Working with my client, Mrs. Brilliant, has been a long time coming. I have known her for years but have never met her in person. This is the positive side of technology and social media. The downside of tech and social media includes things like this: Last Saturday, my Instagram was hacked and held at Ransom by a Turkish Hacker. This isn’t an exaggeration. Seconds after it was hacked, I received a WhatsApp message from this subhuman garbage person asking for $350 in order to get it back. I don’t want to dwell on this, but as of right now, I am not the person in control of my account because I don’t negotiate with hackers. Things are currently unfolding to get it back and it may cost 4 times the amount to get it safely back into my possession. To be continued.
Back to Mrs. Brilliant and one of the few remaining reasons why social media is a wonderful thing, meeting people you wouldn’t otherwise. I don’t remember when Mrs. Brilliant became someone who went from avid reader of my blog to someone with whom I corresponded quite freely. It was probably when she became a Facebook Group member and hired me to help her young-adult daughters a bit with their styles as they were entering the career world. Mrs. Brilliant also being the type of woman who lives by the “women help women” code all women should adhere to, was one of many blog readers, Facebook Group members, and clients who stood for me to make it at the start of the pandemic when it seemed more than likely a business like mine wouldn’t make it. She offered me business ideas, networking suggestions, and more. This is just naturally who Mrs. Brilliant is.
Yet, all said, up until now, Mrs. Brilliant had never hired me, and, really, there wasn’t much reason to. Her career was pretty much on autopilot and her wardrobe was fine for what she needed it to do. Could she have used some tweaks or an objective eye? Sure. But not because she needed it, but because everyone could benefit from that. For years, we carried on with our lovely correspondence and long-distance friendship.
This all changed when few months ago, Mrs. Brilliant accepted a job that not only upended her career but her life. This would be a huge, elevated job move that was thrilling and exciting for her and seemed to knock the cobwebs right off a career trajectory that had been chugging along just fine. To add more excitement to all of it, this new job would require a move to a country within Europe. The plan would be that her family would stay in their European base country and she would take a smaller apartment on her own in this new country with a plan to occasionally visit home. Overwhelming probably doesn’t do a well enough job of describing what preparing for all this would be like. Smartly, it was decided now would finally time be to hire me.
“Finally!” I thought. Again, not because Mrs. Brilliant is a walking style disaster, but as a stylist, there are some people you just want to get your hands on because you know what you would do. Mrs. Brilliant is one of these people. She has bold coloring, a sleek, modern look, a developed sense of style, and a great taste level. Best of all, Mrs. Brilliant knows who she is. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s an affable, kind, warm-hearted, spirited, intelligent, woman. I named her Mrs. Brilliant after all.
Additionally, while at one time it intimidated me, over the years I have developed an enjoyment of working with clients overseas. Not only is it an interesting challenge, but it’s also really helpful to see how the world is dressing, to learn about brands in different countries, to develop more of a worldwide reach as a stylist, and to understand the professional woman in leadership globally. As of today, I currently have 14 active clients on the roster. Active meaning, these clients aren’t idle and there is open work that requires attention. Of these 14 clients, five of them don’t live in the U.S. Additionally, the total number of clients I have worked with this year to date who do not reside in the United States totals eight out of the 46 in 2022, and it’s only July. Clients I have worked with this year and in years past have lived in countries including, Australia, The Netherlands, The UK, France, The Philippines, Indonesia, India, Sweden, Senegal, Canada, and Spain, at least this is what I can remember off the top of my head.
Australia is fun because I shop for sweaters when I am in the middle of a heatwave and summer clothes when I am layered in knits. I am on my third country with Mrs. Wondrous who works with the U.S. Government and moves around a lot, and I just finished up helping Mrs. Wonderful pack for a semi-permanent move to France, my second client moving to this country this year. I don’t just deal with foreign clients, I also deal with Americans making their way to foreign places.
Clearly, Mrs. Brilliant hiring me as a woman in the EU was not an intimidating thing for me, not with my experience, and not in the world we live in today and how global and accessible shopping can be. I’ve learned the sites to shop with the good guidance I’ve gotten over the years from my foreign clients, learned how some clients circumvent the whole “only ship to the US” policies by connecting with companies that can set people up with US addresses. How some will have a U.S.-based friend retrieve package and ship it to them or how others will arrange for something to be shipped to their hotel if they have a business trip scheduled to the states. I know that most of my Canadian clients have US postboxes right across the border and will actually find places to try things on stateside and ship back returns before going back to Canada in order to avoid paying charges on things they will wind up returning anyway. With each foreign client I work with, I learn something else that comes in handy in the future.
Oh, and here’s another thing I learned. Don’t fall for all the “Dry Clean Only” labels you see on clothing here in the US. I rarely see it on the same clothing when I shop for the same things on foreign websites, FYI.
Another thing that’s funny? When I accidentally put the wrong language into Google translate. Like when I wanted to find out if something was machine washable:
Dang! I meant, Dutch, Not German! But you should have seen my initial reaction when that came up.
Anyway, back to Mrs. Brilliant.
Mrs. Briliant’s Style Goals
As mentioned, Mrs. Brilliant had an already established and well-oiled work wardrobe, however, with this new elevated job change, her wardrobe also required that same elevation in look and in this case, she knew it would require some expert assistance. Mrs. Brilliant also knew her bandwidth for taking on such an endeavor was quite low so, like most of my clients who are in the same boat, she smartly called me.
When we met, Mrs. Brilliant shared inspirational images which were very clear and consistent. She was looking to elevate her style to something sleek, modern, and effortlessly monochromatic. It’s a strong and powerful look, and for a woman with Mrs. Brilliant’s coloring, it works. Of course, .00001% of the population wins the genetic lottery and gets Amal Clooney’s body, despite the fact that the fashion industry designs like 95% of the population do, so some modifications would need to be made which wasn’t a problem.
My Plan for Mrs. Brilliant
My plan for Mrs. Brilliant would be to pull out a part of her existing wardrobe that worked with her elevated style goals and then layer the new pieces she needed to achieve what she was aiming for. Not only did she have good pieces in her closet, but I also don’t support segregated wardrobes. I don’t believe that closets should be compartmentalized by need. Instead, I think they should be fluid with the majority of pieces able to flow into different parts of life. My goal would be to take the existing pieces that were elevated in look and pull them into the new elevated capsule. Next, I would work in the new pieces to fully flesh this elevated capsule out. The result would be a fluid multi-purpose wardrobe with pieces that would float from Mrs. Brilliant’s day-to-day part of her wardrobe to the more elevated needs. This strategy would create much more connectivity and cohesiveness.
An Overview of Mrs. Elevated Current Wardrobe: The Starting Point
This will give you a snapshot of how we work with all of our clients when we work in-depth and more long-term. In some cases, like Mrs. Brilliant, we will initially load in the existing wardrobe pieces that are working and start with an inventory of their wardrobe. In cases where a client’s wardrobe isn’t as established, this type of inventorying happens after shopping purchases have been made and confirmed as pieces that will be kept. We give these items reference numbers that shart with the letter W, which stands for Wardrobe. All clients get online access to their board containing this information and any changes we make to their board can be viewed by them in real-time via their own link. We only use product shots, not model shots, of their wardrobe items, so if product shots aren’t available, we either scour the internet for the images, recolor the products in photoshop if there is a product shot available but not in the color they own. W28, for example, was recolored by me in Photoshop when I could only find the blouse online in the same print in red. As a last resort, we have the client send an image of the piece on a hanger if no product shot can be found. Basically, we create an online copy of a client’s closet so we can manipulate each item to help them build looks, capsules, pack for trips, shop, and more. This is how it is possible to manage a client’s wardrobe no matter where they live in the world.
In Mrs. Brilliant’s case, this was a very important step because my plan was to lift out some of what she owned and use it in her elevated capsule. This isn’t her entire wardrobe, but what she had taken from her home country to her new one and was grabbing for most often.
The Elevated Capsule
These are all the shopping selections made by me, plus Mrs. Brilliant’s wardrobe items (you can tell by the W numbers what were pulled down from her existing wardrobe). Much of which came from her existing wardrobe is from one of her favorite brands, Winser London, a phenomenal elevated label out of the UK for professional women I wish made easier to shop in the United States (are you listening Winser?), and some Hobbs pieces. What I primarily left behind from Mrs. Brilliant’s day-to-day wardrobe were many of the printed tops that Mrs. Brilliant relies on heavily. It’s not that I didn’t want to use prints, as evidenced by this capsule, but if you look at the inspirational photos, there is a stark, intentional boldness to the looks that I wanted to capture.
Mrs. Brilliant had also told me she had recently bought the skirt W29 to work with her blouse W28, both from Winser London, for an elevated dressier look, and it was then that I decided cobalt would be the bridge color that married the navy and black side of this capsule. Cobalt being a strong color that works with both black and navy, was the perfect connector. Next, as luck would have it, I then found the bold multicolored blouse (you’ll be able to shop it down below), and that became a pivotal piece that introduced the shades of berry, another bridge color between the black and navy pieces. From there, the pieces continued to build to become this assortment that could give her endless, striking, bold elevated combinations.
Endless being the operative word. As I tell all my clients, it is not intended that they buy everything presented to them. The intent in showing them this much is to give them the ability to choose within the options without losing the connective thread and cohesiveness of what I create for them. Even if that colorful blouse was to drop out, the colors of the capsule I built would stay intact. There are going to be plenty of pieces that will wind up not fitting, that will sell out, and Mrs. Brilliant just won’t like. But in the end, it’s the direction, the palette, the pieces that do wind up working, and the framework that is built that is most important and will give her the direction and focus to work within.
From here, I could have built looks to visually show Mrs. Brilliant how the pieces could be styled together and utilized, but time did not allow for this step. However, should she decide to engage me once she solidifies her purchases it could easily be done right here on her board and all she would have to do is click her link to view them.
The Extra Milkshake Pieces
Have you ever ordered a milkshake at a restaurant and been given that extra bit of milkshake in a small glass that’s been leftover after it’s been made? I’ve come to call these little extra pieces I sometimes find for clients the Extra Milkshake pieces. These are either duplicate items that they can consider in lieu of what I picked, items that are really nice for them but not on the agenda for what we talked about or something a little extra I wanted to put on their radar. That’s why I call these things the extra milkshake pieces. I leave notes as to why I added each one. These were Mrs. Brilliant’s.
We learn from our clients all the time and often what we create for clients comes from requests we get or issues we face and need to solve. We’re always learning, improving, and bettering our services. When a client has access to their boards, every image is clickable directly to the shopping page and all they have to do is click the image to shop for it. Yet, for shopping, it can get confusing to keep track of which items come from which stores. At the request of a client several months ago, we started tacking on a Shopping Directory at the end of each client board that breaks down by retailer where everything selected comes from. This makes it easier for clients to shop specifically by store. Each shopping selection gets inventoried with an S, which stands for shopping, instead of a W, and once something is ordered, we move the item to a new section on their board we title ‘Ordered.’ If the ordered item is confirmed as a keep by a client, the # gets changed from an S item to a W number, because it is now a wardrobe item, and it gets moved to their wardrobe board.
Shop for Mrs. Brilliant’s Wardrobe Pieces
Because you don’t have the same luxury as Mrs. Brilliant to just click the images and shop, I am going to give you links to the pieces I selected for her the old-fashioned way, by linking to them below. Because Mrs. Brilliant is in Europe, Zalando is only available in countries in the EU and the UK, but The Fold and Boss do ship to the US, among other places. If you get directed to the UK sites for BOSS and The Fold, just change your country of origin. I am adding links below each shopping page to make it easier to navigate. Each link corresponds with the number assigned to the item.
We All Live Compartmentalized Lives. Your Wardrobe Should Cohesively Reflect This
You may not be living in two different countries, and may not have a job that requires different levels of dress but you do have a life that requires you to wear different types of looks, whatever those types of looks may be. Maybe you are a busy mom with a business you are trying to get off the ground. Maybe you have a hybrid work schedule where you work from home a few days a week and are in-office the rest, or maybe you are someone who loves to travel and is getting back out there and dating again. Whatever your life is compromised of, it’s faceted, and when it comes to your wardrobe, in order to maximize what you own, the key is to build your wardrobe so that the pieces that cover all these needs communicate with each other and harmonize in one way or another. This was the strategy with Mrs. Brilliant and I thank her for allowing me to share it with all of you.