Friday, November 29, 2013

Holiday Wish List

Holiday Wish List

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Disclaimer: if you'd rather not think about shopping or buying gifts, then please avert your eyes. We'll return to our regular program of working with what you've got, shaking what your momma gave you, and upcycling, re-styling, and generally working what's already in your closet.

But, if you-or someone you know-are in the market for something to tuck into a stocking or wrap under a tree, here are some of my current favorite things from several online sources-some big, some small. Some from major retailers offering great sales and the rest from small, American-based businesses who would love your support, I'm sure. They may not be the big retailers offering the big discounts, but they're the small business owners (like me!) who rely on you to make it possible to continue on. So I hope you consider looking at some small businesses-whether these below or the ones in your area.

And, yes, it's absolutely fair to "mistakenly" leave these pages open for a loved one to discover if you find something you really like. If you're looking for clothing deal roundups in general, here are three good ones from Plus Model Magazine, Fashionista and Cup of Jo.

Gifts that say "Let's have a date night-tonight!"

Ann Taylor is offering 40% off full-price code TAKE40 and an additional 50% off sale price with no code needed.

Also velvet pants, a gorgeous, long necklace, three shirts that sparkle, including a long-sleeved one, and a beautiful dress.  

Gifts that say "I honor the wild woman in you."

All via
Plus a skirt made for dancing and comfy leopard print flats to tuck in your purse until the dancing is over!

Gifts that say "I love that you take time to feather your nest."

Keep up with the animals and ask "What does the fox say?" Oh! And if your crafting energy will be running low, PB's German glitter garlands are still available in store.

Gifts that say "I notice the things that you like. I see you."

More perfect dots here and here
And also peplum cashmere or softest silk for staying cozy by the fire, a flattering, soft sweater, and striped peplum because, well, I love stripes.

Shameless Plug

Several of you have contacted me about buying gift certificates for in-person or virtual styling sessions for your loved ones. I am happy to create a pretty gift certificate for you to give to a loved one this holiday season that they can redeem in the New Year for a new look. Just email me, and we'll work something out! I'd love to see a StartCloseIn certificate clipped to a new scarf or tucked into a stocking this year. If you purchase during the last days of November, virtual sessions are $50 for three hours, in-person is $75 for three hours. These prices will be going up in December so book now!

What about you?

I'd like to invite you to post your blog or your small business link below in the comments section, too. So many of you are also small business owners who make and find incredible things. I'd love us all to support each other. Happy Thanksgiving, again. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Today I am thankful...

Today I am thankful...

For so many things. I'm thankful for my husband, my family, my friends, my job, my dogs...but let's talk about this site because you're here. I'm thankful for the opportunity to talk with you all, for you reading and spreading the word and sharing this page with your friends, for the women who have invited me into their homes-in person or virtually-over the past years, and for the women who inspire my sense of fashion and of SELF-both in person and virtually! My mother for teaching me about fit and pattern and shape and for always pushing me to wear something cooler. She's always about 6-8 months ahead of me and wanting me to wear things that are more and more me before I even know it. I'm thankful to Marian for taking a chance on me to style her and for writing such a beautiful piece about our time together. I'm thankful to Shauna who I've never met but who has inspired me nearly ever day in so many ways over the past year. And to Hannah for her friendship and encouragement and for always being a source of light and love in my life.

And for you. 




And for posts like this full of feelings like these.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Give Thanks

Give Thanks

I'm honoring this stage of focusing on fashion. Oh! And I like my legs. Check 'em out!

I have an idea for Thanksgiving. What if we all gave thanks for the bodies that we occupy? Instead of writing a post about what to wear for Thanksgiving dinner based on trends, personal style, comfort, or even ability to unbutton a top button after the big meal, I'd like to do this.

On Thanksgiving day, I'd like to invite you to consciously dress in a way that honors something about yourself.

It might be physical: wear something that shows off your strong arms, your bright eyes, your great butt, or your velvety skin. It might be something about your personality: you've got a great sense of humor, you're gentle and sweet, or you're wise and caring. Or maybe you want to honor this stage in your life-or look ahead a future one. Thank you for reading my blog and caring about the women I've worked with. I feel incredibly lucky and very, very grateful.

If you'd like, let me know what you end up with, either here or via email or on Instagram by using the hashtag #HonoringMe

In Person Styling Session: Melissa

In Person Styling Session: Melissa

"I feel like me again and most importantly I came away feeling better about myself."

Meet Melissa. She's one of the sweetest, funniest people I've met in a long time. We has such a blast together last week playing dress up and writing shopping lists in our heads. Her uniform tends to be jeans and a long-sleeved shirt in the winter, and she wanted to feel a bit more, well, dressed every day. She also has her husband's Christmas party coming up and wanted to run some ideas for dressing up a bit by me.

Melissa is also a photographer and Interior Design Consultant who works primarily through word-of-mouth based out of Northern Virginia. If you're interested in working with her, you can leave a comment or email me. Having seen her adorable nursery and spend three hours laughing and chatting with her about colors, textures, and life, I highly recommend her! She's going to come along with me and take some photos, too, because my iphone sure isn't cutting it when my clients are so gorgeous!

In her words:

"I have done minimal shopping for myself ever since I had my son and struggled to lose the baby weight. For the last few years I have lived in Tshirts and yoga pants. I have a lot of nice things from before I became a mom, but whenever I put them on I just remembered how they used to look on me and have lost the confidence I use to have. Ella came in with brand new eyes and a fresh perspective. At the end of my closet consult I had a whole new wardrobe. Ella put things together in a whole new way. My clothes no longer remind me of my skinny days because when I put my new outfits on they are entirely different and they look good on me and my post baby body."

Color, Color, Color!

Now let's get down to more outfits! Clearly, we loved this wide belt for Melissa. Here's why: the neutral goes with everything, and the belt cinches in her waist, highlighting her feminine shape. Here, I had her put a happy, bright sweater with a crisp white shirt and a basic bottom with a necklace that pulled in the color of the sweater. I love that color up near her face!

This would be fun for a holiday party with sparkly heels or with flats or boots for a play date.

Winter Whites

We also played around with winter whites. Melissa had a lot of clothing that she had banned to the back of her closet as "summer only" clothes and colors. It was a lot of fun to pull that out and into the winter! In addition to a slew of outfits we put together with her white jeans, here are a few with winter whites on top. 

The black and brown help ground the white in the winter season where a lighter or brighter color would feel more like spring.

Here, I had her swap out the belt for a darker one and add on a cream-colored vest. Can she wear the bright white and the cream together? Of course! They're both neutrals. I love how interesting the whites become once there are so many textures at play.

Back to Melissa!
"The first thing Ella had me do was go through her look book and pick out anything I liked so she could figure out my style and how I wanted to look. We talked about my lifestyle and what sort of outfits I needed (everyday, work, date night, church, special events....) She then went through my closet and used my clothes to achieve my look. I also gave her some modesty guidelines, which she had no problem working with.
I learned that I have a waist and how to get that hourglass figure. She taught me how colors go together even when they are not an exact match, you might think they look odd on their own but when the outfit is complete it all works. All of my outfits are comfortable and were styled in a way that stay in place and I don't have to readjust every time I move.
And when I asked where to find the few of the things on my list, she told me Target! Ella understands that the majority of people don't have thousands or even hundreds to spend on a new wardrobe. She works with what you have and expensive designers never even came up in conversation."

Preppy Chic

Melissa is really smart and has her closet organized by color. This made it very easy for me to pull out a color (like pink!) and play around with how it looked with some of her basics (beige, navy) and also with prints that have that same color. Here, I had her twirl a white scarf up with a floral silk scarf. I love how preppy this looks on her, which really fits her classic look.

Let's Talk About Belts, Baby!

Looking at these pictures, you might think that every outfit should have a belt. I don't think that's the case. We looked at many of these outfits without belts, and they looked great. However, adding a belt is a nice way to define your shape and help you feel more polished. Take a look.

I love Melissa's face below; she's giving me that look that says "You really want me to wear all of these shades of pink together?" Yes, really. When I had her look through my inspiration book, she loved the monochromatic looks she saw. It's really easy to pull multiple shades of the same color-try it with a simple white shirt and slouchy brown boots, like she has here.

Contrasting Colors

It's getting cold here in Northern Virginia! And a cute addition to any monochromatic outfit is a scarf in a contrasting color. Here, I pulled out a shirt and a sweater in the same color family and topped it off with a scarf on the opposite side of the color wheel.

Be sure to pull your sleeves of the shirt through the sweater and roll up the sleeves. It's much more feminine and powerful to show off those wrists and arms. It makes her look ready to go, don't you think? Ready to work.

Black & White, Black &Bright, White & Bright

One easy way to polish up your look is this: pull out every black or white piece of clothing that you own: sweaters, skirts, pants, jackets, blazers, shirts, jeans. Then, start to pull out bright items of clothing and pair them up.

Consider a bright sweater over a black dress. What if you added a black skinny belt? And a bright necklace?

Or white jeans and a white shirt topped with a bright top worn as though it were a sweater? We loved this combination of colors so we tried it with a different bright sweater. 


And just because black and white are a classic combination doesn't mean that it's tired. This skirt had a feminine, lacy edge that I loved with the soft sweater and square, wide belt. Don't you?

Let's close with Melissa because what she says here is pretty amazing.
"By the end of the 3 hours I found some confidence and even started to enjoy posing for pictures, because I knew I looked good. In the days since I have gotten dressed first thing in the morning, not just when I have to leave the house. I am no longer hung up on my last 15lbs of baby weight. I feel like me again and most importantly I came away feeling better about myself. I can't wait to have her back for next season!"

I can't wait, either, Melissa!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Client Sneak Peek: Melissa

Client Sneak Peek: Melissa

I'm so excited to introduce you all to Melissa! She's one of the sweetest, funniest people I've met in a long time. Melissa contacted me because she's a mother to a twenty-month-old, and she felt like she wasn't sure how to dress now that she's mostly staying at home and isn't going into the office every day. You're going to love the easy, classic, feminine styles that we put together for her! Here's a sneak peek at a polished outfit she might wear to church or out to dinner.

Here's how you can recreate this look at home. She's wearing a simple black cardigan, belted. What if you pulled out a black cardigan you already own and belted it way up at your skinniest part, usually near your bottom rib? Or, you could consider something with texture, like this cotton number.

40% off with code ENJOY 
Or create that shape with a peplum! I love the peplum shape because it creates that high flattering waist for you and works for many shapes and sizes. Here are two other cute peplum options: shorter sleeves here. Curve here.

See how the model below looks a little like an alien with that wide swing of the peplum? It's because the pants are too light. With a patterned skirt that had some black in it, the eye would go up to her skinniest part instead of to the line where it meets her strangely light jeans. But, it's a great top styled the right way.

25% off online only with code GIFTGIVING 
Melissa's wearing a colored patterned skirt, which you might already own and could take out to wear easily. You could also consider layering your top or sweater over a dress and wearing it as a skirt. A colored stripe is gorgeous, and a black & white would be, too. Here are some ideas-do you have something like this in your closet that could work?

$40 off $100 or more ends today MYSTYLELB
40% off with BR card BRGIVING

Loft has some incredible belts for a little added sparkle, or you could tie on a ribbon to mimic Melissa's pretty, long belt. I like the softness it added to this otherwise structured look. And, of course, don't forget tall black boots-or short boots with black tights. Top it off with a leather jacket if you need some extra warmth inside during these cold days!

Check back this week for the full details on my session with Melissa!

Ok, and I can't help but gushing over Lynne a little, too! She just sent me this amazing picture after our virtual session last night. As soon as she send me some more pictures, you'll get to see her fitted, collected, bright style in full detail.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Calling All Texans

Calling All Texans

Necklace via

I'm starting to pick up on a trend here: many of my readers live in Texas. I'm going to put something sort of crazy out there and see what you think.
What if I came to Texas in the spring and did a bunch of in-person styling sessions with you (ok, "ya'll") down there? 
We could even set up a shopping day if you are interested. I think a few of you live in the Austin area, but here's my question: where do you live in Texas? Would you be interested in an in person session with me in Texas?

If so, please email me (startclosein AT or leave your city location (not your whole address or your email address without breaking it up into XXXX AT XXX.Com or else you'll get spammers and hate me, please!) in the comments so I can get a sense of if/where/how this could work!

This could be amazing, actually...
Oh! And take a look at the outfits that I chose for Marian Miss Mustard Seed and how gorgeous she looks in her new portraits! She is such a kind, creative person and just a joy to work with. Everyone she chooses to work with seems so genuine so I'm sure JalapeNo photography is the same!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Guilty, Cheap Pleasures: H&M

Guilty, Cheap Pleasures: H&M







H&M now sells online, did you know? There's really no reason not to have an amazing, cheap new something to wear to your first holiday party this season. And nope, they're not a sponsor! Just one of my favorite cheap pleasures.

Also, for those who love those sequined leggings, The Limited also has some.

And yes, I tried them on for us. They weren't the most flattering on my butt, frankly, but I loved the shimmer and how they reflected light when you moved. They'd be really flattering with heels and a shirt that covers your butt a little bit since I think the pockets are a little awkward.

Here I am, showing off the stars on the elbows of their sweater (not great quality, seems like it would look old in a wash or two) and also wearing the sparkly pants. Don't mind the cross-eyed look. It didn't last!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Easy Holiday Sparkle: Part I

Easy Holiday Sparkle: Part I

Today I'm running around prepping for a holiday photo shoot that I'm styling the clothes for (at my house!). Love Always Hannah is styling the shoot, which means that my house will look gorgeous-I can't wait to see it through Hannah's eyes! And Lauren Modny is taking the photos. If you haven't visited her site before, I highly recommend that you do.

She shoots in a candid documentary style, which enables her to get the most beautiful, authentic shots. She shot our Fall Fashion shoot, and I would love for her to shoot something personal for me, too. I've thought of doing anniversary photos with my husband-wouldn't it be fun to recreate a pose from a past photo? Like this one from 2009 when we were "just friends" but secretly in love with each other? Love that tinkle in our eyes.

I'm really excited about this shoot because we have three incredible women as our models, and we're using their clothes! As you know, I don't really buy into the idea that you have to buy something new to wear once or just because it's the holidays. I'm all for setting aside money if you want to spend it, but I'm also excited about re-imagining and re-styling what you already own in ways that help you feel confident and, yes, even sparkly!

Stay tuned! And check out a sneak peek shared by one of our models!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

6 Flattering Holiday Dresses

6 Flattering Holiday Dresses


I love these dresses for their defined waists! For their versatility! For their bright, seasonal colors! There is nothing more flattering than cinching in a waist and showing off the curves around it. These dresses are also versatile and could be worn with tights and boots or a blazer to work just as easily as to a party. When you think about how often you could wear each dress, the cost-per-wear looks better and better!