R5 Holiday Shopping Tips from Personal Shopping Pro Cat Alessio

It’s that time of year when nightmares of Black Friday stampedes and loved ones’ dejected expressions at unwrapping yet another pair of socks infiltrate your
otherwise Sugarplum Fairy dreams. Here, Cat Alessio, owner of Cat’s Style, a personal-shopping and style-consulting service catering to “discerning clients” in Northern Westchester, Fairfield County, and New York City, schools us on how to make sure your well-intentioned gift (“But everyone loves fruitcake!”) isn’t hidden in a closet, or—God forbid—regifted.

How can people figure out the right thing to give? It’s important to find out about the individual’s lifestyle: what kind of work do they do, their favorite activities and hobbies, and what kind of social life they enjoy. Also the relationship; I try to give the recipient the feeling that the gift-giver took the time to pick something just for them.    

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Which is paramount: wow factor or personalization? I think it’s the wow factor. People may not remember what you gave them, but they will always remember how you made them feel.

How about safe bets for people whose personal tastes you don’t know well? I love to put together themed gift baskets, like gadgets and cookbooks from Williams-Sonoma for someone who you know likes to cook. A deviously plush robe and slippers along with a day at a spa might be just right for a busy mom or dad.

Tell us your top holiday shopping advice. Never, ever skimp on quality. It’s better to buy less than to load up on things that aren’t going to last long or wear well.

What are some crazy gift-buying parameters you’ve been given? I once had a guy ask me to pick out the exact same items for a few ‘special ladies’ in his life so he wouldn’t get confused about what he had given them. I hope they never end up wearing their gifts at the same place!

Your idea of the perfect present, or the best one you ever received? You can’t buy it. He just turned ten years old and he calls me ‘Mom.’

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What’s the number-one thing on your wish list this year? Health, happiness, and a Birkin bag.                         

Photo by Peter Freed

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