"Fashion" is a word that can strike terror, or at least despondency into the heart of a strong woman. If we are neither Jessica Simpson nor Laura Bush, the choices can seem overwhelming, confusing, elusive. What is the key, many of us long to know, to dressing with confidence, flair and economy?
Mary Sheehan Warren, a Milwaukee mother of five and professional fashion adviser, confronted this question head-on a decade ago. The answer, she quickly discovered, was personal style, a kind of self-knowledge that gives a woman the jump on fashion. With others keen to spread this simple but radical concept she co-founded Elegance In Style to run seminars and offer individual clinics on style. The fruits of all this are now published in her book: It’s So You! fitting fashion to your life. In this interview with MercatorNet Mrs Warren gives a taste of the contents — which really could change your life.
MercatorNet: Considering the torrent of literature — and now television shows — about fashion, what gave you the courage to write a book on this subject? What is your particular "take" on fashion?
Mary Warren: I don’t consider it "courage". Rather, I wrote what flowed from my experiences as a fashion consultant. For ten years I worked with both individuals and groups through an organization called Elegance In Style. EIS was founded on the premise that women crave to know what fashions look best on them. This craving is rooted both in a desire to be respected and a longing to be considered beautiful, and, when it moves beyond her instinctive vanity, it can help to affirm her own dignity and promote her well being.
I guess it took chutzpah to write a book on a topic that may seem old and tired. Yet, as our seminars proved, our approach certainly was neither old nor tired, but new and refreshing. EIS provided the uplifting, practical solutions that women were seeking, and my book is, in a sense, that seminar on paper.
MercatorNet: Isn’t the fashion world out of control? Why should a sensible woman take it seriously? Can’t we just wear what is decent and comfortable and get on with our lives?
Mary Warren: I’m not so sure that the fashion world was ever in control. If by fashion world you mean the hullabaloo which surrounds the clothing we all must buy to wear, then a sensible woman will only pay attention to that part of the fashion world which truly applies to her. However, fashion — or really our personal sense of style — needs to be taken very seriously. Our personal presentation speaks volumes about who we are and where we plan to go and should include qualities other than decency and comfort because it’s an art form that — at its best — reflects creativity, professionalism, and elegance.
MercatorNet: The typical woman has a closet stuffed with clothes, and nothing to wear — true or false? At any rate, many women have a small fortune tied up in clothes they don’t wear — can your book save us from this awful waste and frustration?
Mary Warren: Oh yes! My book is all about saving us from that awful waste and frustration. In my experiences, a typical American woman has so many clothes that she often forgets what she owns. On top of it all, she’s unhappy with her appearance because she’s never very put-together. My book will walk her through exactly what she needs from fashion, how to get it, and how to update when necessary.
MercatorNet: Do you believe all women can afford to dress well, even those on a tight budget? What’s most important — money or moral fibre — in getting this area of life under control?
Mary Warren: Yes, I do believe that all women can afford to dress well, even those on a tight budget. It doesn’t take a lot of money to put together a wardrobe that addresses a woman’s elements of style (body type, fashion personality, and colour palette), and indeed it takes less clothing to create an elegant wardrobe that’s reliable, versatile, and elegant.
Perhaps a little self discipline is needed in getting this area of life under control. Of course, it’s the type of self discipline that ultimately reduces stress and makes fashion fun!
MercatorNet: Should husbands be afraid of this book, or should they welcome it?
Mary Warren: Husbands will love this book. They have always loved Elegance In Style because their wives have returned from our seminars beautiful and happy, and any man who loves his wife wants her to be beautiful and happy. He will also be quite pleased at the great amount of money she will save from her more focused shopping.
MercatorNet: Guiding teenage daughters through the shark-infested waters of fashion must be one of the most stressful tasks of parenthood today. How can a mother — or father — make this task more positive and less traumatic for all concerned?
Mary Warren: A mother can help her daughter navigate through the fashion world by being an inspiration to her. She must look her absolute best for herself and for her family and continually communicate with her daughter about what constitutes appropriate fashion and why. Dad can do the same, but, more importantly, he should tell his daughter how beautiful she is any chance he gets. The last chapter of my book provides practical and time-tested tips for helping teenagers beat off the sharks.
* It’s So You! Fitting fashion to your life | By Mary Sheehan Warren | HC:384pp | Spence Publishing Company | ISBN-10: 1890626678 | 2007 | $28.95