For my 47th birthday I wanted to treat myself to something different. Something special. A gift that would stand the test of time. An investment piece if you like.
The idea came to me during one of my regular business coaching calls. And as soon as I decided to do it I felt both excited and apprehensive in equal measure. I’ve always loved clothes but I wasn’t sure if I was one of THOSE women. You know, the ones who look good and know they look good!
I was an overweight teenager. Struggling to look remotely stylish compared to my slim friends. Always feeling older and dressing more old fashioned because of my size.
Shopping over the years though hard, had become a perfectly tuned task. I’d always go on my own. I had a good eye for outfits but everything HAD to be tried on. Yes, even back in the day of communal changing rooms. I’d want to find a discreet corner but often I’d just have grin and bear it and ignore any raised eyebrows in my direction. 95% of try ons would go back on the rail, usually too tight for my extreme pear shape. Finding stylish clothes that actually FIT me, let alone SUIT me was my challenge. Needless to say, it would take hours. Every now and again I’d find a dress I could get into (hooray) but typically separates were the only option.
I didn’t know what a ‘wardrobe edit’ would entail. Thanks to 3 house moves in as many years I’d downsized my wardrobe each time and already felt it was streamlined. As I prepared for the session, I couldn’t help thinking that spending money on a stylist wasn’t what ordinary women like me did. It’s what glamourous, famous women did. Women like J-Lo.
It began with a conversation around the laptop on style. Brands. Women I look up to. I showed her the clothes in my wardrobe. Pieces I really liked that I wore. Pieces I really liked that I didn’t wear. Pieces I wished fit me better. Bargain pieces. Expensive pieces. Vintage pieces. Ebay pieces. Sentimental pieces. She listened to my stories about certain items and asked me interesting questions. It was fun. I noticed myself opening up.
She’d brought some accessories with her for the session. Statement jewellery, colourful footwear and unusual scarves.
On a separate rail she began pulling outfits together. She wanted to see me in them. Flashback to the Miss Selfridge changing room but I soon got over it. She started mixing and matching. She introduced a few of her accessories to my outfits.
She encouraged me to try different things.
We played around with the length of sleeves and shoulder pads. We discussed how materials and colours made me feel. Over a few hours a new side of me was emerging. It was very freeing. My confidence grew to the point where I suggested some random combinations.
She photographed me in 40 different outfits from clothes I already had in my wardrobe. They all had a new lease of life, sometimes from the smallest of tweaks.
Together, we anchored in the foundations. And despite being reluctant to let go of any of my clothes in the beginning, the charity shop pile was now fairly sizeable. I realised with zero judgement and the stylist’s gentle encouragement that some clothes didn’t serve me anymore.
Having always been super critical of myself in photographs, I was pleasantly surprised when later that day I received the images she’d taken of me.
Was that REALLY me? I looked, okay, for once. In fact, I actually looked good. I have never been so delighted with how I looked.
She had managed to open up the vivacious woman who had always been in there. It was an inside out job.
And you could tell by the smile on my face.
It wasn’t just clothes. It was the way I wore them.
My stylist was the expert guide. She knew her craft.
After the workshop, I went out and purchased a few key items. Staple pieces. Since then I’ve shopped very differently. It’s the confidence I have when I go clothes shopping now. No longer rummaging around for what will fit. I know exactly the shapes to go for. Ironically, 95% of what I try on now looks amazing and I want to buy it!
I have a new found courage to ‘do my thing’ with style. For years I wanted a jumpsuit. To me they’re the ultimate statement chic. I’d given up on finding one that fit. After my workshop I got one. A sturdy denim one piece in winter white with rose gold buttons from Mint Velvet. A few weeks later, I saw another. Was it indulgent to have two? Sod it. This one was more boilersuit. Dark navy cotton from COS. Utilitarian. (It’s the one I’m wearing in both these images.) And, I absolutely love them both.
They represent awakening. They represent the lies I told myself. They represent stepping into something I never could have imagined. They represent BREAKTHROUGH.
The first time I went public with one of my new daring outfits was an experience. I walked in. Confidence level high. It felt like the whole room noticed. And then, I received a big full on verbal compliment. I immediately felt embarrassed and wanted the ground to swallow me up. I didn’t want anyone to know I’d had advice from a stylist. I didn’t want to come across as superior or flashy. What was that about? I unpacked it at a later date with my coach and realised I still had some work to do to OWN myself in this new form of expression. What I was wearing was a bright and striking new combination, instantly visible to the outside but the inner me was still processing.
There is a before, during and after in every season.
I’d been pondering on this investment for about 12 months beforehand, a year of standing on the side lines, disqualifying, comparing, assuming and talking myself out of it.
It wasn’t the fear of failure that was holding me back. It was the fear of victory!
I’m so glad I gave myself this gift. It’s an investment that really has paid dividends.
There is SO much to discover in the clothes we wear and it’s been a fascinating and enlightening journey.
I’d like to give a special mention to a few people who walked with me on this journey:
- Joanne Grobbelaar
- Emma Carr
- Aga Mortlock
- The changing room assistant in Cos, Manchester UK who said I looked ‘fresh’ in the boilersuit (name unknown)