A friend and a client asked me just recently, "What are YOU fabulous for?" We believe that our job is to help set our clients up for greatness so that they can feel more confident, live fuller lives and most importantly, give back.
My business partner Joe Lupo and I have a high-end luxury personal styling service called Visual Therapy that we started in New York in 1995. We've had the honor and privilege to work with some of the most influential and powerful women and men in America.
Most of our clients now are post-50 -- some recent empty nesters, some new grandparents, but we call them Nana, G-Mommy and other fun names. They are the antitheses of The Real Housewives: they are not clambering, bickering or desperate for press. Instead, they are philanthropic, making a difference, tasteful and sexy.
Before I started my career in New York, I worked at a high-end boutique in Chicago called Ultimo. I worked with a woman named Joan Weinstein -- she was my mentor and taught me everything I know. She was post-60 at the time. Joan also mentored Ikram Goldman, who had a hand in influencing our First Lady's style.
I sometimes describe my experience at Ultimo as The Devil Wears Prada, because it was late '80s and Joan was dramatic and eccentric. She set the stage on which she was the star, and we were her supporting cast. All the collections were merchandised magically in two brownstones on Oak Street, and it was our job to style every look from head to toe.
The dressing rooms were located behind an octagon hall of mirrors. Inside the fitting rooms there were no mirrors, so that we could dress our clients before they could step out into the octagon and see themselves from every angle -- looking like movie stars. They would be wearing stilettos, and I would hand them a clutch, and it was... lights, camera, action! It was a "Wow" reveal that usually led to "I will take it all!"
Joan in her 50s taught me some of Visual Therapy's biggest mantras like "The party is never over" and "Sexy has no age." She would saunter into the room (she wasn't skinny and this was pre-botox and fillers) with the confidence of a super model. To me, she was a complete "Wow," and I am so grateful to have had her in my life.
Although it's important to stay current, inspired and evolving, a constant style throughout your second act is important: you've experimented and explored in your 20s and 30s; by your 40s, a foundation of wisdom and knowledge should be laid; and in your 50s, you've arrived.
One of the many lessons that I have learned in my career was that you need to keep your closet a Zen space, and that it's important to define your style. So, in the early days when Joe and I started Visual Therapy, we felt the need to write down terminology, rules and our process -- Nothing to Wear? A Five-Step Cure for the Common Closet -- was born. It not only gave our clients focus, but most importantly, gave us clarity: Visual Therapy -- Image. Identity. Clarity. When who you are matches how you look and then turned up a notch or two, you become your most authentic and the star version of yourself.
Our friend and renowned illustrator, Ruben Toledo, actually sketched a few of our clients for Nothing to Wear? categorized into style types: classic, chic, whimsical, bohemian, and avant-garde. Depending on the day, we are all one or a combination of different style types.
I have a client who clung to her whimsical style type so hard, that I had to practically tear a floral print ruffle blouse from her hands. I said, "Listen, you are no longer the princess, but the queen!" She is now sleek, polished and bullet proof in Roland Mouret, Alaïa and Christian Dior. We can add whimsical in the form of a printed scarf, bag or a piece of jewelry.
Another client and friend says that she uses her personal style as armor. In her 50s, she let her hair go silver, cut it into almost a crew cut, and always wears a perfect makeup, dresses in monochromatic neutrals and bold statement jewelry. Some of her uniform pieces are by Zoran, Alexander McQueen and Gianfranco Ferre (from her archives).
I also have a client who went back to school in her 50s to better service her philanthropic causes. How inspiring is that?! She loves to go all over the board style-wise, from casual in a Prada jacket paired with a fun colorful t-shirt, cool jeans and comfortable booties (whimsical), to sleek power suits by Gucci (chic), a sexy rocked date night in Rick Owens (avant-garde) and a feminine, glamorous evening gown by J. Mendel.
What I'm leading to is that post-50 is no longer about preparing for "On Golden Pond," lining up your shawls and cardigans, but a springboard into an adventure and self-discovery of sexy, cool and confident, because not only is the party never over, but it is just beginning!
Follow Jesse Garza on Twitter: www.twitter.com/VisualTherapyNY