Posts Categorized: reader requests

Reader Request: Long Over Lean for Summer

long over lean for summer

Emily e-mailed me this question:

I’m fairly new (2 years) to this whole style thing and I’m encountering a problem. The long and lean look looks great on me (I’m 5’3 and a size 20ish) but I can’t figure out how to do it in the summer. I’d love your help with how to do this so I can be stylish and comfortable this summer.

The long over lean dressing formula can feel a little covered-up for hot weather, but it is possible to make this look work for summer! Here are some ideas:

Short-sleeved or sleeveless tunic, slim bottom, open footwear

sleeveless tunic and legggings

Eileen Fisher | Macy’s | Garnet Hill

The quickest route to comfortable long-over-lean looks for summer is to lighten up your tunic. In addition to considering fibers and weight, lop off some sleeve length. Short-sleeved and sleeveless tunics still look elegant and edgy with leggings and skinnies. You can do booties or other closed shoes if you prefer – my toes freeze all summer, so I sometimes do – but sandals or ballet flats that expose a bit more foot real estate will help make your look feel seasonal.

Lightweight tunic, cuffed or cropped denim, sandals or booties

tunic and jeans

Nordstrom | Torrid | Nordstrom

As you’ve likely guessed, how summery you want to make this look is directly related to how much skin you feel like showing. In this variation, a lightweight sleeveless tunic and sandals paired with cuffed skinny denim will give you the most ventilation and may feel the best during the true Dog Days. But ankle boots (show an inch or two of lower calf between boot and jean) worn with half or 3/4-length sleeves can work just as well. Ballet flats are always a comfy, cute option for summery long-over-lean, too.

Lightweight tunic, clamdiggers or capris, flats or sandals

tunic_cropped_leggings

Nordstrom | Garnet Hill | J.Jill

This is definitely the trickiest of the three options, as a slim bottom that hits mid-calf or higher will divide your leg line. Add a tunic that hits mid-thigh and you’ve created another division. If you’re concerned about breaking up your figure or creating odd proportions here’s my main tip for making clamdiggers and capri-length leggings/pants work with tunics: Shoes that are nude to your skin tone will soften the break at your ankle, and a tunic and leggings that are similar in tone will soften the break at your thigh. So the blue tunic and black leggings outfit is totally adorable, but does create some very hard lines along the legs and lower body. Something to think about if those breaks concern you. (And yes, I know that middle image doesn’t feature terribly “lean” or slim-fitting bottoms, but it shows a wonderfully summery way to style a light-colored linen tunic.)

A few other considerations:

  • Palette: There’s a lot of black in these example images, but lighter colors, pastels, and white will help your long-over-lean looks feel seasonal.
  • Asymmetry: Jagged hemlines have a lot of movement to them, which aligns nicely with breezy summer weather. Asymmetrical hems also look fabulous on sleeveless tunics, so they’re a natural for hot-weather tunic wearing.
  • Fibers and footwear: OK, these have already been mentioned. But I’m calling them out again! Linen, cotton voile, and other summer-weight fabrics are great choices. And consider sandals and open footwear to lighten your look.

Are you a fan of long-over-lean looks for summer? How do you create yours so you don’t overheat? Any other tips for making proportions work?

Top images courtesy Nordstrom (left) and Nordstrom (right)

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Reader Request: Closet Organization for the Large and Varied Wardrobe

Christine asked this question in a comment:

I am curious how you, Sal, and other style bloggers, who by definition tend to have a lot of pieces, keep everything accessible and in order. So much closet organizing advice seems tilted toward a minimalist perspective.

I’d never really thought about it, but she’s right: Even many of my own posts on closet organization describe tactics that I can aspire to, but rarely apply to my own large and varied wardrobe. Naturally, I can’t speak for all style bloggers – some of whom also own a lot of clothing, but many of whom aim for minimalism – but I’m happy to share my own tactics.

Store off-season clothing

Seasonal wardrobe separation has its pros and cons, but since I live in a climate that boasts a nearly six-month winter and requires many a bulky sweater and heavy skirt, I find this practice to be essential. My layering pieces stay in their drawers year-round, but blazers, dresses, tops, skirts, and pants get rotated in and out depending on the weather. We are lucky enough to have lots of basement storage, so I keep my off-season items on a covered rack or in sealed storage bags with mothballs.

Make use of all available space

The image above is not of my own shoes, but I use that same heel-toe shelving technique to maximize my space. I use a similar technique with sweaters in my hanging sweater rack, folding them all but stacking them one with the collar facing the opening, one with the collar facing the back of the rack, and so on. I store some of my boots on top of my armoire. Every bit of space that has been reserved for my wardrobe is in use and nothing is wasted.

Employ a variety of storage techniques

My actual closet is tiny, but it has a bar, a hanging sweater rack, stacked shelves on the floor, and built-in shelves up top. My hats are hung from a string over my desk. My scarves are stored by color in two hanging scarf organizers. My dad made me a gorgeous jewelry rack for my necklaces. My PJs, layering tees, and jeans are in dresser drawers. I have boots on shelves and shoes in racks. If I tried to fold and drawer everything or hang everything up, I’d be sunk. If someone has thought it up, I am likely using it to keep my wardrobe in order.

Pick a categorization technique

I hang my tops by sleeve length and then by prints/solids. I keep all of my cardigans in the same spot and all of my pullovers in the same spot. My button-fronts are a ridiculous hodgepodge and so are my blazers, but just about everything else is categorized and stored accordingly. I know where to find all of my stuff at any given time. I also know where all of my tank tops are, so if I need a tank top of some sort but don’t know which color or style yet, I can go to that part of that drawer and view all of my options. My own practices won’t work for every owner of a large and varied wardrobe, but finding storage and categorization techniques that work for your own items – by color, weight, season, pattern, etc. – will help you feel more organized.

Fluff

When I hang clothing and replace it in my closet, it tends to get a little bunched-up - especially since my closet is fairly full. At a certain point, I will have washed, hung, and replaced just about everything in there, and all that bunching will add up. So every few months I take everything out and put it back in a few pieces at a time. Fluff out sleeves and smooth garment bodies flat. The simple act of undoing the natural re-hanging-related bunching frees up LOADS of closet space.

Know what you own

I suppose this isn’t an organizational technique as much as a wardrobe management one, but it merits mention. I love having a large and varied wardrobe because it allows me to dress in an expressive and eclectic way, but I’m aware of the risks. A large wardrobe means you may forget that you already have a gray skirt and buy another, or become so overwhelmed by your options that you only wear 10% of what you own. I purge my closet every season and I take inventory of it regularly. Knowing what I own helps me make use of my clothes. I play favorites like anyone, but I also know which items are veering off into closet orphan territory. This knowledge helps me decide what is really earning its keep and what should be donated or consigned when those purges come around, but also challenges me to build outfits around languishing items.

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Who else out there has a large and varied wardrobe? How do you keep it in order? Would any of my techniques work for you? Others to suggest?

Image courtesy Cupcakes and Cashmere

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Reader Request: Describing Your Personal Style

Hi all – Disqus randomly closed comments on this post, so I’m reposting. No idea what happened – apologies!

Describing Your Style

Susan e-mailed me after reading this post about Boho at the office:

I was reading that you don’t consider yourself Boho, and it got me wondering how you describe your style? I’m fascinated with how people describe themselves, and I wonder if you don’t describe it, if you find that limiting, or if you do with some number of adjectives, pictures or metaphors. I’ve read somewhere to come up with two adjectives to describe your style. I think that sounds like an interesting exercise.

Many, MANY moons ago, I did some noodling and landed on “arty eclectic with a broad streak of retro influence.” I must now admit that I’m not entirely sure how I came up with this phrase. I put “eclectic” in there because I’m a total style dabbler and wanted that expressed in a succinct and positive way, and “retro influence” because I don’t do full-on vintage all the time but instead hint at styles from decades past. “Arty” probably arose because I like asymmetry and funky pieces, but it might’ve also gotten shoved in there because I don’t feel like I comfortably fit into any of the typical style categories. And because I view style not necessarily as an art form, but a means of self-expression.

At this point, I’d probably revise my little phrase to “eclectic retro rocker.” I’ve always dabbled in rocker looks, but with the messy hair I’m letting those leanings seep through more often. Retro and eclectic still definitely apply, though, so they can stay. I’m both a word person and someone who works in a style-related field, so I may have an easier time attaching descriptors to my own style and the styles of others. But I’d be happy to share a few tips for those of you interested in describing your own styles, especially since doing so is something I ask you to do as a client, in my book, and in the mini makeover guide!

The big buckets

It can help to start with broad strokes, so ask yourself if your style seems to fall into one of the most-used categories: Preppy, minimalist, classic, edgy, Bohemian. Other less-used but potentially helpful buckets include romantic, androgynous/tomboy, sporty, retro, and bombshell. Do any of these fit, even partially?

Style icons

Even if you struggle to pin a broad term to your own style, you may still be able to identify a few other people whose style you admire and seek to emulate. Style icons needn’t be famous; They can be people in your own life, fictional characters, anyone. Can you think of a style icon? What do you love about her/his style? How would you describe her/his style? Do those terms apply to you, too?

Adjective brainstorming

Making a nice, long list of terms that describe aspects of your style and dressing preferences can give you some clarity. Are you dressy, casual, colorful, neutral, textural? Are your clothes sparkly, soft, sculptural, flowy, or embellished? Try a stream-of-consciousness brain dump and see what happens. A few key descriptors may rise to the top.

Patterns and signatures

Take a peek in your closet and look for items that appear in multiples: Do you have gobs of moto jackets? (I know I do.) Tons of ballet flats? Is your closet overflowing with maxi dresses and billowy blouses? How about cowboy boots? More than one pair? If you have a couple of styles or items that get bought and worn often, they may be contributing to your signature style. What patterns can you identify in your wardrobe? Do they describe a specific style?

Photographic evidence

Still photos offer startlingly different perspective from mirrors, so consult a few snapshots. If you do this, you’ll need multiple images for reference. What common threads do you see? Any signatures or patterns? Do your outfits remind you of any potential style icons? Can you put your style into one of the big buckets?

Ask around

Talk to someone in your life who sees you frequently and knows you in a variety of settings from casual to personal. How does this person see your style? How does she/he describe your dressing choices? Don’t think this is a last resort option, either, friends! The people who know you well can offer insight and clarity even if you’ve already got some pretty solid descriptors.

This is not an exact science and these steps may still leave you drawing a blank. But hopefully getting the ball rolling will help. The vast majority of us never take the time and energy to understand our personal styles well enough to describe them, but it can be a really valuable exercise. Once you know how to describe your style, you can begin to refine it. As you shop, you can pass over items that don’t fit within your ideals. As you purge, you can jettison items that aren’t harmonious with your personal style. Putting some words around your style can be subtly but powerfully beneficial.

Can you describe your style in a few words or a short phrase? Do you wish you could? Think any of these exercises might help?

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