Purses open for style advice

By Rachel Grunwell

Jackie O'Fee with Rachel Grunwell. Photo / Herald on Sunday
Jackie O'Fee with Rachel Grunwell. Photo / Herald on Sunday

Housewives desperate to update their look are helping fuel a surge in the number of personal stylists.

Appearance coaches, personal shoppers and fashion consultants across New Zealand say the industry is growing and enjoying unprecedented demand thanks to what one called the "Trinny and Susannah effect".

Everyone from young professionals to chief executives are paying generally more than $100 an hour for advice on how to look their best.

The cost can soar to thousands for multiple-session packages covering clothes, makeup, hair analysis and shopping trips - before a single garment is bought.

One of the most in-demand experts is Jackie O'Fee, director of Signature Style in Auckland's Epsom. With a client base nearing 5000, she credits her success to people watching TV makeover shows and thinking 'I can do that too'.

O'Fee, former host of TV3's Does my Bum Look Big?, dissects the latest trends on TV One's Breakfast.

She counts women and a growing number of men of all ages among her clients.

There are famous faces, girls in their 20s, barristers, chief executives and "check-out chicks", but mostly housewives in their 40s with time and cash on their hands.

"There's this saying that 'my 20s were for my husband, my 30s were for my children and my 40s are for me'," she says.

Levin-based wardrobe stylist Lisa O'Neill, who focuses on the lower North Island, says stylists used to be for the rich and famous but that's changed with the "Trinny and Susannah effect" and popularity of Gok Wan's show How to Look Good Naked.

"It has made it more public," she says, adding that people get help in all areas of their lives.

About 400 women sometimes turn up to her fundraising fashion nights, and the mother-of-four enjoys helping "real-life" mums feel more confident in their clothes.

She advises people choosing a stylist to pick someone whose look they like. She warns some can be qualified, but still "have no idea".

Tauranga-based Margaret Stodart, who styles clients throughout the Bay of Plenty, says fashion advice is "life-information".

Never too late to learn

Can top stylist Jackie O'Fee teach a 30-something mum-of-two any new tricks? Rachel Grunwell finds out.

I've watched Trinny and Susannah and I'm very afraid.

To be fair, I've loved gleaning tips off them; it's just the tit-grabbing and bottom-slapping that freaks me out.

I meet O'Fee at her Epsom studio and she drapes white cloth over me so she can examine my eye and skin colour against different fabrics. I'm handed a swatch of my colour palate and I'm stunned: There's my favourite red and the navy blue I also thrash.

O'Fee also reckons military green would be great and I could carry off certain shades of purple, yellow and brown.

Next she's sizing me up. I'm a column, apparently - "straight up and down" without "a lot of boob action".

She says I need to try to create more curves than I have by wearing a low-slung belt or frills around the chest.

O'Fee taught this gal more than a thing or two about fashion.

- Herald on Sunday

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