After years of bumbling along, picking up fashion tips here and there from friends and magazines, I finally realised that women over 30 sometimes need more specific tailor-made help in order to look stylish. Having long been an admirer of her blog, Mademoiselle Robot, as soon as Laėtitia Wajnapel announced Mademoiselle Style, I knew she was the style consultant for me. Mixing vintage finds with high street pieces is very much my thing and Laėtitia does that so well herself that I was sure she’d be able to give me inspiration, so I booked a Wardrobe Basics session and set some money aside for what she describes on her website as “moderate shopping”.
In order to identify the key pieces I needed to maximise my fashion options, Laėtitia needed to first ask me a few questions about myself and take a look at what already I have in my wardrobe. I sent off some photographs of me in a handful of my favourite outfits, along with some information on measurements and lifestyle, and then realised just how much she could deduce from this one email.
My measurements would tell her that I often have great trouble finding clothes that fit as, despite it being quite common in Britain, the pear-shape is not catered for by UK clothing sizes. My (no dress code) office job and non-physical hobbies would tell her that carefully chosen clothing would be suitable for the entire week, and the photos would give an insight into what I like about my current wardrobe. It would have taken me hours and several cups of coffee to obtain the same information from someone, but she managed it with a few carefully worded questions. This is clearly a lady who knows her stuff! A plan was then drawn up which involved some late-night Thursday shopping to fill in the gaps.
We met up after I finished work and headed to Oxford Street, with Laėtitia explaining her plan of action along the way. She had made a list of what she thought I needed and had in mind a few shops that would be the best places to look for them, so we started with the relatively simple task of basic t-shirts. For this we went to American Apparel which is a store that I would never have thought of entering, let alone buying something from. Window displays filled with brightly coloured dancewear for 17-year-old Lady Gaga wannabes do not usually hint at a place where I could happily find something to suit me and so I’d always ignored the place.
Happily though, their t-shirts are plain and plentiful. A flattering and comfortable v-neck grey marl tee was found in the men’s department (hooray for extra small!), and a black boat neck ¾-sleeved t-shirt from the ladies’ section reminded me of one I’d owned and loved years ago and had to bin because it just got too shabby. I tried these on with a couple of black and cerise cap-sleeved tees, made some choices and moved on. They didn’t have the stripey tops that Laėtitia had been hoping for, or practical bodies with press-studs for that matter, but we hoped to find those elsewhere.
After a quick stop off in Office to show me a rather cute pair of shoes (sadly not leather though, so am still on the hunt for a breathable alternative), we headed to John Lewis to find a pencil skirt. It was perhaps not really a place either of us would have chosen usually, but I was told there was a nice Hobbs skirt in the sale that had to be tried on, and a department store would give us other options as well. Where better for basics than John Lewis, eh? Sadly the Hobbs skirt wasn’t available in my size but we found a handful of other things to try on and, while I was in the fitting room, Laėtitia found a whole load more!
I almost fell in love with a gorgeous, well-fitting Ted Baker pencil skirt, but a cheaper and more eye-catching alternative was found in John Lewis’ own label range. When deciding between the two, ‘saving’ £30 by choosing the lesser brand was clearly the sensible choice. Coral isn’t usually my colour but, away from my face, it works fine. After trying on some beautiful Whistles high-waisted peg leg trousers, we thought that we might be able to do a bit more money-saving by finding a similar style elsewhere, sadly this was not to be as clearly the only way to find flattering trousers that fit me is to go for a better cut. However, Laėtitia did find them reduced on ASOS later that night, helping me to stay within budget!
After the shopping, we finished our consultation with a chat over a drink, where further tips were given and I made plans to ditch the most unflattering items in my wardrobe. Despite the awful weather, I went home happy with my evening’s work and was keen to find the shoes that would make it all work perfectly – no straps, to lengthen my legs. Every little counts, right? The next day, a visit to Topshop to look at shoes inadvertently revealed that they sell a black and white stripey body which, apart from the shoes, was the last item on the list. I tried it on with my new skirt and trousers, digging out an old pair of mid-heeled suede court shoes to complete the look for photos and, you know, I think they might do for now. They might squeak a little but they’re still comfy.
If you’re at all interested (and if you’ve read this far I’m guessing you are), I would give Mademoiselle Style top marks: ten out of ten! Laėtitia listened to me and gave useful advice that suited my style and shape rather than just what’s currently in fashion, but didn’t stick to safe options that I could have found myself. She also helped me find lots of things that I can wear with everything else I already own, all within my budget. The best thing is that I can wear them all year round! Looks like I won’t be splashing out loads more when winter gets here.
Top image: Skirt from John Lewis, t-shirt from American Apparel. Middle image: Trousers from Whistles, t-shirt from American Apparel. Bottom image: Trousers from Whistles, body from Topshop.
2010 UPDATE: You can find out whether I had similar success following Laėtitia’s advice while shopping alone in my seven months later blog post.