Free to Be...You and Me
Meet Sheila. She has two daily goals: one, to make a stranger laugh and two, to be a better person today than she was yesterday. Striving for personal growth is only part of Sheila’s story, she is also an attorney, social worker, and educator living between New Orleans and Brussels.
Balancing responsibilities is Sheila’s way of life, “My parents died when I was young. My father passed when I was 12 and my mother when I was 16 years old. Suddenly, I was this very mature adult who had to go to school, work full time, and raise my sister. I never really had a childhood or the chance to focus on me.”
Starting in 2010, Sheila ventured out on her own to grow personally and professionally, “I said, ‘I want to do what I want to do, be happy everyday, and see the sun shine’.” It’s been eight years since her journey started and Sheila discovered two positive influencers along the way, Phillip, her husband and partner of 11 years and, JES, her style personality.
Here in #StyleStory, Sheila talks about the power of letting go, why dressing your body is more than a number, and how changing your wardrobe can change your life.
What made you want to work with a Personal Stylist?
“The luxury of being creative was something that had never been nurtured in me at all. My mother didn’t teach me how to pick out outfits or tell me which clothes or colors matched. That was never in my line of sight. It was never a skill I had, and you know, I just got tired of wearing the same thing all the time.”
Did you have any hesitations about changing your appearance?
“Yes, because I spent my whole life fearing the experience. I always played it safe because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I kept wearing black, brown, dark blue…like NO color, nothing. It was sad, really sad. Which is ridiculous because I am the biggest personality person. I wasn’t always this way, but over the years I’ve realized that my personality is big. I wanted what I wear to reflect that. I love color; I surround myself with bright colors but I never put them on my person.”
“I was also scared because it meant shedding a whole piece of me. Working with àllie la mode is like letting that negative part of my childhood go; that’s just scary because it’s letting this big part of your life go, but it made more room for the person I wanted to be.”
Can you talk more about conquering your roadblocks and how you created the style personality ‘JES’, inspired by the American sitcom, New Girl?
“I knew that I wanted to change my wardrobe in a way that would help me wear my personality. Allison and I met to discuss my personal image and helped me discover I was not as confident as I could be. She skillfully guided me every step of the way with structured questions and activities to do at home. We met to identify what I owned versus wanted, and evaluated my current clothing.”
“We reviewed my inspirational photos (I love Zooey Deschanel in New Girl and every thing she wears) along with my style exercises; then, we came up with my style personality – JES: Joyful, Elevated, Sharp. She helped me realize that I want others to remember me by my entire persona, rather than just my face. From that moment, I let go of so many things that didn’t bring me joy and that was so powerful.”
Change can be difficult, what is your secret to shopping for your new style?
“Before working with Allison, I never ever bought clothes. Like never. I dreaded shopping because I felt that I always gravitated toward the same style (too boring), shape (too square), and size (too big). Now, when something really catches my eye, the first thing I ask myself is, ‘What would Allison say?’ And I respond with, ‘JES’. I analyze if the piece is joyful, elevated, and sharp; now I have a system. Whereas before, the system was: ‘How much does it cost?’ ‘How many tanks of gasoline does it cost?’ I was gauging my shopping behavior by practicality and not by joy.”
You mentioned buying clothes that were often too big, how are you able to see the difference from then to now?
“I let a lot of things go. The reason why I used to pick out all of those big clothes is because I saw myself as lumpy. My weight has always fluctuated and so I picked the pieces that I knew would fit me no matter where I was on the yo-yo.”
“Now when I shop, I’m looking at the fabric, feeling the fabric, thinking about how I would feel in those clothes. Today, I don’t really have anything in my wardrobe that ‘covers me’…it’s funny, I was going to say, ‘protects me’ because clothes are like armor. Before, I always wore these big things that were going to protect me from the outside world; but really, I just needed a new set of armor.”
The majority of American women wear a size 14, which is considered ‘plus-size’ in the fashion industry. Yet, it’s difficult to find sizes 12 and up in-store; what has been your experience?
“Difficulties everywhere. I never had anyone who taught me how to shop before, as well as help me find clothes I like or get me to try-on new things. I have very wide hips and a ton of curves. I have a really hard time finding pants.”
“Everywhere I go, I’m like, I don’t want to go into the plus-sized section… it’s so demeaning and horrible. I’ll be a size 12 in one place or a 14 in one, and an 18 in another. I hated going to a store and trying on 20 different pairs of jeans and not being able to fit into one. It was incredibly frustrating, so I just didn’t buy clothes because I couldn’t find anything.”
“With Allison, she knew about all of my fit and shopping challenges. Having her know my size, my measurements, and pull all the clothing for me saved me from looking at the tags. Not seeing a number on a tag changed everything because I was always trying to see myself in another size. But, I’m not a size; I’m a person. That was really hard to always want to think that way, but with Allison I didn’t have to worry about the size. I needed the experience of how I feel in the clothes, not the number on the tag. Allison had an idea about how things were going to fit and I needed that.”
What have you realized about yourself outside of your specific wardrobe needs?
“That I’m actually a happy person. My mom used to write me notes and at the bottom of them she would always write: ‘Free to Be…You and Me’…which is really old and from a song, but I never really got that message until I met Allison. Then I realized, ‘Oh! You can be you, and I can be me, and it’s okay’. It really never clicked before that; it was okay to be myself.”
“Allison let me be me and I needed that. I was already me, but I needed someone to give me permission not to fit into someone else’s mold. No one had ever done that for me before. Allison asked me what I wanted, listened to me, and helped me achieve it.”
“Once the floodgates were open, I started doing a ton of new things and I started ramping up goals in my business and in my personal life. I just let go of all the tangible things and people who were holding me back; I feel okay to do that now.”
“Allison has helped me not to be afraid anymore…afraid of myself, of growing, of being who I am. And for that, I am eternally grateful. She isn’t just a ‘stylist’ in that aspect – she is a cheerleader, a support system, a guide.”
Client Story: Sheila | 30s
Personal Style: ‘JES’ – Joyful, Elevated, Sharp
Style Solution: Personal Style Plan