|My niece Lynn, front, with her sister Peg,|
several years before gastric bypass surgery
I called Zoe and set up a four-hour appointment at a rate of $50 an hour. Zoe told me that normally, the most efficient process is to do a closet audit at the client's home, then let Zoe pre-shop, and then do a shopping trip with the client. But because Lynn lives almost two hours from Zoe's territory in Baltimore, it would be more efficient to try to do it all in one appointment. Zoe warned me that might not be feasible.
In the initial interview the following week, Lynn told Zoe that her work environment as an administrator is very casual, but she is getting opportunities to meet with higher level people and could use a couple outfits appropriate to that.
Raised as a military brat, Lynn had her clothes neatly arranged in two closets--one for tops and the other for her one skirt and several pairs of black pants. The tops were arranged by color, from warm to cool to black and white. "You've done half my work for me, Zoe said, asking Lynn to start by trying on all the pants.
"Mom always said black is slimming," Lynn said.
"Yes," said Zoe, "but slimming is more about fit than color. You and I have similar build and coloring, and for us navy sometimes works better than black." She approved the fit of several of the pants and recommended that Lynn "release" the rest.
"Yes, Maam" said Lynn. In fact, over the next hour, Lynn easily released everything Zoe recommended, even things she had recently bought. "You're the expert," she said, as I imagined myself hemming and hawing in the same situation.
|What's in your closet?|
Find that waist
As we moved to the tops, Lynn tried on several with her one skirt. Zoe recommended that she wear the skirt a bit higher, at her slimmest point, to emphasize her womanly shape. This is a signal recommendation of the Style for Hire approach. And indeed, pulling up the bright, southwestern print skirt by an inch from where Lynn normally wore it caused me to say, "Wow, what a difference."
Zoe recommended Lynn release several tops that were too large but keep most of them, saying Lynn has a good eye for fit and color. "Actually, most of these were chosen for me by my 16-year old niece," Lynn said, referring to her sister Peg's "adopted" granddaughter Tia.
Gaps to Fill
At the end, Zoe pronounced that Lynn had a good solid basis to work from. She needed a business suit, a little jacket that could dress up her tops, a couple more skirts including possibly a pencil skirt, and accessories. Because of Lynn's organization and willingness, Zoe said we finished the closet audit in near record time, so we would have time to go shopping on this same appointment.
Lynn lives in Woodbridge, Virginia, near the famous regional mall Potomac Mills. So we had lots of places to choose from. She normally shops at budget stores, but she told Zoe she was prepared to spend in the range of $500 for this upgrade. "We can do that easily," Zoe said. "Let's start at Kohls."
At the large, well-lit, and pleasantly arranged Kohls, we split up, meeting back at the dressing room for Lynn to try on items that both she and Zoe approved of. A skirt I found was pronounced a keeper--a short, slim, light nylon with a print similar to the one Lynn already owned, but in muted camel tones and with a flounce at the bottom.
Finding the dress, finding Lynn
The high point of the day came next as Lynn tried on two dresses Zoe selected, both form-fitting, one teal and one wine colored. I don't think I'd have given the dresses a second look on the rack. But as Lynn saw herself in the wine one, tears came to her eyes. There she was. The high waist, low V neck, and gently drape fit her perfectly, and revealed the beautiful shape she had sacrificed so much to achieve. I blinked my eyes, feeling almost as if I were meeting a new person. Zoe led her off to find the perfect necklace.
|Lynn in her new dress|
We fanned out again at Nordstroms Rack, its tightly packed rows of overstock items much more challenging to navigate, but with hidden treasures awaiting. Zoe found a black suit with a short jacket Lynn could also wear with pants. She also found a jacket I actively disliked on the rack, a short denim blue with a bit of a boucle print and a little Channel-style fringe. But when Lynn put it on in the dressing room, wow. It was both professional and fun at the same time. A real statement. But it was too small. So Zoe sent me back out into the jungle as she and Lynn continued to try things. And Eureka, I found it--half way across the store from where Zoe had found the smaller size.
|And a jacket to wear with everything|
We put the Nordstrom's items on hold to make one last stop at Bannana Republic. Zoe said she would prefer a grey or neutral color suit for Lynn, and Banna Republic can be excellent for items that are professional but fashonable, she said. And indeed, she did find two grey suits that were almost right. But the darts didn't fall in the perfect spots, so back to Nordstroms we went to claim our booty. Zoe added a green print scarf she said Lynn could wear with many of her looks.
Putting it all together
I couldn't believe we still had a half hour left of our scheduled four hours. We zipped back to the house where Zoe showed Lynn how to put together outfits using the few new items we'd bought. In just a few tries, Lynn could tie her scarf like a pro. And if the Integral vision is about bringing together truth, beauty, and goodness, I felt like I'd just had an Integral day.
|Zoe Jones teaches my niece Lynn to tie a scarf.|
|At work the next day in the skirt I suggeted|