It's So You!

Written for a busy woman with a lot of other things on her mind, It's So You makes great fashion easy:
It's So You!

Mary Sheehan Warren has been training Image Consultants for almost 20 years. Learn More...
Through my work with ISYFashion, I have been helping men and women from around the Washington DC/ Baltimore areas transform the way they look and feel. Thanks to my fashion seminars, training programs, and talks, the good news is spreading: Know your style and change your life! 

As a personal fashion consultant, I take the time to listen to what my customers want and I help them to create a look which will foster personal confidence for years to come. My previous experience encompasses business and education, but I have spent close to two decades in the image consulting business. Not only am I easy to reach, but I am also affordable for a number of different budgets. 

Regardless of whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a corporate executive, you will find the services that you desire at ISYFashion. Beyond providing services to both corporate and individual clients, I have also worked with colleges, high schools, and informal gatherings of teenagers to help promote a positive self-image. 

When it comes to choosing a personal image consultant, I have worked to provide services to people from all walks of life. My goal is to help as many people as I can feel confident about themselves both personally and professionally.

Take control of your image with the wide range of services I have to offer you as one of my clients. Give me a call to discuss everything that I have to offer you today. The transformation will amaze and astonish you.

Find Your Personal Fashion Consultant Here

Picking the flowers before they go away...

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 08/04/15

Maybe it's because I'm sitting on my back patio so much these days (avoiding any kind of inside work like laundry, paying the bills, or writing my materials for fall fashion) that the flowers have finally gotten to my head.

But isn't it almost as sweet to see the same sort of happiness in a flowy maxi dress, breezy skirt,or blousy tunic top? And even if you haven't a single streak of Romance in you, you might be able to find something to capture this floral zeitgeist. I for one will cry when it all comes to an end. Well, one mustn't borrow angst from the future. Pick your flowers here:

Another Eliza J (Nordstrom)

Neiman Marcus:

Free People

True Violet:

The Palazzo Pant: A Primer

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 06/01/15

The palazzo pant has made a major comeback this season. Sometimes, I think of the Bionic Woman, my hero from childhood:

(5 and up: Really? This toy can only be appreciated by those of sophisticated taste. That's obviously 9 and up.)

I'm not sure many join me in my enthusiasm for the palazzo which brings back these specific memories. So, below is a nice example of how the pant can work tastefully for today's sophisticated woman:


The palazzo is supposed to be breezy, a hint of a skirt with the feel of nearly nothing at all. A light weight fabric is critical, and the print makes or breaks the effect.

Makes (Printed lines are good. Just wear a shirt.)

A favorite of mine:

When trying on the palazzo, check its flow when walking as well. There shouldn't be a whole bunch of shifting and tilting and twisting. Think breezy.

So, what about the related "jumpsuit" or "pantsuit" that's jumping into our sartorial consciousness? Well, the same rules apply. (And with an added bonus...)


You can't escape it: Prints!

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 04/06/15

Print and pattern pieces are everywhere this spring: Floral tops, striped maxi dresses, leopard print pumps, gingham check, ethnic patterned bags, and watercolor dresses. It sure is pretty, but if you have the kind of fashion personality that can't handle this kind of sartorial conspicuousness, then you just might have a harder time at the mall.

Thankfully, the basics are there as well. Grays and taupes serve as base building neutrals, and even soft blue is used in a clever neutral way to accent any combination of colors. (Try it closer to an aqua hue and pair it with red; you'll have an exciting complementary color combination!)

Accessories pop out all over, but the big news is the small bag, especially the clutch and the lady like "Channel" style quilted purse. Totes and satchels are still around aplenty, but they are smaller and far from plain old winter-black.

See my take on this year's "Garden of Delights" on the homepage at Spring 2015: Get the Hotsheet and download it for your reference.

Happy Spring!



I confess it all: Hand Care Hypocrisy!

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 02/22/15

Last week there was an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times (Great! Another Thing to Hate About Ourselves) regarding the evil cycle of beauty fixation campaigns for the average woman out there. (I've always taken “average” as meaning "one who is generally more fixated on saving her child's new shirt from a conspicuous mustard stain than on [insert body part here.]".)

The complaint is that now, in addition to the worry about perky breasts and flat tummies and silky hair, Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition has raised the bar  (or, er, lowered it) by launching us into the new era of “hairless bikini gaps," or, to talk dirty, the mons pubis.

Okay okay, I’m just as befuddled as the author. But for a real treat of a read, try the Telegraph's Bikini Bridge Hoax: How the Internet Ate Itself and see that the female imagination has no bounds.

On the other hand, I can remember the 1990s Washington Post piece on nipple enhancement as the new, go-to accessory for women. Where did all that “go to” anyway? See? I’m guessing that the average woman, upon hearing that her nipples should be perky enough to be seen through her top, actually rolls her eyes and then applies treatment to the aforementioned mustard stain.

Unfortunately, it is true that we women can fall into any kind of self-loathing-body-fixated-vortex-of-pity for any period of time at any time in our lives. Well, we women here in countries with lots of food, shelter, and TV.

Even I (as in the "I" who runs a fashion blog) have my own little body part fixation: My hands. It's a complicated, love-hate relationship which I've kept secret for all these years. .

If you’ve read It’s So You then you know this. (So, uh, I guess it's really no secret.) You might also know that I continually recommend the use of rubber gloves; a sort of prophylactic to prevent repulsive and witchy fingers. (I’ll get to that controversial subject later.)

Might it be that I am simply mourning the nearing loss of my forties? In fact, just yesterday, my girlfriend Mary Anne and I were chit-chatting about how some changes due to age seem to elicit curious responses from our offspring.  “Why is it,” one of us said, “that when [the adult daughter] sees me struggling with my reading glasses, she giggles, ‘Mom, you are so funneee!’”  (I purposely neglect to mention which one of us said this or the same daughter might again say, “Mom, you are so funneee!” and we don’t really need that right now.)

Anyway, it’s true that I might be just a tad more sensitive these days regarding changes related to age. After all, not only have my joints been aching in this cold, but I just adopted a cute little CPAP (breathing therapy) machine to cuddle up with me and my husband in bed. (Yup. Insert that word prophylactic right here.)

But as you may also know, I have spent the last ten months attempting to sell a house (clean, fix up, paint, etc.), set up a new house (clean, arrange, paint, etc.) and homeschool my children (teach, clean, paint, etc.).

Yeah, big changes. It’s not the most glamorous life right now and I’m ashamed to tell you that for the first time in, oh, say, about ten months, I have at last painted my nails. And applied hand lotion.

Pitiful, I know.

So, where are the rubber work gloves? After all, I do preach about them continually and there are currently some pretty stylish ones out there in the wide world of fashion accessories, sans perky nipples.


 That's right: No where. Not on my person, nor under my kitchen sink, nor in my stylish handbag. There is some sort of mental block with me in this regard. I get all the way to the cleaning supply aisle at the Fairfax Wegman’s, peruse the colors, note the reasonable prices, and then simply… walk away.


Let’s just speculate that my hands may be the one feature of my physical self that seems to be okay to neglect. (Well that and the bikini gap, bridge, dam, or any other feat of engineering.) These big hands with their dryness and absurd muscularity are my badges of honor. With these very same hands I wiped snotty noses, soothed little heads, cleaned toilets (not in this order), prepared meals (usually with some sort of scalding), and, more recently, I use them to exclaim dismay and disgust at any given wayward adolescent at any given time.

So, while I dye my hair, soothe the laugh lines, and moisturize my lips, I’ll just use my hands as my trophies. A sort of in-your-face-damn-right-I-don't-read-Cosmo non verbal message to the world.

But then.

Just when I get a free Sunday afternoon alone with a lengthy to-do list and new bottle of nail polish, I’ll polish the nails, ignore the list, and pretend I never wrote this blog entry. By evening, I'm waving my pretty fingernails around, pointing them out to my husband, my children, the neighbors.

And really, after all, isn't exclaiming dismay and disgust to your loved ones so much more stylish with polished nails? See? (I told you it's complicated.)

Winter Coat Exhibit A+

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 02/13/15

A follow up to looking splendid in a coat. (Neiman Marcus)

How to Look Splendid in a Coat

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 11/30/14

Yes, splendid. But first, some background on my credentials in the area of cold weather fashion:

The rumors are true. I have left Wisconsin. I've left the Polar Vortices and the sausage and the beer. I've left cold so cold that I was compelled to remind my friends on Facebook until they offered me money to stop posting.

So, where am I now? 

Those rumors are true as well. I'm back where I began in the Washington DC Metro area. (No, really. This is where I was born and raised.) 

And after six months of bouncing around between the outside and the inside of the Virginia side of the Beltway, I'm safely ensconced in a place called Springfield, Virginia.

And I really like it.


Except that it might seem that I longer have the creds to talk about black ice and frostbite. I no longer hold any authority on topics such as "poly or down?" or "how to rock a long john." How in the world might I rile up my friends on Facebook and what sort of story will make my mother feel sorry for me?

Someone in Milwaukee once asked me if it ever got cold in Washington. "Do they get snow there?" she asked. "Do they ever enjoy scarves and gloves and thermal underwear?"

Well, I'm here to tell you that indeed we do. We need it all come about January. And, just as our boots get ripe with stink, we can kick them aside for some Wellingtons come about late February. (It's beautiful, really.)

"And what," a client might ask, "are you to do about your famous 'wardrobe of coats' now that you are in the tropics?

Oh, I'm so on that wardrobe. There's no need to abandon the only real fun about winter; the hope of the cold; the benefits of living so far away from the equator. It may be a gloriously shorter season, but I'm ready.

So bring on the cold!

And looking splendid in a coat.

Below is the ISY Guide for how to do it.

Adopt an everyday-run-out-the-door-kind-of-coat (The kind that looks fabulous without your having to think about it.) Ensure that your handbag can rest where you like it (on your shoulder?) and resist the placing of bulky thinks like keys or Barbies in your side and front pockets.

                                                      (Larry Levine) Yes, blue. And why not?

For serious cold:

Accessorize with a neutral scarf (maybe gray and black animal print?) and you have an every day winner.

(Michael Kors)                                                  Or red. The zippers are what gives this one some swag.



  (Nieman Marcus) A cape is always classy. Pair with a clutch or a wristlet and you'll look like a movie star.

Or, maybe not so dressy.


How about a puffer coat? Only if you choose wisely. The puffier the coat, the puffier you. (Nordstrom)

Note: If you choose a neutral for the color of your coat, accessorize with a glorious color for scarves and gloves.


The diagonal lines mitigate the puffiness and the light blue adds a soft touch.

And finally...the awesome cashmere coat:

(LANVIN) Hey! It might cost as much as a semester at Northern Virginia Community College, but one can dream.




Summer Fashion that gives you that Raga-muffin Feeling Again

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 07/08/14

As a free-spirited and (usually) unwashed child, I always looked forward to summer because I could run around in my little Levi cut offs, oversized tanks, and dirty bare feet. By the end of the summer, my clothes would be suitable only as rags for floor washing or furniture polishing.

Now, although the spirit has changed (it's a little cleaner now), the demands for my fashion have shifted radically: Long rides in an over-air conditioned car, unfortunate bouts of gardening around noon, and hours of labor over a computer, a stove, and a prolific laundry table. Of course, here, right now, in 2014 there are plenty of breezy, casual, and fun options for a woman who might still loose the shoes.

1. The Maxi skirt. It's just so easy. Below is a maternity option (might as well use horizontal stripes) and an idea for the rest of us. (Why add extra volume with those stripes? Go for diagonal or vertical lines or a plain solid.)


And yes, the maxi dress is even easier.


It makes me feel so Fantasy-Island-ish.


2. You just knew it had to happen: The "it-looks-like-a-maxi-skirt-but-it's-pants!" option. Although I have to use a shaper under mine, it's a great option for almost any event.

3. The hippy shirt. This friend works over jeans or shorts and is perfect for a worry free life without sucking it all in.

4. The high/low sheer shirt - over a cami, of course. This is better for me because some "hippy shirts" look like maternity wear on me.

Pair with some skinny to-the-ankle jeans or cute shorts.



5. I recommend only one sandal this summer: (Because, after all, my feet are closer to fifty than they are to five.)

Bouncy, flexible, and heavenly (Flexx Brand)

I'm going to love this summer!


Body Image and Body Angst

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 02/13/14

I have the best job in the world. I really do. One day I could be digging through a closet with a new client and the very next I’m speaking to a crowd of professionals in a four star hotel. In the morning I might be writing at my desk in my fuzzy slippers (and lipstick, of course), but by the afternoon I’m training an office of financial planners on the intricacies of corporate dining etiquette.

So, I’ve worked with many women. I know that I hit the one thousand mark by the late nineties, and by the time my book came out, I lost count of the number of fabulous people I’d met. I suppose this means that I can make observations on the attitudes of women toward fashion, shopping, and – most especially – body image.

First, it is definitely true to say that as a sex we are awfully hard on ourselves. For some twisted reason, moms are tougher on themselves than anyone else. I say that it’s twisted because moms, of all people, are living the full meaning of their bodies. They have birthed, nurtured, and maybe even have fed another human being or two (or five or ten). A healthy, well-functioning, mom’s body is not a little toothpick of flesh. It can’t be. What toddler would want to snuggle up against hard surfaces with poky protrusions?

And yet, so many of us are discouraged; maybe even disgusted. Our bellies and thighs and hips and the area under our upper arms are the topics of our discussions continuously.  We’re bombarded with rigid and often ridiculous examples of the female form by our media, challenged to wear cheap tubes of material in imitation of these examples, and then told that, once past our sexual prime, there really is no point to pursuing any example anyway. Well, that’s dismal.

But is it really like that for everyone? You’d think that we all see things this way by what’s trending on our screens.

Absolutely not!

Remember how I mentioned knowing a few thousand women? Well, this also qualifies me to make a sweeping generalization regarding the two types of women out there: (Pardon the reductionism, but work with me here.) 1. The woman who whines, and,  2. The Beauty.

The whiner is focused on her body. She loses sleep over its changes and constantly asks, “Am I fat?” She’s a real party pooper at girlfriend gatherings and she’s a danger to the fragile psyche of her adolescent daughter. Sometimes, she doesn’t whine aloud, but ensures that everyone sees how hard she’s working to get her “hot” body.

The other kind of woman is past it all. She’s so busy with her life that she hasn’t time to study her undressed image in the mirror the way she did when she was fourteen and wondering if her breasts were perky enough. She throws back her shoulder, holds her head high, and carries whatever figure she has with a sense of purpose. Then, she lives out her purpose.

You might guess that most of my clients are whiners and that they contact me because they want to look thinner, sexier, and younger in their clothes.

But that guess is way off the mark. The vast majority of my clients contact me because they understand the value of their physical presentation and want it to serve their lives; not the other way around. A client of mine, generally, might be at the start of a career, headed toward retirement, at home with young children, or doing everything all at once. She also, generally, is an inspiration to me.

Not uncommonly, I can see how, even with twenty or thirty extra pounds on her frame, a woman can be confident because she derives her sense of self worth from who she is. This is the greatest way to beauty possible. In fact, little tooth picks of people do not exude beauty (and warmth, approachability, or even expertise) if it’s evident that their sense of self and the meaning and purpose of their lives are somehow derived from how they adhere to the current thinking that “if there is less of me, I’m better.”

No. As an experienced consultant who has worked with enough women to be qualified to give out advice, I say the following: Live knowing that every inch of you is beautiful. Indeed, you are a beauty. Now go dress like you know it.


Bring on the Polar Vortex

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 01/27/14

Another polar vortex? I guess the last one wasn't enough and we will come out the other side tougher, stronger people.

Or, maybe we'll be broken by this, we'll see.

Either way, you might as well face this thing with style. Embrace the snow. Smile at the negative numbers. And laugh in the face of the wind chill.

Or at least try these ideas:

1. Wear an extra layer of clothing close to your skin. It can be Cuddl Duds (or any kind of thermal underwear), thick tights, or even just panty hose.



Good investment                                In a pinch, DIY

2. Find an awesome hat. Hat head can be treated in one of the following ways:

  • Just never remove your hat.
  • Put your hair up once you remove your hat.
  • Wear your hat head like you mean it. ("This is the current look children.")


Yes, absolutely                                    This still bothers me. 

3. Maintain a colorful collection of scarves. If you have cool coloring, wear a fabulous cobalt on Monday, a glorious purple on Tuesday, happy red on Wednesday, pure white on Thursday, and some sort of leopard print on Friday.


Yes                                                           It depends.

4. Get a pair of wool mittens. Mittens provide greater warmth than gloves. Get the cool kind with the finger flaps.

5. Check the back of your closet for that long lost coat that might just keep you warmer. No, not the Packers jacket. No, not the hunting coat. It must help you feel beautiful.

I find that fur makes me feel beautiful. I know it's not politically correct to wear fur, but just think about all those little minks who gave their lives for your warmth. Don't let that go to waste. And don't worry too much about being unfair to the mink. If you met one in person, he'd probably bite you anyway. Bump into a gang of them in a dark alley, and they'd probably eat you.

Avoid eye contact.

6. Footwear is tricky business in this area. Wear your snow boots too often and you'll start to feel schleppy. On the other hand, wear a cute little peep-toe flat, and you'll get frostbite on your pinky toe.

Go for a happy medium. Wear your snow boots for your commute but bring along your snazzy shoes for the office. If you're in and out of buildings in any given day, go for durable pair of equestrian, cowboy, or Doc Martins. In this way, winter won't get as tiring as fast for you.

A good way to freak out your mother.

Polar vortex you say? I say bring it on!

Truly Wonderful Gifts for Christmas - The List!

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 12/04/13

Suppose your adolescent daughter informs you of the following wish list for Christmas: Hot pink platform stilettos, a statement piercing, and tickets to see a band whose name includes the phrase"spitting zombies."

Then you, as if suddenly infused with that allusive parental wisdom which comes only during that span of time which begins right after the second cup of coffee but ends immediately after the first glass of wine, heroically resist the urge to respond with "you'll break your neck in those floozie shoes," or "I'll pierce your head if you even THINK about it," or "spitting-zombies-snowball's- chance-in-hell!" and  simply answer with:

That's nice dear. Here's what I want for Christmas.

Okay okay, that's not the Christmas spirit. The Christmas spirit is about giving and not necessarily getting. I get that. But you are still technically back to square one: Finding gifts your [daughter, husband, sister, mom, dad, teacher] will cherish and maybe even use.

Just breathe easy because you are still riding that wave of parental wisdom and know deep down inside that your daughter doesn't want spitting zombies. She wants one of the gifts below! (And so do a lot of other people on your list!)

1. The book, A Year of Good Manners, by Margery Sinclair with original artwork by Jan Polk. This hardbound keepsake is the perfect place to record birthdays, anniversaries and any other date that's important in the family's life. I sure wish I'd had this before I'd forgotten my Granny's birthday. See

2. An absolutely adorable bag by Mary Alison. Handmade, colorful, and practical. They'll add a bit of style to your everyday look. See

3. A clever solution to carrying your stuff when you just don't want to carry much at all: Quivvers, a cross body carrier, perfect for a cell phone, money, or a credit card. See it at Great for guys and gals of any age!

There she is...the very stylish inventor of Quivvers, Amy Barnum - with hers.

4. A subscription to Verily Magazine! This is a must for young women because it is the one truly good alternative to magazines which repeat the same old mush. See it here:

5. An item from the Little Random Boutique. Now this was a nice surprise! Random little things for those sensitive souls who appreciate unique items with special meaning - and the idea that 100% of sales go directly to benefit an orphanage in Kenya. Beautiful pieces at

Artwork made into jewelry

6. Sister Edna's Creations of jewelry. These are stunning pieces which will satisfy the pickiest of divas. Proceeds go to the St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care, Milwaukee. Purchase at

7. A facial or a makeover with a trusted brand. In Milwaukee. It would be Tracy Kabara with Mary Kay or Renee Hitt of Merl Norman.

Find Tracy (my dear friend in Milwaukee) at

On the west side of town, at Brookfield Square, find Renee Hitt at!__about-us/renee-hitt01.

8. The book, Provocative Manners. A fun read through common sense in stye and in relationships. See it at

9. A sweet hat for the little one on the list from My Kids Lids by Katie Segel. Gosh these are sweet! Check them out at

10. It's So You! by yours truly! It makes a great gift for just about any woman of any age. See it here:

I'm so excited by these ideas that I've forgotten all about those terrible spitting zombies.
Happy Hunting!

Mix and Match the Stuff You Own

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 11/13/13

Having tons of clothes is not really an asset. Sometimes it's a serious liability. The real secret to style is the ability to creatively mix and accessorize the pieces we love. It might only be a few, but that makes it all the more fun! See what I mean...

Shop in your closet!

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 11/05/13

That's right: Shop in your closet before you head off to the mall. Only your closet has the distinction of bearing items which you had once deemed fit to buy.

Okay, when you pull yourself together after a good chuckle, reconsider the statement once again. You see, it's true. It may seem hopeless as you stand there in your unmentionables, peering into the abyss and wondering how to begin, but know that deep inside a few sweet finds await their rediscovery.

So go in there. Be brave. And if you can find just 9 items such as the ones below, you just might be able to piece together a month of ensembles for work and play.

How to Handle Your Handbag

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 10/01/13

Now that I've convinced you that your handbag is a dear treasure not to be taken for granted, it's time to learn how to choose and handle this dear treasure.

Let's begin with a disturbing example of what not to choose:


(An armadillo spreads leprosy anyway.)

 A fanny pack is NOT a handbag. (Of course, if I were forced to wear one on pain of death, it would be this one.)

Then there is the disturbing and expensive example of what not to choose:

 Yes, there are some terrible sartorial crimes being committed - every day - in handbag choice. But not here at ISYFashion.

I begin with price. Below is a handy guide:

A reliable bag for professional life: Rarely under $50 (unless it's secondhand or on deep discount) and rarely over $150. Never spend more than $150 unless it's made of high quality, durable materials such as leather or silk. If you are dressing on a business to business-executive level, put the investment into your briefcase (a good one generally starts at $150).

When to go over $150? There are some truly well-made bags that are worth the $200 or even $400 price tag. You can tell by the hard-working closures, smooth working zippers, supple leather, strong lining, and reinforced straps. At this price, you should love the bag and demand hard work from it. Do not, however, go into this price range if you are only seeking the logo-thrill of one-upping your peers. After all, there is the age old rule of "someone-out-there spent-more-than-you-on-her bag:"

"Look at all my'c's' only cost me $274 on sale."

"Sure thing c-girl; I got L's and V's for $3400."

(No, I will not hairy-eyeball you if your well-made, expensive handbag happens to have a logo. It happens sometimes.)

Now, onto your handbag philosophy. How do you see your handbag?

1. The loyal friend - You have a single handbag. You choose one bag for the entire season and bring it to work and to play. Guidelines:

  • Your bag must be made of high quality materials. In fact, you can justify a higher price.
  • Choose a neutral if your wardrobe (including your coat wardrobe) is made up mostly of color. Choose a color (a nice zest of color) if your wardrobe (including your coat wardrobe) is made up mostly of neutrals.
  • Ensure that the bag fits over the shoulders of your bulkiest outer coat.
  • Inspect the bag every evening to pull out bulky items or clean up messes.
  • Check out T.J. Maxx, most department stores, and on line sites such as Zappos or Ebags.
  • Opt for a dressy clutch for special occasions, especially formal ones. Your day bag will understand and won't be jealous. Maybe she needs the break anyway.
  • Love the bag.

2. The Staff of Personal Assistants - You enjoy having several bags, each for a different purpose: business, business casual, weekends, and dressy occasions.

  • The bag which you use the most should be made of high quality materials and designed to last. The bag you use the least can be the "instant-update" (cheap) bag, as long as it doesn't scream "cheap" (no painted metals, no glued-on bling, no loose fringe).
  • Ensure that a bag for a certain purpose fits over the largest outer coat worn for that purchase. (The weekend bag should fit over your weekend parka's shoulders.)
  • You might be the kind of woman who enjoys a clutch or a hand-held, lady-like purse.  It's the summit of style, but avoid placing it on tables or floors (especially dinner tables after bathroom floors).
  • Consider color coordination with your wardrobes. You probably desire color in your bags, just remember to avoid hot pinks, baby blues, and lime greens in the winter.Go for primary colors, muted tones, or traditional neutrals.
  • Check out second hand venues, boutiques(especially while traveling), Marshalls, T.J. Maxx, most department stores, and on line sites such as Zappos, Amazon, Ebay or Ebags. 
  • Develop a system for switching handbags. The best system I've seen is to keep a minimal number of items in your main purse (phone, wallet, cosmetic bag) so that you only have three things to transfer to other bags. You can even keep a basket beside your bags (to dump and therefore clean out) the bag. In this way, you don't miss anything in a transfer.
  • Stock each bag you own with tissues, extra change, and you-know-whats.
  • Love your bags. Thank them occasionally.

3. The Harem - You change bags with practically every outfit. I get it. (Others might not but I do.) Just keep in mind the following:

  • Don't compromise on taste. Keep it professional when it needs to be and classy all the time.
  • Any bag you don't use, pass on to someone else. Bags can get lonely.
  • Read all of the above. You need to. Really.

Now on to a preview of some current bags, all approved by ISYFashion Laboratories. (Or, things I might wish to carry.)



The Handbag is a Gift to Women

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 09/23/13

Anyone who has ever heard me speak about clothing (or shopping or economics or world events or philosophy) has heard me also expound upon the glories of the handbag.

(A Hermes bag that is so expensive, I'm embarrassed for my fellow bag lovers to tell you about it. Let's just say that it costs a little more than what a U.S. Senator made in 2012.)

Oh yeah, I can get the topic into almost any conversation.

That's because the purse or handbag or "pocketbook" (hubby says that) is so endlessly fascinating. First, as an appendage to any ensemble, it's an extra burst of shape and color and gives something for the shoulder, forearm, hand, or fingers to do.

Second, it's actually rather symbolic of modern female freedom. I mean the real kind of freedom: The ability to leave the house, enter public spaces, or actually need things while traveling. These are freedoms we didn't enjoy in quite the way men did for so many centuries. Fashion historians are pretty much in agreement that, yes, women had the reticule or a skirt pocket to keep keys and sewing projects stashed, but the shoulder bag is a convenience enjoyed by women only in recent times.

Yes, I know, the shoulder bag is something which came with the strains of women working to fill the labor shortages during both World Wars, but can't you just imagine what the average woman's thought when she first slid her arm through a cross-body or messenger or  a long-handled tote?

"Why look at this! My hand is free! I can hold railings on stairs and pull my two year old back from the candy aisle!" 

And finally, there's the whole deep-dark-private-what's-in-that-thing? mystique.  Most of us know to never - I mean NEVER - go into another woman's purse without her permission. It's private, like the inside of her clothing, and contains whatever she darn well pleases. After all, there are no rules about what to carry in a handbag.

I remember my very first real handbag (as opposed to a Holly Hobby felt tote or a margarine tub reticule my babysitter crocheted me). My mother bought me a burgundy and tan canvas satchel to go with my burgundy and gray uniform (Elizabeth Seton High School, Bladensburg, MD, 1980 - asked to leave so I didn't make it to 1984). Poor mom. She had high hopes for me, and the purse symbolized not just her hopes, but it was a sort of rite of passage; a member's card to an exclusive club called "woman."

I loved that bag. But I can't decide if its capacity for organization and reliability actually helped me with my undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder, or just distracted me during math class and doomed me to a life-long love affair with two-handled bags with deep pockets.  To my delight, I found that I could place money in the left pocket, lip gloss in the right one, and another certain necessity in the deep, dark zippered compartment hidden toward the bottom. Oh the glories of one's own personally arranged, private, and very off-limits space!

So, how many handbags have I owned since then? Well, if I don't want to count, I don't have to. (I don't think I could anyway, actually.) Rather, I remember the more remarkable ones like the "New Wave" color-blocked envelope clutch I carried to public high school (Getting "asked to leave" a private school has its upside), or the olive messenger bag I carried through college, or the black leather croc-embossed bag I got with my gift certificate to Marshall Fields.

And how many bags do I own now? I think the question should be more like, "What bags do I carry now?" One at a time, of course.

And how does a woman logically choose a bag?

Well, those will be the topics of my next blog so you'll just have to hang on 'til then. Until next week (that's the goal, anyway) I leave you with the following tour through this season of handbags: (Something for everyone; All from Zappos.)


BCBG Generation

Marc Jacobs

Cole Haan

 Nine West




Anuschka - No need for hands-free in order to pull your toddler away from the candy aisle. She'll be enamored by this and won't want to leave your side.

Mary Plays with Polyvore

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 09/09/13

The website Polyvore really isn't new. In eighth grade I cut out images from all the catalogs which came to our house and sketched new combinations on my notebook in math class. It's one reason I can't do algebra.

On the other hand, Polyvore is really fun. It is a massive waste of time too. Fortunately, I am a fashion consultant, so I can play with it and call it work. I'm just getting started, but so far my creations are genius.

Maybe you'll find them helpful too. Check it out:

White after Labor Day?

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 09/01/13

If you've scrolled down this far, you are one of two kinds of readers:

1. The Eye Roller

2. The Fashion Police

Okay, maybe you're from a third category, but let's keep it simple for now. The fact that I even need to blog on this topic is testament to the fact that there has indeed been a rule on what to wear for what season, and the Labor Day Controversy seems particularly relevant because, well, it's Labor Day.

So, traditionally (as in our Grandmothers knew the rule), if you lived somewhere in the North, especially the Northeast, you would NEVER wear white shoes (and by the 1950s white anything) or linen anytime between Labor Day and Memorial Day. The Mid Atlantic states and the South set the starting point at Easter because they are slightly less somber people to begin with.

Now, notice that the rule is what we don't do between Labor Day and one of two various holidays of spring. Actually, we should be looking at what was done the other way around: Spring to Fall.

Traditionally, white shoes, white trousers, and anything linen was worn in the summer. If you go back far enough, to the days of the well-heeled escaping the heat of the city to cool off at a country house, white became a status symbol for three reasons:

1. You didn't have to worry about the grime of the city (soot, muddy streets, horse stuff, etc.) getting all over your white ensemble and Panama hat. After all, you sat on the veranda of your country house, sipping something with ice, and pitying the poor slobs back in the city.

2. You had someone doing your laundry for you anyway. So, if you got horse stuff on the hem of your lovely white lace ensemble, Old Flo could spend the afternoon scrubbing it out.

3. You might have been dismayed to find that the upwardly mobile back in the city were wearing white because they wanted you and everyone else to believe that they sip iced drinks on verandas too. Well, okay, fine for them. So let's slip in the arbitrary rule that it all comes to a screeching halt on Labor Day. Anyone wearing white past that date is obviously not a real veranda-sitting-iced drink-sipping - Panama hat-wearing person.

Now, that might sound kind of evil, but think about the up side to this rule:

1. Your veranda-sitting-iced drink-sipping - Panama hat-wearing person is relieved to shed the white stuff because golly, he's sure sick of white.

2. Old Flo says, "Thank you Jesus for Labor Day! I'm all scrubbed down to the bones."

3. And the upwardly mobile poor slobs back in the city are exhausted with keeping the soot and mud and horse stuff off of this high maintenance cursed color. It's time to get back to normal.

But now, much to the dismay of both the Eye Rollers and Fashion Police, we have the resulting dilemmas:

1. May one wear those crisp white trousers next weekend to the block party even though it is September 7, a date which is clearly long after labor day?

2. Might one wear white pumps to the art show on September 21?

3. And would one make an embarrassing spectacle of herself if she wore a linen skirt to a September 28th wedding?

Well, here are the answers:

1. Yes, wear the white trousers or dress or skirt well into September. Even here in Wisconsin it is still warm enough to not require the warming properties of darker colors. (Yes, that is slightly tongue-in-cheek.)

True, white does symbolize warm weather, although in the North Woods of Wisconsin where the temperature can get past 85 degrees (or so I'm told) very few people go around in white. It's just not practical and might explain why many Upper Midwesterners do not fall into either of the categories "Eye Roller" or "Fashion Police." They are just a little more concerned about how good the food will taste and if the mosquitoes are swarming.

Once the weather cools off significantly, one might wish to store away those white trousers because, well, mud, road salt, and dismal winter gray don't really work well with white hemlines. White tops and coats get the green light because it's just so much nicer to look at than black or gray when you are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

2. No, don't wear white pumps on September 21 - or any other day unless you are a bride or you live in Singapore. Off-white, two tone, or white anything else is okay.

But here's an idea for a modern Labor Day rule: Just as your pedicure is aging not so gracefully, store the sandals away. Please.

3. Finally, yes, wear linen into September but not too far into it. It is a truly light-weight fabric that will not keep you warm when it cools off significantly.

And now, in honor of all those I will anger with this blog, I post THIS.






Color Credibility

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 08/21/13

I just painted two bedrooms in my home last week.

Yes, me. I do that from time to time.

The rooms look pretty good, but I got to wondering why I didn't just roll my body into the paint and onto the walls because it sure looked as if I had by the time I was done. At one point I pulled the bucket of paint outside to spruce up some old furniture to coordinate with the room (don't worry, it was white paint) and as I sat out on the floor of my garage, I reflected on the fashion of color. There I was with white paint in my hair, on my face, and splattered onto my black yoga pants and tank. My feet were filthy and my gorgeous red manicure was long ruined. (At least the three colors together were the ISYFashion colors.)

This is exactly when the new family from across the street decided to walk over and introduce themselves.

Fortunately, they were delightful, but I was hoping that the subject of what I do for a living wouldn't come up.

Well, it did.

"I uh; Can't tell you that," I said in response to the question in a way that an NSA person probably should.
"Really?" They asked.
"Okay okay. If you insist. I am an image consultant."

Pause. (Or was it my imagination?)

Oh they were so gracious after all (they're from the South you know), and they exclaimed that when they paint, they look just like me.

Well, I doubt that. And I also doubt that anyone else in the neighborhood stresses out about her credibility in regard to color. Of course, this credibility isn't totally diminished. The paint was white and the outfit was black (two great hues for my skin tone). Supposing the paint was, say, army green or rust? These are clearly not my colors. Or worse, what if my painting attire was one of those warm-toned colors to begin with? Now that would have been a travesty against good taste.

Other experts have even more credibility than I do. It seems that in times past, no one outside of the world of design, had ever heard of Pantone. Now, I see that they offer their color expertise at the paint section of the hardware store.

That's all great, but I'd like to offer them here as a source for the up and coming colors this fall. They offer a simple guide to what will be found in fashion.

(Love the rainbow effect, but I have to choose brighter and stronger versions of Mikonos Blue, Acai, and Vivacious. So, really, none of these exact hues apply to me. Will I find what I need in the stores? Absolutely! Will any of these colors work for you? It depends. What's your personal fashion color palette? )

And what you find in fashion may not necessarily be what you should choose for fashion. Don't forget the color palette your skin tone needs to glow! The color guide is a great conversational piece, but return to your own palette for your own color choices.

That painted lady in the garage across the street?  Well, she just might be an expert on this topic. Life is weird.

The fun is almost over?

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 08/08/13

Is summer nearly over? Of course not. And anyway, I would never say that out loud. At least not in front of the children.

But the summer shopping season is coming to a grand finale. Right now, lots of great items are on sale just in time for you to be, well, sick of it all. But take a deep breath, jump in, and smile at the poor retailers who are trying to move it all.  Below are some shopping tips:

The major department stores such as Nordstrom, Lord and Taylor, Bloomingdales, Dillards and Macy's, have pulled out those racks stuffed with some of the things you admired at the beginning of the season. You'll find some summer items to round out the hot month of August, but you also might luck out with a year-round blazer, sweater, or the over-sized shirt that became so popular this spring. I found a gorgeous purple sweater at Chicagoland's Old Orchard Lord and Taylor and a client of mine found a few tops for work at Macy's. Spring coats are especially great bargains now.

Calvin Klein at Lord and Taylor
Originally $145 now $57.98

Discounters such as Target or are tumbling over with 4 season dresses, handbags and shoes with an average of 20% off the original prices$20 Ponte color block dress at Target on line;
And it might seem extra painful to think about the upcoming summer knowing how far off it is, but it's always smart to find a few replacements now while the prices are so good.

Anne Taylor's pleat-neck sleeveless top. (Remember that you squirted mustard over your best white top at the company picnic.)

So, is the fun almost over? Nope. It's only just begun.

More Dress Code - Decoded!

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 07/15/13

I've been living and breathing - inhaling, really - all things dress code, and I've come up with a few little tools. So, for all you readers who have been holding your breath in anticipation for the definitive women's shopping list, here it is below and as a printable handout to the right. Enjoy! (Men's list will arrive later.)


What is Business Attire?

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 06/27/13

There are few things as controversial as a company dress code: Reduced benefits, lengthened workdays, perhaps in-office Facebook restrictions.

See Helpful Links at bottom.

In fact, the words "sequestration," "furlough" or even "reduction in work force" have nothing on the word "panty hose." See for yourself. Casually drop into a conversation among staff the sentence "hosiery is required in the office," and see the smoke come from the ears of your listeners. Watch the whites of their eyes redden up with the dilation of blood vessels. I once saw a guy shake his head and leave the room as if he was scared to see what might happen to me.

I know. It isn't a pretty sight. But I'll stick my neck out here and wager that some violations of the Code are at least as frightening.

So, we at ISYFashion laboratories have researched The Code and have found that there really are three levels of dress for any establishment. Let's examine the highest: "Executive Business Attire."

Executive Business Attire is what a company (or a person) adopts to communicate the values of serious business: Cleanliness, reliability, attention to detail, high quality, credibility, expertise, and concern for others. It is recommended by business consultants to industries which deal with a lot of money (banking, investment, law), concern themselves with the highest level of customer service (hotel, convention centers, etc.) or are protecting the polished image of a brand (corporate office, sales, real estate). It is absolutely mandatory for face to face time with clients.

Executive Business Attire for Men

  • A suit (dark neutral) and tie (not a "suit-like" ensemble)
  • White or blue dress shirt coordinated with the suit
  • Appropriate tie (nothing loud or "out there")
  • Polished dress shoe or "wing tips" in a dark neutral chosen to coordinate with the suit
  • Socks in a dark neutral chosen to coordinate with the suit and sitting high enough on the calf so that no part of bare leg is seen while sitting.
  • Clean shaven or bearded; not in between
  • Clean hair either cut short or pulled back
  • Minimal cologne
  • Watch and one ring on each hand; No jingly stuff; no earrings
  • All tats covered
  • Fingernails cut short

Executive Business Attire for Women

  • A skirt (to the knee) suit (a pant suit is considered less "formal" but is acceptable in most - not all - establishments, as ISYFashion believes it should be)
  • A dress blouse when needed under the jacket (some suit jackets can stand alone in women's suiting) with a no-cleavage neckline
  • Small scarf or necklace (draped along neckline of the top and not spilling over the lapel)
  • Flesh-tone pantyhose (There! I said it.)
  • Closed-toe pumps with no more than a three inch heel.
  • One ring per hand
  • A watch and, if desired, one "conservative" bracelet on either wrist.
  • Clean hair arranged for business (no big hair or teased craziness)
  • "Conservative earrings" (meaning no larger than the lobe of the ear)
  • Minimal perfume
  • Makeup completed tastefully
  • Fingernails cut short or longer, polished in a single, traditional color with no embellishment
    See, that wasn't so rough. When you put the whole look together, it's easy to see why the hosiery part is necessary. Now, let's move on to the next level, the one below it: Business Attire. Business consultants actually recommend this for the "let your hair down" days for all of the above industries (i.e. not meeting with clients or meeting them in resort or social venues) and these same companies can choose to adopt this for the support staff. This level of dress can work as "executive" level for industries related to some branches of technology, medicine, education, advertising, and art.

Business Attire for Men

  • Suits or Suit-like ensembles such as khakis and blazers
  • Dress shirts in any color to coordinate with ensemble
  • Appropriate tie or bow tie (nothing loud or "out there")
  • Dress shoes or Loafers (not Docksiders or Sperry's or anything made of canvas)
  • Socks in a neutral chosen to coordinate with the suit and sitting high enough on the calf so that no part of bare leg is seen while sitting.
  • Clean shaven or bearded; not in between
  • Clean hair either cut short or pulled back
  • Minimal cologne
  • Watch and one ring per hand; No jingly stuff; no earrings
  • All tats covered
  • Fingernails cut short

  Business Attire for Women

  • A skirt or pant suit or suit-like ensemble
  • A dress blouse and skirt (to the knees, or slightly above or slightly below)or trousers
  • A sweater-set with either a crew or v neckline
  • A dress blouse with at least short sleeves and a no-cleavage neckline
  • A sheath dress (defined as sleeveless) with coordinated structured sweater or jacket; a "day dress" with at least short sleeves and a coordinated structured sweater or jacket; hem is to the knees or slightly above or below
  • Scarf or necklace
  • Flesh-tone panty hose or opaque tights
  • Closed or "peep toe" pumps (defined as no more than three toes "peeping" through the opening), and no more than a three inch heel
  • One ring per hand
  • A watch and and/or tasteful bracelets
  • Clean hair arranged for business (no big hair or teased craziness)
  • "Conservative earrings" (meaning no larger than the lobe of the ear)
  • Minimal perfume
  • Makeup completed tastefully
  • Fingernails cut short or longer, polished in a single, traditional color with no embellishment

    (I would style this model in a cool color.)       (Change shoes on this one.)
    (Thanks to Emirate Makeup Blog.)

So now comes the part when every free spirit or creative type can breathe a sigh of relief: Business Casual Dress. Just remember that all the values described for Business Executive Dress still apply: Cleanliness, reliability, attention to detail, high quality, credibility, expertise, and concern for others. None of that gets dropped; it just changes its tone and allows for a bit of creativity and approachability.

Business Casual dressing is what I think my dad was going for when he dressed for his job as a government engineer. That was during the 60s and 70s, so it seems there is a long standing tradition for this. However, at no time (except maybe briefly through a purple haze in the mid 70s) did viable businesses ever say to themselves, "Gee. I think we should adopt a yoga theme for our company dress code" (or homelessness or biker culture or prostitution). Yes, you might personally find your muse among Hell's Angels or Dancing with the Stars, but it's not the best thing for your company's work climate or your own career. So, let's dive into the Business Casual Code of Dress:

Business Casual for Men

  • Khakis, trousers, dark denim trousers with no embellishment or holes
  • Shirts that are not t shirts, sleeveless, athletic in nature or stamped with a logo other than the company's
  • Sweaters, vests, cardigans, button-up novelty shirts (no chest hair or white undershirt peeking over top)
  • No tie necessary
  • Dress shoes or Loafers; no sneakers, sandals, or crocs
  • Socks not necessary for some types of loafers; Socks should be in a neutral chosen to coordinate with the suit and sitting high enough on the calf so that no part of bare leg is seen while sitting.
  • Purposeful facial hair (This is where the "shadow" look can appear, only this will go out of style at some point and our future workforce will wonder why we were so sloppy)
  • Clean hair with a style
  • Minimal cologne
  • Tasteful jewelry
  • Fingernails cut short

Business Casual for Women

  • Khakis, trousers, dark denim trousers with no embellishment or holes
  • Shirts that are not t shirts, sleeveless, athletic in nature or stamped with a logo other than the company's
  • Skirts which do not expose the upper thigh; No denim skirts or dresses
  • Dresses which do not expose the full back or cleavage; a coordinated cover (sweater or jacket) for a sleeveless dress
  • Hosiery is not necessary, but if a bit of leg makeup is, apply it
  • Loafers, ballet flats, indoor "fashion" boots, closed or "peep toe" (defined as no more than three toes "peeping" through the opening) and no more than a four inch heel. Opened toe shoes are acceptable as long as they are not thong or "flip flop" or beach sandals and you are getting regular pedicures. Please.
  • And no Crocs
  • Tasteful but not distracting jewelry.
  • Clean and styled hair
  • Minimal perfume
  • Makeup completed tastefully
  • Fingernails maintained; no chipping of polish; no glitter or bejeweling



Anything less than business casual is known as "personal casual." You don't wear it to work because work means business; It's a time that's bigger than you. Your own time is personal and that's when you get to really express yourself.

So, we made it though this piece with minimal ear smoke and only a bit of blood vessel dilation. And yes, in case you are wondering, a Code is only as good as its consensus. Other sources for helpful advice (or verification) are listed below.

As always, Happy Hunting!

To purchase:



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