Creating a wardrobe that sparks joy: an interview with stylist Millie Coates.

Deborah Mistry

Millie Coates stylist

‘Can I style this in at least 3 ways and does it spark joy when I look in the mirror?’

This is the question stylist Millie from The Style Phoenix asks her clients when she either looks at their existing wardrobe or takes them on personal shopping trips. And surely there is no better way to decide whether something is worthy of space in your wardrobe than to ask whether you really love and will definitely wear it? 

We all want a lovingly curated wardrobe full of pieces that make us feel beautiful, reflect our personalities but are still appropriate for the occasion but so few of us manage achieve one. Clothes are so personal, they can unknowingly reflect what we think of ourselves so even people who love fashion can be hesitant to let others see inside their wardrobes…But sometimes it takes an outsider to help you achieve your goals. Read on to find more about how Millie helps her clients achieve the wardrobe they deserve, and her tips for how to wear the Lalibela dress…

Colour consultation with Millie Coates

I am intrigued by the idea of colour consultations as colour is so emotional as well as a matter of aesthetics! Do people resist certain colours even if they would look good on them? Tell us about the process.

The psychology of colour and understanding what makes each individual look their absolute best is so fundamental to my role as a personal stylist.  Without fail, I get a positive reaction from clients (male and female) when I do colour analysis on them. First step is a fun personality questionnaire followed by colour draping, so I can see which of the four colour seasons my client fits into. It’s fascinating, as the questionnaire results reinforce what the colour draping tells me! Most clients have preconceptions what they like/dislike. But the drapes don’t lie and you can see when clients have that lightbulb moment when they see how certain colours/tones either make them shine or alternatively look drained. Often clients say they love black, but only if you are a “Winter” colour palette, will black (particularly when worn close to the face) enhance someone’s features. I, for one, age by several years if I wear black… hence why I rarely wear it. But I’d say that 99.9% of the time, clients are so happy to understand what makes them radiate that they’re very receptive to take my advice. And following our sessions I often get messages to say how many compliments they’ve received wearing their newly discovered “wow colours”. It’s a game changer and makes me so happy to see the transformation. 

Age appropriateness is another interesting subject in fashion and especially when it comes to investing in more expensive pieces which obviously you hope you will wear for years. Is it all just about body confidence? What advice do you give to your clients?

Age and size is but a number. As a personal stylist, it’s all about finding out about your client… their lifestyle, their interests, their personality and budget is a consideration too. Once I have assessed what colour palette season my client is aligned to and have carried out a body shape assessment so know which styles will compliment their figure, I can then do a meaningful shopping session to find items that will make each individual shine from the inside out. It’s all about shopping wisely and finding items that will work hard in a client’s wardrobe. Fast fashion and trends will come and go, so creating a capsule wardrobe with good quality staples is key. Then it’s all about building up from there, finding pieces that work together and thinking before buying: can I style this in at least 3 ways and does it spark joy when I look in the mirror?! Anything less than two big affirmatives, then it’s a no to that item! This will stop clients having unworn items in their wardrobes and will ultimately save clients money. 

Tell us about the most rewarding experience you have had with a client?

Honestly, every experience is rewarding. I’ve never come away from a session feeling anything but humbled that I’ve been let into a very personal space with each individual but also fuzzy knowing that I’ve made someone feel fabulous. Often I see clients who are coming through the other side of a life event, be it having a baby, grief, a divorce… others are just looking for a holiday wardrobe or an outfit for big events. Regardless, it is all about personalising each session, making each client feel like a VIP and seeing that smile on their face when they see themselves looking amazing. And I always do a little happy dance when clients send me photos of them either wearing outfits from their existing wardrobes that I’ve helped them discover or in new outfits we’ve bought together. That is when I know I’ve achieved my goal. 

When I design I always want my pieces to be versatile because I know how much space is at a premium when you are packing for a holiday! How would you style your favourite Sugar Sand dress two ways on a holiday?

I adore the Lalibela one shouldered dress. I’m a big fan of longer styles and this just exudes class. A lovely tan, with the gorgeous detailing, would look stunning with some gold platform sandals (I’d wear my Guccis), some statement gold hoop earrings, hair up and some subtle glowing makeup. Or, I’d dress it down a bit with some gladiator sandals, a stack of gold bangles, and if an extra layer is needed, a sheer oversize white blouse tied in a knot at the front - great for creating curves and defining your waist. You’re making me want to go on holiday now…. ! 

Mixing whites with neutrals and metallics

As you can probably tell, I am a white dress obsessive! What tips would you give clients for styling white?

Mix up your whites… it’s so classy mixing whites with off-whites and camel… and I always add different textures and layers of gold accents,  through necklaces/bangles/earrings, maybe a belt with gold details and a bag with gold hardware. Also, don’t be scared to wear white all year round. It’s great in warmer months, but winter whites (including some classy knee length white/cream boots and a cream wool or cashmere coat and a chunky white roll neck) look stunning. Lastly… and most importantly… stay away from kids with sticky fingers, as you will inevitably end up with some brown marks on your outfit (haha!). 

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