Amy Lyons-Kemler likes to say that your closet is her office.
A wardrobe consultant, Lyons-Kemler assists clients, 90 percent of whom are women, how to revamp their clothing style to achieve a successful new look. Her Hamden-based consulting business is called Fresh Start Wardrobe Consulting.
She’s the first to admit it can be traumatic, because it might involve letting go of the assumptions they have made about themselves for years.
But with a background and academic degrees in counseling, she’s prepared to help them through that difficulty, too.
Sometimes, her clients need a new wardrobe because they just gained or lost weight. But more often, they are changing something else in their lives, perhaps coming out of a divorce or re-entering the job market after having children, she said.
"Now they’re in their 40s or 50s and the children have grown up and moved out," she said.
Lyons-Kemler said she advises her clients what to keep that is in their closets and what to throw away, "which more than likely is a lot of stuff."
She grew up in Pennsylvania where her parents owned a women’s clothing store. She went away to college, got married, moved to Florida and in 1989 to Connecticut, where her husband was from, and finally to Hamden after she got divorced.
In 1995 she got her master’s degree in counseling from Southern Connecticut State University and worked counseling adults returning to college.
She said throwing out clothes can be painful. "It’s a painful process because sometimes we hang on to things because there’s an emotion attached to them. When we hang on to things for emotional reasons, it’s like we’re not giving ourselves permission to release."
Revamping a wardrobe might involve learning new ways to "mix and match." For example, they might use an old blazer with jeans, or a skirt with a different jacket.
"That means they’re taking some of the things they already own and their reinterpreting them," Lyons-Kemler said. That way she can show clients how to create many new outfits with what they already have.
Sometimes, the old clothes make you look frumpy, or they aren’t age-appropriate any more. She is 52, and although she might still fit in clothes she wore when she was 22 doesn’t necessarily mean they look good on her.
"I can wear my daughter’s clothes, but I’m not because it doesn’t look good any more. Just because it fits doesn’t mean it fits," she said.
Lyons-Kemler said she’s never more excited than when she’s rummaging through someone’s closet trying to reinterpret their wardrobe and make them look good, or taking people shopping, which is something else she does.
"I want to hang out in somebody’s closet," she said.