The Magic of Gap
I must admit that I've been a tad "meh" about Gap clothing for some time. I primarily shop online and though I realize the in-store experience is important, I haven't felt particularly motivated to head to the store after browsing periodically from the comfort of my home. Yes, I'm a big fan of mix and match basics, but their collection often struck me as largely basic. I will now, however, look at Gap's offerings with a whole new perspective, thanks to a recent outing with one of their stylists.
The impetus for meeting with a Gap stylist was this: In advance of BlogHer New York, I was one of a group of bloggers approached about being styled in two complimentary Gap outfits that we were welcome to wear at the conference (or not). Blogging about the experience, of course, was completely optional.
Now, I consider myself a reasonably fashionable person. I love clothing and accessories and shoes and generally clean up well, but my style tends to be simple. And I lack vision when it comes to layering. Or utilizing belts anywhere other than through the loopholes of jeans or pants.
So when I met with Leah at the CambridgeSide Galleria, I was in awe of her vision. It was the first time I have ever been styled, and as a designer myself I was impressed with how she worked; she listened to what I liked in terms of color palette and general style, asked me to pull things that caught my eye, then selected coordinating pieces I never would have thought of picking up. She also capitalized on my desire to step out of the box regarding jeans (I always get boot cut) and helped me see that it's possible for someone who is neither tall nor stick thin to wear skinny jeans. And actually, not just skinny jeans -- legging jeans.
So here's what happened with the two outfits; the mission was to create two looks, one based on their "magic" black pants and the other on denim.
Black Pants Outfit
I pulled several styles of black pants, but by far, the winning fit was the modern boot pants; they were slimming and super comfortable. I also picked out the white ribbon t. Leah then pulled a variety of coordinating options for me to try on. Ultimately, the look involved a gray lace cami (never would have thought to put a tank under the t), white ribbon t, gray lightweight wool blazer, skinny contrast studded beltover the jacket (again, never would have thought to do that), and the modern boot pants. I told Leah I would be walking a lot and she recommended the black city flats. I decided to wear my Stella & Dot deco drop earrings and carried a yellow tote to add some color.
I cannot express how much I adore this outfit. For BlogHer, I was a little concerned about this outfit because I wanted to wear it the first day of my trip, and of course it was going to be 95 degrees. But I went for it, happily found myself in air conditioning most of the time while visiting the TODAY show, and then stowed the belt and blazer during my event at Ellis Island. The look was ridiculously cute and professional looking -- perfect for work. See?
Also of note, the city flats are ridiculously comfortable; they're cushioned inside and have a good rubber sole. I walked many blocks and trekked all over Ellis Island in them on the first wear ever. I highly recommend getting a pair to stow in your handbag (they handily come in a fabric bag) when you need to ditch your heels.
Now, denim. As I mentioned, I am a tried and true member of Boot Cut Nation. The last time I visited Gap I did, without the help of a stylist, attempt to explore other cuts (including skinny jeans) and was rather horrified. But since I was open to experimentation, Leah encouraged me to go for skinny jeans -- particularly recommending the legging jeans -- and helped show me how to make them work.
Similar to my black pants outfit, at the outset, all I selected was the legging jeans (in a dark blue rinse that no longer appears available on the website; I wanted a wash that could be dressed up or down) and a white ruffle tank (length here is key, i.e., cover your seat!). Leah selected a variety of coordinating options and we landed on a brown cami to go under the ruffle tank and a fabulously snuggly shawl cardigan to go over top (I figured it would be great as a layer at the hotel and also for non-maternity maternity wear this winter). Leah also selected a fantastic wide jute/cotton belt that tragically no longer is on the website -- it could be worn over the ruffle tank or over the sweater. I figured I would wear heels or wedges and statement earrings. Here are the pieces, minus the belt, shoes, and jewelry.
Now, even though the shawl cardigan seemed like the perfect in-an-air-conditioned-conference choice while I was in the store, when I was packing, I realized I wasn't going to wear this more casual outfit until the last day, when I did have one event but otherwise was largely going to be sweltering through three legs of transit to pick Laurel up from my in-laws and get back home to Boston. So I swapped out the brown cami and shawl cardigan in favor of a white tank and super lightweight shell colored cardigan that no longer is on Target's website (I sub in this gray cardigan to show length, but the cardigan I have is way cuter). By the last day of the conference my feet were tired so I opted for flat gold sandals (these Bernardo Miami woven sandals are close in look), wore this Stella & Dot Mimi necklace, and carried a taupe leather handbag.
Though the denim outfit didn't work out exactly as planned while at Gap (and it's kind of a bummer that I can't show you the exact cardigan and shoes...I failed to take a full length picture that day), I was really happy because: a) the legging jeans were crazy comfortable (lots of softness and stretch) and looked really cute; and b) the experience with Leah at Gap enabled me to improvise and think beyond simply tossing on an embellished tee; I ended up with a layered but lightweight look that was perfect for New York. (Jon actually looked a little shocked when he saw me because he hadn't seen the new look yet.)
In short, Gap totally is back on my shopping radar, and the experience with Leah gave me a new outlook on layering and accessories. And whether you're in a big fashion rut or want an outside perspective to freshen up your look, I highly recommend responding in the affirmative to those working the retail floor when they ask if they can help you (if you're like me, you usually decline). I also recommend really scrutinizing fit (or having a salesperson help you) for look, not based on number. I usually wear a size 6 or S/M and tend to pull clothing based on size marking, but Leah adjusted several of my pieces to achieve the best fit and I ended up with some pieces that were XS or size 2 (which, in my pregnant state, is a function of variability in cut not some magical shrinking of my person).
I can't guarantee that there will always be someone as fashion savvy as Leah on staff (in fact, she was requested to come to CambridgeSide from the Burlington Mall for this styling session), but it's worth a shot. And she said working creatively with customers in that fashion is one of her favorite parts of the job. It's win-win, see?