Everyone could use someone like Ethelind Belle in their corner. Or, more specifically, in their closet. Someone who can hand you items of clothing and say, “Here, try this. But this time, tuck it in like this. Add this scarf. And off you go!”
Instead, many people are paralyzed by the overflowing bounty of mediocrity in their closet. Maybe you stare at the piles and wonder why you have nothing to wear. And despite your best efforts, sometimes you leave the house looking like you’re going out to do yard work.
Enter Ethelind Belle, a local style expert who launched Maison Des Belles to share her love and inspiration for all things fashion. She strives to be the perfect matchmaker between a person’s outer appearance and their inner beauty and character. She doesn’t make you beautiful—she helps you find the beauty that you already have in a way that matches your personality and lifestyle. Much of Belle’s style inspiration comes from her grandmother in Ghana, a woman who dressed impeccably despite living in humble surroundings, on a farm with no electricity. Her presentation told people who she was and this became Belle’s philosophy: Tell people who you are, and do it confidently.
So from Ghana to Edina, how can regular women look and feel their best? We asked Belle for tips.
(Above: Three takes on a white T-shirt (from Bluebird Boutique) and jeans: From left, casual look features a scarf from Athleta and booties from Cole Haan; casual work look highlights a tweed jacket from Bluebird and Cole Haan booties; and for a girls’ night out, add a bone beaded necklace from Equation and bracelets, pearls and clutch from Fringe Accessories.)
Q: A T-shirt-and-jeans type of girl can often feel underdressed. How can we up our game but still remain a T-shirt-and-jeans girl?
A: Jeans and T-shirt are like a blank canvas, and you can easily up your game with different cuts of jeans. If you normally prefer bootcut, try flare or skinny. Use accessories like shoes, scarves or handbags to kick it up (I love colorful bracelets). A vintage tweed jacket can take you from basic to sophisticated (or from school conference to hot date).
Q: Any tips for looking good during inclement or sloppy weather?
A: Wear more colors in winter—summer colors! Try different-colored winter coats, burgundy instead of black, or coats with structure, something more tailored or belted.
Q: How many jackets do we need in Minnesota—I mean Minnesnowta?
A: Enough to fill an extra closet! Kidding, but at least five: A heavy winter coat, a trench for the rainy days, a lightweight jacket to transition between seasons, a denim jacket to dress down (even a ball gown looks great with denim) and a statement jacket for those days you want to feel like Grace Kelly.
Q: How many pairs of boots?
A: Never enough—as many different styles and colors as your pocketbook will allow. Pencil heels, stacked heels, flats, wedges, moto boots, platform in black, brown, cognac, ankle, mid-calf, tall—you get the point. But at the very least, you’ve got to have four: One winter waterproof pair, one tall, one ankle (with comfortable heel heights) and one for going out.
Q: Any tips for wearing ankle boots properly?
A: For skirts and dresses, the longer the shaft of the booties, the shorter the hem of your clothing should be. Or add opaque tights to elongate legs (unless you have long legs, which I don’t).
(Embrace the culotte and menswear inspired trend. Left: Culottes and oversized jacket. Right: A jaunty burgundy hat from Fringe Accessories completes the picture.)
Q: Any tips for identifying your personal style?
A: Deep down, we know our personal style. The question is how do we get the confidence to wear it? First ask: Where and how do I spend my time? What do I need to wear for these situations and how do I make those pieces stylish and true to me? Then find what feels comfortable and apply little dashes of things outside your comfort zone. Be bold and experiment. It’s the only way we grow.
Q: What are some common wardrobe mistakes?
A: Thinking that “trendy” means stylish. Buying without understanding your body type or lifestyle needs. For example, don’t buy a cocktail gown just because you found one on sale if prom was the last time you needed one! And people generally think covering up the bottom with more fabric will minimize it. It actually adds more bulk.
Another mistake people make is rushing to a mirror when they first try something on. Instead, walk around in it. If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t bother looking at it. It may look cute, but if you don’t feel cute, it’s not cute. Determine your body shape and stay true to you.
Q: Any tips for organizing your closet?
A: First detox, declutter and edit. Simply grab a piece and ask, “Does this bring me joy?” If not, move it along. If yes, keep it. Once done, call an expert [cough], like yours truly. Really though, once you’ve edited down to only things you love, it will be easier to find them in your closet.
Q: What trends do you see emerging for spring 2016?
A: What I like to call wearable art—fabrics that will look just as great framed as they do on you. More androgynous looks for women—boyfriend jackets and oversized shirts. Marshmallow colors (lighter versions of pastels). And we are seeing an explosion of fringe, flare and suede. I expect this will continue. Basically, if Bohemian chic is your style, you’re in paradise right now.
Q: Any favorite fashion/style blogs that you follow or recommend?
A: I love theeverygirl.com because it’s really practical. I also like whowhatwear.com for finding inspiration on new ways to wear something you might already own.
Despite what our mothers told us about beauty being skin-deep, the truth is that what we wear is a reflection of who we are. And unlike Belle’s grandmother, sometimes we have trouble knowing exactly who that is. Maybe our circumstances change—we find ourselves empty-nesters, new moms or newly single—and our wardrobes no longer fit our personalities. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a supportive voice guiding us toward an authentic, comfortable image? If so, Ethelind Belle at Maison Des Belles could be your new best friend.
(Left: Ethelinde sports a look that spotlights both feminine and fitted elements with a tan hat from Equation and necklace from Dugo. Right: Mix prints with marshmallow colors. Pro tip from Ethelind Belle: Match the colors, but not the print. Skirt from Equation, clutch from Dugo.)
Where to shop:
Athleta // 5001 France Ave. S.
Bluebird Boutique // 3909 W. 50th St.
Cole Haan // 3510 Galleria 952.920.9377
Dugo // 3601 Galleria
Equation // 5045 France Ave. S.
Fringe Accessories // 3906 W. 50th St.