Every girl I have ever met has wanted to recreate that scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts goes into a designer store in her ‘work’ clothes and is shunned by the sales assistants, only to then be transformed by Richard Gere, taken shopping and have assistants fawn over her like adoring fans. Well that happened to me, recently, and it is an experience I cannot recommend too highly.
Just to set the record straight, I am not a bad-girl-made-good who has met a millionaire. I simply took on the services of a wonderful local Personal Shopper and Stylist. I knew her from having a ‘colour consultation’ the previous year (a very generous birthday present from some friends), in which, yes there was some wafting of different coloured scarves, but she took me gently by the hand and guided me through which colours and tones made the most of my pale complexion, with blue eyes and dark hair. She prescribed colour, and lots of it, as well as styles of clothes and accessories that would complement my long waist/short legs and sloping shoulders with a deceptively large bust of a figure. Out went the Breton tops and wide leg trousers; in came structured jackets, wrap dresses and skinny jeans. The results were immediate, with friends and strangers (!) complementing me on my ‘new’ look. I felt so much more confident about how I dressed, and it also made getting dressed in the mornings a whole load easier – always a must for a busy mum of three!
It was so successful, and the subsequent shopping trips so fruitful that, when I recently turned 40, I decided to treat myself to the next stage of the transformation – a full wardrobe de-clutter and personal shopping session. The Stylist thus duly turned up on my doorstep on a Friday morning, wielding a large roll of binbags and the next thing I knew, the contents of my wardrobe were being scrutinised for appropriate colour, shape and standard. This might sound very daunting but I am not a very sentimental person about clothes and so I found myself getting more and more into it by the second. Any clothes that were instantly identified as no good for me were relegated to the bin liners (She takes cast offs to the charity shop on her way home – this stops her clients rummaging through them and retrieving items after she has left!), while we searched for ‘outfits’ that could be made. We were ruthless: a pair of shoes I have had for years but have never been able to walk in, had to go, as did a favourite cardigan that was completely shapeless and had a button missing. Some items were also identified that could be altered to work harder and those are now in a pile awaiting a visit to the local dressmaker.
A Personal Stylist works on the theory that your wardrobe should work very hard for you, and therefore everything should go with everything else. Therefore tops must go with skirts and trousers, and jackets should be able to work with almost anything. She also advises the use of accessories, such as scarves and belts that are often cheap and can change outfits in a second. So, after four hours, endless trying on (she likes to take photos of you in successful outfits so you can remember what works), and 5, yes 5!, bin liners full of cast offs, I had half the clothes I used to have, and was ready for the next session – the shopping!
Vicki recommended clothes shopping on a Friday if you can, as all the new stock gets delivered on a Thursday for the weekend trade and so the shelves are full with all the latest styles and sizes. We met in the Bentall Centre in Kingston for a quick coffee while she took me through my shopping list and route (as little backtracking as possible and the biggest items first) While we had been decluttering my wardrobe we had discussed things that I needed to fill out the gaps, as well as ‘investment’ pieces that would last for years. We had also talked about budget and what I was and was not prepared to try. The aim is really to do one big shop so you don’t have to go shopping again for at least 6 months (if doing a season specific session), or, hopefully in my case, a year.
As soon as we entered the first shop I could see where using an ‘expert’ comes into its own. Vicki walked me through the store, straight to the items she had identified for me (she spends a huge amount of time researching before a session, both instore and online, and she knows all the store managers by name), be it a tiny necklace on the back of a display, or a leather jacket in the window. She instructed the assistants to fetch other sizes or styles, and marked everything I bought down in her notebook for future reference. Gradually, as I got my ‘eye in’, I selected things by myself, but for the most part everything she chose for me was perfect. And it was fun! It was like shopping with a really good girlfriend, but one who is totally honest about how things look on you. One dress, for example, looked amazing on the hanger but dreadful on me, and she didn’t hesitate to tell me. We chatted the entire way round, working out how my wardrobe was coming together. And all I had to do was pay, smile and carry some of the bags! At one point she stood me in front of a mirror in New Look, surrounded by carrier bags, and instructed me to ‘stand still’ while she scurried round the jewellery display collecting various items for me to try. Another time I sat in the shoe department of John Lewis while she instructed the assistant “darling, please could you get all these shoes in a size 4 and 5 and we ‘d like to see those handbags also”. I honestly did feel like my Julia Roberts moment had arrived!!
At the end of the 4-hour session I was exhausted, laden down with bags, and my bank balance was considerably lighter, but I was thrilled. Once everything was unpacked and hung in my wardrobe, in the way she suggested (jackets at each end, tops together in colours, bottoms together), I could really see – for the first time that my wardrobe looked like something out of a magazine. Everything really does go with everything, and already I am walking taller and with a spring in my step. I have been ‘shopping’ since and now have such an eye for what suits me that I find I can spot appropriate things immediately, BUT, also find that I don’t want, or need them, as I already have the perfect wardrobe for me back at home.
I will go and see my stylist again, later in the year, for my ‘winter’ wardrobe, and I shall save up for the session. But I can honestly say that every penny I spent on my Personal Styling and Shopping experience was worth it and can highly recommend it, for all ages and budgets. It would make a great present for a friend, sister or mother. Or yourself!
Article written by Laura Welsh about her experiences with a Personal Stylist. Click to book your own Personal Styling, Shopping or Colour Analysis Session at Abigail’s Party now!