By Leslie Fain
Maybe it started after my husband and I binged watched Downtown Abbey, but I began to feel a desire to dress better for Mass. I remember a friend telling me that in Indian culture, people try to dress their best out of respect for others. If I were to dress for a job interview, or meet a member of the British Royal Family, I would be scouring the Internet and mall for the perfect dress. Why was I not putting forth more effort to meet with the King of Heaven and Earth each Sunday?
Around the same time, I stumbled upon a Catholic stylist and blogger, Meghan Ashley Sokolowski. She writes on the latest fashion trends, makes suggestions about what to wear on Catholic feast days, and ties in relevant details about saints . What really caught my eye was the free downloadable fashion checklist that I decided to use as a guide to refurbish my wardrobe. Meghan and I ended up emailing after I contacted her with a question about purses.
Later in the year, Meghan offered a Catholic VIP Club for women interested in receiving her help on revamping their closet and defining their style. I decided to sign up. I found the whole experience fun and educational.* There is definitely something lovely about taking care of your wardrobe that makes you feel more, well, human.
Here are 8 things I learned from working with a Catholic stylist:
1) Everyone has a personal style, waiting to be uncovered and cultivated.
It doesn’t matter how frumpy or overweight or overwhelmed or old you may feel at this very moment. There are things in your life you find interesting and beautiful and joyful that give clues to what your personal style is. Revealing those things to Meghan helped me to uncover what my style is and to lean in to that style. Not only do I like the clothing, shoes and accessories I buy so much more now, but there is a new cohesiveness to my wardrobe.
2) A stylist can help you save money in the long run.
How many times have you purchased something you didn’t like that much just because you needed something now? Or bought something you really liked, but it only matched one item of clothing? Or bought a pair of shoes that looked good, but hurt, so you rarely wore them? I know I have done all of these, but I found working with a stylist helped me to focus on my personal style, my true size, and choose things that matched several items of clothing, even pairing things in combinations I hadn’t thought of before. Meghan even helped me repurpose a pair of shoes I bought for a one-time Mardi Gras dance (I can actually wear them with several outfits, including to Mass and date nights with my husband.)
3) Just because you aren’t your ideal size, doesn’t mean you can’t find clothes (and shoes) that make you look and feel pretty.
If you are like me, you put off buying new clothes until you lose a certain amount of weight, but this is almost always a form of procrastination. You can still look your best before and while you lose weight or get in shape. There is so much more available in the world of plus size fashion now. You will feel and look better wearing clothes and shoes that actually fit. Brands like Eloquii, Anthropologie, and even J.Crew have an array of plus size fashions, in every color imaginable. I will add that my stylist had a knack for finding really cute wide sized shoes-- and even comfort shoes!
4) Don’t let trends and seasons frustrate you.
For several years, I have been irritated when shorts season rolled around because I don’t like the way I look in them. White jeans, which are so popular in spring, don’t look good on me, either, as I’ve gone from a pear to an apple shape since having children. Living in humid, hot Louisiana and being a certain shape just seemed to thwart my styling efforts! My stylist helped me get “unstuck,” so to speak, and find other “cool” options that looked good on me. I discovered there is a world of colored jeans out there, printed pants in silky, cool fabrics, and casual shift dresses that make me look better than any pair of shorts could.
5) A high-quality white button down is everything.
White button downs are very on trend right now, but I was very resistant to them. I didn’t like white on me and thought button downs looked boxy and unfeminine on me. Plus, there was the issue of the button gap. After reading one of Meghan’s posts on the style and practicality of the white button down, I decided to give them a try. I found this one when J.Crew was having one of its unbelievable 70% off original price sales. I can wear it around town with jeans for errands or dress it up with a skirt and heels for Mass, or red jeans for a date night.
6) There really are stylish, modest clothes out there.
If you only see what is being displayed in mall store fronts, or see what many people are wearing, out and about, you will really begin to think that your only choices are sleazy or frumpy. My stylist managed to find an array of stylish blouses and tops with high necklines that weren’t see-through, and dresses that hit the right spot.
7) Accessories are your best friends.
For some reason, after I stopped working in public relations and became a wife and mother, I sort of forgot about accessories. Sure, I would buy the occasional pair of earrings, but never really thought about what an inexpensive change a pretty accessory can make to an outfit. An on trend pair of sunglasses or a colorful piece of jewelry can really liven up a dress you thought you were tired of, or can take an outfit from one season to the next.
8) Sometimes you don’t really know what looks good on you.
I think we have all had the experience of our best friend or our mom encouraging us to try on something we didn’t think would look good on us, and then being excited by what we see in the changing room mirror. This happened to me several times when working with my stylist. She found a red pair of jeans that look better on me than any pair I’ve had in years. Even my mom said, “I would have never picked those out, but they look really good on you!” Meghan also suggested shirt dresses for me, which have turned out to be a favorite.
Leslie Fain lives in Louisiana with her husband and three children.
*I paid for this service myself and was not offered anything in exchange for this blog post.