Aug 142014
BEFORE: Baggy, worn out clothes that didn't match. AFTER: Flattering fit and color combos.

BEFORE: Baggy, worn out clothes that didn’t match. AFTER: Flattering fit and color combos.

“You’ve got to tell me how your professional fashion makeover went!” friends demanded since they learned I’d booked a company called Stilista Boston to save my ailing style.

“I mean, what did the fashion consultant do?” they pried. “Did she make fun of your clown-like shoes? Did she throw that hideous orange shirt out the window? Did she burn that ragged brown cardigan?” (Sheesh — clearly I wasn’t the only one who knew I needed some fashion resuscitation.)

Given how great my experience was with Stilista, I’m going to tell the whole story here, since it was so different from how I’d feared it would be.

Under a heap of clothes that the professional fashion consultant made me realize it was time to let go of!

Under a heap of clothes my professional fashion consultant made me realize it was time to let go of.

The story starts earlier this year when I received an email from a woman named Maria who I’d gone to high school with years ago. “I saw your article about travel fashion as a new mother,” Maria wrote, “and I realized you might be interested in trying out the styling services offered by my company, Stilista.”

“Oh!” I replied. “Well, I do have a closet full of decade-old, ratty clothes that don’t fit me… but I’m nervous! I mean, will you make fun of me when you open the closet doors? Will you force me to buy weird ‘Dry Clean Only’ stuff that I’ll never wear? Will you judge me because I don’t wear makeup?”

Maria assuaged my fears, so I went ahead and booked her for the Turn It Around: Wardrobe Revamp package: An Initial Consultation, a complete Wardrobe Analysis, and (on a separate day) a three hour shopping trip.

Maria was so patient with me and my muddled wardrobe!

Maria was so patient with me and my muddled wardrobe.

The Initial Consultation made me feel much better. For an hour, Maria asked some excellent questions about my style preferences, and I vented all my fashion neuroses to her, telling her some things I’ve never told anyone. She listened and took notes, and I got more and more animated as I revealed my style agonies. “For some reason,” I confessed, “I can spend $500 on a plane ticket, no problem, but it physically hurts me to pay more than $12 for a shirt!”

Maria nodded, understanding. “Our fashion purchasing patterns run very deep,” she said, making me feel like far less of a freak.

“Yes!” I blurted out. “I was raised to be thrifty, and loved wearing my cousins’ secondhand clothes, and so that mindset is just what feels right, now. I get most of my clothing now for free from clothing swaps, but given that I’m now a 32-year-old professional and mother, I really want to step it up more… but I don’t know how! I get into a department store and I just panic.”

“Our shopping trip will help with that,” Maria explained. “We can work within your budget, and once you have a few high quality, versatile items, getting dressed will be so much easier. Just like you plan for travel, it helps to plan for shopping. We will go in with a clear list that we make together after the Wardrobe Analysis. Speaking of that, shall we go upstairs to your closet for the next part?”

"Do you mind if I organize your closet?" asked Maria. "Um, GO AHEAD!"

“Do you mind if I organize your closet?” asked Maria. “Um, GO AHEAD!”

The Wardrobe Analysis was awesome. We went through every single item of clothing that I own (including all shoes and coats), and Maria didn’t once make fun of me, even as it became clear that I owned some truly tragic fashion situations.

My first favorite moment came when Maria asked, “Do you mind if I organize your closet?” I gaped at her, then at the balled up wads of clothing strewn inside out, four-to-a-hanger. “Um, go ahead… I beg of you!” I replied.

My other favorite moment came when I held up a threadbare shirt that I’d gotten secondhand in college over a decade ago. “Should I keep this?” I asked Maria.

“Well,” Maria replied tactfully, “In our Initial Consultation you explained that you don’t like frayed or tattered styles. This shirt is in that territory, isn’t it?”

Thanks to Maria’s respectful coaching, I was able to make a pile labeled “Clothes to Donate” that was so large, I could completely bury my body under it (as evidenced by the second photo). Once the bag was donated, I was hit by how much lighter and happier I felt. It was akin to the exhilarating freedom and simplicity that comes from backpacking around the world and realizing all you really need are a handful of great clothes.

Look at how expertly Maria navigated this overwhelming department store for me!

Maria expertly navigated this overwhelming department store for me, shopping list in hand.

The Three Hour Shopping Trip was two weeks later due to my travel schedule, and Maria meticulously planned it. She had emailed me a three page document detailing my style preferences from our Initial Consultation and Wardrobe Analysis, and it included a clear shopping list. For items that we would be unlikely to find in stores (namely cute comfort shoes for my rather expansive feet) Maria provided web links for where to purchase quality versions online.

We met in the discount wing of a big department store, since Maria wanted to respect my lower budget, but to also explore some non-secondhand stores that I’d never before entered. As I walked up to meet her, she handed me a coffee. Bliss! I calmed down from the tizzy that department stores usually send me into, and followed Maria, awe-struck, as she systematically gathered items from our list off the shelves and into the cart.

“Of course,” she said, “just like in the Wardrobe Analysis, feel free to push back if you disagree with anything I suggest. You have to actually want to wear anything we get!”

In the Fitting Room, we took two stalls next to each other and Maria handed me clothes as I popped out and modeled them. The skin-tight fuchsia jeans (my idea) were a “No,” but eight other items in that first store were a “Yes.” That was a miracle, as was the fact that Maria’s calm presence meant that I actually followed through with the purchases rather than bolting out of the store and back on the train as I so often do when shopping panic hits me.

Maria is a true fashion professional.

Maria is a true fashion professional.

We hit three more stores after that: an inexpensive but fashionable one, a high end one (that freaked me out so blatantly that Maria guided me to the exit), and a fancy secondhand store. About an hour in, I was getting visibly fatigued… when suddenly Maria pulled a water bottle out of her bag for me! I gulped it down, and she revealed that she had another water, plus a granola bar packed for me, too, should I need it. What service!

The result of our three hours of shopping? Fifteen items from our shopping list for less than two hundred dollars. Nearly everything ended up being on sale! The items were a great mix of basic essentials to replace the ones I’d worn to threads in my closet (tanks, work pants, tights) plus fun pieces to add flair (like the fabulous print pencil skirt in the first “After” photo).

Throughout our shopping, Maria gave tips on how to select a fit, brand, style, and color, and answered all the deep, dark fashion queries I’ve been too scared to ask, like, “Are these pants scandalously tight, or perfectly fitting?” and “Would it be bad to wear a knit cardigan to my friend’s wedding?”

BEFORE: Decade-old, loose, drab clothes. AFTER: Crisp, modern cuts and a better fit!

BEFORE: Decade-old, loose, drab clothes. AFTER: Crisp, modern cuts and a great fit!

A few days after our shopping trip, Maria emailed me a detailed follow-up document that summarized the shopping list items I still needed to pick up to round out my wardrobe. She provided names of good stores and websites for each. I’ll do that last bit of shopping myself this weekend before my teaching job starts up again, and will sail into the school year in fashionable ease!

In Conclusion, Maria really helped me expand my clothing choices and understanding, but she also gave me something unexpected. I now have more confidence in my own fashion choices! My expectation of a professional fashion consultation was that I would be told I have horrible taste and needed a sartorial brain reboot. Instead, it was deeply reassuring during my Stilista experience to have a professional tell me that over half of the wardrobe I already own is actually great (even a few pieces I have been unsure about), and to see that many of the items Maria picked out for me in the stores were the very ones I would have selected myself. I’m on the right track!

If you look at photos of me in middle school, you’ll see that I spent much of my life being ashamed and unsure of my fashion style. How beautiful that someone from my past emerged to bring closure to those worries!

I was provided with much-needed fashion help by Stilista Boston, but all opinions and swimming around in piles of clothing are my own.


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  28 Responses to “I Got a Professional Fashion Makeover in Boston!”

  1. You are hilarious!

  2. Funny this morning I asked Dave to give me a big plastic bag and I started to clean my closet of clothes that do not fit or are not in style anymore. Hope to buy a new outfit for the holydays.

  3. I’m obsessed with the print of that skirt!

  4. Wow! Impressive! Love that they can accommodate your budget and comfort level w things – I am similar in my closet/wardrobe situation – good to know there is an excellent resource out there.

  5. I would love to work with a minimalist fashion consultant who could figure out 10 pieces of clothing that would make 20 fabulous outfits 🙂

  6. What a small world! I work with Maria’s sister who is just as stylish. Fashion runs in their blood! So glad you enjoyed your time with Maria!

  7. I enjoyed this post since I was a huge fan of the show What Not to Wear. I had terrible fashion up until about high school–I cringe at the fact I only used to wear sneakers with poor-fitting jeans and a T-shirt (just like it can be hard for curvier girls, it was hard to find clothes that fit my skinny frame, I always ended up buying clothes a size too big). I don’t think I need fashion intervention anymore (a stint in a clothing boutique plus studying abroad in France and Spain showed me what I had to work on) but I wouldn’t mind someone help me organizing my closet because I know for a fact there are things there I probably don’t need anymore. Every few years I go through it and toss about half the clothes out. In fact I get complimented on my clothes at my office quite a bit which I think is hilarious because I think, “If you could only see me 10 years ago…”

    I’m glad the experience was positive for you. Shopping doesn’t always have to be so terrifying (I used to hide in the mall bookstore whenever my mom used to drag me on her expeditions). If you dress well and put just in a little bit of effort, it does wonders for your self-esteem because it shows you care about taking care of yourself. 🙂

  8. oh dear you look so so beautiful 🙂 <3 i have assumed from your photos that you had great fun playing with the costumes 🙂 lovely
    hugs-Gabi <3

  9. The reason we’re so camera shy is that we’re in desperate need of a makeover. If only this service was available in Gran Canaria. Lovely photos, Lillie.

  10. Love your new look (terrific skirt)!

  11. Oh yes, please. My gosh – this is me, too!

  12. I would love to try this too… now, I am thinking seriously of doing the same.

  13. Ok – I have to know where the ikat midi skirt came from. We are the same height and I have been looking for a patterned midi skirt that hits me in the right spot for ages!

  14. Sounds like it was a great and positive experience for you! That’s great you have more confidence! I can see it in the photos too! 🙂

  15. Lillie, thank you for your beautifully written blog that so accurately describes the “turn it around” package experience! I am so glad it was helpful. You were an absolute delight to work with, and you looked wonderful in your new items. It is always an honor to have a client trust my guidance, and I love the photos you took of your new outfits — you look GREAT!
    – Maria / Stilista|Boston

  16. You look gorgeous! I love that patterned skirt on you. 🙂

    I think I might need a service like this. I have the same kind of mental blocks about clothes as you, especially how it feels just wrong to spend more than $12 on a shirt. I was raised on budget clothes, thrift store items and hand-me-downs and I feel totally intimidated by high end clothing. I really don’t know how to put outfits together or choose the right pieces – so unless it is somewhere really cheap like Primark where I can’t go wrong, shopping tends to intimidate me!

    Also, even though I am 27 I still don’t mentally feel like a “grown up” yet, so whenever I wear “grown up” clothes I feel like I am playing dress up! haha…

  17. I’ve worked in retail stores, so I have piles of clothes, and it pains me to get rid of them unless they’re ratty and ready to be retired. I still have tons of clothes at my parents’ house back home! I do think it’s time to part with my old college bar crawl shirts, though…!

  18. Your description of your “before” wardrobe so resonates for me and I’m nearly twice your age. I even have the same “I’m happy to spend money on travel experiences, but turn into a deer in the headlights as soon as I walk into a store” issues. (Perhaps this explains why my wedding dress cost $35, but we went to Peru for our honeymoon.) If there’s a Stilista out there who wants to (rescue) work with a Philly based Boomeresque travel blogger—-I have this friend …. 😉

  19. This looks amazing – I wish I had known about it before moving away! Any Northern California expansion plans??

    • We’ll have to let Maria weigh in on that!

    • Hi Jessica,

      We do not have any expansion plans to your neck of the woods as of now – so sorry! Let us know if you are planning to visit Boston and we’ll be sure to take great care of you here. Our city’s shopping options are getting better and better!

      – Maria / Stilista|Boston

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