Elements of Style

A personal stylist reveals her sartorial secrets

Stylist Leslie Christen shops for a client at Elizabeth and Prince on El Paseo in Palm Desert.

Photo by Ethan Kaminsky


At an early age, I knew I wanted to be in fashion,” says personal stylist Leslie Christen, who has curated chic wardrobes for women from Palm Desert to Chicago.

“My dream was to own a boutique. But then my friend (Academy Award–winning producer Jillian Longnecker) asked me to assemble the wardrobe for one of her films — I loved the experience, styling with limitless possibilities of designers — and knew this is what I was meant to do.”

From complete closet makeovers to special events styling, Christen is a master at making women look their best. Here, she shares her closet tips for becoming more style savvy.

What are three staples every woman should have in her wardrobe?
A silk blouse, a nude flat, and leather (or faux leather) jacket.

What is the proper way to organize a closet?
By style, then color. This way, it’s easy to identify what you own and to create outfits.

How do I maintain a well-edited wardrobe?  
When editing your closet, ask yourself, “If I were shopping today, would I buy this?” You should edit your closet every season to keep it fresh. Divide clothing into three groups: keep, sell/donate, and toss. Keep pieces you feel great in and that fit you perfectly; donate items that are in good shape but don’t fit properly or that you don’t wear; toss anything that is stained, worn out, or can’t be mended. Knowing what suits you and sticking with natural materials is helpful.

How can I tell which colors look best on me?
Hold the garment next to your face. If it brightens you, wear it. If it makes you look yellow or ruddy, it’s not your color.

What are some great investment pieces?
A slim pantsuit that can be worn together or separately. Nude heels — they elongate the leg, making you appear taller and leaner. Be sure to choose a shade that closely matches your skin tone. Jackets are a great investment that can be worn for a long time; I suggest a trench coat, edgy cropped jacket, blazer, and a cashmere coat. Always splurge on handbags and shoes; if you take care of them, they’ll last for years. But buy such classics as a black tote and pointy-toe heel — you’ll get bored with bright “it” items.

Who is your style icon?
Emmanuelle Alt, the editor for Vogue Paris. She’s a bit rock’n’roll and a bit androgynous, and she perfectly mixes downtown cool with uptown sophistication. No one is quite as effortlessly cool.

What does it mean to be stylish?
Wearing what looks best on you. I tend to dress clients in more of a classic style with a bit of an edge. Whether you’re 18 or 80, you can’t go wrong.

What are the rules for buying denim?
Buy them snug; they’ll loosen as you wash and wear them. Darker shades give the illusion of a slimmer silhouette.

What if I fall in love with something that doesn’t fit?
Not everyone fits in clothes right off the rack — buy up a size or two and enlist a great tailor.

How can I put together a chic look when I’m short on time?
The idea of a uniform comes into play when you’re pressed for time. Reach for basics — a sleek button-down blouse, tailored trousers or jeans, and a classic blazer. Add your favorite accessories to personalize the look. Accessories should be a reflection of your mood and personality.

Visit www.lesliechristenblog.com to read Christen’s weekly style blog or to book an appointment.

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