An unexpected invite via snail or email, a friendly tweet, a party?
Invitations are always welcome at Chez MIA, so I was immediately tempted when fashion stylist, blogger, social media expert, and keynote speaker Nikki Parkinson-Hubbard of Styling You, invited me to join her in a styling session at Westfield Chermside.
Except that on this occasion it was my turn to be treated like royalty, as I rocked up to Westfield Chermside in my daggy school-run outfit.
(Yes, I had intended to wear something nicer, but of course, it had been one of THOSE mornings, and I only got to throw something on as I ran out the door. I wasn't even wearing lippie. Gasp!)
Neither Nikki nor our gorgeous Westfield stylist Christie Nicholaides made me feel daggy or self-conscious. (I was quite capable of doing that myself!).
Anyway, first up for my quickie styling session - described as perfect for a first-time fashionista, or someone looking for a special outfit for a particular occasion (snap!) - was a chat with Christie about me, my lifestyle, and the outfit I was after.
Christie's first question was: What shops usually catch my eye?
I resisted the urge to reply: The cheap ones!
For it is true, Dear Reader.
Whilst once, in the heady days Before Children, I could afford to be fashionable and adorn myself with the latest trends, I now find myself shopping at charity shops and/or K-Mart/Big W/cheap shops. Or even Target, if I'm feeling fancy.
And like Fran Drescher, I never pay full price.
This is possibly why Nikki and Chrissie are stylists and fashionistas, and I am a Mum, who feels daggy pretty much most of the time. I leave the house with chipped fingernails, no make-up, pet hair on my clothes, and quite possibly, a raging case of nits. You can see why my self-esteem may need a wee boost.
And I got it during my styling session.
I silently thanked the Universe that there was no Trinny and Susannah-style sniggering at undies, or clutching of boobs and belly fat.
However, Christie did stand me before a mirror, and worked out my body shape and which parts to highlight and downplay.
(Turns out I'm a hybrid. Who knew? And my usual style wasn't too bad for my shape and lifestyle).
And then she asked about the event I was hoping to find an outfit for.
I explained I wanted something comfortable and practical enough that I'd be able to wear it all day at Problogger's upcoming workshop in Melbourne.
But I also wanted it to be professional enough so that I could wear it to interviews and at meetings in my career as a writer and social media consulant. But it also needed to be casual enough that I could wear it on the school run and not feel overdressed.
Oh, and it had to suit my age and shape.
See? No wonder I'm fashion-challenged!
With that brief, Christie took me to Sussan, where she says she finds loads of affordable outfits for busy working Mums like me, because the fashion is on trend and good quality without being outrageously expensive.
I liked the first outfit I tried on, but I felt a little uncomfortable and as if I'd need to wear heels and be 'done up' to pull the outfit off.
The second outfit I tried on was the one I loved. It was a maxi-skirt, singlet top, short-sleeved jacket and jewellery that would take me from the school run, to work, and even out after work if necessary.
While I was trying it on, Christie ran a few stores down to Joanne Mercer for a pair of wedge heels that fit perfectly. And not only that, were comfortable!
What I loved was that there was no pressure to actually buy what Christie had suggested.
It was her own idea to put the outfits on hold while we looked for a few other accessories and also styled Nikki.
Nikki, who had a different brief entirely, due to her being all kinds of awesome and stuff, writes about our experiences here. And seriously, pop across there and comment, because you could win a Westfield styling session plus $1000 to spend on your own new look.
Christie also gave me a few hints on what to look for when I'm shopping on my own:
- Add more not less when it comes to bling. Two, not one necklaces! Three, not one bracelets.
- Have a signature ring on one hand.
- You can buy good basics, like a maxi-skirt from Sussan but team it with cheaper items like a singlet or shirt from somewhere like Target or K-Mart.
- It's worth spending more on shoes if you can actually wear them all day. Or night.
So would I pay for a styling session?
Before this invitation, I would have said no.
But after? Yes!
I would have thought a personal styling session was a waste of time and money for someone like me.
Someone like me being a woman who no longer has a big budget for fashion, nor the body or fashion sense to know what suits me!
But then I thought back to the hours of time and frustration I've spent searching for an outfit for a special event. An outfit that suits me, that I can afford, that is there, and ready to wear.
And in less than 30 minutes with Christie, I found what may have taken me days of searching and tears to achieve.
In an ideal world, I would have liked more time to try on and compare a few different outfits. Just because I'm a girl, and that's how I'm used to shopping.
But I was certainly happy with the outfit I took home, and I am always being complimented when I wear it.
I must add, that I've certainly never spent the amount I spent at Westfield on what I consider an everyday outfit. But they very kindly gave me a $500 Westfield gift card to spend on the clothes and I figured I may as well use it. (Note: I didn't even spend it all! For The Win!)
The clothes were comfy and on trend, as were the shoes and jewellery. And Christie gave me tips for how to make the outfit pop, say with a cheap red singlet to go with the red bag I already owned, rather than an expensive designer alternative.
To be honest, I've already worn the hell out of my Styling Session outfit. I keep it clean and ready to go, and can just pop it on when I have something I need to look decent for.
And that's another bonus. It travels well too, and no ironing is required.
I think the speed service would be particularly wonderful for women searching for a perfect outfit for a one-off occasion, like mother of the bride, prom night, wedding/five-star gown, or similar.
The only problem, is that like after an upgrade to business class and being forced back to economy, I've been spoiled.
After my speed styling session, I tried to buy the elbow-length top Christie said would take my tribal trend outfit into a possibly chilly Melbourne.
I spent at least a couple of hours looking, and nothing came close to what I'd been told I should look for.
And when I found it, I thought: Where's my stylist? How do I know this will suit me and is it worth spending my money on?
I think another visit to Christie is in order.
And next time, I may be brave enough to try colour blocking!
Disclosure: Westfield Chermside gave me a $500 gift card to spend whilst participating in the speed styling session.
Also? I did take photos, but as I've said before, I am IT challenged, and I cannot find them anywhere! Best go across to Nikki's blog if you want proof of my new look.
Yes, I know. New look, same sucky internetz skills.