At the end of part one of my personal style metamorphosis…. Oh wait…. I should explain: this is part two of a series. If you haven’t read the first installment, please click here to read it now, otherwise this one won’t make sense. I can wait.
So, as I was saying, at the end of my first session with Esther, I was left without much to wear, having had a proper clear out.
Esther’s philosophy is that we should have a small collection of beautiful, carefully curated clothes which make us glow and give us confidence. So I knew that she wouldn’t be recommending that I restock my wardrobe, but that we should look carefully at what flatters my skin tone and body shape, accessorise to create new looks with what’s in my wardrobe, and then work out what’s missing.
Once again we took everything out of my wardrobe and drawers and displayed them, in rows of complementary colours on the bed. This included shoes, jewellery and other accessories.
First we looked at a few staple pieces which she helped me bring back to life: the plain black dress which flattered my shape but which washed out my complexion; the black pencil skirt I had nothing to wear with; the smart shirt which I loved but never wore.
It sounds so obvious now that I’m writing about it, but just adding a colourful scarf made all the difference and created an outfit I was excited to wear again.
(Dress from Phase Eight, scarf from Hobbs)
Esther explained some of the ‘rules’ of styling, such as choosing a complementary colour palette and not having too many lines, which break up an outfit. She explained: “these are guidelines, never rules. I don’t believe in rules, I’m only providing you with the information you need to make an educated decision about what to wear, so that you can understand why some items work better than others for you.”
She didn’t do a full colour analysis on me as, in her experience, clients who are given colour swatches to shop with feel restricted.
Every outfit Esther put together for me was based on the aesthetic we’d chosen in the previous session. The images were laid out on the floor.
I was amazed to see that I could pull off the ‘well put together’ look, just by keeping the parallel lines to a minimum – thereby not breaking up the outfit into too many sections – and by wearing complementary tones and simple accessories.
(Jacket from Zara, jeans from M&S, cream top from Vero Moda)
There were so many other tips we explored: from use of textures and patterns, to what fabrics and lengths flattered my body shape.
(Top from Top Shop, skirt from Tu Clothing, handbag from Yoshi Bags)
After trying on all my staple items, we moved onto creating outfits for work, and then onto a few of the dresses I’ve had hanging in my wardrobe with the labels still attached. Were they worth keeping? One was, one wasn’t.
The keeper is an incredibly tight bodycon dress. Esther has threatened to organise a night out for some of her friends and clients and we all have to wear the one item we’ve been too afraid to be seen in. This would be mine. I do trust Esther’s judgement, but it’s telling how uncomfortable I look in this photo!
(Dress from M&S)
Esther followed up our session a few days later with an extensive, personalised shopping guide. This not only reiterated what we’d discussed about colours, textures, shapes and patterns, but also contained a list of items I should consider buying. She had conducted painstaking research for the right pair of black trousers; the perfect t-shirt; where to buy jeans that flatter and don’t need a belt; she even provided an online link for space-saving clothes hangers.
The result is that I have a shopping list of real needs, to use whenever I feel the urge to shop – so I’ll be shopping with a purpose.
That time has already come. I had to take a pair of boots back to a department store and found myself pulled into the women’s fashion department. But this time was different.
I had Esther’s voice in my head saying ‘look out for a blue blazer or a cream top’. Shopping with a goal was strangely liberating. I knew to avoid anything clingy or sleeveless. On this particular day, if it wasn’t a blue blazer or cream top it was just ignored. And lo and behold, I found both. I bought them, without guilt, knowing I needed them and would wear them. And here they are:
(Jacket from Esprit, lace top from River Island, skirt from Oasis, boots from John Lewis)
Esther has taught me a lot, too much to condense into 5 short tips. But here are the ‘best bits’ – the top 5 tips for how to look stylish in your 40s and beyond (and I admit I still have some work to do!):
1.Accentuate the positive:
Good fitted underwear is essential. You can hide all manner of rolls and folds with the right support. But personally I don’t like feeling like I’m wearing scaffolding, so I’d rather wear clothes that direct the eyes to the places I’m happy to display. For me, that means wearing cardigans or jackets in a swing or waterfall style (see above green jacket).
2.Eliminate the negative:
I can’t do anything about my fat ankles – they run in the family (sorry mum), but I can take the attention away from them, with the right length skirt combined with knee high boots or shoes that match the colour of my tights. A fabulous handbag helps lift any outfit and can create a positive distraction.
(Coat from Debenhams, top from Vera Moda, jeans from M&S, handbag from Obag)
3.Experiment with textures:
Together we came to the conclusion that flowers and busy patterns weren’t right for me, so to make plain colours look interesting, I need to find interesting fabrics like tweed or lace (see above blue & cream outfit).
4.If in doubt, leave it out:
Simplicity is the key to a classic look. Too many layers create horizontal lines, and on a short body like mine that means a messy look and confusion. If you’re going for boho – then knock yourself out with the layers – but if it’s classic chic you want, just keep it simple.
5.Take photos of your outfits:
I have an album on my iphone filled with photos I took of each outfit Esther helped me put together. They’re not for public consumption, but are there as an aide memoire – and I refer to them almost daily. In each poorly composed picture, taken of me in the mirror, my hair is completely dishevelled and there are clothes all over the floor. But the clothes show how I can dress to be the best version of me.
Once I’ve bought everything on Esther’s list, I’ll still be disciplined about my shopping, because I’m determined to make this a lifestyle change: one which will benefit my image as well as my bank balance. Knowing the aesthetic I’m going for means I’ll know exactly what to look for and will make better choices. This is a long game.
Bearing in mind my mission was to look ‘well put together’, let me know what you think of the new look in the comments below. Vx
PS: Esther tells me she’s not taking any new personal style clients until autumn 2016. She is however, in the process of creating an online course in order to make her knowledge more accessible for every woman. To be one of the first to know when the course is available, please sign up here to receive her personal monthly update.