There are no photos with this post because it's a secret. Well, kind of. On Monday, I experienced that is the preserve of the A list celebrities who appear on the red carpet. Someone dressed me for an awards ceremony. Get me.
As you probably know and can see from the badge in the sidebar, I am a finalist in the MAD Blog Awards. The awards ceremony is on Friday 30th and I'm going down to London, whilst practising my loser's face. The organisers got in touch a few weeks ago and said that various brands had offered to dress some of the finalists for the ceremony. As soon as I saw the list of brands, one name leapt out at me. John Lewis.
Many years ago, in the time referred to as BC (that's Before Children, not Before Christ, cheeky), I went a couple of times to one of their fashion advisors - which is a personal shopper to you and me. It was a treat to myself after losing weight but although I spent a lot of money, the items I bought were interchangeable, I loved wearing them and I got a lot of wear out of them. If I could, I'll get back in to some of those clothes, and I'm still hoping I can at some point.
So, I hit reply and put in a request for John Lewis. And I was successful. An appointment was made for me to go to the Trafford Centre on Monday to pick out an outfit. So, I bowled up on Monday morning as the shop opened and found the fashion advisor's room. I was a bit intimidated when I first met Paula as she didn't have a hair out of place and was dressed immaculately.
I needn't have worried as not only is she lovely and approachable, it's her job is to make me look fabulous and she wanted to know all about what I was looking for, what I like to wear and what I didn't like. She listened and made some suggestions of things to try and I told her I wouldn't reject anything without trying it first. Then she got me some tea and Danish pastry, leaving me to relax whilst she went to find some dresses for me to try. I could get used to this! She came back with four for me to try. So it was time for the nervous part - me trying on dresses. I hate the trying on part of dress shopping.
Things did not start well. I couldn't get the zip done up on the first dress, and try as she might, Paula couldn't either. Then we couldn't get the zip to undo either and she decided she'd have to cut me out of it. She came back with another member of staff who claimed she'd be able to get me out but she too failed to extricate me so the scissors were produced and I was snipped out of the dress. I was assured this was down to a faulty zip. Tsk.
Dress number 2 thankfully had a working zip, but it washed me out and I looked drained. I mean, I look pale anyway but this was ridiculous. So, it was onto number 3, which was a lovely colour that seemed to suit me. Paula loved the dress on me but I was slightly self-conscious about how some of the dress hung and therefore not completely convinced.
Then came dress number 4. It was the easiest to put on (a consideration when you're nervously getting ready for a big occasion and need to get undressed again after slightly the worse for wear) and it felt really comfortable. The dress looked a little big on me but I loved the colour so a smaller size was found, which not only fitted, but made me look smaller too. I couldn't quite believe that we could find The One after only 4 attempts so we tried a few more. One was totally black which was way too severe, one showed my knees far too much and was difficult to zip up the side of the dress and one that would not zip up at all over my chest. I knew by then that dress number 4 had to be it.
Paula then found me a gorgeous bag, which could be used as a clutch or a shoulder bag and a necklace. We didn't attempt to find shoes because my feet are difficult and anyway, things were getting a little expensive. The dress I'd chosen was of course the most expensive. The total came to quite a bit more than the budget we'd been allocated but after a bit of a discussion - and maybe a bit of blagging on my part - they said they'd cover the full amount. I walked out with a huge bag and a sense of unreality almost as huge.
I can't recommend the fashion advice service highly enough. The good thing is that you have an objective person with an eye for fashion helping you. If I remember rightly, they are not on commission and it is their job to make you look as fabulous as possible. Trying lots of clothes on in one go gives you a better idea of what does suit you and what doesn't, which is useful for future shopping trips and having a second opinion really helps with this. The fashion advisors know the stock that they have and can find things you don't know about - or they can find it in the stockroom - and they can suggest things you'd never normally try when shopping alone. And their services are free!
What I learned from my morning of shopping was this:
1. I don't suit all black, I need colour. The LBD is not for me, I look way too severe in all black.
2. Bright colours seem to suit me. Muted ones wash me out.
3. Prom dresses don't suit me as much as I thought they would.
4. Some dresses that look really small and straight are nothing like when you try them on.
5. Everyone is envious of my apparently small waist.
6. It's all in the cut.
So, my outfit is sorted for next week, barring a pair of shoes. And you'll just have to wait for the photos from the award ceremony to see the full outfit as I don't want to spoil the surprise. Suffice to say that the dress is hanging in our bedroom and I keep just staring at it in awe. It's truly gorgeous and I'm so lucky to have been given the opportunity so I'd like to say a huge thank you to John Lewis and especially to Paula for finding me the perfect dress. Everyone that has had a sneaky peek loves it too and says it suits me and my personality.
Come back soon and I will post a pic so you can see it too. In the meantime, watch this space, OK?
(John Lewis kindly covered the cost of the items mentioned above, namely dress, bag and necklace. I have not been paid any further compensation. I was not obliged to write a blog post about my experience, but I have chosen to do so and these are all my own opinions.)