July 28th, 2014

Inside DC Style Factory: Shopping Your Closet

Our  Shop Your Closet service is one of my personal favorites. It really gets my creative juices flowing. Plus, the excitement a client feels when she sees her “same old clothes” reinvented? Priceless.

When I do a Shop Your Closet session with a client, I am not going to find everything I need to make an outfit I have pictured in my head for that person. But you improvise. You make it work.  There is always something in your closet that can be transformed or reinvented.

Recently, I met with a client who had  no layering pieces OR jewelry OR really any accessories for that matter. As a nurse, her workwear was scrubs. She wanted to have outfits for semi- dressy happy hours hosted by her husband’s law firm. But all she had was a closet full of tops, bottoms and dresses.  She would be fine wearing a dress and shoes, but we wanted something just a bit more. 

If you have worked with me, you have heard my “think of three” mantra where you look at your outfit as more than just a top and a bottom, but one more piece to pull it  all together. That could be a great necklace, earrings, a blazer, a cardigan, a scarf…anything that makes what you are putting on a look.

Well,  what do you do when you have absolutely no “threes?”

This is what we did:

We took one of her light, drapey, cream buttondown tops that she always wore as a blouse…and made it a jacket (if you have worked with me you also know I love my white jackets). It transformed 75 percent of  her looks.


We made it work! And she worked it. Needless to say, I am still sending her out shopping for a new white blazer ;)

This post is part of the Inside DC Style Factory series, which highlights how we work and some of most popular services.

July 21st, 2014

Summer Vacation Packing Tips

By the time you read this, I will be cruising at 30,000 feet on my way to Thailand by way of Tokyo, Japan. I am off for a month (a month!) visiting my family in Thailand, and I am so excited I could cry. But I couldn’t go on a trip without doing a post on packing. This month I have been busy creating outfits and packing clients for trips out West, down South, Italy, and more. I have clients who will not wear clothing twice during a trip and I have clients who want to pack as little as possible. We always make it work.

I did a packing blog post way back when — for Disney World. My packing strategy generally stays the same, though.

The questions I ask myself are:
- Any dressy events? (I do those first.)
- Can I do laundry?
- What is weather like and can I wear the same thing twice (non-sweaty climate where clothing will get soiled easily)?
- Will I be walking a lot (and related, what is the terrain like)?
- Will I be swimming?

After I ask myself these questions, I then start putting together outfits in this order:

1. Color. Pick 1-3 color stories, depending on the length of your trip (1-2 “stories” for a week-long vacation; I am gone a month so I am doing four color stories). What the heck is a color story you ask? I could give you the long, fashion-y, mood-board answer, but for our purposes, a color story is a group of colors that work together and can be mixed and matched easily. So for example, for this trip, I picked red, white and blue (patriotic); olive, black and cream (safari); and grey, lavender and denim blue. Within each color story, I then mixed and matched several different outfits, which brings us to…

2. Bottoms. I decide on bottoms first. I don’t typically pack bottoms for every single day I am going to be away. This trip I know I can do laundry so I am packing about 10 days worth of bottoms. I know I will re-use a pair of jeans or dark shorts and wear a new top. However, this is personal preference. If you are going to be doing activities that will get you hot, sweaty and dirty then you’d want to bring a bottom for each day you are away. If you can re-use, I suggest packing half the number of days you are going to be away (i.e., four bottoms for a week-long trip).

3. Tops. I do bring a top for each day, plus several extra in case of spills,etc. I usually have the bottom within that color story and then do several tops for the same bottom, plus one layering piece, just i case.

4. One-pieces. I always throw in a couple casual dresses, rompers, etc. If  you have specific dressier events on your trip, though, I  recommend putting together and fully accessorizing those specific looks separately.

5. Shoes. I then put one pair of shoes for each color story. Sometimes the same shoes work for all color stories. I always struggle with wanting to bring LOTS of shoes, but I usually limit it to 4 pairs, particularly when I am dealing with cutting it close on luggage weight limits (50 lbs per bag for international) — shoes are heavy! I do always bring one random pair of fun, snazzy heels even if I don’t think I am going to wear them. It’s easy to throw on a pair of fun heels and big earrings with a very simple monochromatic outfit for an impromptu night out.

6. Jewelry. I don’t bring much. I always tell my clients it’s great to have that “signature” necklace that goes with everything. Nothing huge or fancy, but has unique character and is endlessly versatile. For me, it’s this Alexis Bittar horseshoe necklace. Goes with everything and is just the right mix of bling and everyday effortless. I always bring the basics/essentials like my Michael Kors watch, and maybe just a few added special pieces (sparkly big earrings just in case I end up going out at night). Again, if you have specific dressier events on your trip, though, I  recommend putting together and fully accessorizing those specific looks separately.

7. Layering pieces. Bring a neutral vneck cardigan or if you want color, melon, to throw on over any outfit if you get chilly. I also bring a lightweight anorak, just in case, and carry it on the plane.

8. Specialty pieces. You may need bathing suits, hats, etc. Packing hats kinda drives me nuts. I just get way to nervous about ruining them. But you’ll find a bazillion videos on You Tube on how to properly pack your hat.

9. Underwear. Pack enough to last you not just the entire trip but then a week more. You’ll thank me later.

Finally – the most important part of your packing is when you have all the stuff laid out and ready to go in the suitcase. Take a look and get real. As in with yourself. For example, flip-flops are what people wear everyday in Thailand. Am I truly going to wear those strappy wedge sandals that would be way too cute with my silk printed pants? Nope. Gentle cycle does not seem to exist with laundry machines in Thailand so do I want to bring that adorable hand-wash only silky top? Nope. Remove those extraneous items that you know you won’t wear.

Then fold or roll items in your suitcase. Honestly, I have done both and don’t find that either method strongly surpasses the other on saving space or remedying wrinkles.

Depending on where you are traveling sometimes it does make sense to pack more and then sometimes it makes more sense to pack less. Each trip is a different, but if you follow these general guidelines, promise you will get everything you need in your bag without busting the zipper.

Have a great rest of the summer everyone! If you want to keep up with my style and family adventures abroad, feel free to follow me on Instagram (@dcstylefactory). I look forward to seeing you this fall!

July 15th, 2014

The Long and Short of It

I gave a talk this week about necklaces and necklines.  It’s a typical question we get here at DC Style Factory: Go long? Go choker? Go statement?

The easiest necklaces to wear with just about any neckline is a longer one. The length of the necklace clears any v, scoop, drape or boat neckline. Whether you decide to go longer or shorter, you don’t want your necklace bumping up against your neckline. So either select one that is about an ½ an inch to an inch above your neckline or one that drops under your neckline at least several inches.

Longer necklaces, much like v-neck tops, lengthen your neckline, which in general is more flattering. Chokers shorten your neckline, which sometimes can sometimes be a more challenging style to wear. If you are petite, pay attention to how long the long necklace goes. Right below the bustline is good – grazing your bellybutton is too long.

Here is quick, easy guide for selecting which necklaces go best with which necklines.


Vneck  top

Wear with…


Smaller drop/pendant necklace that flows into v of the top


Longer non-pendant necklace that clears the v of the top and flows with the draping.

Pass on…

Wearing with a choker, which shortens your neckline and counteracts to the lengthening effect of the v shape.


Wear with…

 A statement necklace that mimics the curved shape of the neckline and covers expose neck/chest surface area.

Pass on…

A choker that will leave too much empty surface area and not cover enough neck/chest area.


Boatneck Top

Wear with…

A longer necklace,  which draws attention up and down, and balances the high, horizontal neckline.

Pass on…

A choker/collar necklace that will bump up against with the neckline.

A statement necklace higher up on the neck that will grab and pull at the horizontal neckline.


Collared Buttondown Shirt

Wear with…

A statement necklace under the collar for a “brooch” effect.


A statement under the shirt with some color peaking out.

Pass on…

A long necklace that will compete with the verticle button placket on the shirt.



Wear with…

A longer necklace that lengthens your neckline since the high neckline of the crewneck top shortens it.

A statement necklace that “creates” a new, longer neckline. Select a statement necklace that covers the top of the crewneck.

Pass on…

A collar necklace; it just further shortens your neckline.



Wear with…

-  A shorter statement necklace that leaves about 1/2 an inch of space between the necklace and the neckline.

- A longer necklace that clears the neckline.

- The two together as pictured!

Another fun option is to wear with a collar necklace.

There are a multitude of other necklines and variations on necklines, but just remember, you simply want the necklace you choose to make sense with the neckline of the top. If you are fussing with it too much or it just doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. But selecting the right necklace can really make a difference in adding polish, personality and finish to your look. Happy accessorizing!

July 8th, 2014

Should you go Haute at the Home Office?

Dressing clients who work in formal office work environments is pretty straightforward. Yes to suit separates, blouses, cardigans, pencil skirts; no to flip-flops, distressed denim, yoga pants, etc. The challenge is to inject personality and update staid work attire. But what if you work from home like 1 in 5 Americans? Does anything go?  One rule of thumb that I read a while back and like to follow myself is this:  What if someone rang your doorbell in the middle of your work day? How would you feel answering it in what you are wearing? If “mortified” is the answer then maybe time to rethink/tweak your work-from-home look.

Our resident writer/blogger Jenn Barger spoke to some of the city’s work-from-homers to get their take on home-office chic. 


I’m writing from my townhouse front porch as we speak, one of the privileges (and, with the humidity, a challenge) of a freelance writer. But this is new stuff for me — both the working from home and the getting dressed for it. I’m used to being a cubicle fashionista, ambling into work in Rag & Bone  blazers and jeans or bright DVF dresses  and heels.

But today, I’m in yoga pants and an Old Navy tank top. If the Pulitzer Prize committee wanders by, they won’t be impressed.

So how do other women (and guys) with porch-, er, home-based offices do it? Can you keep your brain in a professional place while still sporting PJs? I checked in with some local success stories to find out.

Sometimes, of course, the comforts of Lululemon and polar fleece  win. “If I’m in my home office, I almost always wear something from Athleta,” says Alexandria PR guru Maurisa Potts . But if she’s meeting a client, it’s all about a nice dress. “Never arrive in yoga pants! Your first impression is key.”

Tom Natan, co-owner of First Vine wine imports, opts for shorts and a T-shirt if he’s just at his Adams Morgan rowhouse doing paperwork, but dressier clothes if he’s going to a vino tasting or other events.

Clearly, many people think it’s not worth the effort to go runway sleek if their big meeting of the day is with your dog, for his lunchtime walk.

But there are stylish dissenters. Take Kassie Rempel, the Mount Pleasant-based founder of fashion styling website Kassie’s Closet . When I arrived for a recent appointment at her townhouse, she was in a short striped skirt, a crisp white blouse and simple gold jewelry. “I always dress like I have something going on outside the home office,” says Rempel. “I’m an entrepreneur, so things shift and pivot in my day, and I have to be ready for that.”

Me, I’m considering trading today’s dumpy style for a chicer daily look. For home work sessions, I’m going to try a mix of resort glam — a maxi skirt and a pretty top, a tunic  and leggings. And if you’re a client, editor or just my source/lunch date, watch out — I’ll be dolled up in a J. Crew pencil skirt and silky blouse. Just don’t be too jealous that I can roll home afterwards and retreat to my yoga pants.

 Post by Jennifer Barger (www.jennbarger.com, @dcjnell)    


June 26th, 2014

Can’t Stop Wearing: My Crop Top

The crop top is a polarizing piece of clothing this season. You have the naval-flaunting camp and the anti-90s camp (usually because they already did crop tops when it was actually the 1990).  I thought I was in the latter group…until I wasn’t. I always tell clients that when it comes to fashion, what goes around comes around…but never EXACTLY the same way. There are ways to do the crop top this season that actually feels fresh, new and very different than it did in 1991. Plus, if you don’t want to show your midsection…you don’t have to.

Crop Over Dress

Crop Top- Over Dress

How to wear to the office: Switch out the strapless dress to a sleeveless shift and layer with the crop top. Best to select one that is a little longer — none that venture into bralette (or is it bralet?) territory.


Crop Top With High-Waist Bottoms

Crop Top- High Waist

How to wear to the office: Best to select a crop top that is a little longer — also known as a shift blouse and pair with a higher-waist slim-fit trouser.


Crop Layered Over Longer Top

Crop Top- Layering


How to wear to the office: Wear with a longer (almost tunic-length) collared shirt. Pair with slim pants and brogues for Friday-casual tomboy chic or go dressier with pointy-toe pumps.