What would you ask Paula?

Dur­ing a life­time of work­ing in the fash­ion pub­lish­ing and ap­parel de­sign in­dus­tries, Paula Ryan has be­come a peren­nial source of style wis­dom. At me­dia events and gath­er­ings, she’s of­ten prompted for ad­vice about how to be stylish and what to wear. Here

Paula Style - - Beauty -

Q. What is style?

A. My def­i­ni­tion of style is ‘a qual­ity of imag­i­na­tion and in­di­vid­u­al­ity ex­pressed in one’s ac­tions and tastes’. Ap­ply­ing this idea to your life is sim­ple. There is only one rule: wear what you like, buy what you like and spend time in front of a mir­ror styling your pur­chases.

Q. Is dress­ing a cer­tain way or spend­ing time and en­ergy on your per­sonal ap­pear­ance re­ally im­por­tant?

A. When you meet some­one for the first time, psy­chol­ogy tells us that your ap­pear­ance ac­counts for over 80% of that first im­pres­sion. So it makes sense to pay at­ten­tion to your ap­pear­ance - es­pe­cially when it re­ally mat­ters, like job in­ter­views or when you are a speaker or pre­sen­ter.

Q. Were there any role mod­els or men­tors in your early life?

A. Ab­so­lutely. They were many and var­ied, and in­spired var­i­ous as­pects of my im­pres­sion­able years. An aunt told me: “Knowl­edge is power, but en­thu­si­asm pulls the switch.” My father said: “The only as­pect of your life that mat­ters is PEO­PLE.

All the rest is STUFF. Piers Mor­gan said: “Re­mem­ber the 7 Ps... prior plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion pre­vents piss-poor per­for­mance”. I read THINK and GROW RICH by Napoleon Hill in my early teens, which is a book on per­sonal mo­ti­va­tion. It out­lines how we cre­ate our own suc­cesses and fail­ures, and how when we have been suc­cess­ful, we end up get­ting even more plea­sure from giv­ing back. Coco Chanel said: “A girl should be both classy and fab­u­lous.” Her other in­spi­ra­tional quote was: “How many cares one loses when one de­cides not to be some­thing, but to be some­one.” When I was a house model in Lon­don in the early 70s, the res­i­dent de­signer said: “Shoes are the most im­por­tant pur­chase you make. Style has no place for cheap or ugly shoes.” I think of this every time I buy a pair. In re­cent times I have been in­spired by the Dalai Lama. When asked what sur­prised him most about hu­man­ity, he an­swered: “Man, be­cause he sac­ri­fices his health in or­der to make money. Then he sac­ri­fices money to re­cu­per­ate his health. And then he is so anx­ious about the fu­ture, that he does not en­joy the present, the re­sult be­ing that he does not live in the present or the fu­ture; he lives as if he is never go­ing to die, and then dies hav­ing never re­ally lived.”

Q. Shop­ping can be very over­whelm­ing with so many choices. It’s a night­mare for most of us. Do you have any tips to cut the con­fu­sion?

A. Yes. BE­WARE OF TRICKERY. Many re­tail­ers have a host of tricks up their sleeves to per­suade you to shop. Favourites in­clude slim­ming mir­rors and flat­ter­ing light­ing. This is why what you see when you get home can be very dif­fer­ent to how things looked in the shop. Take a small mir­ror with you and check looks from the back. SHOP­PING WITH FRIENDS CAN BE OVERATED, be­cause they may en­cour­age you to se­lect what is their taste, not yours. BE­WARE OF ONE HIT WON­DERS. Every sea­son there are a hand­ful of hot trend pur­chases that be­come so over-rated, you wish you’d never bought them. KNOW YOUR SIZE. It will vary in every store and with every la­bel. Don’t be tempted to buy for the fu­ture body, buy for the now body. Choose items that skim rather than hug the body. CHECK OUT THE FAB­RIC QUAL­ITY by read­ing the con­tent la­bel, as not all gar­ments are equal. WHEN IN DOUBT ask an ob­vi­ously well put to­gether shop as­sis­tant. You can de­velop a shop­ping re­la­tion­ship with these peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly in an owner- op­er­a­tor store. WHEN IN DOUBT don’t!

Q. Why is it that some women al­ways look ra­di­ant and well put to­gether?

A. Ex­ter­nal ap­pear­ance is not just about the clothes you wear. It’s ac­tu­ally about fac­tors driven from within. Women who ex­er­cise, eat a healthy diet and de­lib­er­ately set about cre­at­ing hap­pi­ness in their lives ra­di­ate en­ergy and have a pres­ence that no rack of fash­ion­able clothes can ever achieve.

Q. Who do you re­gard as stylish women?

A. I will make my se­lec­tion from well-known women, so that you know what I’m talk­ing about. They are Sharon Stone, Elle Macpher­son, Jane Fonda, Megyn Kelly on Fox News and Michelle Obama. These women have de­vel­oped a style that sits com­fort­ably with them. They look re­laxed and only wear what they love. Whether it’s flat shoes, jeans or shirts of bold colour, they are true to them­selves.

Q. Ev­ery­body seems to be into the big chain stores that sell cheap clothes. What do you think of them?

A. I buy from them too, es­pe­cially COS, the Swedish grown-up sis­ter of H & M. These pur­chases tend to be my ca­sual week­end and knock-about clothes. Fast fash­ion is ex­actly that; it’s the an­tithe­sis of long-life in­vest­ment pieces which can take much laun­der­ing. Re­mem­ber to ap­ply the ‘cost per wear’ re­al­ity.

Q. Should age have any bear­ing on what I wear?

A. Fash­ion now is more about per­son­al­ity, so dress your body, not your age. As a blan­ket rule, at each stage of your life, you should show the best and hide the rest. Well, maybe not all the rest, but cer­tainly hide the worst. Also, af­ter a cer­tain age, you should not wear any­thing too short or too girly. At the end of the day, look­ing both chic and age-ap­pro­pri­ate comes down to per­sonal style. Too much makeup is cer­tainly aging and most women look el­derly with grey hair. White hair is an­other mat­ter (re­fer pages 14-17).

Q. Do you have a favourite colour?

A. Hello? Black! Fol­lowed by white and sand. These shades al­ways work for me as they are slim­ming, stylish, easy to ac­ces­sorise and make great trav­ellers. How­ever these days I add a large dol­lop of navy, as it works with sand and white and is softer dur­ing the day. Af­ter dark, black is al­ways my pick. But at our beach house I hardly wear black at all, ex­cept for a top or two.

Style icon Coco Chanel, 1920.

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