The embrace of comfort as the key to chic dressing is not limited to those over 40, by any means.

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The April 2016 issue of Style Watch includes a feature on 30-year-old actress and  “style guru” Lauren Conrad. Responding to a question as to her “perfect no-fail party outfit” she replied: “It definitely depends on the event, but I think it’s important to pick looks you’re comfortable in. After wearing something I couldn’t breathe in a few times, I just realized it’s not fun. Once in a while, you can suffer through the night in a pair of uncomfortable shoes, but overall you should wear clothes you feel good in.”

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The March 2016 issue of Harper’s Bazaar  spends 24 hours in New York with 28-year-old singer and actress Zoe Kravitz. She states: “When I’m in New York, I walk everywhere or take the subway, so I’m not one to wear heels, because your day is completely ruined if you’re uncomfortable.” Her focus on comfort extends to her evening activities, too:  “I don’t necessarily dress up to go out at night unless I have to wear something more formal for an event. Again, I want to be comfortable, especially when I dance, so I don’t put on high heels. . . .”

The March 2016 issue of InStyle profiles 24-year-old actress Shailene Woodley. On the subject of personal style, Woodley states:  “My style is dominated by my desire to be comfortable. Like, I never want anything ever constricting my stomach. I don’t know how people wear jeans so often, because that band is just so tight!” InStyle continues: “When choosing outfits for red-carpet events, she says, it’ snot just about looking comfortable; it’s literally the nuts and bolts and straps and buttons of it all–being able to breathe, to walk, and to feel like herself.”

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At the same time, with maturity comes wisdom as to the benefits of being comfortable. Fashion icon Victoria Beckham, now 42,  is quoted in the March 14, 2016 issue of People magazine:  “I just can’t do heels any more. At least not when I’m working. I travel a lot. Clothes have to be simple and comfortable.”

Vogue stated it simply and accurately:  “We all want to be, finally, liberated form physically constricting clothes.” I’ m completely comfortable with that.

Organizing Your Wardrobe & What Not to Discard If You Have Multiple Sizes in Your Closet

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With her 2014 book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and her unique methodology, Japanese author Marie Kondo has renewed interest in the satisfaction of organizing and decluttering. Indeed, through Pinterest boards and Instagram posts, there is a category of images that has come to be known as “org porn” — photos of perfectly organized, precisely arranged possessions.

As a trained and experienced professional image consultant (I received certification as a Certified Image Professional from the Association of Image Consultants International (AICI) in YEAR), I am not surprised at the popularity of Marie Condo’s book.  Kondo takes a hard look of what possessions her readers require, and urges ruthless downsizing of readers’ wardrobes and other possessions.

One phenomenon that I and other image consultants frequently experience is that our clients seek permission to let things go. Assessing what isn’t flattering or doesn’t fit properly can go a long way to assisting this process with regard to a client’s wardrobe. Some garments can be tailored and thus salvaged; others do the owner no favor when it comes to his or her image and are better retired. Some of one’s discarded wardrobe may be sellable on eBay if it’s in new or near-perfect condition, and might better be donated to Goodwill or another charity if it is not.

Many image consultants advise their clients to discard every garment that no longer fits, even if (one might say, particularly if) the client has multiple sizes in her (or his) closet. If the client is losing weight, many diet advisors along with image consultants tell their clients to throw away their “fat clothes” so that they are not tempted to regain the weight.

Statistics show that the majority of dieters regain much or all of the weight lost. Moreover, their weight may fluctuate up and down by more than a few pounds over the years. For this reason, I found it extraordinarily comforting to be advised by my own personal image consultant that it is okay to retain multiple sizes in my wardrobe, even if not all my clothes fit me right this moment. The key is to retain only those clothes that merit saving — quality garments that flatter in design and color and that fit properly when one’s body is a different (smaller or larger) size. When I gain or lose weight, I “go shopping” in my own closet.

If you’ve invested in high-quality garments and have had them tailored to fit, your investment need not have gone to waste. However, if your wardrobe needs have changed — for instance, you no longer work in an environment where suits are de rigueur, you may no longer have a need to have many or any structured professional garments in one’s wardrobe. Organizations such as Working Wardrobes would be delighted to take discarded professional clothing in excellent condition to pass along to their clients who are newly entering the work force.

Dated vintage styles might at first glance be unsalvageable. Styles do come back around, however. For instance,  a well-made pantsuit that may have been unworn for several years may have another moment in the spotlight now as we have seen a renewed interest in coordinated jackets and pants for women. Shirtwaist dresses and choker-style necklaces are also back in fashion’s spotlight, as are top-handled handbags, ankle strap shoes . . . you get the idea.

What should be discarded?  Clothing that has been worn and loved to the point of looking tired, along with anything in a color that doesn’t flatter or a style that never quite fit properly. Also for the discard pile:  cheap disposable fashions, particularly those items that are too large and that were purchased to suffice as one’s “fat clothes.” These garments do not merit a place in a well-organized wardrobe. They can be replaced if and when necessary. As Marie Kondo writes, “Keep only things that spark joy.”

It’s Healthy to Feel Younger Than Your Age

Worthy of note is a research paper published in JAMA Internal Medicine in December 2014. The study, performed by Isla Rippon and Professor Andrew Steptoe of University College London (UCL) Epidemiology & Public Health, examined the relationship between self-perceived age and mortality in a long-term study of aging in Britain.

The results of the study were noteworthy and downright exhilarating, concluding that “older people (the 6,489 individuals studied had a chronological age averaging 65.8 years) who felt three or more years younger than their chronological age had a lower death rate compared with those who felt their age or who felt more than one year older than their actual age,” according to the press release from UCL. Professor Steptoe is quoted by CBS News: “People who felt younger than their real age were more likely to survive over the next eight years or so compared to those who felt older.”

The UCL press release reports that the “mechanisms underlying these associations” merit further investigation:  “Possibilities include a broader set of health behaviours than we measured (such as maintaining a healthy weight and adherence to medical advice), and greater resilience, sense of mastery and will to live among those who feel younger than their age. Self-perceived age has the potential to change, so interventions may be possible. Individuals who feel older than their actual age could be targeted with health messages promoting positive health behaviours and attitudes toward ageing.”

Sadly, some journalists have taken this study as a green light for lying about one’s age. The study does not suggest, however, as published in O, the Oprah Magazine, that “Shaving a few years off your age may actually help you live longer,” or, as published by CNN:  “Go ahead lie about your age. It may be the very thing that helps you live a longer life.”

Feeling younger than one’s age is very different from lying about one’s age. And indeed, about two-thirds of the individuals studied by UCL met the criterion of feeling three of more years younger than their actual age (the average self-perceived age was about 57).

I very much enjoy the surprised expressions on people’s faces when I tell them my actual age. Isn’t that much preferable to pretending I’m, say, 10 or 15 or even just three years younger?  What’s the point of that?  I feel significantly younger than my chronological age.

Indeed, I would go so far as to say that living with a rather large whopper of a lie about one’s age is likely to cause additional stress, shortening one’s life. Whether and when there will be a medical study on that issue remains to be seen.

I say embrace your real age — revel in it, with all the experiences and adventures of your life.

Oh yes, and, in case you’re wondering, as in the last line from one of my favorite movies of all time, Murphy’s Romance, let me conclude by saying, “I’m  sixty.”

A Broader View of Beauty

Being an outlier when it comes to beauty, as someone far too short and wide to meet the standards of classic loveliness, I have always taken an expansive view of what constitutes attractiveness. The world of fashion has gradually gone farther and farther down the path of embracing the quirky, from the French concept of jolie laide (“pretty/ugly”) to such features as gaps between front teeth and outsize feet.

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The June 1, 2015 issue of People magazine (“The 2015 Body Issue”) announces on its cover “The World’s First Size 22 Supermodel!” and adds:  “From Bullied Teen to Plus-Size Star:  Tess Holliday on her traumatic childhood and inspiring journey: ‘You can be beautiful regardless of your size.'”

With reportedly over 800,000 likes on Facebook and almost 700,000 followers on Instagram, Holliday caught the eye of the U.K.’s MILK Management and became, at size 22, “the largest model ever to sign with a major agency.” People continues:  “At 5’5″ and 280 lbs., the heavily tattooed Holliday is a pinup for a brand-new era: body-positive, outspoken, social-media-savvy and no one’s idea of a cookie-cutter mannequin.” Noting other plus-size models currently making waves, including Candice Huffine, Denise Bidot, Ashley Graham, and Robyn Lawley, the magazine poses the question: “Maybe the fashion industry has finally realized that women wearing size 14 and up account for 67 percent of the American population?”

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Without comment, the same issue of People includes a one-page spread on the “Not-So-Real Housewives” of Orange County, who “dish about their plastic surgery and Botox.” Not a mention of liposuction appears in the article although the most senior of the five women reports having had a tummy tuck more than 15 years ago. Three of the five women in the article admit to having breast augmentation, three have had nose jobs, two have had “chin jobs,” one tried a lip injection, and all five have had Botox injections. 51-year-old Shannon Beador comments that she wants her three daughters (ages 10-13) “to grow up loving their bodies. I don’t want them to think that they’re going to have to change anything.”

Overly Photoshopped images seem more and more passé as consumers protest when advertisers go too far in correcting perceived flaws or in striving for an unnatural level of perfection. Has there finally been a sea change in appreciating the beauty in every individual, whatever her size?

Signature Looks: Fashion Insiders’ Tips on Personal Style Uniforms

Every day, you need to dress  in garments that suit your activities and lifestyle. Whether you have a walk-in closet the size of a bedroom, or a closet shoe-horned into a tiny space, you need to be able to pull together from your wardrobe an ensemble that meets your practical needs and  pleases your sense of aesthetics too. Irrespective of whether you love to start each day putting together an ensemble that suits your mood, or whether your career dictates the parameters of what is acceptable in the workplace, you need to determine what works for you — the practical side of dressing.

It should come as no surprise that many designers default to a certain look — their personal style uniform, in essence. Designers like Vera Wang and Mary Katrantzou design colorful pieces but themselves dress in black;  designers Michael Kors and Roberto Cavalli dress in jeans, tee shirts and black blazers.

Even if you enjoy piecing together a creative look, there are occasions when a tight schedule dictates that you have no early morning fashion decisions to make.

One image consultants’ trick is to keep a list or spreadsheet detailing favorite ensembles from head to toe; if you can add a photo, so much the better, though the photo is not necessary.

In the March 2015 issue of Glamour, four of the magazine’s editors share their personal highlights of the spring shows during Fashion Week in New York, Paris, London and Milan. Each reveals her personal “show uniform”:

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  • New York, “A pair of 3×1 jeans, a silk blouse, and a clutch”
  • Paris: “a crisp button-down shirt layered up with my signature silver jewelry, a pencil skirt, and heels”
  • London:  “I live in dresses during fashion month. The less I have to pack, the better. A structured leather belt helps pull it all together.

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  • Milan:  “I start with a perfect white shirt, then pair it with a full printed skirt and heels that don’t quite match.”

These are uniforms for women who know they are going to be photographed and who are circulating among people for whom fashion is their life; they need to look terrific, and yet they can find a streamlined way to dress.

A few pages farther back in the issue, freelance writer Emily Holt contributed a piece entitled “Yes, I Will Be Caught Wearing the Same Thing Every Day.” Glamour elaborates:  “Some of the world’s chicest women walk around in essentially the same look year in and year out. Emily Holt makes a case for the art of uniform dressing.”

Holt reveals her personal habit of wearing pants with a sweater and sandals. “The pant-sweater-sandal combination emerged during college in Los Angeles, where that laid-back attire was appropriate year-round.” Now living in San Francisco, she tweaks her wardrobe seasonally. “But while components change, the refrain remains: pants, sweater, sandals, repeat. And why not? It works.” Her look can take her comfortably–ah, there’s a key word–“from a breakfast meeting to a visit with a designer friend in her studio to a work dinner and even an after-hours drink. (Occasionally, I’ll swap the flat for a higher heel.)”

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The article includes photos of British Vogue fashion editor Sarah Harris, “consistently chic in crisp shirts, ripped jeans, and standout accessories” and J. Crew’s Jenna Lyons, who “always pulls everything together with an oversize, tailored jacket atop her shoulders.”

Holt provides tips on how to find one’s personal style uniform:

  • Look at how you dressed when you were a kid. What you wore–or refused to wear–before you knew how to spell runway says a lot about your true sartorial nature.
  • Forget trends. Designer Carolina Herrera tells Holt “It’s important to know what looks good on you, not what’s fashionable.” Herrera’s signature white shirt is “something she’s been wearing since she was required to don one as a child in Venezuela as part of her school uniform. ‘Eventually I became accustomed to it,’ says the designer.'”
  • Embrace being different. Jewelry designer Irene Neuwirth “tends to wear colorful, patterned, feminine frocks that cinch at the waist and fall to her ankles”; fashion editor Sarah Harris is a devotee of androgynous jeans and blazers.
  • Think of it as branding. “The best part of a uniform is that you consistently look like you,” citing Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Audrey Hepburn, Celine designer Phoebe Philo, J. Crew president Jenna Lyons, Ellen DeGeneres, and First Lady Michelle Obama as examples.
  • If all else fails, jeans. “There’s a reason they’ve been America’s uniform for more than 100 years. But if they’re your daily fare, Harris has a critical warning: ‘Jeans can look lazy, so you have to amp up the accessories.’ Which means chic, dressier elements are a must. Harris goes for blazers by Stella McCartney, pumps with a heel, a men’s Rolex, and a pair of diamond hoops.” Harris explains: “It elevates the look and helps people think I made an effort. . . . It’s not that I don’t love other clothes. It’s just that in jeans, I feel like me.”

Crisp button-front shirts and jeans appear to be popular choices for personal style uniforms. You’ll find neither of these items in my wardrobe, however. Black slacks provide the common element in most of my looks. They are less informal than jeans and much easier to dress up. And shirts that button are a no-no for busty women (more on this in an upcoming post). I prefer a silk or cotton knit tank or tee, topped with a lightweight cardigan sweater or jacket. The third layer adds polish and also allows for adjustment of layers as the temperature dictates.

Think about what pieces work best for you. Learn what colors are most flattering to you, and wear them near your face. Add jewelry and accessories that are comfortable and, most important, make you smile. Feeling comfortable in your choices, you can relax and “consistently look like you.”