Clothes Shopping – What To Do Before You Buy

Don’t we all like to have a splurge on the High Street and come home after a hard day’s shopping laden down with multiple carrier bags?  But the trouble with this type of clothes shopping is that you are going to waste money on clothes you will probably never wear.  So however boring the idea of planning ahead maybe for some of you, having set up a strategy before you even set foot in a shop will ensure that you only choose great pieces that really suit you and that you will wear and wear.

Work Out What Suits Youdon’t even think about a shopping trip before you have worked out what suits you.  You need to know your body shape and which colours suit your complexion. Then you need to be ruthless in only trying on those styles that you know will flatter you.  However adorable that fluffy pink cropped jumper looked on the model in the magazine, don’t buy it unless you are sure it really suits you and goes with the other pieces in your wardrobe. If you find a style that looks great on you stick with it, a lot of famous women who were known for their fashion sense actually only wore a very narrow choice of different styles.  They knew what suited them and kept to it – think Jackie O and all the different sheath dresses she wore.  If you do find a piece that is especially flattering, consider buying multiples in different colours. If you are not sure how to put together a great outfit that is really flattering, consider signing up for a course like our TLAFS ‘Introduction to Personal Styling Course’ or booking a consultation and shopping trip with a personal fashion stylist

Tadashi Shoji red dress

Alison Sweeney in red Tadashi Shoji dress

Set a Budget – work out how much you have to spend before you go shopping and stick to it.  This way it will be much easier to avoid looking at pieces that are too expensive.  Also, do yourself a favour and do not be tempted to try on something that you know is a real budget buster.  You will only make yourself miserable if it does look fabulous and you will then compare it with the garments you can afford, making you feel really resentful.  Or you will buy that really expensive dress or luxuriously soft pair of leather boots and either end up bringing them back a week later or having to live on soup and crackers for months.

Wardrobe Audit – it really is a good idea before you go on a major clothes shopping spree, to go through your wardrobe to see what you already have.  Don’t buy anything new until you have cleared out anything you haven’t worn for a long time or you know does not suit you.  Many of us have a tendency to hoard clothes, thinking that the occasion will come around that will be perfect for that raspberry polka dot top, that we’ll lose the weight or we will wake up one day and find that colour now really does suit us.  Also if you keep too much in your wardrobe or in your drawers, you will have difficulty finding things.  Who hasn’t unearthed a shirt or jumper that they had forgotten all about when they do a tidy up.  Once you have done an audit, only then assess what you need to go with the garments you already have.  If you come out in hives when you hear the term ‘capsule wardrobe’, really look at each garment you currently own and think of how often you wear it.  It is better to buy fewer better quality pieces, than have a jumble of cheaper clothes you rarely wear.

Make a Listnow this might feel like you are going to the supermarket, but once you have done your wardrobe audit, draw up a list of what you are intending to buy and stick to it.  Marry your list up to your budget and be realistic.  After all are you really likely to get a pair of boots, a cardigan and a skirt for £75?  If your list and budget do not marry up, then prioritise as to which garments you need the most.

Wear the Right Underwear and Shoes – when you go shopping, especially if you are buying a dress for a special occasion, put on the underwear that you will actually be wearing with the dress, such as the right bra or slimming underwear.  Also wear or bring along the right height shoes and put on makeup and style your hair the way you are planning to wear it at the event.

Are You Prepared to Care for the Garment? – I think we all have a silk blouse or cashmere jumper that spends most of its life in the laundry hamper because we never get around to having it dry cleaned or hand washing it.  Before you buy any garment, consider if you have the time to hand wash a delicate fabric or can afford to or will get around to taking it to the dry cleaners. The same goes if you are not into ironing. Avoid linen and heavy cottons, however much you love them, if you know you will not iron them properly

Check the View From Every Angle – you may hate changing rooms and trying on clothes, but unless you take the time to try a garment on and view what it looks like from every angle, you may end up making an expensive mistake.  Check what it looks like from behind or take a friend you trust to tell you the truth.  Sit down, bend your knees and raise your arms above your head to check that the garment moves with you and is not going to be too uncomfortable.  Remember tight is not classy and you really won’t wear that dress or pair of trousers again if the garment chafes or you can’t move freely.

Check the Garment’s Finish especially if the piece you are thinking of purchasing is expensive, you need to check the finish carefully.   How well does the garment hang, does the fabric feel the right weight, softness and quality? How well have the seams been sewn?  How well has the lining been stitched in and is the lining material good quality?  Also are the buttons, zips and other decorative features well made and securely sewn on?  If you love a jacket or coat but think the buttons look cheap, consider buying some better buttons at a haberdasher and sewing them on.

Don’t Get Seduced by the Sales – who hasn’t gotten carried away and bagged a bargain that never sees the light of day, remaining in the carrier bag at the bottom of the wardrobe until you shuffle it off to the charity shop or sell it on eBay? Just because a dress or jumper by your favourite designer has been reduced by 75% doesn’t mean it will suit you or fit in with the rest of your wardrobe.  Nothing is a bargain if you never wear it or have to buy new underwear or a new pair of shoes before you can wear it.

So plan before you shop and then you will only bring home clothes that suit you, fit you and go with what else is in your wardrobe.  If you are going to be impulsive and splurge, do it on colourful accessories and jewelry that need not cost a lot.  Invest your serious fashion budget on key pieces that will last you several seasons and don’t let yourself be seduced by that latest fashion trend or designer bargain that you will get little wear out of.

Alison Sweeney red dress image Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

Some Fast and Effective Styling Tips

We all struggle with our look from time to time, so here are some fast and effective styling tips that will help you to look stunning and well dressed every single day.

  1. Know What Colours Do and Do Not Suit You

Colours can do unpleasant things to your face; they can alter your skin tone by making you appear greyer, yellower, redder, darker or lighter.  They can also make your face shape appear rounder, wider, longer or shorter.

If you are unsure here is a quick link to a Colour Guide and Card that you can purchase that allows you to check which colours are your friend and which colours you should avoid.


Find Your Style

Find Your Style


2.  Know Your Body Shape

It’s important to know which shops are the best for catering to your particular body shape.

You are either:

  • Angular (mainly straight lines)
  • Curvilinear (mainly curved lines)
  • Interjacent (both curved and straight lines)

Remember you are three dimensional, so look at yourself from all angles not just straight on.  With this you should be able to eliminate shops that do not cater for your shape i.e. M&S mainly cut for curved shapes but if you are angular you may feel a little swamped in these clothes, whereas the likes of Mango mainly cut for angular shapes so you may feel a little constrained in these clothes.


3. Ignore Clothing Size Labels


Unless you purchase all your clothes from one shop/brand only, they will all differ. None of them are the same and the models that manufacturers used to use as clothing templates are no longer recognisable to the average size women.  So pick three sizes of the item you like; one in the size you think you are, and the others a size smaller and a size larger.  Nobody can see your label, so there is nothing for you to worry about.  It is more important to trust the way the garment looks when it is on than to fret about the size on the label. If it distresses you that much CUT IT OUT!


 4.  Trying on Clothes

When you try a piece of clothing on in the changing room, especially if it is for your top half, move around.  Reach your arms up and down, twist from side to side, jump up and down, and then look at yourself asking the question does this still look good?  Because we all forget that we do not stand still all day long. Clothing rises and twists but if it falls back neatly that’s great if not…move along nothing to see!


 5.  Is Your Garment Comfortable?

You always need to think about whether what you are wearing is comfortably loose, unless of course you have gone for the skinny jean/spray on look.  Tight clothes that show all your lumps and bumps can make you appear badly groomed.  But don’t confuse comfortably loose for baggy, as again this can have a tendency to look scruffy and unkempt.


 6.  Buy Coloured Vest Tops

Once you know what colours suit you, then it is a good idea to purchase at least four good fitting vest tops in strong hues to add colour when you can.  People who wear colour are viewed as being much more approachable and appear friendlier to us.  You can wear your colourful vest tops underneath jackets, cardigans, blouses, shrugs, and pashminas.


7. Invest in Key Pieces for Your Wardrobe That Will Last


Your list should include:

  • A good pair of jeans
  • A tailored jacket
  • A good coat
  • A tailored trousers/skirt
  • A white or light shirt/blouse
  • A good fitted black dress
  • About three coloured scarf’s/pashminas and two in neutral colours
  • Four coloured vest tops

 Build these items up over time you should be good to go by next season.


 8.  Get Your Bra Size Measured

Get your bra size measured, preferably at the shop you purchase your bras from.  Like other items of clothing, the sizing of bras can vary enormously from one shop to another. Also, don’t forget to get your bra size measured once a year, as your bust size can change over time.

Defile fashion ‘Find Your Style’ Image Mamacoswin Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3,0 Unported

Meet the Fashion Stylists – Interview with Debra Lestrade of ‘Style to You’

Now ‘The Fashion Stylist’ blog is up and running, we are planning to post a fantastic series of interviews with stylists, fashion bloggers and other industry insiders.  We are kicking off with our very own Debra Lestrade, the styling genius behind ‘Style to You’ and senior tutor at The London Academy of Fashion and Styling.


Debra Lestrade

Debra Lestrade of ‘Style to You’


Q. When did you first become interested in fashion and what sparked that interest?

A. My interest in fashion started in my early teens, and it has grown from there.  I was always the one who wanted to look groomed rather than wear the latest fad.  It’s funny, but when I go back and look at the old photos of me with my friends from those teenage years it’s not me who is wearing the latest, loudest – I was always the one wearing the outfit that fitted well, that I felt good in and looked great!

Q. Have you always aspired to be a fashion stylist or did you once want to follow a different career?

A. I started off wanting to to be a fashion model. I was in awe of the way they sashayed down the catwalk, looking so elegant and confident. I used to daydream and imagine myself in their shoes, gliding gracefully down the catwalk in all those beautifully designed clothes. Luckily I achieved my goal and did eventually become a fashion model.  Yes, at times I had to wear some very ‘choice’ outfits that were not quite as I had imagined (that’s fashion!). Also there were occasions where a few trips, falls and slides took over from gliding down the catwalk!  But overall it was a fantastic experience that further ignited my passion for style and fashion and from then on I knew that I would always be a part of this amazing industry.

Q. What got you started as a fashion stylist?

A.  After retiring from Fashion Modelling at the grand old age of 27, I was at a bit of a loss.  For a few years I worked in sales and marketing, but it was never fulfilling and I wanted to go in a different direction.  I’d always had a keen eye for fashion and style and I used to advise friends and family on their looks and styles and really enjoyed it.  They would often say that I should be a stylist,  but at the time I  didn’t think I had the experience to make it work as a career.  Making somebody look good came easily to me, but knowing why I had chosen certain outfits or accessories was purely instinctual and I was conscious that I didn’t really know the steps and techniques that went into putting together a successful look.  So I decided to study styling and that’s when it all fell into place.

Q. Have you had a mentor in the world of fashion or someone who has supported you from the beginning?

A. Not really. My partner, friends and family have been my biggest support base; without their patience, understanding, willingness to be my styling guinea-pigs and their belief in me it would have been a very hard slog.  However, I still feel I would have got there as I had the motivation to succeed, it just would have taken longer.  I am also part of many on-line fashion and style forums where like-minded people go to share ideas or get advice and help each other out.

Q. What do you most enjoy about being a fashion stylist?

A. The thing I most enjoy is when clients ‘get it’.  You can explain how doing a certain thing will help balance out a body or face shape and they will love their new look, but when that penny drops and they completely understand the ethos behind it, that’s when I know it’s a job well done.  I want clients to be able to style themselves once I have given them the knowledge to do so.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to see my clients again, but equally I love to see them again looking better and better, with more confidence and their own individual style.

Q. What has been your biggest challenge in your styling career so far?

A. My biggest challenge was starting out and knowing where to place myself in the market and what my niche would be.  Once you understand and act upon those things you can build your brand, otherwise you’ll find yourself drifting along with no direction or real focus.  So it’s got to be correct right from the start.  Yes, things can change as you go along but the fundamentals or core values should remain the same.


Debra Lestrade of 'Style to You'

Debra Lestrade of ‘Style to You’


Q. Do you have a hot styling tip you could give us?

A. Apparently the word on the street is that all that lovely summer sunshine is not going to last and the rain is making a comeback, so make sure you have a lovely 3/4 length trench coat at hand and choose one in a nice bright colour. With all the grey and gloom you’ll want to stand out!

Remember bold can be beautiful, but if you are not feeling confident enough for a block colour, you can opt for a pattern or print highlighting one of these colours.  Alternatively you could go for a pashmina to drape around a neutral coloured coat, dress or jacket.


Q. What are you currently working on?

A. I have got quite a few projects on the go at the moment.

One of my ongoing tasks is that every time I see a new client I produce an in-depth individual style report for them, which are usually around twenty pages long (there’s a lot to cover!). I have about four of these that I need to finish and each one takes me around three to four days to complete, so yes I really need to get a wriggle on!

I am also working on a fashion shoot with Levi Jeans designed to show that all the different body shapes can look good in the right style of jeans. Another exciting new project is that I am just started working on a collaboration with ‘Branded Fashion‘ where I will become the resident fashion advisor on their new fashion portal.

I really enjoyed my stylist training and am now passionate about passing on my knowledge and experience. So, together with my very talented colleague Cynthia Marsh, I am busy developing our courses, adding content to our website, writing e-books and marking course work for the budding stylists who are completing their on-line fashion and style courses at The London Academy of Fashion and Styling (TLAFS).

Q. Where do you see yourself in five years?

A. Doing exactly what I’m doing now, styling, tutoring and mentoring.  I absolutely love it, but maybe with a bigger team!!

Q. How do you feel about the fashion industry today? Where do you think it is headed?

A. I think we may have just come outside of that androgynous look where everyone was trying to make out that teenage boys look great in everything. All girls looked like young boys and all boys looked like younger versions of themselves (BIG YAWN).  I am very glad to be seeing real women back on the catwalks who look like women and men who look like men. Last year I attended the British Fashion Week Plus Size events, it was fantastic! A real eye opener and there was some real business being done, with retailers snapping up orders from these very talented designers.  It will be interesting to say the least to see what will be unveiled on the next LFW catwalks. I’ll be taking note!

Q. What advice would you give to someone thinking about a career as a personal stylist?

A. Be prepared….for everything and anything.

Invest in yourself and make sure you get the right training. Although at TLAFS we offer some fantastic online courses, make sure you have a good look around before you decide as there are many other excellent courses out there.

The most important thing to remember is to treat each client as an individual. There is not one solution that fits all in personal styling.  Always ask lots of questions and really listen to what your client is saying or asking you.


Harry Winston – The King of Diamonds

‘Talk to me, Harry Winston, tell me all about it!’  shouted Marilyn Monroe as she sang ‘Diamond’s Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ in the 1953 film ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’.

The history of diamonds is full of fascinating characters that prospected, mined, traded and owned these fabulous precious stones.  But perhaps the most fascinating and famous of them all was a man called Harry Winston, who was so well known and flamboyant that he was immortalised in the lyrics of this famous Hollywood movie.  Some of his larger-than-life character is reflected in one of his most famous quotes ‘People will stare. Make it worth their while’.  He was definitely one of those people who knew how to make people take notice of him and during his lifetime he built up one of the most successful jewelry businesses in the world.  The very name of Harry Winston is synonymous with diamonds and during his long career he was lucky enough to own some of the largest and most exquisite diamonds ever to have been dug out of the earth.  He also counted some of the world’s richest and most influential men and most beautiful women among his customers.


The Hope Diamond in its new setting

Harry Winston was born in 1886.  His parents immigrated to the USA from the Ukraine, and his father started up a small jewellers business on their arrival. The young Harry was put to work in the business from an early age and there is a story that when he was only around twelve years of age he discovered an unassuming ring set with a green stone in a pawn brokers shop.  He apparently recognised that the stone was actually a precious emerald, so he bought it for 25 cents. The green gemstone did indeed prove to be a two carat emerald and he managed to sell it on for $800, which was a great of money back in those days.

He started his career as a jeweller to the rich and famous when he purchased an amazing jewelry collection from the estate of the late Arabella Huntington.  Arabella Huntington had been the wife of a wealthy railroad tycoon called Henry Huntington, who purchased many fine pieces of jewelry during her lifetime, mainly from the Parisian jewellers such as Cartier.  Harry Winston cemented his reputation as an innovative, exciting jewelry designer when he broke up Arabella Huntington’s jewelry and reset it in more modern, lighter settings.  He specialised in setting fine diamonds in gleaming platinum, creating unique pieces that moved with their wearer and fitted in with their more mobile, modern lives.

Although Harry Winston became a very wealthy man he was famously casual when it came to his precious stones, and could often be found with a priceless diamond in one of his pockets.  Apparently on one occasion he also sent a very large and valuable 726 carat rough diamond called the Jonker in a package through the ordinary mail. He counted many famous movies stars, entertainers, royalty and aristocrats among his customers having once sold a pair of diamond earrings to the Duchess of Windsor and Richard Burton also bought a fine 69 carat diamond from him for his jewelry loving wife Elizabeth Taylor.

He started his company, Harry Winston Inc, in 1932 and it is still successfully trading today, with a HQ in New York. He was also a major donor of important gemstones to museums, making several large donations to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.  He also put together a famous exhibition of gemstones called the ‘Court of jewels’ which toured the major cities around the USA between 1949 and 1953. This fabulous exhibition was put together to raise awareness and educate the public about precious stones and it also raised considerable funds for charity.  The company still owns some of the world’s most famous diamonds and many more have passed through its hands.  So let’s have a look at some of these famous precious stones.

The Hope Diamond – probably the most infamous, diamond that ever passed through Harry Winston’s hand was the fabulous blue Hope Diamond. This 45.52 carat precious stone was said to have been found in the Kollur Mine in India in the mid 17th century. When it was brought to Europe it became the property of the French monarchy and was then owned by a wealthy English family before it found its way to the United States. The Hope Diamond has the reputation of being cursed and bringing death and misfortune to its owners. Whether this was just a clever marketing ploy or not, the deaths of several prominent historical characters such as Marie Antoinette have been linked to the ownership of this large blue diamond. He purchased the Hope Diamond from the wealthy US socialite Evalyn Walsh’s estate in 1949 and it became one of the centrepieces of the ‘Court of Jewels’ exhibition.  It was to be one of the first gemstones in the National Gem Collection as he donated the it to the Smithsonian in 1958.  The National Gem Collection now brings in around seven million visitors every year and in 2010 the company, Harry Winston Inc, celebrated the anniversary of this magnificent donation by designing a new, modern setting for the Hope Diamond called ‘Embracing Hope’

The Portuguese Diamond – there always seems to be some mystery surrounding famous diamonds, and the Portuguese Diamond is no exception.  Where this gemstone actually originated from is a matter of some dispute, as one story says that it was found in a mine in Brazil in the mid-18th century and once formed part of the Portuguese crown jewels, while another, more likely as it is backed up by some documentation, states that it was extracted from the Premier Mine in the Kimberley, South Africa early in the 20th century.  It is known that the Portuguese Diamond was owned by a member of the glamourous Ziegfeld Follies called Peggy Hopkins Joyce who had acquired it set in a platinum choker from Black, Starr and Frost in 1928.  Harry Winston bought it from her in 1951 and included it in his ‘Court of Jewels’ exhibition. It now resides in the National Gem Collection in the Smithsonian, where it is the Collection’s largest faceted gemstone.  Harry Winston traded it to the museum in 1963 in exchange for a quantity of smaller stones.  It is a very large diamond at 127.01 carats and has been cut into an unusual octagonal shape.  It also displays strong fluorescence, glowing bright blue under an ultraviolet light. In daylight or normal artificial light the centre of the stone may look a bit hazy, but this is purely because it is so strongly fluorescent.

The Jonker Diamond – this was the seventh largest rough diamond ever known to have been found at 726 carats. It was acquired by Harry Winston in 1935 and he casually sent the huge stone back to the United States in the regular mail.  Apparently the stamp cost him just 64 cents! The Jonker Diamond has the distinction of being the first major precious stone to be cleaved in America and it was cut into a 125.35 carat emerald cut oblong stone.

The Cutting of the Jonker Diamond

The Lesotho Diamond – this large precious stone was found only relatively recently in 1967.  It was discovered by a South African woman in Lesotho, who was so fearful that she would be robbed or killed for her amazing find, that she walked for four days and four nights so that she could come under government protection and sell the diamond safely.  Harry Winston bought the fabulous stone and it was cleaved during a live broadcast on television in 1968 into eighteen separate diamonds. The largest of these newly cut stones, which weighed in at 71.73 carats and was emerald cut, was christened Lesotho One. Another of the stones, Lesotho Three, was bought by Aristotle Onassis,  who had it set in an engagement ring for his bride-to-be, Jacqueline Kennedy.

Harry Winston died in 1978, depriving the world of a highly successful, colourful character. He had been lucky enough to spend his entire career, working with the exquisite diamonds and jewelry that he so loved and being lucky enough to amass a vast fortune in the process.

Hope Diamond image observer31 Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

TLAFS Announce Exciting New Online Styling Courses

Are you the kind of person who is passionately interested in the way you look, can instinctively put an eye-catching outfit together and are always giving your friends great fashion advice?  Or maybe you lack confidence when you are choosing your clothes, never being quite sure what styles and colours suit you?


Then maybe an online personal or professional styling course is just what you need?  The London Academy of Fashion & Styling (TLAFS) is very proud to announce that we have launched our innovative range of online fashion training courses.  Starting with an entry level ‘Introduction to Personal Styling’ course aimed at people who are interested in learning how to develop their own personal style, learn what suits them best and what colours they should wear and moving on to professional stylist courses designed for those who want to take their interest and flair for fashion to the next level and train as a Professional Fashion Stylist.

Our courses start at a very reasonable £250 for the ‘Introduction to Personal Styling’ to £2,500 for the intensive ‘Advanced Professional Styling Practitioner Course’, so we have a styling course to suit every budding fashionista’s learning requirements and budget.

According to Debra Lestrade, Course Tutor and Professional Stylist, these new TLAFS styling courses fill a real gap in the market, as they allow our styling students to enjoy the flexibility of studying online while still being supported by experienced Course Tutors.  Although flexibility is the key, as many of you will have to fit your styling training into an already busy life style, our online courses also give enough structure that it is easy for our students to stay motivated and see real progress as you work through the different modules.  Written assignments are set for each module, so that we can assess your progress, encouraging students to unleash their creativity and develop their own personal brand of style.

A huge benefit of the TLAFS Personal and Professional Styling Courses is that you do not have to have any previous qualifications or experience before you sign up. Each course has been carefully designed to give you all of the information, skills and practical experience you will need in order to develop your own personal look or start your new career in the fast moving, thrilling world of fashion as a stylist.  The Advanced Professional Styling Practitioner Course also includes practical, interactive workshops and these workshops are also offered as stand-alone products.

At TLAFS we really do believe that learning should be fun, so all our students have access to a special student-only section on our website that offers further learning resources, relevant articles and some great fashion and styling tips. And the best news of all is that all of the TLAFS online styling courses can be started immediately by signing up and making payment on our website.

So what is stopping you?  Your exciting new career as a fashion stylist awaits you!