In my ultra orthodox girls' elementary school, called Beit Yaakov, learning modesty was part of the curriculum. Our school uniform was a pink blouse (now it's blue) and a blue skirt. Our knees, elbows and collar bones had to be covered, and we had to wear nylons even in the hot and humid Israeli summers. At home I was allowed to fold my sleeves up to my elbows and peel off the irritating nylons, but I was not allowed to wear sleeveless shirts, short skirts, or pants.
|Beit Yaakov classroom|
I bought my first pair of pants when I was 24 and living by myself. Developing a personal dressing style was a struggle. On the one hand I rejected my religious upbringing, which taught me to cover up and cautioned me from being a sexual temptation, on the other hand I still didn’t feel comfortable with revealing clothes. I hated clothes shopping and dreaded the moment I had to look for something to wear. Eventually I settled on the local bohemian style that is more common in Israel and fits the non-formal culture and the hot weather.
Moving to the US was a cultural shock even in the clothing department. The American style looked to me like old ladies’ style: conservative, lifeless, boring, formal, and uptight. Being uninspired I eventually settled on the American uniform: jeans, T-shirt and sneakers. It didn’t make me feel my best, but it was functional. My wake up call came nine years ago at a friends’ house party, when my friend Ana scanned my unfitted-to-the-event ‘uniform’ and asked gently if I wear sneakers all the time because of my back problem. I answered yes, because I really believed I had to wear only orthopedic shoes or sneakers to feel comfortable. Her question though bugged me for a while. I realized that maybe it was time for me to upgrade my wardrobe options. I had no clue where to start. I needed professional help.
I had no idea where to find a stylist. I knew celebrities use stylists, but I have never met a person who used the services of a stylist. Using the old Jewish female tradition I started to complain, to everyone who was willing to listen, about my need for the aid of a stylist. One afternoon the Messiah, in the image of my friend Juliann, knocked on my door with a stylist’s business card, that is how I met Gayle Rich – my stylist. This is when my style salvation started.
I really did not know what to expect from working with a stylist, but I was very excited to learn new things. When Gayle arrived at my house, before we even approached my closet, she took the time to educate me about fashion and developing personal style, based on body shape, personality, and activities. That was the first time I became aware of the different cuts and styles, and what they do to different body shapes. Before, I always blamed my weight for any piece of clothing that didn’t flatter me. Gayle gave me a list of the basic wardrobe pieces I would need, and with that we went to check my closet. The elimination process was painful; it took me some time to accept that some pieces had to go.
A week later we met downtown for a shopping day. On the day before, Gayle scanned all the stores and put aside items for me. When I arrived, the next day, all I had to do was try them on, and learn from Gayle how to judge the outcome. That was an incredible experience for a person who hated shopping, until that day. It reminded me the shopping scene from the movie Pretty Woman. Buying shoes with Gayle was also a learning experience. I was ordered to sit down and let the sale person bring me all the shoes they had in the store with one-inch heels. I was surprised how comfortable they were despite the fact that they weren’t orthopedic.
On my third meeting with Gayle I learned how to shop online. There were still some basic items on the list that we did not find in the stores. I learned how to read descriptions of clothes and how to define what would suit me best. I’ve become an expert in this area. These days I do most of my clothes shopping online.
Working with Gayle was a life changing experience. I love shopping, because I know how to shop right, and I love the clothes in my wardrobe. I know how to find the perfect cuts for my body shape, without torturing myself with diet plans. It might sound very shallow, but it is real, my self-confidence grew, as I felt happy with my reflection in the mirror.
Things I learned about shopping for clothes
- At the store, don’t be afraid to try as many items as you wish. You would probably end up with only a few that fit you if any at all.
- Start building your basic wardrobe with pieces in neutral colors such as black, white and grey. These are the first colors to sell in the season. You can always add color with accessories or find a colorful item on sale.
- Even if you like to dress tight and sexy, keep some nice not-so-tight items in your closet. Use them for days when you have your period, feel bloated, or just tired, and you still need to be presentable, yet want to feel comfortable.
- Don’t compromise on quality. There are many cheap beautiful clothes available, but they don’t last long and don’t keep their shape after being washed. I consider them a waste of money.
- Educate yourself on the different fabrics and yarn, notice how each material makes you feel. I love natural fabrics. I prefer cotton shirts and cardigans made from Merino wool or cashmere. I noticed that I don’t use my sweaters because they are too hot for me; I prefer to be dressed in layers.
- Buy only clothes that make you feel beautiful. Don’t buy anything that makes you anything less than that, even if it is 99% off a designer label.
Clothing brands I love
Ann Tylor – I find their curvy straight jeans most flattering to my figure. I love their silk blouses and both silk and wool scarves. They used to make beautiful silk dresses, but unfortunately now they are made from polyester.
Boden – British company that ships to the US. I love their A-line skirts, summer cotton sundresses and fun jackets. I find their T-shirts to be bulky.
Club Monaco – This Canadian brand has exquisite fabrics and beautiful designs. They have incredible sales.
J.Jill – When I want something casual and comfortable that is my place.
J. Peterman – Fun vintage style. Their sizes tend to run small.
Pendelton - Don’t let the conservative look discourage you. I found some beautiful and fun pieces in their catalog.
Lafayette 148 NY - Whenever I wear something from Lafayette it makes me feel like a million dollar. Check their final sales for real good deals.
Soma – They have the best rayon clothing for the house.
Talbots – I love their pencil skirts, however I find that the rest of their clothes have strange and unflattering cuts for me.
Woolovers – Another British company that ships to the US. I love their cardigans.
Gayle contact info:
Gayle Rich Style