In Sept of 2020 my parents and I bought a business together, and overnight I went from working in my jammies on the couch to being the face of a thriving retail business. After years of being content to wear hand me downs from my sister, and thrift shop finds from my favorite store in the desert – Angel View, I had to start looking like I give a shit. I knew I’d need professional help, and my best option was hiring a personal stylist in Vancouver.
Back in 2016 when I was nominated one of Vancouver’s Top 30 Mom Bloggers I got to meet the year’s winner, Dee Clarke of The Joy of Style. Her blog and social media feeds feature attainable fashion goals for grown-ass women. Her site’s tagline is Refresh Reinvent Reemerge. I mean, those three Rs couldn’t nail my needs any more accurately. Another member of our Top 30 group, Taslim Jaffer, wrote about her experience being styled by Dee back in January of 2019, and reading her article was one of the things that pushed me to reach out for a consultation.
While it’s fun to flip through magazines and admire couture on rail-thin bored-looking models, I’ve never looked at these images and felt represented. In my own blog and social media, I try to represent the chubby, middle-aged, single mom demographic. I’ve always thought of fashion and style as something exclusive to the genetically blessed. Furthermore, I really didn’t care. I’m not a shopper. Shopping’s not something I think of as an activity or a thing to do on my day off, however, I have for quite some time been interested in the idea of a capsule wardrobe, especially for travel.
Normally Dee would do a closet inventory and look at the pieces I love and wear all the time so she can figure out what’s missing and get a sense of my style. In my case, we were essentially starting from scratch because I only had a couple of items I was even remotely attached to. I quickly went through my closet and made a large pile of things to donate and a small pile of things I would still happily wear around the house or to the gym. I organized this pile of loungewear and workout wear into a couple of drawers in my closet, and this left about 4 things on hangers.
We talked on the phone about my wardrobe goals and she gave me some homework. I was to fill out a questionnaire, upload photos of the items I was keeping, and create a couple of Pinterest boards. One board would be “fashion I would like to wear” and one board would be “things I wouldn’t be caught dead in”. This was fun. I already had a travel fashion Pinterest board, so I was able to share my style icons, like Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy and Gwen Stefani.
Part of Dee’s service is what I’ve dubbed Fashion Therapy. We talked about how I think people see me – chunky soccer mom – versus who I really am – intrepid adventurer, reformed adrenaline junkie, creative badass. We talked about why I suffer from imposter syndrome and how my sports injuries and subsequent weight gain have made me avoid mirrors and poorly lit dressing rooms for the past 5 years.
We agreed to meet just days before we were set to take over the store. My first stop was at Diane’s Lingerie on Granville St where I was fitted for a bra for the first time in my life. It is a very strange thing in the best of times I’m sure, but during Covid when we’re not supposed to be this close to strangers, it was way outside my comfort zone. I had never spent so much on a bra before, but I had also never had one that fit me so perfectly. I bought it in a neutral rose that I could wear under just about everything, and I’ve since bought the same one in black.
I left Diane’s wearing my new bra and headed to Pacific Centre to meet Dee who had already done a pre-shop for me. We spent the next couple of hours going around to the stores where she had put aside clothes for me to try on. At The Bay we were able to use the personal shopping suite which is much more comfortable than a dressing room and it lit naturally so I didn’t hate the mirror. I kept probably 80% of the items Dee chose for me and the experience was exhausting, but fun and in no way demoralizing. Throughout our time together, Dee kept up the fashion therapy, talking me out of my self-loathing and critical mindset. She didn’t offer any disingenuous compliments or saccharine flattery, she just deftly picked clothing that worked on my body and made me feel comfortable and confident.
I only bought one pair of shoes, but promised to buy a pair of ankle boots as soon as I could find one that would work with my orthotics. Having acute plantar fasciitis makes buying shoes difficult.
I brought home my new capsule wardrobe, photographed each of the pieces and uploaded them to my virtual closet so Dee could organize them into outfit ideas for work. Two days later I put one on and took on my new role as Co-Owner and Managing Director of GS & Company.
The first couple of months were very stressful. There was so much to learn, and we were ramping up into the Christmas shopping season. I was beyond grateful that I didn’t have to give any thought at all to what I was going to wear every morning. My closet is no longer full of clothing I’m just ok with. The only things hanging in there are options that work together, fit me perfectly, and make me feel good. It’s the perfect work/casual capsule wardrobe. I even found a terrific pair of ankle boots at Eleganté Shoes right across from our store.
I can honestly say that Dee’s fashion therapy helped me immensely as I’ve reemerged into the workforce. The last regular job I had was 30 years ago before I ran away to sea, and I was nearly always alone in an event production office, so I didn’t have to dress for that job. This feeling of being comfortable in my clothing is new to me, and such an enormous relief. I’ve since added a few camisoles to wear under cardigans and blazers, and I’m on the lookout for some comfortable black pants. I feel like a badass again, and I’ve released the self-loathing I’ve felt in the past few years, which is kind of miraculous considering I’m still no closer to my fighting weight. Dee talked me out of the nonsense that I was clinging to, the idea that somehow my self-worth is connected to my weight. Dee reminded me that style belongs to everyBODY!
If you’re considering refreshing your wardrobe seasonally, or need a whole new set of work clothes like I did, I highly recommend Dee’s Personal Stylist Services. I’m looking forward to working with her again to put together a travel capsule wardrobe when travel becomes a thing again.