Main | 5. Carol Vorderman . . . YOU ARE NOT YOUR GALAXY DRESS: »

Wardrobe Consultation, Professional Women, Bullying, Clothes, and Self Image

Doing a wardrobe consultation is like going through the journal of someone’s personal image and incredible stories come out in passing conversation as garments get taken out retained or chucked. I was doing a consultation for a very lovely new client on Sunday whose husband had inflicted me upon her because he ‘needed some wardrobe space for himself’. She on the other hand had been considering doing a restyle anyway and was happy to exploit my services to relieve her of wardrobe-clogging, dated garments she was finding hard to get rid of and to help reveal a refreshed working wardrobe without actually having to buy anything (except maybe 2 new belts and a pair of bronze heels for the office!). 

The client is a successful PR for a company representing luxury brands. She is funny, strong, intelligent, refined and English in the best possible way . Her clothes showed that she is not a woman who is easily intimidated: bright colours, flamboyant detail, funky fur and sparkle worn over a classic base for work and even glitter for scuffing around the house (her dressing gown had ‘fabulous’ embossed in diamante on the back - an earlier gift from her husband).  All this embellishment worked in her wardrobe without a trace of the bimbo or femme-enfant. It demonstrated to me how a woman doesn’t have to hide her power to be flamboyantly feminine.

When we started going through the dresses something very interesting happened. A group of dresses came out: a red chiffon dress with a scoop neck and a full, floating knee length skirt, a navy and black chiffon dress with a pin-tuck bodice and puff sleeves and a similarly floaty skirt, and a black viscose dress with an overdetail of white lace that looked like it belonged to a ballet dancer. These dresses were all similar in feel: pretty, unassuming, demure…. pedestrian.

The client compliantly put them on for me commenting that there was a story behind them. I looked at them and cheekily commented that her husband was ‘hardly likely to want to ravage her’ …. ‘What?’  she said ‘not even if I got inside his newly empty wardrobe?’. I laughed ‘So what’s the story?’ I ventured…..

‘I was in an important meeting with a client – a gentleman restaurateur. I was the only woman in the room and the head of the PR team. The client didn’t like what was being proposed and suddenly, without any indication as to what was coming, he started laying into me by screaming at me across the table. Every other man in the room put their heads down and no-one spoke up or remarked on the inappropriate nature of the behaviour. I was bowled over with the shock of it, but managed to bottle my reaction and maintain composure by smiling in ladylike and extremely polite way and calmly winding up the meeting’.

…. ‘When I got out someone asked if I was okay and I said yes, but would be taking the rest of the afternoon off. Once out of the office I went shopping’.

The result of this expensive therapeutic shopping spree was this group of dresses: all, demure and feminine in the tamest of possible way. All nice, flattering, well fitting… but none of them suited her.

It struck me that these dresses were exactly what that ugly piece of masculine intimidation had done to her self-image. They were a tactical retreat in the face of aggression and bullying they said ‘I give in’ ‘I don’t want to have to fight this battle’, ‘I shouldn’t have to stand up to this’, ‘I want to be looked after and treated respectfully’.

The dresses are all gone into the bin-liner and off to the charity shop virtually unworn and hopefully the ugly scenario with them. I left her with a wardrobe that really does suit her and to the attentions of a man who thinks she is ‘fabulous’ and treats her with the respect she deserves … especially now that he has a little more space for his clothes! 

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