For Women & Co., by Laura Vanderkam, LauraVanderkam.com
If looking in your closet makes you feel as dreary as the weather, take heart. There are three simple ways you can enlist a professional to help you upgrade your style and it may be more affordable than you think. Here are some options, both online and offline:
1. Get an online "fix."
San Francisco-based Stitch Fix is a "personal stylist for the masses," says Kelly Murtha, Vice President of marketing. After requesting an invite (the wait list averages two weeks), you fill out a style questionnaire about your tastes, size, and price point preferences. Using this info, a stylist selects and mails five items for you, generally from smaller labels and up-and-coming designers. You try the items on at home and return what you don't like in a pre-paid envelope. Each fix costs $20, which can be credited to any purchases, and the average price point for items is $75, with a 25 percent discount if you keep all five (the average customer returns three).
Murtha says that Stitch Fix's clients are quite diverse. "It works for people like me who live in a city and don't have time to shop in stores, but it also works for people in rural or suburban areas who don't have access to boutique shopping, or have to drive 45 minutes to a Nordstrom's."
2. Go in-house.
Major department stores like Macy's and Bloomingdales offer personal shopping services by appointment. These services are free, since the assumption is that you'll buy a reasonable number of the items the personal shopper picks for you, and stylists often keep in touch with clients to let them know about new merchandise and sales.
3. Hire your own expert.
While personal stylists aren't cheap, (rates for stylists affiliated with Style for Hire, a network founded by What Not to Wear host Stacy London, range from $50 to $300 per hour) it's a misconception that they only help you shop.
Style for Hire stylist Jenny Applegate, who has clients in Chicago and Atlanta, describes three services she offers. The first? A closet audit. Applegate looks through a client's clothes and figures out what works, what doesn't, and what could with tailoring. "Often there are good pieces in someone's closet, and if they're tweaked slightly they would be perfect." She also does "closet shopping," which involves putting together looks from a client's existing clothes. For a recent client, Applegate reports: "We created 30 new looks from what she has existing in her closet. She thought she had to go out and buy all these new clothes when she really didn't have to. She needed just a few missing pieces to enhance what she currently had." Purchasing those pieces was cheaper than the shopping spree the client originally had in mind. Applegate took pictures of all the outfits they created and now a "look book" sits by the client's closet. That makes getting dressed in the morning "pretty effortless."
Of course, a stylist will take you shopping if you need new clothes. Good stylists have relationships with stores and can pre-pull items to a dressing room, and sometimes score discounts, too. They'll also help you send good quality items that don't work for you to consignment stores, so you can earn some cash to help with new clothes.
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