"Even if a woman is wearing beautiful clothes," says the owner, Susie Faux, "she won't look good if she looks very tired. We say 'just go upstairs for half a day and relax'." Ms Faux envisages a place where busy women can hand over responsibility for how they look to the pros - and leave feeling pampered, preened and ready to take on the world.
As well as the clothes and beauty treatments, Wardrobe offers a clothing consultancy service; pay pounds 200 for an advice session from the well-groomed staff, and recoup the cost on the clothes you buy.
"Wardrobe's whole raison d'etre is to make people feel very special," says Ms Faux, author of Wardrobe: Develop Your Style and Confidence. "Our customer is not rich enough to throw away pounds 50 on a jacket that she can only wear once or twice. After their first visit, customers say they've never spent as much in one hit, but in the end they spend less over the whole year."
Without a doubt, clothes at Wardrobe are pricey - Jil Sander, Mani, Strenesse, State of Claude Montana ... If they weren't, Wardrobe wouldn't be in its grand location just off Bond Street, or have Philippe Starck chairs, wave-shaped walls and an architect-designed multi-pile carpet.
"We want women to invest in one outfit that looks good rather than spend lots on rubbish that will always look wrong," says Ms Faux. "She'll buy one outfit per season and style it different ways, so she can wear it a thousand times."
It's this economical approach to buying clothes that makes the Wardrobe service appealing. Susie Faux herself is different from many designer- clad saleswomen. From a working-class family, she still remembers being ushered away from an expensive rail of clothes with a cursory "They're not for you, dear". Reassured, I decided to try the consultancy service myself, and threw myself on the mercy of Ms Faux and her assistants.
At first it's hard not to feel inadequate, my red lipstick clashing with the pinks of the sales staff; my favourite linen Whistles suit suddenly feeling shapeless. I mumble my sizes to the beautiful Lana who's been put in charge of dressing me, and watch for reaction to (ooch) size 14 top, bottom a more respectable size 12. "Lucky you," she says. She pulls out a double-breasted Strenesse jacket. I put it on but hazard that double-breasted jackets emphasise my swimmer's shoulders. She takes the point, but disagrees.
Next, a beautiful bluey-green single-breasted Mani. It feels good. I'm beginning to think that it might be worth getting my Access card out, if, indeed, it would clear the requisite pounds 599. Mani trousers follow. Nice, too (pounds 399). "How about this top?" Lana asks about a short-sleeved cream cashmere and wool roll-neck(Sfera, pounds 189). She adds a pair of Jil Sander court shoes (pounds 185) and suggests a scarf. We're already clocking more than pounds 1,000. But it needn't be that much. "Women regularly ask us what their minimum budget would have to be. Quite honestly, it's pounds 500," says Susie Faux.
With a beautiful Marco Tagliaferri jumper to go with the trousers (pounds 255), and a few more tips on styling, I feel a million dollars.
How much would it cost me to feel this way more often? Adding up my seasonal spend, a Miss Selfridge throwaway suit, a few high-street dresses and trousers, I'm convinced that it really wouldn't cost much more. My next very special birthday present will be a day out for the whole works. Even if it's only once a year.
Wardrobe, 42 Conduit St, London W1R 9FB (0171-494 1131).Reuse content