This year for my birthday I decided to gift myself time with someone who knows about fashion, as clothes are something I enjoy. I thought it might be helpful to share what I learned from hiring a personal stylist in case you’re considering doing so too.
The obvious first question is: why hire a stylist? My answer: as a midlife woman I was going through that crisis of confidence that comes with knowing you’re getting older and not wanting to look like mutton dressed as lamb, but also being unprepared to give up on stylish clothing all together. Unsure quite how to navigate this line, I chose to get some assistance from someone with a better and more experienced eye for this than me. I asked around and was told by a couple of people, whose fashion sense I admire, that Lynda was the woman to see.
For the few months leading up to my birthday I resisted the urge to splurge on clothes, despite the enticement of sales, saving up to pay for the investment ahead. My brief to Lynda was that I wanted to look age appropriate but on trend.
One of my reservations was that she would have me wearing things I didn’t feel comfortable in. I’ve got a pretty strong sense of my body shape, what I like to wear, what I think suits me and what doesn’t. I’m petite (and no, that doesn’t mean stick thin!) but have disproportionally long arms and legs. I’m short-waisted and well endowed, so tucking anything in at the waist is just not a good look. V-necks work, scoop necks, not so much. Equally I have quite strong views on the colours I like and what suits me: strong colours don’t and I’m surprisingly happy in greys and blues.
Perhaps most important of all though, is the way fabric feels against my skin and whether I can move in it. I really dislike wearing clothes that prickle or are stiff. I’m not a ‘natural fibres kind of woman’ but more a ‘woman on the go’ so I much prefer fabrics that stretch, feel soft to the touch, don’t wrinkle, don’t require special care and travel well.
You can understand given all this why I felt a little sorry for my unsuspecting stylist.
In an initial phone call I explained what I was hoping to achieve and we made a time for Lynda to come round and go through my wardrobe with me. While I had been mentally preparing to part with some beloved clothing friends, the process was still an unexpected jolt. I’m not sure if it was just Lynda’s style and energy but we went through my wardrobe with speed. And when I say wardrobe, I also mean the boxes of clothes and shoes stored in the garage!
Two thirds of my wardrobe ended up discarded: the denim jacket – “too German tourist”, most of my numerous cardigans, the extensive collection of black, the range of ‘fat’ jeans, anything faded, pilled or simply tired, any trousers that were wider than a slim fit, any duplicates, a couple of long-held but hardly worn fashion mistakes including the apple pink embroidered velvet coat that I’d worn once to a wedding. All of it, including numerous shoes and boots, ended up in a very large heap on the bedroom floor.
Following this I had several days to recover, read the lengthy email from Lynda explaining ‘my style’ and listing ‘things to buy’. I also had to do my ‘homework’ i.e. take the same kind of decisive scalpel to my underwear and jewellery, then sort the pile on the floor and deliver it to the charity shop.
Next came the shopping trip. This too was conducted at speed. We’d go into a shop and Lynda would flick through the racks and pull out things she thought would work on me. If it was a firm ‘No’ from me they were discarded, otherwise they made it to the dressing room. This was followed by a clear opinion from her and a “here’s what I think” from me.
Ultimately the decision to buy or not was mine, but having invested in Lynda’s services I was keen to try out some new things. As a result, between the remaining pieces in my wardrobe and the numerous new additions, I basically have a whole new wardrobe.
- Apparently I have good legs and should show them off. I have adjusted to skinny jeans and slim leg trousers and I’m really liking them. Some might even say I’m rocking them!
- You don’t need to buy at designer stores to look good, or even expensive. Much of what we bought came from chain stores I would have considered too young for me. Lynda’s observation: “clothes all get made in the same places, they just put different labels on them” – kind of like Homebrand in the supermarket, I guess.
- I was on the right track; Lynda concurred with quite a lot of the guidelines I’d already worked out as to what works for me. She also challenged me on some stuff – especially the number of items I wore which “drowned” me, instead of highlighting my good points.
- I now have a replicable formula which is even more precise than the one I’d worked out for myself: blazers (good), scarves (generally not), tops that end at the hip-break, three quarter sleeves, neutral colours – but a wider range, a couple of pieces of funky jewellery and some truly groovy sunglasses I would never have chosen myself.
- Although I’d tried before, my options for mixing and matching are much more numerous now. Everything seems to just go with everything else, so despite having fewer clothes, there are more outfits. It turns out I can have sufficient clothes in a small wardrobe and a chest of draws without having to relinquish out of season clothes to the garage.
I’ve achieved exactly what I wanted to achieve – modern clothes I feel good in that don’t relegate me to the fashion Bad Lands.
I’m also really enjoying my clothes and taking even better care of them than I had previously.
My Beloved has hung a full-length mirror so I can actually see the full extent of what I’m wearing instead of taking a cursory look from the waist up in the hall mirror.
Now that I’ve gotten over my “I should be able to do this myself” thinking, I realise the value of embracing the expertise of someone whose day-to-day is all about fashion.
I found the exercise well worth the investment. Lynda seemed to have an uncanny knack for knowing just how far to push me out of my comfort zone. She got me and my style very quickly and her confidence emboldened me to try things I wouldn’t have otherwise considered. Without her I’d still be dressed largely in black and white and drowning – literally and figuratively in clothes!
If your budget or priorities don’t stretch to a stylist there are a range of great books and websites out there you can check out. Even a fashion-conscious friend will give you some ideas (just be careful they’re not recommending their style for you, unless it’s one you wish to emulate!).
Needless to say I’m looking forward to the change of seasons and an opportunity to augment my wardrobe. I’ll be just a little more discerning – possibly with a little further help.
What are your thoughts on using a personal stylist?