Paula Collins arrives bright eyed and full of energy to my closet. She is an everyday fashionista ready and willing to help my closet create a wardrobe I will love. Paula herself is completely pulled together when she arrives-cute jeans, sandals and a bright purple top all enhanced by turquoise jewelry. Her make-up and hair are under-stated yet the entire package says, “I know how to express my style and myself with confidence…I can help you do this too! No need to be scared!”
Let’s be honest. My closet is a disaster. I usually just throw on whatever comfortable items I can find (or reach) OR I wear the same few outfits each season because I know they work. I even joke that I have a “uniform” when I go out: jeans, sleeveless tops in every color (gotta love those biceps) and sandals/boots depending on the weather. I admit it: I have never known how to pull myself together easily. It would be amazing to have that kind of confidence and style at my fingertips.
Before Paula even makes it to my house, she sends me a questionnaire with about 12 questions ranging from easy to more complicated:
How would you describe your style? Beach girl meets suburban mom. Very casual, relaxed and comfortable.
Is there anything in your style you would like to change? YES! I would love to always look pulled-together and presentable, even if that means I’m in gym clothes. I would love comfort to look good.
What do you do with your time (career, family, hobby, obligations)? Average amount of money spent on clothes monthly, On a scale of 1-10, how important is incorporating current trends to you, Favorite stores to shop in-or online. Feature you most like about yourself – definitely my arms which have some definition and my feet/toes (see book)
Feature you struggle with-my tummy and hips-yikes! I do NOT like muffin top and my hips are no longer those of a 25 year old!
Color you wear the most/color you get the most compliments on, What makes you admire another person’s look? What you want to achieve most from our time together?
At the bottom of the questions are these hints: 1.Do not clean, rearrange, or stress about what your closet looks like! I would never be judgmental like that! We are going to work together to edit and enhance it. 2.Please feel comfortable with whatever modesty level you have in changing into items. 3.Get ready to have fun! This is a great process and I always love helping others!
Paula tells the truth. We had fun and laughed during our three hours together, mostly agreeing on what clothes had to go and what could stay. She was honest and kind. More than that, she watches the trends-what’s in, what’s not and how to make it all work for any body type and any style and reports back on her website ( www.yourclosetsbestfriend.com ) as well as on Facebook and Pinterest.
I have to be honest: before I knew she was coming, I tried on all those jeans I’ve been looking at for years (11 to be exact) and realized not ONE fit. They must have shrunk in the laundry. I was left with three pairs of jeans, one Capri and one light denim boy-friend style (which Paula said was fine). When I mention this to Paula she says, “Doesn’t it feel great to get those items OUT? Otherwise every time you see them, you feel guilty.” I admit: I feel much less guilty with those jeans living somewhere else.
Paula and I head for my closet before I have a chance to think twice.
Once in my closet, Paula and I have a quick chat and then she begins pulling clothing out to hang on the clothes bar she has brought. This makes it easier to move clothing around as well as see exactly what you’ve got. Instead of saying, I have four racer-back shirts in various colors; I could see them hanging together. I was a little concerned about this-when I find something that works, I buy them in different colors, but Paula said this was okay as long as I really wore the clothing. She then showed me how to use these shirts in different combinations with shorts and jeans. She also demonstrated the “faux” tuck-in. Whatever you are wearing, just tuck the front part into a belted bottom to create a slimmer silhouette.
We start with tops, although she usually starts with bottoms. I have t-shirts that are older than my 15 year old son, but Paula doesn’t make me get rid of them as long as they are in good condition. Then she starts pulling tops out and mixing them up. Those “fun” tops that I only wear for evenings out she pairs with shorts, Capri’s and jeans to wear every day. She then laid them out so I could actually SEE what she was talking about and took photos! She has me try on different variations of out-fits so I can see and feel what she is going after. She finds and creates about five out-fits that are comfortable, pulled-together and beach girl enough for me to wear every day in every way.In my closet Paula asks, “What are all these dry cleaning bags?” She has me take ALL of my “fancy” clothes out of the dry-cleaning bags so I can see everything and try them on. We decided together that a number of clothes-the black dress with the swirly skirt, the long black jacket and the shorter version no longer fit well, nor do they look good on me. “Your body changes over time, so something that you might have worn a few years ago may not look the same now. And that’s okay. If it ever comes back in style, the changes will be flattering,” Paula told me.
It’s as if she gives me permission to not like certain items as well as not feel guilty about giving items away that really do not fit. Or flatter. Or make me feel comfortable.
“I don’t get rid of things just to get rid of them,” Paula comments when I pull out something I thought for sure would not make the cut. Then, she completely surprises me when I pull out what I thought was a cute sweater and designated it for the give-away pile. “Very dated and you have this one which is a lighter material.” She also finds hidden gems like the ruffled top from a trip to Santa Fe which I had no idea how to wear. She pairs it with a white tank and jeans and wow, she was right. Paula says, “You need a bright cardigan for the spring” and when I pull out a hot pink sweater she laughs. “Where was this?”
At this point Paula asks for shoes which I pull out from three closets and she finds my jewelry hanging on a jewelry tree. She easily pairs necklaces and suggests how to wear other pieces. She takes pictures of outfits with jewelry and I can see how mixing it all up can add style to an otherwise simple outfit. Paula eyes my shoes which include three pairs of black boots, ankle boots, my Dansko sandals in two colors and tennis shoes. We decide that the black boots I’ve been wearing everywhere stay and the others can find a new home. While I love sandals and can live in them, she suggests a pair of ballet flats and shows me how to wear them with different combinations.
When we look at bottoms, I pull out Banana Republic cords that I am wearing all wrong. I love them because they are skinny jeans and they were a great price (always important to me). The sweater I wear them with hits me in the wrong place and the Uggs cut me in half. Paula suggests not trying to cover up what I consider my problem areas, but instead wearing one of the great sweaters we found as well as the great black boots. The difference is…an outfit.
I can tell we are both trying beginning to get tired…and later I wonder why I didn’t offer chocolate.
Instead, once we have pulled everything out, Paula literally rearranges the entire closet so that I can better see what I have. She groups like clothing together (not by colors) and suddenly I can breathe inside my closet. The bags are gone, the dust is gone, and it is stream-lined and efficient, full of great clothes that I can easily pull together in a number of ways.
Paula says there are items to enhance my wardrobe including (listed in priority): white cami, white short sleeve tee to layer, ballet flats, basic chino or crop in tan, orange tank, long gold or silver necklace for dressier outfits. I have everything else I need!!!
Paula’s fees begin at $40 per hour. However, Paula told me this price “speaks to my core values that I want to save people money in the end. I believe every woman should have access to me. I want people to know I am value driven and respect and encourage women to stay within their budget and make the most out of what they have.”
I thought for sure “beach girl” comfortable would be a challenge, and yet, I had almost all the pieces I needed just waiting in my closet. I just needed Paula Collins, my closet’s best friend to show me how to make the most of my wardrobe.
Paula Collins can be reached via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org, through her website on Facebook “Like” Paula Collins-Your Closet’s Best Friend for weekly style tips and fashion updates and on Pinterest-Follow Paula Collins.