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The “traveling closet” consultation and shopping tripBy JW from the Southwest
I had been struggling with questions about body image and style for many years before coming across Sally’s blog last winter. I could appreciate style in others but had some sort of “mental block” applying the principles to my own body, taste, environment, and budget. As I watched my own little daughter growing up, however, I became more and more anxious to resolve my questions. How could I support her if needed, or be a confident adult role model, if I still felt like an awkward, clueless, under- or over-dressed kid myself? When I read Sally’s book this summer, a lot of lightbulbs went off. To me, her approach “de-mystifies” fashion and focuses on understanding your own preferences, needs, and comfort zone to develop your personal style. (Another stylist I had consulted seemed to advise all clients to “swallow” their initial anxiety and dress in eye-catching, trendy outfits that would help them appear taller and thinner and win compliments. This approach left me very unsettled but I didn’t know why.) I worked through a lot of the questions and steps in Sally’s book, and had a lot of insights. However, I still felt hesitant about putting many of her suggestions into practice on my own, partly because I always learn better in person and partly because I was so anxious about trusting my own judgment. Were the figure flattery priorities I selected really “best” for my body? Do I actually have an identifiable style or just a mishmash of different clothes for different occasions? Can I really develop an ideal personal style further over time? I don’t like attracting attention, so how will I handle questions or comments if I take even small new steps?
After a lot of thought I decided to contact Sally directly, even though I live pretty far from MN. She was very open to discussing different options for consulting. I sent her my answers to many of the questions in her book and highlighted areas where I had gotten “stuck” or felt like I would benefit from direct feedback. We came up with an unusual solution that combined an in-person meeting with a shopping trip...on the road. After doing the serious closet purges suggested in Sally’s book, I only had around 40 items of clothing total in my closet, 8 pairs of shoes or boots, 2 jackets and a few accessories (not counting exercise stuff.) I could fit the entire lot in one medium-sized duffel and one smaller carry- on bag. With some good luck and planning, I was able to schedule a 24-hr layover in MN into another trip. I found a great deal at a hotel just 10 minutes from both the Minneapolis airport and the Mall of America. I arrived with my entire “traveling closet” and laid it all out in my room for a meeting with Sally the next day. We then planned to head to the mall so I could get her input as we looked for items that might help complement or fill gaps in my current wardrobe. I was very nervous about whether this approach would work and would be a good “investment” for us both! It was.
As soon as she arrived, Sally put me at ease. As we discussed past experiences and current/future goals, she was friendly, thoughtful, tactful, and professional. (And funny!) She listened to and commented carefully on the many personal issues that, to my embarrassment, arose from the topics of clothes, image, and style. Mothers, daughters, friends, husband, past mistakes, past eating disorders, etc! She did not minimize these issues, but somehow gave me a broader perspective on them and a reassurance that yes, they are common themes for many women. She also suggested a whole series of funny and diplomatic “comeback quips” I could use to deal with the many style/appearance/image comments or situations that make me uncomfortable. (Some of these topics I’d seen in the blog or book of course, but it was very helpful to discuss my personal versions.) Most importantly, Sally emphasized I could gradually learn to move beyond past problems and trust my own judgment into the future as an independent adult, taking small steps to build confidence gradually. Clothes, hairstyles, grooming, make-up etc can all be viewed as tools to help with that process. They can be a means to an end…not, as I had always thought, simply a (vanity-inspired?) end, for some people, in themselves.
When we got to the nuts and bolts part of the consultation, Sally was extremely practical as well as thoughtful. As I first tried on new (or known) combinations of my own clothes, and then looked for new items at the mall at the stores Sally considered the most promising for me, she gave me tons of helpful feedback on what worked, what didn’t work, and why. All this was stated relative to the goals and preferences I had articulated from the book and in person with her help, not relative to some arbitrary sets of fashion rules, an ideal female figure, or lists of “must-have basics”. It was incredibly enlightening to have her input in “real time” and applied to my own figure, wardrobe, and wish list. (Few close friends or sisters can possibly be so objective, diplomatic, and experienced!) Most importantly, I began to realize that I actually could implement most of Sally’s suggestions and approach on my own after practicing with her. I concluded that there is no magic “instinct” for style, or even formulas that always “work”, but a series of guidelines you can develop and refine for your own self that will build your confidence and turn into a positive feedback cycle…helping you prioritize looking and feeling good consistently inside and out. This was an extremely liberating realization! After I left, I felt SO much more confident that I had started along that positive path and would quite easily be able to take the next steps myself.
Sally helped me further by sending a thorough summary of our closet consultation, photos of me wearing more than 20 outfits we had assembled from my own wardrobe (very informative! – much more enlightening than looking in the mirror somehow!), and a list of the promising items we found at the mall. I had purchased a few things, but she identified similar/even better/more affordable ones that I could track down closer to home or online. She cheerfully answered a series of follow- up questions about many of these, or other variations I tracked down. Over the past month since we met, I have either tried or actually bought several of the new items we discussed (and put some on a running wish list). A lot of them are affordable accessories that really do change and improve the look of many different outfits. Others are big “investment” pieces I had never been able to find or decide on alone, such as dressy but comfortable black boots and a flattering, versatile dress for holiday events. However, I no longer feel as if I have to consult either Sally or someone else before a purchase! Sally’s guidance helped me develop much more confidence in a very short time that a) I am able to make positive decisions about style for myself and b) I can allow myself to act on those decisions without feeling extravagant, guilty, superficial, self-obsessed, or over-sensitive to the opinions and reactions of others. Funnily enough (or maybe not!) I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from family and friends as I take these steps back at home...even though I haven’t told anyone I know about my unusual trip to MN. But the most valuable outcome is that I trust my own judgment because I have clarified my priorities and direction, and learned a few simple guidelines. I can look forward to my style evolving over time, and enjoy watching or helping my kids explore this process for themselves too. I highly encourage other women to contact Sally also. Especially for those who, like me, have long felt negative or overwhelmed by the topics of body image and style, Sally’s individualized and thoughtful approach to helping us will catalyze insights and confidence that are invaluable investments for the future.
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Please contact Sally at firstname.lastname@example.org for further details and rates.