- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 6, 2008

For many Washington women, personal style evolution follows a linear course - the office dictates what you wear to work, then once small children arrive, the highest priority becomes whatever is washable.

Eventually, though, new jobs, new body types and a new attitude call for new clothes. That’s where Joyce Neave comes in. Mrs. Neave is the founder of That Mom (www.bethatmom.com), a wardrobe consulting and styling business. She says she helps moms realize their style potential for whatever is on their schedule, whether it is play dates, presentations or vacations.

“I am filling a niche that was just aching to be filled,” Mrs. Neave says about the business she started in April 2007.

Even though That Mom is young, Mrs. Neave’s eye for fashion goes back a long way. She has a degree in art and worked for several retail stores, including the tony-but-now-closed I. Magnin at White Flint Mall. For years, Mrs. Neave was the go-to person when her friends needed shopping advice.

“I’d like to say I started wardrobe consulting at around age 5,” she says. “I would dress my sisters and my animals.”

Mrs. Neave, the mother of children ages 12, 10 and 8, says she got the idea for her business as she was complimented often on her pulled-together look.

“When the kids were in preschool, I never left the house without makeup,” says Mrs. Neave, 41. “I didn’t want motherhood to kick my butt. Everyone else was in sweats, and they would ask me, ‘How do you do that?’

“Women will say to me they don’t know what is in fashion anymore, that their body is completely different after having children and that they don’t have the time to shop. Some compensate by wearing baggy clothes; others give up on the idea of fashion because it seems too overwhelming.”

A consultation with Mrs. Neave starts at $300 for a two-hour closet analysis. Clients try on everything in their closet, and Mrs. Neave tells them whether it works, and, more important, why it doesn’t.

“It is supposed to be an education,” she says. “This way, when they go back out shopping, they can look at the differences.”

After the look in the closet, Mrs. Neave makes a shopping list. There is no set list because everyone’s lifestyle is different. After that, she will shop with you or for you for $90 an hour. What stores she visits depends on the client’s budget, she says.

“I’ve gone everywhere from Target to Harriet Kassman,” a high-end boutique in Northwest, Mrs. Neave says. “I have gone to New York to shop for clients.”

Paige Trevor, a professional organizer in Northwest, says she called Mrs. Neave about 18 months ago after she had “fallen off the fashion boat.” Ms. Trevor’s two children were in school, and she wanted to upgrade her look.

“I wasn’t going to the park every day,” says Ms. Trevor, 41. “I wanted to have a business casual look that was pulled together. Joyce seemed to get me right away.”

After a closet consultation, the women went shopping at Nordstrom, J.Crew and Banana Republic - midrange stores Ms. Trevor preferred.

“Joyce essentially took my particular style and had me take a few more risks,” says Ms. Trevor, who goes shopping with Mrs. Neave every season. “She encouraged me to get a few classic pieces. If I could get something cheaper elsewhere, she tells me.”

Summer can be a particularly challenging fashion time for women older than 40, Mrs. Neave says. Much of what is on store racks is geared to the young and very skinny or the old and frumpy.

“You would think summer would be easy,” she says, “but it is so hard to find age-appropriate clothes. A big mistake is dressing too young.”

It is entirely possible to put together a summer look that is not too short or too tight, Mrs. Neave says. She tells women to look for knee-length dresses and skirts, which can be more flattering and more sophisticated than shorts.

More advice: Foundation garments are the start of any good look. Visit an experienced lingerie department (she likes Saks Fifth Avenue in Chevy Chase) to get properly fitted for all sorts of items that will make the outside look better.

She also tells women to keep shoes in good shape. “A beaten-up shoe can just ruin your outfit,” she says.

Finally, a good coat is worth the investment, as you can wear it every day for part of the year.

“A great jacket literally covers you up and can really pull an outfit together,” she says.

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