Fashion People

Gail Little and Belinda Alexander

Article from York Evening Press

Gail Little & Belinda Alexander are stylists, and they met more than 20 years ago while on the books of a modelling agency in Newcastle. Both subsequently settled in North Yorkshire and can now be found giving free fashion advice at Barkers department store in Northallerton.

They are also available for private consultations. They will detox your wardrobe, getting rid of all the loon pants and frightfully frilly blouses you haven't worn since Dick Van Dyke was a Cockney, or accompany you on a shopping trip to ensure you buy only what will flatter and fit.

"Personal Shoppers are still quite a new concept in the north," said Belinda. "Selfridges' London store has 12 full-time in-store personal shoppers, but we are still a rare commodity up here.

I think people are quite surprised when they meet us and discover we are friendly, non-judge mental and not at all bossy. They have seen Trinny & Susannah on the television and automatically think we are going to shout at them or order them to dump their entire wardrobe. But that's just not how we work".

"We want people to feel comfortable and have fun," Gail continued. "Most women just need a gentle nudge in the right direction."

Belinda started her fashion career as a model in London before working in PR for Way In at Harrods. She has also worked for a fashion production company, styling shows in London, Dusseldorf and Hong Kong, and has run a model agency.

Gail started working part time as a model when she was 18, while following a dual career in newspapers and commercial radio. She presented a live weekly classical music programme, was head of promotions and marketing at Radio Tees and more recently recorded promos for a classical radio station in New York.

When we met for coffee and a 20-minute chant that lasted 2 hours at the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet on the outskirts of York, both were stylishly dressed and immaculately groomed. But they are not fashion clones. While Gail opted for a sharply cut jacket and trousers, Belinda wore a slim fitting summer dress.

"We don't try to impose out own taste on clients - the service is not about us, it's about them and their lifestyle."

Unlike Trinny & Susannah, they don't gang up on a client, opting instead to work on a one to one basis, and their approach is so friendly that people often buy their time as a gift for a stylishly-challenged loved one.

So, what are the top five mistakes that we make when it comes to buying clothes?

"Buying a size too small must be at the top," said Gail with a visible shudder. "Clothes that are too tight make you look bigger than you are. Buying a size 12 doesn't automatically make you a size 12."

Next on the list are accessories and the perennial question: to match or not to match? Both agree that most women tend to go too far when it comes to matching their accessories to their outfit, buying a matching hat, bag, shoes and, for all we know, knickers, leading to full-on fashion overkill.

Then we come to colour. Many of us are scared to death of colour and stick to tried and tested favourite whether they suit us or not.

"Black is certainly very flattering, but it is not the only option," said Belinda. "We encourage clients to try colours they would never normally dream of wearing, with often life-changing results as women who have always moped about in brown suddenly discover the joy of red, green or blue. The final two problems to together like boot-cut jeans and a white shirt: buying clothes without confidence and dressing middle-aged.

"We are not suggesting that women in their forties dress like teenagers," said Gail, "but there is no reason why they should dress like old ladies either. You can be middle-aged without being middle-of-the-road." "It's a matter of confidence," added Belinda. "We try to empower our clients to take control of their wardrobes and have confidence in the choices they make." Many women - most of their clients are women - find a couple of hours in Gail and Belinda's company a life as well as clothes changing experience. "If you look good, you feel good," said Gail. "sounds simple doesn't it? Well, with our help it can be."