The Grown-Ups Guide for 'Back to School': The Fun of Fall with Ellen Lubin-Sherman

I remember when my guys were ready to go back to school after the summer vacation. I think I loved shopping for school supplies more than they did. One store never had everything they needed – we’d buy the stylish things such as “sushi” erasers at a cool shop in New York City then head back home where there was a local stationery store that devoted an entire aisle to “back to school.”  It was such fun. And selecting the clothes for the first day of school – of course, boys couldn’t care less about that but I know that first impressions count and I wanted their teachers to see them as I saw them – great to work with, competent, and confident.
I too want a “back to school” moment when summer ends. I look forward to the change in weather, clothing, and makeup. By the time it’s a bit cooler, I’m ready to switch from sheer lip balm to a lipstick and perhaps a new blush. I may even give a tweak to my hair.  Just as I wanted my boys to look picture perfect, I want to look polished to a glossy sheen.
Then I tackle the closet and tackle is the right word. I examine the summer clothes and send the pieces I’ve worn the most to the dry cleaners. I cover my summer clothes with old shirts rather than plastic bags and store them in the closet along with lavender sachets to ward off the moths. I assess the fall and winter clothes for moth holes, stains, and even a trip to the tailor in case a garment needs to be taken in or (gasp) let out, depending on how much ice cream I’ve eaten.

Then, the fun begins.  What’s the biggest trend and do I have it in my closet? Typically, styles are cyclical so something you wore in the 80s will be found in the designer’s current collection and billed as a piece from the archives. You also have an “archive” (your closet) and if you’re savvy, you’ll find a piece that’s terribly chic and wear it with great flare.

When building a classic wardrobe, you need to focus on the basics.  These are the tried-and-true pieces that give you confidence. If you don’t have the following or it’s not in great condition, make sure you purchase a black or navy pencil or A-line skirt in a lightweight wool, a pair of gray slacks (a wide leg looks great on someone slim while a narrower cut is more flattering to someone curvy), a crisp white cotton shirt (Yes, I know. You have a million white shirts but every year you should buy one new one so it’s pure white and not yellow-white from washing and ironing), a great cardigan (navy looks terrifically fresh with black or gray), and a pair of very classic flat loafers (tasseled loafers are de trop this year). These are the basics, the foundation pieces that will form your personal archive.

Now…take a peek at the style magazines while you’re on the supermarket line.  What’s the big color for fall?  Find that color in either a stocking, a scarf, or a handbag.  Do not invest big money in this “trendy” piece as it has a short life span but do buy something that adds a pop to your uniform.  And I do not use the word “uniform” lightly as I believe the most stylish women (and men) stick to a consistent look so they are memorable.

What else is a back to school moment?
Update your resume or create one in case something comes along that’s too interesting to pass up.
Just as the students are learning a new language or math skill, brush up on your skills.  Are you terrified of public speaking? Join Toastmasters of America and learn how to calm your nerves and speak with confidence.
Discipline yourself to get a full eight hours of sleep. When people brag about how little they sleep I’m rarely impressed.  Students who don’t get enough sleep cannot concentrate in school. The same goes for you.
Attitude, attitude, and attitude. There’s nothing like meeting someone who is brimming with good humor and a charming personality. This is the moment, the season, and the year to stop waiting for that knock on the door asking you to come out to play. You gotta do the knocking. 

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  1. Shopping for school supplies is so much fun. We prepare for back to school by waking up 10 minutes earlier each morning for a week until we're back on the regular school schedule.

  2. I absolutely adore this! Back to school is my favorite time of year, even if I'm not headed back!