If you know me, you know I am far from a hopeless style case. My fashionable friends (I’m looking at you, Michael, Cian and Maire) approve of my outfits most of the time so I know I’m on the right track with my personal style, which is a little bit preppy casual Audrey Hepburn. Very preppy by Cork standards but not at all preppy by Washington, D.C. (my hometown) standards. But still, there are days when I wear green chinos with my chartreuse Marrakech tee shirt and argyle socks so I knew I needed to get some new pieces to supplement my wardrobe as I worked away the baby weight to get back to my normal size. Hence the expert help.
This wasn’t an overhaul or a makeover or a drastic intervention. My friends and family didn’t approach me one day in my spit-up stained neon too-small jogging suit to tell me I needed fashion help. It was actually much less dramatic. It has been a year since I became a mother and in that time, I’ve been kept very busy with the little man and trying to get back in shape to wear my pre-pregnancy clothes. I’m not that much bigger than before but enough that most tops have to stretch a bit and my favorite jeans rest on a shelf while the jeans formerly known as my ‘fat jeans’ get worn regularly. There are two things that made me consider I could use some expert help:
1) The dress I was wearing most often was a maternity dress (ie, forgiving).
2) I saw a link on Opera Lane’s website offering a free personal stylist shopper experience.
I entered my information into the form on the site and was relieved I could learn how to wear things and shop for some new classic/basic/everyday pieces with an expert – without being the subject of a reality show.
A few days after I submitted my information to Opera Lane, I received a call from Natasha Crowley who said I was selected to receive a free personal shopper experience! Very exciting. We scheduled it for a weekday morning to miss most of the store crowds. On the phone, we discussed my goals and the expertise she offered as well as general ideas and things I hoped to learn.
The appointment itself was relaxed, like shopping with a friend who happens to love to not look for herself and run and get you different sizes. I brought LB in his buggy and he was a dote the entire time (with a bottle partway and a nap beforehand). To not have to wiggle the buggy back out of the fitting room to hunt for a different color or size is priceless! That one convenience makes a world of difference when shopping with an infant or child. But also knowing how to make my usual wardrobe [quite literally] stretch while I am getting back to my usual size was what I hungered to learn. In our chat, I admitted to Natasha that if I were putting together a food dish to photograph, I would know what was missing or what it needed but when it comes to an outfit, I’m at a loss. Not that we can’t all agree that every outfit would be special with a dollop of crème fraîche. Ok, that would be messy. So, fueled by a morning cuppa, we set off for the shops!
We visited H&M, Next, Vila and The Gap all on Opera Lane. At H&M, Natasha got a feel for my style by suggesting a few things. A fuschia tunic top, a rhinestone statement necklace, a lace-topped tee and some other items. We quickly established I’m not much for lace, rhinestones, sequins, sparkly bits or see-through fabrics. I felt like a picky person but that’s my style and Natasha just worked with it, not giving it a second thought I suspect. In the end, I tried on a darling gray pullover with a micro-sequin Peter Pan collar. So, it turns out micro sequins are ok if they’re in subtle colors, like iridescent shell pink, and retro/classic/vintage elements, like a Peter Pan collar. The top is darling. It falls at the waist though and I feel self-conscious about mine still so Natasha suggested a vest (tank top in American speak) in a matching gray. Did the trick and looked darling with jeans or a skirt! It will also work after a few pounds have been shed. Not everything fit or flattered but when something didn’t work, Natasha mentioned the element that wasn’t right so we could learn from it.
Though I admired many accessories at H&M, this is the one I think I’d actually wear regularly. I love how it is a dark silver with a hint of green. Totally something Natasha found after I told her I loved one that was like several strands of various sizes of disco balls but didn’t think I’d actually have the nerve to wear it.
Next to Next where Natasha found the right pair of skinny jeans for me. I thought that was an impossibility but she has convinced me otherwise. She knew all the fits they carry and exactly which one would accentuate my positives. Sure enough, I slip them on with great doubt and quickly discover I have a really nice rear view! Even LB in his buggy said, “Wow.” I can see myself getting through winter with those and my knee-high leather boots (Rockport, circa 2007). Content (ok, elated) with this find, we go to checkout and a sparkly blossom gold bracelet catches my attention so it joins the skinny jeans in the party that is quickly becoming new additions to my wardrobe.
At Vila, Natasha and I browsed and a few things caught our attention. A simple black dress looked great on the hanger but fell at the wrong place on my waist. But a dotted sheer cap-sleeve blouse with Peter Pan collar was perfect. Black was stunning but navy had a depth that really flattered. And classic vests for layering.
Then to Gap! I’m in love with orange. Always loved yellow but lately orange too. I blame the Dutch Olympic team. Natasha found a few dresses and two looked amazing on. I mean, “Look, I have a waistline again.” amazing. So, one in orange and one in black plus a few other goodies I couldn’t live without.
Here is a roundup of some of the finds from the two-hour shopping outing.
The surprise element of the time with a professional stylist was the little tid bits of knowledge. She’d off-handedly comment that if I paired something with this and that it would be great for such-and-such an event. And did so with things she knew I owned from our conversations as well. Much like I do when I talk with someone about food and I suggest all the ways it can work in different recipes. So, style is style and everyone has his or her own but sometimes a professional can help make that style work with what is actually in the stores to educate us to be better shoppers. This experience and my learning to knit may just be the two biggest influences in how I shop, aside from knowing how to make minor alterations to my clothes.
The experience was enjoyable, relaxed and professional. It also reminded me that I have a figure and to dress for it. So glad I had the chance to do this and I feel the pieces I bought with the advice of Natasha will help my current wardrobe stretch more too.