Travelling on the motorway at the weekend I observed hundreds of cars so fully loaded that you couldn’t see through the back window. I think it was students, leaving the nest and being driven to their new homes. 
Thirty-five years ago, I left my hometown of Leigh, Greater Manchester. A small place where everyone talked to each other at bus stops and most people worked in a factory or down a pit. I moved to the East Midlands. To Loughborough to be precise, to embark on a degree course in Textiles and Fashion Design. 
 
Me, mum, dad and boyfriend and all my worldly goods packed into the car on a Sunday afternoon. They helped me unpack and then I was left, on my own, in grotty halls of residence. Sharing a room with a complete stranger. It was exciting and a bit scary all at the same time. I was alone and the only way I could keep in touch with my loved ones was by queuing for the pay phone in the corridor outside my room, along with the 30 other girls who lived there. 
 
I’d worked hard to get this opportunity. I’d done an extra year of study to get to this point. I’d applied the year before and been unsuccessful at securing a place – it went on interview and your portfolio of work. My drawing had let me down. Rather than accept the place I was offered at my second choice uni I’d decided to have another go the following year. 
 
That year I drew and drew and painted and drew…I improved a lot. I also worked 2 jobs evenings and weekends in pubs alongside. I was determined, focused and getting that place on one of the most prestigious art colleges of the time was my absolute priority. My dad’s mantra had always been if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. 
 
 
This week I’m sharing with you how I think your journey with colour and clothes can help you find inner peace, happiness and contentment. Yep, I know it’s a big claim but bear with me. I’ll share some of my journey and you can see if any of it resonates. 
There was a time when I felt quite overwhelmed when it came to putting an outfit together to go for a night out with friends. I had a wardrobe full of clothes, but I was practically wailing in my head ‘I’ve got nothing to wear’. How was it possible to have a wardrobe crammed full yet have NOTHING to wear? It didn’t make sense. 
 
I’m an intelligent, well-educated woman, in a well-paid job with lots of responsibility how can I be feeling so inadequate standing in my own bedroom faced with my own possessions? 
 
And I understand I’m not on my own with this… for a lot of women these feelings are kept hidden even from close friends (and certainly from colleagues) because it makes them feel a bit stupid and silly. Inferior even. I know this because clients tell me so. 
 
It’s a guilty secret – I mean shouldn’t we all know how to get dressed ffs? I even have some clients who, despite the amazing difference working with me makes to their lives and how they feel about themselves, are hesitant to tell people they’ve worked with me! 
 
I’m sharing it with you because if your best friend won’t talk to you about it who will? I think it’s important for people to realise that this stuff can make such a massive difference to how you feel on a day to day basis. 
The truth is I was suffering from WTF Syndrome -Wardrobe That’s Failing. It wasn’t on my side; I’d bred a monster. 
 
 
Last Friday I stepped in at short notice to speak at a women’s event. I told a 15-minute version of my story which provides an insight to why I do what I do. I also described my journey to how I came about to be a colour and image specialist mentoring women to be the best version of themselves as I am today. 
Also, for the first time ever, I put myself forward for an award recently. It felt like the right time, and I shared my story as part of the entry criteria. Unfortunately, I found out on Monday that I hadn’t got through as a finalist. I was a bit disappointed, but at the same time very pleased for all the other amazing women who had got through, it’s just not my time yet. 
 
So, this week, in case you haven’t heard my story before, I’m sharing a version of it with you. If it resonates let me know. 
 
I gained 5 stone during pregnancy and just can’t seem to shift it. I’m firmly in the plus size category. I hate my body and never feel nice in my clothes. Despite dressing nice, doing my hair and make-up every day, I am miserable on the inside and I don’t really feel like me anymore. 
 
I wear a lot of slimming black. The little voices in my head never have anything good to say. Why are you even bothering? You don’t look nice any more… I am in a very negative relationship with myself. I don’t feel like I’m worth it. 
Then two things happened that turn my world upside down…I have a horrible, traumatic experience at work, which leads to me having a total mental breakdown and not long after this my husband, after 23 years, tells me he doesn’t want to be with me anymore. He left. 
 
 
September, the time of new beginnings 
 
Summer 
Ends 
Potential 
Time for change 
Excitement 
Make plans 
Be 
Enthusiastic 
Ready for anything 
Back to school 
 
New pens, writing really neatly on the first page of your exercise books, using a ruler to do the underlining of the date and title. Shiny new shoes and pristine white socks, a new bag and excitement at catching up with the friends you haven't seen for 6 weeks. (Or this year 6 months).The whiff of fresh varnish in the hall (I can still smell it now). New teachers and boundaries to test… 
 
 
As an adult, I still associate September with being time to think about learning new things, having a clear out maybe, a fresh start, preparing for winter and the dark evenings, cosy nights in, curtains drawn. The colours of autumn as the leaves start to change indicating the end of summer and the beginning of a new season. My birthday, Halloween, bonfire night, Christmas. The slimming clubs will have an influx of new members in the next couple of weeks as people start to think about party season and fitting into the little black dress. 
 
Working in post 16 education, September was always the beginning of a new academic year. The time of getting to know new students, helping them settle into their new environment. Teaching them responsibility for their own learning, no bells to signify the end of lessons, getting the balance between the new freedom and social aspects and learning. It was a time of goal setting and planning, how to get the best out of the students within the curriculum. Lots of creative thinking and planning exciting ways of getting the work done in an engaging fashion, tweaking things that have worked well before to keep it all fresh. 
 
 
I know a woman who never tries anything new, she holds herself back. She is scared of change, has a fear of the unknown and this stops her from attempting things she’d love to have a go at. 
She doesn’t like to move out of her comfort zone, this is where she feels safe. She is protecting herself from the nervousness and butterflies you get when you are not quite sure; that sweaty palm, shallow breath, generally apprehensive feeling...I’m going to call her Comfort Zone Carol. 
 
Where's your comfort zone? 
We all have our comfort zones. They represent different things for us. It might be keeping you in a job that you don’t really like but it pays the bills and you can do with your eyes closed. It might be only wearing black baggy clothes because you want to blend into the background. It could be not driving in the dark and in turn stopping you from joining all kinds of activities in the evenings. One person’s comfort zone is not the same as the next one. 
 
Discomfort Zone 
I once heard someone flip it one it’s head and refer to it as a discomfort zone and it got me thinking...is it really a comfortable place? If you want to try something new but fear is stopping you how is that comfortable? Is the ‘I know what I like, and I like what I know’ attitude actually keeping you stuck? 
 
 
I can't believe we are in August already. It’s usually about now that I expected to be ramping up the promotion of my annual SWISH event to raise money for charity. This year it’s just not feasible so won’t be going ahead sadly. 
Swishes (or clothes swaps) are a great opportunity to clear out those good quality items you never got around to ebaying from your wardrobe. You bring those "as new" things you never wear, swap them for stuff you will wear and raise money at the same time. 
 
I’ve hosted 5 of them so far and they’ve become a community event to look forward to. Here's my story regarding why they came about 
 
#Swish4Chris 
 
Our lives changed forever on the 2nd July 2015 when my dad was taken from us very suddenly with heart failure. 
 
We were just getting our heads around it when we received the devastating news the following April that our mum has a terminal brain tumour and at most had 12-18 months longer with us even with surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, which she stoically endured. We lost her 18 August 2017. 
 
She was a very glamorous woman, right up until the last couple of weeks of her life I had to make sure I'd got my nail kit with me to do her gel nails. She loved her clothes and jewellery, always had her hair done and make up on and was often stopped by strangers and complimented on how lovely she looked. 
 
 
I am NOT the fashion police...I often get greeted with comments like “I know you will probably tell me off for wearing this. “Or “I know I shouldn’t be wearing this but…” 
It’s never my clients who say this by the way, they know better. It’s generally people I meet at networking who have their own idea of what my role is before they actually get to know my values and how I actually work. Often, it’s because they’ve seen TV makeover shows where the presenters are paid to be cutting to boost viewing figures – it makes good telly. 
 
My mission is to help ‘ordinary’ women feel so much better than ordinary by teaching them how to choose colours and clothes that make them look and feel good. I want to make personal styling accessible and share expertise that is generally seen as an exclusive service reserved for those with big bank balances. 
 
Please rest assured that when I meet you, I am not looking you up and down and mentally condemning your style choices. I am not permanently judging your dress sense and conducting private analysis sessions in my head. That’s the absolute opposite of what my work is all about. I just want to clear that up - I am not the fashion police. I will also challenge you if you get a bit judgy about what other people are wearing too – it’s none of your business. 
 
The whole premise of my business and the way I work is to develop confidence. If you feel totally confident and happy with your outfit choices, then that is fantastic. You’ve either been a client and I’ve done my job well or you are not in need of my services. 
 
 
Back in 2015 I put a question on various social media platforms and asked” at what size do you consider plus size to start?” 
Back in 2015 I put a question on various social media platforms and asked” at what size do you consider plus size to start?” My question was for market research purposes, not to be controversial or start a debate – which it did. 
 
At the time someone I was working with had suggested I ought to use the term in my marketing (kind of cashing in on my own plus size status and being ‘inspirational') and was curious to see what people thought. I got quite a few responses and it seemed to be a subject that ruffles feathers and divides opinion. Some people found the term offensive, mean and rude, others see it as an alternative term for unhealthy. 
 
I posted the same question again yesterday, five years on and with a different audience of connections yet the comments provided similar results. 
Is it a classification or an insult? 
 
I personally don’t like it, but it seems to be the recognised term within the fashion industry. If I’m looking for clothes online I Google ‘plus size’. 
 
The answers from my social media connections ranged from size 14 upwards but most people thought size 20 was the starting point. 
 
Some of the people who responded were apologetic, as if they were worried about offending people. Others thought it might be better to use terms that seem less derogatory. So, can it just be seen as a term to describe a body shape or is it as most people think (who commented across my social media) derogatory? Like short, tall, athletic, curvy etc? 
 
You may (or may not) have noticed that I am a flamingo lover. My house is full of them. 
People send flamingo related items to me in the post. I get given flamingo related gifts. I walked into our wedding ceremony to Pretty Flamingo by Manfred Mann and we had flamingo toppers on our wedding cake. They have become a big feature in my life over the past seven years and I’m going to explain why. And, why now, I have decided to incorporate them into my business branding. 
 
In the spring of 2013 I experienced trauma that completely side swiped me. With hindsight the signs were there. I should’ve seen it coming. I wasn’t well. I was overworked, extremely stressed and my 23 year relationship was undeniably broken. I was juggling plates and desperately trying to stop them from crashing to the ground. But they did. I needed to rebuild and rise like a phoenix from the ashes. 
 
Instead of a phoenix though, flamingos became symbolic of that rebirth. It started with my bedroom wallpaper. 
 
I’d always liked flamingos. They are kitsch, synonymous with mid century design that I’ve always loved. My taste had developed a more mainstream flavour and I’d blended into a more magnolia world over the years with my ex husband. I’d dumbed down my personal taste and our home was much more conventional in its décor than I would’ve ever had at one time. 
 
 
 
If I asked you on a scale of 1-10 about putting yourself as a priority whereabouts would your number be? 
 
If you’re a mum perhaps your number changed after having kids? Or you might be you are looking after elderly parents these days and that impacts where you put yourself on the scale? 
 
It’s a well-known fact that what we wear can impact how we feel about ourselves. This week I’m inviting you to consider how much thought you give to wearing clothes that make you look and feel good. How many days a week do you look in the mirror and feel great about your personal style and image? Read on to find my tips to help. 
 
I know for sure my priorities changed when I joined motherhood. Things that were once important didn’t really have the same lure. 
 
I remember thinking how hard it was to even get dressed when my son was very first born. Everything seemed to take twice as long! It seemed to take forever just to get up, shower and get dressed in the morning – never mind be my pre-child glamorous self with hair done and full make-up every day. It took me all my time to get out of my dressing gown. Trying to get a quick shower with a crying baby in a car seat just didn’t feel very relaxing. 
 
 
“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” — Rachel Zoe Your clothes make a statement about you before you open your mouth. Do you ever think about the messages you might be conveying about yourself through how you look? 
Having a Signature Style is kind of like finding your own uniform or YOUniform as I prefer to call it. This week I’ve been chatting with lots of lovely ladies who volunteered to have a half hour conversation to help me with some market research. During these calls I’ve been explaining the four elements of my Style Nirvana System that I work on with clients to create their Signature Style. 
 
So for this week I’m giving you a few pointers on the types of things for you to consider if you want to create your own Signature Style. It really is worth taking the time to sort if out as it helps relieve the stress from getting dressed. No more standing in front of your wardrobe stuffed full of clothes but feeling like you’ve got nothing to wear. 
 
Element One: Colour 
Wear colours that look good on you 
As you know I’m VERY passionate about colour and the impact it can have on how you look. The ‘right’ colours will make your complexion appear clear, radiant and glowing; your eyes will sparkle, and you will look healthy. The ‘wrong’ colours will exaggerate shadows, can make your skin appear blotchy or sallow and generally make you look tired. And who wants that?!? 
 
Figuring out whether you suit warm or cool colours is the first step and then matching your natural contrast levels to the colours you are wearing helps too. 
 
Check your veins on your inner wrist. If your skin has warm undertones your veins appear green, skin appears peachy, cool veins appear blue, skin pink. 
 
 
It feels like we were barely out of the January sales and then suddenly the world came to a standstill for many of us. No places to go, no people to see, as we ended up in our homes a lot more than usual. The decorating aisles in the shops that were open were completely bare. We were making our spaces nicer places to be. 
It feels like we were barely out of the January sales and then suddenly the world came to a standstill for many of us. No places to go, no people to see, as we ended up in our homes a lot more than usual. The decorating aisles in the shops that were open were completely bare. We were making our spaces nicer places to be. 
 
There was a lot of sorting out and decluttering going on, wardrobe weeding and moving winter clothes to storage. Getting out the summer shorts and dresses as we had gorgeous weather and time to sit in our gardens sipping the Brockmans and Fevertree or experimenting with cocktails for fun. 
 
If you were still working and on full pay you probably had disposable income burning a hole in your pocket as the coffee shops were no longer an option. No midweek chat in the pub over a glass or two of Sauvignon with the girls. The online stores and supermarkets that sell clothes were the only way to get a fashion fix if you wanted to update your wardrobe after the big wardrobe weeding sessions. 
 
And then the non-essential shops opened…if you do feel like venturing out at the moment, you’ll notice it’s full on sale season again across all the High Street stores (and of course online too). It’s tempting to buy stuff because it’s at a knockdown bargain price but I’m inviting you to read my tips first before you get your card out to pay or click on that PayPal button. 
 
 
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