• Stephanie Drax

Never Say 'I’ve Nothing To Wear' Again

If you’ve ever thought “I’m bored of everything in my wardrobe. It’s old. It doesn’t fit. It’s dated. It’s dull. I want to incinerate the lot and start again” then: I hear you. BUT before you reach for the kerosene please call Nicola Fleming. I’ve recently had her rifling through my drawers, and after 3 hours I now think a good Wardrobe Consultant should be added to the list of emergency services.

An eye for style is key, obviously, and Nicola has 22 years of fashion retail under her belt with houses such as Ralph Lauren, Donna Karen and Cerruti. She launched Theory into the UK market and has since worked as an advisor for labels like LK Bennett and Baukjen. And quietly, by word-of-mouth, she’s been bringing that fashion house know-how into our very own homes.

She arrives at my door in a summery dress with a dazzling smile – she has that down-to-earth but achingly cool vibe that reassures you that she’s a pro. As we walk to my bedroom, I’m already feeling exposed. I start apologizing. Apart from a recent Jimmy Choo sample sale that had me hoovering up 7 pairs of heels for a fraction of the retail price, I’ve not shopped properly for years (bar a dash to Anthropologie with Rowan before our last Storytellhers shoot). But she laughs off my sartorial insecurity by saying “I’ve seen it all before…”

Her first comment on opening my cupboard doors is that there’s waaaaay too much stuff in there (oh-so-typical of the person who has ‘nothing to wear’). In an organized flurry she starts arranging all of it into autumn/winter, spring/summer, and “high summer” (the “YES-I’m-escaping-off-on-holiday!” wardrobe and the one that she says we all tend to emotionally buy for.) “This summer season the trend is folklore, an element of 70’s, and very long” she says, as she pulls out a long blue silk Reiss skirt that she announces is “bang on trend”. What?? In my mind, it’s a winter skirt, for dressed-up occasions only. But she says no: “Have it shortened by two inches and please wear it a lot in the summer with t-shirts and flat sandals." It goes in the pile called ‘Alterations’.

Nicola appraising my leopard print.

The next item of surprise is a grey leopard print dress from GAP. It’s a real thigh skimmer that I NEVER wear. I’m about to chuck into the ‘Charity’ pile, when she says “Oh no, no, no. Leopard print is in for autumn/winter so you’re going to cut this into a top and wear it with black jeans.” On to the Alterations pile it goes. A skirt I thought might be too dowdy is given applause: “Tweed is enormous this winter, so we’ll definitely use that skirt.” She makes me try on red jeans that I think don’t suit me and tells me: “Yes they do. They look great.” I instantly believe her (and more than I think I would my mother, my friends and my husband.)

Red jeans that made the cut.

Once autumn/winter has been neatly folded on the bed (and bound for moth-proof storage bags) my wardrobe looks leaner. “You can actually see what you own now” she says. Nicola pairs a black silk pencil skirt with a colourful Anthropologie top: “I want you wearing this tomorrow” she says gently, “Oh I can’t,” I answer, excusing myself from tomorrow’s dress-up day, “I’ve got a play date with my two toddlers, so I'll be in jeans and t-shirt." She gives me a raised eyebrow that says you-are-not-in-a-fashion-coma-please-make-an-effort, “You’re wearing something nice, and you’re going to enjoy it” she says with emphasis. Well, why not, I think. If I’m always waiting to be kid-free and safe from mucky hands, then when am I going to wear this stuff??

Wearing a silk pencil skirt - that lived to tell the story - to a playdate.

Nicola looks at my collection of jeans on hangers and tells me to put them in see-through storage boxes in my cupboard instead (“Then you’ll see what you’re looking for and they’re much easier to take out.”) She folds a cotton dress over a hanger instead (“You’re going to ruin this dress by having it hanging”) and throws an old cardigan into the Bin pile (“Bobbled knitwear is fine when you’re 20.") I show her one thing I'm proud of: my shoe drawer, with a gratifying array of Jimmy Choos (never mind that I spend 98% of my year in flats).

My streamlined wardrobe - yes, there was once twice as much stuff in here.

Wait, hang on. With so much discarded and resurrected, I’m suddenly watching her suggest chic outfits. Is this really my wardrobe? “You’re actually not missing very much for this season,” she says, “You need good black, white and grey t-shirts, a couple of tops, and some really gorgeous black strappy sandals.” Nicola takes out her notebook and scribbles down my streamlined fashion needs. As she leaves, she prescribes three outfits that I should wear over the course of the following week. The door closes and I’m stunned. I look at my wardrobe goggle-eyed. It’s fresh and exciting! And I haven’t even bought a single thing yet!

The next day Nicola sends a follow up email with 20 links to top, t-shirt and shoe suggestions and t’dah! - online shopping has never been so easy (and when it all arrives she’s on WhatsApp helping me decide what to keep, but she can also shop with you or bring it all to your house.) I have two weekends abroad coming up – Ibiza and Capri – and she gives me a list of what to pack. “You can always text me pictures if you need styling suggestions” she says, and I suddenly feel like I’ve got a fashion fairy godmother on call.

A top for my cream suit has arrived - will it get approval from Nicola?

And the really remarkable bit is that she doesn’t cost a fortune - £80 per hour. “Perhaps I’m mad,” she says, “but I love working with women who really want and need this service, and feeling like I can add real value.” So the marvel is, that with the focused buying, potential ebay reselling, and a few alterations, I’ve got a new wardrobe without the wallet ache. Then one week later I get a message from Nicola: “Your next job is to sell a Jimmy Choo you will never wear.” At this rate, I’m going to be in the black.

Nicola recommends an initial session of 3 hours and is offering Storytellhers readers a 20% discount if they book a 3-hour session before the 15th September 2018. www.nicolafleming.com