Mandy Lehto

‘I hate the word cool; my style is quirky’

When you live on a houseboat, wardrobe space is at a premium. ‘My clothes are quality over quantity,’ says Calypso Rose, 34, founder of The Indytute, which runs inspired lessons on anything from blues guitar to planting terrariums. ‘I like to participate in the lessons, so my wardrobe needs to be practical,’ she says. She cycles most places, ‘even in heels’. The practical bit of her wardrobe consists of boiler suits and playsuits, ‘things I can move in,’ she says. ‘Then I add an eclectic twist – something to make the look fun and approachable. My look represents my brand.'

‘I’m constantly trying new things and moving around,’ she says. ‘We’re about to move our houseboat to west London. I don’t like staying put for too long.’ She uses the same approach with her wardrobe. If she hasn’t worn a piece for a year, she donates it. ‘I don’t want to stay moored in my own look either.’ Does she aspire to look cool, I ask? ‘Actually, I hate the word “cool”. My style is quirky, but still chic. I’m inspired by Shoreditch. I like shopping in independent boutiques like Secret Emporium.’

In her first business, Clippykit, a personalised handbag company, Calypso often wore her company colours. ‘I was dressing quite girly, wearing lots of pink and red.’ When she founded The Indytute, her look evolved into its current eclectic form. ‘I realised how much my work affects my style. I wear more yellow and orange now, which are my new company colours.’ Before starting her businesses, Calpyso – like so many of us – wore a lot of black. ‘My granny, who was fashion editor for Picture Post, used to tell me off for wearing black. Now I see that she was right, colour is fun.’

I ask Calypso to talk me through her most-worn eclectic pieces. ‘A leopard print coat or dress always cheers up an outfit.’ The key, she adds, is to underdress the leopard. ‘Try pairing it with flats. And hats,’ she enthuses. ‘They make an outfit fun.’ Her advice is to spend money on pieces that you love and wear often – and don’t feel guilty about it. ‘Clothes make you feel confident, which opens up a world of possibilities.’

How to keep your look fresh:

  • Rotate your wardrobe by season to save space
  • Pare down. Spend as much as you can afford on a few good pieces
  • Get eclectic. Start with coats and shoes
  • Mix the unexpected: a sequin skirt with a well-cut grey t-shirt. Or team a quirky print dress with flat brogues

Photograph: Ki Price

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by Psychologies

'Wearing pattern and colour was such a release'

Claire Vero, how to look like yourself

For Claire Vero, 32, creator of Aurelia Probiotic Skincare, style is about sharing and creating a connection. ‘We’ve created an inspiration zone in the office, where we pin up things we’d love to wear,’ she says. ‘We really bond over clothes’.

Before starting her skincare company, Claire had a demanding corporate job in a government-facing role. ‘I stuck to suits and plain colours, and felt like I was in a monochrome army. I was changing into someone I wasn’t. I have so much more freedom to dress how I want now.’

When she resigned, she shed her entire corporate wardrobe. ‘I let go of the person I thought I was for over a decade. Then I went a bit mad with shopping.’

She calls this experimentation her ‘exploratory curve,’ where she played with all the styles she never had the opportunity to wear. ‘I was in the mindset of being carefree and letting go. Phase one of finding my style was just playing with anything I’d love to wear. But I soon realised that while I loved the boho festival look, it wasn’t really me.’ 

Dressing got easier with a theme running through her wardrobe.  She got clear on what she wanted to project in her new work look – laid-back and feminine, but still professional – and started curating pieces from there. ‘Streamlining my eclectic mix of new purchases was phase two. Wearing pattern and colour was such a release from the blandness of corporate dressing,’ she says.

How to break free from your work wardrobe

  • Streamline your wardrobe by season
  • Play with spring colours and floral patterns
  • A personal shopper can help you source new items when you’re time-poor
  • Colourful or printed jackets transform a pair of jeans
  • Create an inspiration board to keep your look fresh
  • Shake up your wardrobe with patterns
  • Experiment with new shapes – try a long dress, a jumpsuit, or culottes

Photograph: Ki Price

For more about Mandy Lehto, go to mandylehto.com or read her blogs on LifeLabs

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by Psychologies

‘I don’t like rules – I like to do my own thing’

Jenny Hurren, Out There Interiors, how to look like yourself

‘I don’t have one particular style,’ says Jenny Hurren, 32, co-founder of Out There Interiors. ‘I love so many things. The idea of sticking to one look feels limiting.’

Her eclectic look is a fusion of pieces she’s found on eBay, in charity and vintage shops and on the high street. She plays with the unexpected – both in her clothes and the way she chooses furnishings.

‘For example, I love ornate French beds, but I don’t want to subscribe to the whole look. So I’d team that bed with an industrial lamp. That gives me creative freedom to add quirky accents and the look still hangs together,’ she explains.

She does the same with her clothes, mixing a leopard print with something unexpected, like trainers. ‘The trainers ground the print,’ she adds. ‘Otherwise it can be a bit much, especially for daytime.’

Brightly coloured Mary-Jane shoes are another favourite. She mixes them with dresses in non-matching colours.

Jenny’s look has evolved from her strong sense of non-conformity. ‘I don’t like rules and regulations. I like to do my own thing.’

She tells me that she spent years conforming: ‘I was the most boringly dressed person you could imagine.’

In her youth, she had a unique style, but was bullied in her pre-teen years for her unusual clothing. ‘After the bullying, I turned drab with my clothes, and stayed like that for years,’ she reflects.

It was only on reaching a milestone birthday that Jenny chose to let her authentic style re-emerge. ‘On my 30th birthday, I dyed my hair pink and started experimenting with clothes again. It’s not that I didn’t care what people thought all of a sudden; I just cared differently. It was time to be true to myself.’

The pink hair was what Jenny calls ‘the catalyst’ in bringing about her style change. ‘That one big change brought so many positive compliments,’ she says. Soon after, she started experimenting with wigs. ‘My hair was getting damaged by the dye, so I bought a pink wig. It’s such a conversation magnet, and I’m always honest about it.’

Now she has three wigs in different colours. ‘It’s the easiest way to change your look – and it’s such fun!’ she points out.

The key to authentic style, she adds, is not taking things so seriously. ‘There’s just too much thinking going on. At the end of the day, it’s just clothing, it’s just hair. Everyone’s more stylish when they’re having fun.’

How not to conform

  • Shake things up with one noticeable change, then go from there
  • Add a piece to your outfit that’s fun and unexpected
  • Buy block colour shoes and mix them with a clashing dress or separates
  • Don’t buy matching shoes and bags – or matching anything
  • Mix strong print with something unexpected that’ll ‘ground’ it
  • Play with a wig for a night out, it’s an instant persona change
  • There are no mistakes; it’s only learning
  • Don’t overthink it – go with your intuition

For more about Mandy Lehto, go to mandylehto.com or read her blogs on LifeLabs

Photograph: Ki Price

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by Psychologies

'Colour is about joy, but it can be healing too'

How to look like yourself, Angelique Panagos

‘My grandma always said you have to dance through life,’ says Angelique Panagos, 36. ‘My life is about laughter, gratitude, love and forgiveness.’

Her outlook is reflected in her wardrobe, full of bright pieces that celebrate life. ‘In my twenties, I was extremely overweight and wore black to hide. I decided I needed to lose weight but didn’t do it sensibly – I exercised obsessively and developed anorexia and bulimia. I still felt I never looked good – I just wanted to be invisible. I was so hard on myself.’

Angelique’s weight yo-yoed, and in her late twenties, she developed autoimmune hypothyroidism and was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome. ‘My lifestyle had to change,’ she says. ‘As I began to heal and forgive myself for what I’d put my body through, I started experimenting with colour. One of my first colourful purchases was a pair of yellow shoes,’ she recalls. ‘Now I want my clothes to say, “here I am!” I don’t want to hide any more.’

Tailored shapes and nipped waists suit Angelique’s figure. Vintage looks appeal to her, and she mismatches bold colours to infuse fun and uniqueness into outfits. ‘Colour is about joy for me. But it can be healing, too,’ she adds. ‘My husband and I suffered a miscarriage six months ago. It was an emotional time – I could have slipped into old patterns, cutting myself off emotionally, hiding in black clothes again.’

But she chose to trust her body. ‘I’m grateful that my body knows what’s right, knows what to do,’ she says. ‘I’m choosing self-compassion. I’m still wearing colours like orange and blue to remind myself how much I have to be grateful for.’

Playfulness, fun, healing and celebration are words that come up often as Angelique talks about clothes. Her wardrobe is symbolic of her emotional release – what she calls ‘losing a lot of emotional weight.’ She says she’s not immune to corrosive self-talk when she looks in the mirror some days. ‘I’m still on a journey of improving my relationship with my lumps and bumps. They’re there, but I’m choosing not to fixate on them. I want to look like a curvy, healthy woman. That’s how I want to dance through my life.’

How to dress with self-compassion

  • Don’t compare your shape (or your experience) with anyone else’s
  • Add colour slowly – try it with shoes
  • Try a personal shopper to learn what suits you
  • Clash bold colours, orange and blue; hot pink and purple; lime and navy
  • Choose a timeless shape, then give it a fun twist
  • Don’t fixate on the bits of your body you consider less than perfect
  • Self-compassion and a sense of humour are great styling aides
  • Play with vintage pieces, like brooches, on a modern dress

For more about Mandy Lehto, go to mandylehto.com or read her blogs on LifeLabs

Photograph: Ki Price

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by Psychologies

'I draw inspiration from my profession'

Fiona McKinlay

Fiona McKinlay, 37, is incredibly organised. As an architect, soon to launch her own handbag line, she needs to be. So I’m surprised when she admits to shopping without an aim. ‘I love being drawn to something,’ she enthuses. ‘Then I start making a collage in my mind to see what could go with it.’

It was while studying architecture that Fiona discovered her minimalist style. She went through a phase of wearing black trousers and polo necks (‘a bit like Steve Jobs,’ she smiles), thinking that’s what artistic people wore. ‘My mother did my washing one weekend, and she joked that the clothesline looked a bit grim. That was a turning point.’ 

Fiona realised that what she loved about buildings – clean lines, structure and geometry – could translate into her wardrobe. ‘I started thinking of my style as a design brief,’ she says. ‘My task was to construct an image of myself that felt authentic.’ Fiona talks about the rules in architecture, how lines and shapes are arranged. ‘Now I put my outfits together that way too, looking at volume, balance and proportions.’ 

Her love of bold colour schemes, like monochrome or black with a bold colour, is another secret of her style.

Fiona is also not a fan of print. ‘Not unless it’s geometric and unfussy,’ she adds. ‘I was invited to afternoon tea once, and bought a flowing floral tea dress. I spent the afternoon feeling so awkward.’

I ask if she has any insights for aspiring minimalists. Where does she get her inspiration? ‘I love graphic design and going to museums. I take photos and keep a file of things that appeal to me. I also watch catwalk shows and read fashion magazines, just to see how they’re putting looks together. I get ideas, then interpret them my own way.’

She dislikes having brand names and logos on her clothing. And though her look is bold, she’s uncomfortable in anything that makes her stand out in an obvious way.

‘Another thing about minimalism,’ she adds, ‘is that the simpler the look, the better cut the clothing has to be.’ During an internship at Net-a-Porter, Fiona learned to appreciate well-cut investment pieces. ‘I feel great when I put an outfit together and get the balance right; how it feels, the shape and the colours. It feels true to who I am.’

How to define your style

  • Create an image file of items that appeal to you
  • Magazines, catwalk shows and fashion blogs (I like The Sartorialist) are great for inspiration, then do your own interpretation
  • Shortlist the designers you love – look for a common thread
  • Play with balance and volume in your look
  • Shop occasionally with nothing particular in mind
  • A minimal outfit can be transformed by an accessory, but keep it bold and unfussy – play with geometric shapes
  • Try bold shades or monochrome – they work well with simple, strong cuts

For more about Mandy Lehto, go to mandylehto.com or read her blogs on LifeLabs

Photograph: Ki Price

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by Psychologies

'I want to celebrate and connect with life'

Oona Corke, how to look like yourself

Yoga therapist and teacher, and former model, 39-year-old Oona Corke, uses clothes and accessories to bring what she calls ‘an everyday sacredness’ into her life.

Her look is a fusion of the eco-conscious, the spiritual and the functional. ‘My work and life meld. Yoga is about allowing wellbeing to flourish,’ she says. ‘It’s about connection, but it doesn’t need to be so serious.’

On reflection, that’s her view on style, too. ‘I only wear things that have meaning – it’s not just leggings and t-shirts. Everything I have in my wardrobe means something. My family in India wear sacred cloth under their clothes every day to remind them of their connection to the divine,’ she says. ‘I’ve evolved my own take on that.’

She shows me a pair of indigo leggings, made from recycled plastic bottles. She also loves to match a citrus top with an Indian bolero from her grandmother. She often wears mala (meditation) beads, from her mother, who received them from her guru, or Rajasthani seed pearl earrings from her great-grandmother. ‘Or my prayer ring, which I touch throughout the day to remind myself I’m connected to something larger.’

Seven years ago, Oona’s first child died. ‘For two years, I didn’t look in a mirror. I just wanted to make myself invisible.’ She pulls out a bead-encrusted Matthew Williamson dress from her modelling days. It is about hope, she adds. ‘It brings together so many parts of my life – my modelling, my Anglo-Indian ancestry and the feeling of hopelessness after losing a child. The only thing I wanted when she died was stories of hope – I wanted to know there was something worth living for.’

Oona credits yoga with rebuilding her life and style as part of her healing process. ‘I want to be colourful now. I want to celebrate life. In that way, yoga is kind of like style. They’re both about drawing out what’s within, in a positive way.’

How to dress with meaning

  • Clothes need to move with you, not restrict you
  • Jeggings are great denim alternatives
  • Vintage and eco-friendly pieces can add significance to your wardrobe
  • Mix street-wear with vintage pieces
  • Seek out eco-friendly layering pieces, like leggings
  • Hold onto meaningful, beautiful pieces that make you smile inside
  • What accessory could remind you of ‘everyday sacredness’?

For more about Mandy Lehto, go to mandylehto.com or read her blogs on LifeLabs

Photograph: Ki Price

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by Psychologies

'What's important in a dress is the woman wearing it'

How to look like yourself

Aspiring fashion designer Danielle Bodjo, 28, enthuses: ‘London is great for expressing diversity through style. I like wearing clothes with a story. We all have a story to tell.’ Her developing fashion line, By Bodjo, is a potent advertisement for the modern, cosmopolitan woman. Her story spans two cultures. ‘I grew up in Scandinavia,’ she says, in a Danish accent. ‘But my ancestry is African, from the Ivory Coast.’

The first time I meet Danielle, she is dressed in a quintessentially Scandinavian way, sleek and understated. When we meet again for the interview, she’s wearing an African kaftan in colours that pulse. ‘I’ve really struggled to fuse together parts of my heritage and personality,’ she says. ‘I often can’t find what I’m looking for in the high street, so I’m creating it myself.’

Danielle describes her style as a mix of a European silhouette with an African vibe. She is quick to add that cultural touches are inclusive, never exclusive. ‘You don’t have to be African to wear these colours or vivid prints,’ she says, gesturing at her outfit. ‘It’s about embracing our individuality, femininity and power.’

Wearing prints and colours like she does says more about the woman than about fashion or trend. And that is precisely her aim in her clothing line. ‘Over the years, I’ve learnt that what is important in a dress is the woman who is wearing it. The neutral clothes I used to wear in my former job as a marketing manager really limited my vision of myself. I used to stand there on front of the wardrobe and wish for something with a little wow! I wasn’t being authentic, not fully.’

So much of what Danielle says chimes with what many of us struggle with – wanting a ‘little something’ to bring our wardrobes to life. That, she says, starts with being truly comfortable with who you are. There’s a Danish word hygge, which means cosy, comfortable. ‘You might say I have it in my personal style,’ Danielle says. And her truth is also about embracing her ‘specialness,’ as she calls it. ‘I’m creating a new identity that’s more aligned with the real me.’

Dress to express your style

  • Play with fusions: mix bold with plain, hot with cold 
  • Explore your culture, or a culture that appeals to you 
  • Give yourself permission to stand out
  • Embrace the challenge of avoiding the high street 
  • Mix ethnic and modern for a current look
  • Don’t be afraid of print
  • It’s OK to go slowly; start with accessories

For more about Mandy Lehto, go to mandylehto.com or read her blogs on LifeLabs

Photograph: Ki Price

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by Psychologies

'I dress for the life I want'

Nsncy Hitzig, How to look like yourself

Comfortable in her own skin is how I’d describe Nancy Hitzig, 28, producer, fundraiser and burlesque performer. ‘I’ve chosen to be fearless in the pursuit of my truth,’ she says. ‘Style-wise, I’m sexy because I practise joy and gratitude. I dress for the life I want, and it becomes the life I have. It’s amazing how that happens.’

In her dance classes, Nancy encourages women to find the bits of their bodies that they love, and to emphasise those. ‘I love my bottom and my thighs. I used to hate them.’ She smiles as she tells me that her legs and bum are now her greatest assets in her burlesque performances. ‘I call it my jiggle,’ she says playfully. ‘Burlesque celebrates the booty.’

Ten years ago, Nancy had a moment of reckoning. ‘I weighed just under 100kg and was so tired of feeling that way. So I saw a holistic nutritionist and lost 30kg. I’ll never be thin, but I’m strong and feel great. I’m so done with hating my body.’

Nancy’s costumes allow her to bridge the distance to her audience. ‘People are there to celebrate my form,’ she says, adding that it’s not about having unshakeable self-confidence. Really being in her body, feeling that deep connection and acceptance, has allowed Nancy to be authentic in herday-to-day wardrobe, too. ‘Knowing who I am has evolved my style,’ she explains. ‘I create magic. I build community. I love with abandon. And that’s the message I want my clothes to convey. It’s so much more fun to dress with intention than to dress to hide yourself. And my purple hair invites comment. That’s the point! Connect. Come and talk to me.’ 

I ask how she developed such strong self-esteem. ‘I had back surgery in 2009, so I know how it feels not to have mobility. I didn’t know if I’d be able to dance again.’ Nancy realised that her mobility is a gift, that her body is a gift. ‘I got really clear on that after my operation. Now I dress how I want. My only rule is to wear what makes me feel amazing.’

Dress to love your body

  • Stop using clothes to hide – start using them to connect and inspire
  • Being noticed isn’t a bad thing
  • You have to give yourself permission to wear what you want. No one else will give it to you
  • You stand taller in a good, well-fitting bra
  • Wear colour for evening wear – everyone else wears black
  • Get guidance on what suits you, then go with it!
  • Focus on the feeling that clothes give you, not the number on the tag
  • Swap body-judgement for self-gratitude
  • Strong – not skinny – is sexy

For more about Mandy Lehto, go to mandylehto.com or read her latest piece on LifeLabs

Photograph: Ki Price

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by Psychologies

I aim to match the inside with the outside

How to look like yourself

'Clothes work when they’re harmonious with the person,’ says Dominique Antiglio, 37, who knows something about harmony.

A sophrology therapist and sound practitioner, Dominique teaches breathing, relaxation and visualisation techniques to harmonise the mind and body. ‘My clothes are a second skin,’ she says, nestling into one of her favourite cashmere scarves. ‘They need to be a part of me, without being a distraction. When the inside and the outside match, it’s a beautiful thing. That’s what I’m aiming for.’ 

It wasn’t always this way. Prior to becoming a sophrologist, Dominique was an osteopath. ‘I could hide behind my white lab coat, which said: “take me seriously”. I had no scope then to express my personality through clothing.’

She used to struggle with what a mind-body therapist should wear. ‘There was some self-induced pressure to dress differently,’ she admits. ‘I wasn’t sure whether I should wear sparkly rings and fashionable clothes while working with clients. I thought it might detract from my work, showing that I cared more about beautiful things and how I look.’ 

She realised that she didn’t need to conform to a therapist stereotype. ‘Spiritual and stylish can co-exist. My look clicked into place when I accepted myself; both the spiritual and the stylish parts,’ she says.

Now Dominique describes her look as sophisticated minimalism, with some softness. Heels rarely feature in her wardrobe. ‘I need to feel connected to the earth, to be grounded for my work. And I’m just over 6ft,’ she smiles. Dominique makes it a personal challenge to find shoes that put the ‘fun’ into ‘functional’ she adds.

Dressing authentically, Dominique concludes, is about intuiting what feels right when we listen to ourselves. ‘I’m interested in clothes on the surface. Ultimately, an outfit is a nice wrapping for our inner gifts. There are many other layers, so why not celebrate them all?’

How to take pleasure in clothes

  • Make shopping a pleasurable day for yourself. If you find great clothes – it’s a bonus
  • Acknowledge the gift of who you are. Your clothes are a lovely wrapping
  • Choose clothes you can move in
  • Flats can be fun and sexy
  • If you’re tempted to always dress seriously, challenge yourself to play

For more about Mandy Lehto, go to mandylehto.com

Read Mandy's piece Does my confidence look big in this? on LifeLabs

Photograph: Ki Price

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by Psychologies

'I dress to feel alive in the moment'

Suzanne Arnold

For Suzanne Arnold, getting dressed is about fantasy and illusion. Style, as she sees it, is about relating to each moment. ‘Buddhism taught me about the impermanence of the self – that’s so helpful when getting dressed,’ she says.

In her twenties, Suzanne trained at Harvey Nichols as an assistant buyer. When she traded in her fashionable identity to become a Buddhist nun, clothes took on new meaning. ‘The night before I was ordained, a nun cut my long hair. That was a turning point, seeing my hair on the floor. I was letting go of an identity. My robes were symbolic, but it took time to get a sense of myself as a nun. I’d see my reflection in a window and be horrified. There were no hiding places – no hair, no make-up, no pretty garments.’

Becoming a Buddhist nun meant Suzanne was free to commit all her time to meditation and teaching without any other claims on her energy. And wearing the robes removed ambiguity in her relationships with people. ‘As soon as I was ordained, I found that the change in my appearance affected people – on the whole, they were more relaxed around me.’

When she disrobed a decade later, Suzanne’s identity was deeply shaken: ‘I had one burgundy outfit, no hair, no money, no idea where I was going.’ Her ‘this too shall pass’ philosophy eased the transition into secular society. And so did clothes, which helped her to re-identify with feeling feminine, now as a middle-aged woman. ‘Who am I?’ became, ‘Who do I want to be today?’

Now married and in a new career, Suzanne still contemplates her mortality daily. ‘Our impermanence brings playfulness. It stops me getting too earnest about clothes or ageing. I dress to feel alive in this moment.’

How to dress for the moment

  • Have fun! Style is about the enjoyment of clothes 
  • If you can’t move properly, then you won’t look stylish 
  • Team bold or clashing colours with neutral ones
  • Clothes tell a story – who do you want to be today? 
  • Think: more playfulness, less perfection 
  • Always try to celebrate your uniqueness 

For more about Mandy Lehto, go to mandylehto.com

Photograph: Ki Price

More inspiration:

Read A message from the Dalai Lama by David Head on LifeLabs

self

by Psychologies