Personal shoppers at your service

Once the preserve of ladies who lunched or red carpet regulars, personal shopping used to be an elitist hobby for those who could afford Prada price tags. Not any more. In London 2013, there’s a small but growing army of advisers - from in-store shoppers to freelance stylists - on hand to help you find the right jewellery, handbags, sunglasses and shoes. Translation? There’s no longer any excuse for sartorial slip ups. Some talk about it openly, while others would never admit it but the secret is out: many of the chicest men and women in the capital are getting fashion assistance. For decades, we have relied on decorators to help create a home environment that reflects our individual style and now we are using professionals to pull together a wearable wardrobe – just as we do when designing our homes, planning exotic holidays et al.

In the image conscious city we live in, everyone wants to look their best but juggling a career and a hectic social life leaves little spare time or energy in which to shop…

For a genuinely personal service, nothing beats a premier personal shopping service, such as Kimberley Salmassian at BridgetSalmassian. Customers can hire Kimberley to go shopping with them. Alternatively if you don’t have time to leave the office or can’t face the thought of schlepping around shopping centers, Kimberley can take you through an initial consultation, shop for you and then return with a selection of items for you to try on. Kimberley isa trained in the art of diplomacy. In the same way that a fortune teller wouldn’t tell you that you’re about to get run over by a bus, a personal shopper won’t tell you thatr you’re fat – they’ll just discreetly hide the hotpants. Whether you’re searching for something special for a summer wedding or after a knock out outfit for a night out on the town, Kimberley can help. She can also recommend hairstylists, makeup artists, manicurists and facialists. While women – typically professionals and  full time mums - account for approximately 70 per cent of Kimberley's clientele, more and more men are also turning to herto make their busy life easier and more stylish.

However the most common kind of fashion assistance comes from personal shoppers associated with a specific retailer. This writer discovered how helpful a professional shopper could be at Banana Republic. Having recently started a new job, I want to look stylish and well put together as I embark on a new role. To date I have been wearing the reliable work uniform of a shift dress teamed with pumps and a pashmina (to combat the fierce effects of office air con over kill). Acceptable. Yes. Remarkable? No.

I read fashion mags – time permitting – but, after a long time overseas, am not sure what the style rules are in London and need a few outfits for work/socialising. For the L-plate shopper, the London shopping  scene can turn into a kind of urban endurance course. Too many stores and shopping streets, too little time! The array of size, styles and labels on offer  is enough to make my head spin and keep my wallet shut.

Thank goodness then for the Banana Republic assistants who were helpfulness personnifed and gave me tough-love lessons in fashion. There’s nothing like a cool blast of brutal honesty – though being good style consultants the BR  helpers also listened and took my idiosyncrasies into account. I was told by the team "to let us help you. We’re going to shop around the store. You're going to try things on." After firing questions at me such as "What is your lifestyle?" "What’s your favourite colour" and so on, the stylists scoured the shop floor sweeping up suggestions as I waited – with a certain amount of trepidation - in the BR changing rooms.

I need not have worried. The assistants at BR made me look as modern as I wanted within the parameters of what flatters. They were able to see me in a way that I could not see myself putting me in crisp cotton shirts, pencil skirts and sexy stilettos. Initially I murmured protests: where were the jeans and trousers? The skirts and dresses are way too tight… I’m not thin enough to carry off this look… But that passed. Fast. And most of the clothes felt feminine and fabulous. Okay – so there was no way I was going to go for the black, baby doll dress, despite the stylists’ evident enthusiasm – but overall the options looked good, and I felt good about myself in them.

What’s more there's no fee for BR's in-store shopping services – although you will of course be limited to the merchandise that the US retail giant stocks.

If you’re reading this and already no slouch in the style stakes, you might find yourself wondering if you could look even better. Possibly. At the very least you’ll end up with a fresh, objective perspective. But more than that, who couldn’t do with a dash of magic in their life? For like the best spas, a personal shopper experience leaves you feeling truly pampered. 

How to get dressed

If you're looking for a personal shopper, one of the easiest ways to get started is to head to your store of choice. Most of the major retailers  have personal shopping services that are absolutely free. At smaller boutiques, seek advice from a single sales representative. Explain that you're trying to build a wardrobe, and establish a relationship that way. Again, that sort of personalized service costs nada.

DOS AND DON’TS

Do

Dress appropriately for your age.

Remember that the key to looking great is good grooming. It doesn’t matter how fab your new wardrobe is, if the rest of you is all wrong.

Edit your wardrobe before you go shopping. Be ruthless. If anything is in less than pristine condition or hasn’t been worn for two years, get rid of it.

Buy essentials at the beginning of the season and indulgent purchases at the end when they go on sale.

Make your own inspiration book, as the designers do. Cut out your favorite things from magazines at the beginning of the season, and call the stores to see when they are coming in.

Don’t

Wait for the signature bag, shoe or belt, or it will be gone. If it does go on sale, the trend is over.

Don't be a colour coward. Experiment!