Sunday, March 31, 2013


The more things change, the more they stay the same.

-A french proverb that has been interpreted as meaning that turbulent change doesn't affect reality on a deeper level.

Have you ever seen What Not to Wear? You know that show where Stacey and Clinton tell a woman that she's been dressing like total crap & they look like total crap & that she must dispose of her whole wardrobe and start over? And then they fight over whether to throw out her mom jeans, daisy dukes, and too big/too bright/too young/too old/too plain/too blinged-out clothes. And then she is given these fashion "rules" to follow while buying a brand-new wardrobe. And then she goes shopping and breaks the rules. And then Stacey and Clinton save her…along with Ted (hair) and Carmindy (makeup). And then the new "her" is revealed. And she loves it. And after all the tears and fighting and holier-than-thou speeches about clothes not making the woman, she concedes and is converted to their way of thinking: that you are what you wear. That how you look really does reveal to the world who you are and who you think you are and how much you think you're worth.

Sounds pretty awful, right? But I have to tell you that every woman I've ever spoken to has told me she's secretly wanted someone to nominate her to be on that show. Including me.

A few years ago, my daughter and I were watching the show and she suggested that I go on that show. "Do I really dress that badly?" I asked her.
"No," she replied. "Its just that you should take some time to do something nice for yourself once in a while."
Last week, I took the time to do something nice for myself. Last week, I had me a What Not to Wear day.

Enter: Leela

Interjection: Before I go on, I need to point out that I wan't a total mess before Leela took over. I just wasn't...polished or "showing off my assets," as my husband put it.

Now where was I? Right. Leela had just entered the scene (insert wiggly-lines that indicate we are going back in time) Actually, Leela entered the scene over 20 years ago as one of my sister's BFF's in high school. She was one of the two people I've ever come across who didn't go through those awkward teen years (her and maybe a young Audrey Hepburn) Fast-foward a couple decades and our daughters are now the BFF's and Leela still has not entered an awkward stage-at a time when many of us are entering our second awkward stage of both zits and wrinkles.

While some women claim that the dirty-thirties are the best years of your life, personally I have found them very confusing-at least where clothing is concerned. I'm not exactly sure what I'm too old for, too young for, what accentuates my body and want doesn't. And when I look around at all the other moms in my 'hood in clad in their unofficial uniform of Uggs-and-leggings, I know I'm not the only one...except Leela.

Leela always looks perfect-or as Stacey and Clinton say it, polished-whether she's on her way out to dinner, to pick the kids up from school, or to the gym. And I'm not the only one who noticed this either. That's probably why for years, women have been asking her to help them shop. Finally, she turned these favours into a business: Leela Waxman, stylist.

As soon as I found out she had set up shop, I called her. Correction: I told my husband I wanted to book an appointment and he got me a gift certificate for Valentine's Day-Best. Gift. Ever.

I was really nervous in the days leading up to our appointment. You know that feeling you get when people are coming over to your house and suddenly you see it through there eyes and you wonder if they'll notice that stain on the carpet or the chipped paint on your front door? It's like that, but its your clothes...which is so much more personal. But then the little Cayla on my shoulder reminded me that the whole reason she was coming over was to critique my wardrobe so really, the only thing I should be afraid of is that there was nothing to critique.   And that turned out not to be a problem at all. It turns out there was a lot to critique. Turns out more than 1/2 of what I owned was all wrong for me.

Here's what she did:

Step one: Look at all my pants and immedietly get rid of those that are obviously "wrong": outdated, too worn, or just plain ugly (what possessed me to buy pumpkin-colored chords is still a mystery).
The four bags of clothes that didn't make the cut

Step two: try on the maybes to see how they look; for those I'm allowed to keep, match them up with tops, shoes, belts, and jewels so I know how to put a polished outfit together.

So THAT'S how you wear white jeans!
Step three: write down which wardrobe staples I'm missing.

Step four: repeat with tops, dresses, skirts, and shoes.

My stylist, Leela, hard at work.  
Step five: go shopping for what I'm missing.

Along the way I learned a few things:
  • Dresses are better than skirts at elongating my short torso. 
  • Short, chunky necklaces draw attention to my face vs. the super-long necklaces I'd been wearing that draw attention away from my face. 
  • A single-pocket tee makes my chest look lopsided and weird. 
  • Leggings and lululemons are not clothes; they're meant to be worn in very few places, like my house or the gym. 
  • When I wear tunic tops and untucked t-shirts, I look as fat as I feel.  Toss out the tunics and tuck in the tees. 
  •  Most of my clothes were at least one size too big. 
  • It takes just as long to put on a great pair of jeans, cool top and scarf as it does to put on mom jeans and a hoodie.
  • It doesn't matter how much you paid for that gorgeous sweater; if its all balled-up, toss it.
I also learned a few things about myself: I really didn't have that high of an opinion of myself. My hips aren't too fat and my ankles aren't too skinny. Most of what I owned (or at least wore) covered up who I am and allowed me to fade away under my clothes. I always felt disheveled and invisible because I wore clothes that made me look disheveled and invisible.

Not anymore. It took a few days to get used to it, but now, when I get dressed, I always feel confident and put together and proud of how I look. No longer do I dress to fade away because I'm self-conscious about the way I look. I smile more. I walk taller. I feel more beautiful.
What I wore for the first day of the rest of my life. Not bad,...not bad at all!
And I don't wear pumpkin-colored chords.

At the end of What Not to Wear, the contestants are always crying and hugging Stacey and Clinton to death and saying what a life changing-experience it had been. I always thought that part was a little dramatic and played up for the camera. How could one week of shopping change your life that much?

It can. Because after only one day of shipping I, too, found myself (almost) crying and hugging Leela to death. And changed.

My wardrobe changed. How I feel about myself changed. What I think I'm worth has changed.

I've changed.

Sorry, French proverb. You're wrong.

Call her; you'll thank me.  But you'll thank her more.

Leela Waxman, home and wardrobe stylist: Leela.waxman@rogers.com

This is not a paid post nor was I compted for any services or products. I'm just a really satisfied customer.


  1. Cayla - So well written!! I felt the exact same way after my day with Leela. She is such a special person and so amazing at what she does.

  2. Shows how much I know, because I always thought you looked very put together, and your unique style meant that you never looked invisible. I do disagree with the lulu lemon and leggings comment. Sometimes, when you're just running around, there's nothing wrong with pulling on a pair with boots or converse and a tunic top.

  3. Gosh, I would LOVE to have someone come and take a look at my wardrobe and create combinations that I had never thought of..and to toss the dead weight. It's so smart that you did this!

    Also, one of the best things I did for myself was decide that yoga pants were to be worn in exactly two situations: on the way to the gym and on the way home from the gym. Did wonders for how I feel about myself!