Friday, 16 May 2014

Body Image, Self-esteem and Selfies

This week I was invited on BBC Radio Manchester by Elizabeth Alker. Her shows coincided with the launch of The Beauty Project; a festival put on by Selfridges to start the discussion around what beauty is with pioneering talks and interactive debate. The in-studio guest was Ilona Burton, a mental health and eating disorder campaigner, and I was adding my two penny worth on the phone. Introductions aside, talk turned to how negative body image affects mental health and self-esteem.

Conversation ranged from photoshopping and rise of the selfie to fast fashion and Kate Moss. Kate Moss? Why yes - during the show I talked about my own body image issues in puberty. I grew up in the 1990s with heroin chic models like Kate Moss plastered on the side of buses and billboards heralding the launch of CKONE perfume. Androgyny was in, curves were out. And after developing a text book hourglass figure no-one told me that having curves didn't mean I was fat...I thought I was fat and so began the battle. This lasted into my twenties when I started to celebrate my curves. Who can I thank for this? Kim Kardashian. That Kardashian Clan may not be everyone's cup of tea but they've done a hell of a lot to promote a healthy body image when it comes to curves.

I think we all suffer from negative body image occasionally. How did I get my head around my own personal conundrum? Well, realising that curves look better when they are shown off I started to experiment with tighter clothes: pencil skirts, more jersey fabrics, and I started belting dresses. I also honed my style. When it comes to your wardrobe, wearing things that are true to yourself, cutting through the noise of fashion on the High Street and embracing your style wholeheartedly can make a HUGE positive impact on your body image. Like I said on the show - getting dressed should be joyous and awesome and celebratory. When you get dressed you are saying to the world "this is who I am!" At huge risk of sounding cheesy, making sure your clothes are authentic and reflect the inner 'you' will always be a winning formula. No point wearing a suit when you want to dress like a cheerleader.

We are living in a highly visualised society: Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram are all social platforms which rely heavily on pictures and videos to translate our life experiences into an easily digestible format. And those pictures can be easily altered by applying the kingpin of image mastery: Photoshop. I couldn't agree more with Tina Fey when she says of Photoshop "Give it up. Retouching is here to stay." (see pages 157 - 161 of her awesome book Bossy Pants for the full argument.) Accepting that the images we see have pretty much all been tinkered with brings you to a place of disassociation with the images produced. I work in fashion and read about 10 fashion magazines a month. Do I feel the need to hit the gym and eat alfalfa sprouts after reading? No. I know the images aren't real - it's like reading a Disney story to me, to be appreciated but not believed.  But if you still feel affected by what you see then unsubscribe from the emails and newsletters that clutter up your inbox and stop buying the magazines that promote an unhealthy or unrealistic body image.

Finding positive role models (thanks Kim) is also a wonderful way of realigning yourself. I dedicated a Pinterest board to awesome, real women. Feel free to use it when your eyes need some reality. Click here to be transported. 


Check out Elizabeth Alker on You Tube by clicking here

And to follow her on Twitter click here

Get involved in The Beauty Project by clicking here

To follow Ilona Burton on Twitter click here

Friday, 9 May 2014

Work Wardrobe Masterclass

I had a client last week who was shifting gears in her career and needed her wardrobe to reflect a certain level of wealth. However, the wealth of the people she would be interacting with wasn't reflected in her new wage packet - whatever we bought on her Personal Shop had to earn its place in her wardrobe. BIG TIME. I love a challenge like this because it means taking items that the client already owns and combining them with new items to make them work harder. I call this service a Half & Half - half wardrobe clearing and sorting so I know what we have in the wardrobe to work with, then hitting the shops to fill the gaps.

Here are 3 of the items we purchased - an Autograph top and necklace  from Marks & Spencer and the Adrianne Dress from Whistles.

The Autograph top is trans-seasonal and hugely versatile: my client can wear it with jeans at the weekend and with 7/8 trousers for work. The print doesn't tie it specifically to one season and the construction makes it look a lot more expensive than it is.

The Adrianne dress is £95 - not cheap - but this dress will double up as a summer dress out of work worn with flats, and works under a jacket for work as well. For my client I teamed it with a pair of block heels so she could run around all day but still get the benefit from a heel. I am a huge fan of Whistles. During my first year of self-employment as The Wardrobe Angel I had part-time job there and fell for the brand. Known as a "bridge brand" (a brand which sits between High Street and Designer brands - think top end High Street. Another example is Reiss), Whistles may seem expensive but their clothes last and last. Plus they have a high re-sale value on eBay! Get thee to Whistles!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Training Company Woes

Last week I was contacted by a training company who wanted me to "volunteer" to run a training session in conjunction with the Job Centre aimed at getting people back into work. This training course was going to be "the course that everyone wants to go on" "the best job seekers course out there." Great - I'm all for getting people back into work. We talked through some ideas of how the session would pan out and who it was specifically for then I asked "how do you get paid and how do I get paid?" The person from the training company went quiet, "We were wondering if you would volunteer a few hours."

On the surface this might seem like a reasonable request. A not-for-profit organisation has little cash to spare and they really are doing it for the greater good. But when a Government funded agency who pays the training company per each job seeker attending the course asks you to "volunteer" -'s my answer: How would the person organising this course from the training company feel if I asked her to pop into work and "volunteer" for a few hours? It's not just a few hours either: it's preparing the course training materials, buying anything necessary, practising the content for timing, re-writing bits that don't fit or work, practising and learning the materials so you deliver on what's expected of you.

And that's the reason for this blog post. I'm not one to pull out the "I'm running a business" chestnut and "how do you think I get paid?" golden nugget, even though they are both exceptionally awesome phrases, no. This is just a more basic understanding of people and more importantly, respect for the work people do. I am an expert in my field and when you book me you are paying not only for my time but for my expertise.

Here endeth the lesson.

Til next time...x