From beige to butterfly

Having trouble meeting the right person? Perhaps your clothes are proje cting the wrong image. Lyndsay Russell meets someone who can help

Never judge a book by its cover, or so the saying goes. But we do, don't we? Meet a person of the opposite sex and you make instant assumptions based on the way they dress.

Lots of bold jewellery and shoulder pads, and the woman is considered to be a sophisticated, racy Jackie Collins type. Likewise, a man sporting a tweed jacket with leather elbowpads can be deemed a ponderous J R Hartley.

I had one girlfriend who used to wear outrageous clothes with necklines plunging two inches below her hem. Strangely, she would complain that lovers only ever thought of her as a plaything.

To my suggestion that her leather miniskirt would be better suited as a chamois cloth for the car, she innocently replied: ''Why should I change my style? Men should take me for what I am.'' Unfortunately, they did. Frequently.

There are times in our lives when a little objective advice on our presentation would not go amiss. The trouble is, however, that shop assistants are biased. Besides, they either treat you with large amounts of disdain, or embarrass you into buying the first rag you try on.

One way of reassessing your image may be to visit Laurel Herman's style consultancy tucked away in a pretty backstreet off Primrose Hill in north London.

''Many of my clients first come after a divorce, when they need a boost to face the singles scene. Others come when they've lost a lot of weight, or are about to start a fantastic new job,'' says Laurel, an elegant woman in her forties.

She set up her business two years ago, when she started swapping second-hand designer outfits among her friends. Now she runs a showroom containing 6,000 new and nearly new garments. ''Normally you go into a boutique, look at the selection, and choose two or three items you know will suit you. We work in a totally different way.

''I encourage my customers to take three to four hours trying on as many clothes as they possibly can. For instance, I'll hand them a rail of 25 jackets and say, 'Go for it.' It only takes five seconds to slip each one on and off. But by experimenting with different shapes and colours that you would never consider in normal circumstances, you can discover a whole new look.''

Laurel, in the middle of a divorce herself, realises how vulnerable people can be during this period. ''I insist no one is pushed into buying. But it is fun to show a 'beige' housewife how she can become a butterfly. Whatever, my rule of thumb is that they must feel comfortable with the new look.''

Her colleague Susan Bull runs a different aspect of the company: she is often to be found in men's bedrooms. ''I give private home consultations on wardrobe,'' she says. Trained in fashion by Louis Feraud and Giorgio Armani, she visits many of her male and female clientele every season.

At pounds 100 a visit, she will overhaul your existing jumble, suggesting creative mix and matches, and nifty tucks to update the outdated. ''My intention is to make everything clients have wearable. Sometimes a discarded suit just needs an alteration to a lapel. Alternatively I can take a new outfit, break it up, and turn it into six.''

With subtle therapy, she analyses personal needs, career and hobbies, creating looks to complement the lifestyle. ''Recently, I had a man who was highly successful, but had always been dressed by his mother, then his wife. Although he could afford top designer names, both women had bought all his clothes from Marks and Spencer. He looked like a schoolteacher. Now divorced, he's been wondering why he never attracted stylish women.''

Another Susan Bull client was from the police force. ''He was a top CID officer, but he dressed too flashily. Cartoon ties, patterned shirts - then wondered why he was always overlooked for promotion,'' she says.

One wonders if that was for bucking the system or for making a lousy undercover cop. Either way, Susan tactfully set the record straight. When it comes to attracting the opposite sex, men certainly do make hideous mistakes. Unkempt and crumpled reflects a lack of personal pride. Too smooth indicates a lack of trustworthiness.

On the other hand, women can destroy an image with misplaced accessories. A lady in a pounds 1,000 suit coupled with peep-toe shoes and dangling ear-rings can look tackier than a cheap prostitute. Fran Moscow, another partner in the Style Consultancy, runs the New York Story style show. ''We do about 10 a month. It's full of tips, like how the simple addition of a scarf can alter your entire look.''

Part of the show involves taking a business woman or man through an imaginary day. From a morning meeting to nightclub cocktails, the same outfit is altered in various ways to suit. Bookings so far have included people from the US Embassy, Champneys, and the City Women's Network.

They also run small advice workshops where you can trot out your sartorial mistakes and they will tell you what to do with them. Not always the dustbin.

So would-be romantics, don't let people judge you like a book. Take a hard look in the mirror, and check your dust-jacket. You could be covering Lady Chatterley's Lover with the Oxford English Dictionary.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on