Shop Sustainably: A How-To With Jesse & Karen

Karen Zelden

VT Client Karen Zelden wears a Men’s Saint Laurent suit.

With everything that’s going on in the world these days, seasonal shopping and outfit planning may not be your top priority. But—let’s not forget that mastering your style and wardrobe will make you feel empowered, confident, and ready to take on all of life’s challenges.

“At the end of the day, it’s not about having a lot of stuff. It’s about having the right stuff.”

-VT Co-Founder Jesse Garza

Streamlining your wardrobe and building a timeless collection of pieces is easier than it seems. We interviewed VT’s Jesse Garza and his longtime client Karen Zelden to get the scoop on how to shop your closet and curate a wardrobe that feels exciting and modern, without spending a fortune on new clothes every season.

Just ahead, find out from Jesse and Karen which pieces they chose this season to elevate Karen’s wardrobe, and what you can do to start building a timeless wardrobe you can style and restyle for years to come.

Q: Karen, How long have you been curating your wardrobe?

Over 20 years! Or as long as I’ve been working with Jesse and Visual Therapy. Over the years, we’ve transformed my wardrobe in accordance with my lifestyle. I started off as a corporate business woman, but now I’m out of the corporate world. Since I already had so many great pieces from the early days—bullet-proof Narciso Rodriguez dresses, amazing leather jackets, and beautiful outerwear—it was easy with Jesse’s help to add a few “wow” pieces every season to freshen up my existing wardrobe and restyle the old with the new.

Karen ZeldenKaren has her “uniforms” and she tends to favor body skimming silhouettes. She added this Alexander McQueen cotton pencil skirt to her wardrobe and will style it up or down depending on what kind of top or shoe she chooses.

Q: Karen, which pieces would you consider the workhorses in your wardrobe?

100% black leather jackets. I’ve had a black Christian Dior 3/4 sleeve leather jacket for over 12 years and I still wear it! I used to wear it with ladylike outfits and now I use it to dress down evening gowns and cocktail dresses. I also wear my jean jackets a ton—I have one in white, black, light wash denim, and I just recently added a dark wash Celine to my collection.
Karen ZeldenKaren added this modern, oversized leather jacket by Khaite to her lineup. It’s a great alternative to a biker and can be worn with jeans, dresses, and skirts.

Q: Jesse and Karen, if you were to design the perfect capsule wardrobe, which pieces would you include?

J: I’m very classic so for me it would be made up of great fitting basics. One bullet proof dress in a neutral color in the style of Roland Mouret or Victoria Beckham, a pair of jeans that fit perfectly, a pair of tailored trousers, great t-shirts, and one “WOW” piece—an amazing leather trench coat, or an outerwear piece with an element of surprise—maybe a black coat with a pop of white under the collar.

K: First off, I’d make most of the fabrics season less and the colors neutral. I’m a firm believer in the idea of wearing 90% of your wardrobe 10 months out of the year! A black leather jacket, a pair of white jeans, a high quality black pencil skirt, a knit dress, a pair of black booties, a black slingback pump, and a few t-shirts to wear as underpinnings. Each piece needs to work with several other pieces in your wardrobe and you have to be able to dress it up or down.

Karen is a huge fan of fitted, knit dresses. This Alexander McQueen black and white knit dress will work well dressed up with a sleek coat and pumps or dressed down with a black denim jacket and espadrilles.

Q: Jesse and Karen, what advice would you give to someone who wants to “shop their closet” and build a timeless wardrobe?

J: If you follow the VT process, you’ve laid a foundation to shop your closet. It all starts with a closet edit, followed by shopping for fill-ins, and then styling looks with old and new pieces. One rule my clients and I live by is that every piece needs to be a 10 and you have to love it. You don’t need to buy an entirely new wardrobe every season, if you have the right basics you can purchase a few pick-me-ups to elevate your tried and true staples.

K: Forget what you think you should and shouldn’t have. Not every style or trend will work for every body type. What pieces do you love that make you feel fabulous when you put them on? Start there, to get a sense of your style type and always stay true to it. From there, consider your lifestyle—are you a full-time businesswoman or retired and traveling the world? It’s also important to be functional—make sure whatever you buy is comfortable and fits you at the size you currently are. Last but not least, take care of your pieces! If you get your handbags and shoes cleaned and repaired every so often they will last much, much longer.

Jesse x Karen Spring ’20 Capsule

Karen's Spring '20 Capsule