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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Dobbin Q&A: Style Expert Bridgette Raes

If you're not yet familiar with stylist/writer/author/blogger Bridgette Raes, we recommend you do yourself (and your wardrobe) a favor and add her site to your bookmarks. Bridgette dispenses expert style advice in a way that's accessible, practical, empowering, and fun to read. We were lucky enough to interview her about the personal styling process, building the perfect work wardrobe, and - of course - why she loves Dobbin. 

How did you get started doing personal styling?
Well that is a bit of a story.  Originally, I was a fashion designer for about ten years after graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology.  While I had wanted to be a designer since I was nine years old, after a few years into my profession my father passed away at 46 years old and I really started to look at life differently.  I wanted to do something that felt like I was making more of a difference, particularly with women.  For years I didn't know what that was and I stuck with my career until I just finally had it.  Originally, my plan was to start my style consulting business as a transition until I figured out what my "difference making career" would be.  However, after meeting with my first client, I received an email from her telling me how our appointment had changed her life and that she felt like who she was on the inside was finally expressed on the outside.  It was in that moment that I realized I had found exactly what I was looking for. 

Bridgette in our Sylvie dress
What's your favorite aspect of the personal styling process? (In other words, what do you love most about your job?)
There are so many things I love.  However, what never gets old is seeing women transform and accomplish more in their lives as a result of working with me.  It's very humbling and a true honor.  In addition to that, I like being my own boss, setting my own schedule and that I got to take everything I loved about being a designer with me and leave the parts I didn't enjoy behind.  I can't say that my choice to start my own business has been the easiest journey however it has been the most fulfilling.

Your fabulous book focused on accepting the body you have and learning to dress it to create "the body you want." How can women better understand their body type and the silhouettes that work best for them?
Writing my book was such a labor of love because I used actual clients and friends as the models and had to study each one of their bodies closely when choosing them for the book.  I actually created a spreadsheet with all of their body pros and cons.  What I realized is that not one of them had the same exact body proportions and that we're all built differently.  Here we are all trying to be one body shape and not one of us is built exactly the same. Working on this book and also working with clients I also learned that the biggest mistake most women make is they hone in on their body flaws without looking at their bodies as a whole.  When I look at a woman's body I think about what I can do to her shoulders to minimize her large hips, or how shaping the waist will make her bust look smaller.  

Stunning in our Sophie blouse and Natalie stretch ponte skirt!
Is there any universally flattering garment or silhouette that truly works for all body shapes?
I really don't think there is, but I do think there are variations of commonly worn garments that can.  For example, to say a cardigan is a universally flattering item wouldn't be true.  However, I do think there cardigans out there for every body shape.  

What's the most common fashion mistake you see women making? Any memorable fashion mistakes from your past you'd like to confess?
Well, fashion nightmares aside, because they're just lost causes, I think the most common fashion mistakes women make is they don't see their outfits through.  My brain is always on and I am always making people over in my head.  Most women don't look bad in what they are wearing, they just look unfinished.  The number one request I get from clients is how to look more polished and not just like another nobody in the crowd.  

As far as my fashion mistakes go.  Mine was more of a beauty mistake.  I wore blue eyeshadow in the 80's which looked terrible.  I have blue eyes and my mom, who has hazel eyes, told me that was what I should do.  So, essentially, it's her fault, and I have never let her off the hook for that!

Building a work wardrobe that's professional, flattering, easy to wear, and feels true to someone's personal style is a daunting task indeed. Any advice for creating a work wardrobe that, well, works?
It is a daunting task, you're right, and it's why I am in business.  Gosh, there are so many missteps I see that can be easily corrected.  The few nuggets of advice I can offer are to: 

1. Create multiple look using one piece.  A working woman's wardrobe is usually pretty basics driven.  What most women fail to see is how much more they could get with less if they took the time to rework their outfits with different accessories and color combinations.  I always style my clients' pieces 3-5 different ways to give them multiple options.
2. Stop with all the black.  As you know, I don't wear black.  I don't think everyone should give up the color completely, but I really wish women would stop assuming it is the be all, end all of color.  And if you are going to rely on black for your work wardrobe, at least do something with it to make it more interesting.  
3. Spend at least 25% of your wardrobe budget on accessories.  I know I sound like a broken record about the accessorizing thing, but it truly is the single biggest issue I see in women's wardrobes.  I hear women tell me they are bored and then tell me they wear the same pearl earrings and pendant necklace everyday.  I look at getting dressed like a 3 part equation- you have the base (your tailored pieces), the accent (which are the softer, trendier clothing items, like tops) and then the pop, which are your accessories.  Did you know that I call unaccessorized outfits "chicken outfits"?   

What are your thoughts on incorporating trends vs. staying true to classic pieces? Do you tend to favor trendier looks or timeless ones? Any tips on mixing the two?
I definitely tend towards the classics.  Trends are typically added through my accessories.  I think this is what most women strive for.  Usually women tell me they want a classic look with a twist.  If I had a nickel for every time I heard that you'd be interviewing me from my yacht.  If you want a good mix of classic and trendy, go for more timeless base pieces and throw in trendier accessories, pops of color and accents that are unique.  

Dobbin's Sylvie dress can take you from work to cocktails to commute in comfort and style.
Who are you personal style icons and why do you admire them?
I have an odd mix of icons.   For starters, I love all the Hitchcock women.  Edith Head did such an amazing job with the costuming in those movies.  You look at the films now and the clothes are still gorgeous.  I think my personal style is a bit more edgy and quirky than the women in Hitchcock's films, but I do gravitate towards clothes that is just stunning to look at, expertly designed and thoughtful.  

However, I also have icons I admire not because I want to dress like them but because I think they dress in a way that is true to who they are.   Take someone like Helena Bonham Carter.  I only look like her when I am hanging around my apartment (at least according to my husband), but in real life, no way!  Yet as wacky and outrageous as her style is, it is who she is and she owns that.  I think we should all strive to be that clear and comfortable with our style.  

And finally...we have to ask: what's your favorite dress from our current collection? 
From the current collection, I  really love the Sylvie dress in burgundy.  The color is great and it is super comfortable.  Well, all of your clothes are.  I lived in my Sydney dress all summer.  In fact, funny story about that dress -- I wore it to speak down in Washington DC last summer and had to rush out to grab the Acela back to NYC after I was done.  Normally I like to change into comfortable clothes to travel, but didn't have time.  I wore my Dobbin dress on the train for nearly four hours and I was shocked by how incredibly comfortable I was commuting in it for that long.  Dobbin's clothes look tailored and structured on the outside when in actuality they feel like comfy knits.  The best of both worlds!

Thanks so much, Bridgette! Be sure to check out Bridgette's website and book for more of her sage style advice. 

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