Ask Gretta: Fashion Industry

Our style savvy source Gretta Monahan answers your fashion inquiries!

I am 39 years old and have always worn surf industry clothes, Abercrombie and American Eagle. But I am just too old for that now, but it is really all I can afford. I am having such a hard time switching over to another style for my age...The problem is that instead of feeling casual now, I just feel sloppy and "old". Like I am still holding on to my youth...what can I do? - Kim

Hi Kim,
With a little guidance, I don't think you'll have any trouble honing in on a sophisticated style that's all your own. Abercrombie and American Eagle are not inexpensive stores, so, I think you'll find there are plenty of chic looks within your budget, you just have step outside your comfort zone and take off that logo hoody! The first step is to find a few, new "must" stops at the mall. J.Crew, Gap and Ann Taylor Loft are great stores for easy to put together, casual looks that are still age appropriate and wallet friendly. While you absolutely need to get rid of anything that has writing on it, you don't necessarily need to weed out your surfer girl attitude. Take a hoody, for example: if you invest in this style in cashmere, you can still rock that carefree part of your personality, whether with jeans or a nicer pant. It's all about picking and choosing. So many of us have had the same, old, outdated style for years and then suddenly realize the rut we're in! That doesn't mean every piece of clothing in your closet needs replacing, you just need to be able to discern what's worth keeping and working into your new look. Stay tuned to the show every week because you'll pick up way more pointers than I could give you in one blog response, but here's a start - Build from the basics. When I think of a grown-up Abercrombie girl, I think a nice, crisp, dark denim, good quality t-shirts in basic colors and some chic sweaters and jackets. No woman in her thirties could ever wrong with dark jeans, a great tee and a leather jacket (worth investing in). What's really important is getting comfortable in your own skin and learning to accept the style that you're creating for yourself. It's about trying things on and seeing what works. You're obviously not feeling the "old you" look, so, when you find the "new you" look, you'll know. Happy Shopping!


Hello Gretta,
I am a devoted Bravo Fan because of all of the great style and fashion shows...You and Tim make a great team. I have a passion for fashion, styling and designing, even though I'm in the field of education. I've always had a drive for anything fashion related and would like to know how to get into the fashion industry. Would you have any advice? Thanks for your time. - Itzel

Hi Itzel,
Getting into a new career is a difficult and intimidating move to make, and easier for some than others, depending on how hard it is to phase out your current commitments. Fashion is particularly difficult, only because there are so many young women trying to break into the industry. If you had the freedom to move to New York or LA, that's where things are really happening. You can work try to work in a designer's studio, in a wholesale showroom or in some of the best retail in the world. This requires time, strength in the face of rejection and, overall, financial resources to get by in cities with high costs of living and low-paying entry level jobs. If you're more established and can't relocate so easily, then picking up a part-time job in a boutique can be a good way to familiarize yourself in the day-to-day of selling fashion at the retail level. Doing what you love is one of the best gifts that life can give you; I'm very lucky to have made my way up the ladder and I recommend pursuing the dream to anyone I meet. It's not easy, though, so be prepared for set-backs! Good Luck!

Dear Greta,
I just found out that my husband and I are expecting a baby in June . . . SURPRISE! Needless to say, I haven't a clue what clothes to wear and what clothes to avoid. I want to look stylish, not homely and I don't want to be swallowed by clothes. Any tips? Types of clothes? Places to shop? Thanks. -Ginger

Hi Ginger,
Before we begin talking fashion, I want to extend a huge congratulations to you and your expanding family! It's probably best to wait a couple months, and get a better idea about how you will carry your baby weight, prior to making any purchases. When you do invest in some pieces, try and pick some (comfortable) staples that will expand with you, and your belly. I would start with a great black dress, a pair of jeans and cardigan. Also, check the fabric tags since maternity clothing with a lycra content are perfect; they'll keep you looking shapely and aren't size specific. Liz Lange designs some great basics for Target, and you can never go wrong at Mimi Maternity. They have a very user friendly website and an educated sales team. While at either the store or on the website, you must check out the "secret belly fit jean." My clients and girlfriends swear by them...
Best of Luck, Gretta

Once you purge your closet, how do you rotate items? Can I wear the same classic black pants 3 days in the same week? Now I wear one cute outfit once or twice a week and somewhat frumpy outfits the other days so I don't over-use the stylish ones. Please, please help! - Kelly

Hey Kelly,
I find that so many people do this: think one dimensionally about "outfits." It's one thing to think through purchases you're planning to make in order to know you have the right things to wear it with. That's good. On the other hand, limiting yourself to wearing only outfits you know already work seriously cuts back on how large your wardrobe is, not to mention the fun you can have with creatively putting together new looks with old basics. I'm happy that you have a couple great looks that are stylish and that you love, so start there. Challenge yourself to take each component of your favorite outfits and create an entirely new outfit. Spend an evening at home playing dress up. While fashion comes from within, use people who's style you admire to get ideas from. If you always wear a particular top with pants, try it with a pencil skirt, tucked in. In terms of rotation, it's easy to get away with double, even triple wears of the same piece if it's simple and basic. As long as they're freshly pressed and clean, no one is going to notice those black pants were the black banks from Tuesday. But, again, be creative! If you wear black pants and a fitted top one day, pair them with a blouse and cropped jacket the next. It might sound nerdy, but make a note on your calendar of what you wear each day. I'm willing to bet that you'll be pleasantly surprised with how much variety you can infuse into your wardrobe without ever taking a trip to the mall and the only way to be sure of your success is to keep track.
XOXO -Gretta

I'm extremely tall! 5'11" tall! I see all these cute shoes and they've all got heels. I would love to wear stylish shoes in everyday life but if I wear something with a heel I look like a GIANT. How do I find shoes that are cute, stylish, and don't make me look like an ogre? - Lis

I'm so envious! I'm on the other side of the coin, if I'm NOT in heels, I feel like you do when you're in them — out of place and uncomfortably short, so I can totally sympathize. The good news is — who needs a heel when you've blessed with the stature of a model?! There are so many fashionable flats out there: toe cleavage, pointy toes, round toes, mary janes, ballet flats, buckle details, and that's just to name a few different styles. There's a flat for every occasion and I bet you're just not seeing them because you feel like you "have" to wear heels! Every premier shoe designer does fabulous flats from Louboutin to Manolo, which means every regular brand copies them from Aldo to Steve Madden. If you still yearn for a little bit of a heel, try what we call a "kitten" height — just a little heel, maybe an inch to two, that gives you that feminine, dainty feel without the extra inches.
XO -Gretta

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Ariana's Makeover

Ariana shares the four major lessons she learned from Tim and Gretta.

You know when you go on a really amazing vacation, and you have so many incredible moments in a short period of time that it's hard to remember them all when people ask, "So how was it?" That is how my Tim Gunn experience felt. I've always wished I had a video record of some of my favorite memories (that's why I have all of those ridiculous videos from my senior year at BC!) so that I could come back to those moments any time and remember them exactly as they were. The funny thing about capturing every moment on camera though is that you can't forget anything! Luckily for me, the editing gods took some pity on me and certain moments that I hoped wouldn't be aired were left to litter the cutting room floor. But in the spirit of not taking myself too seriously, I'd like to share some embarrassing moments, lessons learned and just some fun behind the scenes stuff.

Lesson 1: Bra shopping on national TV is as terrifying as you think

After day one of shooting the producers told me we'd go lingerie shopping the next day. For some reason I imagined myself peeking out from behind a curtain saying, "This one's great!" or "I doooon't think so." Instead I found myself getting a pep talk in a dressing room in jeans and a bra about how it was just like wearing a bathing suit. In the producers' defense it really isn't a big deal (something I realize now), but at the time I was terrified. I remember saying, "I wouldn't wear a bathing suit on national TV!" So I went out the first time in my own bra and waited for the fallout. This is the part where most people would say, "and it really wasn't as bad as I thought it would be..." but that's not what happened. I went back into the dressing room and felt like my heart was beating out of my chest. Here I was in front of a crew of mostly men in my bra. Add to that the knowledge that everyone in my past and present would be seeing me in my bra on national TV. It probably wasn't until the third bra that I let myself remember that this was Tim Gunn's show and Tim is nothing if not classy. So I relaxed a little bit and just went with it, and it ended up not being as bad as I thought it would be. Luckily they cut the scene with the flower petal nipple covers and semi-transparent bra (thank you Bravo editors), and at the end of the day I looked like me. What was best about the experience was how it made me open up and be more comfortable with myself. But I can't escape the thought that too many people I know have DVR or TiVo to make this a moment I'll be able to quickly forget.

Lesson 2: If you're not a supermodel, don't try to walk like one.

When I was asked to select which couture dress I wanted, I had trouble deciding. Part of me wanted to go for a more modest, traditional style so that I could wear it more often, while another part said break out of your shell and pick something fun! In the end, when the producers saw which one I picked, I don't think they really believed it. I was so proud of myself for picking something that you aren't going to find on a rack somewhere (although I did see some celebrity wearing it in a magazine, which was pretty cool). So when I put it on right before walking the runway for Tim, Gretta, my friends and family, I told a producer that I wanted to "do the dress justice." So I planned on not smiling and doing my best supermodel/runway walk. The tough thing about pretending to be a runway pro when you never wear heels suck at it. So I walk out, no smiling, doing my best Heidi impression (sorry I had to go there.) A few steps into the walk, I feel my heel slip, and while I avoid actually falling, I do fall out of my shoe. At that point there's still a pretty big distance between the finish line (read: Tim and Gretta) and me. So I do a sort of semi-limp, kind of like when you try on heels and only have one on but walk to a mirror to get a better look (I hope I'm not the only one who does this.) Thanks once again to the magic of editing and a second take on my walk, you never saw it.

Lesson 3: Don't ever say "I lost my bra" on national TV.

I guess every bad part I hoped would be cut wasn't going to be, and this line is proof. Yes, I have gone swimming in the Meyer Circle fountain after a fun night out in Brookside, but it's always in my clothes! To be totally honest, I have no idea what happened to my strapless. I did have this one roommate in college who would mysteriously show up after a summer break with certain articles of my clothing that had "somehow ended up in her bag" (you know you are) - maybe she has it. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of time for personal asides and those that create a little mystery are kept. So all I will say is that I now have a strapless and for those who know me, they understand that me losing something, even a bra, is not the most farfetched thing to imagine.

Lesson 4: Always, Always, Always trust Tim and Gretta.

I had never seen an episode of this show when I signed up to do it, so I had no idea what to expect. While this made things more exciting, it also required me to really trust everyone on the production team including Tim and Gretta. I knew they wanted me to look my best, feel great and take some lessons with me, but I could never have imagined how warm they were going to be as people. It was with a bit of reluctance that I talked about having to keep old clothing because of a lack of money growing up. I didn't want to be that sob story girl - so I sort of refused to talk about it. Gretta pushed me to open up, and once I did, she shared her own experience, which was similar to my own. It never felt like the big violin soundtrack movie moment, and I think it was the first time in the process I remember not noticing the cameras and just feeling like I was having a conversation with a close friend. I don't know if he's just a flatterer, but I don't think there was a better moment than when Tim said, "Ariana, you're breathtaking." You always imagine someone saying that to you, but you never think it's going to be someone who has such a trained eye. Throughout the week, anytime I made a self-deprecating comment, Tim was right there to remind me of the assets I have that I shouldn't ignore. I'm not perfect, and of course some of my insecure areas aren't fun to focus on, but Tim was all about focusing on the parts of yourself that are great and maximizing them. So at the end of the day, I learned a lot. I truly have a totally different perspective on shopping. I spend more on fewer quality items, and in turn I have a confidence in myself that was definitely missing when I hid behind the tattered old clothes from my past. Sometimes I still feel like it never really happened because it was so indescribably fun, emotional, informative and exciting. Then I hear a preview on TV with Tim's voice saying he needs a tetanus shot before entering my closet and it all comes back again.

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