On the run up party season, millions of women were on the hunt for their “perfect” outfit. And I was one of them. Dashing from shop to shop, loving the clothes hanging on the rail or tailored to the mannequin, (who’s definitely not the same size or shape as me), but not loving the look when I was in the tiniest changing room staring back at the mirror. And then, in a sweaty cloud of frustration I had to undress and redress once more.
Hours are spent and miles walked traipsing from store to store on the hunt for that dream outfit, hoping against hope that it will magically appear and will be the right size, colour and fit…. or are you one of the increasing number of shoppers who buy online and play the shoppers lottery – praying clothes will fit and suit your figure, only to end up in tears and frustration?
How many times have you asked your partner, husband, boyfriend, friend “What do you think? Does my bum look big in this?”, As you unconfidently stand in front of whoever, arms flapping by your side, only to disbelieve whatever they say anyway?
How wonderful it would be if there was someone who could select outfits that would not only suit your age and figure, but that could also work with the amount you have to spend. How wonderful would it be to have confidence that you look and feel fantastic?
Well, that is exactly what a personal stylist is supposed to be able to do, and John Lewis are ahead of the game offering five free personal styling services.
Whether you’re looking for that special party dress, a few outfits for your holiday, some professional-looking workwear, the perfect pair of jeans (and who doesn’t need help buying these?) or you just want a wardrobe refresh, the John Lewis stylists claim they can help.
But how good are they REALLY at choosing outfits that suit you?
I’m in no way a fashion expert or have ever used a personal stylist service before, so I really wasn’t too sure what to expect.
My misconception of this was that firstly I would have to pay (probably a lot) for the privilege, or that the staff member allocated to me would be more interested in getting a sale than in getting it right. I’m happy to report that I was wrong on both counts.
This styling experience is completely free-of-charge and the stylists are not on commission. No one is pressurised into buying – the only currency they are interested in is customer satisfaction. Sounds a bit too good to be true, right? Well I can assure you that this is exactly how John Lewis operates.
Once I had booked an appointment at the store in Milton Keynes, my appointed stylist, Nancy Stevens, telephoned me to introduce herself and to find out a bit about me and my style and what I was looking for. I was told that I could bring along any accessories that I might want to match up and to wear, or bring underwear that would be appropriate for the type of outfit(s) I was looking for. These appointments really are tailored to the individual.
So, project “overhaul” was booked and I spent the next few days in eager anticipation.
On arrival, I was greeted by Nancy and was immediately put at ease and offered a much-needed drink. Then my education began.
Nancy recently joined this team of four but has been a stylist since 2003. Teresa Bailey has been in the fashion business for 38 years and a stylist for 13 years. Hannah and Rebecca complete the team and collectively they have 150 years of fashion experience between them – these ladies know their stuff!
Nancy informed me that despite her years’ of experience, she had recently completed a training course with the London College of Style – showing that John Lewis are keen to invest in knowledge. Style talks are performed on the shop floor every day which benefit both shoppers and staff.
Coffee in hand, Nancy and I talked about body shapes as I wasn’t sure whether I was an apple or pear, but had heard these names bandied about. We also discussed how important it is to wear the right colour.
“The aim is to make any outfit accentuate your good bits and detract from the not-so-good bits if you have any,” says Nancy, “getting the shape and colour right is an absolute must.”
All of the team are colour-trained so will know what season you are. Seasons are used to determine the colour palette that suits you best. So, if you get the shape and the colour right, you’re on your way to looking fabulous.
What I hadn’t appreciated, until I met with Nancy, was that having an ill-fitting bra can really affect how a top or dress would look. I’ve never had a bra-fitting before, so I was quite apprehensive at first. However, it really is nothing to worry about and is done so quickly and professionally that any misgivings I had went out of the window. I also reasoned with myself that there is no point in spending potentially hundreds of pounds on clothes if my underwear doesn’t fit properly!
I’ve since found out that 85% of women are wearing the wrong bra size.
So, measurements taken, colours and shape discussed, it was time to put an outfit (or two) together. The beauty of being in a department store like John Lewis is that all clothing departments are under one roof.
Nancy was amazing flitting in and out of the Style Studio to find the perfect pairing.
“It’s my job”, she said, as she disappeared to find another outfit.
I was able to try on shoes, boots, trousers, dresses, tops, jackets, accessories and because of the earlier discussions of shape and colour, we were able to mix and match items to create several different looks and therefore actually saved me money.
I came away with a stunning dress that can be dressed up or dressed down, which is ideal, because I hate leaving an outfit in the wardrobe waiting for the right occasion to wear it. The dress is something I would never have thought would suit me or my shape, and I love it.
What was so apparent to me was that these ladies really love what they do. For each one of them they see being able to do this as a privilege and how happy it makes them to see how someone’s face lights up, the cries of joy and where there was once a lack of confidence, there now stands a more confident woman, happy to look at her reflection in the mirror.
“This is my dream job,” explains Nancy, “When a client steps into our Style Studio they can sometimes feel quite apprehensive, and disheartened with their shape, believing they won’t ever find clothes that just fit. I love it when I’m able to open someone’s eyes to something new and to make them feel fabulous again. What’s not to love?”
And the service is not just for ladies, at a selected number of their stores John Lewis also offer a personal styling service for men.
According to a recent report from the Office of National Statistics, online sales have risen by 15.3% over the past year and now make a record high of 18.2% of all retail sales. This means that one in every five pounds spent in UK shops is now online.
With this in mind, retailers are constantly looking for ways to encourage shoppers to come through the doors and John Lewis is one of them.
I am one of those shoppers who order countless clothes online with a view to returning anything unwanted, and this service prevents this process, enabling you to try everything on there and then. It’s genius!
Shopping with Nancy was like being with a best friend who was there just to help you select something fabulous
Would I do this again? Absolutely! I have tried on clothes that I would have never considered in the past and it really is entirely free with no strings attached, and absolutely no pressure to purchase or say yes to an outfit you dislike.
I never thought I would say this, but I really enjoyed the shopping experience and will definitely return.
You can book the Personal Styling service online at johnlewis.com