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Updating Your Closet

By March 2009Comments

Ken Downing, Senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus.
Photograph by Van Ditthavong

NAME: Ken Downing | AGE: 46 | HOMETOWN: Dallas | QUALIFICATIONS: Senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus since 2006 / Attends six hundred runway shows a year, in New York, Paris, London, and Milan

• Whether you’re a fashion enthusiast or just someone who dabbles in the trends, it’s important to buy things you love, that you know you look great in.

• The greatest wardrobe mistake is when you keep things for too long. Move with the times. You know, they’re trends. They last about six minutes.

• This spring you absolutely have to add something pink, be it a terrific dress or a fantastic blouse. From the palest of ballet-slipper pinks to the hottest, most shocking of pinks, it’s the most powerful color on the runway.

• Ruffles and flounces continue to be an important message this season: on the hems of dresses, cascading down the fronts of blouses, and even on knits. I’m a real fan of knits and cardigans. A colorful cardigan tossed over something you already own is superchic and really updates your spring wardrobe.

• What’s the one thing that will improve every woman’s closet right now? An over-the-top, aggressive, sexy statement shoe. In collection after collection, New York through Europe, that statement shoe defines spring.

• People often ask, “What’s the one thing you can’t wear for this season?” But as soon as you call out that one thing, some woman with excruciatingly amazing taste walks into the room wearing it and does it so well. Whatever you wear, wear it with confidence.

• A white shirt is a must for every woman and, frankly, for every man. Also for women, pencil skirts are one of the sexiest, best ways to dress. You’ll always look perfect. And every guy needs a great-looking suit—gray flannel, navy pinstripe—that fits. I say this often, but the secret to fashion isn’t necessarily the label, it’s the fit. Go to a great tailor. It doesn’t matter what you pay for your clothes; if they fit you well, you’ll look like a million dollars.

• I’m a big fan of cycling through. If I haven’t worn something in a while, it goes to a resale shop or charity.

• The lint roller is your friend.

• Take an outside view of what you own. Because you might think, “Ugh, what am I doing with this?” but someone who works with clothes every day might say, “This is the most amazing thing you own.” A lot of selling specialists will come to your home and help you sort through the good, the not so, and the less than. You certainly don’t want to end up on a television show where your friends are throwing your clothes into a garbage bag.

• Fashion needs to be effortless. If you look in your closet and say, “Do I have it in me to put that on today?” you should pull it out and give it to someone else. If you look at your wardrobe and say, “My closet needs a complete overhaul,” chances are it probably does.

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