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Styled Look®

By Lavender July 3, 2008

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It’s easy to fault rampant consumerism for our cluttered homes and crammed closets—so easy, in fact, that several cable television shows get their fodder solely from the American trend toward glut. It’s all so clear under the harsh light of pseudoreality TV that our culture encourages unhealthy attachments to the oddest of possessions. Just watch TLC’s Clean House or What Not to Wear for a full-bore capitalism freak show.

Photos by Mike Hnida

The hosts of those programs often may be helpful, especially for extreme cases, but their concept usually revolves around getting rid of everything, and acquiring all new things, be it fashion or furnishings. It not only is financially unfeasible for most viewers, but also still promotes the consumer philosophy that if we just had newer, better, and more, our whole lives would be improved.

Setting that notion aside once and for all is the business of Kevin Quinn, owner and founder of styledlook® in Minneapolis, who says, “There are many services that offer personal shopping, but they’re trying to sell more items to fill a closet full, and the conundrum is, women’s closets are already full, and there has to be a point in the conspicuous consumption in our country where we say let’s start at ground zero first.”

Ground zero, in this case, is what’s already inside your closet. Quinn, or a member of his team, goes to a client’s home, and creates at least 10 head-to-toe brand-new looks from his or her existing wardrobe. It’s an elaborate affair that he gives a spa-like feel, with scented candles, music, and a casual easygoing demeanor.

Quinn explains, “We do have strong opinions of what’s going on in fashion—of course, we do—but the wardrobe consulting is about listening to people, and hearing how they want to express themselves.”

The styledlook® sentiment sounds so refreshing, given the fashion industry’s “buy new stuff every season” message. However, it was with some trepidation that I agreed to try Quinn’s service.

Let me clarify: I am not a fashionphobe, and my style comfort zone is fairly broad. But insecurities still flared at the thought of a perfect stranger (or, in my case, two) picking over my closet. I’d like to think I dress well, but my closet also includes multiple sins: the what-was-I-thinking print top and the don’t-ask pants.

Would I really feel comfortable having things like that drawn out; flung onto a rolling rack; and, gasp, pawed through?

The answer is a qualified yes.

Quinn manages to be an expert—a function of his time spent as a fashion director at Nordstrom—without being a tyrant. Some of his suggested pairings didn’t suit my taste, which he handled with absolute grace and empathy. I also could understand his point of view without liking a particular embodiment of it.

Even with my particular challenges—I’ve changed sizes, so some items don’t fit, and my lifestyle requires multiple looks that aren’t necessarily “me”—Quinn was able to put together things together I never would have considered.

For example, that funky hand-painted Frankenstein corset now has a friend in my olive dress pants. Likewise, a strapless menswear-inspired dress gets new life with a crisp white shirt tucked into the neckline. I also have been given official styledlook® permission to strut my kelly green satin dress shoes with jeans, wear a butterfly pin on the strap of my red patent Jessica Simpson heels, and sport a lightweight scarf drawn around my waist.

During the marathon try-on session, Quinn’s partner photographed these new looks for a private online lookbook, so I could re-create them easily.

Upon such intense scrutiny, the wardrobes of most clients reveal what’s missing and what should be purged. But under a wardrobe expert’s guidance, it doesn’t lead to an anxiety-inspired retail binge. Quinn helps clients identify a few key items like a skinny belt, or perhaps a pair of knee high boots, that will add flexibility to existing pieces.

As Quinn states, “It’s refreshing to go with a shopping list of four or five things, and it’s very targeted, and we’ll say, ‘You could get it at this price point, or you could get it at that price point, and the same thing holds true for men.’”

Quinn suggested that I purge some items from my collection, for the sake of closet organization and space constraints. For this purpose, a styledlook® wardrobe expert will bring along a medium-sized storage bin called a “history box” to store items that have sentimental value, but might not be currently wearable. The history box is only so big, and, in Quinn’s words, “when the box is full, it’s full.”

Quinn gently encourages clients to toss other items that simply don’t work as part of a functioning wardrobe.

It’s a lot to accomplish, so Quinn offers two options, depending on a customer’s needs: a four-hour signature wardrobe appointment, or a full-day premium appointment. A styledlook® appointment isn’t cheap: The signature appointment is $800. However, when you consider the cost of going out, and buying 10 new outfits, it sounds a lot more reasonable. Still, it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

For do-it-yourselfers, Quinn advises, “Take a couple of hours on a rainy weekend afternoon to pull things out of the closet, and lay them on the bed, and literally try a few things on, and start the process of doing your own editing. You’ll be amazed when you try things on how you’ll be able to make some decisions yourself.”

One also can take advantage of Quinn’s expertise gratis by stopping by his accessories store, STYLEDLIFE, inside Gaviidae Common in Minneapolis.

As Quinn puts it, “Bring in items you’re conflicted about, and I’ll say, ‘Do you have this, or this?’ and they say, ‘Oh, I do!’ It’s important to us that we make this accessible to our clients by offering the service in the store for free.”

More information on styledlook® is available at www.wardrobeexperts.com, or by calling (612) 746-5800.

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