Jessica Grabler, shown in the master bedroom of her Bethesda home, walks clients through the process of editing their closet and building their wardrobe. Photo by Liz Lynch.


Wardrobe Warrior

A personal stylist shares her tips on revising what’s in your closet


As a clothing buyer for both independent boutiques and nationwide retailers (including the original iteration of designer discount site, Jessica Grabler worked with hundreds of labels and is intimately familiar with the fit and forte of each brand.

Three years ago, the Bethesda-based mother of two turned her on-the-job expertise into a personal styling business, helping clients navigate their fashion options and reveal their true sartorial selves. We asked Grabler, 36, to walk us through the process of paring down an outdated closet and to share her pro tips for building a wardrobe that fits both your body and your lifestyle.

  • “The first thing I do with my clients is edit their closets. What do they wear? What haven’t they worn in years because it’s out of style or it doesn’t fit? The latter items get donated. If they haven’t worn it in a year, or they love it but could never figure out how to wear it, we set it aside to see if we can make it work. And if they wear it a ton, I help them determine if it’s too loved—is it starting to fade, lose its shape, pill? And if so, is it fixable?”
  • “If you’ve been holding on to an item for five or 10 years, it’s time to rethink its role in your wardrobe. But not everything old is outdated. Some items are classic, like denim that’s flattering and well constructed, without conspicuous stitching or embellished pockets. And good leather boots can be timeless: I have a pair of riding boots that I’ve worn for about 15 years. I’ve had them resoled and professionally polished, but the fit is classic and the leather only gets better with age.”
  • “Once we’ve whittled down their current wardrobe, we see what’s missing and what needs to be replaced or replenished based on their current lifestyle. Do they need more professional looks to wear to a new job? More casual clothes after transitioning to stay at home with a baby? Do they have all the staples that are the workhorses of a good wardrobe? Then we go shopping together with those goals in mind.”
  • “I arrive at the store early and pre-pull items, so by the time my clients get to the store, there are clothes already waiting in the dressing room. And I remind them that we’re building a wardrobe—not just buying pieces, but creating outfits. I find that people tend to buy the same piece over and over again instead of buying a whole outfit. I also make sure that we’re buying in the same color palette so that pieces are interchangeable and they can have multiple outfits.”
  • “I encourage people to balance out trends with classic staples: Instead of doing a head-to-toe trend, throw on your favorite jeans with a basic tee and sprinkle in a trendy accessory. Then invest in the items that will make an impact and last a long time.”
  • “The final step is to organize by category and color. Sometimes I photograph outfits as a visual reference for clients to use when they’re putting items together from their closet. And the more visible things are, the easier it is—everything on hangers as much as possible.”



Nail It

Polish picks to wear in autumn


Fall means it’s time to rethink your polish game. For help sorting through the rainbow of options, we turned to Lauren Dunne, co-owner of Varnish Lane in Friendship Heights and the nail salon’s resident color genius. Dunne and her mom, Carrie Dunne, opened Varnish Lane in 2015. The local pioneers of the waterless mani-pedi and staunch defenders of nail health are planning to open a second location in D.C.’s West End this fall, with designs on two more locations in the metro area in the coming year. “All of our polishes are 7-free or higher,” says Lauren Dunne, referring to the lack of traditional chemicals in the products they use, “and all are absolutely cruelty-free.”

Courtesy photos.


We asked Lauren Dunne for her top polish picks for fall, both on-trend and classic colors. Here’s what made the cut:

  1. “We’re seeing a lot of metallics this fall,” says Dunne, who suggests you go full-metal-mani with Londontown’s Brill-ant, which has undertones of iridescent purple and rose, or the rich bronze of Flora 1761’s Speckled Hellebore. “Or try a tiny gold stud over a natural-colored polish—it’s a subtle metallic detail that’s not too over the top.”
  2. “Tabou by Habit is my all-time favorite color—it’s a bright orangey-red that somehow looks fantastic on every skin tone.”
  3. “Women in this area are busy, so when they want a manicure that lasts for weeks, we recommend Bio Seaweed’s more natural gel option—it’s even safe for pregnant women. Mousse, a putty-colored gray, is always a go-to.” For a non-gel gray, Dunne likes Megan by Zoya: “It’s a great neutral gray that leans toward purple.”
  4. “Bordeaux is always a classic, and Smith & Cult’s Lovers Creep does it better than anyone.”
  5. “We go through our sheer and nude colors faster than anything else,” Dunne says, “which means we’re always reordering Deborah Lippmann’s pale pinks, like Baby Love and Tiny Dancer.” Dunne also likes NCLA polish’s Volume 1: “It’s got no pink, no gray—just a classic beige nude.”