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Ajit Berg, Published August 09 2012

Fashion in Focus: Closet makeover leads to style update

I received an email a few months ago from Jan Wensman with just one word in the subject line: “Help!”

I was intrigued. A possible fashion emergency?

Jan explained she got my name through a friend and wanted to see if I would help her with her wardrobe. She and her husband had bought a new Fargo home with a fabulous closet a year ago, and she wanted to make the most of it.

Jan had retired a decade earlier after 25 years in the professional world to become a full-time mom. She had all types of clothes in her wardrobe and called her closet a “mish mash” of everything, with no real direction. She wanted help editing pieces and finding looks that would work for her.

For 14 years I worked as a personal shopper in Los Angeles, but when I had my little girl, I stopped to be a stay-at-home mom. Recently, I started thinking about getting back to work but wondered if women here would ever be interested in the help of a personal shopper. So when I received the email from Jan, it was perfect timing.

I was so happy to see that women in Fargo welcomed the idea of a personal shopper. Whatever their budget, women just want to look and feel their best.

Jan is one of those women. I quickly realized she is the type to always takes the time to look nice and has a natural sense of style, This was no fashion emergency.

In our sit-down consultation, Jan said she hoped to update her wardrobe with some new looks that would flatter her. Secondly, she wanted a more functional closet.

So with those goals in mind, we began cleaning out her closet. I think it’s so important to take the time to try on each garment. By doing so, you are able to separate items into what I classify as either “keep,” “donate,” or “alter” piles.

I also like to separate clothes by season. I tell clients that if you have the space, move your clothes that aren’t in season to a different room; if you don’t have the storage, simply move them into a different area in the closet. This will give you more clarity when making outfits.

After going through Jan’s clothes, I had a couple of realizations. She had a number of items that were boxy in shape and not the most ideal style for her great figure. I saw her in more fitted shapes and lower necklines to accentuate her pretty neckline. I knew I would focus on finding the most flattering clothes for her.

With Jan’s great eye for fashion, she also had many great-fitting clothes that could just use a piece or two to help update them. There were also a few items that just need a little altering for a better fit.

I made my list of what we would add to her wardrobe, and we went shopping.

The outfits I found for Jan not only updated her wardrobe but highlighted her personality.

Here’s what we found:

1. Extra light-weight silk scarves that added some color and femininity to her outfits. I felt these scarves did just the trick to add some softness into her wardrobe.

2. Flowy silky tops that enhanced her feminine style. I found this gorgeous floral print as well as a Pucci-style print top.

3. Dresses in flattering shapes that are easy for Jan to wear.

4. The perfect-fitting black cardigan that was one staple in Jan’s closet that was missing. It’s a classic that adds a finishing touch to any outfit and is the perfect topper on a cool day.

5. Sweetheart, V-neck or scoop-neck tops that highlight Jan’s neckline. I found several that are great everyday staples for Jan.

6. Skinny white jeans that she could mix with all her great tops. I saw Jan had some great looser white pants but nothing with a super skinny leg. The key to skinny jeans is to find the right pair.

In Jan’s closet, I found a chic nude clutch she said she’d had for years and loved that we could use it for so many looks. It was larger in size, which is a big trend this year.

She also had a couple of great nude shoes. Nude is the new black, and so they were the perfect finish for many of her outfits.

Having a classic combination of jewelry that can mix with anything is a key to making great outfits. Jan has a beautiful diamond cross necklace as well as a silver cuff-style bracelet. I added silver diamond hoops to complete the look, and we were able to incorporate this timeless look with so many of her outfits for day and night.

After getting her wardrobe in order, we set out to make her closet more functional. We changed out all of her hangers to the same style, which adds uniformity and simplicity to your closet. Having the proper hanger saves space and helps retain the shape of your garments.

We then separated her clothing by category by placing tops in one area and bottoms in another. I felt it was also important for Jan to separate her clothes from the areas her husband used. Next we sorted everything by color, lightest to darkest.

The last step called for Jan to take her shoes and purses out of the boxes and bins in which she kept them. It’s important to have all your shoes and handbags in plain view so you can make better and more creative outfits. Having a simplified and organized closet is your biggest tool to making great outfits.

With Jan’s wardrobe updated and her closet organized and simplified she can shine brighter than she already does. Jan has a natural glow and her clothes only enhance who she is on the inside. Jan is my true definition of a fashionista: beautiful on the inside and out.

Ajit Berg is a former personal shopper for Barneys New York in Beverly Hills. She and her husband, Chris, live in Fargo with their daughter. Ajit can be reached at abenepal@yahoo.com.