As the colour of the year has just been announced – Classic Blue – it has left me mourning the loss of the Coral palette that I have adored. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the bold blue, it’s just that the coral hue, I felt, suited my colouring more. I doubt if I will be totally rejecting my coral faves this Spring/Summer and no doubt a few classic blue pieces will be creeping into my wardrobe too. Sometimes it is hard to know what style of outfit would flatter – neckline, hemline, slim fitting or full skirt – as well as deciding on colour. I bought an evening dress, in classic blue actually, with a Bardot style neckline. It looked gorgeous online model. On me, the neckline wouldn’t sit right and gaped – it made my breasts look distorted. I swapped the dress for a v neck one in a red colour. The new dress neckline fitted like a dream and the colour was perfect. Sometimes we need some guidance when it comes to our wardrobes…. boost of confidence, change of image, decluttering our wardrobes, steering us in the right direction to avoid making expensive mistakes …. sometimes we need someone like my guest this week, Sara from The Image Tree! Welcome Sara!
Hi, my name is Sara Marsden-Shreeve, I’m currently 43 years young writing this but as a Chrimbo baby I’ll be 44 when this goes out. I’m married with two children Francesca 14, Jake 10 currently based just south of Derby but a Yorkshire bird through and through. Moved to Derby with my family when I was 11 years old. Love to laugh, likes cheese and have too many coats and probably never enough boots. I’m passionate about changing women’s mindsets around a better body image, promoting self care and a healthier relationship around clothes. You have to learn to rock what you’ve already got . So, Love Your Body, Wear Your Happy are my mottos which probably people get sick of hearing but I don’t care. I’m from a civil engineering background, have a BA Hons in Applied Social Sciences (which is basically psychology with a bit of sociology) Coventry University 1993-95, NLP accredited , various FIPI recognised Image Consulting qualifications acquired from First Impressions Ltd in Warwick. I’ve written articles for “Henpicked.net”, guest blogged, won various awards such as Theo Paphitis #SBS, Jacqueline Gold #WOW and worked with corporate clients at Canary Wharf. I love collaborations and have worked with brands such as Dandi Patch as well as other brands and small businesses with similar ethos around well being and self confidence. I currently also co-run a Wellbeing Inspiration Network in Derby for women who have an interest in increasing their work life balance with well being and other holistic practices relevant to healthier mindsets and supportive business concepts.
Having worked in the civil engineering/corporate insurance sector, what made you decide to branch out and form the The Image Tree?
I have to say this was genuinely some sort of Eureka moment after having the realisation that I’d suffered stuff in the past (failed pregnancies, bullying at school – Sticks & Stones built my business blog post – ) but had many skills and passions that potentially could help others in some way. After having happily worked for around 10 years in Civil Engineering sector I initially left (2005) to have my first child and didn’t really have any initial thoughts about going solopreneur. Prior to having Francesca we’d had gone through miscarriages and a harrowing termination on the advice of specialists. Needless to say my body image and self confidence was rock bottom. I hated my body for letting me down and had unhealthy feelings of being unfit to produce children at the time. I blamed myself and drowned in feelings of harrowing guilt. I later had counselling for this. So you can imagine when we had Franc I was determined to stay at home with her as much as possible.
I did return a few times over a few years on temporary contracts in alignment with child care and finances, which was super helpful but then after the birth of my second child Jake (2009), whilst I was still there, I decided that I wanted to concentrate on getting back to my dormant psychology roots and love of people.
It’s no joke that I literally woke up one morning with the thoughts of mixing my love of colour and fashion with psychology. Whether I’d been whispered to in the night by an angel or had a Eureka moment in my dreams after months of soul searching to find my calling, I’ll never know… I was scared but I decide to do it anyway (2011)..
Fast forward a year later and I was completing my training to be an Image Consultant when my son had turned two and freed up some time whilst he was at preschool. I started to research the arena and built my very own website in 6 months. I worked loosely, around kids, for the next 2 years under my name and then decided to brand up and create The Image Tree in 2014. Time to get serious!
From then on I have organically made Image Consulting more niche and merged it further with the advocacy of promoting Body Positivity and self care throughout all of my work. Largely through listening to what my clients were saying about themselves whilst looking in the mirror, hearing them share their negative image experiences and generally beating themselves with the ugly stick. Not on my watch…. Been there done that got the tshirt!
Hence my investment in NLP training, using effective coaching techniques and surrounding myself with Holistic practitioners and Wellbeing specialists I’ve met and collaborated with on the way. Image starts from the inside and isn’t just about one’s outside appearance. Clothes, colour, fabrics and accessories are a powerful tool that help women relate to their assets and gorgeousness no matter their size and shape. We are not, after all, living in a society that is receiving of the naked form in public so clothes are an essential part of our everyday….and so too is a healthy mindset around self image- especially in a world that throws so many stones. Hence the merge of style and psychology!
Your image consultancy is very holistic in its approach with a heavy focus on body positivity. Apart from your services & packages, you hold workshops encouraging body positivity too. What would I expect from attending a workshop? Would the workshops benefit trainee image consultants or the client?
My Love Your Body, Wear Your Happy workshops were a direct result of a partnership with a good friend and Metawellbeing coach (Susan Gardner) who gave me a kick up the arse to share my message of clothes and body love and introduce our combined passions of positive mindset and tools to a larger audience. They were small groups though to encourage a safe and judgement free environment. They were aimed at women who wanted to get on to the path of liking their bodies a bit more and finding out how to use clothes to adorn their natural form and personality but didn’t know how or where to start? So we gave them 6 useful steps to work through and identify on the day so that they could go away and make a few easy and simple tweaks to their mind, body (embracing it not changing it) and wardrobe. The workshops are not available at the moment because we are currently converting the workshop to an online platform so we can release it as a course to the world in the Spring. Making it more accessible to women who want to achieve the same results from the comfort of their own home.
You have many delightful services and packages including colour confidence, body confidence, wardrobe confidence, shopping confidence, style review… What service/package seems to be the most popular amongst your clients?
I would say that the main two roots of The Image Tree services, so the Colour and Body Confidence services are probably the most popular ones jointly because they are great starting points and get happier results quickly. Who doesn’t love learning about wearing flattering colours or dressing your shape in one session?
Which service/package do you really enjoy the most (or gives you most satisfaction) when helping a client?
Ooh that’s a tricky one, I love them all. If I had to pinpoint one… then it would have to be the New Beginnings package as it takes the client on a Style journey working through colour, body and your wardrobe in 3 flexible sessions with bespoke positive coaching support throughout the duration. I love afterwards too when the realisation sinks in and the magic happens
I love the sound of the service you offer called “The Secret Stylist” … what does that entail?
So the Secret Stylist is a quicker, more affordable version of what I do in bite size chunks for women who need specific foibles sorting. I’m currently changing it to make it solely virtual, so speaking to clients via zoom, skype or whatsapp video for ease and convenience for clients when they need me most. So from the changing room, outfit advice via their phone or photos they send, 30 mins of coaching before an interview or date, or maybe they need me to find them a pair of jeans that they know will fit? Every client gets their very own Pinterest board for all clothing inspirations anyway so I can just pin stuff and they buy it. It was based on a subscription before and I used a points system for clients to choose what they needed but it was a bit hard for me to keep track of let alone my clients. So streamlining it now to be neat and marketed clearly.
I’m currently drawn to burgundy/black/coral/red colours for this winter season; is it difficult when shopping with a client not to be attracted to your favourite colours rather than theirs?
I totally love colour and I know what works for me but that doesn’t mean it would work for them. As I’m trained in Colour analysis and have 7 years experience I can easily separate myself. I’m not the colour police though and totally respect that some ladies can’t let go of colours they love even though they might not be as flattering as others on them…(black being the main culprit) You should always wear your happy and it’s just a case of mixing them into your outfits effectively.
Working magic on flattering body parts and hiding less amenable parts is a job and a half! What are the common “mistakes” that ladies make and what do you suggest they should try instead?
I would say the most common mistake that women make is to focus on the parts they don’t like and forget about everything else, due to years of staring at them and berating themselves with negative self talk. So my advice would be to ask yourself “What do I like about my body”? It’s a toughy because we don’t do it naturally!! Be honest or ask someone you love and trust for their input. It’s not vain nor is it egotistical, it’s merely giving yourself some love and validation, we ALL have the good stuff and we ALL have assets!!!! Once you’ve identified at least one good aspect, think about what you could wear to make the most of it.. Good legs, wear a skirt, nice tights or fab shoes. Like your bum, find a good pair of jeans or trousers to hug those buns. The parts that give you the most sighs can be lovingly cared for with the right cut, shape fabric, hem or waistband. Distraction is a stylists main tool, so by wearing embellishment or interesting details or fabrics elsewhere can shift your gaze and show off your best bits whilst matt fabrics, darker colours and simple clever tailoring can totally make a difference. Anything too tight or too big is never a good look. Skimming is the key word.
Another mistake I see is that women often presume that their bra size remains the same for every brand, style and shop out there since they got measured 12 years ago. I always recommend to my clients that they get measured more often (if they can) and get measured for the right bra style dependant on their breast tissue and shape, some work better than others for support and shape. They are your under armour after all and provide the basis of your silhouette and can make a massive difference when trying on clothes and getting a better fit. So wear your best fitting one.
As you are based in Derby, England, are your services available just locally or UK/ worldwide too?
Have car will travel… hahaha. I have had clients all over England and only ask they cover my fuel on top of their service. Once the course goes online we’ll be able to reach further.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I’m very eclectic and always dress mindfully to suit my mood or schedule, but mostly I will usually wear one quirky piece teamed with a classic separate. So think skinny jeans, bold jewellery, tshirt and bright blazer or maybe a snake print pussy bow blouse with a leather pencil skirt. Shoes blimey.. I love em all but currently sporting a white flat-form trainer, metallic heels or a rock chick boot.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
Hmm favourite shops, if I can go small I will and I love a charity shop or local boutique. But online, I like Joanie for funky tops, SilkFred for dresses and for jeans it has to be NYDJ because fit is key, so investment and cost per wear in staples is savvy on the purse strings. Despite this my secret crush is probably TKMaxx though because I love a rummage for designer discounted gems.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
Next on my clothes wish list is a sequin or sparkly blazer come tuxedo for christmas parties. Currently looking for one that has a bit of a semi fit rather than drapey. If this goes out next year then I’m after a new trench coat probably in Navy or a Dark Grey.
Boots or Shoes?
Nooo … that’s like choosing wine or cheese? Hmm, going with boots if I have to then, though I do own a pair of shoe boots which would tick both boxes. hahaha/ Why boots… because I love Autumn and Winter and being snuggly and smug when its cold. Paired with a gorgeous wool coat and funky scarf you just can’t beat the polished look an ankle boot or knee high gives with jeans.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc
www.facebook.com/WinDerby (ladies group)
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Great chatting to you, Sara – such great downtown earth advice! And, I definitely think “Shoe-Boots” are worthy competitors when it comes to my boots or shoes question! I love that style too!
All photographs have been published with kind permission of Sara from The Image Tree ( apart from the Pinterest photo which is of me!)