Every week is eventful when we’re with our clients. A couple of things happened this last week and I thought I’d “show” it to you as best I can. You’ll probably read this blog post and be nodding your head up and down because you’ve had similar experiences. Or you may read about these women and see ways you can help her see herself in a new way. Come into the homes and dressing rooms of my clients and I’ll give you a firsthand peek at what happens there!
Client story #1
“I NEVER would have thought I could wear WHITE jeans!” said the client who’d put on fifteen or twenty pounds and thought this clothing item was what skinny people wear, not her. When she slipped into them (I bet she was thinking I was crazy to ask her to do this!) and saw herself in the mirror she got it right away. She was rocking the white jean! She was prancing a happy dance in the dressing room and Erin, my assistant and daughter, were joining her! Clients need our compassionate encouragement and our view of current fashion. When they feel safe with us they’ll do the unthinkable: try on white jeans against their better judgment!
How I see it
I think when peoples’ bodies change (which is the case for nearly every woman who has reached or exceeded the age of 50), it’s nearly impossible for them to figure out what flatters. There are people who insist they’ll lose pounds and then all things will be possible. That’s so not true. I’m sure you’ve worked with clients and and know how our clients can wear about 80% more things than they thought they could.
What stands in their way of seeing what we see? Rules, internal messages, memories of harsh things that were said by someone maybe decades ago and it stuck. Their other liability is that they don’t know fashion like we know fashion. And they shouldn’t have to, yet for some reason women often think that they should just know these things because they’re a woman.
Client story #2
Another client blew OUR minds. During the style interview with this new client we learned a lot. She was very intelligent. She’d held high positions in major corporations and worked alongside people you’d probably recognize if I named them, but I won’t. I started to get an image of her through my interview questions that was far more dynamic then how she was presenting herself. And then, towards the end of the style appointment, she showed me images from fashion magazines of things that appealed to her. Whoa! They went beyond even my intuitive take. I could see that I was working with someone who could carry a lot of drama in her look. Fashion floodgates opened in my mind!
There was one hurdle to get over first: She was timid about spending money on herself, especially on clothes. She has stood tall for causes she feels passionate about and is happy to write checks to them. She’s generous with nieces and nephews. But she hadn’t experienced turning generosity in her own direction.
We went from her dining room table where we did the style interview and into her closet where there was nothing resembling the vision of the woman we’d just discovered in the interview.
I put on my prize-winning negotiating hat and said, “You need clothes. You need clothes that reflect your fabulous style but you also need clothes, period!”
Experiencing the squeeze between where she’d been and where she wanted to go
She was recognizing the corner she was in. I waited to see how she responded. She offered a game plan. “How about we shop as if the house had burned down?” she said.
“Fine with me,” I said, “and that’s going to cost money. Is that okay?”
I wasn’t sure how she’d respond to the reality of what clothes cost especially when I knew her style would be easy to express if we were in the designer departments.
We met the next day after Erin and I had spent an hour pre-shopping for her. The first piece we put on her, a crisp white blouse with great design from Layfayette 148 was a winner. I put my educator hat on and explained how this non-ordinary blouse fit in with her style words. She was seeing it in the mirror.
I was watching our energy level as Erin was out doing one of the things she does best, scouring the sale racks. Pretty soon she was in designer staples that had drama and high interest while not costing as much as they would have a month earlier. She appreciated how we were helping her get her look at a price she could handle.
At one point I suggested we take a break. She thought she could continue to try on the things we hadn’t gotten through yet but I insisted. Sitting outdoors with our coffees and snacks was the right thing. “Gosh, I needed this break more than I thought!” she said. I could only imagine the visual bombardment that had to be going on in her brain. She’d have hit overwhelm if we hadn’t taken that break.
We returned to the dressing room, tried on the remaining items and then made our selections. I reminded her that the final decision happens back in her home when we create wardrobe charts detailing her head-to-toe outfits. If we weren’t grabbing an item and using it, it would get returned.
About three hours after we’d departed I got an email from her. “Brenda, I wore the white zip-front Lafayette shirt with the double turquoise necklaces and the best-dressed woman there (besides me, of course!) wanted to know where I got it, who made it, etc., etc. Mission accomplished!”
I love when our clients get instant feedback!
Image Consultants need to be great in several roles of client work
When I teach other image consultants I always spend time talking about the different hats we wear as consultants.
We’re cheerleaders helping our clients warm up to seeing themselves in a new way, keeping their energy up, encouraging them. We’re educators teaching them the language of fashion and style and giving them words to understand what works and why.
We’re prize-winning negotiators helping our clients let go of loved-but-tattered clothes, pointing out she has a closet full of star pieces (the ones that are easy for her to shop for) but no support pieces, wearing colors that aren’t flattering to her. We’re stylists helping them see their wardrobes through professional eyes in modern times. We know how fashion works and we have lots of tips for helping them love their new look.
By being adept at all of these skills, we’re helping our clients create a healthy self-image. How priceless is that?