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Colour in Fashion

Love your House and your Closet!

By 01/29/2010January 27th, 201751 Comments

I am fashion challenged. I know, you’re shocked right?

When I announced this to my sister Elizabeth (the one I shop with every Spring and Fall so that she looks good) she said “If you’re fashion challenged, what about me?” My other sister Anita, (who writes this blog) agreed.

Image source

I’m 42 years old and trying to be current and fashionable without spending a fortune. The problem is I’m not sure how far I should go with the skinny jean trend (for example) before it’s too ‘young’ of a look for me.

I have bought 2 pairs of skinny jeans (the dark ones—below–I bought right before Christmas when I had slimmed down even more and I was so smug. . . sigh) and a second pair I bought this January that I wore for almost 2 weeks and then thought “Maybe they should be washed” oops.

Image source

So this week I decided to take the advice I’m always dishing out on this blog and hire a professional for everything I can’t do professionally myself.

I hired a stylist, Amber Foreman (click here to email her).

It took 4 1/2 hours to go through my entire closet. I have 2 huge bags of clothes that are going out to the local thrift store! Anyone in Vancouver a size 6-8, you would love me right now!

Here are my dark skinny jeans!

I consider myself to be a practical shopper who buys ‘classics’ so I was a bit sheepish about the 2 bags of clothes. Most of them I have barely worn.

I try to shop outside of the box but then I don’t end up with clothes that are ‘me’. And I still stick a turtleneck on in the end because I hate to be cold.

I have 11 turtlenecks.

I have four black ones 🙂

The other reason I don’t need to spend a lot of money on clothes is I don’t go to an office everyday (like I used to) where I didn’t like to wear the same thing for 3 weeks.

I see different clients and different suppliers every day so I just want to look designerish (is that a word?). Plus when I do on-line consults, I could be in my bathrobe, which honestly does happen sometimes. When I’m working from home I get annoyed when I look up at 11:00 am and I’m still in my robe!

I love this ring!

So back to the moral of my story; I had bought 2 sweaters last week which my stylist pointed out were all wrong for me so I returned them (Value $130.00). My consultation with her cost $250.00 – $130.00 which she immediately saved me, actually reducing the total cost to $120.00.

I would not be happy if I started adding up the cost of all the clothes in those 2 bags that I have barely worn. So I have decided to only buy clothes with my stylist.

Is this only for the rich and famous. Hardly. But isn’t that how we think about hiring these professionals?

Turquoise is my colour I need a sweater like this she said

When I arrive at a client’s house, many times they’ll say to me “Just ignore that rug it was only $200, that was only $50 bucks I can toss it”, and the list goes on. Wouldn’t you rather just pay for a designer to buy the right pieces in the first place so that your house looks finished and most of all has ‘atmosphere?’.

How about the gallons of paint you buy in the wrong colour? I have never left a consultation without the client saying (or thinking—I can tell 🙂 “I never would have thought of that!”

Just this week a client (in a kitchen renovation) was going to replace all the laminate flooring in the house because it had faded from the sun in the kitchen dining area (and they couldn’t find a match to the existing flooring). I suggested they take the tile that was going into the kitchen into the dining area as well, saving them thousands in labour and new flooring!

Image via House of Turquoise

Well that’s where I’m at with my wardrobe. I would rather pay my stylist and buy a few quality pieces that I’ll add to my favorites pile than waste a bunch of money on clothes I don’t wear.
She pointed out simple things like the length of my tops (many were too short), necklaces (should be longer for me), and my favourite Bebe jeans were wearing out so she told me to hem them so they could be my weekend jeans (and then I could wear them with flats)! Things that did NOT even remotely occur to me!

Image source

Just like when I’m in your house. There’s a fine line between your colour and furniture having a relationship with each other and being too ‘matchy matchy’ or the opposite extreme. You know the “Just-moved-in-need-to-paint-moving-out-soon-look”. The latter a client said to me once and I wrote it down I thought it was so funny—and true!

So just before you decide design advice is only for the rich? Think about what I’m saying. Professional help is not free but we don’t value the help we get for free the same anyway!

Image via House of Turquoise

When I’m being paid, my clients are listening and paying attention, vs. my family or friends (quick email questions excluded) who take my advice for granted and sometimes waste my time because they are not paying for it! Okay, that’s another post so I’ll stop there, but I think you see what I mean.
You know that post I wrote, 20% of the colours we use 80% of the time? Isn’t it true that we tend to wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time?

I’m thinking a Designer or Stylist equals Stylish homes and Sylish wardrobes, period!

If you would like to transform the way you see colour, become a True Colour Expert.

Related posts:

Why you can’t afford NOT to hire a Colour Expert

When it comes to your Decor, your friends are Polite

Signature look or your clients look; Which one works the Best?

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  • joanie says:

    maria — interesting post. wonder if they have stylists for senior ladies? at my time of life it takes work to be presentable –never mind stylish! one of the biggest mistakes we all make is buying something because it's on sale and is such a great "value." how valuable is it if it hangs in the closet and is rarely worn?

    good post. thanks.


  • rainbowlens says:

    How do you know you've FOUND the right stylist/designer though? That would be the tough part for me; the actual search for one. Wonderful post.


  • Kelly, Arte Styling says:

    Maria, I can certainly relate to your bathrobe comment. It is 12:30 and I am still in the clothes I slept in. How embarrassing! I just hope the UPS guy doesn't come…
    Fun post! I always think of clothing and homes as similar canvases, however. dressing a person to me is similar to dressing a room. It's important to balance color, texture, weight, etc while also respecting and creating an authentic personality. I think tho, some of us prefer to focus on one artistic area that we love – one that gives us the most emotional satisfaction. for you, that obviously isn't wardrobe styling! good for you for bringing in a pro. you should be looking very designer-y at your upcoming client meetings (and yes, i think it's a word.)

  • Traci Zeller Designs says:

    You're so right! I had this realization a while ago, and now I couldn't live without my stylist! She's in the shops all the time – it's her job – so she know what's out there more than I'd ever have time to do. So it saves me time and money – and I look better!

  • Tammy@InStitches says:

    Maria, I'm dying to know about the skinny jeans. Did she say we can wear the skinny jeans ?

  • Acanthus and Acorn says:

    OMG! I just had this very conversation with a friend. I always try to look nice, but really don't put serious work into it everyday. And, let's face it, design is often not remotely glamourous ex: it's 95 degrees in August and you are in an upstairs bathrooms picking through the tile shipment that is severely damaged! Unless, I am meeting a client, it is jeans and turtlenecks in the winter for me most days too! I am afraid to count mine. But, I always have on a great pair of heels of boots…does that count? HAHA! Can you keep any of them? I don't do the skinny jeans though, because I thought it was for the young or tall??? I would hire a stylist, it would be worth it…it is seriously the cost of a few purses and/or shoes! I got a call the other day from a shop owner who referred a client to me for wallpaper. I called the women and she didn't want to pay for a consult, but instead just have me recommend some sources for the papers she described. I explained to her that would be impossible without seeing the space and then it would take hours looking for the "right" paper. UGH! Yes, hire a pro and get the "right" results faster= time & money saved. I loved this post!!!!!!!!!!!

  • pve design says:

    A professional can give guidance based on skill, like that of a teacher. I had a professional organizer help me and it was 3 hours of priceless guidance. I think showing the trust in another professional speaks highly of you!
    I would love a fashion stylist to cull my closet to a few pieces. I think I will look into this. Even with all my fashion experience, it takes another eye to deem what works best and looks in vogue.

  • categirl says:

    Nice points! I was wondering if you could tell me where the photo with the sweater came from- you didn't cite it. Gap? JCrew? Banana Republic?

  • VictoriaArt says:

    Love every word! I have had moments of closet despair, usually I manage to get through it, but I consider help, just to find out as where to put in the priorities!
    My lifestyle mirrors yours a bit, plus the kids action!
    I usually dress low key in the mornings and change if I go anywhere! Even to shop!

    You look so young and fab in that picture above and I loved your new white frames, you've showed a couple of weeks back!


  • elisabeth (bovagoods) says:

    loved reading this. i have a degree in fashion design but two children and 10 years later, i definintely feel out of it! i could sure use some help! i agree with rainbowlens- how does one find a the "right" stylist?

  • Rachel says:

    sometimes,i think people are just too close to the subject matter to look at it objectively. I can waltz into someone's home, and help them select the perfect colors for them in a matter of hours. but make color selections for myself? so many options whirling about, it's hard to be selective. So glad there are professionals out there to help

  • Southern Aspirations says:

    Completely agree. I ended up hiring a designer (finally!) for help with my house and it was embarrassing to walk through my home and see how many items I bought because they were "on sale" or dirt cheap. Not cheap, after all! Holds true in my wardrobe and my home.

    BTW- when I said we take a picture of all of our clothes, we just take pictures of the ones that we donate so we have proof of our charitable donations (donations can be tax deductible in the US).

  • Kara says:

    What a great post!! Very insightful. Now I want to hire a stylist as well.

  • Jennifer, Inside Out Colour and Design says:

    Hi Maria,

    Yes I use a stylist for my wardrobe too. It certainly makes alot of sense especially when we tell people how their homes should look. I always get comments that I am so well co-ordinated. I am a reflection of my business so I feel it is important to not only talk the talk. You will feel so much better everytime you walk out the door and onto a job.

    Jennifer XX

  • Sharon says:

    I really enjoyed this post. I have been considering hiring a stylist recently. I think your post was just the push I needed. Thanks!

  • The Zhush says:

    HI! I just discovered you…don't even really remember how?! But, as a newbie blogger, I have just skimmed your posts on tips,etc. This is what I have been looking for! BOOKMARKED you here and there, and can't wait to return and really pay attention. Right now expecting weekend house guests any minute and really shouldn't even be online, but so excited to "find you" just HAD to say something!
    PS I am one yr. older, and love the skinny jean look, provided worn with long(ish) open cardigan and very slightly slouchy boots, as Tim Gunn says, its all about proportion!

  • LesleySW says:

    This is really a great lesson. I never would have thought of hiring stylist. It really does seem like a rich-person-only kind of thing.

    And I love the way you connected it to decor as well. Great!

  • Susan says:

    Fab post as usual brings to mind a conversation I had with a client. I have to share this story with you.

    I posted on her house way back in July/August. This client is from NYC and hired me to renovate, provide furniture, window treatments, accessorize, etc…for their second home on PEI. We're talking the whole shabang. Complete confidence and complete control on the entire house. Oh yeah doesn't happen that often, this was a dream job. (sorry I was digressing)

    Flashback to your subject. She is an executive and following her last promotion and pay hike her boss attached one condition. You have to dress up a notch.

    Of course, she wanted her raise…and promotion, President of a leading advertising firm.

    She, like most of us, was wallowing through what to wear and how to look age appropriate and look great on a daily basis. Now she was under pressure to look the part. She said she made so many fashion mistakes and wasted so much money until she signed up at a famous NYC store. They have stylists who will dress you for free! free! free!

    They choose the clothing in advance. It's all there ready for her to try on in the dressing room. No more aisle shopping and then, bonus, it is delivered to her house. Like most of us she does the fashion show for hubby and daughter and gets to send back things if necessary. And she says she gets sale items first with special discounts on top of that and has saved so much money because now there are no mistakes.

    The complete moral of this story is yes …you are so right. A stylist will save you money and time whether it's for your home or wardrobe. That I guess is why she didn't bat an eyelash when she hired me to do her new second home, carte blanche.


    P.S. I live in turtlenecks too 🙂 I hate being cold and besides they can be tres chic. Love skinny jeans with high heels or fashion boots.

  • The Blasphemous Fiendess says:

    I think it is the other way around-you would make turquoise look good. Cool post. Does a wardrobe designer take your personal taste into account? Could you say, make me fabulous in a Chanel suit kind of way, or a retro seventies or cowboy punk? I would not be happy with a professional who told me to wear turquoise double breasted suits. Would it be cheaper to buy a book by Trinny and Susanna? Probably not as fun. I used to love watching What Not To Wear. But I don't think they took personal style into account much. Everybody came out kind of generic. Just wondering.

  • Jane says:

    Choosing what looks best on us is so difficult. We see the "image" we think we present. A stylist sees the real thing. I'm looking forward to the day I can once again afford to have someone "style" my wardrobe. It's time to get out of the all-day pjs and become fashionably chic once more.
    Jane (artfully graced)

    ps…I can wear flip flops everywhere. Right?

  • Grace says:

    Okay, even I agree that 4 black turtlenecks are too many. Good for you for seeking advice from a professional. Have you seen Angie's blog ( – you might find it a good resource. She will help educate you about body shape, how to look professional, proportion etc. She also has a great discussion board that you might enjoy.

  • Style says:

    Re: Skinny jeans. It's not about Age as much as it is about Fit. Just a narrower cut can give you that look. A longer shirt – or one layered under one you have – can make the skinny jean look and feel better. Even try a top that seemed too baggy with other pants. To start, try wearing them in a boot (like I did!) as a transition. Skinny jeans do take some getting used to. Good Luck!

    Amber Foreman – Maria's stylist!

  • Karena says:

    It is so difficult to toss out expensive classics even if your rarely wear them, I need to do this though. Someone else will get good from the giving! The flats are darling!

  • Shana says:

    In my country, ready to wear isnt huge as we mostly have bazaars full of unstitched fabric, laces,etc and go the tailors, the dyers,embroidery wallas choosing our own patterns and combinations.
    Wonderful for those who enjoy designing their own clothes, but then you DO see a lot of mistakes!

    Interesting post, and cute comment welcome!

  • samia says:

    yesi absolutely see the sense in hiring s professional for everything.. and how i envy you for doing this for even the smallest things.. I vow that someday il hire a stylist as well for my wardrobe at least.. but i love experimenting on my own in the meanwhile..

  • "Yeah, that works..!" says:

    Lots of comments on this post which says to me that we women all struggle with the same concern(s). I chuckled when I read this because I, too, default just about daily to what I call my "uniform" – turtleneck, jeans and nice boots. When I need to add a little extra I have a closet full of jackets. But the turtleneck is my staple, for sure! In the warmer months it is a v-neck t-shirt that I have about a dozen of. Boring. Necklaces, purses and shoe-ware are where I attempt to add touches of color and style. A stylist is a terrific idea. I never would have thought of that. Duh!

    Will you be sharing some "After" pics???

  • Herself says:

    First… designerish is a word. I've used it plenty of times; never mind it's not in the dictionary.

    Second… I'm going to have to go through my closet now, and get someone to go shopping with me.

  • Carol Ann says:

    I need to go through my closet too, I have been putting it off for lack of time…now getting a stylist just might be on my list of things to do.
    Could you leave some of your better pieces at a consignment shop? At least you could get some $ for them…for new pieces…

  • Ruthie's Renewed Treasures says:

    Maria: I'm totally relating to this post!!!!! I need a stylist. So frustrating to buy things and then never wear them. Seem to look good in the store and then change when wer're home. Oh and by the way, you are so beatiful in whatever you wear. Also glad you get these updates, change is hard but good!!


  • Design Wanna-be says:

    How fun! I would love to meet with a stylist, in fact,I would love to become a stylist! Thanks for the interesting post.

  • Jules says:

    So true! Sadly, I've had designers over to my house, and most of them weren't up to par. If you lived even remotely near me I would hire you in an instant! The amount I have spent on paint sample this week alone would have paid your fee. By the way–I give up! The paint color stays as is, and I purchased silk curtains in antique gold (should hopefully look bronze/butterscotchy) that pulls directly from the fireplace, God willing). Around the entire room they go. I decided to stop trying to hide the fireplace beast and just go with it.

  • beyondbeige says:

    While hiring a stylist is a fantastic idea (why didn't I figure that out!!) I have found a great websit. My Shape.. You type in your measurements, select the styles you like and up pop outfits that work with your figure and its flaws.. Who would have thunk it?

  • Between you, me and the Fencepost says:

    The word stylist is definately something I relate to the rich and famous. Maria, I need to hire her so she can get rid of my 'mom' wardrobe. I can't wait to see what she comes up with for you. By the way is you looked amazing and pulled together last night!

  • Jenn Calling Home says:

    I'm also fashion challenged. Maybe you can share some of your new fashion looks from time to time.

  • Color and Style says:

    Very well said. My advice would be to invest in good accessories you can always dress up a simple turtle neck and jeans. Accessories for the home or to wear should always be about quality, not quantity. Cloths are disposable but good accessories last generations.
    You look amazing in your skinny jeans.


  • DesignTies says:

    Each time I see you I think you look fantastic!!! Now me… I need a stylist! And a personal trainer… and my own chef to cook those low carb means that will help me shed the pounds… and perhaps my own personal hypnotist; someone who can convince me that food is NOT my friend! 😉

    Enjoy your shopping ventures with your stylist! If I thought you looked fantastic before you took this step, imagine how wonderful you'll look the next time I see you!

    Victoria @ DesignTies

  • Gwen says:

    I am totally shocked that you think that you are fashion challenged, but happy to know that you aren't perfect. (I mean that in the good way, not a snarky way)

    It really is a struggle in your late 30's/early 40's to stay stylish, but not look like you are trying to be 20.

    I was a rep for Liz in my 20's and besides wishing that I still had that clothing allowance, I wish that that I had paid more attention to age transitional styles. No, that isn't a real term, but it fits here.

    Working from home combined with living in a really laid back community is a challenge for me fashion wise. If I get to looking like I just stepped out of Vogue people around here would think I was a freak. Still, that girl that looked at Vogue as her bible every September is still crying to get out every once in a while.

    My solution is to always make sure that what ever I am wearing fits beautifully and also to accessorize. My four navy turtlenecks look chic with the right necklace!

    Thanks so much for being honest:)

  • Jennifer says:

    Wish I was in Vancouver right now!!!! How neat that you hired someone to help with style, love that idea!!!

  • AB HOME Interiors says:

    Great post, I totally agree. I have wanted to hire a consultant for over a year but times are lean. Will have to wait. Speaking of consultants how is the class with Mary K going??

  • Erika @ BluLabel Bungalow says:

    What a great post Maria! It never occurred to me to hire a stylist. I have been through so many sizes during my pregnancies and afterwards that I do need a fresh start. I'm scouting someone now.

    As for the turtlenecks, they look great with stylish glasses. I have a pair of red kate spade and I get so many compliments on them…i digress…anyway, i loved reading this! have a great weekend!

  • Puhvis Kukk says:

    I agree that using a professional helps be it interiors or wardrobe. I'm a wardrobe consultant in Connecticut and I have to say I see the same mistakes over and over again. Moms who still wear pregnancy clothes, 30-somethings who dress too young, 40-50 year olds who dress too old, etc, etc. And I cant stress this enough, stop buying stuff just because it was on the sale! I just did a closet of a woman who had 14 pairs on blakc pants and not a single one fit her. Quality over quantity.

    Good Luck!
    PS! I would scratch those inspirational photos – with your body you should wear fitted clothes. Have your basics and buy jackets in different styles, colors and intersting jewelry – that out to help with putting your designer look together.

  • Ideezine says:


    Fun post! Explore your other great assets. Have a make-up consult as well. Your face draws others in and you want to "glow with the flow" beautiful skin head to toe, great teeth, and make-up is freshing and rewarding.

    Next a great bra fit for those sexy turtlenecks is a must have and proves your workouts were worth every ounce of sweat.

    Finally, enjoy the pulled together feeling that professional help gives you. You'll look younger because your true self is present every step of the way. Confidence relieves stress, and positions you as a leader not a follower.

    Being an interior designer also includes designing our interior selves…leading by example. New year new you!


  • Struggler says:

    Good for you for "putting your money where your mouth is". 🙂
    I'm sure this will be a good investment as your business is very image conscious.

  • Laura Jens Sisino says:

    Brilliant! How fun, and how excited I am for you (not that I, or anyone else thought you needed help)….but, after you have received it I hope you feel better about the purchases you have and will make. And just maybe there won't be anymore bags to donate (another saving).
    I read two things awhile back that reminded me of your post, and those things made a huge impact on my thinking:
    One, "People don't value what they don't pay for." Period. End of story……
    Two, "Dress in a way that would reflect your tastes/style of designing" (something like that) Basically, your appearance is a huge part of being designerish…
    It's important to look good, even when going just to the grocery store. For you never know who you might bump into. 🙂
    As far as the PJ's, till 11, you are NOT alone on that one……at all.
    Thanks again for a wonderful you and another awesome post. Keep em' coming. xo

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Categirl,
    That sweater is from J.Crew, I tried it on when I was in New York in December actually but didn't buy it because it was Cashmere and really it's too warm for Vancouver! Love the colour though!

  • Michele says:

    How about the turtleneck? It looks like it doesn't come up too high on your neck. Just what I'm looking for? Can you tell me where you get them? Thanks.

  • Lauren says:

    oh i need one!! badly. how did you find her & know you'd like her style for you? we've gotta chat over this, i need details! 🙂

  • Indiana says:

    Go forth and get this book immediately (if not sooner) "Elegance" by Kathleen Tessaro, it will change your thinking about style. Fabulous, fabulous!

  • Sarah La Rose says:

    Maria, you are honestly too cute! I love that you can admit your personal style sense isn't at par with your design sense. Sounds like you definitely got your money's worth of Amber. You're a big inspiration to all of us. Thanks for sharing and good luck shopping.

  • Annie, bossy color says:

    Maria, you are so right! It never ceases to amaze people when I tell them I'm not NEARLY as good w/ my wardrobe as I am with houses. I hired a wardrobe consultant last year ( and haven't regretted it for a minute. Purging wasn't the problem – I'm good at that – but replenishing is! Oh, well. There are worse things than being told to go shopping, right? Thanks for the fun post!

  • Anonymous says:

    Do any of you know a good stylist in Toronto? I need one but don't know where to start to look for one, and one who would be a good fit for ME. Anyone on the west coast who might consider travelling to Seattle should think about using angie, at the youlookfab blog (as recommended by Grace, above). I hired a decorator to help me with my house and I have to admit that I was disappointed. I understand that having the right fit in both taste and personality with your "hired help" is crucial!

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