fashion tribes: what sort of shopper are you?

Annabel Hodin, alias the Look Doctor, gives an expert overview of women’s shopping tribes, the pitfalls to watch out for, and how to make your shopping trips more successful

28 February 2014

“You gotta have style. It helps you get down the stairs. It helps you get up in the morning. It’s a way of life. Without it, you’re nobody.” So said legendary Bazaar editor and fashion arbiter Diana Vreeland.

We may no longer be leaping on every micro-trend that comes along but we have the experience to know what makes great style: well-cut clothes, classic colours, chic accents and good quality fabrics. It’s about feeling, not looking, sexy.

Now, with the new-season looks in the shops and the shopping tribes emerging from their winter slumber, it’s a good time to find out which tribe you fall into, the problem with the way you shop, and how to get the most out of your shopping trips.

Runway Princesses

They like to have a fun time. “Let’s look at all the designers!” they say as they trot round Selfridges. They’ll buy looks they’ve seen on celebrities, stylish women at parties or Vogue models such as Gisele Bündchen. (“Perfect body and great gear,” they sigh.)

These shoppers buy full catwalk looks, snatching them off the mannequins. They egg each other on with bad advice: “You look great in that, you must have it!”

But beware! This is marketing at its best. Magazines and mannequins show the strongest, coordinated looks. Does it suit you? Do you need it? Don’t get persuaded unless you’re sure. 

Holy Grail Purchasers

These are a subsection of the above. They’re the fashionistas, the in-the-know people who will locate the must-have item before anyone else.  They simply must have the Daisy Coat from Prada – even if it has to be sent from Milan by tomorrow.

The trick is to ask yourself, “Will it have become ubiquitous before I’ve worn it to Christie’s charity auction? Is it worth a nervous breakdown? Or is it really the ultimate edgy update that fits with my wardrobe?”

Investment Shoppers

These shoppers are good at finding pieces that have a distinctive design feature that makes them timeless, creating a new classic. “I’ll wear this über-luxurious Celine cashmere sweater all the time,” they say.

Only consider it an investment piece if it’s exceptional in cut, colour and fabric – and fits you perfectly. Be vigilant, too. There’s no point getting a £2,000 Dolce & Gabbana lace cocktail dress if you’re likely to be in a room with someone wearing a cheap copy. So check the high street versions (Cos, Zara, etc) before you splurge.

The I’m-Not-Interested Dame

“I have to get an outfit for a 50th,” she wails. She doesn’t know where to go. She’s possibly an out-of-towner, an occasion-shopper, or someone who (erroneously) believes that clothes don’t define the person.

She doesn’t usually look for something special. “It’s much more important to be comfortable,” she says.

She could save herself much heartache if she searched online and in magazines to find a look she likes, then went to a one-stop shop such as Fenwick, Harrods or LK Bennett: safe, under one roof, and economical.


men's fashion week: ask annabel

Have the London Collections made your schmutter seem shabby? At 50-plus, do you know how to find the look that’s right for you now? A personal stylist can make it pain-free, says Annabel Hodin

4 January 2014

Men’s fashion week (aka the London Collections) is upon us again. And, as intended,, the constant media coverage has put style-conscious chaps in a spin about cutting the Colman’s. They look at their wardrobes and realise they’re somehow out of time.
It’s amazing how often I’ve heard this story from men: “It’s very easy to step out wearing the same look that you’ve felt and looked great in for the past decade,” you’ll say. Then, one day, you catch sight of yourself in a shop window and shudder: “Is that really me?!”

In a bid to alleviate this paranoia, they rush to the nearest department store, credit card in hand, and place all their trust in an enthusiastic 20-something shop assistant to find a new-you look.

An hour later – having swiped your plastic until it’s hot – they leave with bags heaving with uncoordinated items from top designers they were told were ‘trendy’.
Gents, the results of these DIY dashes are usually one of the following:
1) You’ve dressed like your son. 2) You’ve dressed like your dad. 3) You’ve dressed like a teenage pop star. 4) You’ve dressed like a footballer. 5) You’ve dressed like you did a decade ago.

What you’re not doing is dressing like the ‘you’ that you are now.

So it can be difficult for the fashion-fancying 50-something: how to be up to date and not ram dressed as lamb?

Get wardrobe help from an expert eye

To move into your new decade and find clothes that are age appropriate – on but not in trend – takes an expert eye. And that’s where a stylist comes in.

I first learnt about style, design and aesthetics as a model and art student. I was lucky enough to be spotted by Anna Wintour, who started my career with a spread in Harpers.

When I was asked to style I thought it would be fun. I went on to ‘do’ Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, Bryan Ferry, Genesis and Phil Collins, choosing their clothes and helping to create their album cover photos. I have been described as a kind of “wardrobe Jeeves”.

Having a stylist’s help is the short-cut, no-hassle, fuss-free route to the right designers, the right shops and the right accessories. It can sharpen up any man to look a million dollars (or more).

What does a stylist do?
I select clothes for men to whom looking good matters. When I am to work with a client, we first meet for a consultation. We go through your wardrobe and discuss how things look on you, selecting items which are flattering and styles that suit you.

Then I co-ordinate what you have, identifying any gaps and discussing what could work.

The fun bit follows as I plan a shopping trip with you, either to create a new look, or to tweak your old look to update it. I try to start with a one-stop shop, somewhere such as Selfridges.

If you’re inclined to groan at this point, remember that on this trip you’re with an ally who isn’t trying to sell you things. Nor are you trying to please a partner or a friend, neither of whom can be truly objective. It’s nice to be able to concentrate on yourself without anyone you know watching.

You’ll be pleased to learn that I make the experience as pain-free as possible by having a planned route. Having scoured the shops for weeks prior to our meeting, I already know exactly where to get that claret scarf or iconic T-shirt. So there’s no unnecessary legwork!

The clothes that make the man

The combination of clothes and character is essential. Tony Blair once wore flowery Vilebrequin swimming shorts without a tan or a toned body. They are great shorts worn by the trendy but if worn by a 50-year-old, they need a 40-year-old body.
His rival William Hague wore a cap like an American baseball player. He is an English gentleman. Style computer said ‘no’.

All clothes and accessories have style connotations. When Tom Ford raised Colin Firth’s reputation by casting him in the super-stylish A Single Man, that was no coincidence..

But don’t necessarily follow the style of people just because they’re in the public eye. Relaxed confidence and timeless sophistication are the buzzwords I swear by.

So relax about the London Collections, and let me watch them for you. You see, at 50, you can feel more comfortable in your skin than ever; sometimes it just takes someone else to see what looks best on top of it.