UNLESS you’re one of those people who have a walk-in wardrobe that looks like Vogue’s September Issue clothing department, you’ll have experienced, at least once in a while, and at most, every other day, that disempowering, frustrating, downright infuriating feeling that you have nothing to wear. There you are, looking at a wardrobe full of clothes, yet in your mind’s eye there’s something absolutely wrong with every single item. You may start by calmly perusing your lot, and then move on to a more active searching mode. Oh, there’s that shirt you wore the other day and felt so good in! Why not match it with those funky trousers? You thrown them on, and are faced with your frowning, frumpy reflection: “I look like crap!” Suddenly the shirt makes you look lumpy and the trousers are far too tight on your bum, not to mention that your legs look like those of a miniature horse. How did you ever even wear these trousers? Or buy them? They’re terrible! In fact, everything you own is terrible! For a moment you may fantasize about the distant future, when you might be able to spray on a substance that then takes on the form of what you’d like to be wearing in your greatest fantasy. But alas, that’s definitely not happening at this very moment. Right now, you have nothing to wear, and you’re already late for wherever you should be going. You consider crawling into bed and making your excuses, but instead you throw on that totally unremarkable and not particularly attractive outfit and head out the door, hoping your self-confidence will magically rise, or that it will be dark enough wherever you’re going so no one can see you well.
In the scheme of the greater dilemmas of this world, it may be a somewhat trivial little drama to have to face, but since society demands that we dress ourselves before leaving the house, and since the way we dress says a lot about who we are and reflects how we feel about ourselves, it’s a (pedantic on bad days, fun, on good days) reality game we play along with nonetheless. Above all, and way beyond superficial philosophies, even those among us who claim to not care about their appearance know that when they wear something that feels good, it directly affects their mood and sense of identity, whether it’s fancy and sophisticated or simple and nondescript. Whether you are the president of a country or company, a terrorist, a hooker, a scientist, a doctor, a parent, or anything else, you choose the clothes you wear for a reason; they say something about you or give you a feeling of who, what, and how you are.
In those moments so commonly experienced by us all, and let’s face it, usually caused by some weird hormonal surge, life event, a change in the weather or planets, a broken diet or heart, or some other emotional downfall, you wish there was someone there with a magic wand to help you sort things out.
Enter Pelagia Christaki, who has created a business based on these very needs via a business called ‘I Have Nothing To Wear‘. Upon invitation, Pelagia goes to people’s homes and hunts through their wardrobes, showing them all the overlooked potential that their clothes and accessories hold. You know that jacket you always have shoved at the back, the one you keep telling is a waste of space? Suddenly, it becomes part of a magic formula when combined with a certain skirt, top and belt.
If the problem stems from the said wardrobe being in such a frightful state that its potential isn’t even imaginable because it’s just a knot of materials you have to dig through every day, she will, upon agreement, sort through and perfectly reorganise it, while gently teaching the mess-maker how to maintain its contents in a clever, loving and practical way. And if the wardrobe has been sorted, and its items and their potential have been carefully rediscovered and you still feel there are ‘gaps’, because most of its contents simply do not represent what you would like them to express, Pelagia can go with you to the shops (your choice or hers, or both) and help you pick out some great items to compliment your body and personality and what clothes you’ve already got, or completely take things to a new level.
To me, what Pelagia does is both like something out of a fairytale and a very practical service at once. “Some friends commented that during a financial crisis, hiring me is a luxury,” she says, “but actually what I’m offering is a practical way of avoiding excess spending by getting the best out of what you already have, so it can be looked at as a small, yet smart investment,” she adds. Her work involves much more than going through wardrobes – it’s about getting to know and understanding her client’s psychology, emotional state and financial power, seeing in them their true colours (just the intimacy of standing in front of a stranger’s dressing area with them can reveal some vulnerabilities), learning about their life and priorities and evaluating how that transmits through their dressing style, and then offering them the ‘therapy’ part – the practical and creative solutions for making do with what they have, discovering ways to better deal with a daily proponent of life, and also adding new dimensions to their sense of self, to their ability to play, be innovative and develop a fresh, positive outlook by seeing the ordinary and mundane in a new light.
In our session, Pelagia – who is so diplomatic and considerate that even when she was brutally honest it was a welcome attribute – started by asking me about myself, where I’m at in my life, what the way I dress means to me, how I like to express myself generally and through the clothes I wear. I realised, during this process, that I get dressed without thinking much about it, on some sort of automatic pilot, and considering her questions was quite challenging, as it made me really think about what I’m saying about myself through the clothes I choose. She then gave me a high-end fashion magazine to leaf through and asked me to comment on clothes and styles I strongly liked or disliked, in order to gain a visual understanding of my tastes. We then moved on to my wardrobe, something I must say I did with great trepidation as I feared that she may judge me. “This is what I do!” she laughed, when I confessed I’d considered postponing our appointment because I hadn’t had enough time to tidy up my wardrobe before presenting it to her. “I’ve seen every kind of wardrobe – and anyway it’s not as if I’m perfect!” she said.
In the moment of truth, Pelagia pointed out that a couple of items that I had secret qualms about but wore quite religiously nonetheless were indeed not worth holding onto, because not only did they not do anything for me, but were actually unflattering. Hearing these comments actually came as a huge relief, because I finally felt more resolute about making certain decisions (like listening to my intuition). As for the rest, she showed me how to create combinations I had never considered. She also reminded me of the importance of finding a good local tailor who for a decent price can transform the look or functionality of a formerly unwearable item, simply by shortening, tightening, or adding straps or an extra button.
“Highstreet stores today sell certain cuts of clothes that cannot possibly fit every woman of a certain size – a size 10 top can be tight on the waist and loose on the chest on one woman and fit another size 10 woman completely differently depending on her own body type,” she says. A very reasonable point, but so commonly overlooked. She advised, on that note, that one tries on different sizes of each item, and has it altered by a tailor in order to get the right fit, or adds other details. “Even something as simple as shorts can look fantastic if you buy them two sizes larger than your own and have them taken in at the back and waist, as the baggier shorts will flatter your leg, unlike the type that makes your thighs bulge out when you sit down,” she says.
Pelagia is constantly researching, exploring and experimenting with fashions and style, as well as the human psyche. Her outlook tallies with the streams of fashion but mostly, honours the theory that the best style one can have is one’s own – by wearing the clothes that are an extension of one’s philosophies and desires, but also living up to one’s best potential. She is a believer in the classic expensive / thrift store combinations, enjoying the process of combining second-hand and vintage items with spanking new, top trends, but above all, staying try to originality and the client’s personality.
I learned things from Pelagia that have little to do with fading fashions and a lot to do with how I can dress for the rest of my life by avoiding certain things, and going for others, by continuing to keep a fresh and enjoyable approach to how I dress, while feeling confident about what I put together.
Here are some valuable tips from Pelagia:
Honour your physical attributes – show off the good stuff (never all at once, as that just looks tacky, unless you’re Sophia Vergera) and divert attention from the not so good stuff. Be aware of clothing details that emphasise the latter – eg. bulky back pockets and buttons if you have a large behind, or side pockets if you have large thighs, a ruffled shirt if you’re large chested or a tight T-shirt if you have a large belly.
Be playful and creative – try out ‘unlikely’ combinations for the sake of it and you may just find that some actually look really great. It turns out that my kimono robe looks pretty wicked worn as a jacket with a white T-shirt and jeans, and is not just an attire for sipping a cup of tea on the sofa in the morning.
Use accessories – scarves, belts and shoes can really transform a look, or even make it, and can add a splash of colour or statement (eg. animal prints) without having to be a head to toe look. But don’t overdo it; remember Coco Chanel’s rule to always take off the last thing you put on.
Once I’m quoting Chanel, I must add another of Pelagia’s golden rules – simplicity is the key to elegance. Classic, simple items that can be mixed and matched with other clothes go a long way – a denim or white shirt, a good, flattering pair of jeans or black trousers, comfortable shoes that extend your leg nicely, giving it length, basic T-shirts that can be worn with dressy trousers or skirts to create a smart but everyday look…
Create an inspiration folder on your desktop, taking photos of combinations from your wardrobe or pictures from magazines, or if you think of an attractive clothes-combination put it together and hang it up so it’s ready to wear.
Pelagia’s Practical Tips…
* Buy slimline velveteen (so that clothes cling) hangers and hang each clothes item separately – if you don’t have enough space bunch things together – black trousers, or dress shirts, ties or flowery dresses – so they are easier to find when you’re in a rush.
* Invest in a special hanger for all your belts so you can see them easily when selecting one for your outfit.
* Stuff newspaper or cotton wool inside your boots and shoes to keep them in good shape.
* Place sachets of lavender and silicone bead sachets around your wardrobe and drawers to create a pleasant aroma and absorb humidity.
* Possibly you will never find that perfect day when you can sit and reorganize your entire wardrobe at once – but even doing a little every few days can make a big difference.
Pelagia’s Key Items for Spring*
* The A line denim skirt is a very hot trend right now that can be worn from day till night with flats, sandals or high wedges.
* A must-have for spring is a flared denim, but you must buy a pair that is tight on your thighs and then widens under the knee, as that elongates your legs. It’s also important to consider which shoes to wear with these, and if need be, cut the hem near the end of your shoe in order to cover it and add more more height.
*Now that the 70s are back you can invest on a taupe suede jacket with fringes that will enhance your outfit and will give motion to casual outfits.
*During summertime there is nothing better and more comfortable than culottes,that are wide at the hem opening and made from light fabric, prefer a pair that is capri length and shows your ankles,
*A white sole sandal is appropriate for the whole day. For a more dressy night out invest in a ultra chic sandal but keep the style simple so it can be combined with various looks.
*Peach and nude are beautiful colours to add to your wardrobe in the warmer, sunnier months and the vest is a substitute of a blazer that makes outfits not only sleak but also feminine.
* [Take part in a competition for a free styling session with Pelagia! To find out more, click here]