I am the personal shoppers' dream

... but what I really wanted was a jacket just like my grandfather used to wear
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The Independent Online
I hate shopping for clothes. I prefer buying antiques. When I presented myself to be personally shopped at Marks and Spencer's store in Finsbury Pavement, I had in mind a summery off-white linen jacket of the sort my grandfather used to wear on the bowling green. Perhaps not far short of an antique, after all.

On the menswear floor I was confronted by thickets of dark suits. It seems I was a little ahead of myself as far as the seasons are concerned.

"Officially," said Walla Idris -a charming Sudanese with an American accent who was to be my personal shopper - "Jackets like that are summer wear".

"But I can see one over there," I gestured, myopically. "That," she said, "is the ladies section."

She did not tell me that I was a challenge. But she could have done. I was wearing a stuffy Tweed jacket and cavalry twills with a prolapsed turn-up.

I felt like walking out, but acquiesced to becoming dark suited. That is the way I always buy clothes, knowing that if I cannot get what I really want, the alternative is spending more time and more money shopping around. Let's get it over with. Perhaps, after all, I am the personal shoppers' dream.

Anyway, Ms Idris had some interesting tales to tell. For example, she has learned to distinguish by their suits lawyers, accountants and brokers (prominent professions among the City men who dash in at lunchtime wanting a suit for both office and "fun" as she calls it). Lawyers wear three- piece pinstriped suits, accountants like navy blue and brokers like grey with a bit of green.

Also, she said, while women shop in flocks, and swap opinions, men tend to shop alone. "They really need someone to help them in a professional way." I was beginning to feel I had found a friend.

But the pounds 160 "new grey" suit with a bit of green that she offered me, I loathed - even though she said I could wear it with a T-shirt on Friday afternoons before going off for some "fun". I loathe T-shirts, too. Clearly, I am not cut out to be a broker, even a fun-loving one.

Then Ms Idris got to work on my colouring - part of the in-house training she got was from the American image consultants Color Me Beautiful. She glanced at my grey hair. "Were you once fairer?" she asked. "No," I said, "my hair used to be jet-black".

An Italian navy-blue suit (pounds 275) made me look young. Not my image at all. But the colour appealed and I liked the light weight.

We ended up with a navy-ish double-breasted M&S suit at pounds 130. "T-shirts won't go with double-breasted," she said. Thank God for that.

Her stroke of genius was in the accessories. She produced a range of pink, sky blue and yellow shirts - apparently, bright shirts are in, this year - and a couple of ties, one electric blue, one navy blue with orange and yellow dots. I was captivated by the bright yellow shirt (pounds 27), which I would never have had the nerve to match with a dark suit, and by the electric blue tie.

Hmm. Electric blue, she said, would go with a pink or sky blue shirt but not with a yellow one. I should choose the darker tie (pounds 18). With the help of a mirror, I did.

The session lasted 50 minutes - quite enough time to spend shopping for clothes in one year.

I walked out with the shirt and tie and I will probably return to buy the dark suit when mine wears out. But what I really wanted was the sort of linen jacket that my grandfather used to wear on the bowling green.

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