Styling people, being involved in fashion, or working in any industry that involves people making important decisions in front of you can be quite rewarding at times, and I don’t mean in the $$$ sense. Putting all forms of money you are being rewarded aside, take into consideration how you make someone feel at the end of their purchase and/or visit instead. Do you ever think about this?
It can easily slide past your mind upon helping someone find – let’s consider retail and styling for now – their perfect outfit or garment to add to their closet. At times, the customer may be in a hurry, isn’t open to showing or telling how they feel, they really don’t feel like talking, but would rather just pick, choose and buy, or you have those difficult clients who can’t decide between two similar shades of pink. In the end though, despite the reason, you have to try to put yourself in their shoes, as an alternative to simply showing your fashion knowledge and/or putting your two cents in, in order to help them reach a decision.
I’ve thought about this a lot lately considering a few incidents that happened to me at work this past week. I can truthfully say that my favorite people to style and help in making a decision are those who haven’t found their sense of style, or even self, yet, as well as those who are extremely picky, but don’t exactly know what does and doesn’t look good on them. I may have chosen two very difficult types of customers, but to me, I find both to be the most exciting. I love building a long relationship with someone in a short amount time, from the moment they walk into the store, to the time they have already tried on 15+ pieces thirty minutes in, all the way to the moment they have the biggest smile on their face upon making their purchase. The most important factor to not only consider but act upon during this whole process is empathy.
The reason why I feel this is so crucial in fashion (and in general, really) is because of the abundant amount of people there are out there that constantly compare themselves to others, including classmates, celebrities, models, or even, sadly, family members. Whether you’re a size 0 or 12, you’re bound to feel discouraged at least once if not several times upon shopping for that something special to add to your closet. I see it almost everyday and I try do whatever I can to help that particular person step out of their negative zone and into something better, more positive, and hopeful. Even if it doesn’t work for everyone, I at least know that I learned something new about someone and can apply it to the next person who has a similar story, as well as hoping that the person was at least there to acknowledge what I tried to help them with.
At least once a day, I have someone telling me something along the lines of ‘you have a great body, you probably look good in everything in this store!’ Quite the contrary, actually… don’t be so quick to judge just by the way someone looks – seriously. I know it’s much easier said than done, but you have to try. Just because my body looks the way it does, that does not mean every piece of clothing is going to look absolutely fantastic on me. Designers create pieces in various cuts, shapes, and silhouettes for a reason – every person has a different cut, shape, and silhouette to them. Putting two girls who have the same size next to each other in the exact same outfit does not ensure them both looking the same and equally as good. One may suit a specific piece better than the other, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I feel that’s the beauty of fashion – you find out what cuts, lines, silhouettes, shapes, colors, and patterns suit you. Really, nobody said you have to look like the girl next to you – you actually shouldn’t.
These are tips that I always keep in mind, especially upon coming into contact with those girls who feel so down on themselves and treat their bodies a bit too harshly when shopping. Earlier last week, a twelve year old girl was shopping for a dress at my work at Betsey Johnson to wear to an upcoming friend’s party. Just by observing the items she was eyeing, I immediately realized that she wanted something short, tight, and a bit too mature for her age, and it was most likely due to her seeing garments like these on young celebrities and/or girls at her school. Instead of going along with what she [thought she] wanted, I gave her a bit of insight on what is more appropriate for her age, while still keeping in mind the fact that she wanted to look a bit more like a lady than a little girl, which is absolutely fine (and pretty adorable)! After experimenting with a few pieces that she initially wanted – and I knew weren’t suitable – she ended up falling in love with a strapless, bright, floral dress that I picked out last. Sure it wasn’t short, tight, or bedazzled, but after giving her those options to try on, and slipping in that last piece that had a beautiful drape, color, and shape, she realized that this kind of garment is what suits her best right now. She loved the option of having the dress strapless (since it came with detachable straps), so she has that ‘grown-up’ sense in her look one day and a youthful, playful look the next. It was so rewarding to see her twirl around and light up wearing a piece that she never thought of wanting to buy. Her mom was incredibly thrilled and kept repeating “It’s your first strapless dress – you’re growing up so fast!”, and I feel that is what, as a stylist, makes what you do feel so satisfying.
Then, just a couple of days ago, was probably the most gratifying moment of me styling someone [since I’ve taken on the roll professionally not too long ago]. A sixteen-year-old girl comes in to Betsey with her mom looking for her first homecoming dress. Instead of the excited look that most girls have upon walking into a Betsey store – especially when shopping for homecoming – she did not seem eager to shop whatsoever and felt very discouraged upon trying on a few dresses. After trying on your typical jewel-embellished, satin-finished, tulle, lace, and silk evening dresses, she felt so dissatisfied and wanted to leave the store with no hope of finding a dress. I couldn’t let that happen though – I was seriously more determined than I ever was before to help someone find a dress they feel incredible in. After explaining to her the idea that you simply have to experiment with styles you wouldn’t normally pick out for yourself, I helped her choose a little black rayon dress that I knew would be perfect for her. Taken up a notch with bell sleeves, a crossover neck, and a decorative back bow, she tried it on and looked so beautiful, but you could still see a slightly worried and hesitant look on her face. I asked her why, and she said she was afraid she would still look different and not as good as the other girls at her school – you know, those girls that brag about their skinny bodies (she’s a beautiful 10). That’s when I immediately let her know that yes, she will look different, but in her own unique way, standing out from everyone else (really, most girls tend to all buy the same dresses sometimes anyways).
Not everyone has to have that standard fairytale-like dress with sequins, shimmer, frills, and shine – they do say that a LBD should belong in every girl’s closet, after-all! She then picked out a pair of hot fuschia sparkly heels to complete her look, told me how she was going to style her hair and make-up, and it was as if a new girl had just blossomed in a span of thirty minutes. With more words of motivation and encouragement (and letting her know that she can go brag to everyone that she has a Betsey Johnson dress that she can literally keep and wear forever since it’s such a classic piece), she and her mom thanked me over and over and the girl left the store feeling and looking like a new person. I was overjoyed and I’m actually so happy there are girls like her out there who don’t take things for granted – all they need is a little boost of confidence, some motivation, and words of encouragement to let them know that it honestly doesn’t and never will matter what size you are or if your dress is poofy and adorned with glitter/sequins or not. Her mom even wrote a personal letter to the Betsey Johnson headquarters, addressing me, and needless to say I was in tears and just overjoyed about how happy I made someone. It’s unbelievable how a small action can have such a massive impact on someone’s life. Fashion shouldn’t be discouraging – we played dress up when we were little for a reason: it’s all about experimenting in order to find out what makes you feel good and what looks best on you. At the end of the day, everyone really is their own version of a princess living their own special fairytale.