Understanding my client’s needs is a crucial part of making our time together successful. For new clients this means filling out a questionnaire which is complemented with an extensive chat in person or over the phone. And with regular clients I have a pretty good idea of their outfit needs already, although we frequently re-address them to make sure we are still on the same wavelength.
Style needs include style goals and many other factors. They include internal factors, like style preferences, style persona, and figure flattering priorities, and external factors like lifestyle, climate and environment. Perhaps you have already dedicated some time to understanding your needs, or maybe it has been happening organically over time as you evolve your style. Either way, understanding your style needs can really help you to create outfits that make you feel fabulous.
When I thought about how to articulate in a blog post how I actually use knowledge of my client’s style needs during outfit creation sessions, I realized that I keep five things top of mind. These things form a frame of reference that I refer to before we select one of the four approaches to outfit creation. I also refer to them while we’re creating outfits, pulling items from her closet and laying them out on her bed. And I refer to them again after my client has fitted on an outfit as part of the outfit evaluation process.
You might use these same five things as a kind of “cheat sheet” during your own outfit creation, thereby helping you to focus on and attain your style goals.
Everyone has a comfort zone. You need to make sure that your outfits aren’t so far outside this comfort zone that you don’t want to wear them. For example, I have one client who is game to wear skirts and dresses to her casual work environment, as long as she’s wearing casual or flat footwear. But matching her skirts and dresses with fancy high heeled pumps or sandals makes her feel prissy and too dressed up, and takes the outfit too far outside her comfort zone.
This is a counter balance to the previous point. Some of your outfits should push the boundaries of your comfort zone in order to evolve your style and prevent you from getting stuck in a rut. Many clients have asked for my help because they want to refresh their style, which means taking them out of their comfort zone to some extent. So I’m always gently encouraging clients to try new-to-them combinations, but with enough “comfort zone” elements to ensure that they feel confident in the outfit. For example, I suggested to the client I mentioned above that she wear skirts and dresses to work with a dressy wedge sandal. Dressy enough to push the boundaries, but casual enough that she will be comfortable.
I believe that a stylish outfit incorporates a bit of “now”. This means being aware of fashion trends and choosing ones that you can adopt. Remember that trends do not change every year and needn’t be hot off the press directional fashion. Including that all important now-factor could mean incorporating a five year old trend. For example, instead of wearing a tailored tucked button-down shirt with a pencil skirt and round toe mary jane pumps, I suggested to my client that she match the same skirt with a less structured untucked top like a soft silky tee and high vamped wedge sandals. That’s because unstructured structure and high vamped footwear is on trend.
Your outfit should map back to your style goals, style descriptor, or the set of adjectives that you’ve compiled to describe the style you are aspiring to. For example, my client aspires to looking feminine, professional, modern, modest and interesting. So we took the same pencil skirt that we matched with a soft silky tee and high vamped wedge sandals, and added a playful pendant necklace, a clutch handbag and a broad cuff bracelet.
Every outfit should map back to a setting in your lifestyle, be it for work, play or a special occasion. There is no point in creating dozens of killer outfits for an imaginary lifestyle! With my clients we try to get quite specific when describing the setting (or settings) that map to an outfit. It could be a cocktail party, a normal day at the office, presentation day at the office, a weekend stroll down to the farmer’s market, spending time in the park with the kids, a BBQ at a friend’s house, or casual dinner out.
Understanding one’s needs is sometimes easier than using that information to make decisions. A simple cheat sheet like the one above can make it easier and ensure that nothing is overlooked. Of course there are other criteria to consider, like the all important happiness-factor that is crucial to evaluating the overall success of an outfit. And there is only so much evaluation that you can do in your dressing room, so the road test is equally important. I’ll be covering these aspects in future posts.