Sarah grew up in Fort Saskatchewan, and moved to Edmonton after university. She works full time as a personal assistant in an office setting, and part time at a jewelry store that specializes in custom jewelry – which is one of her passions. She’s a self-described “old lady” at heart – she likes to keep busy with yoga, quilting, Bible study and cooking. Oh, and watching TV with her husband and their (super cuddly) cat. Sarah describes her style as basic, but with feminine touches – she loves to accessorize, especially if it involves scarves, lace and/or lots of pearls. Some of her fave shopping destinations are Jacob and Old Navy. Her goal for our session was to bust out of what had become a bit of a style rut and have more fun with her clothes.

Because Sarah works in a fairly informal environment, her work “uniform” was a close relative of her everyday “uniform”: a solid colour tank top, a solid colour cardigan, pants (dress pants for work, jeans for everything else). This is one example:

Apart from the ennui inherent in wearing the same things day in and day out, this outfit had other, more basic concerns. Sarah is tall and has a long torso but a high waist, and the proportions of this outfit were all wrong for her shape. The cropped cardigan draws attention to her hips, making them look out of proportion. The tank top hit her at the widest point of her body, somehow managing to make her slender frame look stocky. The gap between the cardigan and the tank top makes her torso look even longer, while the pants are doing no favours to her lower half. She could probably smuggle her  adorable cat in one of those pant legs!

So the first thing I wanted to work on with Sarah was proportions. Here is a tweaked version of the same outfit. 

The jacket is longer and the tank top shorter, and the gap between them narrower. The tank top, especially, no longer hits Sarah at the widest point, but rather just above the hip bone, which creates better proportions all around. The pants are a much better fit too. We added different shades of plums and pinks in the outfit to create visual “depth” and interest. Yellow/gold-tone accessories really pop against those shades.
Here is another side-by-side comparison between Sarah’s original outfit (left), and one we put together (right).

On the right, the longer cardigan works because it hits right below the widest point of her body; Sarah is tall enough to pull off a long cardigan without looking “swamped”. The length of the cardigan is also offset by the fact it’s a slim cut, and by the fact we tucked in the shirt – again, this serves to draw the eyes upward.[For other high-waisted girls: tucking in your top into skirts and/or pants that sit lower than your actual waist (but not too low if you are also pear-shaped) helps to create the illusion of a “lower” waistline, balancing proportions.]

Another thing Sarah wanted to work on was incorporating more “visual interest” in her outfits. Sarah has a lot of solid colours in her wardrobe, which poses a bit of a challenge in terms of putting together really different looks. That’s where patterns and prints come in handy. Since Sarah does have a few print skirts in her closet, I wanted to show her how to build outfits around prints, the easy way.

When it comes to colour mixing, prints are almost a “cheat” – all the hard work is done for you. Just look at the colours found in the print itself, and get your inspiration from that. You already know the colours are going to work together – otherwise you wouldn’t like the print in the first place! So, yes, pair red and purple together – they work! So do blue and brown and yellow. And, when in doubt, you can always anchor the outfit together with black.

The other thing I love about these outfits is that (i) they can work for fall/winter (just add black opaque tights and boots), and (ii) they incorporate Sarah’s amazing collection of scarves. Her scarves are so beautiful (and colourful) that they can easily take the place of jewelry … and are ever so practical for the season.

The other thing I wanted to show Sarah was how to tweak outfits in order to get slightly different looks. That way, if she really likes how certain pieces look together, she can wear them more often without getting bored.

We both loved this tulip-shaped print skirt in Sarah’s closet, and it was a great match for her brown belted jacket. A great way to spice up brown is to add some red accents. Here are two different takes on the look.

Don’t be afraid to replace the belts that come with an item like this jacket with one of your own belts. It’s an easy way to get more looks (and more wear) out of the piece. 

The next item we used to create multiple outfits was a knit, sleeveless wrap-dress that Sarah bought on a trip to New York, but didn’t really know how to deploy in her wardrobe. As it turned out, it’s a really versatile piece. First up, a work look.

We layered a bright coloured tank underneath, added a grey jacket and some beautiful grey pearls and – voila! Instant polish. Again, Sarah can add some black (or purple or grey) tights to winterize this look.

Next up, two weekend looks – one casual (left) and one dressy (right). In the first case, we layered a 3/4 sleeve top, added a long pendant (remember, longer necklaces tend to have a more casual vibe) as well as leggings and flats.  Sarah looks beautiful in this look, which really flatters  her frame. In the wintertime, Sarah could substitute a turtleneck and boots for some added warmth. For the second outfit, we kept the top and leggings, added a cool belt, boyfriend blazer and heels – and Sarah is ready for a night on the town!

We took a similar approach to a midi skirt from Sarah’s closet, which I fell in love with. The fabric and the colour were so unexpected and cool – definitely a statement piece. Again, Sarah is tall and has the frame to pull off this mid-calf length and elongated A-line style that could be problematic for shorter gals.


For the office, we paired it with the chocolate brown belted jacket and silvery (comfy) flats, and turned a long necklace into a three-strand piece perfect for the work week.
For the weekend, we again created two looks. On the right, a cardigan and braided belt give the skirt a bit more of a  relaxed, boho vibe. On the right,  a more sophisticate belt, black jacket and heels work great for dressier occasions.

Last, but definitely not least, I could not resist “playing” with another one of Sarah’s skirts – a similar style and cut as the previous one, but in black. It’s a fantastic piece for semi-formal occasions; the sheen of the fabric and the structured volume give it tons of elegance. There is something so timeless about a black-white-and-red combination …

But, to be honest, as soon as I saw this skirt, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. Here was my chance to re-create the retro glam look that so dominated the runways for Fall 2010. And I could not have asked for a more stunning model.

Perfection!
Got a style question? Want your own style session or shopping trip with me? Contact me at bluecollarredlipstick@gmail.com or on Facebook.

7 Comments on A girl and a closet: Sarah

  1. Thank you all! Although I think Sarah deserves most of the credit – she had some amazing pieces in her closet. I covet her scarves … and that skirt!!! And she made it all look fantastic.

  2. Thanks everyone, I had a blast and I know exactly what I’m wearing to the staff Christmas party this year 🙂