I was thinking recently about the Hollywood cliche, “I’ve always wanted to direct.” Everyone wants to control the message. When it comes to fashion, this is what a stylist does. Like a director, the stylist is, putting their own imprint on you. A good one sees the essence of who they are styling. A not-so-good one imposes on them a persona that they think the client should project.
That’s why you want to choose carefully when having someone select your clothes for you. You don’t want to make expensive mistakes. And the best way to avoid this is to know yourself well. That means, understand the fundamentals of your unique “look” – the colors, cuts, prints, textiles that best speak of who you are.
Let’s start with the fundamentals of what makes up your unique style and then examine how to find a good stylist.
Rarely does someone fit into one little color “box.” Most of us are a blend of what is typically called the color seasons. To figure out your color blend keep three things in mind: Color undertone, color saturation, and amount of contrast. Since our skin is the biggest part of us, we’ll start with that.
[BTW – fundamentally, our color palette doesn’t change with age. Our hair changes to the color on the opposite end of the spectrum from what it was in our youth, but that doesn’t significantly affect our palette.)
Does your skin have a warm yellow or peachy undertone? Or does it have a cool, blue undertone? You may have a little of both, but one will dominate and that will set up the majority of the colors in your palette. Next, look at how much intensity of color you can wear before you disappear and the garment takes the stage. Finally, consider the relationship between the colors of your eyes, hair and skin. Is there much contrast between them or do they blend subtly? The degree of contrast between your skin, eyes, and hair should be similar to the degree of contrast in the colors you wear.
As with coloring, we are a combination of style essences. These are the fundamental style archetypes that can be combined to reflect who you are: Dramatic, High Spirited, Natural, Classic, Youthful, (Yes, some people have Youthful features well into their 90’s – think of Betty White, for example) Romantic, and Angelic. [I have a questionnaire in my book that helps you determine your personal style facets.]
Although a lot of us opt for a tad more more modesty as we age, we don’t want to abandon our unique personality. A good stylist will choose clothes that bring your own personal style fashion forward and that don’t “frump” you out or make you look like everyone else at the mall.
Where to find your styling partner
The first thing to consider when choosing a style partner is “what’s in it for them?” Their primary concern should be making you look great, not just earning their commission. A positive referral from a friend or colleague is always ideal. But if you don’t have anyone in your circle who has worked with a stylist, large department stores and sometimes local boutique will have onsite stylists at no charge.
Also, with the changing face of retail, many of us are looking to the internet for convenience. If you have a handle on your coloring and personal style you might try one of the delivery sites. (The image here is from Stitch Fix.) They have in-house stylists that will select entire outfits for you based on your size, coloring, and personal style.
The important thing is to trust that any stylist you work with, either in person or virtually, actually “gets” you: who you are, your lifestyle, your economic situation (budgeting is a consideration) your day-to-day needs, and the degree to which you are willing to change.
Not everyone wants or needs a complete overhaul. I like to look at the process of styling as nurturing to allow the blossoming of a beautiful flower. Your style will unfold when you have self-knowledge and you find a stylist who respects that.
Here’s to the real, stylish you!
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