Style Stalker: How To Tackle the 30s Style Crisis According to A Professional

A recent bout of copycat dressing left Sophie White wondering where homage ends and full-on stalking begins, she sought the advice of a professional to navigate her style crisis

I am a great admirer of women. I love the work of great female writers and artists and actors, I also adore when a woman’s style embodies something of her personality and outlook. This is why I occasionally worry about what aspect of my personality my personal brand of style communicates. You see, I am something of a style chameleon. Although chameleon actually sounds too positive a descriptor for what I am. What I am is really closer to a Talented Mr. Ripley type, a cipher who can absorb the style of others in order to reflect themselves back to them, thereby putting them at ease.

They say dress for the job you want and I will admit that prior to important meetings I have occasionally pre-stalked the person I’m meeting with a Google image search to get a handle on how they dress. I will then somewhat tailor my outfit to their style. Okay guys, when written down like that, I admit it does seem creepy. One way (I hasten to add) that I differ from Patricia Highsmith’s sociopathic character is that mostly I am not doing it consciously. It initially crept in without my noticing. And it’s not all my fault, as with everything these days at least some of the blame can be laid at the door of social media. I see what everyone's wearing, I somehow lose sight of what it is I like to wear and find myself by osmosis suddenly, inexplicably hankering after a Gucci belt or some such.

Before, when shopping I would often buy with certain inspirations in mind. Maybe I liked a certain brand’s Summer campaign or a photoshoot with an actress in Vanity Fair or how the lead in a new movie dressed and armed with a mental tear-sheet of the look, I would go forth and emulate. However, since I now spend the majority of my time watching non-celebrities on Instagram, I find myself stalking the style of people close to me. This has become something of a problem, you see when you start copying a person you know in real life, it soon becomes a bit Single White Female-ish.


I first did it to an old boss of mine in spectacularly obvious fashion. I cut my hair into a blond bob (just like hers), I bought the same handbag as her and I soon noticed that anytime I admired any of her clothes she would be noticeably slow on volunteering where she’d made the purchase. Like any predator when the food source dries up, I moved on to greener pastures aka people who didn’t know about my propensity for icky, 5th class style copying. I would immediately begin leeching their style vibe like some parasitic twin, until just as in Single White Female, I’d end up looking more like them than they did.

I think part of my problem is that I have lost sight of what my own style even is anymore. I sense this might be an age-related issue. I’m 31 years old and while I have all the things suggestive of adulthood – debts, a home, two kids, a weak pelvic floor – I feel like I am straddling the world of Forever 21 and Max Mara. Some days I’m happy out in my best Liam Gallagher in the late 90s impression while on other days I’m feeling vaguely like an impostor who’s pretending to be 25 still. I’m clearly in a style limbo.

I asked stylist, personal shopper and broadcaster, Lorna Weightman if this is common among her clients.

Do you think the 30s style crisis is a thing? Did many of your clients in your personal styling days find this and how did you help them move beyond it?
I found this myself on occasion. The jeans that once fit me at 27 suddenly wouldn't pass over my thighs and I felt I almost had to re design my style to fit in with my body shape that just changed as I hit my thirties. A lot of women who I have styled over the years have told a similar tale. It's a confusing transition. You look at trends and question whether you can get away with wearing them or not, but at the same time, you don't feel in anyway old. My advice was always to embrace what you see in the mirror right at that point. Look at yourself and identify what you're wearing and whether you like it or not. As Maria Kondo says your clothes "should spark joy" and if they don't then it's time to make some changes. My advice is to start with the capsule pieces - jeans, a good coat, knitwear, basic cottons, ankle boots - these are your foundation that you can then style with more statement pieces. And you don't have to do it overnight, be patient with it.
Babies are a big watershed in the lives of women and after each of mine were born I totally lost sight of what my own style was (if indeed I ever possessed such a thing!) is this common and how do you counsel women through it? 
A lot of my friends who now have babies aged 2-3, are constantly calling me asking where they should shop. I tell them what I tell the woman in the scenario above. Keep it simple. I start with the bottom half of the body first. Most women who have come to me post-baby have said trousers and jeans are the most difficult. It actually has given me a lot of knowledge about denim. And this is an item we tend to live in so you need it to be form fitting and flattering. The other challenge is to find tops that work for breast feeding that look chic – so I recommend to stick to shirts with patterns that are plentiful for Spring/Summer. And the high street are great for those – Oasis, Topshop and Zara always carry shirts that have tapering to give some definition too.
Do you ever “copy” other people’s style? Do you have any tips for marrying the things we like about other people’s style to our own, to give a personal touch and to avoid looking like a cheap Alexa knock off?
I trawl Pinterest for outfits worn by Olivia Palermo (I have a whole board dedicated to her!) and some of my favourite bloggers. But I don't copy them per se. I look at how they have structured their outfit and then see what I have in my wardrobe that's similar. Then I put my own spin on it, with skirts or jeans that work for my shape, and shoes that I love as opposed to running out and buying copies. I've found through experience that not everything Alexa wears suits me! So it's about taking cues, not copying.
What are your ultimate wardrobe basics for every 30 something? 
Jeans (no matter what the cut!), a black blazer, t-shirts in many colours, ankle boots, loafers if you would prefer a flat shoe, a soft knit in a neutral colour. This is like my uniform; I wear a version of it every day and style in things like oversize jumpers, shirts, or layer in a faux fur coat.
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