New Year, New You, New Wardrobe…. if that’s your New Year’s resolution then you’ll love tonight’s blog guest. I’ve been chatting to image consultant and life coach, Belinda, who has led the life of an ex pat wife in America and Thailand, where the non stop social whirl of lunches, dinners, fundraising events, corporate entertaining etc made getting your wardrobe details right very important indeed. So, a warm welcome to you, Belinda…
Hi, I’m Belinda Freestone, a Style Coach based in Nottingham, covering all of the East Midlands. A style coach is a combination of an image consultant and a life coach. I help people to look good on the outside and feel good about themselves on the inside.
I’ve always been interested in fashion and looking good, so when I found myself in Thailand as an expat wife with lots of free time on my hands, I began to research distance courses I could study in my own time, with a view to setting up my own portable business. The Style Coach Institute offered a comprehensive course I could study anywhere and in my own time. When I graduated with honours in 2010, my thoughts turned to starting my own business and so Be Free…Style coaching was born.
There are a lot of style differences between the 3 countries I have lived in. Here in the UK we look to Paris & Milan for style inspiration as well as the stars in Hollywood, whereas on the east coast of America, they view the whole of Europe as the essence of style. Americans tend to be more conservative in their dress, especially on the East Coast and aged 35+. Locals in Thailand also aspire to follow western trends. Thai people place a lot of emphasis on hierarchy and their place in society, so they dress according to, or above their standing. The women especially love glamour, accessories and shoes.
What are the ups and downs of being an expat wife?
An expat life in Thailand can be one long round of social engagements, either through work or as part of one of the many expat groups i.e. British Women’s group, etc. Most expat families have drivers and live in maids, therefore the everyday tasks for a wife and mother are taken care of. Leaving the expat wife time to exercise, shop, and socialise. This sounds great, but I struggled with losing my identity, I could no longer do the job I had done for nearly 20 years, I was a long way from family and friends and had left my older children in the UK. You have to take up every invitation going and mix with a variety of people you may not usually associate with just to avoid being bored and lonely. As a westerner you got privileged treatment wherever you went and had access to all the elitist places as well as experiencing the real Thailand at street level. Traffic was always horrendous and simple journeys took ages, but overall the experience was amazing.
Your services as an image consultant & life coach include finding out your body shape; colour, season & style profile; full wardrobe de-clutter; personal shopper; networking style package; wedding services + shop; holiday wardrobe. So which service seems to be most popular so far? Did you do similar services when you wereabroad and if so, what were the most popular services there?
Wardrobe de-clutters and personal shopping are my most popular services here. I had only just started my business in Thailand when we had to move back to the UK, but I did do a couple of wardrobe de-clutters and shopping would have been popular because finding clothes in larger sizes was difficult.
What service is your absolute favourite?
Personal shopping is my favourite. I love really getting to know a client and seeing their face light up when they find the perfect outfit. I love seeing people’s confidence grow as I show them the correct things to look for.
Have you any funny stories or unusual events you can tell us about whilst personal shopping etc?
Confidentiality is important in my job so I don’t tell tales but I do get funny looks when doing my research for a client as I go from shop to shop taking photos and making notes on the items they stock. It is funny when I note an item is in a certain place on the day of my research, only to find when I go in the next day with my client, the store have moved it somewhere else.
We all make some wardrobe mistakes at some time in our lives – what common mistakes or style misconceptions have you come across? What are your pet hates?
The most common mistake people make is wearing clothes the size they used to be, that works both ways either too big or too small. My pet hates are trousers that are too short and ill-fitting underwear.
Are there any new services you hope to introduce in 2014?
In 2014 I hope to introduce a loyalty scheme and a once a season shopping trip.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
At home I usually wear leggings or skinny jeans with a tunic top or jumper and ankle boots. For work I prefer shift dressers or smart trousers and a fitted top. I love high heel boots or shoes but if shopping with a client I have to go for stylish but comfortable.
My favourite shops are Zara, Phase8, M & S and Next. But I love to hunt for bargains in TKMaxx and designer outlets.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
Smart/casual pair of trousers that aren’t jeans or leggings.
Boots or Shoes?
Boots every time! They keep my feet warm, I can wear socks or tights with them and they make me feel sexy!
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you!
To find out more about BeFree or to make an appointment visit www.befreestylecoach.co.uk you can also follow me on Facebook at Be Free Style Coach or on Twitter @Befreestyle47