Susana turns dressing into an art form. She starts each of her outfits with a description of her creative process and is very descriptive of how she came to a certain outfit. Learn the difference of being creative and innovative and take your dressing and style to a new level. Let’s discover how!

Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?

Certainly. I was born in Venezuela, but my entire family is from Spain, so we left when I finished high school and moved to Spain, where my home is. I came to the United States to finish my university degree, and was offered a job when I graduated, so now I pretty much live here, although I go back home to Spain at least once a year. I have worked on television, as well as in public relations and advertising. The largest part of my professional life was spent as a higher education administrator, working for different universities in fundraising and development, as well as student affairs, career planning, etc. For the past seven years, I’ve been a graduate and MBA professor of leadership in a School of Business, which is why I feature so many work appropriate outfits on the blog.

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As a point of reference which age group do you belong to or perhaps you are willing to share your age?

I have no problem sharing my age! I am 43 years old. I think everyone should own their age!

Can you tell us a bit more about your blog A key to the Armoire and why you created it?

I have always been interested in fashion, but most of all, in personal style as a means of communication. What we wear says a lot about whom we are, what we care about, and what we value, so it is a very important communication tool. I have always been baffled by the dichotomy of people saying that they want to be “unique” or “one of a kind”, and jump at the first opportunity to dress “like everyone else” or buy “the latest IT whatever”. I never wanted to be like that.

I never really cared about how other people dressed, I simply wanted to dress the person I was. Once I started working, especially in higher education, people often asked me for advice about dressing professionally, so the idea of possibly helping others to see their closet (or themselves!) in a different light was definitely a motivation behind it.

Also, I am a very big fan of Thomas Jefferson, and I had always been fascinated by his dedication to chronicling his daily, seemingly unimportant home life. I thought it would be very interesting to do something like that with what I truly wear day in and day out. It’s kind of a diary of my own personal style development. I wanted to share with people how you ALWAYS have something to wear, and that you don’t need to shop for new things all the time to look good.

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How would you describe your own style?

I would describe my style as an outlet for who I am and what I feel every day, so it varies a little, but overall, I would say that it tends to be feminine and ladylike, a bit preppy at times, and always classic. I do enjoy contrasts, so adding feminine touches to a menswear-inspired outfit is always a favorite for me.

I love how you describe your styling process with each outfit. What is your most common starting point and why?

I would not know what to answer with regards to my most common starting point because it truly depends. Sometimes I am inspired to start an outfit from a feeling or an event, while other times, I may start from the color combination of a silk scarf or the texture of a shoe. Yet other times, I may start from a new piece I bought or one I haven’t worn in a long time. I also get inspired by a silhouette and, from there, start building the outfit with what I have already. By the way, I’m so happy that you enjoy the styling process I include in the posts! When I started doing it, I thought some people would enjoy reading about how I put together the outfits, and possibly start getting inspired themselves to explore their own process.

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What would you consider the most important components of your style?

Probably being innovative in how I approach the pieces in my armoire. Being creative is great, but I value being innovative a lot more. Most people don’t know the difference between the two. Both processes need creativity, but being creative means coming up with something that has never been done before. Innovation, on the other hand, is taking something that already exists and changing it to make it better. It is a concept I teach in business school, but it also applies to something as mundane as a closet.

Most women stand in front of it and say: “I have nothing to wear” even though they are standing in front of hundreds of things. What happens is that most of us buy something, wear it once in a particular way, and have a hard time “seeing” it styled in any other way. That’s because creativity comes easier, and also because we associate certain “states of mind” or “feelings” with our pieces of clothing, so we find it hard to assign different ones to them the second time around.

Innovation requires applying creativity within limitation (what you already have around), so forcing yourself to seeing those pieces in different combinations encourages you to become innovative within your own closet. That’s why I always link back to how I have styled a piece before, so that readers can see its possibilities.

The second aspect that I consider quite important with regards to style is knowing yourself and the occasion for which you are dressing. It doesn’t matter how fabulous your outfit is, if it isn’t YOU, you’ll feel (and be seen) as if you are wearing a costume. Even if you are dressing for a particular occasion, find within yourself how YOU would feel comfortable in that situation, and wear that. It doesn’t mean that if you’re most comfortable as a beach bum, that you will wear flip-flops to a job interview, but that you will find a sportier version that fits you and is still situation-appropriate.

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Where do you live and how does that influence your style?

I live in South Florida, in the United States. Most people think of Miami as warm year-round, and it is, for the most part. We don’t get a whole lot of extremes around here. When the rest of the country is experiencing scorching conditions, we are in the mid-seventies, and when the rest of the country is experiencing tundra conditions, we probably are experiencing our “Florida winter”, which is low-sixties or fifties.

This means that I can wear pretty much everything save coats! I always laugh when I go to Spain and it’s maybe the same temperature we are having in Florida, let’s say, in Spring, and people there are wearing coats and scarves, but in Florida, even if you freeze, you CANNOT be seen in a scarf because…we’re in Florida for goodness sake! So people still freeze, but in flip-flops! It cracks me up! On a more serious note, this becomes more important when I travel. I try to understand the dressing culture of the place I visit and adapt accordingly, but again, while always honoring my own style.

Do you feel you have a signature style?

I’m not sure. I guess that would be for others to say. This question reminds me of a co-worker who was looking at a picture of me as a child. She looked at it and said “Oh, look it’s Susana wearing the same clothes, but smaller!” I almost died laughing! It was spot on. I have always veered towards classic clothing, except that one time in high school when I REALLY wanted paint-splattered jeans… Overall, I think my signature style is attempting to reflect kindness and elegance through my outfits. I don’t want the clothes to take over. I want them to complement what I have to say or my behavior. It’s a constant reminder of who I am, as well as whom I want to be.

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What inspires your outfit choices the most?

I kind of touched on that above, but I would say it would be a tie between how I feel at the time and the occasion for which I have to dress. With that said, in terms of what inspires my shopping choices, I would say quality and classic style. I take very good care of my things because I want to keep them forever. After all, everything comes back again!

Do you take things like color profiling or body type into account when you dress?

Body type is important because you need to know whether a particular silhouette will work for you. I wear a lot of shorts. In fact, I would say that 60% of my down time is spent wearing shorts. I’m much more a shorts person than a jeans person. Some people may say “But no one over 40 should wear shorts!” And to that, I say: “It depends”. If your legs can handle shorts, I say wear them to your heart’s content! But be honest and critical of your body in the sense of knowing what you can pull off and what you cannot, and then examine whether you feel good doing so. For example, I could probably pull off and micro-mini, but I don’t “feel” like doing so because I just don’t think it’s “me”. As for color profiling, I have never done so, but I do feel affinity for certain colors, and in my case they are: neutrals and jewel tones. I guess I’m very much about contrasts!

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Has your style changed at all after turning 40?

Not at all, but then again, I’ve always been into classic styles.

Do you believe in dressing ‘age appropriately’ and what does it mean to you?

I think I explained that above. I strongly believe that your body follows your mind, and therefore, your state of mind and your life situation need to be factored into the definition of what “age appropriate” means to you. I am single, professional, no kids, etc., so the way I dress reflects my life situation, and my mental state at this time, quite well. When I was in college, for example, I would wear more jeans and shorts because that just fit that life stage better, but even then, whenever I had to host my television show, I would be the only college student dressed professionally on campus!

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Would you say that at this stage of your life you are now more, or less interested in fashion, style and the way you look?

Because of the blog, I would say that I am more aware about it, but I continue to be as interested in it as I have always been.

Why is the way you look important to you?

Because it is who I am. Nevertheless, I don’t ever give it more importance than what it has. I like fashion and style for its artistic value, and for the opportunity it gives me to express myself, but at the end of the day, it’s an outfit, nothing more. I’m not a high-maintenance person at all.

Which of the outfits on your blog are personal favorites and why?

Probably the dressier ones because they’re more unusual and fun to come up with, but it’s hard to say. I have a special place in my heart for anything that my mother has made for me or anything that belonged to her. I also love wearing my vintage pieces and accessories because I love antiquing!

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Do you follow trends? And if yes, which trends excite you at the moment?

I followed trends somewhat. I mean, I know what’s fashionable, but I don’t let that dictate what I wear. There are things that I have been wearing before they are fashionable and after they are no longer fashionable. If there is a trend I like, or one that works for me, I translate it to fit me, but if the trend means nothing to me, I happily ignore it! At the moment, I am quite excited with gingham being all the rage for Spring. I love gingham, and I have like a gazillion gingham-everything in my closet!

Do you have any fashion and style tips for women over 40?

It’s hard for me to say because it should be such a personal decision. I guess the only thing I would say is to wear quality, classic pieces.

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What are your plans for your blog and how do you see it develop over the coming years?

My blog continues to be a chronicle of my style, and I want it to continue being that. I have a job, so this is a side hobby that allows me to explore a passion I have. It would be great if I could develop it into a starting point for writing about style or even hosting media segments on the issue. We’ll see!

Anything further you would like to add?

A big THANK YOU! It’s been a wonderful honor and pleasure to share a bit of myself with you and your readers. I would also want to welcome anyone new that takes a peek and likes what they see, and of course, a big hug to all my loyal readers out there too!

Be sure to check out Susana’s fabulous blog A Key to the Armoire and enjoy many more outfits and descriptions of her creative processes!

What is your creative process in creating your daily outfit? Which of Susana’s outfits is your favorite?

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A style interview with Susana | 40plusstyle.com

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