Image: Sarah Palin
Mandel Ngan  /  AFP - Getty Images file
With a little help, and a lot of money, Sarah Palin went from fleece and denim shirts to a sleek, professional look.
updated 12/15/2009 5:52:46 PM ET 2009-12-15T22:52:46

Love her or loathe her, it's hard to argue that Sarah Palin didn't look chic during her debut at the Republican National Convention in September 2008. That weekend, Palin and her family were transformed overnight from fleece-wearing rubes to fashion plates, courtesy of a then-unnamed New York wardrobe stylist.

The transformation cost the Republican campaign $150,000, a figure that outraged Palin's supporters and detractors alike. Still, most everyone did agree that she looked fabulous. Her shining style moment came as she accepted the vice-presidential nomination. She looked sleek and feminine in a simple black pencil skirt and a cream-colored Valentino jacket that had been customized by a seamstress.

Lisa A. Kline, the stylist behind Palin's metamorphosis, recently spoke out about her experience dressing the former vice-presidential candidate. (She also defended the cost of the wardrobe, contending that many of the unworn items were returned.) Kline, who dresses top executives and television news personalities, specializes in clean, classic looks for the office and after-hours work events.

Want to make over your own wardrobe? Here are Kline's five tips for looking your professional best — and you don't have to spend six figures to do so.

Slideshow: Palin’s rise

Edit your closet
The first thing Kline does is go through a new client's existing wardrobe to see what's worth keeping. "I look for quality rather than quantity," she says. Get rid of "anything that looks worn — anything with pulls or pilling," Kline says. Dump poor-quality pieces, too. Hang on to good basics, such as tops in solid colors or simple prints, cashmere sweaters and "fine suiting, even if it's not in style right now," Kline says. "You can fix it with tailoring."

Find a great tailor
A talented seamstress can work wonders by making new pieces fit perfectly, a crucial part of looking your best. One overlooked area Kline suggests paying attention to is jacket sleeves — not just the length (they should end past your wrists, at the top of your hand) — but also the width. "The sleeve shouldn't be too wide," she says. "If there's too much fabric in your sleeves, it doesn't look clean." A tailor can also breathe new life into pieces you already own. Kline once spotted a beautiful purple wrap dress in a client's closet that didn't fit right but had too much potential to toss. "We had a tailor cut it off and make it into a fabulous wrap top," she says. The cost: $25.

Hidden touches count
The proper undergarments "transform an outfit," Kline says. She suggests investing in unadorned bras and underwear in a color that matches your skin tone, and a body shaper for times when you can't get a smooth line any other way. "If you're wearing a fitted dress, you don't want to see the dents at the top and the bottom of your underwear," Kline explains. Stock up, too, on double-stick tape. Kline, whose pet peeve is askew collars, uses it to stick down the points, keeping them even and straight.

Stay comfortable
Your clothing shouldn't detract from your concentration," Kline says. No matter how much you admire that mohair suit, that starchy white shirt or those sky-high pumps, if you're uncomfortable in them you won't wear them. Know yourself, and find clothing that you're happy to wear.

Keep it simple
Less is more when it comes to accessories, such as jewelry and glasses. Kline's rule of thumb is that each part of the body should have just one focal point. For example, around the face, "if you have on big earrings, don't wear a big, chunky necklace or a big, ruffled collar," she says. Her other no-no's include any jewelry that makes noise, such as jangly bracelets or earrings (save them for outside the office), and anything overdone, such as glasses with rhinestones. When in doubt, she says, "go for sleek and sophisticated."

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