Personal styling is all about the individual –finding what works best for the client. Traditionally, the styling process has used the labelling of body shapes and finding a client’s ‘colours’ as a means to helping achieve this.
However what happens when you can no longer wear that turquoise dress you love because it doesn’t work with your determined ‘colours’ or, shock horror, you’re now officially a pear?
We sat down with Australian Style Institute founder Lauren Di Bartolo to discuss how these traditional ways of styling are breaking rapport and why they need to adapt to the modern landscape.
Lauren tells me about a book she has on her shelves at home, Vogue’s Book of Etiquette and Good Manners. Published in 1969, it is filled to the brim with rules dictating what women should and shouldn’t do and wear.
Lauren emphasises the impeccable etiquette, but also this hefty restrictions placed on women during this period.
“My grandmother tells me stories about her fears of getting it wrong – and if it wasn’t right, it was definitely wrong.”
It’s restraints like these that Lauren steers away from.
Nowadays, our lifestyles have changed. How we spend our time, money and energy is significantly different to our grandmothers’ times. Behaviours have changed, style has changed and therefore the systems used by stylists need to change as well.
This is clear when we look at colour matching. People are still using Caroline Jackson’s Colour Me Beautiful as a colour guide, even though it was released over 30 years ago.
Lauren acknowledges that colour is important. However “there’s nothing worse than seeing a woman on the shop floor with her colours out hoping to find a match, because when she doesn’t, it’s disheartening and dangerous for her confidence.” A personal stylist’s role is to build self-esteem and confidence, not to knock someone down.
“The problem with traditional models is that they’re filled with rules, but when it comes to fashion, there are rules that are meant to be broken. At Australian Style Institute we teach our students how to identify which colours suit their clients best, in a way that’s easy to understand, translatable and builds confidence.
Our colour system is centred around what works for shopping trends and clients’ needs today. Often the unexpected colours that clients love most and looks best.”
It’s important to remember that placing too much emphasis on colour can disrupt the process. Recent studies have shown 84.7% of people list colour as the primary reason they buy a product.
“Colour is such a dominant factor when it comes to our processing as humans. If our focus is primarily on colour and what matches when we shop, then we might miss something that’s a really great fit.”
“We always have choice when it comes to colour, but there are many items of clothing that are not all designed to fit us”, therefore more attention should be placed on shape and fit.
Lauren also believes that anyone can wear any colour, it depends on where it’s placed.
“There are so many rules out there on who can wear what colour, like blondes shouldn’t wear yellow or green and blue shouldn’t be worn together. Colour changes when it is placed next to another colour, so anyone can wear any colour, it’s about where it’s worn and what it’s paired with.”
It’s important to note that Lauren is not dismissing the fundamentals, such as working to suit a body shape. It’s the approach that needs to change.
“Understanding body shape is critical to being able to assist a client accurately, however traditional approaches have required lots of rules. You won’t find any mention of apples or pears here.”
The labelling of shapes can lead to misunderstandings and at times, leave the client feeling judged.
“Stylists need remember that when they’re working with a client they’re working with their identity. Everything must be done in order to build rapport and confidence.”
Australian Style Institute’s approach to helping someone understand their body shape is to provide them with choices on what they can wear, rather than what they cannot.
“For most people, their problem is not that they’re wearing the wrong thing, it’s that they don’t have the confidence to try something different. If a stylist doesn’t pigeonhole their clients with shapes or fruits, and instead provides the client with options, then the experience is an amazing one, full of sartorial choice.”
“We’ve left behind the rules of what clients shouldn’t wear and started to put key focus on what they should, so that they have more confidence when it comes to shopping and dressing every day.”
So you don’t have to burn your Trinny and Susannah Body Shape Bible just yet, but don’t make it the be all and end all.
Styling is about the personality inside the individual. A great stylist connects with their client and creates a transformational experience by looking at body shape and colour without the labels and restrictions.