As my new book was coming out, I thought it was time I should practice what I preach, and so I sought the services of a personal stylist.
Sally MacKinnon from “Styled by Sally” has been helping people overhaul their wardrobes and make the most of their shopping experiences for many years. I’ve crossed paths with her often through my work, especially as we’re both members of the City Precinct, a group of independent Melbourne businesses.
I knew Sally to be down to earth and easy to talk with, as well as seeing some great results she had achieved with others. I’ve also had plenty of opportunities to see how she dresses herself and I knew she’d have some fresh ideas for updating my own style, so I booked a three hour shopping session.
I’m a tough crowd – not only do I think I know a thing or two about dressing, I’ve developed my own style over many years and have simplified it into a few narrow characteristics: I like black dresses, with a plunging V neckline and shaped waist. Mid-calf with a swishing skirt, worn with Mary Janes or lace up boots and black lace or opaque stockings. Then I might add brightly coloured accessories and of course, there’s the pink hair – sometimes a boon, sometimes a hindrance.
Well aware that I was stuck in a comfortable rut, I wanted to try on different looks, especially as I suspected that I was dressing a bit old for my age. Drab and frumpy are my least favourite characteristics but my tastes (due to a changing body shape) felt like they were heading in that direction. Time to pull up the reins!
Sally met me at the Melbourne Emporium and we started with a chat over coffee: it was a hot day and I was impressed with her choice of fashion. She was wearing a modern update on a ’70s style shirtdress – perfect for her tall and slim figure, showing off her legs without compromising on comfort. She nailed “smart casual” and immediately had me at my ease – my default setting is a little dressier than most people so her style reassured me. It was what I would have chosen for her myself, so I felt like we were on the same page.
First Sally took me to Nicola Waite – a shop I had never been to before, but had a modern range of creative styles. The sizes go up to 22, so I didn’t have to fear that awfulness of not finding anything that fits. Sally had sent me a questionnaire before the day so I knew I could rely on her not to take me to places that wouldn’t have anything, which is such a relief: this is the benefit of a stylist, she knows all the shops and saves you the time and bother of falling in love with things that won’t work for you.
I particularly liked the structuralism of the “Bodice Tuck Dress” in black:
Because I’m shorter than the model, it hit me just below the knees – which was a revelation, usually I wear my skirts longer so discovered this length is good for me, showing off my legs more – and the waist sat closer to my natural waist which looked even better when belted (and my waist looked tiny compared to all the foofy fullness of the skirt).
That was the second revelation – that I need to highlight my waist more than I have been doing. This is the risk of mislaying your girlish figure, you don’t always adjust to the new shape as well as you could and there’s a temptation to skirt over parts of your body but by doing so you’re losing definition.
I’m not fond of showing my bare upper arms, so this dress was worn with a sheer netting style top underneath – I’ve got a few of these left over from my goth days when I wore them under corsets.
Then we went to Leona Edmiston – I had been in there before but discovered that with my new BFF to advise me on the most flattering styles for my figure and suggest colours that were way out of my comfort zone, shopping was a breeze and I added four (!) new frocks to my wardrobe. Sally also arranged a discount for me. Then it was off to et al where I was almost overwhelmed with modern choices.
Many of my new dresses have come in handy in book signings, TV and newspaper articles and it’s been a pleasure to receive compliments on them, although some fein shock to see me not wearing as much black.
Here I am in my new favourite frock the appropriately named “Sally” from Leona Edimiston and a vintage lace petticoat to contain the decolletage – happily signing lots of my new book at the Melbourne Dymocks shop in Collins St. Thank you Sally and Sally!
Personal styling sessions make excellent Christmas presents and Sally has kindly offered Circa readers a special discount on her services – book a three hour session for the first half of next year and receive a 10% discount off her already very reasonable rate of $325. Just let her know that you read it about it here! Thanks Sally x