Tina Sussman has been dressing women for over 20 years. She has built up a roster of clients from around the world and helps dress many executive women. She has helped me build a wardrobe, both business and evening wear over the past 10 years. Here I ask her about her success, and particularly about dressing women over 40.
Tina, tell me your background.
I’ve worked at Bergdorf Goodman for 17 years. Before that I was at Barney’s NY on the Miracle Mile in Manhasset. My clientele at this point is women over 40. They range from executives, Chief Executive Officers, Financial women to international women all over the world. I feel I relate to these women since I am over 40 as well and understand their needs.
You have such an amazing eye for fashion and a passion for it. How did you get into this field?
Both my parents went to FIT. My father designed men’s sportswear and my mother was an artist. I was exposed to fashion from an early age. I used to try new styles all the time growing up.
Tina, many times I walk into your office and you have racks of clothes for women that are going on trips or meetings. What is the main thing you look at when you are going to be dressing women?
Comfort is my number one concern. Many women get off the plane and go directly to a meeting. They don’t have time to change, so fabrics that do not wrinkle are a must. Color is also important. Certain colors exude power and confidence. I’m finding that dresses are the go-to for these women. Where suits (pants, skirt, and jacket) were the image most women wanted, they are now looking for a more feminine feel. Dresses with sleeves are my go-to silhouettes. They can walk into a meeting and feel confident and powerful. With a dress, my clients feel that their look is complete. Women who wear jackets and skirts or pants were always making sure they were tucked and buttoned up correctly and if they took off their jacket they didn’t look complete. Many designers such as Jason Wu, Akris, Michael Kors, Altuzarra are becoming more aware that this is the direction to go. Many designers also will have extra fabric available to have a fitter add sleeves.
What do you look for to help women look best as their bodies are ever changing, aging?
Proportions are a key element in dressing women over 40. Length of dress or skirt will change the entire look of an outfit. Even though hemlines might be a bit shorter, women need to rethink this. Not all women can wear the silhouette of the season.
I feel that anything I buy with you I wear for years. How do you pick out pieces that are classic?
I walk the store every day. I believe classic with a bit of a twist is the direction I like to take. Fabrics, colors, textures are also what makes something classic and new looking.
What designers are you loving this season?
Altuzarra. Jason Wu. Akris. Dior.
If someone has limited resources, what few items would you recommend they buy each season that are trendless?
The items I would buy are:
Great dresses with sleeves
Blazer or Jacket (color)
Black skinny pant (Theory)
Crisp white shirt
Whatever trend is of that season I would incorporate to make it feel fresh and new.
Any tips on dressing your age?
Look in the mirror. Say to yourself: Would people complement me or stare at me?
Pay attention to the length of dresses and skirts, watch your neckline.
Limit prints that are too bold. You want to look effortless.