February 9, 2010

Meet a Personal Style Coach and Shop for Your Body Shape

We all want to look good but where should we start? Whether you're entering the workforce or you're a mom who needs to get her groove back, image and fashion pros can help you kickstart your makeover. While stylists cater mostly to celebrities and wealthy clients, personal style coaches (or image consultants) help you pick the right clothes, and refine your image. I talked to Wendy Woods a Toronto based personal style coach and owner of The Refinery. Wendy offers one-on-one consultations and shopping tours.

- How did you become a personal style coach?
I worked in sales at IBM and I got inspired by my co-workers' passion. I studied business so I always knew I wanted to own my business at some point. So one day I decided to go to George Brown college and obtained a certificate in image consulting and I started from there.

- What's the difference between you and a stylist?
The stylist is more about fashion and trends, they dress celebrities (who by the way get a lot of free clothes) I'm more about everyday women. There is not much understanding out there about style. You need to understand your client's personality, body shape, lifestyle. I try to show my clients that they need few clothes. You should always buy clothes you love and perhaps less pieces. I help them pick quality key pieces for their wardrobe.

- I know exactly what you mean. I noticed how much women love to shop here. Back home (in France) we probably buy less clothes but we usually buy the best quality we can afford. It lasts longer and in the end, it's cheaper.
Exactly. I have less clothes than most of my clients. We should invest in high quality classic pieces, and play with the accessories. Quality is actually more affordable than people think.

- So how do you help the style-challenged?
If I were to do a full makeover, I'd start with a color analysis, to see what colors suit my client best. Then a wardrobe audit. We clean out their closet. Then we can start shopping for strategic pieces. I can go back to put some outfits together to suit their lifestyle.

-Who is your typical client?
I work mostly with women between 30 and 45. I'd love to work with younger women but they don't usually have the budget and they don't always realize a better image will get you promoted faster.

- That's true, I've noticed how people address me differently based on how I am dressed.
How do you teach your clients about body shape and what suits them?
First, I don't call people fruits (pear, apple). I use shapes, it's easier to understand. A triangle is a figure with larger hips, narrow shoulders, for example.
We look at the overall proportions, height, long legs or long torso etc...I help them identify the perfect pieces for their shape. We'd get an A-line skirt for a woman with larger hips for example.

- Do you always find what you want when you go shopping? Sometimes I come home empty handed.
Sometimes, you do have to wait for a good piece. Don't settle for something you don't love and remember tailoring is quite inexpensive and will help.

Understanding your body shape is key to buy what works for you:

Here is a selection of key pieces to flatter most body shapes:

Left - Classic A line skirt Jones New York ($64.99)
Center - Short Sequined A line skirt from Charlotte Russe ($23.99)
Right - Dolce & Gabbana Gingham dress ($895)

An A line skirt works for most body types but it's the best skirt for triangle body shapes. The flare hides your problem area. While a just-below-the knee length is ideal, if you've got great legs, flaunt them in a short A line skirt.

7 for all mankind boot cut jeans ($155)

Skinny jeans might look trendy but they are hard to pull off. The Boot Cut jeans is flattering for all body types. It elongates curvy figures and softens rectangular body shapes. 

Left - Origami Oversized T-shirt from Elizabeth & James ($195)
Right - Splendid jersey mini-dress ($120)

V neck tops draw the eye vertically along the body. No need to go for very plunging necklines. Moderation is the key here.

Wraps and flutter sleeves draw attention to the top of the figure rather than the waist or hips, so it's great for women with large busts. Wrap dresses are also great to create proportion and balance for nearly all figures.

Left - A day look in a Splendid Jersey wrap dress ($140)
Right - An evening look with a similar design by Issa, Silk-jersey wrap dress ($505) 


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