Styling

Fall/winter capsule wardrobe wrap-up

April 24, 2015

Caroline Rector of Un-fancy.com says that this whole capsule wardrobe thing takes a while to master. I had a hard time keeping up on the season transition. Instead of shopping all in one go in the last two weeks of the season, I’ve gone shopping three times over the past two months. Half of it was to fill in my winter wardrobe and the other half was in anticipation of spring.

Lessons learned

So, what have I learned from this process? I need more than 37 pieces in my wardrobe, that’s for sure. I work in an office so I have to have work-appropriate clothes, lounge-at-home clothes, day-to-day clothes and going out pieces. I ended up with 63 total fall/winter pieces but I put more away for spring after a few weeks because I realized that they were just too light and not at all enticing for me to put on when it was -30 outside.

Less is more

I definitely found that it was easier to put outfits together when I had everything in view. Sure, I did repeat a few outfits and wore some pieces a lot, but that’s the whole point! Get the most out of your clothes, wear them often and enjoy it.

Weaknesses

I haven’t been good at accessorizing. I don’t know, I just like to keep things simple: silver or gold studs, a watch and maybe a long necklace, again either silver or gold. I think come warmer weather I’ll have fun with hats, sunglasses and necklaces. I just find that it’s easier to pair my necklaces with tops rather than sweaters.

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winter worn the most

Purge as you go

If this is your first time building a capsule wardrobe, don’t hesitate to continue to donate items as you go. I ended up donating another eight items because they didn’t inspire any outfits out of me, I rarely wore them and they were beginning to wear.

So what’s next? Onto sharing with you my spring capsule wardrobe, including my new purchases, my “to buy” list and outfit shots as I go. I have to admit, I didn’t plan things out as well as I would’ve liked to. I went outside of my budget just a tad (honest!) and I still have a few items that I would like to add but before I get them, I’ll let spring weather come around and see if I really miss them. Wish me luck!

P.S. I realize I haven’t taken shots of my footwear and everyone loves footwear, so that’s my next project. Stay tuned.

Winter to spring shopping

April 3, 2015

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As you may know, I’ve reduced my fall/winter wardrobe to as close to 37 items as I can. To find out how that process went for me, click herehere and here.

I actually managed to purge my wardrobe down to 34 pieces but I soon realized that I was lacking in key pieces. I was wearing the same three outfits to work and feeling limited in my options. A lot of other items weren’t being worn either, because I didn’t have those key pieces that act as the “glue” to put outfits together.

So, I went consignment shopping with my mom to AMH Style a couple of months ago. I made up a list of items I would need to make the most of my wardrobe and that would carry me into the early days of spring. To my delight, every tag in the store that was highlighted was 50% off, so I bought ten pieces for $250.00. Not too shabby, eh?

This is why I love second-hand shopping. Not only is it budget-friendly, but, more importantly, it’s environmentally friendly. It’s a win-win, and I can’t praise it enough. However, I do know that it is equally important to support eco-fashion designers and local boutiques that sell quality goods. It’s just nice to know that there are other eco-shopping options for those of us on a tighter fashion budget. Making most of my purchases here means that I can save up for the odd new purchase from one of my fave online eco-stores and designers.

Shopping list

Brown leather belt
I have a black one but a brown one would go well with my brown and beige-toned pants. I could also wear it around my waist with a dress. Brown can be dressed up and dressed down a little easier than black can.

Black blazer
A black blazer is by far one of the most important and versatile staples for any wardrobe. It can dress up a basic t-shirt and summer dress, or add a masculine touch to a frilly sweater. You can do as Princess Di did and wear it over a sweatshirt with jeans or go full-on corporate and pair with a pencil skirt or dress pants. The possibilities are endless.

Patterned, long-sleeved top
I only had solid tops in my wardrobe and I wanted to add some pattern to mix things up. Patterned tops are usually more versatile too because they have more colours in them and therefore can be worn with more items.

Spring dresses
I have a few formal spring/summer dresses but only one daytime spring dress. I’m off to the Caribbean in a few weeks for a wedding so a couple more light dresses to wear at dinner would be useful.

Felt hat
I’ve always wanted to wear a cute felt hat in the spring but I never thought to get one. I decided to make a point of buying one to make more use of my head than just for thinking.

Spring wool coat
This wasn’t exactly on my list but I had wanted to buy a “Bavarian-style” wool coat ever since I went to Europe last year and saw a lot of Germans wearing them as daytime coats. They just looked so smart and sharp but casual. My mom found one for me and bought it for me as a gift. Thanks Mom! xo

Dress pants
I have a pair of tweed pants and navy blue pants but I wanted a beige pair to wear with pastels and for warmer days.

Grey pencil skirt
I have a black pleated skirt that I never ended up wearing this winter and an a-line, wool, plaid skirt. I wanted a work-appropriate skirt that was versatile and grey is as versatile as you can get. You can wear it with any colour, any pattern (almost) so this was a must.

The results

winter purchase collage

Basic outfits

(I’ll do a separate post for the spring dresses)

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Grey skirt, originally from Joe Fresh. Paired here with my Everlane button-up. I often wear this to work and add a blazer or cardigan for colour/pattern. I like the high waist because it accentuates the smallest part of me and the hem falls right in the middle of my knee, just where I want it to.

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Here, I’ve paired my Everlane button-up with one of my purchases, a striped Club Monaco shirt. It’s comfy, stretchy and fun. I’ve worn it with the grey skirt and most often with these black Second Yoga Jeans. The hat is something I’m eager to wear when the sun decides to come out.

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Le hat. Me like. This is originally from Forever 21.

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Sans the button-up, a casual outfit for a Friday or running errands. I wear this top at least once a week. They say to avoid horizontal stripes so that you don’t look too wide but thin stripes are a safe bet.

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The important black blazer! Very happy with this purchase. It’s lightweight, originally from Maison Scotch and very well tailored. Here, I’ve paired it with a burnt orangey/red top I bought at Mango last year in Europe. I know, fast fashion purchase but I needed a formal blouse for an event. Weak moment. Le sigh.

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A little arm-on-hip action.

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Maison Scotch blazer paired with a black, silk blouse that I bought second-hand a few years ago, and comfy wool work pants (originally from Banana Republic).

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Glad to have found a good, brown leather belt. I can wear it around a spring dress and pair it with matching leather sandals. It’s true, belts and shoes should match in an outfit but don’t worry if you can’t match them perfectly. It’s fashion after all, perfection is not the goal, style is.

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Minimalist inspiration from a baseball player

March 17, 2015

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Photography by Nathaniel Wood, ESPN.com.

I can’t remember how I came across this article today, was it a quick glimpse on Twitter of a bearded stud? Was it the axe that he uses to shave? The abs? Gaah, I’m getting ahead of myself. Who knows how I found it, but prospective Toronto Blue Jays pitcher, Daniel Norris (21 years old) inspired me today. And no, it wasn’t the perfect “lumbersexual” thang he has going on.

This young man, despite having six digits in the bank, lives in a 1978 Westfalia van parked in a Wal-Mart lot during his off-season training in Florida, living off of $800 a month. The Tennessee native comes from a salt-of-the-earth family, having spent his childhood days outside, being active.

Norris’s determination to stay true to himself and to not get caught up in the materialism that most often goes hand-in-hand with wealth is admirable. What I appreciate the most about what I read about him today is his desire to live life minimally and to use his potential celebrity to promote what he cares about most: protecting the environment.

We all say we want the simple life and I’m trying to do this with baby steps starting with my closet and out to the rest of the branches in my life, but he has it pretty well down pat. No home, just a van and the bare necessities to get by. This simplicity and lack of baggage gives him the freedom to travel where he wants, pretty well when he wants.

Do I want to live in a van right now? No, but I’ve had more than my fair share of memorable road trips with my family in our Westfalia and I can see exactly why the lifestyle is tempting for this young man.

What got to me the most about Norris and his lifestyle is how clear cut everything is. I find myself walking this fine line between promoting ethical and sustainable fashion (an industry that relies on consumption) all the while promoting a minimalist wardrobe and making the most out of what you have. I tell ya, it’s tough, when you spend a few hours a day browsing online shops, to not buy. A part of me feels obligated to buy something that I might want, just to support the designer, but I don’t want to end up a clutter bug. A hoarder is a hoarder, even if the hoarded stuff is ethical and sustainable.

Norris, on the other hand, is restricted by the van that he has chosen to encase his life in. No need to consider what colour rug to purchase for his non-existent living room. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to downsize to his extreme. I’d like to buy a rug for my living room one day, but before I rush into it, I’ll remind myself of Norris: simple, simple, simple. Do I really need it now? Maybe it can wait.

His free-spirit and life sans frontieres represents a yearning that I think a lot of people in the developed world are striving for: a life that isn’t dictated by making money to buy stuff. You want a house? Great, find a job that you can go to every day for the next thirty years and buy a house and enjoy it. But once you’re nearly killing yourself over your work to pay for your excess toys, the extra car, the double garage, the pool, the gadgets, that’s when you might want to reconsider what you’re doing this all for.

I am certainly not the first, nor the last person to wonder: can fashion ever really be sustainable? Can I really promote a minimalist wardrobe all the while encouraging my readers to buy from ethical and sustainable designers?

It may seem oxymoronic but yes, I think I can. The industry would certainly have to make adjustments in how it runs (maybe a pipe dream). It would have to produce high-quality, ethically made pieces at a higher price and be OK with selling fewer of them. Instead of pumping out new collections every season, it may consider producing pieces that build one onto the other, making it easy for consumers to pick and choose the staple pieces that they need to make the most out of their wardrobe.

It’s a stretch but I’ll keep aiming for simplicity and to find a balance between promoting the consumption of local manufacturing, ethical labour and high environmental standards with not purchasing at all and reusing instead.

So Daniel Norris, I take your minimalist lifestyle and raise you my personal challenge to keep at it and to keep purging and defining what stays and what goes in my life.

Fewer things, more peace of mind.

P.S. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

Casual Friday work look

December 12, 2014

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Sometimes I really work it for work, you know, heels, tights, a rockin’ skirt and blouse. I walk in thinking: “I’m going to look like I mean business.” But by Friday, especially in the winter, I just want to be comfortable.

Here I’ve paired my new Everlane top (yes, I’m still showing you just how many combinations I can make with this baby) with my fave Second yoga jeans and my Fibre Tibet scarf.

You’ll also notice another way to wear a scarf. If you don’t like anything around your neck, skip this tip, but if you’re like me and you like to keep your neck warm, this is zee best! It can sort of be taken as a chic version of a neck brace but I say: what the heck, it’s comfy! This also works because the scarf is a neutral and isn’t too loud.

Style tip for myself

Get more patterns!

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Weekend outfits

December 9, 2014

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Here is my second outfit with my new love, the Everlane silk button-up. This look is definitely a weekend ensemble compared to this. The scarf is the best accessory I’ve ever had. It is made out of fair-trade Tibetan cashmere and it was sent to me a couple of years ago by Fibre Tibet for a product review and I still wear it at least twice a week during the cooler months.

The jeans were bought this summer when I caved and bought from J. Crew….yes, I have my weak moments too when I just need jeans and I’m in a Boston outlet mall and there isn’t an ethical or sustainable store around. I know, I should’ve just refrained from buying anything but I had forgotten my jeans for a weekend trip!!! Argh, excuses, I know. Anyways, I figured it’s important to show you that I’ll also cave into temptation. But, to make sure it was a good purchase, I looked for quality jeans and for a classic look. I wear these all the time and I plan on keeping them for years to come and turning them into shorts if they wear out too much.

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The black boots are my absolutely go-to bootie for fall and winter. I wear these almost every day at work because they go with everything. And I mean EVERY-THING. They were a gift to me from my boyfriend and I insisted on leather boots so that if they wear down, I can have them fixed.

If there’s one thing I can say, it’s avoid buying plastic shoes. If you are vegan or don’t like wearing animal skins, than try recycled leather. Plastic just doesn’t last. Having said that, if you can find a shoe line made out of recycled plastic, bring me on board!

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This big, bad bangle was made for me by Viixn, a Quebec-based company that makes beautiful pieces made out of reclaimed wood. Pretty gnarly right?
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Wearing scarves 101

I know everyone at one time or another can’t think of anymore ways to wear scarves. I know I’m not offering you up anything groundbreaking here but just take note: with a nice, neutral scarf made out of quality fibres, you don’t have to do much to make it look good.

Above, I’m wearing it the “lazy” way and just letting it fall. This is quite an elegant look when paired with a nice coat.

You can also take a narrow belt and cinch in your waist and wrap it around the scarf so it’s tucked into the scarf. It’s a nice look and I tried this once with a dress and I loved it. Mental note, show you my scarf+belt+dress outfit in a future post.

Below is a simple “brush your shoulder off” drape. It’s a great way to wear a scarf if you don’t want to wear a necklace but, like me, you like having a little something-something to accessorize your tops sometimes.


 

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Above is one more way to wear this top, same jeans, same shoes, but I threw over this organic cotton denim jacket that I got at H&M in Barcelona from the company’s Conscious Collection.

Winter work outfit

December 8, 2014

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I finally had a weekend in, a day to catch up on blog posts and share a few more outfit combinations for you. So far, my 37-piece wardrobe is working out so well for me. Thank you again to Caroline Rector of un-fancy.com for sharing her simple process to creating the minimalist wardrobe I’ve always wanted. Want to see how I put her process into practice? Click here, here and here.

I was terrible at permutations in math class but putting outfits together with so few pieces is a breeze. The main advantage is that you can see everything you own all in one place. It makes it a heck of a lot easier to visualize outfits and plan. It’s become so easy for me that I’ve been picking out my outfits the night before. Yes sir.

So here is a nice little combination of a few of my fave pieces in my fall wardrobe. The sweater, cute n’est-ce pas?, is from Rose & Fig. Jess Hunt of Rose & Fig and I have become interweb friends and I just love seeing how she’s expanded her blog to include a vintage shop. I picked out this sweater from her perfectly curated selection and I wear it all of the time, more so at home than at work but this is a work-appropriate outfit that I’ll try out this week. I’ve paired it with my new Everlane silk button-up and my go-to black pleated skirt. This skirt is so forgiving. If you’re every having a bloated day, this American Apparel skirt has you covered.


A few style tips

If you want to switch things up with this look, you can tuck in the blouse or roll up the sleeves so that your blouse sleeves show through. If your sweater is thin enough, you can tuck it into the skirt but I’d only attempt this if the skirt fell at your waist and not your hips. For most people, their waist is the narrowest part of their body so anything that highlights this area is very flattering.

This skirt is a go-to piece for me because A: it’s black and it goes with everything, B: it’s pleated so it makes any other piece instantly sharper and C: it falls at the knee so it’s work appropriate but still flatters the legs.


 

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Sweater: Vintage, Rose & Fig – $22.00

Skirt: Second-hand, American Apparel – $20.00

Blouse: Everlane – $78.00

Five fall/winter coats

October 9, 2014

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When you ask people what their favourite thing about fall fashion is, many of them say layering. And what do you need most to top off a warm, layered outfit? Why, a fall coat of course! I scoured the interweb for five cozy, comfy, stylish and slightly quirky coats that would fit into any wardrobe.

These coats can also transition you into winter with a nice sweater underneath, but maybe not the trench unless you live in a milder climate. When I look for a fall/winter coat, I’m drawn to soft, natural fabrics, warmth and a big collar (I like having my neck covered). This season’s coats are offered up either tailored with a belt or boxy and long.

Style tips: If you’re a wider-shaped person and you want to define your silhouette, avoid the boxy coats and stick to a knee-length one with a belt to cinch in your waist. If you want to opt for a shorter coat, pick one that either falls at your hip bone or no further than the middle of your behind. Any lower and you’ll widen your derriere, any higher than your hip bone and you’ll have the most useless coat of all time.

1. Ilana Kohn Lisa trench coat

2. Humanoid Wink coat

3. Stella McCartney Clara coat

4. Humanoid wep coat

5. Stella McCartney Federica coat

 

Travel must-haves from Ethica

October 2, 2014

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As you may already know from my previous post, I’m writing this from Barcelona. Oli and I have rented a stellar Airbnb apartment in the heart of El Born. To our surprise, we chose the trendiest part of the city which has some of the best “Made in Spain” boutiques, lively squares with dimly-lit patios and romantic, narrow streets. There are so many adorable boutiques, I feel a bit overwhelmed with the shopping options. Tomorrow is our last day so we’re aiming to be up early to take in the shops, pack and relax before the long flight home.

Barcelona never has an off-season, so I have seen a plethora of fashion styles courtesy of the hundreds of thousands of tourists walking by me each day. The main trends seem to be oxford shoes or bright sneakers (fewer gladiator sandals this year); long coats; straight, long hair; boxy tops; punk jewelry and parachute pants worn with strappy heels – lots of parachute pants. I haven’t seen much of the popular bohemian style you see in North America right now. I’m happy to say my eyes have had a break from fringed, jean shorts; crochet tops and kimono cardigans.

The talented sister duo of Melissa and Carolina Cantor gave me some travel must-haves from their much-loved online eco-fashion destination, Ethica. With Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, France and Spain in my itinerary, the Cantors advised I pack the following key pieces.

Amour Vert Riley Jacket: It’s lightweight, warm, pretty wrinkle-free and machine-washable
Bhava Vegan Darcy Booties: For long days of walking, these are as comfortable as they come
The Sway Drew Weekender: This upcycled-leather carryall will fit all of your travel essentials and then some
Mary Meyer Zero Waste Maxi Dress: It’s effortless and versatile enough to take you from Barcelona to Belgium. We love it with flats and a silk scarf in milder temperatures, and with booties and a chunky knit when it’s colder.

 

How to coordinate a fashion photo shoot

August 28, 2014

I’m sure there are more aspiring fashion stylists now than there are blades of grass in my back yard. Certainly with the explosion of personal fashion and street style blogs, it seems just about anyone can claim the title of “stylist”. Hurray for the democratization of fashion styling! Well now, there’s a caveat to this. I think it’s important to differentiate between people with great personal style and those who can actually style, not just themselves but other people, things and spaces. I certainly don’t dress myself like a stylist. My friend and fellow stylist Leah really dresses the part and she does it so naturally too. Le sigh.

So back to what it really means to be a stylist. A stylist doesn’t have to have extravagant personal style, but they should have an eye for what looks good on a person. They should have a natural ability to mix patterns and colours well, while respecting the models skin tone and hair colour. A stylist understands silhouette and shape, knowing what flatters and what doesn’t. He or she should have creative vision and know how to execute it. Don’t be afraid to experiment and let others add their input. A good stylist also has to become a good coordinator. When I started this blog back in 2011, I wanted to feature fashion shoots but I had no money to purchase images off of fashion photographers. There also weren’t all that many fashion photographers shooting eco-fashion at the time. So I took a deep breath and asked friends and acquaintances to volunteer their time and talent. I learned how to come up with a vision for a shoot and then how to execute it from start to finish.

I learned how to coordinate the schedules of every player in the shoot, how to keep everyone up-to-date on the shoot details, how to share my vision for the look and feel, and how to make sure the day of the shoot ran smoothly and in good fun. If you aren’t detail-oriented, if you don’t like working with people and if you aren’t good at communicating your vision to others, you might want to work on those skills before pursuing a career in styling or consider something else alltogether.

I just wrapped up a photo shoot for Duffield Designs s/s 2015 lookbook. Using behind the scenes images from the shoot, I thought I would put together a simple step-by-step guide on how to put a fashion photo shoot together for you to reference. This is just a guide. I’m sure every stylist has his or her own routine but feel free to build on this one! I think my next post related to styling will be on how to get your name out there. I’m still struggling to find the time to do this myself!

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Location, location, location! Many photographers have access to a studio. This comes in handy if you’re facing bad weather or want to be able to control the lighting just so. If you want to shoot outside (my favourite location) take advantage of nature’s backdrop or urban architectural details.

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Pick your models. I most often work with Models International Management here in Ottawa to get models. For creatives with no budget, or a small budget, modelling agencies will refer you to those models who are just starting out and want to build their portfolio or who do more “casual” modelling. You may, however, have to pay their booking fee. Expect to have to pay more for professional models who are in high demand. You can also consider using friends who feel comfortable in front of the camera. They may surprise you with their modelling skills!

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Surround yourself with a great team. If you don’t know any professional photographers, make up artists or hair stylists, turn to friends who are creative and who have expressed an interest in it. Once you get your first work out, you may be approached by professionals to collaborate. Don’t forget students, they are always looking for volunteer hours and experience for a positive reference. My advice: don’t be afraid to ask. When I started out, I approached hair stylists and make up artists to donate their time and talent. They said yes because they wanted to be a part of my projects, or they wanted to support the designers in the shoot.

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Keep your accessories organized. To make it easier for you to remember the brand names and prices for each item to list in photo credits, keep a notepad and pen around to list each item per outfit as it gets shot. Be respectful of the pieces you have loaned and make sure your team knows to treat everything with care. Not only are you responsible for dry-cleaning charges, you don’t want to build a reputation of always dirtying anything you pull.

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Don’t forget hair and makeup. It’s easy to get caught up in clothing but when it comes to pictures, hair and makeup can really make or break a spread. To help your stylist and MUA get it right, put together a mood board of sorts and send off inspiration images to the team well in advance of the shoot. Chat back and forth about the look and feel over the phone too, just to make sure you’re on the same page. You also have to let the experts do their thing. Don’t micromanage or else you’ll risk suffocating their creativity. If you’re styling for a client, it’s your job to make sure the stylist and MUA give them what they want, so don’t be afraid to gently suggest a change of eye colour or less teasing in the hair.

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Did I mention the importance of a strong team? Yes, yes I did. But I can’t stress it enough! This doesn’t mean you have to work with the same people over and over. I have a growing roster of stylists, hair stylists, photographers and assistants I turn to for projects. I pick people based on the desired look and feel of the project, the client’s needs and of course, their availability. In order to help with pricing for paid clients, ask your partners for their preferred pricing so you can offer a variety of priced packages.

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A great photographer is key to a great shoot. Photographers all have their own style, their own editing tricks and their own preferences so pick according to your needs. I enjoy working with photographers who are outgoing, bubbly and creative. It’s important to be on the same page and to do a lot of talking and sharing of ideas pre-shoot. Don’t be afraid to offer advice during the shoot though, just check with your photographer beforehand. It helps to establish boundaries so you both know your place. I like to discuss poses with photographers too because it’s easy for them to stick to the same ones but your shoot needs might require something totally different. Also, not all photographers are good at giving clear direction so you may or may not have to step in more.

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Come prepared with supplies for bad weather! I always bring my rolling rack to shoots so that clothing is hung up and away from a dirty floor. Here you’ll see I brought a tarp because I knew we’d be shooting on a beach and there’s nothing worse than having sand over everything. At one point we had to protect the clothing from a few droplets of rain. I like to keep the “prep” area of a shoot as organized as possible. It makes it easy to find pieces and lowers the risk of damaging anything. Don’t forget about easy access to a bathroom, electrical outlets and privacy for shy models. In the case above, we did hair and makeup at the designer’s home which was only four minutes away from the beach. We planned the looks out so that hair and makeup could easily be touched up and changed on site.

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Here are the inspiration images I mentioned earlier. I not only print these out for look and feel but also to guide the models in their poses and to help keep my vision on track.

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I’m not a fan of starving my team. I’m no hard ass, I know it, but what can I say, food makes people happy and happy people create better than grumpy ones! I make sure everyone brings their own water bottles and I supply juice, healthy dips such as hummus and guac, fruit, energy bars, pita bread and something sweet.

Style summer to fall

August 10, 2014

It’s easy to think that once the seasons change, you have to completely overhaul your wardrobe. Not so my friend. My lil’ sis Meghan models a few of her own wardrobe pieces in “summer” mode and “fall” mode. Making the switch from summer to fall is as easy as throwing on a cardigan, jacket and jeans.

Photography by Gabe Benedict.

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