From apple picking to picking your style

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Consider the singular pleasure you derive each fall when you behold the first perfect apple of the season.   So enticing is the power of the simple apple that the biblical Eve used it to launch the world into a passion for fashion. Ever since Adam fell under its spell, men and women have been wearing clothing, hoping that their fashion statement enhances their true nature.

Cynthia Carr Gardner brings time honored sensibilities for shape, texture and color with her as she helps her famous, and not so famous, clients perfect a clothing style that is perfect for them. Readers of Glamour will be familiar with some of Cynthia’s fashion dogmas from the Do and Don’t Do column she inspired while working as an assistant editor at that magazine.

The often referenced  Do & Don’t Do phrase has become part of our fashion vernacular. Yet its simplicity belies the greater contribution she has made to our culture during her 30-year career.

While she studied costume design at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, Carr Gardner’s appreciation of simple lines, fine fabric and color saturation intensified her knack for pulling together chic outfits. The expression “stylist” was still unheard of when she continued her studies at Smith College.

Today, with her Master’s eye, Carr Gardner has helped set the industry standard. A seamless fusion of education, experience, and an inherent philosophical appreciation for propriety distinguish this stylist from personal shoppers.

She looks for synergy between time, place, and occasion. Her love of clothing is evident in her global pursuit to find a perfect piece intended to enhance each client’s personal essence. When she shops, she shops with perspective, and intuition. She shops in large stores, small boutiques, and obscure(dot)com sites to polish a client’s signature look. She can tell in a glance if a piece is right.

The woman who dresses Jon Gruden, Suzy Kolber, Mike Tirico, and Michele Tafoya for ESPN’s Monday Night Football considers in advance geographical climates as well as the visual impact of group shots when writing-out and photographing a fashion playbook of sorts. Each week, the broadcast team wears preassigned ensemble clothes that skillfully reflects the relaxed nature of the setting, the personalities and the professional responsibilities of the anchors. The curated look erases the stiff “uniform” jacket previously worn by broadcasters yet references a refined corporate identity.

Kathryn Stockett, author of the best-selling book-turned-Oscar Best Picture nominee, “The Help,” knew she needed help developing a look that projected the statement she sought to make sartorially. As Stockett made the round of Academy Award parties in 2012, she knew it was essential to project a strong sophisticated image of her own accomplishments and ambitions in Hollywood.   The pajama bottoms and sweat pants she felt most comfortable in didn’t reflect her success in that moment, on stage or in the way her life evolved. With Carr Gardner’s help the two embarked on conversations, shopping sprees and on-line harvesting of the best choices to fit not only Stockett’s multiple occasions, but her desire to speak effectively, using the subliminal language of fashion. She wanted people who saw her to know she was prepared to work as an artist and a leader in the industry.

In Carr Gardner’s view, today’s fashion is regrettably influenced by so-called “reality TV,” and is, as a result, too low, too tight, and too short to be tasteful. The reality is, reality shows are culturally reducing our sense of style and fostering a diminished sense of decency.

Carr Gardner thinks a young mom sacrifices an opportunity to look polished and ready for the day when she wears a predictable pair of yoga pants and sneakers around town. She recommends refreshing the gym look with a great long top, modestly covering the bottom while adding color and flare, and especially when coupled with a sassy pair of flats.  In her opinion, with a little fore thought, the updated look is nearly effortless, considerably more chic and age appropriate for a “mom on the go.”

And she wonders out loud why we have adopted a wrinkled workplace look and why we no longer celebrate success by trying to look successful. The apple cart has tipped over when the most successful person on the team dresses down to impress the associates. She feels we undermine a sense of confidence in ourselves and those we work with when our clothing isn’t well suited to who we are, and aspire to become.  Young people especially should dress ”aspirationally.”

The mantra of appropriateness and fun infused Carr Gardner’s style choices as she refined Katie Couric’s look.  Like most women, Couric’s hectic life demanded different outfits. This super busy wife, mom, hard-working professional needed help streamlining her clothing choices to simplify transitions between day-time responsibilities and night-time festivities.

Rather than add pieces, Carr Gardner edited Couric’s over-stuffed closet.

So, if you’re the person standing in front of a full closet, complaining you have nothing to wear, fall is a perfect time to develop a philosophical approach to dressing, eliminate fashion pitfalls, and accomplish a polished look. Carr Gardner, budget-conscious New Englander that she is, recommends women shop in their own closet for five staples to create a basic canvas to dress their best for every occasion:

1) well cut black pants

2) a sparkling white blouse

3) figure flattering dress or skirt

4) sexy pumps

5) perfect coat

Be objective or ask a tailor if these staples are well fitting, of an appropriate length and apple crisp. Adding vintage, or trendy accessories depending on the needs of the day keep your look fresh, tasteful and turn the ensemble into investments in confidence while avoiding costly mistakes.

Of course this list is adaptable for men, and would be enhanced by a blazer and good sweater.

Carr Gardner encourages you to pick the best clothing pieces that are right for you. She’s got your back whether you’re a job applicant, CEO, or soccer mom. Dressing with clarity, confidence and poise you’ll be the stand out of the season, every season.

Courtesy of ESPN

Diane Kilgore is a Boston-area blogger.