Style isn't static; like bread, it gets stale. Real style requires regularly reinventing your look, not in drastic Madonna-fashion, but by sharpening your focus on who you are and what's happening in your life now. A new job, a move, a change in your body or outlook-all can call for a new crease in your signature look. We found five men and women whose lives had changed enough recently to make them ready for some new fashion wrinkles, and we asked some savvy pros to help us sharpen their style.
A STUDENT TURNS TEACHER
When Kate Daniel finished her master's in elementary education and landed a job as a second-grade teacher at Ballard Elementary School in Bradenton, she needed to add some authority and polish to her image. Yes, her grad-school wardrobe of modern classics like cropped khakis, fitted shirts and cardigan-style toppers made the grade in comfort and suitability, but Daniel's style score soared when Marilyn Goldfarb, who offers personal shopping service through Saks' Fifth Avenue Club, helped her select some key investment-quality basics. Buying a few good pieces of classic design, says Goldfarb, pays off in the long run. Versatile and well made, they can outperform a closet full of random bargains.
In keeping with a busy instructor's need for maximum mobility, they chose beat-the-heat basic black truncated trousers topped by a hip-length, always-in, belted white and washable blazer (dry cleaning bills can flunk a teacher's budget) with dress-me-down cargo pocket detail. Cork platform slides give the young teacher authority and up-to-the minute punch.
"My kids love creating colorful artwork," says Kate, and her accessories should get their attention-a bright, chunky bracelet and organic bead necklace that provide bold, streamlined snap. Best of all, these pieces recombine endlessly-the pants with a black cardigan for school, with a dare-to-be-bare camisole and strappy sandals for an evening out; and the jacket upgrades everything from floral dirndl skirts to favorite denim jeans, or pairs with perfect white pants to be totally on trend. Finally, wear the scarf at the waist for a splash of color or use it to perfect the ponytail. This is the start of a winning workplace wardrobe.
Theory black Capri pants, $220; Tahari white cotton belted jacket, $398, and paprika T-top, $40; Michael Kors open-toed wedge shoes, $195; Brio metallic cuff, $84; RJ Graziano natural-element necklace with ethnic beading, $145; Chan Luu silk scarf with gem detail, $125. All from Saks Fifth Avenue.
FROM CORPORATE TO CREATIVE
For 15 years, Meg Fitzpatrick held a high-powered position in corporate advertising. Jetting around to clients in tailored Armani suits and chic Chanel shifts, she had a look that meant business. But somewhere along the way, her creative side surfaced. A painter by avocation, Fitzpatrick became a working artist when her paintings, particularly her evocative large-scale animal portraits, found a following. Sales, shows and gallery representation followed, and she left corporate sales calls and meetings-and the dressed-for-success look they required-far behind.
"It was a little scary deciding to live my dream, but it turned out that the maxim 'Do what you love and the money will follow' is true," she says.
These days, Fitzpatrick mainly wears paint-splattered jeans when she works. But when she's meeting with gallery owners or attending art shows, she's eager to express her creative side in her clothes as well as on canvas. We turned to Eileen Fox, who represents the Carlisle collection, an international clothing line available at trunk shows and by appointment, to make Fitzpatrick look as luminous as her paintings.
Fox steered Fitzpatrick toward an A-line skirt with a sateen finish, noting it combines Fitzpatrick's earthiness with polish-the same juxtaposition that makes her artwork so appealing. In addition, the criss-cross top, with no shortage of sheen and a figure-enhancing shape, works with the skirt for gallery openings as well as with jeans for more casual get-togethers with clients. Kicky cat-print heels from L. Boutique keep things interesting no matter what else she wears.
Molasses iridescent silk-taffeta surplice wrap top, $255; rayon, silk-cotton floral skirt, $315, both by Carlisle. Passion peep-toed pumps in zebra, $168, from L. Boutique.
MOM GETS A MAKEOVER
Known for her great sense of humor and ready grin, Kim Dart always looked adorable, but when she dropped 20-something pounds last fall, this mother of four was ready for a new look. Her busy days-working part-time at school and overseeing a family with kids ranging from 10 to 17-had already led her to establish a not-too-fussy style that suits her go-with-the-flow personality. L. Boutique's Renee Wilson and Dana Kahl agreed that Dart looks jaunty in jeans and fitted tees, but they wanted her to kick it up a notch, to sophisticated, take-charge chic.
"It's important that people feel like themselves, but they often get into a rut," says Wilson. "We get them to try on things they once decided weren't for them. That may no longer be true. New fabrications solve fit problems. Bodies change shape. Colors that once flattered may not any more."
Keep the cropped pants, they told Dart (to show off her toned legs), but switch up to a pale plaid print with serious smarts. Trade in the tee and show off a newly trim torso in an easy camisole and embellished cropped cardigan. Then really ramp things up with accessories. Trade in fun flips for high-fashion heels that work with almost everything in her wardrobe. Finally, with built-in beadwork on the sweater, Dart only needed earrings to complete the look and still get the kids out the door on time, with Mom looking as pulled together as the school projects.
Plaid shorts by Billy Blues, $178; On Gossamer camisole, $38; Glam Souls shrug, $178; woven shoe with wood heel by Laundry, $148; hand-wired chandelier earrings with smoky topaz and mandarin garnets, $428. All from L. Boutique.
COOKING UP BUSINESS
After 18 years in the restaurant business, Franklin Salih hung up his chef's apron and opted for a new career. As owner of Sarasota Networks, an online networking resource, Salih soon discovered that the shorts and topsiders he wore behind the scenes at Fandango Café & Jazz Bar no longer cut it. His new life meant client lunches and happy-hour networking, and though he wanted to look professional, he didn't want the stuffiness of a suit and tie. And as any Southwest Florida salesman soon discovers, running from meeting to meeting in our steamy climate can wilt even the coolest look.
"These things are important," he says. "The reality of it is that the look will get you in the door."
At the Met on St. Armands Circle, co-owner Geoffrey Michel decided that Ted Baker, the consummate eccentric English tailor, would be a perfect fit for Salih. Baker, he explains, is hip but not too trendy, comfortable without being unstructured, and upscale but not pretentious. What's more, his clothes are "geared toward the global traveler with stain-resistant and wrinkle-resistant fabrics and openings designed with accompanying electronics in mind," he says.
Salih says his new suit can take him beyond lunches and martinis. "I'll live in that jacket thrown over a pair of jeans with a T-shirt-a plain lavender one or even a cool logoed white one," he predicts. And he can roll the sleeves up on the Armani shirt, layer it atop the same tees and achieve another look with the suit jacket. Using such pieces as separates is fun as well as versatile, giving men some of the freedom and creativity women enjoy in dressing.
Ted Baker navy pinstripe suit in summer-weight wool gabardine, $695; Giorgio Armani lilac Italian-made cotton dress shirt, $285; hand-rolled Italian silk pocket square, $45; black calf belt, $82.50; Armani lightweight trouser sock, $30; and The Met crocodile slip-on loafer, $165. All from The Met. Bellinger "Tulip" eyeglasses in rust with cobalt blue temples, $430, IOptics.
A NEW FLORIDA VISION
Phil Myer, a native New Yorker, has lived in Sarasota for years, but it didn't show. He was still wearing the drab khakis of his former urban environment, but when he recently decided to come out of retirement, he knew it was time for a change. He'd found the perfect product for Sarasota-hip, colorful glasses, or "readers," which baby boomers and retirees grab when they need to decipher a newspaper or text message, and he was selling them to trendy establishments. He needed to get on the same page.
"I want a new expression of myself that would go hand in hand with the product I sell," he told us.
Fit and energetic, Myer was the perfect candidate for the upscale resort look that defines Sarasota. So we turned to the Sarasotan who pioneered that style-Dr. Murf Klauber, founder of The Colony Resort. Klauber met us at The Colony's Le Tennique, which specializes in relaxed and colorful resort wear.
To give Myer's understated style more personality, Klauber selected bright, comfortable separates from the ETRO Milano collection. "It's about freedom," he explains. "I want my customers to express themselves the way that I do."
"Men are normally cautious about color, but once they see how much fun they can have with it, they're usually up for the experience," adds Debbie Densmore, retail director of the boutique.
Myer pronounces his revitalized look "outstanding." Not only does he now look as good as his glasses, he plans to incorporate his new pieces into his old wardrobe. The colorful dress shirt with sleeves rolled up will enliven his uniform khakis; and the coral jacket can become a wardrobe staple, working even with a simple T-shirt and jeans.
ETRO Milano summerweight pinwale corduroy jacket with vibrant silk striped lining, $1,018; plaid cotton dress shirt, $310; white cotton trouser, $145; Longhi woven fabric belt in baby blue macramé and saddle leather, $76; and Aldo Blue casual black leather slip-ons, $165. All from Le Tennique at The Colony Resort. Mosley Tribes "Alliance" photochromatic polar lense shades, $260, from IOptics.