In a moment of spontaneous shopping, I followed a colleague to a fair trade clothing sale down in Brick Lane this morning. Is this the life of being self-employed, I asked? Yes. I asked her if she was looking for anything in particular, but no, she wasn’t. Neither was I. The sun was shining bright and hot – unusual for London weather, but much appreciated. On the way, she told me that later in the afternoon, she was meeting with a image stylist, who, for £200 initial appointment, will spend 4 hours going through your existing wardrobe, and advise you on what you ought or oughtn’t wear. This appointment, however, she was meeting the stylist at the House of Fraser, whereby attendants are set to bring in a set wardrobe for her to try on for the fitted, groomed image she wanted. I was curious. Why not hire a professional to help me decide on a look that I want to project, a future me? It’s not a bad idea actually, as I mentally scanned the clothes contained in my wardrobe. A mish-mash: leftover t-shirts, silky shirts, and shorts from my sun-filled, swim-filled beach days in Los Angeles, and a heavy set of woollen, water-proof, cold-resilient items – tights, jackets, scarves, thick turtlenecks – haphazardly and reactively bought since moving to London. My tender, tropical flesh has not been able to resist the climate change, the random and swift temperature changes of Britain, and I’m constantly fighting to remain warm. I recall an old college pal, who, upon moving from Honolulu, found Southern California too cold. Her motto our whole freshman year was, “75 degrees Fahrenheit, or above!” I feel like I’m her now. Or perhaps my temperature gauge is just broken – its fuse busted!?! Now’s my college pal’s in San Francisco, perfectly acclimated, and I’m still here…shivering.

My colleague reveals that she’s consulted an image stylist once before, when she first started out in her hypnotherapy career. After transitioning from a nursing career in which she practically wore pyjamas to work, she wanted to project a warm, down-to-earth, nurturing therapist look, who happened to ride her bike everywhere. She still does ride her bicycle all over London, that brave girl. The bike riding apparently grated on this first image consultant, who advised that my colleague only wear g-strings or thongs. Thongs while bike riding do not make a great match, my friend replied. The stylist gritted her teeth. Upon telling me this, I turned to my colleague and said, “Ewww! Butt floss!” Is wearing thongs or g-strings the marker of being a grown up, sexified woman? After all these years (and a pile of said offensive clothing items in my closet), I still hate them, preferring a pair of hip-hugging, seat-covering bikinis. If I wanted a wedgie, I’d ask for one, thank you very much. I will never forget the word of my gynaecologist warning against the rubbing of a thong, and the subtle transferring of nasty germs from the one nether region to another. Thongs and g-strings, my friends, must be worn for occasions in which they do not last very long on my body, as far as I’m concerned.

Inside the sale, I find an elegant deep purple linen v-neck dress, by the by. And a pair of black cotton peddle pushers. The thought of an image stylist weighs still on my mind. What look do I wish to project in the future? What do I want to look like? The thought floats back: I want to look money. Money, baby. Polished and sophisticated.

If an image stylist was attending to you right now, and asked what look you wanted, this future you, what would you say?

Erica, 34, London UK

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