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Life Audit

Entertaining Style


In a town where image is everything, Susan Rabin knows hers needs to change.

The solo entertainment lawyer and part-time singer moved to the Los Angeles area from Northern California earlier this year to jump-start her practice. But now that she’s in the entertainment mecca, she realizes that her youthful, hipster look has to go.

The only problem is that Rabin doesn’t know what image she wants to project. She admires the expensive suits and accessories that her Bev­erly Hills colleagues wear to work, but she doesn’t want to alienate her clients—mostly struggling, young musicians—by wearing the wrong clothes. “I want to look hip,” says Rabin. “But then I worry that I am not getting their respect because I do not look professional.”

Rabin concedes that nowadays she’s looking anything but professional.

Because of her petite stature and awareness of trends, Rabin often finds herself shopping for clothes meant for a significantly different market—like teenagers. She also has a penchant for bargains and a tendency to pick up an overly colorful shirt or trendy pair of pants from a sale rack at a department store without thinking about how it will fit into her wardrobe.

As a result, she has a closet full of clothes that don’t go together and are inappropriate for her needs. “My daughters think I am trying to look too young and too hip,” she concedes. They have even accused her of looking “junky” and “not put together,” she says.

Rabin has another obstacle to face in addition to a lack of fashion focus. With a newly transplanted solo practice, Rabin can’t exactly attack Rodeo Drive with gusto. She has to stick to a reasonable budget. And as a part-time singer with the folk band Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, she says it would definitely help if she could make the transition from office to auditorium with minimal ward­robe changes.

It’s a tough note to hit, but Life Audit wardrobe expert Heather Kenny thinks she can help.

Kenny says Rabin first must decide what type of image she wants to project. An easy way to do this, Kenny says, is by finding a style icon to emulate. Then Rabin can design a wardrobe around the icon’s fashion choices, including clothing cut, colors and accessor­ies. This will go a long way toward developing a long-term look, Kenny says.

Already Rabin knows that she likes the high-style suits that other women entertainment lawyers wear in Los Angeles. And she has a closet full of suits but says she rarely, if ever, wears them because they are too dated, ill-fitting or oddly colored.

Kenny agrees that Rabin needs to buy some new suits, but she doesn’t have to go overboard—she can get a lot of mileage out of a few classic suits in neutral colors. Ra­bin can also wear the pieces together as a suit or use them as separates, Kenny says.

Kenny wants Rabin to purchase two or three suits in colors such as black, navy and beige. She says that Rabin should pay careful attention to quality and cut.

With her tiny stature, Kenny says, proportions need to be exact, never oversized.

She says that Rabin should try to find suits that offer smaller jackets or those with nipped-in waists. The pants should be loose-fitting and classically tailored for added versatility.

COLOR MATTERS

As a way to punch up the panache fac­tor that Rabin so wants to have, Kenny suggests purchasing a variety of high-quality T-shirts in jewel tones or pastel colors to wear under the suits. She also can look for well-fitted, conservative cam­isole tops or wraparound blouses.

These tops can be worn over pants alone for an everyday look, and paired with the suit jacket when meeting with clients or other lawyers. The informal tops will help to tone down the formality of the suits while still projecting an air of fashion­able, professional informality.

Rabin also can get a lot of different looks with a few skirts in either solid colors or prints. Kenny says Rabin can add interest with different hemlines and tops and by pairing the skirts with different kinds of shoes or boots.

Rabin also should pay close attention to accessories. Kenny wants to see Rabin buy a few good pieces of jewelry such as chunky rings or necklaces or arty pins in silver with semi-precious stones. The pieces will give an artistic, hip edge to her classic look.

Kenny also says this core wardrobe should be versatile enough to wear when Rabin is onstage. For example, a nice camisole top can be worn under a suit jacket at the office and alone with pants or a skirt while onstage. A punchy print skirt also can serve double duty.

To help pay for the clothes, Kenny tells Rabin that she needs to put an end to her impulse purchases and really think about what she is buying. “To buy the basics, she needs to save the money that she would have spent on im­pulse items,” Kenny says. The refrain should be classic, classic, classic.

And most of all, Kenny tells Rabin to be herself—with a little help from her fashion icon.

Sidebar

VITAL STATISTICS

Susan Rabin

Position Solo, Law Offices of Susan Rabin, Toluca Lake, Calif.

Goal To dress professionally while still projecting an artsy, hip look.

OUR EXPERT

Heather Kenny

Heather Kenny is a Chicago-based personal shopper and stylist. She focuses on helping women and men create fashion-conscious wardrobes with an emphasis on quality. She also writes about fashion and style for a variety of local and national publications.

Life Audit HOT TIP: THE 24-HOUR RULE

Have a problem with impulse buys when it come to clothes, shoes and accessories? Life Audit professional attire expert Heather Kenny suggests that simply putting your item of desire on hold for a day can help.

“Take a 24-hour time-out and think about it,” she says. “If you are still dying for it, then go back and get it.”

Game Plan

HOW TO FIND A STYLE ICON

• Find inspiration by looking regularly through fashion and style-oriented magazines like Vogue, Esquire, Bazaar, Vanity Fair and InStyle for inspiration.

• Take note of celebrities, looks, advertisements or characters that you like and would like to emulate. For example, Katharine Hepburn’s tailored shirts and peg-legged trousers, Isabella Rossellini’s minimalist Italian chic, Jackie O’s natty accessories or Gwyneth Paltrow’s clean, feminine lines.

• Once you pick a style, try to be consistent.

• Clip pictures and save to review before shopping. Don’t be afraid to bring examples along with you to provide inspiration and direction while shopping.


WE NEED YOU! Got some room to improve? Get free advice from the experts on health and fitness, finance, home and office technology, business travel, entertaining and wardrobe—plus your mug in this mag—with Life Audit, the Journal’s monthly Lifestyle feature. It’s fun, fast and free. If you would like to participate in a future Life Audit, please e-mail Jill Schachner Chanen at chanenj@staff.abanet.org.


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