How a ‘proper’ Personal Style consultation finally sorted me out!
32 years ago I finally discovered which colours to wear and which ones made me look ill. Colour analysis was still in its infancy in the UK and it had taken 3 whole years to work out that I really was an absolute Winter.
During that time I had been mis-diagnosed as a Spring (long story, I’ll tell you another time) and had then proceeded to terrorise the locals by wearing a light mink suit, light peach blouse, brown accessories, peach lipstick and – God help me – I’d even dyed my hair a delicious copper colour into the bargain.
In 1983, someone who’d actually been on one of the first organised training courses showed me that I was definitely a Winter and it’s been plain sailing with colour from then on.
But I wanted more
But that wasn’t the end of the story for me. I wanted to know what to look for when shopping for clothes. I’d just finished a training course in computer programming and was looking for a job. I needed smart clothes for interviews and then a wardrobe for work plus, this would be the first time I’d be earning money for over a year, so I was also keen to replace some of the ‘student’ type clothes I’d got in my wardrobe.
I went back to the same consultant for a Personal Style consultation.
In those days, Personal Style consultations were really only about body shape, scale and proportion which, quite frankly, sounds about as interesting as watching paint dry. I had to listen to a long diatribe about courtly fashion rules – immensely interesting to me, a lifelong learner, but everyone else said they’d found it incredibly boring and totally irrelevant to what they’d come for!
Then I had to change into a leotard in front of a group of strangers.
Yukkity-yuk! I was:
- measured to within an inch of my life
- told how to compensate for one shoulder being higher than the other
- made to feel miserable because I didn’t ‘measure’ up to the image of the perfect body shape that the consultant took great delight in showing us
and came away having no clue about what I should actually buy in the shops. The only thing I really learnt was now NOT to treat people and that has been the mainstay of my work ever since.
Because no-one had really thought about the person wearing the clothes
That style consultation was all about feet and inches, and fitting you into a body shape box (sounds like a coffin!) by comparing your measurements to the ‘perfect woman’. At the end of the day, the whole ‘analysis’ was centred around nothing more than what the consultant could actually see – my physical shape, my silhouette – and no-one would have noticed if I had been dead or alive!
To virtually every so-called style consultant, I was nothing more than an object to be de-coded.
I tried again and again – over the years I consulted several different people about my ‘style’. In the main, I received much of the same inane and utterly useless advice. Most came to the conclusion that I had a straight body shape (were they blind?) and so should wear straight lines, straight lapels, straight jackets (I know what you’re thinking and you can stop it right now!), all with no shaping.
I know now that this was all absolute tosh as I have a very curvy body shape (and always have had, before you start casting aspersions about how much I eat).
It took 16 years to discover who I really am
It was only in 1999 when I re-trained in ‘everything image’ that I finally discovered who I really am. My most excellent mentor was astonished that I was wearing ‘straight’ shapes… but he didn’t dwell on who had got it wrong. He just set out to put it right.
- Bill didn’t measure me
- He didn’t get me to fill in a questionnaire about my height, weight, measurements, etc.
- He just looked me up and down and spent time listening to what I had to say – what was important to me, what I was hoping for, what I needed clothes for
- Then he talked about me being a drama queen (how right he was) and to “stop trying to fade into the background, Kim. It’s not your style.”
- He told me to tuck my top in and add a belt “to show off your curves.”
- He told me to get some slightly-rounded glasses frames instead of the square horrors that I was wearing.
- And he added, “When you give your presentations on stage, you’re also going to need non-reflective lenses or your audience isn’t going to be able to see whether the expression in your eyes matches what’s coming out of your mouth!”
I have never forgotten his brilliant words.
I’ve still got loads more to tell you so I’ll continue in part 2 of this epistle.