I went shopping with my friend, Jules, and suddenly I was no longer invisible.
I’d love for all of you to meet her. Jules is incredible, the kind of woman you want more of in your life. A fabulous children’s writer and teacher, a fashionista with a history in couture, a businesswoman, a wife, a mother. A fierce and loyal friend…but best of all, the kind of friend who makes you laugh so hard you snort your martini (while looking fabulous, Darling).
You get it, I’m sure.
Anyway, Jules took me shopping. And in one afternoon, I was transformed from suburban school Mum to glamorous (again). I had so much fun.
It’s strange the power our clothes have over us. It’s something so personal I almost don’t want to talk about it. We can hide behind them and pretend they don’t matter. We can feel like they’re a prison. Or we can create a ‘uniform’ and wear the same thing on repeat.
It’s all too easy to fall out of fashion. So after our successful shopping spree – which, by the way, was shockingly affordable…so affordable that anyone, even on a tiny budget, could do it – I asked Jules to share her wisdom. I hope you enjoy her responses as much as I did!
Jules, what’s the biggest shopping mistake people make?
When you’re trying to work out what to buy, you have to ask the bigger question: what do you need for the lifestyle you lead?
The first thing to do is get a glass of wine or a cup of tea, put some nice music on, open up all your wardrobes (closets!) and drawers and go through every single thing. Start with your underwear drawer: bin all those daggy things that are uncomfortable, where the elastic’s not right, get rid of all the bras you’re not going to wear. Then go through outerwear and shoes.
Make three piles: bin, donate, or share with a friend.
Then assess what you have and look for your gaps. To be more fashionable you’ve got to be prepared to consider fresh styles and fresh looks, fresh colour, and try things you might not have tried before – and go into stores you might not have tried before.
It’s not about expense?
Absolutely not. It’s about styling. There are two things: clothing and style. Where women go wrong is that they go out and buy clothing; they don’t actually buy fashion or a style. They think, ‘Oh, I really love the colour of that blue dress,’ and they buy it, but it doesn’t work with anything else in their closet. Where would you wear it? What would you put it with? You’re not sure…and that’s the issue. You’ve just bought another useless piece of clothing, and have nothing to wear.
When you go to a fine dining restaurant and they put that meal in front of you, it hasn’t just happened. The chef has planned the meal: the ingredients, how to present them to you, what will look good on the plate.
When people don’t come from a design background, they assume that dressing well just happens. And it doesn’t. It takes work and thought and planning. It’s not that some people ‘have it’ and others don’t. Style is a process and it can be learned.
Here’s a big secret: you have to spend time styling. For example, the night before I go to work, I plan my outfit. I have it chosen. I look at the weather, think about comfort, how far I’ll be walking etc, and I plan in advance.
For people who are time poor, or perhaps not that interested in fashion, what do you suggest?
I suggest that they put together a basic six or seven outfits each season that they know look good. Then wear those. You'll know what to grab in the morning.
What does it take to dress well?
You have to be prepared to put in some time. If you say, ‘I can’t be bothered. I just don’t have the time,’ that’s fine – but you need to accept the fact that you’ll be in social situations and feel uncomfortable because your outfit isn’t right. And remember – this isn’t about how much you’ve spent or whether something is new or not. It’s about having the right pieces to pull together a lovely look that you feel comfortable in, and that makes YOU look good.
There’s nothing worse than being in a situation where you feel uncomfortable because everyone else is appropriately dressed and you’re not. Let’s face it…that feels terrible. It affects your confidence and how much you enjoy yourself. It’s all about caring for yourself.