An appointment with the Style Doctor

How do you shop for clothes? I clearly missed something when the shopping genes got given out, because I’m baffled by the legions of people who love to while away the hours among the neon lights and clothing rails of the high street. I envy T and his ability to mooch home from a trip to ‘get a coffee’ with two new pairs of shoes and a stylish jacket. By contrast, I’ll try to go shopping for a particular outfit (say, for work or a wedding) and return with a mini existential crisis and some food item or other.

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By default i dress in gym gear (practical, increases likelihood of working out, says something about my identity, comes in bright colours and something I’m happy to splurge on as an investment in my health), with a fall-back of the same style jeans or short skirt I’ve been wearing since uni. I’ve got into a rut of buying drab and neutral colours. For work I feel OK to buy more expensive clothes that I don’t really like or feel comfortable in because, hey, it’s work. Special occasions require trauma and lots of returned internet shopping.

So as a Christmas present, T booked me a half day with a personal stylist. This of course prompted another mini-crisis (what on earth do you *wear* when you go to a stylist?!), but seemed like a marvellous idea to set me on the route to sartorial maturity. I envisioned a day in a hushed-tone velvety suite with Clueless-style rails of perfect outfits; a clientele of women with tiny dogs, a lecture on ‘investment pieces’ and a lot of me gulping nervously at price tags. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

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Lovely Sara (@personalstylelondon) and intern Evalina (in an enviable furry coat teenage me would have adored) were my shopping companions for 4, blissful, toddler-free hours. (It’s amazing how many things you can try on without a 2 year old trying to escape and/or trash the shop and/or requiring a nappy change in the dressing room). Starting in Zara (‘brilliant for basics, but get there early in the morning’) and continuing round a range of accessible high-street shops, they operated like whirlwinds, plucking clothes based on I’m-not-sure-what criteria for me to try whilst imparting tips about layering outfits (huh, turns out an outfit isn’t always ‘done’ when you put jeans and a top on), finding the right fit, and using colour.

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If only one thing, the day was a big confidence-boost. Shapes I was sure wouldn’t flatter me turned out to look quite nice on Sara’s insistence to try. Apparently not everyone is looking at how wide my hips are. My pathological fear of admitting my post-baby belly & gym-bulked thighs are a trouser-size bigger than 3 years ago was completely dashed when I fit into a range of sizes from shop to shop (and even from different styles in the same shop). Well that’ll teach me to always try things on instead of just picking my usual size in the Fat Face sale! I now have a better understanding of what lengths and fits to look for, and how to combine items.  Also, 30-somethings are still allowed in Topshop.

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There were a lot of surprises. I came away with some perfectly-fitting skinny jeans. Not from splurging on a high-end denim brand and paying for tailoring, but by relentlessly trying on styles in every shop we went to. Mine were in M&S- sssh don’t tell anyone! In fact M&S was the biggest surprise of the day, having a multitude of versatile items that fit wonderfully, and some that were a bit more ‘statement’ too. Delighted that, apparently, I can wear yellow. Welcome back colour to my wardrobe.

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It’s a tall ask to cure a lifetime of bad shopping and dressing habits, and a taller one to help someone find their personal style in a few hours. I was a little nervous of returning like a nice-looking but identikit high-street nothing. Instead what I have is a lots of good basic items I can combine in a number of ways, some of the ‘brights’ I wanted, and a greater idea of how I can add touches that make an outfit more ‘me’, like one of my pairs of ‘wah’ shoes, or a bright accessory. It’s a start of a wardrobe journey rather than a done job; by what a fun, care-free start.

And did I buy any gym kit? Well as soon as I’d parted ways with Sara I snuck back to M&S to pick up this:

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Old habits die hard, but hopefully new ones are being built to join them 🙂

My half day personal style session was booked through Style Doctors, who operate at the two Westfield malls in London (great because it gives you a full choice of shops and no minimum spend).

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