Dana is a Detroit fashion blogger. I found her blog, The Closet Confessional, a couple years ago and am always impressed with her wardrobe choices. I also enjoy seeing which local spot will be the backdrop for her latest fashion shoot. This summer Dana announced that she was starting her own personal styling business and, as I do often, I reached out to her about Inforum because I really do think it’s a valuable local resource. She attended a Women on the Move meeting over the summer and will be presenting next month [our meetings are open to guests if you want to sign up, here]. Our online conversations have transferred to in-person and we made plans to meet last week at the Detroit Historical Museum for their Detroit Fashion Exhibit. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to check the museum’s hours and we ended up chatting a the DPL. My photography skills totally failed me, so I snagged some pictures from Dana’s blog that you can find at the bottom of the post.
How long have you been in your Riverfront neighborhood?
Four years now. I was in the Park Shelton for my first several years of being in the city, then moved to Boston for two year and then came back and moved to the River. We came back for a week trying to figure out where we wanted to live and we found this neighborhood and I was like this is perfect. I scoured Craiglists and the internet everyday from Boston trying to find something and finally found our current loft.
What attracted you to the city?
Honestly, when I moved to Detroit I had such low expectations. My husband was moving here for a one year job so I thought this will be a big adventure and then we’ll move on to the next place but we both fell in love with the city. I like that it’s a city but it still feel very small town. Everyone knows each other – which can be good and bad – but that was a big appeal. Now as someone who is launching a new business, I think Detroit is a great place to do that because it is such a small community where everyone wants to support you and when a new business opens people know about it. It’s not like getting lost in DC – where I’m originally from – where everyone is opening businesses. Here you’re aware and want to support it because it’s someone in Detroit and you want it to succeed.
What did your friends and family think when you moved to Detroit?
They thought I was crazy… Now I think the narrative has changed a lot on Detroit. Now you meet people outside of the city and they are like, ‘Oh you’re from Detroit, that’s so interesting. I’ve heard good things. I hear it’s coming back.’ But 10 years ago it was like, ‘You’re nuts. What are you doing? You must really love this guy.’ You just heard a lot of negative.
And I’m not going to lie – I was terrified. I had never been to Detroit, only heard negative stuff and Brad wanted to live in the middle of the city… everyone was like, ‘Live in the suburbs, live in Royal Oak.’ But he was like no – I want to put my money where my mouth is. So I didn’t really have a say but I’m so grateful that he had us live in the city and downtown because I think our experience would be totally different and not necessarily in a negative way but in a more comfortable way. More similar to how I grew up and I don’t think I’d be able to appreciate all the little gems that the city has to offer if I didn’t just dive into it.
How long have you been blogging?
I started blogging in 2012 and kind of on and off. I started doing it and dabbling in the idea of switching careers and doing something fashion oriented. I thought I’d start writing about it because I’m an English major and I like to write. It took off, I started to write for After Five doing a style section for Kerry for a little bit and random freelance things, without quitting my job. I ended up loving blogging and having that creative outlet and I got amazing feedback. Especially in Detroit where we don’t typically see that – although now there is more of a fashion market here but I think it’s pretty new. I’m not saying we weren’t fashionable but we weren’t really talking about it.
What’s the fashion conversation you’re noticing now?
That there is one… Maybe this is just being an outsider but you see other cities like New York and LA and they have their specific style. In Detroit it’s really anything goes and that’s why I feel like I came here and started to be more open with my personal style and getting more confidence to actually dress like I wanted to instead of how I thought I should. I already felt like an outsider and I really like to get dressed up and I decided that I would wear what I wanted to wear and own it. Having the blog kind of gave me that excuse to do it because I could be like ‘Oh, it’s for the blog’.
Tell me about Detroit Fashion Week.
I went to HOUR Detroit Fashion Party and it was really fun. It was at the Fox Theater and they had a preview at the Whitney which is one of my favorite spots. It’s cool to see people who like fashion and getting dressed up all in one space – it’s the best people watching. They did a runway show and that was cool – I think it’s something Detroit is getting better at.
Who were the designers?
Almost all the good runway shows in Detroit are sponsored by Neiman Marcus. I wish they had somebody who was doing it really well with local designers. The same night they had Eastern Market After Dark and they do some more local designers but I couldn’t do both this year.
Where do you shop in Detroit?
I really try to support local shops as much as possible but the reality is there is not a ton right now that fits everyone’s aesthetics and budget. Ascetically I love Willy’s, I love Shinola but realistically it doesn’t fit my budget beyond a good investment piece. The Peacock Room is my go-to if I need a party dress. I love the store, I think you can get really unique things – beautiful feminine pieces. El Dorado is just – walking into that store I feel like I could spend hours. [Erin] does such a good job putting it together and making it feel like this magical space. [Dana’s fashion post on Detroit shops]
What are your staple pieces?
Striped shirts. I have way too many striped shirts to count. I get so much crap from my sister and my husband but I’m like, ‘They’re ALL different.’ I like the classic pieces. A good trench coat. Jeans. As much as I like to get dressed up, I am a causal person so I like to dress up jeans. I like the classic pieces but wearing them different ways – either layering lots of things or accessorizing and making it my own without going too far into any crazy trend. I feel like I’m in my 30s, I can’t keep up – I have no desire to keep up.
When I first started blogging I tried a lot of different things and there was more pressure to always try something new and be really inventive but you just can’t. Not only the money – I’d go and buy things from TJ Maxx – but it was overwhelming in my closet and I was like, ‘I don’t really like these pieces’. They were fine and fun but it’s not very realistic for a real wardrobe. Now that I’m doing styling I think I have really started to value less is more and that you can really value the pieces that you love and stick to those.
Speaking of styling, you started a business. What inspired you to do that?
It’s funny, I knew I wanted to take the leap and be my own boss. I thought I was going to open a store and signed up for the BUILD program. I played with the idea of an online store but if you were local you could come in and get fitted and styled. I kept playing with this idea and the more I went through the program I realized it was less about the store and more about working with women and helping to build their confidence and finding things that suit their lifestyles, their bodies, where they’re at. So halfway through it clicked that there was so much time and money that you need for a store and I had zero desire to sit in a store to wait for people to come in and it clicked that this wasn’t really what I wanted to do.
I grew up organizing my friend’s closets, my mom’s closet – when I was 12 or 13 she was like, ‘You should do this, you could do this for my friends.’ When I was in college she said the same thing and said I could have a business but I was like, ‘You can’t have a business organizing someone’s closet’. I didn’t think that was a realistic business but it was going through the BUILD program that I began to think – what if I actually try to do it?
What kind of styling are you doing?
It’s a range of things. I have some people who ask for very specific things. I had someone who wanted me to help them with denim and spend a day shopping for the perfect pair of jeans. But for the most part I offer three different services and they all kind of over lap.
The first one is straightforward, I go into your closet, go through everything and decide what fits with your current lifestyle. I think we hold on to so many things that we loved at one point and because you loved it so much you have a hard time letting it go but a lot of time people know they’re ready to let it go, they just need someone else to tell them that. I help do that, organize and style what they currently have to create some looks to mix and match your current wardrobe.
The next one is similar but it adds a shopping component. I make a shopping list of things that you could add to your wardrobe to maximize what you currently have and depending on your budget – it could be $20 for one piece that we find in a vintage store or thousands of dollars and you want to start fresh. I use Pinterest to find pieces so that if your budget is smaller and you just want to figure out what you want to invest in over time, you’ll have my recommendations. We’ll also go shopping and a lot of time it’s just going through the stores with somebody to show them how things fit differently and how things can be taken in so that when they’re shopping by themselves they’ll know what to look for. A lot of times I’ll pre-shop for clients so they can just come in and try it on. Then I’ll style the new stuff with the old stuff and show you how to create new outfits and take pictures of everything so you have a ‘lookbook’ of what we put together.
The final thing is doing this every quarter. Either I come in twice a year and do a new sort and then four times I year we’ll go shopping based on the season.
I also do other things like work with photographers and style photo shoots. I’ve done fashion shoots and everyday graduation and engagement portraits.
Learn more about Dana’s services here.
Finally, what would you like to see happen in Detroit in terms of fashion?
I’d like to see more, just more. I started joining up with other fashion bloggers. We go to events together and make a presence that Detroit does have this scene. That’s the thing about Detroit – all of our styles are so different and it’s so cool to go to events together and see what everyone is wearing and think I could never pull that off but you look so fantastic. I think just more – more people being creative in fashion and more shows and blending it with art and architecture. There is so much of that that we can be utilizing better, I encourage other people to do that.
And then stores – more stores. Anytime I hear someone say they want to open a store I’m like,’How can I help you?’ I think we have to go to the suburbs for affordable basics. That’s the kind of store I wanted to open so now selfishly I want someone to open a place where I can buy the essentials because we have great stores that add the fun things in your closet but I have to drive out to Somerset or order online which I don’t like to do, so more of that would be great.