I am always amazed at the reasons people give for coming and sitting in my studio, with a bare unmade up face, in front of my brutally honest mirror in broad and unrelenting daylight while I flip pieces of coloured material round their neck. The amount of trust that takes is immense and I never underestimate or undervalue it.
Some people say “Well, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but I’ve never met anyone who does it before.” It’s lovely when somebody says “Well my friend came to see you last month and she just looks amazing! I want you to do the same for me.” I still think the best reason given was by a group of nurses at my doctors’ surgery who said “You always look so good when you come in – but yet you’re always ill when we see you!”
But the reasons people give are never the real reasons: the real reasons are what underlies all of this.
Often we don’t know ourselves but there is usually a problem we’re trying to solve, or a gap we’re trying to fill, or an achievement towards which we are striving. In the end there are only six basic reasons anyone does anything, and funnily enough these echo the six basic plots that make up every story in the world ever told.
Many classic stories start with a monster: the dragon to whom the maidens of the village are sacrificed, Hercules’ Nemean Lion, the huge faceless corporation of modern novels. The task our hero or heroine takes on is to conquer that monster.
Of course, we don’t actually admit to being afraid. We say “I’m a bit uncomfortable with….” or “I’m not very confident about….” but as Andy Lopata and Peter Roper make clear in their book “And Death Came Third”, public speaking and networking tends to be the number one fear for many people. (Of course, there are those of us who just leap at any chance to stand on our hind legs and show off, but we are obviously just rather defective human beings who should be pitied, and given therapy on the NHS).
But just imagine for a moment, walking into a new environment absolutely knowing that you are well dressed, looking your best; in a way that not only feels comfortable, but that showcases your best physical assets, and communicates your strengths, your values and really facilitates people to “get you” in a glance.
Hopefully you don’t have to imagine it because it’s already happening for you. A client of mine sent me a lovely quote from Jack Nicholson the other day; “With my sunglasses on, I’m Jack Nicholson. Without them, I’m fat and 60.” She applied it to herself saying “With my soft Summer colours and plum lipstick I am authoritative yet approachable. Without them I am stern and scary.” (And she is too!)
House of Colour gives you the weapons and armour to take on that monster. You may have to do a little body-building or take a few fencing lessons, but you’ll go into that meeting fully equipped. Personally, I’ve always liked the stories where the dragon gets tamed by the princess and ends up as the castle pet, giving rides to the children, but then, I’m a sucker for a happy ending where everyone wins.
RAGS TO RICHES
Don’t we all love a good rags to riches story: poor boy/girl makes good? From Dick Whittington to Barbara Taylor Bradford (A Woman of Substance); our literature is chockablock with stories like this.
People come to House of Colour because they’ve heard that if you want that promotion you’ve got to dress as if you’ve already got it. If you want that piece of business you have to look as if you landed business just like it every day of the week.
Like it or like it not, we are all books judged by our covers. At House of Colour we teach you how to carry authority in your dress, without necessarily wearing a suit; we discover with you the best colours for you to wear when you want to make a certain impression; the best styles that suit your body-shape and personality, so that you always present yourself at your best.
I find my male clients are usually looking for this benefit (although not usually the pink dress above, you understand). In fact one of my clients gave me a testimonial saying “In my business you’re always looking for that edge; the extra 5%. I’m confident that House of Colour has given me that edge!”
Thanks; that was a nice one.
So people will automatically find themselves giving you respect and granting you authority (and more money), knowing you can handle it. After all, you look as if you’re already handling it just fine.
You don’t have to be Ulysses to realise that life is a voyage of discovery where we stop off at numerous islands along our way. We have school, university, our first job. We may marry, have children, spend time caring for those children, change career, care for aging parents or grandchildren, start our own business, then retire and cruise the world/the local golf course.
All of these islands have different native inhabitants with different customs and, yes, different local costumes. It stands to reason that you don’t normally pick your children up at the school gate in the same clothes you would wear to give a high-powered presentation (unless you have just come straight from that presentation in which case your children are likely to give you the suspicious third degree about just why you are looking so smart and complaining that you are embarrassing them in front of their friends! This is because children are sent to keep we women humble; otherwise we would become blinded by our own magnificence!)
At House of Colour we teach you to look at your lifestyle and to build your wardrobe around the areas where you spend most time – so that you look and feel good every day. We teach you the difference between Casual and Scruffy (a number of British people get these two looks confused) so that you can pick the children up from school looking effortlessly good, while not looking overly smart. We teach you how to dress well and easily in retirement without “facing old age in beige” as one of my clients put it.
What we teach really does last a lifetime.
IN GRIEF AND IN JOY
The classic tragedy and comedy. I find people in my studio who have recently undergone bereavement, divorce, redundancy. I also find people who just think “That sounds like fun: I’m up for that!”
I don’t mind the second group as long as they are serious about taking the information on and utilising it in their daily lives; but I’m not about to be merely the entertainment for the day; I’m worth far more than that! (It’s OK for you to say that you find these blogs entertaining: that’s different!)
Suffering any kind of major loss forces you into a place of reassessment, and going through the House of Colour Journey at this time is incredibly beneficial. In fact, I would say that the classes we offer can be an important foundation block in rebuilding your life.
My all time favourite answer to the question “So, what brings you to House of Colour?” was when a mother and two daughters all looked at each other and confessed: “Well, Mum’s Aunt had her colours done years ago – and she was always banging on about how we should have ours done too. She died last year, and left some money in her will specifically for us to have our colours done with House of Colour; so here we are!”
I still don’t know if that falls into the tragedy or comedy camp, but I really wish I’d known that aunt: what a woman!
We’re used to pop-stars reinventing themselves every so often (just who is Madonna this week, anyway?) but just occasionally we will look in the mirror and say “You know, this worked for me at 25, at 35 and even at 40. I’m going to be 50 next week and I need a new look!” In stories it’s the Ugly Duckling or the Fairy Godmother giving Cinderella a helping hand. We need to be our own Fairy Godmother; (although I like to think I give a little assistance along the way).
It’s so easy for us to get stuck in a rut. It’s a comfortable rut and everyone is used to us looking a certain way; in fact they have an emotional attachment to us staying the same, because we human beings are not that comfortable with change. I have on a number of occasions said to a client: “You have lovely hair, but it looks as if you haven’t had a restyle since you were fourteen.” There is normally a pause here and then my client will shuffle her feet in an embarrassed fashion and mutter “Well, that’s because I haven’t!”
But change does need to happen; although probably not quite in the way we think. If there is a phrase heard more often than any other in my studio it is “I don’t want to look like mutton dressed as lamb” with the result that my clients dive headlong into frumpiness rather than elegant and timeless femininity.
At House of Colour we teach you how to reinvent yourself with style and grace, whether you’ve lost weight, gained weight, gone through illness or simply succumbed (as we all must) to Anno Domini.
WHO AM I?
How many of you remember the song by The Who “Who Are You?” (go on – click that link because you know you’ve got it running through your head now…. Who are you… whoo hoo, whoo hoo). But if someone were to ask you that, would you know?
I wouldn’t have done. When I first came to House of Colour, almost twenty years ago now, I had no idea who the real Mary was. I knew that I wasn’t the person I saw in the mirror every day. But I knew the person I thought I wanted to be (the Agatha Christie heroine who looks elegant in a well cut though slightly shabby tweed suit), was just not possible.
In the quest to find ourselves we travel a number of irrelevant byways and are halted at many dead ends. Having a professional help us see clearly is invaluable. I had never thought I was pretty. So I had beautiful hair, but I had not realised that hair was masking the little pixie who lived inside. It took a House of Colour Image Consultant to see that Pixie – just as I am able to see the person who lives inside you. That’s my job – and, after thirteen years in the game, I’m very good at it.
Just to end where we started, another quotation from Douglas Adams, from the Hitch-hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, where Arthur Dent complains: “I seem to be having this tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle. As soon as I reach some kind of definite policy about what is my kind of music and my kind of restaurant and my kind of overdraft, people start blowing up my kind of planet and throwing me out of their kind of spaceships!”
House of Colour will help you identify your kind of colours, your kind of style, your kind of shop and your kind of designers.
It’s knowing that sort of thing which is a great comfort when you’re thrown out of a Vogon Spaceship into the vastness of outer space with the almost certain prospect of death by asphyxiation within 30 seconds.
I’m sure Arthur Dent would agree.