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On Dressing for Ourselves

LYB Owner Lisa Berry is becoming famous for helping women find outfits that make them look great, feel comfortable and be true to themselves. She also has a long history of choosing clothes that make her happy. In this Q&A, she answers questions on style that comes from the heart.

In one of your recent blog posts, you said one of the keys to being the authors of our own lives is to do away with others’ opinions. How would you apply this concept to dressing?

More frequently than you can imagine, I witness a customer in our store fall unexpectedly in love with a piece that feels out of character for her. Sometimes she's tickled and excited at the discovery, and we kind of feel like we're witnessing a rebirth! Other times, however, I will watch a woman fall in love and practically scold herself for even thinking she could "get away with" such a piece. Oh, how my heart goes out to this woman who, at some level, has handed over her choices to someone else.

How we dress is about so much more than our style aesthetic. It is a reflection of our values, how we perceive ourselves, and our individual personalities. As a stylist, I encourage my clients to not only author their lives, but own their look! If your heart swells when you put something on, you're learning something about yourself and what you love. Your greatest joy (and most beautiful look) will come when you are true to that. Be a full reflection of your best self, not a poor copy of someone else!

You have always made a point of dressing for yourself. How can those of us who tend to be more cautious begin dressing for ourselves?

The first thing I encourage you to do is explore where that caution comes from. For many, this is based on fear versus a true joy found in dressing that way. If you happen to be a conservative dresser (which can be beautiful!), ask yourself if it's because you adore structure, plaid, collared shirts and ballet flats (then keep dressing that way!), or if you're collecting these items because you're concerned about being judged if you dress differently (we need to talk!).

If you discover that you've been holding back and adhering to a dress code that doesn't fit, it's time to start making your version of a vision board. This is especially helpful if you know you know your old ways don't fit, but you have no idea where to begin. It's also super useful for those who like their current style, but feel like it's missing some personal expression. Try doing an unedited pull of magazine pictures that sing (not simply speak) to you. Don't question why or how, simply snip and add them to your portfolio! What will emerge after a while is a story that your heart is trying to tell. That's your style inspiration.

If you feel cautious about boldly overhauling your look, start small! For instance, a chunky metal jewelry piece can shine a bit of your rebellious nature through when paired with your normally conservative cashmere crewneck sweater and flats. If you always dress down because it's easy or you don't want to call attention to yourself, put on a whimsical Chan Luu choker or dainty kitten heels to give your girly side some expression. Start small, and you never know where it could lead!

This happens to me all of the time: I walk into a store and fall in love with an item. Instead of buying it, I go for a more sensible version of that item. Be it, a lower heel, a smaller necklace, a slightly longer miniskirt. Is this practical or am I killing my instinct?

That's a great question, and I think the answer really depends on the individual. I witness clients at the store doing this regularly, and often I actually encourage them to buy the more "sensible" version because I'm a huge advocate of getting mileage out of what we own and having less clutter in our lives. If you're purchasing something that you're not truly comfortable with, you will likely never wear it.

On the other hand, I will nudge a client to think hard about passing up the conversation piece if I literally witness them light up like the sun when they put it on and keep coming back to it. This happened recently with a friend of mine who came in three times to look at a gorgeous suede paneled jacket before deciding to own it. It certainly wasn't the most practical addition to her closet, but it was such an accurate reflection of her personality and filled her with delight when she wore it, and the investment was worth it. We should all have a few of these made-for-us pieces in our closet that aren't necessarily a part of our everyday uniform.

Talk to us about color as it feels like a tricky area. It’s so easy to buy items in the same color family because it makes it easy to match. But then, it’s so easy to fall in love with colors that break the mold. How do you integrate bolder, brighter colors?

I was at market in New York yesterday and had a pertinent conversation with one of my favorite sales reps. She was showing me one of her line's new collections for fall that was based on, in my opinion, a very odd and not particularly intuitive or appealing combo of colors. The fashion industry loves to get creative! But one of the key tenets of LYB is that we offer fabulous, inspired fashion for real life! Inspired or not, this color combo would have to be adjusted for off-the-runway living.

My solution here was to create separate collections integrating both of the colors with neutrals. If your go-to palette is black, for instance, embrace this! There's nothing wrong with having a highly wearable, flexible comfort zone and base to work off of. It is, in fact, a key strategy behind minimizing, which you know I'm all about. You now have dozens of accenting options based on your own personality. For me, a bright shoe against an otherwise totally neutral canvas is the most fun way to integrate color. Jewelry is another way to add a pop to your basics. But, by all means, don't ditch your neutral basics- they're your friends for life that will travel easily with you and adapt to your changing needs and moods.

Let’s talk age-appropriate. What does this term mean to you?

First and foremost, I do not believe that there are any hard truths pertaining to age and dressing. We have a broad range of customers here at LYB, spanning from teenagers to women in their nineties, and countless different style personalities define these women.

Many times I think a woman is viewed as being “age-inappropriate” because, in actuality, she is uncomfortable in what she is wearing. The cold-shoulder trend in tops is huge right now, and I’ve seen women in their seventies look amazing and glamorous wearing this trend, and other women in their forties look not-quite-right because they were embarrassed to be showing skin. My hairstylist gave me great advice that applies perfectly here: she reminded me that hair color, whether mousy brown or bright purple, looks great on a person when they “own it.” If skinny jeans are your thing, you’ll look awesome in them at any age if you feel good about and true to yourself in them.

“Inappropriate” style refers, in my opinion, not to age but to a way of dressing that doesn’t match the individual or the occasion. Dressing conservatively when, in your heart, you’re a nonconformist is inappropriate. Wearing uncomfortable shoes while chasing your toddler all day is definitely inappropriate. Covering yourself with a turtleneck out of self-consciousness when it’s 75 degrees out is inappropriate. Dressing to the nines to go out with the girls because you know everyone is going to be dolled up, despite your desire to don yoga pants for the occasion? Totally inappropriate! Knowing who you are and dressing to convey that—the definition of “appropriate.”

In another blog post, you said you love bringing out individual's’ true selves through clothing. What advice do you have for those of us who can’t have a styling session with you because we don’t live in Indy?

As I mentioned earlier, the first step is to figure out, in the overused fashion-magazine phrase, your individual “style personality.” Of course, as I’ve talked so much about, your style personality is simply an outgrowth of your unique personal tastes and values. To become your own stylist, you must begin by taking stock of who you truly are. My favorite way to do this if you’re feeling out of touch is to create a fashion “vision board.” This will help unearth your own personal tastes through the process of pulling pictures of what makes your heart flutter.

Another crucial thing to consider when building your wardrobe is your lifestyle. If you find that your heart sings over looks that don’t quite fit the roles you play, begin to get creative with introducing small touches. Example: I absolutely adore the look of sweatpants paired with stilettos. In my opinion, the combination is sexy, understated and ironic. Yet, I spend most of the day on my feet either at the store or running after my three kids, so stilettos only work for a seated dinner. Instead, I get a hint of the look by incorporating wedge boots or sandals into the look for height, and bring in “sexy” with my favorite heavy-metal Jenny Bird jewelry. Now I’ve got some version of the look, but I’m comfortable and happy!

I strongly encourage you to take small steps to explore “outside the box.” If you never wear scarves, search the Internet for different ways to wear a pashmina and buy one that you love and can play with. If you find you never wear it, you haven’t lost much. In all likelihood, however, you will make a great discovery and will have updated your look at little cost. I recommend taking “baby steps” to find your best personal style. This, in my experience, is the key to coming into your own when it comes to dressing.

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