Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Post About Jennifer

The Post About Jennifer

Typically, my in-person client posts have less dramatic names, but I feel dramatic about this post and this client. Today's post is about Jennifer, my last client of 2013. If you follow me on instagram, you know that Jennifer was an incredibly special client.

To tell you about Jen, I first need to tell you that when I was driving to her house, I was more than a little worried that I was about to be kidnapped-or worse. Or at the very least punked. I take safety precautions before going into anyone's home, but on that day I had extra measures in place. You see, the email that Jennifer's husband sent to me (the day after Veterans' Day!) was, well, seemingly too-good-to-be-true. Here is an excerpt:


I am requesting a personal home and shopping experience for my wife.  She read about you on one of her favorite sites... Mrs. Mustard Seed.  Her 40th Birthday is December 9th and I am throwing her a surprise get together with a few friends on the 7th.  THE ONLY THING SHE WANTS FOR HER BIRTHDAY IS AN APPOINTMENT WITH YOU :)!

My wife is a very special person to everyone, but especially to me.  You see...I am a retired disabled vet.  I went through (and continue to suffer from) medical issues caused while serving.  Just diagnosing the issues was a long drawn out process that took years and let alone the surgeries to try and resolve them.  My wife, Jen, was by my side through it all.  I am sure you have heard stories like that before, but to be honest she was more than by my side.  She saved my life...just by being the most awesome and supportive friend I have ever had.   
This person went on to describe that his wife, Jennifer, is also active military. While he can no longer work, she continues to serve. He told me that they were soul mates. He told me that he wanted to have his family pool together money for me to take her personal shopping in lieu of any other gifts. He wanted to know if I would accept her as a client. Accept her!? If she was real, I would marry her! (Side note: I waived my fee and had Jen add it to her spending amount, which I only mention to tell you that Jen's response was to ask me if I would reconsider and make it a fund for another woman to get six hours with me. She's amazing.)

That is how I ended up meeting Jennifer on the weekend before Christmas. She was real, and this is how she looked when I arrived.



And this is the email that Jennifer sent me this week, wearing a dress, belt, and boots that she bought alone inspired by our time together.


And this. Look at that glow!



I'll share more of the incredible pictures that she sent me in a bit, but I'm getting ahead of myself, aren't I? So there I am, at Jennifer's house. She's not going to abduct me, it seems. I meet her husband, and he's just as warm and loving in person as via email. And we head upstairs where I learn about Jennifer's unique clothing situation.



Like many women, she wears a uniform during the day. Many of us have a default outfit (jeans and a t-shirt or all black) that becomes our "uniform." Jennifer literally wears a uniform, which is identical to that of all of the men that she works with. On her way to work and in the evening hours, she typically wore her "at home uniform" of jeans and a t-shirt, like this Billabong one. "I love the beach," she explained to me, "I just want to be comfortable."

The Closet Re-Do

But I wasn't buying it. You see that mermaid behind her in this first photos? Jennifer painted the beautiful furniture in the room a similar ocean-y blue, and within minutes of my being there she referenced her "studio." I went to see it and saw that she's an artist; making one-of-a-kind vases and vessels was a way of relieving stress during the years that it took to diagnose her husband with what had gone wrong after he was deployed overseas.

Where was that part of Jennifer in the Billabong t-shirt, baggy jeans, and 2 pairs of shoes (inexplicably all without backs despite living in a place with 4 full seasons)? Well, we started to play, and she started to come out.


As you can see from her expression, Jen wasn't quite sure about this.

Like many of us, she doesn't like a lot of focus on herself and has spent many years caring for her husband and son, maybe more than for herself.

This was making her a little uncomfortable, I thought. But, we continued to have her try on clothes, laughing along the way as we weeded out things that were sometimes multiple sizes too big for her. Whose clothes were these?!

Of course, we found a lot of good pieces to try on, and Jen started to trust me. I wasn't going to change the way that she dressed; she was.



I stepped back from the camera mostly while at her house, just focusing on being present with her. But once we went shopping, she started warming up to the idea that we were going to spend the entire day together focusing on her. Her husband and friends gave her this gift, I thought, because she knew that she needed it, and they honored that.

Shopping

Flash forward three hours, and there we were: the weekend before Christmas, and we were at the mall. Over lunch, Jennifer told me that she gets nervous around crowds sometimes, and she hated shopping. Then this happened.


She was smiling! And shopping! And buying things that flattered her figure while also being practical and comfortable. She was starting to look like someone who could have a studio in their house where they made beautiful things. She was looking like the warm, kind, creative mother and woman that she was. That part of her was emerging, and I just had to stand back and watch.

Starting from the Ground Up: Shoes


How did we do it? Well, I encouraged her to try on everything that she maybe even kind of liked a little bit. We brought a few sizes in with us since we weren't sure of her exact size at every store. If something didn't feel great, we put it aside, refusing to settle.  We built outfits-in the fitting rooms and also in our heads, using things we knew that she had in her closet already. And, we started with shoes.


She needed some shoes that were practical, wearable, and fun! We got her some brogues and boots, and recently I received this email showing off a few more purchases she's made since our time together, including these studded boots. Hoorah! Shoes with backs! Shoes with personality!



Jennifer as Artist

Jen is a self-described tomboy. She lives with her son and husband, and she works in a male-dominated environment. So to me, some of her sense of creativity and grounded, strong femininity seemed like it could be reflected more in how she was dressing. I think we can all see it in the photos she sent me this week, which combine clothing she had with new clothing we got together in her own personal style.

When I saw this photograph of her in jeans that fit well and color around her face that combined feminine and comfort, I jumped up and clapped my hands. Really.




She had this skirt, above, but "never wore it." I'm so excited to see that she's incorporating it in unique ways! I love a long skirt for winter because you can layer warm tights or leggings underneath. I especially love a long skirt or dress with great boots like she got!

Color and Femininity

When I looked in Jen's closet, I saw two things: lots of solid button downs and lots of plaid. There was not a lot of variety as far as pattern or color. But, when we went shopping, she was drawn to vibrant colors, textures, and even patterns. She's an artist, after all! I wanted to provide the space for her to choose some of those colors, and she sure did!




What I notice in these photos is how confident Jen looks. The color near her face warms her complexion, and she looks so feminine and soft. She looks like she is: warm, gentle, strong, sweet, creative.




This is what she said about one of the tips I shared with her to help show off her feminine side and make clothing fit her better.
 Rolling up my sleeves.  Funny because I was looking at a clothing magazine that came in a few days after our day together and all of the models had rolled sleeves!  How had I never noticed this before?  You are such a genius!
She's too funny! She's the one with the delicate wrists just begging to be shown off!





I see all of that, but I wondered what Jennifer was feeling, how had our day together affected her? I was lucky enough to find out when she emailed me. I won't share the entire thing, but, with Jen's permission, here are some excerpts.
 I now know that it isn't my body that makes the clothing look bad.  Clothing isn't made the same and it requires a lot of trying on and a keen eye to how pieces are made.  
She's amazing, right? Here's more:

I wanted to take a moment and share with you my extreme gratitude for you and your wonderful gift of style.   Our day spent together in my closet and at the mall (the weekend before Christmas!) has altered me in such a wonderful way.  You made me take pause and reflect on my choice of style over the years.  Why did I choose to live in clothes that were too big for me?  Why did I choose to reject and hide my feminine side?  Why did I never think of wearing clothes to tell the world the story of me?   Your questions lead me to some soul searching. 

You were kind and gentle with me.  You encouraged me, challenged me and never once did you say things that made me question my choices in a negative way.  Thank you cannot convey my depth of gratitude for the gifts you have given me.

Who knew that an education in style would lead to moments of soul searching.  Maybe that is why you have titled your blog "Start Close In".  I never did ask you why you selected the name.  I never thought of clothes, shoes, jewelry, hair and make up as a story for the world to see.  I have never wondered why people wear the things they do.  But I do now.  I look at everyone I see and wonder what is their story.

You guided me as a coach would guide their players.  You gave me the tools and the confidence to make decisions on my own.  I am endlessly grateful to you. I believe each of us are born with gifts to give to the world.  Your gift is more than just pairing a blouse, pants, shoes, and jewelry.  Your gift digs deep within each of us.  Giving us the courage to start close in and work our way out to show the world that we are worthy and that we have a story to tell.    I am so blessed for you and your gifts.







Here's the last photo she sent me.


Oh, Jen. Thank you. Our day together meant the world to me. Thank you for welcoming me into your home--and your heart.


And to answer your question, I wrote a bit about the title here, but I will also say that the title was as much about me as it is about you all. When I took the step to create a legitimate business out of a passion for empowering women in their closets and beyond, I was faced with needing to take that first step, the one I was afraid to take. I also wanted the women around me to take their own first step.

For some, it's about honoring the hours you have outside of work with creative, vibrant clothing you're excited to live in. For others, it's about buying clothes in the size you are now instead of punishing yourself for not losing weight-yet? faster? For still other women, it's about finding ways to add curve and femininity to a straighter figure so that you feel more feminine, more soft. I love that moment, that first step followed by the second and the third. None of that can happen without that first step.

30 comments:

  1. This is an AMAZINGLY beautiful story and testimony to what you do! Love, love, love- and Jen looks stunning!

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    1. Thank you, Tricia. And doesn't she!

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  2. I absolutely love Jen's story! She sounds like an amazing woman. :) I love how you discover what's inside of each person you help then show them how to express that. Jen looks fabulous!

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    1. She IS a fabulous woman! Thank you for your kind words.

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  3. Simply brilliant. What a great story!

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    1. That means a lot coming from you, Mindy. <3

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  5. Oh my goodness - thank you so much for sharing this! What a wonderful story - and transformation, or rather 'revealing' of the beauty that was there all along!

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    1. Thanks, Heather! It really was. She's beautiful inside and out.

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  6. What a huge, contagious gift!! to the husband, such a gift because he could bless his best friend and see her glow, to the wife because not only does she get to see how loved she is, she is blessed with confidence and style, a gift to you, because, well, that's obvious, what a joy to be a part of that process, and the gift that you clearly have done such a good job...........and such a gift to us all that we get to learn of it... what an honor and so inspiring!!! thank you for sharing!!

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    1. I smiled so much reading this comment yesterday. I couldn't agree more! It was the gift that keeps on giving!

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  7. I am in tears reading this. As a woman, I cannot think of a better gift you can give than to help someone to feel beautiful and Jen looks beautiful! She also looks happy and confident. What a blessing you are to your clients!

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    1. Thank you, Lindsey! A lot of women said they cried, I really think Jen reminds us of ourselves.She's an inspiration.

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  8. She's so beautiful! I LOVE her words too... Why did I never think of wearing clothes to tell the world the story of me?
    I'm inspired and it's never too late to start!

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    1. I'm so glad! It is never ever too late!

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  9. This is the sweetest most wonderful post! What a wonderful husband and wife team. How neat that you were able to boost her confidence and help her see that she's lovely! Way to go all three of you!!

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    1. Thank you, Stacey! They really seemed too-good-to-be-true, but they're not! I love that they exist in the world.

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  10. Oh my goodness. I love this story. Jen is a darling, darling girl - wish I could meet her! :-) Love this post, love what it did for me. It was the next best thing to getting a session with you!!!! ~ Dori ~

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    1. Dori, I'm so glad you loved it! Il'm looking at your site now, maybe we can do a barter for a session?

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  11. That is the most wonderful story, an amazing day for you and for Jennifer.

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    1. Thank you, Lori. I'm looking forward to hopefully seeing you in Buffalo in the spring!

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  12. Thank you to everyone for your comments!! I feel very blessed. I am very humbled it all. I think every woman should have a day with Ella! I'm ready for summer so I can have another day together! :) - Jen

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    1. I can't wait! We're gonna show off those LEGS! :)

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  13. This is an amazing post. Jen, (because I know you're reading) I thank you, your husband and your family for selfless sacrificing for my benefit. I love how confident, fresh, and happy you look in the photos. Thank you for sharing yourself and this story about Ella with us. g

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    1. Wow, thank you. What a beautiful comment for Jen and her family.

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  14. "Great post! Jen looks wonderful!! I've known her for years and can testify to the amazing people she and her husband are and no one is more deserving of a splendid treat!! She looks beautiful in her new duds - especially like the belted skirts and shirt outfits. Shows off her figure! Thanks for sharing your talents with Jen!!!" -Bridget

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    1. Bridget, I edited your comment to delete Jen's husband's name. But thank you so much for writing! I love the belted skirts, too! She's just a stunning woman.

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  15. "Wow! I am so impressed! Look at her come to life in her new clothing! I am proud to say Jen is my step mother and a truley wonderful and beautiful person. When my father told me that he had written you requesting this appointment for her i got so excited. I cried reading this post because I am so happy! Im so glad you have given her the tools to express herself through her clothing. Thank you for such a wonderful gift!" -K (identifying information removed)

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    1. K, thank you for writing. I love that you did. I was so happy to work with your stepmom and loved getting to know your family a little. Thank you so much for loving and supporting her.

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