Style Counsel

As a 40th birthday present a good friend bought me a shopping spree with a stylist which has turned out to be one of the best birthday presents ever!

It is something I have thought about since my weight loss, knowing that although I had got more adventurous with colour I was still stuck in my style of baggy clothes to cover up all imperfections.

When I’ve looked into it I have always been drawn to the free stylists you can get from department stores, imagining myself sitting in the waiting room sipping tea while they bring me a wealth of clothes to try on. What put me off was the thought of feeling obliged to buy and the limitations of a department store. My friend sought out someone who came at a cost but was much more appealing in her way of working with a real emphasis on helping to show you how to wear clothes and learn what styles suited you, she had no allegiance to the stores and wasn’t worried about whether you made a purchase other than if you were looking to buy.

The first task was to complete a pre-shop questionnaire so that Clare the stylist could learn about what I already had in my wardrobe, what shops I liked, what styles I leaned towards and how much budget I had for the day itself. I also sent her a picture of myself so that she could start to get an idea of what I looked like. Clare then phoned to have a further discussion and explain her plan for the day. This was an opportunity to think about if there was anything specific I was looking for and discuss any styles I really objected to. Already I felt that she had a grasp of me and what I was looking for.

The day itself arrived and I was nervous about meeting a stylist, worried that I would feel drab and old next to her. Clare did indeed look fab but she was disarming in her manner and I took an immediate liking to her, feeling relaxed in her company and eager to begin the shop. In the first shop she picked up an array of clothes in different styles and colours. I felt a little concerned as I knew there were things in the pile I wouldn’t dream of putting on. However, her mission soon became clear. The first task was to find out what styles suited me and what didn’t, the best way to help me see this was to show me by looking at what suited my figure best, emphasising my good points, and what made me look like a box! This was incredibly helpful and I couldn’t believe how much I learnt in this first shop. One of the first things she did was take me down a size and show me how I needed to wear shorter tops or tuck them in to show off my legs and that baggy tops far from hiding my imperfections just made me look bigger than I am.

For the next 3 hours we went round a variety of different shops and Clare picked out clothes for me to try on. I’m usually spent after an hour but my enthusiasm didn’t wane as the chore of looking was taken away and the excitement of seeing myself looking good in clothes I wouldn’t normally consider grew. I learned I could wear stripes if they were thin and close together, that a straight leg trouser suits me better than my usual boot leg and the importance of elongating my neckline. As my budget had been set we didn’t go into shops out of my price range, where I would be lucky if I could buy a pair of tights! Instead we went into a few shops I hadn’t thought of trying and lots that I often go into, but this time with a new pair of eyes. I found being with a stylist was inspirational, I knew I was going to find it good but I had no idea just how much I would appreciate the help, advice and support she gave me, the encouragement to wear new styles and just how much I learned. I did find myself buying a lot of the clothes that I tried and liked, but Clare was good about keeping track of costs, mindful of my budget, and made sure everything could be worn together so that I had a variety of different outfits through mixing and matching. I was amazed that just by changing an accessory an outfit can go from day wear to evening wear, or by adding a different jacket you change a look entirely.

The session finished and I immediately began wearing my new clothes and also wearing my old clothes differently. I felt a little self conscious at first, wondering how people would react, but I have been pleasantly surprised. On numerous occasions I have had people telling me that I was looking good, asking if I’ve lost weight, wondering what I’m doing differently. I have had so many positive comments that my ego has been boosted and I find myself singing the praises of a stylist and recommending to everyone that they have a session. Brilliant birthday present!


It happens to the best of us…..!

A good friend of mine had an experience today that made me chuckle and could so easily have happened to me!

Two weeks ago she bought a pair of boots and the soles on one of them had started to come apart. Knowing that she had to return the boots by today to get her money back she rushed to the shop on her way out with her husband for lunch.

They had to go upstairs to the customer service counter and queued for 30 minutes, getting more and more frustrated. When they finally got to the desk my friend gave the assistant a piece of her mind about how disappointed she was with the state of the boots, expected better from a shop that prides itself on quality and its reputation. Pulling the boots out of the bag she handed them over to the assistant along with the receipt and stood back expectantly.

The assistant looked at the receipt, looked at the boots and shook her head in disappointment. She looked up at my friend and agreed that it was terrible what had happened to the boots and indeed she was right to demand her money back. My friend nodded in approval, feeling slightly smug. The assistant went on to say that perhaps my friend should take the boots and receipt to the store next door where she actually bought them from.

Mortified at her mistake but trying to remain composed and not look like she had lost her dignity my friend said “thank you very much that is exactly what I will do and aren’t you glad you don’t work for them”, she turned on her heel and strode off purposefully while her bemused husband stood on the sidelines laughing.

Buy 4 handbags -get the bag seller for free

My time in Dubai is flying by – sunbathing, the beach, the pool – it’s a hard life. But today I was on a mission – to buy a handbag for my friend. And yes, I might have found one, or two – maybe even three or four, but the funny thing was I nearly came back with the handbag man, too.  

As I got out of the taxi, I was greeted by a rather handsome fella asking me if I wanted to buy some copy bags. “We have Louis Vuitton, Prada and Mulberry, we give you good price.” How could I resist, not only had I been accosted by a good-looking man but he was offering to sell me cheap Mulberry bags – what more does a gal need?

I dutifully followed him down a dark alley, up another one, through the winding streets until we reached a doorway. There he led me up some stairs to a thick bolted door which he knocked twice on and waited.  

The door opened and I was led into a room that was wall-to-wall full of bags – thousands of them, all shapes, sizes, colours and makes. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven!

Once you’ve chosen, the next task is haggling over the price. This is the bit I find hardest, but I’ve learnt you must play hard to get the best bargain. And so we went back and forth until eventually we settled on a price. It was 100 Dirhams more than I wanted to pay, but 1,000 Dirhams less than they had initially said so I was satisfied.  Walking away with four Mulberry bags for less than £200 is definitely a bargain; they may be copies but you’d never know!

I went to leave but the guy who had taken me to the shop insisted on walking out with me and asked if I would like him to take me round the gold souk.  I explained I wasn’t in the market for any jewellery this time and was just looking. “That’s ok he said, I just want to spend time with you – here have my number and if you want to meet up and see me again you can call and I’ll come running”. I was flattered by this, I wondered if he thought I was a rich white woman who could ‘keep him’ but nothing about me suggested this so maybe he really did just fancy meeting up!  What a shame it wasn’t a rich Emirati local who could buy me all the handbags I’ve ever wanted and more!

After I was done, I got in a taxi to head back. The driver was in Muslim attire and had a full beard so  I wasn’t expecting the conversation to go as it did. He was a friendly man and immediately started talking about how awful the traffic was and how annoying other drivers could be. I confessed that I had driven in Dubai but had got completely lost and found myself going round and round in circles in the rush hour until the stress got too much and I pulled the car over and burst into tears! He thought this was highly amusing and regaled me with stories of other women he had seen driving in tears as they tried to negotiate the madness that is driving in Dubai.

Tongues loosened and it seemed no topic was taboo. Before too long he started talking about religion, then he moved on to relationships and out came the words I always find difficult to answer: “Are you married?”  I really dislike being asked this because people can give me such a look of disbelief, concern, sympathy and confusion when I say no. “Why?” they ask, “What is wrong?”  This time I was more surprised by his response. “Are all the men in the UK gay then?” he chuckled.  I laughed and thanked him for the compliment.

Despite his humour I could see he was struggling to understand that a 40-year-old woman would be single and asked if I had split up from my partner. It was too complicated to go into the reasons for being single so I agreed that I had split from my ‘boyfriend’ about six months ago and was indeed on the look for someone new!  Good he said, because too long without sex isn’t good for anyone. 

I nearly choked on my own tongue! He went on to tell me that people call it love juice but he calls it poison and thinks that you should expel it from your body regularly through good sex. He laughed at his words and I did too, agreeing whole heartedly that regular sex was good and that given a choice I would definitely like to find someone to help cleanse my body from the poison within!  Maybe I need to call the handbag seller after all!