By the time I arrive at the Style Me In Seconds pop-up in Old Street Tube station I’m already apprehensive – there are positives as I have a five year old who has just been sated by a greasy-spoon egg sandwich and a cup of sugared tea in my hand – but still I’m a little worried about being the backwater style nerd who’s a little too old to be there.
The Style Me In Seconds concept is aimed at opening the doors of our nation’s great charity shops to unveil the hidden gems that lie within. Amy Walshe, Media & Members Communications Officer at the Charity Retail Association (the only organisation representing many of the main charities which run shops in our town centres) looks like a proud mother hen as she puts the finishing touches to her miniature styling den, welcoming guests into the room and offering cupcakes liberally to visitors.
Having conceived the idea for the pop-up shop and having secured funding for the project, Amy is rightfully proud of the boutique style selection she and her team have spent weeks putting together from a variety of London’s charity shops. Designer pieces hang alongside high street and quirky vintage pieces, the floor is lined with an exciting array of footwear. As we wait for my stylist, Amy points out some of her personal choices from the selection whilst confessing that even the stunning graphic print dress she wears neatly over her baby-bump is a charity shop buy.
As she dashes in I’m introduced to my stylist Hayley Simmons, a pintsized powerhouse of style, who is dressed in a slender and classic “stylist” black outfit, brought to life with a black and feathered trilby which sits on a jaunty angle atop her tousled locks. The woman is all smile and energy, within seconds Hayley wants to know about my attitudes to patterns and scoots me to the racks to suss out what is my taste (as I am woefully incapable of articulating what I like at this point).
As I caress a quirky graphic print dress and mourn that I might be too old to carry it off, I am heartily admonished. “No. Stop that right now! None of that here,” states Hayley. So I start to pick out items of interest in earnest – which is not easy as there is so much in the racks to like. I select the ones which most pique my interest. I’m pointed to the changing room with a blue and orange graphic print dress. It’s cute but there isn’t much styling to be done as it’s just a nice dress which is quite obvious.
However, before I have time to ponder this, the whirling dervish is already launching other items of clothing I had already eschewed over the bamboo screen I am changing behind.
Close at hand is make-up artist Georgia Mitchell, I’m one of the first appointments of the day so she’s close at hand to assist Hayley (who is also her half sister, I later learn) and to marvel at the whirlwind of styling activity that Hayley has become.
I’m passed a coral top – which I wouldn’t normally choose but nonetheless have to agree suits when teamed with the jeans I’ve walked in with.
“That colour really works for you,” adds Hayley. “Bright colours suit you..”
I’m flipped in and out of outfits – one a gorgeous red and blue polka dot sundress sadly makes my large chested, hourglass frame look like a potato. Another disappointment is a most intriguing two level structured skirt, great on the hanger, but which is both too short and too long on me. As I put on a yellow, floral print, flared skirt I’m hoisted back and bulldog clipped into place as Hayley announces: “You have a teeny tiny waist, you need to wear things with a high waist that define it.”
The pieces that I completely overlooked and am genuinely worried about turn out to be the outfit of the day – a Zara top from Oxfam, a brand new Clements Ribero skirt from CRUK and Michael Kors sandals from Shelter. I would never have put the pieces together but as Hayley and Georgia start simultaneously doing up the sandals for me it’s clear the outfit is a winner. “You are good at your job, aren’t you,” I gasp at Hayley. “Well I did work for Vogue,” she retorts with a wry smile.
Another dubious choice which turns out to be a beautiful fit is a red zip front dress, originally from H&M, again put together with the Shelter Michael Kors sandals. I’m starting to get that brights and waist definition are key to making me look good.
But, as I’m in my Zara/Ribero/Kors rig out to be photographed, I’m treated to a make-over at the skillful hands of Georgia who advises me that, with my oily skin, I might be better suited to natural mineral based make-up instead of harsher Mac products. I’m pleased with the overall effect – for someone who wears the bare minimum in make up day-to-day I feel comfortable in the extra make-up Georgia has chosen and think I look good.
As I’m in the chair, Hayley struts over, now bedecked in a feathered and sequined skinny cream scarf and I’m swooped to the back of the shop by the team, to the 70s style mock-up living room at the back to pose for pictures – for Twitter and Instagram darling – and I feel great!
The whistle stop tour of personal stylists has opened my eyes to how I can make charity shop finds feel chic, stylish and expensive – exactly the point of Style Me In Seconds – long may it continue!
- The Style Me in Seconds Pop up is at Old Street Tube Station until Sunday, 10 April and there are a limited number of pop-in stylist appointments available, free manicures and an array of clothing to browse – visit their blog for more details. Find out more about Hayley Simmons at her website or brose her online vintage boutique Fellows – an array of items at affordable prices. Georgia Mitchell can be contacted via her Facebook