Sarah Whittaker: The Wardrobe Shrink
By Zoe Beaty on September 20, 2010 in Style
If you’ve ever looked in the mirror and not like what you’ve seen, Sarah Whittaker claims she can help you. But unlike too many fashion consultants she won’t try and tell you you’re an apple, a pear or anything else you might find in a basket.
That’s because instead of seeing clothes simply as a means to depict a body shape (or hide it), Sarah sees fashion purely as an extension of your personality. She has built a successful career out of fashion by dismissing its materialistic and conceited exterior in favour of helping others find their persona in the clothes they wear. Sarah uses your psyche to determine what your personal style is, not your body shape.
“People often don’t look in the mirror and really see their true reflection, but a sum of their experiences and their personal statements about themselves,” says Sarah. “I try to separate the junk from the truth, and have people see themselves in their true light.
“I see myself more as an image profiler, helping people see themselves as a work of art. But, fashion is a form of art, so I don’t mind thinking of myself as an artist.
“Fashion can be seeped in vanity, and I try to stay away from that, as do my clients. I also like people to understand really who they are – from their colouring, body architecture, personality and presence. Quite often people live in social stereotypes and dress that way.”
Sarah’s work has taken her all over the world – originally from London, she started her business as a one-to-one consultation in England alone. Now living in Georgia, USA, she conducts long-distance consultations with people all over the world through her website. But her intentions weren’t always fashion related. After an educational background in Public Relations and Business and Marketing, she went on to work in IT before realising her potential in fashion.
Says Sarah: “I have always had an interest in colour and design from a young age. I started making my own clothing at school, and after following a career in business, I decided at 27 to finally go back to my artistic roots using the idea of image and how we perceive ourselves.”
Sarah has now been working for herself in this area for over 10 years: “My intentions for my business have developed as I have developed more of an understanding of people and the way to express someone’s image in relation to another,” she says.
“We are all so different – it’s a cliché but I always say we’re like a painting: we are all made of our own shade, colour, and light.”
Fashion and psychology are, according to Sarah, linked in more ways than you could ever imagine. She believes that how you express yourself and how you perceive yourself is all in the mind, and most of it is unconscious. “Fashion isn’t just subjective, although superficially some people look at it in only that way – some will just say “I love pink dresses”, and wear pink dresses for the sake of it,” she says. “But really, what you wear and how you express yourself is often based on your unconscious beliefs about yourself.”
Sarah also considers your identity to be the core aspect of your individual style, whether you are aware of it or not. To gain your personal, natural look, she says you must know and embrace this identity, regardless of the latest development in fashion.
“We all have unique qualities that are reflected in the different components of our image – in our colouring, body shape, personality, and presence,” she says. “To just put on the latest fashion isn’t really achieving anything. Where true style comes in to play is when you understand these unique qualities and how to bring them together to convey the true image that you are.
“Those people that have true style, have their own personal style that is timeless. Fashion is simply a fad, and most don’t want to be a passing trend. I certainly didn’t. Also, to be able to express yourself as you naturally are can be so freeing for most people. Rather than feeling like you are wearing a ‘uniform’, you feel like your clothes are a second-skin. And the result is that people see you and not the clothes.”
Sarah’s inside-out profile begins with an online questionnaire, which takes down details of your personality and how you perceive yourself and how you developed your image over time. Following this, she will analyse photographs to determine your physiology and colouring.
“All these aspects of the self are interconnected and, like joining the dots, I am able to make out the whole/complete picture and feedback to you your individual qualities that make up who you are,” says Sarah. “Every aspect of who you are exists for a reason, and it is important to know why and how to enhance it.”
After an hour long telephone consultation where Sarah discusses your ‘image type’ and key traits, she then sends out a written profile as the final part of the process. Her conclusion aims to bring the clients’ personality to light, while offering details on styles, cuts, shapes and patterns for flattering style. By the end of the consultation, clients should see their true selves – even some who have been seeing something in the mirror that didn’t really exist for years.
“I am most proud of the fact that I have created a system that gives people such insight into themselves,” says Sarah. “I really appreciate it when I work with a client and they are able to step into a completely different mindset following a consult. They feel they’ve regained their sense of self and self-esteem.”
Although her technique has been perfected over the years, Sarah finds that some clients are more difficult to analyse than others. As people are increasingly inclined to use fashion as a means of covering up parts of themselves, or even to portray a false character, finding the truth behind the trends can prove testing.
“Image is such a personal thing,” she says. “Being given access to a woman’s closet is really getting a peak into their personal world and their mind. So, it can be for some people a bit unnerving. Most clients feel very safe with my approach though, and although I have had a few people try to play games a bit (that is what psychology is all about after all), it’s best to maintain the focus on the person, their attributes, and the best way to express themselves. Then any defences tend to get left behind!
“It is always a surprise; what you find when meeting with a new client. And I often tend to pick up the underlying messages that people are trying to communicate, and that always is a delight to see. And it can be quite magical being able to shift the focus of a person’s image just a fraction and achieve an incredible result.”
But don’t get the wrong impression: while Sarah will analyse you and your identity, she doesn’t claim to ‘fix’ problems you may have. “I can’t ‘fix’ people, I don’t think anyone has powers quite that strong!” she says. But she can help women build on self-esteem and what she calls self-activation – having the confidence to take what you have and who you are to achieve everything you want in life; starting with your image. “By starting at the very core of you, and working out what should be seen by others on the outside you are giving yourself the perfect springboard for a healthy, successful life.” says Sarah. “Be who you are, and be what you want to be – keep this in mind and you can’t go wrong.”
- Catwalk For Christmas