How Clothes Can Liberate You

22 Nov 2015

Style Icon and fashion director Iris Apfel in the documentary about her says clothes are about “jumping out of the box”.  She also says “I don’t have any rules (for dressing) as I would only be breaking them”.

Many women find that they spend years wearing the same style.  They get stuck in what may be described as a Style-Rut.  This may be due to lifestyle constraints, such as bringing up children, or working in the same business where they have come to rely on a few, predictable, reliable staples. 

Life may change course, but still they remain in the same style.  It feels safer.  Many women need a change of style when they have finished or are coming out of the busy years of child-rearing, or when they make a career change. 

Coming to the end of a relationship could also demand a complete change of look to raise self-esteem and herald the opening of a new era.  It can be an emotional-boost and a really positive step forward into the future.

These crossroads of life often deserve a new outlook emotionally and mentally, and if that can be reflected in a new style it can feel like a liberation from the past. 

Life changes can be a strengthening of ones sense of self.  But a new personality can also emerge from taking on a new style. 

One of the services I offer is a “Fresh Start Styling” which was inspired by hearing stories of women who had suffered distressing divorces or separations where they had been left for younger women.  For women who have had little or no reasonable financial settlement I tailor a service which focuses on the clothes they already have and re-styling them. This is emotionally liberating. 

The elegant, creative women in the film “Advanced Style” are a fabulous example of breaking the rules of fashion and style and liberating themselves from the restrictions placed by society on age and what is regarded as “appropriate”. 

Their creations involve plenty of colour, textures and dramatic accessories.  They show a disregard of what anyone else thinks; they have the confidence and daring which accompanies an older generation who feel they have nothing to lose. 

I love a quote included in “Women In Clothes” (Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton) from an elderly woman who had been complimented on her fabulous, original outfit by her younger neighbour on a flight:  “Every morning that I wake up and realise I’m not dead is a chance for me to say ‘f***k it’.  So I dress like this”.

The Sentimental Value of Clothes

14 Nov 2015


Clothes can mean so much more than they appear from the outside.  People invest them sometimes with deep meanings significant to them.  Clothes associated with events or feelings even have the power to regenerate the emotions associated with those moments.

I had a client who told me that there is an outfit in her wardrobe which is a perfect cut and the perfect colour for her skintone.  Even though it wasn't the traditional funeral-black, she wore it to a funeral.  It was a very sad day and she felt this emotion.

As a consequence, she can never wear this outfit as she associates it with sadness.

Some clothes have happier connotations.  I have a dress which I associate with being in love.  When I wear it, it not only brings back romantic memories of wandering narrow, medieval streets on a warm meditteranean evening with my Love, but also a tingle of the feeling of being in love.  

Some clothes keep us connected with the Past or to someone from our past.  Justine Picardie writes of a feeling of a sense of loss with the loss of her late-mother's wedding dress.  

Clothes can be our memory store.  It is for this reason that I take care when I am doing a Wardrobe Cleanse with a client.  There may be a deeper reason why client doesn't want to immediately throw away a piece which actually doesn't flatter her, in the strict sense.  As long as she knows why perhaps she shouldn't be wearing it any longer, or how she should be adapting it, then it can remain in her life.

Perhaps a storage box full of carefully folded "emotional clothes" could be stored, just like a "treasure box" of souvenirs.  On some rainy day, when you are sorting out the attic, you may find it and open up an array of memories and emotions.


Fashion and Fantasy

05 Nov 2015

As Tim Walker, the fashion photographer, says “Fashion is all about fantasy and stories and dreaming, transporting yourself; changing your outward armour so people see you in a different way.  I think we’re all playing characters of ourselves.  It’s a dressing-up box”.

This is the beauty of fashion.  We can use it in our everyday life to transform our “look” and bring out a different part of ourselves.  Going from day to night we can metamorphose into something or someone more glamorous, exciting and dramatic, just by changing our outfit.

Fashion photography itself is an art form.  There is an escape into the realms of fantasy.  The effect can be stunning, whimsical, challenging, suggestive and intriguing.  In the FT today there is a report on the rise of fashion photography as an investment, as art has been.  It is seductive as it leads us into another world. 

Fashion photography elevates an item of clothing into another realm with other connotations, whether they be cultural or social.  Fashion itself has this power to invest us with different cultural and social implications.

There are certain clothes we own which we invest with fantasies.  We may have subconsciously invested an evening dress with the qualities of a childhood fairytale heroine, and when we put it on, we become that glamorous character.  

Just as we used to dress up for play in our childhood, there is still that element of fun when we dress up for something outside our usual routine.

That’s where fashion can be fun.  Sometimes you just have to be a bit braver to try it out. 









Dressing For Success

28 Oct 2015



How can you dress to impress in the workplace?  How can you project your authentic-self while at the same time appearing professional and approachable?

"Rules" for dressing generally are according to bodylines, proportions, face-shape, scale, and being true to your personality.  Dressing for work requires all that, and what the Center For Talent Innovation  calls "Executive Presence".  The research carried out by the Center said this presence accounts for 26% of what it takes to get ahead, and part of that is dressing appropriately.  Frist impressions really do count.  Those are what you are judged on before you even open your mouth.

The clothes you pick for work are an expression of who you are, but also how you feel about yourself, and an indication of your fitness for the purpose.  People need to feel confident in you.

There are three secrets to dressing for success:

Firstly, there needs to be a balance struck between what you like to wear and what people you come into contact with expect.

Secondly, the key word is "attractive", not "sexy".  Anything you can put the word "too" in front of should be avoided. ie. low, high, tight...... 

Lastly, the aim is for "Chic" rather than "Trendy".  There is nothing wrong with On-Trend, as long as it has simplicity and structure and is not too distracting.  What you want is to appear well "put-together" with a bit of an edge.  That "edge" is your expression of individuality.

Having fun with clothes in the workplace can show individuality and also power.  Some women use this to their advantage, especially when it comes to doing business with men.  Danielle Ryan (Lifestyle entrepreneur of the company Roads), cites an example of turning male-dominated meetings around from less strained and straighter-talking just by deciding not to "blend" in and showing self-expression in what she wore.  She wore clothes which made her feel powerful, elegant, and feminine, which was a strength in itself.

Chloe Mackintosh (co-founder of agrees that it doesn't work trying to dress more like a man, thinking that dressing like them puts you on the same level.  As she quotes:  "Stabilisation comes when men realise you aren't competition; they lower their guard - and that's when you come in".

The image I have used above, encapsulates the required qualities for dressing for success:  she exudes a "presence", she is "well put-together" with an "edge", attractive more than sexy, and yet very feminine, and elegant.  Her look is powerful and confident.

Clothes reflecting mental state and self-worth

18 Oct 2015



Studies have been done which show that how you feel about yourself shows up in what you put on your body.

There has been found to be a relationship between depression and lack of care with clothing choices. Many women who are feeling depressed or in a low mood reach for a baggy top to hide in.  Although popular as they are so easy to wear, pulling a pair of jeans in the morning is also the item of choice for women who are feeling low.

As Dr Karen Pine notes in her book "Mind What You Wear: The Philosophy of Fashion", unfortunately this is then a self-fulfilling scenario where a low mood means dressing down which brings negative feedback, which in turn exacerbates a low mood.

When we signal to others that we care about ourselves they are more likely to see us as someone worth caring about.  People respond to our outward appearance and if it is more attractive then we get positive feed-back.

What we don't wear is equally imporant as a relfection of our mental state.  Dr Pine did a study in which it was found that women who were feeling stressed, anxious or depressed reduced their choices of clothes.  Their world felt like it had shrunk so the choices from their wardrobe correspondingly shrunk.

Looking good and feeling good are so interlinked.  On Friday 6th November I am at an event at Botanica, Tunbridge Wells called "Feel Good Friday" and we will be showcasing products, treatments and therapies (including therapeutic styling) with exactly this in mind.  It will be a lovely, warm, nurturing event to come along to!  Twitter @botanica_health