by Kimberly Rae Miller
Borough/Neighborhood: Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
Profession: Owner, Lee Lee’s Valise a boutique catering to women sizes 10 to 28.
Lisa (Lee Lee) Dolan is a Brooklyn native and the proud daughter of a New York City firefighter. She trained as a graphic artist and had several diverse careers before starting her own website design company. But fashion has always been a consuming passion and it called to her.
As a plus sized woman she struggled to find fashion forward clothing that’s not the same “old lady clothes.” She finally decided that the only way to get the clothes that she needed was to open her own store. Her boutique, Lee Lee’s Valise, opened on May 5, 2007. Lisa designs and produces her own styles which are made in very limited cuts that sell out because of the fit, the fabric and the very reasonable price point for the quality of the garments.
Lisa created a boutique that caters to the professional woman in the size range of 10 to 28. Not a traditional “plus size” shop with drape-like moo-moos and twin sets, but a hip and trendy boutique that offers fashion forward clothing – just a store with different sizes. Lee Lee’s Valise has been wildly successful since day one and is often featured on TLC’s “What Not to Wear” as the place where you find the perfect thing to wear if you are any bigger than a size ten.
You can read more about Lisa and her store by visiting www.leeleesvalise.com.
How would you define your personal style?
I prefer the classic looks that flatter the body with a flare of runway style. Never boxy or “matchy-matchy.” but a more fitted approach that accentuates the natural curves of a woman’s body. You can never look perfect, but you can always look better. And I dress to accentuate my best features. Bold prints and vibrant colors are also a must as well as shape and definition. Wear clothing that makes you smile gives off an air of confidence and people will take notice.
When you’re working with a client, what’s your process in helping them find the right outfit?
First, you have to determine their body type and comfort zone. Then you guide them to clothing that will flatter their body type be it “apple, pear or any fruit in-between” and gently encourage venturing out of the comfort zone into new prints and styles. As long as it fits! Find an outfit the actually fits and flatters their shape and you will be surprised how far out of the box most women will be willing to go. They can be fashion forward, on trend and truly happy with the way they look in ways that they had not been for a long time.
For those of us size 14 and up, what style tips should we keep in mind while creating a flattering and fashionable signature style?
Foundation! Waistline! Neckline!
The proper foundation garments will add “perspective” to your look and put everything where it should go! You must have a bra that fits properly so that your clothes will fit the way they are meant to fit. Smooth out the lines with shape wear to set the stage for your look.
Always show a waistline. Either use a belt or use the shape of your clothing to create one. It doesn’t always have to be your actual waist, it can be the illusion that the look creates!
Frame your face with a flattering neckline. This brings the attention upward. Also, choosing a deep V can elongate your neckline and give the illusion of length.
Common clothing mistakes to avoid?
Symmetry: Avoid clothing that may pull around your bust line or across your back. If it doesn’t fit on the bust line do not buy it no matter how pretty the print may be. The bust line should fall “under the bust”. If it is somewhere in the middle or riding too high it was not cut for a fuller bust and should be avoided.
Coordination – Don’t try to match your outfit. Get things that go together not things that match. Use textures and color tones to make it work.
Variety – don’t wear black all the time! Black is great and can be the mainstays of your wardrobe but remember black shows more lines than a print. Prints keep your eye moving. If it is a solid color you are looking for try to use tones of navy, charcoal or burgundy.
Pennywise – Focus on quality, not quantity. Look for items that will take you into next season. Splurge on classic items that are more like investment pieces that help build your wardrobe.
Favorite item in your closet right now?
My favorite item is one of my Lisa’s wrap dresses that were created exclusively for Lee Lee’s Valise. The teal flower and navy squares are two of my favorite prints. This season I combined two of my favorites: The Lisa Wrap Dress and Our Leather Obi Sash. It takes the basic wrap dress to another level and brings you right on trend with the runway. Add tights and boots to make it more casual or heels to bring it into the night.
Trends you wish would go away already?
Harem pants. MC Hammer didn’t look good in them either. Shoe boots are another look that should be limited to Santa’s Elves as they shorten the leg and are just not flattering. Oh. And of course the meat dress – at least the raw meat dress. I like my clothing medium well.
Favorite Five in the Five Boroughs?
Bergdorf Goodman 5 floor Shoe Department: When I need to find that perfect shoe they always seem to have it for me. I love the personal service.
Louis Vuitton: for my handbag fix. I am an avid collector and it is always a special treat to get a new handbag or accessory. I love the classic look and the quality that seems to last forever. It is an investment in style.
Calpurnia: is my favorite wine and cheese bar in Carroll Gardens. Nothing is better than sitting down to a glass of wine from their extensive yet affordable wine list and some imported Sicilian cheese and olives after a long and stressful day.
The Cooks Companion: We cook every night in our house and we love to use new gadgets and accents for our table. They have every possible tool for someone who enjoys entertaining at home.
Yesterdays News: My favorite local antique shop. I pass it everyday on my way to the store and I always find a true treasure from an estate sale that fits perfectly with my sensibility.