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childhood-style

How early childhood shapes our self-image and style

When Scott* entered my studio for his first consultation, his personal presence was quiet and nearly invisible. In his mid thirties and single, he wore light gray, worn and baggy jeans, an oversized pale blue dress shirt, scuffed and mealy loafers…and had barely combed hair. He wore glasses that were conservative and more of a non-statement than anything else.

This was nothing like the same man I had watched perform a song in front of a large audience with a vibrant and engaging presence. I wondered, where was the disconnect?

He came to me for personal styling and identity work with the goal of improving his personal image and increasing dating prospects.

Before I met with him, I had asked him to bring 5-7 favorite pictures from art, architecture and nature. I call this exercise the Favorites Effect. This simple exercise is remarkably telling. When you describe why you like your favorites you are describing yourself.

Scott’s images were strong and alluring, bold, masculine, exotic. When he began to describe why he liked each image, the words he used were describing the man I had encountered on stage! When I helped Scott to see the connection between these images, his descriptions and his presence during the performance you could feel him begin to integrate. He was connecting with his true identity.

Next, we discovered the design signatures (line, shape, proportion, color…) that Scott shared with his favorite images. This is the second powerful dimension of the Favorites Effect. Looking at the images it was obvious, they were all dramatic, elegant and strong- a significant contrast to what he was wearing and his personal presence in my studio. These images would become design guides to help us create looks that reflected the true essence of Scott!

As we explored the reasons behind this visual disconnect, I found a link between his upbringing and his current style. As a high-energy child who tended toward the dramatic, he quickly recognized that the quiet engineering and math professor parents approved of his quiet studious older brother, and didn’t approve of him. Growing up he instinctively worked at downplaying the drama by becoming invisible. He struggled with feelings of not being OK. We changed all that.

Over the next two months we found clothes that both fit his body and connected to who he was on the inside! We made sure his jackets and shirts were finely tailored, matching Scott’s level of personal vitality and refinement…found new shoes, socks and accessories that added flair and dramatic notes to every look. For the first time, Scott’s style represented his personality and It changed his life! Scott stood up straighter, showed up greater, and within two years found a wife, and his dream job as the head of a university creative department.

Ninety percent (90%!) of my clients have had early childhood environments, relationships, and experiences that have resulted in a self-image that is not necessarily positive, and does not let the world see and experience who they “really” are. This inevitably inhibits them in other ways that they may not even be aware of.

When an individual is not visually appealing… is not well put together… does not dress with a “wow” factor, there is a reason. It could be that being thoughtfully and artfully well dressed was not honored in the family, that he or she has a difficult time finding manufactured clothing, that he or she is not visually sensitive…or it could be that there was an abusive early childhood environment. But there is ALWAYS a reason. This is where we as personal stylists come in.

I often ask the question, “On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being amazingly well affirmed to simply BE…who you were not only what you did…how effective were your primary caregivers in supporting your ‘be’-ing not just your ‘do’-ing as a child?” I have only experienced a handful of people who are above a 7 and most are in the 4 to minus 2 category. If your honest answer is on the lower end of the scale it is now up to you to ‘fill-in’ what you missed out on. I have discovered a wonderful process for guiding clients through this work with truly remarkable results like those that Scott and his new family are enjoying.

I encourage you to reflect on how your early childhood experiences, environment and relationships may have shaped your self-image. There is much to discover, and so much freedom of expression to be enjoyed and cultivated in this life. Consider having a consultation yourself or attending one of my courses to further dive into these discoveries to expand your practice as a personal stylist. So many people are living in limbo, let’s help them make the connection today and start living a fully affirmed and integrated life.

* Name changed for privacy

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How To Describe This Thing We Do

Calling what we do “styling” misses so much of the point. Style, whether it is strong or hodgepodge, is almost always thought to be about the surface. Tweaking and preening the details to make someone or something look “of the moment” or “better” than they really are. When it works, an essential truth about the person, place or thing is revealed. Style has resonance when it supports the identity of the one being styled. This is NOT what people think of when they think of styling.

Rather than trying to redefine or expand the definition of styling, it might be more meaningful to hear from clients who have experienced the work. This serves two purposes; it toots our horn and personalizes the description.

“My tDavid_faves3ime with Carla was a transformational experience. Through a series of simple exercises, she helped me accurately identify and define my authentic self and gave me the tools to visually project my true self in the world.

I did not realize that things like color, clothing, “the stuff” in my home have such a huge impact on my behavior and how others perceive me. I never would have guessed that being intentional about what I choose to wear and surround myself with would be so empowering. It is.

With this small shift in my thinking, I have experienced profound and positive change in my daily life. Suddenly people know what to expect from me. They have a better understanding of who I am because they see it first. I am more confident, at ease with myself and a more effective communicator.”

- David, Durham, NC

You can see in David’s writing and hear in his voice the newfound clarity and confidence he is talking about. This personal confidence is more important to David than any new look. This begins to touch the essence of the work we do. Yes, its about clothes and the styles of clothes & accessories we wear, but its all in the service of revealing who we are.

“I wanted to thank you for yesterday! It was really eye opening not just for my style, but my heart! It is crazy actually, seeing on paper who I am. I recently have started rebranding my photography studio and was going to make it into this LA hip idea…But in all honesty, that is just not me! I’m a nature, and clean air and waterfalls kinda gal. It made me realize that I was trying to fit in here, but in that, somewhat loosing myself. It opened my eyes to why I shoot photography the way I do. Why when I look at people in LA who are wearing black clothing, why it makes me feel uncomfortable. Seriously, yesterday opened my eyes to so many things!!!! So thank you!!! It was a pivotal point in my life to have this done for me! I never would have seen all of this if it wasn’t for you.”

- Yvonne, Los Angeles, CA

Ok, the integration Yvonne is talking about is why we love doing what we do. She was about to make life decisions that were going to take her farther from her true self. She was rebranding her studio to look like what’s trendy and culturally hip now, at the loss of authenticity. We’ve all been in studios like this, where you can feel that the true identity, the real personality of the person doing the work is submerged. They’re doing what they think will appeal to the largest number of potential clients, rather than seeing the world the way they see it and offering this unique perspective to everybody whose interested.

Becoming integrated is a beautiful thing.

I’ll finish with a Yelp review from a recent client. She’s a graphic designer who lives in Los Angeles. She saw a local review and took a chance.

“Carla has an amazing gift. Her styling sessions/consultations are really a service to empower a person to visually express who they honestly are. The Style Core has connected different disciplines and has developed a way to create an individual style that is truly an extension of who one is.

I had the fortunate experience to give myself a full consultation. Wow! What a great experience! And what an education! The awareness!!!

To start, the office is a peaceful and lovely creative space near Sunset Blvd., in Silver Lake. Carla is very friendly and puts one at ease immediately. It’s a very safe, and oh so creative environment.

We started with a review of the online worksheet I filled out. This included submitting visual images I love, along with answering a few questions.

We went through some exercises where I picked out visuals that spoke to me. From this Carla distilled what it was about the imagery I was attracted to and how to bring those elements into my own wardrobe. And it resonated, because those were the exact elements in my 2 favorite “go to” outfits that NEVER EVER let me down.

Then we chose colors. Mind opening to see the subtle differences between tints, shades and hues of similar colors against my skin. The awareness of what works for me is huge!

And that leads to the next part of our session. Carla analyzed my coloring and the shape & proportion of my body and features. She showed me clothing styles, shapes, lengths, etc. that complimented my body shape. Clothing shapes/drape that helped visually relate my body measurements to body proportions identified in the art world as visually attractive to the human eye.

The exercises, color exploration, and body shape analysis gave me a vocabulary of why I liked somethings and permission to not like others. It gave me an elemental rock to stand on and hold fast to when tempted by magazine articles to try a fashion trend not meant for my coloring/body shape. And it stopped me from blaming my body for not looking good in something. It’s the fashion, or non-fashion that’s to blame!! Everyone’s body is perfect.

What I came away with makes me so happy. The Style Core system is like Human Centered Design, except the product is you. I whole heartedly recommend The Style Core. Their service is very empowering. It makes me so happy just thinking about my consultation and what I’ve discovered from it.”

Ann, Los Angeles, CA

There we go! The joy Ann is feeling, the empowerment, the clarity she now has about herself is what our work is all about.

Styling is about the surface, yes, AND its about what lies beneath the surface. We are integrated beings; body, soul and spirit. Seeing the connections between Who We Are on the inside and How We Look on the outside can be life-changing.

Show your story! Don’t hide it behind clothes that tell the story of some hot brand or ‘of the moment’ look. Integrate. Share who you are with us, we want to celebrate you.

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To learn how to see yourself in this new way. Book your own Complete Consultation.

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Reflections of Self

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we have it not.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882).

When you are ready to go out the door, and check the mirror for that last-moment look, you might say, “Wow, this is good.” If you can say this and mean it, you are one of a small percentage of women who likes her reflection. If, however, you give a sigh or a groan it’s important to know what prompted that sigh or groan. Is it your body? You might wonder why you were born the way you are, and would like to change things about your body. What would you change if you had a magic wand? What is your list? Whatever it’s, there are ways to dress in a way for you and your friends,and everyone you meet to say, “Wow, she’s beautiful!”

The form, shapes, proportions of your body are what make you distinctive and memorable. It’s critical to the health of your soul that you begin to honor your body and speak encouraging words about yourself. Rather than saying you have thunder thighs, or saddle bags, you might say you have a full womanly curve in your thigh that is asking for skirts that gracefully flow over the thigh and continue on out in the form of an A-line skirt or bell-bottom pants. As you begin to speak positive messages to yourself you begin to see possibility for your individual beauty and style.

It could be that you think your body is fine but you still don’t like your reflection. Trust that something is wrong with the picture in the mirror. Your clothes might be too bright or too dull. Your accessories too flashy, or you need to accessorize your outfit. Maybe you don’t know how to apply makeup, or you need a new hairdo. It could be that you simply want to make the most of how you look. The reality is: You don’t have to change your body, you probably need to change your clothing…. Or your makeup, or your hairstyle.

Diana’s story

Diana came to me having no idea how to dress her size fourteen, five foot eleven inch body. She had a large head for her short waisted, long legged body that looked even larger because of her short permed hair and old-fashioned owl-eyed glasses. She did not wear makeup, and felt hopeless in the beauty department. In her words, her mouth was too big, her eyes too tiny, her bust too small, and her hips too big. Not only that; she was too tall, and her legs were bowed! She was shy and unsure of her social skills so hid herself on the night shift of a large hospital.

After working together for the few months it took for her to believe she had a beautiful body it was as though a magic wand had been waved. She stopped perming her hair, and had grown it to shoulder length, bought new glasses, gone on a major shopping excursion, taken a trip to the tailor, and booked a session with a makeup artist who taught her ‘natural’ makeup techniques. Her self-esteem catapulted, heads of friends and strangers alike turned when she came into a room, and she had the confidence to pursue her hidden dream of becoming a graphic designer.

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Whispers of the Soul

Why is it harder to create a list of what we like about ourselves than what we don’t? In our soul, each of us yearns to be special—and beautiful. At some point as children we knew we were. Why is it, then, that most of us as grown-ups don’t believe it?

My Story

I knew I was beautiful until I was nine when the first whisper of dissatisfaction with myself crept into my awareness. One particular outfit stands out in my memory. I was young enough to have time to ponder my reflection in the full-length mirror behind my closet door. Dripping wet from the bath, barefoot, with slicked-back hair, I would step into the brand new back-to-school pale pink and white tiny-striped dress with its soft white collar that touched the edge of my shoulder. I would smell the brand new smells that only a new dress can have, and sigh in wonder at the reflection that happened to be me. Throughout the day, holding pretty me in my memory, I would count the days to the time I could wear my dress, knowing that I was just right.

Imagine how disappointed I was when on the long-awaited day—hair dried with curls brushed into a shoulder length halo around my face, bright white new shoes and socks—the reflection in the mirror was not as pretty as I had remembered. I was puzzled. What was the difference? Where did the pretty reflection go? The dress was the same, but something was different. I couldn’t figure out why. There must be something wrong with me. I became aware of myself in a self-conscious rather than self-accepting way. At that age I had no qualms about my body, and yet I began to suspect that I was not a pretty little girl after all.

Reflecting on that pivotal memory years later it came to me that the dress was lovely for me but that the accessories and hair style competed for attention, thereby spoiling the overall effect. My shoulder-length curly hair visually got in the way of the large dress collar—better to have pulled my hair back into a ponytail or pigtail. And the new-white shoes and socks were much too bright compared to the soft white in the dress. Their brightness held one’s attention making it difficult to look up to my face and enjoy the dress. It would have been better if I had chosen to wear soft pink socks, and shoes the brown color of my hair. The dress fit and style were appropriate for my schoolgirl self, but the choice of hairstyle and shoes were out of balance with both the dress and my sweet, rather shy personality.

When did you forget your specialness? When did life change your perceptions? Often our grown-up eyes can’t see the beauty even if others tell us so. It’s as though that deep place in our heart of hearts—the place that knows our gift of being—has a locked door that is waiting to be opened. What happened between your child-knowing joy in being beautiful and the critical thoughts you now have about yourself? It is possible to rediscover the special place in your heart that knows you are beautiful.

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Locked in a Lie

There might be perfectly reasonable explanations for why you would like to change things about your body, for why you haven’t yet embraced who you are. Simple reasons that often avoid detection.

Stores don’t carry clothes that fit you.

Clothing manufacturers design and cut clothing based on specific proportions and dimensions. If your body proportions are different than the fit model of the manufacturer, the clothes you try on and buy won’t fit. The sleeves will be too short if your arms are longer than the fit model, or too long if your arms are any shorter. If your waist is wider or smaller … if your hips are wider or more narrow … if your bosom is larger or smaller than the fit model, the list goes on. Typically, we either make do with what is too big or go through life being squeezed into garments like a sausage. Its NOT YOU, its not your body that has a problem…it’s the manufacturer.

The clothing industry shares responsibility for our warped attitudes about ourselves. To stay in business, clothing companies must make a profit, fair enough. Straight seams cost less to cut and sew than curved ones. Almost all affordable clothing is manufactured with straight seams, yet women generally have curved bodies. When we try to put our bodies into these straight-cut clothes and we don’t fit, we think there is something wrong with us. We look at the stick-straight models —the ones whose bones show and look like tall girl-children­—the ones who look good in those straight-seamed clothes—and we wish we didn’t have our curves. Ouch. We compare ourselves to those models and think there must be something wrong with our curves, our bodies, ourselves. The truth, there is nothing wrong with who you are or how you’re made; there is something wrong with how the clothes are made.

Connie

Finding ready-made clothes was a seemingly impossible task for Connie. She was six feet tall and small boned, with long arms, long legs, long neck, tiny head, and delicate features. Women’s clothes are not manufactured for her body proportions. She wanted feminine clothes to wear under her working uniform of white doctor’s coats—not fussy feminine clothes, just clothes with some grace. The only garments she could find to wear were men’s jeans and shirts, which were not feminine; they were simply long enough. She was able to find tops and some sweaters, but she wanted to have trousers and skirts cut for the way she moved. Her long stride called for swinging skirts in fluid fabrics that swirled around her calves. Her relaxed posture asked for softly tailored, loose-fitting jackets or cardigans. Not having feminine clothing had been such a problem all her life that as she approached her 50th birthday she was still self-conscious when meeting strangers.

When she came to see me she felt trapped. Oh, and the truth will set you free. It didn’t take long however for Connie to realize that her body was asking for skirts, trousers and long sleeved jackets tailored to her proportions, not a fit model who didn’t look like her, wasn’t her, never could be her. She is unique, we all are. Because of her narrow waist and fuller thigh, she looked best in shorter jackets that had fit through the waist. We took her boxy blazers to an alterations person who trimmed the bottom to three inches below her waist; made the sleeves longer with the cut fabric and created curves in the side seams to make the overall appearance more feminine. After her first fitting the change in her countenance was remarkable. She was becoming other rather than self conscious.