Mary Lou Andre (right) is celebrating her 25th anniversary this year as founder and president of Organization By Design Inc., a Needham-based wardrobe management, fashion, and image consulting firm that helps individuals and organizations understand the power of being appropriately dressed. An attire, dress code, and corporate image consultant, she is also editor of DressingWell.com and the author of "Ready to Wear: An Expert's Guide to Choosing and Using Your Wardrobe."
Q. Are people born with a sense of style, or can it be learned?
A. Many people worry that if they weren't born with a style gene, they're doomed — but I don't feel that way. I believe it's a science, and by slowing it down and providing tips, anybody can get good at it.
Q. Where do you start?
A. We use a five-step process, beginning with dressing for your lifestyle today. Next is the organizational piece, which involves analyzing what you have and parting with whatever you don't need. Step 3 is training your eye to recognize fit, fabric, functionality, and signature flair. Then identify the stores and brands that work within your style and budget. The last step is focusing your shopping by paring it down to the five or six items that give you the biggest bang for your buck.
Q. What tends to be most difficult?
A. Even though we all have too much stuff, it's hard letting it go — but not when streamlining your existing wardrobe is tied to a system. The goal is to eliminate the feeling of having a closet full of clothes, but nothing to wear, by having fewer things that are better quality and fit better.
Q. Can this be done on a budget?
A. Yes! We're cost-conscious. Store coupons are fabulous, and we make remaining outfits work better through layering, alterations, even something as simple as new buttons. We have lots of tricks up our sleeves.
Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. When people dismiss style as frivolous. I love it when my clients say I can't believe I didn't do this sooner, and I got rid of so much stuff I don't want or need. I've worked with every age and body size and shape, and my goal is the same: pulling together a wardrobe that doesn't change them, but rather makes them feel good while upping their game.
Cindy Cantrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.