An interview with a stylist: How and why to look your best every day!

I recently had the absolute pleasure of meeting personal stylist Debbie Kahn of Deco to discuss style and her business.  I love fashion and was so excited for this interview, but I didn't expect to have such an inspirational and informative, yes, but inspirational...not necessarily.   If you think that style and fashion are somewhat superficial, talk to Debbie Kahn and you'll realize that how you dress really does impact your confidence, self-image and overall well-being.  And who doesn't want a little boost in those departments!

How did you get started doing personal styling?  What’s your background?
I was in retail for many years ever since getting my degree in fashion merchandising.  Most recently I was working as a regional visual manager for BCBG doing store layouts, windows, mannequins etc. and loved it, but it was a lot of travel and once I had my daughter it got hard.  I'm a perfectionist who would get stressed out because I wanted to do both things 100% (be a mother and a professional) but I just felt I wasn't able to give all to both.  I have Cystic Fibrosis and was getting sick a lot too so I knew it was time to focus on my health, and my daughter helped put it all into perspective.   I had a hard time the first month after quitting work getting used to the transition.  But now, I'm so happy that I left and started my own business; I know I made the right decision.  I've had so much support for starting Deco.  

Tell me a little about what you and your partner Emily Simon do for Deco and how you're unique.  What should a typical client expect? 

What sets us apart is that we really focus on helping clients gain confidence in their body and style.  When it comes to working with moms, we get them out of their yoga pants (when not doing yoga) and help them take pride in who they are.  You're more than just a mom and I find women sometimes forget that.  We also take you outside of your comfort zone which can really take your look to the next level.  

So the typical process goes like this:  
Step 1: fill out a style profile re: sizes, personal info, preferences, choices of styles (bohemian, classic, modern, do you like to accessorize, etc.) What's your least favorite body part etc. etc.

Step 2:  We do a closet consultation and go through every piece of clothing and ask: do you still wear it? what do you have to wear it with? is it just sentimental? does it need repair? does it fit properly? etc.  We help you figure out if the piece should still be in your closet, what you can wear it with, match up outfits for you and reorganize your closet to make it more user-friendly so you can find and see what you really have and can get dressed confidently.  We can also take photos and create a look book for you to help.  Finally, we identify the holes in your wardrobe which takes us to step 3.

Step 3: Shopping! We shop with you starting with the established wardrobe "holes".  We choose stores and brands based on your style and budget and we get you to try some things outside of your comfort zone.  We're going to tell you if something really looks good or doesn't which you don't always get from a friend or the person working at the store.   If you have specific events you need help with, we do that too.

So what are the main 'holes' you find in a woman's wardrobe:
Great jackets!  Casual blazers, jean jackets, leather or faux leather jackets....something in black, brown, white, burgundy, grey etc and inexpensive or not.  Zara, H&M etc. have great options. These pieces go so easily with jeans and really finish your outfit.  I also love metallic accessories.  Every woman should have a little pop they can add to an outfit to dress it up.  

What’s the most impactful change one can make to look (and feel) better?
Take off the yoga pants when you're not working out!  And no running shoes if you're not in workout clothes.  Finally, so many women wear clothes that are not flattering for their shape- either too big, maybe because they're self-conscious, or too small.  As stylists, we really want to help women find confidence.  It's our job to help you look amazing and feel great.  A positive body image and self confidence really can come from realizing what a big piece clothing is to your overall self confidence!

What can I wear when I'm "on-duty mom" to be comfortable and ready for anything but still look stylish on a day-to-day basis.  
Everyone needs a couple pairs of go-to day jeans that you can wear to lunch with friends or climb around the park in.  I love the skinny jeans from H&M for this and they're just as comfortable and washable as yoga pants (and H&M sells online now).  Throw those on with a tank, oversized sweater and flat ankle boots or cute slip ons and you're set. In the warmer months I like maxi dresses but you have to find the right style and shape as some are more forgiving than others.  Empire waist is great.  Be carful of knit as it can cling and show everything.  I like putting a basic fitted white tank underneath maxis, especially one that’s longer.  And every mom needs a good, stylish medium sized cross-body bag that can hold diapers, snacks etc. Backpacks are making a come-back too and there are a lot of great options.

And how do you feel about leggings? 
They can be fine, just don't use them as a crutch because they're easy and comfortable.   And cover your tush and crotch!  Finally, try to make it a different legging than the one you're working out in...something with a zipper or a little leather (real or faux) or nicer fabric etc. 

Is there such a thing as a stylish workout outfit bc let’s be honest, there will be days when I'm wearing workout clothes all day?
I think women should buy nice workout clothes.  They don't have to cost a fortune, but find something you feel cute in that isn't an oversized old t-shirt or ratty old sweatshirt.  Marshalls, TJ Maxx and Target all have great options.   

What’s the biggest thing we're doing wrong?  
Not taking pride in ourselves.  Put on a little makeup: mascara, bronzer (I love Nars powder bronzer in Laguna and Benefit has great options).  Take care of yourself as much as you take care of others and you'll be amazed how much better you'll feel!

What's your suggestion for a good investment piece? 
A bag!  Not necessarily trendy, but something you really love.  That and a great leather jacket- but not with too many bells and whistles because you don’t want it to be too trendy.  Both of these things will stand the test of time.

What about pregnancy fashion?  
Take the time to make yourself look cute and feel put together because there's a good chance you already don't feel your best.  Invest in a few things that make you feel pretty.  You need to feel good about yourself right now! And I love seeing a pregnant woman in heels!

In addition to styling women, you've started offering styling for men and children.  What's the best and easiest style update for men?  

Shoes are a big thing and it's an easy way to update a man's look without looking too trendy or trying too hard.  Every man needs a good shoe wardrobe: brown, black and a weekend pair or two.  Flip-flops are okay but I'm not a fan of the man scandal.  And men should take care of their feet too! 
When it comes to clothing, don't try too hard and end up looking metro, but try hard enough that you don't look like you're still in the frat.  Find some good denim options: a slimmer fit and something that works on your body and is still comfortable.  Denim doesn't have to cost a lot, but you should take a little time to try it on (and know that it will soften up if you're worried about comfort).  For shirts, I love button downs.  Find a brand that's comfortable and fits your body.  I like the look of a sweater over a button down too.  And every man needs a stylish casual blazer and should avoid pleats!  

If you're trying to update your guy's style, keep in mind that many guys get stuck in their ways, but keep's about baby steps.  

When it comes to styling children we find that families need help with family photo shoots, parties, and as girls especially get older (ages 7-14), they hate shopping with their moms who have opinions that don't match their own.  We're a neutral party with both the mom's and child's best interest in mind.  And we find that the young girls will listen to an outside party where they won't listen to their mothers.   

So what are your favorite brands for kids?  
I love Zara, H&M, Target and Red Ballon on Damen has a good mix of pieces.  There really are so many options and you don't have to spend a lot of money!

Deco also offers packing services to help you pack the right things, streamline it, and make dressing on your vacation or business trip easier.  They do seminars for businesses and Style Parties featuring a mini fashion show and trend review that makes for a great way to get friends together.  Attendees can bring pieces in their closet that they never wear, don't know how to wear, or can't part with.  Deco will help you style the piece, reinvent it or tell you to ditch it...or maybe swap it with a friend.

Thanks so much, Debbie!  Since our interview I've been stepping outside of my yoga pants comfort zone and truly do feel more productive and better about myself and my day!  

For more inspiration and expertise, follow Deco on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter  and of course their website

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