Renée Billy and I met over 10 years ago when I working as an entertainment lawyer in New York City. Speaking on a panel in Charlotte, North Carolina to high school students, I connected with Renée’s childhood best friend and now client Bevy Smith. A few weeks after returning back to the city, Bevy and I met up for lunch. At the time, my schedule was crazy with cross-country travel, work and the daily hustle that young people have when trying to establish their footing in this “city where dreams are made.” I complained to Bevy that I needed someone to help me get organized. She immediately suggested her girl Renée who had recently launched a business where she provided personal services such as organization, relocation and personal styling.
Renée and I met and hit it off! I remember her as well dressed, down-to-earth and smart. I hired her for that initial project and she got my single girl, “Sex in the City” closets in tip-top shape. Since then, I have hired her to help pack for my wedding and honeymoon, to switch out my seasonal clothes (there is never enough closet space in New York City for everything all at once) and to integrate my husband’s bachelor stuff with my single girl stuff. Years ago, I overheard my #hubbs say something like, “Renée is like having a thinking and rational 3rd adult in your household.” I would agree.
Fast forward 10 years and she is now family. The big sister I never had but always wanted. She shows up for me. I can count on her to answer my calls and give sage advice. But let me warn you, Renée is not about the BS. You ask. She answers and serves it straight, no chaser but always with the #truth:
- “You don’t need a gaggle of girlfriends running around you. You just need the ones who have your back. The rest, let them go. They cause unnecessary problems in your life.”
- “Chile please, serve them every single time. Walk into the room and own it. Let them step their game up.”
- “Your marriage is the most important relationship. Treat it as such.”
Working in fashion for years now, Renée understands style and how fabric should drape the body. She studies a person’s body type and lifestyle and helps them find clothes that make them feel confident, sexy and current. Whether working with talent for a VH1 special or a new mom who wants her “sexy back,” count on Renée to find those pieces that make your heart sing. She is Jackie Unfiltered’s Fashion consultant. You will get to know her and her fashion secrets well. For a little taste of “Nae” as her girlfriends call her, keep reading. To save you some time, go grab your credit cards from your pocketbook because you will want the gems below.
Forget Labels. ? Style is about Confidence. ?
Interview with Renée Billy of Billy Hendrix
Jackie: How do you define style?
Style is about the confidence that a person brings to what they are wearing. It is about taking your clothing and making it your own. I don’t believe in trends. I am a rebel. What is hot this season doesn’t work for everybody. For example, off-the-shoulder is a big trend this season. And it looks great on some people but it is not for everyone. You should not try to wear something that doesn’t work for your body just because it is a trend. You know that girl who has on a piece by a great designer like Stella McCartney, Dolce & Gabbana or Dior. They put on these expensive pieces and they just don’t look right. Just because you have a fancy label on does not mean you exude style. Being stylish is about your personality shining through the clothing with confidence.
Examples of women who have style:
- Kerry Washington off camera: She can throw on some jeans, a cute bag and a pump and she looks effortlessly comfortable and chic.
- Rihanna: She is a style icon because she owns everything she wears, including the tattoos. Her clothes are trend setting but she always looks sexy whether in oversized jeans or a skin-tight dress because of her confidence.
- Kendall Jenner: She slays everyday. I am not a Kardashian brand fan but she does no wrong when she walks out the door. She knows her body.
To be clear, style is not about labels. Quality trumps everything and is essential but style is not about labels head to toe. You can look horrible in a $5,000.00 gown and look sensational in a $100.00 skirt.I am not a little chick. I will never be a size 4. But if I feel like I look good wearing something that works for my body type then I walk into a room feeling like the best dressed woman.
Jackie: What are the key pieces a woman should invest in?
- Little Black Dress – Everyone always says you need a little black dress but its so true. Make sure it works with your body type. I love color but you can’t wear a brightly colored or patterned dress as frequently. A classic black dress is so versatile that you can wear it many times within a short period just by switching up the accessories. But you have to find the one that works for you: A-line, Body Con, Mini, Midi and Shifts:
- Midi-Length – Tall women who are slender
- A-line –Most body types but its about the fabric and how it lays on your body
- Mini – This is not about age but rather about your legs. To wear a mini, you need good legs. You can be 20 years old with bad legs and you should not wear a mini. If you are 50 with great legs then you should not shy away from a mini just because of your age.
- A Great Clutch
- For evening, a clutch is a must. If you have worked all day and have the functional work tote then check the tote at the coat check and pull out the clutch.
- Pop of Color: If you are one that shies away from color in you clothing, this is a great moment to make a bold and fashion forward statement and introduce a pop of color.
- Size: Make sure you get a size that will fit your necessities (reading glasses, lipstick, wallet, phone). Before buying, try out the size by putting your necessities in the clutch to make sure they fit. Nothing is worse than a woman carrying a clutch and their phone. It does not look clean.
- Blazer – Do I really need to say why? Have fun with the silhouette: peplum, boyfriends, cropped or draped. Stay away from three button blazers. This is also an area where you can have fun with the color. If you don’t work in a very conservative environment then buy something a little sportier.
- Leather Jacket – Depending on the fit, motorcycle style or a duster will work for most body types. Wear it in the daytime and evening. The quality of the leather is the key. If you are opposed to leather then try waxed coated materials.
- Statement Jewelry
- You should have at least one piece of jewelry that will make an outfit stand out. Earrings and cocktail rings are really easy and work for almost everyone. Drop earrings work whether you have long or short hair.
- Necklaces can be tricky. If you are busty, you should shy away from anything 18” – 20”. Try something very close to your neck like a choker or a piece that is very long. If you have very broad shoulders, try something longer but make sure it doesn’t get lost in your waist. A great piece of jewelry changes the look and feel of your outfit.
- Foundation Pieces – Whether you are a gym rat or not, underpinnings can make or break or outfit. Check your bra size regularly. If you don’t feel comfortable in thongs, then opt for slimming shaper shorts or great hosiery (commando under the hosiery). Panty lines are always a no-no.
- All ages, all body types should have a great pair of jeans. Dark rinse is preferred if you don’t wish to own multiple pairs. Dark rinse can be dressed up or down easier than other rinses. Plan to spend at least an hour in a dressing room trying on multiple brands, styles and rinses until you find the perfect fit.
- Pay attention to the rise to avoid “muffin top” or “crack-age” when you sit down. Jean shopping can be discouraging for women because the options are endless and can be such a tricky fit. You have to be patient but you will know the right pair of jeans almost immediately.
- Great Scarf – In addition to providing warmth, scarves can add a pop of color, pattern or texture to your outfit. I have a scarf with me at all times.
- Black Pumps – This may seem trite but some days you just need a pair of good comfortable black pumps. I am not opposed to a kitten heel if you cannot walk in a stiletto. There is nothing worse than seeing a woman who can’t walk in her shoes. Again, its about confidence. I am also not opposed to a platform. They are not completely dead. If you feel comfortable in them then work the platform.
- A classic pair of Black Pants: Pants can be tricky for women but they are very necessary. I have heard all the reasons why women avoid pants: too many curves, too few curves, too tall and too short. The key is to look for a pair with a straight leg that fits your waist. Invest in a tailor to ensure they are the right length for your shoes and fit well around your waist.
Jackie’s Tip ?: Every well-dressed woman has at least one (probably many) of every item listed above. They pair fun accessories or colors with these basics to create looks that work for their lifestyles. Print the list and go through your closet to figure out what you have and what you need. When you do this, throw out anything that does not make your heart go pitter-patter (more on spring cleaning in a later post). Make a list of what your wardrobe is missing and take that list with you the next time you shop. This will make sure you buy those perfect black pants and pump instead of the tomato red off the shoulder top that you will only wear once or twice (or be like me and buy the pants, the pump and the red top which sounds like a great outfit by the way).
Extra Credit Key Items:
- White Shirts – Have an abundance of white shirts including t-shirts, tanks or button downs. But please note that no matter how much you paid for a white shirt, once it’s a hint of yellow, it is now a dishrag.
- Tailor – Ladies, we love a well dressed man in a suit. Why? Because everything on a well dressed man is tailored to fit him perfectly. For example, if you find a dress in Nieman Marcus’ Last Call that’s a great bargain but not fitting exactly the way you want and it just needs a tailor’s TLC then grab it. But make the commitment to actually take the dress to the tailor. Don’t get lazy and try to wear it no looking up to par.
Jackie’s Tip ?: How do you find a good tailor that can fit clothes to your body? Ask that woman who you admire that always looks put together for a referral. I guarantee you she has a tailor or two on speed dial. In fact, this tailor is so important that she probably sends him/her a Christmas card, bonus and birthday gift.
Let us show you how you can make endless outfits from these wardrobe essentials:
- Weekend Brunch with your girls ?– Jeans, White Shirt, Leather Jacket & Scarf.
- Date Night ❤️ – Jeans, Blazer, Black Pump, Clutch and Statement jewelry (always a red lip!)
- Big Presentation at Work ? – Black Pants, Black Pump, White Shirt, Blazer, Scarf
- Mid-Week Evening Soiree ?? – Little Black Dress, Black Pumps, Statement Jewelry, Clutch (maybe a red lip?)
- Daughter’s Dance Recital ? – Black Pants, Black Pumps, White tank, Leather Jacket
Jackie: I am almost scared to ask you this question but here goes, how has my my style changed over the last 10 years since we first met?
You have evolved. When I first met you, you were in your 20s and had bought into what you thought style should be which meant lots of labels. Even then, you had all the right pieces that represented a well dressed woman but you were not necessarily owning every look. Now, you have figured out what works for you. You can go to Zara or Bergdorf and kill it because you are confident wherever you shop as a result of honing your eye to look for silhouettes that work for you and your lifestyle. You always walk in looking fierce whether in a designer dress or distressed jeans, sweater and fedora. You look way more effortless at 39 than you did at 28.
For a private consultation with Renée, you can email her at [email protected].
Renée Billy of Billy Hendrix is a CERTIFIED member of Jacqslist.