Life & Culture

Trinny culled my wardrobe and it was well overdue

TV's Trinny Woodall has enjoyed many trips to Israel and styled Orthodox women — telling them what not to wear — on Channel 10’s Trinny and Susannah programme.


Mum, it’s Oma on the phone,” called my 10-year-old son Alex.

“Is Oma your grandmother?” Trinny asked him, and without waiting for a reply, she charged up to the phone: “Hello Oma. This is Trinny,” she announced boldly. “I’m styling Nadine. She can’t speak. Bye.”

Wow, so direct. What was she going to make of my dull clothes?

Trinny Woodall had only just arrived at my home in Hendon. My husband had bid for her to style me — a birthday present — at an Opportunity International charity auction the previous month.

My teenage daughters were aghast when they heard good money had been paid for this. They would have happily thrown out most of my clothes for free!

We were in my bedroom, just about to explore my vast collection of new, old and ancient clothes. But first, I needed to get a few things straight. I told her that the majority of my clothes were Orthodox-friendly, knee-length skirts and dresses, long-sleeved, loose-fitting and very modest. She didn’t bat an eyelid. She’s enjoyed many trips to Israel and styled Orthodox women — telling them what not to wear — on Channel 10’s Trinny and Susannah programme.

We scoured my wardrobe, trying to pick out some colour among the grim sea of black dresses, skirts, and blouses. We picked out my favourites and she hung them up wherever — on cupboards, chairs, beds — making my bedroom look like an oriental bazaar.

And then she made me try them on, one by one, critiquing each.

The newish knee-length black wool dress with the gold motif that had looked so good online looked like a carpet. The grey wool dress was straight out of the pre-war era (which war she didn’t say). The ankle-length red cotton dress obliterated me. The black evening dress with the huge silver boat-neck collar aged me.

But not all was lost. She showed me simple tips to transform a look. The red dress just needed shortening and the silver collar on the black dress wanted adjusting to a round neck. It was so obvious yet had never occurred to me. Partly because I couldn’t be bothered to go to a dressmaker and mainly because I just lacked the imagination.

But the black-and-gold dress had to be given away. And the grey dress was beyond redemption. My husband was going to be delighted!

So much of Trinny’s advice made sense. Frum doesn’t have to mean frumpy. Of course it’s a lot to do with body shape, height, style and fashion but there’s so much more: to buy clothes that “you wear” rather than “wear you”, as Trinny pointed out frequently and to choose clothes which enhance rather than overtake you. Most of all, it’s about how to actually wear the clothes.

Take my black top and pencil skirt. My natural, comfortable way was to lazily let the bottom of the top hang over the skirt’s waist band. Trinny pointed out that it made me look boxy round the stomach. Instead she told me to tuck it in and lift the skirt up a fraction.

The difference was huge.

And then we looked at my tops — t-shirts, tops and jumpers — piled high on shelves.

She scanned the mountain of clothes. They were “tired,” she observed judiciously. More like “exhausted,” I thought.

Some tops I’d had for many years. They were so comfortable and felt cosy. But, the wardrobe cull long overdue, I knew it was time to say goodbye to the vast majority.

Overall, the fashionista encouraged me to be a bit bolder. No more automatic resort to black tights and black shoes. A bit of colour was what I needed. Like the bright pink summer dress; she suggested burgundy tights and burgundy shoes. After my initial shock I thought “maybe… someday”.

What I learnt was that clothes can make or break you. And it’s nothing to do with what they cost. These days, high-street and online stores are so extensively stocked that there’s something for everyone.

And, after buying the clothes, one should invest a bit of time and effort in how to wear them best.

The only investment the style guru advocates is a good quality coat. “Wait for the sales and buy yourself a beautiful coat that will not just last, but look good on you, for years to come,” she advised.

The experience was an eye-opener and actually quite therapeutic.

Yes, she was brutally honest, but neither unkind nor unreasonable. Surprisingly, a lot of my clothes were allowed back in the wardrobe after she complimented me on having a “good eye” for some of my acquisitions.

Even my favourite “uniform” black skirt, an old friend I’ve had for years, and thought I’d have to say goodbye to, was allowed to stay. She actually called it “cute”.

Ultimately, her objective was not to change my style dramatically but just to show me how to look like the best version of me.

After shuddering at the prospect of being criticised, I relaxed and listened to her sound advice. And we didn’t just talk fashion, but children, schools, life… whatever, over a much-needed chocolate break.

Immensely grateful to Trinny for giving up her busy schedule to style me, I later thanked her with a gift and a taste of something local, which I suspect she can’t get in Notting Hill – a box of my favourite oozing-chocolate rugelech from Temple Fortune.

OK, maybe I’m not quite ready for the pink dress with burgundy tights and shoes, but the fact that I’m thinking about it for the first time in my life is definitely a step in the right direction!

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