September 8th, 2014

The Best Styles You’ve Ever Screened?

When we meet a new client, one of the first questions we ask is “Is there a style icon, movie, celebrity etc. you gravitate toward?” It helps get the personal style conversation started to see who and what resonates with that individual. Here, Jenn Barger highlights some of the modern and throwback influences the big and small screens have had on personal style and asks…have movies, television and its characters ever influenced your own personal style?

The first time I caught an episode of “Gossip Girl,” I barely registered the lines spoken by the show’s Upper East Side (and Brooklyn) teenagers and their attractive middle-aged parents. It was the clothes that kept me riveted— the slightly flashy, entirely elegant mini skirts and slouchy tops on Blake Lively’s Serena, the age appropriate-yet-sexy Hugo Boss and Tory Burch sheaths sported by her mother Lily, played by 40-something hottie Kelly Rutherford. Downloading episodes each week, I’d find myself aghast at the bad plot twists (threesomes! royal suitors who turned out to be phonies!) but hyped up to buy a blouse I’d see on Rutherford or to mix items in my wardrobe up in a boho way like Serena.

Any stylista who has ever swooned over the bias-cut gowns in a 1930s screwball comedy or rushed out to buy an Olivia Pope-esque sheath dress after an episode of “Scandal” knows that what characters wear on the big (and small) screens influence how we dress. “Watching a movie (or a television show) means that you are investing a significant amount of time looking at what is presented before you,” says Rebecca C. Tuite, a New York City-based fashion historian and writer who recently released the book “Seven Sisters Style” ($25, Rizzoli). “Perhaps more than in any other real-life situation, a film or television show encourages a viewer to engage with and watch more closely any number of outfits or garments.”

Still, this doesn’t mean you should hunker down with downloads of “Sex and the City” or “Clueless” and take copious notes on the outfits. “To be inspired by movies and fictional characters is one thing, but you want to make your look modern and today,” says DC Style Factory owner Rosana Vollmerhausen. “You need to add elements that are current.” This means “yes” to rocking a floor-sweeping camel coat à la Faye Dunaway in “Bonnie and Clyde” but “no” to pulling it on over a Depression-era dress. Try it over jeans and a sweatshirt instead, she suggests.

And choose your screen sirens wisely, unless you’re into renaissance festivals or want to give off a Halloween-night vibe. “There’s a risk of looking like a caricature,” says local fashion blogger Alison Santighian of DC Celine. “More so if you’re deeper into Nova on ‘Star Blazers’ than Carrie on ‘Homeland’ — Claire Danes’ wardrobe on that show is so covetable. I’d wear every single piece.”

Many times, your fave sitcom or rom-com might exert a subtler influence on how your style develops or changes. Me, I cop to getting my love of bright colors and blazers from watching too much “Designing Women” in high school — though I’d never wear those funny little fitted suits. Santighian loved the sultry-sophisticated pencil skirts and drapey dresses Rene Russo wore to seduce Pierce Brosnan in 1999’s “The Thomas Crowne Affair.

Vollmerhausen dug menswear-obsessed characters like Lisa Bonet in “The Cosby Show” and Diane Keaton in “Annie Hall.” “They didn’t wear body-conscious, overtly sexy clothing, but they were still undeniably sexy,” she says. Vollmerhausen’s dandyish 1970s and 1980s sirens influenced one of her top high-school outfits: Tapered, slouchy pants with her dad’s college-professor-like tweed blazer. “I felt so like me in that outfit,” she recalls. “Now, I’m not sure how it looked, but I remember really feeling good I had put it together.”

The sets and props of a movie or show can also spark style changes — as in how Baz Luhrmann’s glam spin on “The Great Gatsby” had me snapping up vintage cocktail shakers and big flower arrangements for parties, hoping Leonardo Dicaprio might drop by. “A recent example of a movie that influenced me was ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’,” says Tuite. “Every frame was so rich in colors, textures and beautiful objects. While I don’t want to wear the uniforms of a hotel porter, I noticed how those rich jewel tones look so beautiful together.”

Just the kind of wardrobe — and life — inspiration I tune in for.

Post by Jenn Barger (, @dcjnell).

August 18th, 2014

Inside DC Style Factory: A Wider Circle

Where does the clothing go after a closet audit?

So we’ve gone through your entire wardrobe and pulled out items that don’t fit or no longer work for you. We take them away in bags and you are left feeling lighter…freer. Where  exactly do we bring those bags filled with clothing, shoes, accessories, etc.?

Right here:



This is the professional arm of A Wider Circle — a nonprofit organization in Silver Spring, Md.  with a  “mission of helping children and adults lift themselves out of poverty.” The organization addresses the “whole person” with programs that not only meet people’s tangible needs, but also what founder, Dr. Mark Bergel, calls “inner needs.”

One way A Wider Circle addresses these “inner needs” is through educational programming for job preparedness that includes resume-writing, interview skills, career path identification, among other topics. Job coaches are provided to every participant. Access to computers for resume-writing and job searching is also provided.

A Wider Circle’s Center for Professional Development also includes a well-stocked showroom of professional attire and accessories, which is where DC Style Factory donates clients’ clothing.

My daughter and I toured the showroom last month nd I was impressed with the wide array of clothing, knowledgeable and friendly staff, and impeccably organized floor.  It was such an wonderful moment seeing all  those racks of clothing and knowing that pieces my clients no longer can use are going to people who need the right look to make those strides in life we all want.

My daughter even picked out her favorite dress:


I want to thank all my clients for their generosity. That suit that no longer fits? Well, it may just be getting someone their dream job.

This article is part of the Inside DC Style Factory series,  highlighting how we work and some of our most popular services.  

August 11th, 2014

Inside DC Style Factory: What is a Closet Audit?


“Recently Rosana assisted me in purging and auditing  my closet.  She organized it with precision and now makes going there a pleasant experience,” 

- Cindy, 61

I may have worked with Stacy London in the past, but our DC Style Factory Closet Audit service is not exactly the same as what you may have  see on What Not to Wear.  There is no garbage can. There are no snarky comments. What you are likely to hear  from me is that I think we could do better if I do in fact, think we can do better.

When we start working with a new client, 9 times out of 10 we start with his/her closet. A  DC Style Factory Closet Audit is a way to go through all your existing clothing with the guidance and know-how of a professional who can impartially access what is and is not working for you.

The criteria we use to determine what stays and goes are:

- Your body type/silhouette

- Your lifestyle

- Your personal style

And sometimes something is just getting old/worn and needs replacing.

We make recommendations on pant length, skirt length, sleeve length, what to highlight and more. We will pin clothing for any tailoring and will recommend our favorite tailors in the area. We also will organize your closet in a way that will help you create outfits each day with more ease.

Once the closet audit is complete, we will bag any clothing to be donated and we take it away to A Wider Circle in Silver Spring, Md. Everything left in your closet are truly items that work for you.

Following your closet audit, you will receive a Style Memo from us that summarizes any key style points discussed during the appointment, a shopping list of missing wardrobe essentials (budgeted and prioritized), and next steps to reach your wardrobe/style goals.

Clients who have had a DC Style Factory Closet Audit have described the experience as “liberating,” “educational,” and “way more fun than cleaning out your closet should be.” I guarantee you will laugh during our session and  surprise yourself with what you thought you could and could not wear.

This blog post is part of the “Inside DC Style Factory” series that gives readers a peek into some of more popular personal styling services.




August 4th, 2014

Throw Yourself an Arm Party

Women have been stacking on bangles since Cleopatra   sported an armful (or two) of gold snake bracelets .  And recently, bloggers and fashionistas have put this adornment idea on steroids, combining string bracelets, chunky watches and multiple bangles. Leandra Medine of Man Repeller regularly throws herself what she dubs an arm party (#armparty), and there are countless Pinterest hits on wrist bling overload.

The bracelet pile up can be particularly dramatic — and joyfully noisy — in warm months, when you’re more likely to flash a bit of wrist. But what’s the key to wearing a glut of bracelets without coming across like a fortune teller or fashion victim?

First, don’t be too timid — one skinny bracelet (think those 1990s diamond tennis numbers) says, “style wimp” while “wearing multiple bracelets allows you show your personal style,” says Kelli Wilson, buying director for the local boutique chain Lou Lou , which sells dozens of examples from princess-y gems to are-we-in-Ibiza? beaded varieties. The shops even hawk Hipanema’s Brazilian-style, multi-strand bracelets that mimic a heap of jewelry in one piece.

Then, think outside the jewelry box. “You can do a mash-up of all one type of bracelets, say tribal or beaded, but I prefer an unexpected contrast like a chunky horn bracelet with a dainty vintage charm bracelet,” says Anna Kahoe, co-owner of U Street’s GoodWood , a vintage furniture emporium that also sells romantic, retro-looking bracelets and cuffs by brands like Alkemie  and Extasia. Kahoe also likes merging vintage finds — maybe a few of her dozens of Bakelite bangles — with new pieces. “It’s like what you’d do in your home,” she says.

“The fun thing about wearing multiple bracelets is that there are no rules,” says Wilson. Still, she recommends you “pick pieces that reflect your style, whether that’s boho chic or classy and simple.” In other words, if you’re a corporate lawyer, you might want to skip the forearm full of studs and leather until after you make partner.

Me, I heap on seven or eight bangles most summer days — three ebony wood and brass beauties I scored in a Moroccan marketplace, plus several colorful, recycled plastic ones from Burkina Faso . The combo nearly always sparks a conversation or draws a compliment, especially if my manicure isn’t chipping.

And no wonder: “Bracelets draw the eye to really pretty parts of a woman’s body, the wrists and hands,” says Kahoe. “They’re having a moment.”

 Post by Jennifer Barger (, @dcjnell)     



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.