Is a personal shopper worth the money?

A couple hundred bucks (industry rates range from $75-$150 an hour) is a lot of money for “advice”.  Is it a good investment when you can go shopping with a friend and put the money towards your new purchases?

I get asked this question all the time and thought I’d explain some facts so you can judge whether hiring a personal shopper for a few hours is going to be worthwhile for you.

Technically, personal shoppers fall into two categories – the in-store “personal shopper” and the independent “style consultant”. Each will provide a slightly different service.

In store personal shoppers

In-store personal shoppers will generally have more training than sales people on how to give style advice. They will provide a free service or charge a small fee redeemable against purchases.  They will have good knowledge about the labels they’re affiliated with and be able to save you time by pulling out the items that suit you and your needs. They can also offer advice on how to accessorise or wear your purchase differently.

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A personal fashion stylist can give you instant results.

As a personal fashion stylist, one of the best parts of my job is running group styling parties.  Nothing compares to showing women how they can use the magic of clothes to change how they feel about themselves.  And often the results are instant.   It never ceases to amaze me how a woman can light up a whole room when she’s wearing the right garment for her shape, colouring and in this case, personality.

Karla Before

One lady – I’ll call her Karla – brought 4 versions of a peasant (gypsy) blouse to swap or give away.   They were in bright colours and prints.  Some with beading; others with decorative stitching.   All in floaty, see-through fabric with complicated ties and elastic gathers on the sleeves and waistbands.

Intrigued, I asked Karla if she had ever worn the blouses. Yes, but then she’d take them off before leaving the house because they just didn’t feel right on her.

I asked Karla what attracted her to buy them in the first place. She was inspired by the tv character Nina Proudman on Offspring. The gypsy blouses had been her attempt to copy Nina’s boho – chic, carefree and playful look.

I hadn’t met Karla before that night.  But over the course of a couple of hours, she struck me as woman who was poised and graceful with this quiet inner sense of strength.   I didn’t think that fussy, gypsy blouses were the best way to express her quiet energy level and personality.

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Wear your expensive items often.

Instyle UK August 2012

This was a good read from the UK version of Instyle Magazine, August 2012.  It pretty much underscores the advice my mother gave me when it comes to shopping, “Buy the best that you can afford.  If you choose wisely, it will last and love you the rest of your life.”

Senior Stylist Natalie Hartley took up the challenge of wearing the same black, cropped  jacket for thirty days – to work, to a wedding and to the corner shop to buy milk.  No exceptions. Not that it’s something anyone of us would choose to do (I bet most of us are glad we’ve left the days of school uniforms behind us), but did the fact that it was an ultra expensive Chanel jacket make it easier or harder to incorporate into everyday wear?

I won’t give away the whole story.  You can read it on Nathalie Harley’s blog and have a look at what she wore her jacket with.  I do agree that when you invest in brands like Chanel, you will most likely get impeccable fit and quality fabric that will last. The feeling you get wearing it is a bonus. And priceless.

Any astute shopper will rationalise an investment like this with the Cost Per Wear formula – the more often you wear something, the cheaper it is to own. I just figure that if you’re lucky enough to own something so beautifully made, you need to honour it by wearing it often.  The more you wear something, the more comfortable and familiar it gets. Kind of like making a friend for life.

Why I am a personal stylist

I just had a magical and humbling experience with a new client. We spent almost three hours taking every single thing out of her wardrobe and throwing out items that were not right for her.  The most amazing moment came when we played around with what was left.

I love my job.  I especially love it when I make my clients cry. When she saw herself in the mirror in a blue fitted tunic, a belt, brown leggings and matching boots, she didn’t just see a combination of well chosen separates.   She saw herself as the beautiful, capable woman that she is.    Something easily forgotten when you’re running around looking after a young family.

What I do is not rocket science, but I love how a well chosen top or a bit of makeup on the outside can exert such a positive impact on the inside.

It’s OK to look after yourself first.

Look after yourself so you can look after others.

When people find out what I do for a living, it’s not unusual for them to say, “Oh I so need your help. This and that has happened, my wardrobe’s a mess  and I want to look better.”  Then further into the conversation I detect something along the lines of, ” I’ll get in touch with you later.  When I’ve lost the weight, when I’ve paid the school fees,  when I get that new job.”

We’re  all busy women who spend a lot of our lives supporting the people we love. We’re mothers, wives, partners, daughters and friends. We want and like to give, but ever feel like you’re scratching the bottom of the barrel to get through the day?  When was the last time you put yourself first?  As they say on airplanes, you need to strap on your own oxygen mask first before you’re any use to anyone else.

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