Personal stylists in one of America’s top cities for shopping share their tips, trends and fashion-musts for the winter season. – By Gaye Weintraub
In 2010, Forbes magazine named Houston the No. 1 shopping center in America. With The Galleria and dozens of boutiques within walking distance of the hotel, The St. Regis Houston guests can experience retail bliss. To help shoppers navigate the area, four of Houston’s best personal shoppers offer their suggestions for how to dress and impress.
Rebecca Matthews started her business 13 years ago working one day a week to help clients organize their closets. A former associate for J. Crew, Abercrombie & Fitch and Harold Powell, Matthews now helps her clients create wardrobes that match their lifestyles.
Matthews likes The Galleria because of the designers. “People don’t realize all the designers have their own stores,” Matthews says. “My clients are accustomed to shopping at Neiman’s and Saks, where the designers have their own small departments. The designers’ stores give clients a lot more choices with their entire line as opposed to just part of it.”
While Matthews shops everywhere from JCPenney to Chanel, one of her favorite stores is Max Mara. “I really love what Max Mara is doing right now,” Matthews says. “They have beautiful prints, beautiful cuts and great colors each season.”
Like Matthews, Jodi Skorupski heads to The Galleria for her clients. “I love The Galleria because it’s just like shopping on Rodeo Drive except you don’t have to get in and out of the car, and it doesn’t matter if it’s raining,” she says.
Her favorite designers include Gucci, Carolina Herrera and Michael Kors. She admits, however, that sometimes it’s about the bargain, too. “Even high-end clients love the thrill of the hunt. I take those clients to Saks Fifth Avenue Off Fifth, Neiman Marcus Last Call and Nordstrom Rack.”
A San Antonio native, Skorupski studied fashion design before working in the industry as an assistant designer in Manhattan. “I worked in quality control at Donna Karan, which really honed my skills in terms of really appreciating the quality of the garments,” Skorupski says.
Skorupski also served as the production manager for a high-end women’s sportswear company, where she was responsible for all domestic and overseas production. She began her company, Style Success, when she and her husband relocated to Houston.
Fashion stylist Wendy Norwood Patterson jumpstarted her career after accepting an event coordinator position with the Neal Hamil Modeling Agency. She relied on her experience working for Gap Kids, Ann Taylor and Kiss Kiss Boutique to create wardrobes for each fashion show, which she now applies to helping clients.
“What I do is a luxury,” Patterson says. “I cater to each client. If clients want me to help them with their closet, we get rid of things they don’t need and repurpose other outfits. If they don’t want to touch their closet at all and just want me to do their shopping, I do that as well.”
Patterson prefers Neiman Marcus, Tootsies, Carolina Herrera and Nordstrom for her clients, praising Carolina Herrera’s classic style that suits everyone and Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom’s wide range of merchandise. “You can always find something good at Tootsies,” she adds.
Gracie Bradshaw dedicates her entire business to working with men. Bradshaw, who worked in men’s clothing stores in high school and college, got her start as a personal shopper through her husband’s company.
“My husband owns an executive search firm, and so he consults with job candidates business owners who are very successful but don’t look the part. He often tells them the way they dress needs to match their position. One owner responded, ‘Who dresses you?’ and that’s how I started.”
Patterson also credits The Galleria as the best shopping center in the city. She prefers Macy’s for her clients because she seeks a classic style and says the store has a great men’s department.
When working with a new client, the stylists prefer to start with the closet. Patterson says closet organization enables her to understand her clients’ needs. “I help them repurpose some of their outfits by putting things together that they wouldn’t have done on their own,” Patterson says. “Once I see what they have, I can make a list of the items they really need.”
Bradshaw agrees. “When you have an objective eye, it’s easier to help someone make decisions. If I see an item is stained, dirty, faded or doesn’t fit, we get rid of it. I would rather have fewer, nicer items in a well-organized closet than a bunch of clothes that don’t work for them.”
Matthews often has clients ask her to see what new outfits she can make from a recently cleaned closet. Before doing so, she often continues the clean-out process. “I end up making a pile that’s as tall as my knee that needs to go away, too, simply because it’s not the right clothing for their body or their lifestyle,” Matthews says.
Bradshaw adds that an organized closet makes it easier for her clients to see what they have, which makes dressing effortless.
The two most important services all four stylists offer include body and color analyses. Matthews looks at the proportions of the shoulders, waist and hips and the lengths of the torso and legs. Then she can tell somebody what styles look best. “It’s really about proportion—all of it,” she says.
To perform a color analysis, stylists consider skin tone, hair color and eye color to determine which clothing colors will look best on a client.
“When I look at my client, I don’t see what’s bad. I see what’s great,” Skorupski says. “And I want to accentuate that. If there’s a body part he or she is uncomfortable with, we downplay it and talk about which silhouettes, colors and patterns to buy. I see what’s wonderful, and I try to get them to see that, too.”
Matthews adds, “Nine times out of 10, if you get complimented on what you have on, it’s the color and the cut. If you get that right, you’re halfway there.”
Worth the SplurgeWhen working with clients, each stylist has a different idea about the most important piece of clothing the client needs.
Patterson says a good white button-down shirt should top every woman’s list. “Most of my clients don’t own a white button-down, and they’re surprised by how much we can do with just one shirt,” Patterson says. “With a white button-down, a nice pair of jeans and a few accessories, you’re going to look amazing.”
For Matthews, it’s the little black dress. “I say it is probably the most important splurge you can have,” she says. “Everybody needs a really good black dress.”
Skorupski encourages her female clients to splurge on a great pair of jeans. “Jeans are such an important part of fashion, and you can dress them up or down,” she says. “Most men say their favorite thing to see women wear is a pair of jeans and a white shirt.”
Bradshaw says that for men, the value of a sports coat often goes underestimated. “A nice navy sports coat or blazer serves as the most basic function,” she says. “Men tend to underdress and don’t realize the importance of always being polished. Any man in a nice pair of jeans, a nice white shirt and a navy jacket looks nice.”
Although the stylists believe clients shouldn’t fall prey to runway trends, several pieces trending this winter fit into everyone’s wardrobes.
“My favorite piece for winter is a leather jacket. For men, the leather blazer is a good choice. For women, a take on the motorcycle jacket is great. You can do black, burgundy, teal—there’s so many colors that look great with so many different outfits,” she says.
Patterson likes the leather trend, too. “One trend I really love this winter is leather on the legs,” she says. “I believe a leather legging is something that almost everyone can do because it’s all about how you wear it. Stay darker on the bottom and pick something that fits looser on the top.”
Feel Good, Look Better
A personal stylist helps clients realize their style potential by organizing closets, putting together a wardrobe or shopping for clients.
“Fashion is about editorial, it’s about runway, and it’s about what can actually sell,” Matthews says. “I help my clients realize it’s also about not needing to settle or feeling less than your best because of body type, age or lifestyle. I help them translate the trends into real-life wearability.”
Skorupski also considers her client’s self-esteem most important when it comes to styling. “I have been many different sizes during my lifetime,” Skorupski says. “I’ve been thin, and I’ve been heavy. I have lost myself and my personal sense of style, and I have rediscovered it. To know that I’ve helped somebody feel good about themselves is amazing.”
Staying in Style
Four of Houston’s top stylists offer timeless tips for looking and feeling great.
People hire personal shoppers because they want to look better and feel better about themselves and the clothes they wear. As experts in the fashion industry, Rebecca Matthews, Jodi Skorupski, Wendy Norwood Patterson and Gracie Bradshaw offer their best tips on looking great and feeling better.
1. Style doesn’t have to be defined. Matthews encourages clients to find clothes that work for them, whatever lifestyle they lead. “Style is really about what works for your life,” Matthews says. “If going home between working out and carpool isn’t possible, then we’ll figure out how to make you look less like you’re in the gym and more like you might be going to dinner.”
2. Everything doesn’t have to be expensive. “Just like you need a wide variety of clothing in your closet, you need a wide variety of price points in your closet, too,” Matthews says. “A T-shirt from Neiman’s is going to wear out in the same time as a T-shirt from Old Navy.”
3. Things can be altered to fit. Skorupski helps clients understand that the fashion industry is a mass-produced industry for people in which no two are alike. “Things can be altered to fit,” she says. “If you love something and it’s not a perfect fit, don’t be afraid to get it altered.” High-end stores often offer in-house alterations because, ultimately, they want the garment to fit the client as if it was made for them.”
4. Seek an objective opinion. “I don’t work for a store, so I never pressure anybody into anything,” Skorupski says. “A lot of my clients complain that a salesperson will tell them an outfit looks amazing when it doesn’t. That’s because their objective is to make a sale. My objective is to make you look and feel wonderful.”
5. Fashion rules are made to be broken, but balance is key. Patterson persuades her clients to balance clothing for a more svelte look. “I’ll have clients who wear loose-fitting tops with wide-leg pants, and it makes them look frumpy all the way around,” she says. “You need balance. If you’re going to wear a pair of pants that have a wide leg, pair them with a fitted top.”
6. Size does not matter. In addition to balance, fit is also key. “Don’t be a size shopper,” Patterson says. “Size does not matter. What matters is that you look amazing in what you have on. To avoid clothing that is too tight or too big, you will sometimes need to go up a size or down a size. It’s just a number.”
7. Dress for the occasion. Bradshaw says most men dress too casual, even in casual environments. “There are events you go to in business, whether it’s a company golf tournament or barbecue,” she says. “Don’t underdress for the occasion. You can put on a nice pair of khaki shorts, a fitted polo and some nice sandals and look casual but polished.”
To schedule a session with one of the featured personal stylists, contact the concierge staff.