Opening Up A Clothes Subject

By Beverly Stephen (New York Daily News)
“Women put a great deal of money into their careers __ into their education, into courses, into career counseling, even into briefcases. But they are reluctant to invest in clothes,” says Susan Dresner, a wardrobe management consultant who named her business Successful Ways & Means.

“In fact, many women have wardrobes that do not reflect their jobs”, Dresner says. “Most people tend to dress about two steps behind their current position when they should be dressing one step ahead of it. Too many women don’t feel they have the money to spend on clothes. They feel it’s frivolous to spend that kind of money on themselves. Sometimes they feel guilty. One of my clients said she wished she didn’t have to wear clothes at all. In fact, the higher up the corporate ladder I go, the more reluctant I find women are to spend money on their clothes. Many of these women are older, and they want to make sure it’s known they achieved their success through hard work and not through being stylish. I had one client who earned six-figures who wouldn’t spend over $120 on a suit. She didn’t want to be known as a clothes horse.”

Other women, she explains, hate to shop. They don’t want to spend the time or energy required. On top of all this, women are confused about what to wear to business. “Some confuse being well-dressed with being seductive,” Dresner says. “Professional women have a hard time deciding whether they should look feminine or masculine or whatever.”

Dresner contends, however, that investing in an appropriate business wardrobe is just as legitimate as investing in career counseling or a leather briefcase. Her job, then, is to make things easy for these clients.

For a subscriber’s fee of $255 a year, Dresner goes to the client’s home and does a wardrobe analysis of the clothes already in her closet. She helps the client decide which things to keep and which things to resell or give to charity. Then she helps the client develop a plan for building a wardrobe suited to her body type and her career. She draws up a chart of the clothes the client owns (new purchases are filled in) and which garments go together. The client tacks up the chart insider her closet and refers to it each morning when she’s dressing.

Dresner also works out a detailed budget for the client so the woman knows how much she’s spending over-all and how each purchase fits into the annual picture. “I provide budgets because most of my clients are used to dealing with those things in business”, Dresner explains. What the budget does, she finds, is give the woman a sense of control over the money she spends on clothes. She believes that in the long run it saves her clients money because very few women feel in control of their purchases or even know how much money they should be spending. Dresner recommends clients spend approximately 10% of their income, but she adds that they may be able to spend less after they have built up a solid core of classics.

Once the basic plan is developed, the client has several choices. She may implement her wardrobe on her own. Or she might want to hire Dresner to go shopping with her for a fee per hour. Or she might want to order some of the made-to-measure things Dresner has developed with designers. “I do have some clients who are particularly hard to fit, and this service works well for them.” Dresner’s clients have included management consultants, a film producer, public relations people, several business owners, bankers, and lawyers. They have ranged in age from 24 to 55 and in size from 4 to 18.

Dresner has spent most of her business life in the corporate world in management, training, and as a marketing consultant. Like many business women today, she was consumed by entrepreneurial fever, and was waiting for the opportunity to bolt from the corporate world and open her own business.

Over the years it became increasingly apparent that the new managerial women were having a terrible time getting dressed in the morning. Wardrobe management seemed like a perfect place to put all her skills to use. She would also like to work with corporations interested in developing executive dressing seminars.