Styling clients over the years has provided me with some unexpected and interesting insights into the way women see themselves and the barriers standing in the way of confidence, happiness and self acceptance. I've been witness to some emotional and enlightening moments during the transformation process of personal styling and this is because I often work with women at their most vulnerable - following a break up, new job, increase or decrease in weight, a new baby or big life change. I've seen people laugh, cry, berate themselves, celebrate themselves and everything in between which really proves how transformative clothing can be and how deeply tied our image is to our sense of self. The same way we carry our experiences, personality and feelings on our face, we also do with our clothing choices. It is easy to spot the person who feels comfortable and confident in their fashion choices as opposed to those who look unsure, uncomfortable or uneasy. When the outside matches the inside and the bow of confidence is tied, everything flows in unison and style shines.
Along my journey into personal styling I have discovered the road blocks and errors holding women back - personal styling is about narrowing in on these issues and setting someone free into the world of self love and creative expression.
Here is what I have learned in dissolving the walls which are holding women back from embracing their style...
The Body Shape Shackles
I've heard the phrase "that doesn't suit my body shape" more times than I can count and 90% of the time it actually isn't true. Often age old rules have somehow imprinted into someones psyche so they have been wandering around for years believing something incorrect or misdiagnosing their shape and dressing accordingly. Yes, you can wear skinny jeans as a pear, yes you can wear off shoulder tops as an hourglass, yes you can wear maxi skirts as a short girl, yes you can wear a crew neck with a big bust. Larger shaped women often feel the need to hide under shapeless garments the same way petite girls feel the need to wear overly tight clothing so their shape doesn't get "lost" - both are over compensating. As I always say, balance, balance, balance. There is a happy place for all shapes somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. The key is often in the tailoring of a garment rather than its over all shape. I believe most women can wear most styles, it just means selecting the right cut and fabric. There are literally dozens of body shape "rules" which can be broken. Don't allow yourself to be chained in by a set of body shape rules, the goal is comfort, fun and flow.
Shoes make or break any outfit. I recommend similar shoe styles to most clients:
-a white sneaker (best casual go-to shoes, flattering on all people)
-a gradient pointed flat (best for elegance and elongation)
-an ankle boot (suits jeans, shorts, skirts and dresses)
-a basic pump with gradient point (suits EVERYTHING! Adds height and elongates)
-a strappy sandal (the thinner the straps the more flattering, add twists, ankle ties, details, whatever the style, a flat sandal with thin strap detail work for everyone and will see you through summer)
I often see clients stuck on round toe ballet flats. From a style and shape perspective, these are all WRONG! They create a stumpy shape for the leg, they appear clumsy, child like and take away from an entire outfit. I also see excessive platform heels from a decade ago - these are clunky, dated and heavy, they ruin the streamline shape of any dress and create trunk legs. The last thing I often see are boots which don't fit into the ankle or knee high category. They sit mid calf and cut the leg in half. Get. Rid. Of. Them. They will not work with any style except possibly a midi skirt but it would need a high split seam and then things just get complicated!
Necklines & Straps
Certain necklines are clean and universal in their wear ability. The crew neck is one. The v-neck comes close and a higher cut round neckline works well too. A boat neck suits very few people, the width distorts the bust and creates a long neck, which sounds like it should be appealing but it disconnects the arms and torso, destroying any unison and flow throughout the outfit.
Off shoulder or sleeveless suits the majority of people as the shoulder is the finest, most feminine part of the body so showing this off is always flattering. Spaghetti straps have the same effect, the slight, fine detail will slim the arms and torso. Singlets have the opposite effect, if straps are over 2-3cm wide they add bulk to the arms and frame.
Stretch tops need to go. I see so many clients holding onto stretchy tops (think Supre circa 1998). These tops are great for at home, they are comfy and look cute with a pair of PJ's but they do nothing for the shape and take an outfit down. Opt for a cami in a viscose blend which falls and drops from the bust, this elevates an outfit instantly. Look for lace, linen, cotton blends and natural fibres. Fabric is everything. The same applies to skirts, stretch is fine but ensure it is a blend as a simple stretch jersey looks cheap without the right detail and texture. Pay attention to fabric and feel when shopping. Does the shirt hold it's shape? Will it grab or will it skim over the body? The difference between a good and bad piece of clothing is not just cut and colour but the texture, or fabric.
In colour theory, everyone falls in one of the seasons.
Summer - cool/fair
Spring - warm/fair
Autumn - warm/dark
Winter - cool.dark
I will do a post soon on discovering which colour group you fall into but as a general rule Spring and Autumn are warm, Summer and Winter are cool. Spring and Summer are fair, Autumn and Winter are darker. This becomes much more detailed and complex but as a general rule, the colours which suit you depend on your natural colouring and warmth/coolness to your skin tone and hair colour. Often clients are either not aware of what colours work for them or they have taken this concept way too far! Just because you may suit red or pink, I would not recommend a hot pink top or a bright red jacket unless it is well styled as a pop of colour rather an accidental rainbow. Taste comes into play and a natural, neutral colour palette is the best place to start when building a wardrobe. Colour can then be put to play in accessories or details. Stay tuned for my colour theory blog post coming soon for a break down of the seasons and how to discover what works for you.
Fear of Drama
No one likes drama, at least when it comes to life. But everyone loves drama when it comes to fashion. By drama, I mean silhouette, detail, difference. Don't be afraid of over the top sleeves, bold shapes, big shoulders, sheer fabrics, showstoppers. Whether you prefer minimalism or excessive detailing, drama still comes into play. Drama means a full length dress. Drama means a statement sleeve. Drama means proportion, creativity and unique design. So often trends mean we all dress relatively the same but adding one drama piece changes everything.
Scroll through Pinterest and search for streetstyle and you will get the point. You will see drama everywhere and it will knock your (stylish) socks off! Don't be afraid of a showstopper, don't dull it down for the crowd, incorporate drama into your wardrobe and it will fill you with inspiration, it will elevate you from the crowd and it will legitimise your love for style and your love for who you are. It takes balls to wear drama and taking these risks regularly will eventually set you free as you start to dress for the love of art, the love of design and the confidence in who you are.
These 6 errors are the most common things I encounter when styling someone or editing their wardrobe. I am also often pleasantly surprised to discover the beautiful clothes hanging in my clients wardrobes, some many people have incredible style but don't have the confidence to unlock it. Fashion is a true reflection of individuality and nutting out the little road blocks can set someone free to explore their taste and enjoy the journey of change and transformation through clothing. I love helping that process along and breaking through the walls holding someone back is the most rewarding part of it all.