Out with the Old...

Deborah Norville is standing in her second-floor hallway, examining a pumpkin-colored dress that she first wore in 1986 as news anchor at Chicago’s WMAQ-TV The shoulder pads would fit right into a Dynasty rerun, and the hem falls inches below anything resembling ’90s fashion. But “it looked so good on me before!” she plaintively protests. “It could look good on me again.” Now host of the syndicated Inside Edition, Norville, 39, admits that she keeps her clothes for far too long, “but every item has a memory. I can look at a suit and say, ‘That’s the first thing I wore when I anchored Today’ or, ‘That’s what I wore on my first date with Karl.’ ”

Married for 10 years to investment banker Karl Wellner, 43, and the mother of Niki, 6, Kyle, 3, and Mikaela, 5 months, Norville has crammed six closets in their five-bedroom suburban New York home with clothes ranging from a size-4 red suit by Lolita Lempicka (last worn five years ago) to size-14 black evening trousers that got her through the last days of her third pregnancy.

Considering the emotional roots of her closet congestion, who better to help her confront it than Betty Halbreich, author of the new book Secrets of a Fashion Therapist! During 20 years as a consultant at Manhattan’s Bergdorf Goodman, Halbreich, 70, has dressed such celebrities as Candice Bergen, Angela Lansbury, Susan Lucci, Betty Buckley and Meryl Streep. PEOPLE enlisted Halbreich to help prune Norville’s wardrobe and update what remains.

In many ways, Norville, who is trying to lose the last of the 35 pounds gained during her recent pregnancy, is a typical working mom. She takes Niki to school before commuting to Inside Edition’s Manhattan studio. Weekends are spent at home “chasing kids,” but she still pulls herself together in khakis and a sweater set or crisp white shirt. “Why should I look better for total strangers than my own family?” she asks.

In other ways, Norville’s life is far from ordinary. She and Wellner go out two nights a week, perhaps once to dinner, once to a charity or business function. “I usually wear what I wore to work,” she says. But the couple frequently attend black-tie events, and Norville tapes her show 40 weeks a year. Her on-camera clothes are a mix of her own purchases and outfits borrowed from designers such as Escada and Emanuel Ungaro. (“It’s like being Cinderella,” she says, “only Cinderella gets to wear the clothes till midnight.”) To avoid appearing on the air too often in the same outfit, she keeps a notebook. “Every day,” she says, “I take a Polaroid of myself and put it in.”

Her husband has strong opinions about Norville’s style: “Pants,” he declares, “are her look.” Wellner, who managed to hang on to only one closet for himself, has tried to help Norville unclog hers. “We have thumbs up or thumbs down,” he says. “She’ll try on clothes and say, ‘What about this?’ ”

…In With The New!

On a crisp winter day, Halbreich arrives to get the job done. She starts with Norville’s impressive collection of footwear, most of which is kept in one closet. Norville pulls some dated white pumps from a box. “They’ve barely been worn,” she says. “Thrift them,” Halbreich orders. Norville holds up a pair of worn flats. “Very out,” says Halbreich. “I don’t like shabby shoes.”

A bit defensively, Norville reveals a drawerful of shoulder pads. “Throw them away,” says Halbreich. “Shoulder pads are good for polishing the floor.”

Next come the clothes. Spotting a black-and-white-striped Claude Montana jacket, Halbreich says, “This you’ve had a long time! What are you saving it for?”

“Karl gave it to me,” says Norville.

“Then keep it,” Halbreich advises.

The braided “Michael Jackson” jacket purchased nearly a decade ago at Fred Hayman’s in Beverly Hills has never been worn, Norville admits—unless you count one New Year’s Eve. “We were having dinner at home with friends, and we all tried it on,” she recalls. But she decides to hold on to it because it will make “a great soldier’s outfit for Halloween.”

Norville leads Halbreich to her evening clothes and pulls out a copper-sequined gown. When she wore it to her first Emmy Awards in 1980, she says, it was the most expensive dress she had ever purchased. Halbreich agrees she should keep it. “Evening clothes you don’t give away,” she says. “They are the hardest thing to find, and they’re bought with love. If an evening dress was trendy 10 years ago, it’s fun and funky to bring it out 10 years later.”

Though Halbreich advises tossing anything not worn during the past 12 months, she clearly makes exceptions. More important, she says, is to “stop buying so many pieces. That’s how you end up with a closet where nothing matches.” She herself wears the same outfit two or three times a week, varying the jewelry; but to do that, she concedes, a woman must feel very secure. “That’s what I try to teach people,” she says, “some sort of fashion security.”

One thing she has discovered during her years of pulling together the wardrobes of the rich and famous, Halbreich adds, is that pricey isn’t necessarily better. “Shop at an expensive store and see what you like,” she suggests. “Then go to Target or J.C. Penney.” But she cautions against scrimping on undergarments, “which can change the fit of a suit,” or on tailoring: “If something is in need of alteration, it doesn’t get better.”

Their session finished, Norville assesses the clothes they’ve discarded: “This is my life on the floor!” Halbreich is sympathetic, but in the end the consultant shrugs off sentiment, pointing out, “It’s clothing.”

Moreover, Halbreich has salve for the pain—a selection of items for spring. She proffers an array of up-to-the-minute accessories [sidebar, page 111]. But the outfits she has chosen—a Calvin Klein suit in robin’s-egg blue and a deep-red Louis Dell’Olio ensemble—best reveal the trends of the season. “I feel a huge surge towards color,” she says, suggesting that Norville spice up her wardrobe with pastel accents—a filmy scarf, a sweater, or a T-shirt with a slightly lower neckline.

The main cause of Norville’s closet gridlock, Halbreich concludes, is that “like many people, she keeps rebuying the same thing.” The newswoman has 10 dark blazers, for instance, and five blue-and-white-striped shirts. Once the winnowing is over, Halbreich says, Norville should rearrange, putting “her wearable stuff right in front of her nose, so she can grab things quickly.” What’s more, “nobody needs this much,” says Halbreich. “The thrift shop is waiting.”

Related Articles