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Can't Decide What to Bring on Vacation? Deco Stylists Will Help You Pack

 Get where you're going in style with help from fashionistas Debbie Kahn and Emily Simon of Deco.
Travel in Style
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ROSCOE VILLAGE — Unless you're heading to or from a workout, stop with the yoga pants, ladies.

That's a little free advice from Debbie Kahn, 41, and Emily Simon, 26, who launched the styling service Deco in late May, also known as Style by Deco.

Their mission: to help women of all ages, shapes, sizes and budgets look their best whether running errands or attending a fancy cocktail party. They'll also help you organize your life — from cleaning out your closet to figuring out the best things to pack for your summer vacation.

Though Deco will take on male clients, the vast majority of people who avail themselves of Kahn and Simon's expertise are professional women, in their mid-30s to 50s.

 Tips from the pros: Neutrals are the key to smart, yet chic, packing.
Tips from the pros: Neutrals are the key to smart, yet chic, packing.
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

"They don't have a lot of time or they need some help," said Kahn. She added: "We're somewhat therapists, we help with self-image."

Patty Wetli got some sound advise about packing for a trip, find out just how many shoes you really need:

Closet 'Purging'

Services include closet organizing, which typically boils down to closet "purging," personal shopping and even assistance in packing for a vacation.

"We're going to help you spend your money the right way. We help people save by not making the same mistakes over and over again," said Kahn, who has a degree in fashion merchandising and more than 20 years of retail experience working for brands like BCBG Max Azria.

A typical consultation with the pair, who charge $85 per hour, starts with a questionnaire to determine the client's existing shopping habits, lifestyle and goals.

The next step is usually a closet edit and purge.

"Most of the closets we go into are just nightmares. Everything's jumbled, shoes are in piles on the floor. No wonder you can't put together an outfit — you can't see half of what you have," said Kahn, who lives in Roscoe Village with her husband and 3-year-old daughter.

Their top tip for getting organized: check your sentimentality at the closet door.

Questions the duo said anyone should ask themselves when evaluating items in their closet: Is it dated? When was the last time I wore it? Is it in good condition?

Simon recalled one client, now a professional in her 30s, whose closet was full of a "lot of clubby dresses" from her 20s. The garments represented a lot of great memories to the client, and she was reluctant to part with them.

"The memories will always be there," said Simon, a former teacher who lives in Streeterville. "Get rid of the clothes."

A closet full of unwearable clothes is often the symptom of an underlying disease — namely poor shopping habits, such as buying clothing in the wrong size or picking up items just because they're on sale.

Insisting on purchasing a dress in a size 6 when you're a size 8 is ultimately self-defeating, Kahn said.

"Then you're never going to wear it," she said, "because you're never going to like the way you look in it."

When it comes to bargain hunting, a deal is only a deal if the item is something that suits your style and needs.

"Just because it's $20 and originally sold for $300, if you never wear it, you wasted $20," Kahn said.

Packing Help

With the summer travel season in full swing, Kahn and Simon have frequently been called in to help clients avoid the curse of overpacking, which has become even more problematic as airlines have begun charging per piece of luggage.

"People have a hard time leaving things behind," Simon said. "They think, 'What if I need this? What if I need that?'"

The pair, who count celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe, Sarah Jessica Parker and Victoria Beckham as fashion inspirations, recently pulled together looks for a client's five-day trip to Malibu. The choices they made, which they shared with DNAinfo Chicago, demonstrate lessons anyone can use to pack smartly and chicly, just like the pros.

Traveling comfortably doesn't have to mean traveling sloppily. Skip the sweats and opt instead for a pair of capris and tank top, plus a sweater to stay warm in flight. Wearing bulkier items on the plane, like jeans and a sweater, will also save space in your suitcase. Use a cross-body bag as your carry-on, and it can double as a day bag when you reach your destination, Kahn said. Ditch the heels and wear a chic pair of flats or flip-flops for the mad dash through the airport — but remember to bring a pair of socks to put on as you go through security.

Neutrals are your friend. Pack neutral shoes, accessories and pants or skirts to maximize opportunities to mix and match. Allow yourself one great pair of neutral heels for evening looks — and no more than four pairs of shoes total for a week's vacation. Kahn advises saving pops of color for items like small clutches, statement necklaces or cami-style tops that can easily be folded into tiny bundles.

Think about items that can perform double-duty. Choose shoes that can be dressed up or down. If heading for a beach vacation, skip the see-through cover-up or sarong and opt for something that can also be worn as a dress or tunic top. Re-wearing an item on vacation is perfectly acceptable, Simon said. There's no need for a unique outfit every day — the same pair of pants or skirt can be worn multiple times with different tops and a single well-chosen pair of earrings can carry you through your entire trip.

Do your homework. Call your hotel and have a chat with the concierge or simply Google something along the lines of, "What should I pack for Seattle?" Having an understanding of the vibe and culture of the place you're visiting — "Is it super-casual? Can you go from hiking clothes straight to dinner?" — will help you make smarter decisions about what to pack, said Kahn. She once took a pair of glamorous heels on a vacation to Arizona, only to discover that Tevas were the rule. Never again.

Plan ahead. "Don't wait until the last minute to pack," Simon said. Give yourself time to purchase anything you might need and lay everything out well in advance. Walk yourself through your expected daily itinerary  — hanging by the pool, sightseeing, going to a show — and think in terms of a day look and an evening look for each day.

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