As a personal stylist and savvy self-publisher, Melanie Kluger brings a burst of energy to the fashion scene. Her interactive workbook, The Confident Closet, combines smart style tips and a message of self-empowerment in a truly beautiful package. In addition to sharing highlights of her book-making process and creative life, she filled us in on how her latest publication has become a conversation starter and business-building tool.
1. When did your love of fashion begin?
I really started to love fashion in college where I majored in costume design. I took a class on the history of fashion and I couldn’t get over the role that fashion plays throughout time. Also, more than a love of fashion, I found a love for the way someone lights up when they are wearing clothes they feel amazing in. I became obsessed with figuring out what would make each individual person feel confident, stylish, put together, and more like THEMSELVES.
2. What led you to a career as a personal stylist?
I started my career in New York as a costume designer and assisted on several plays and musicals before deciding to work in the bridal world. After having the experience of working with women to find their wedding dresses and on the stage, I started to get asked to go into people’s closets. That was where I really found my sweet spot and it continued to grow from there.
3. Who are the style icons that have inspired you along the way?
I’m always inspired by women who are unapologetic in their style. Women like Iris Apfel and Kate Spade have always been a strong influence. More recently, I’ve found Blaire Eadie and Busy Philipps really inspirational. I’m always drawn to style that exudes bold colors, prints, and an ability to be sophisticated and playful at the same time.
4. Can you tell us about the #showupforyourselfie social media challenge?
Yes! My favorite thing to talk about! The #showupforyourselfie challenge is a free seasonal event. It’s a really beautiful mix of something that seems so simple but has such a big impact. It’s a way to hold yourself accountable by getting dressed every day for a week in a way that makes you feel your best. Then you post it in the private FB group and you get lifted up by the most supportive community! That’s really it!
That simple act of taking a little extra time to get dressed (especially if you work from home, are a mom with young children, or have just gotten into a style rut) can truly boost confidence levels and change the way you show up in the world. I’ve seen such a huge change in the women who have participated and it’s been a joy to host it every season. I also give practical tips, style advice, and give away prizes. It’s such a blast.
5. Where do you look for creative inspiration? Are there certain people, places, books, or resources you turn to when you are feeling stuck or unmotivated?
I am a firm believer that inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere. Nature, a movie, a different decade, the women you saw rocking that jumpsuit at the park . . . Inspiration can strike anywhere if you are open to it! I enjoy places like Pinterest not only to get inspiration but to organize and keep track of those great ideas. Then if I’m in a rut, I can go and take a look at things that have inspired me in the past and see how I can step out of my box a bit. I also think that there is something really powerful about just spending 20 minutes at night (when you have nowhere to be) to just play around with your clothes. If you are in a rut, you have to allow yourself some time to try new things and explore without a time constraint.
6. Why did you choose to self-publish?
I chose to self-publish because I wanted a quicker turnaround time, and the ability to put the book out into the world when I was ready for the world to see it!
7. Tell us about the process of writing and designing The Confident Closet. How did you decide on the layout, color scheme, and typography? Which tools did you use?
I loved the idea of people having a book that they could write in, and take with them into their closets as they went through the process. So I started writing with the idea of it needing to be interactive as a priority. I took my signature process that I use with all my clients in The Confident Closet Course (my online course) and broke it down to create the book.
I worked with the brilliant Jillian Sandrey on all the graphics and layout. We went back and forth on a lot of ideas. I would send her doodles with some copy and she would create a killer chart or graphic that always exceeded my expectations.
We use my branding colors and color scheme throughout the book. We also created a pattern based on a section of the book called “The Five Shapes of The Confident Women” and that pattern is used throughout the book. It’s a nod to all the different shapes we come in as women and it’s something I think makes the book design extra special.
The world we live in is so visual and I wanted the book to reflect that. Jill really understood that. The amazing Rosa Delgado’s photography also took the book to the next level. It really was a wonderful collaboration.
8. What was the biggest challenge you faced when creating your book? How did you overcome it?
Since I had never done anything like this in the past, there were a lot of steps we had to learn in real time. When you self-publish you are figuring it out on your own, which means there are some learning curves, especially with the timeline of how long things take.
9. Do you have any advice for someone writing a how-to guide?
Think about the process you want the person reading to have. How you lay out your content is crucial for them to have results and shouldn’t be brushed over. The more digestible the information can be for them, the better.
10. What is the first step to discovering your personal style?
I think we get stuck in an idea of how our style “used to be”. The first thing I always ask people to do is allow themselves to just think about who they are now and what their style is NOW. Not what their style was before kids, or in college, but now. We go through so many transitions in life. To have a truly aligned personal style you need to be ok with releasing the old and embracing the right now.
11. How has book publication affected your business? What kind of reactions or stories have readers shared with you since the book came out?
The word that comes to mind is momentum. Publishing The Confident Closet has given my business just SO much momentum. It’s also been a joy to have something so tangible and affordable that represents my work. It’s been a great way to start a conversation with brands, podcasts, and companies as well. For example, I had a fantastic event at J Crew last year as well as several other book events all over California. I’ve also been interviewed on several podcasts. I love sending the host a copy of my book for them as a way of getting myself out there.
The ripple effect has been so fantastic as well. I have had a lot of clients mention how once they implemented what they learned in The Confident Closet their partner or friends decided to do it as well. Once people see your change, it’s impossible to not want to read it and do the work for yourself! A lot of readers have bought the book for their niece or their teenage daughter which has been really rewarding. While I didn’t write the book with the teenage girl in mind, the easy-to-read nature, and fun and playful vibe makes it a no-brainer for that generation. What I would have done for a book like this that talks about positive body image when it comes to style when I was a teenager! That has been an unexpected win for sure.
12. Any new projects in the works?
I’ll be hosting another live round of my online course The Confident Closet Course this Spring which I’m thrilled about! No better time to join than in the throes of spring cleaning! It’s such a fun time to go through your closet and really hone in on your style. We’ll also be doing another round of the #showupforyourselfie challenge in Spring too! I’ve also been working on some really fantastic IGTV series and weekly content on my blog and newsletter. Come say hi and connect on social media (@melaniekluger) and check out all the content there as well!
Do you have an idea for a guide book or other inspirational content you’d like to self-publish?
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