Sarah became a stylist to support her coaching and personal training clients through significant body and image transformations.
Sarah is aware that assisting an individual to lose 20-100 kilograms takes time, connection, understanding, strategy and devotion. She has these attributes in abundance. She considers a weight loss feat worthy of an honourable ending. For many years she outsourced personal styling. Each time she referred a client for styling services, she felt she was missing the final stage. Keen to be part of the celebration, she branched out and become a personal stylist.
Becoming a stylist was not a comfortable experience for Sarah, in fact it was an incredibly uncomfortable and grueling experience. When Sarah arrived at the styling course, she observed that she was grossly underdressed and instantly felt like she didn’t belong. As the days progressed, this feeling intensified. Throughout the course she contemplated how often her clients must feel uncomfortable in a room and she channeled this feeling to motivate herself to complete the course.
Soon after arriving at the course, students were asked to introduce themselves and inform the class of their reasons for attending the course. Sarah explained that she was a personal trainer who wanted to offer her clients a styling service at the end of a body transformation. Everybody else in the room was a former model, someone who wanted to be a model, someone who owned a modeling agency or someone working in upmarket retail stores. Sarah again felt instantly out of place.
A requirement of the styling course was to participate in various group activities that Sarah found demeaning and humiliating. One of the first activities she was assigned, was to lay out her suitcase, alongside the other students’ suitcases (containing items the students were asked to bring with them to the course) in a circle in the middle of the room. The facilitator then instructed the students to open their suitcases and treat their suitcase as a retail outlet from which they were to style the other students. As Sarah was traveling from interstate, (the others were all local), she had her toiletries and underwear in her suitcase (and not her best underwear either). She had not prepared for a scenario where she would be leaving her suitcase open for others to look through. Upon receiving this instruction, Sarah ran across the room, like she was sliding in for first base at a softball match, and instantly removed her underwear from her suitcase, discreetly shoving all her bras and undies down her pants.
One of the assessments was to take a fellow student shopping for an evening outfit. Sarah performed the task successfully, yet when it was her turn to be styled, her allocated partner fat shamed her and advised her to “lay off the carbs” despite being a size 10 at the time. Sarah was the only student who didn’t return to the class having been successfully styled with a new outfit.
To top it off, the facilitator assigned a creative task, instructing the students to again utilise the clothes that they had brought to the course. No one wanted to utilise Sarah’s clothes but they all took her shoes. Sarah was encouraged to squeeze into someone’s designer pants and accidentally ripped the seam and felt terrible for damaging someone else’s clothes. As no one’s size 4-6 clothes would fit, her new partner (students were allocated a different partner each task) opted to style her as a geisha by donning her in a kimono that didn’t come together in the middle and tied a sarong around her waist. As her hair was too fine to style in side buns, she ended up looking like a teddy bear with little ears. Sarah’s partner put a stripe of dark brown lipstick down the centre of Sarah’s lips (over the top of her existing pale pink lipstick). She looked ridiculous but put on a brave face and took it in her stride. The students were then asked to walk out onto “the runway” in their outfits and do a spin to a song by Ricky Martin. Sarah noticed a look of disgust on the faces of the other students when she appeared on the runway. She attempted to manage her feelings of shame with humour but it fell through. She wanted to dig a hole and crawl in.
Finally the course came to an end. Sarah was relieved and felt proud of herself as she had acquired all the skills she needed to style someone to look beautiful. She has since styled countless women and a handful of men and received feedback that they were overjoyed by the result.
Sarah’s academic yet vulnerable approach to becoming a stylist has made her both knowledgeable about styling principles and empathetic to the feelings that the process can evoke.
Given the personal experience underpinning her skills, she takes extra care of her clients to make sure they leave with their desired outcome, be it a capsule wardrobe, or an outfit for a special occasion.
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