Expert stylist Jackie O'Fee shares her insights on how to dress
people of all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life.
At Signature Style we work with all kinds of men & women (yes, I love to work with men & I'm really good at it) from many different backgrounds. There's the "just starting out" people who want to organise their working wardrobe, the "packing for a trip", the "just make it easy", the "show me how" and the "save me time & money" people. Whatever the reason, we help our clients by creating the best looks for them; make their wardrobe choices easy; try to make the whole experience fun and we make sure that the end result is appropriate for their lifestyle.
Obviously within this diverse range of people with a diverse range of needs there is an equally diverse range of sizes, budgets and lifestyles. Having done this work full time for almost ten years now, and with a client base numbering well into the thousands, you could pretty well guarantee I've seen it all (even the men who want to dress as women and vice-versa). Given that broad experience, it amuses me then when I get the occasional surprised comment from a client or sales assistant that I know how to dress 'Bigger people' or 'Short people' or 'Petite people' or 'Tall people' or whatever 'people' it happens to be.
I like to think that I am both skilled enough and down to earth enough to work across the spectrum of sizes, ethnicities, budgets, expectations that I deal with every day. We have loads of clients who come back season after season, who bring their husbands or mums or daughters to see us, who tell their friends about us, so I think we are doing a pretty good job of that. Our training ensures that the principles of dressing a person work regardless of their colouring, size or shape.
Our experience simply enriches that training and helps us know
where to find what we are looking for, which means that in any
shopping trip we get that wonderful moment where our clients get
really excited about what we've found for them...be it the first
pair of boots they've bought in over twenty years because they
didn't think they could fit any, or the first pair of jeans at age
60. I love that moment more than anything else I do and I also love
the hugs I get at the end of many of my shopping trips.
A good personal stylist can relate to people with different personal circumstances, regardless of their own. Alongside those that are an absolute breeze to dress, we work with women that hate their arms, thighs or tummies, those that think they are too skinny and men that think they are impossible to dress and have to have everything custom-made. In my own life, I come from a family of bigger people (my mum, brothers and dad all wear plus sizes & I have a sister who has recently gone from a size 22 to an 8), so I know what it means to not "fit" whatever the perfect mould is. I personally have to be constantly vigilant about my diet and exercise regime to maintain my own size 10-12 figure - a weekend where I take my eye off the ball means about two weeks of hard work to restore the balance. My background, while helpful isn't the only thing that makes me able to work with plus size people - but I'd be lying if I didn't think it gave me a greater understanding of the challenges they face.
I have worked with tall men & women where I have done my shopping with a tape measure to check the pants are long enough so I can save my client the heartache of yet another pair of pants that are just too short. I have taken teeny-tiny size 4-6 girls shopping (and I admit to feeling like an Amazonian hulk alongside them), where the choices are so limited. I've been to shoe shops where instead of saying "can we try these in a size X?" I've had to say "can you tell me what shoes you have in a size X?" where "X" is either very little or very large. I have experienced the frustration a petite woman has when everything we buy on a shopping trip has to be altered.
I am equally as comfortable among the racks of Beggs Big &
Tall or Zebrano as I am at Zambesi or Workshop, and I can (and do)
shop at both cheapie chain stores or high-end boutiques - even in
the same day. It's this diversity that keeps my job
interesting and fun. It's all about the result - and the
result is always about what works best for our client.
Jackie O'Fee is the owner of leading personal image consultancy, Signature Style.