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Ask the computer for the look that's 'you'

By June GoodwinStaff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor / September 4, 1980

New York

Dear Emily, I have a clothes problem. After I saw you on TV and read your book "Looking Terrific," I decided I could improve my image -- with a little help. Then, when I began looking for a new job, I realized that if I could dress better, coordinate things, etc., I would enhance my possibilities. Enclosed is a check for your computer wardrobe kit. . . .

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Emily Cho frequently receives "Dear Emily" letters like this.

"One lady took pictures of all the clothes in her closet just to show me she really needed help."

As the only image consultant of her kind in the United States, miss Cho knows there are many American women who want help in improving their clothes image. Her new computerized consulting service intends to meet the need of these women "who hunger for clothes advice that's geared specifically to them," as she explains it.

"I have tried to make the computer be as personal as possible," she says.

Today Miss Cho wears a bright red, Indian cotton sundress and woven sandals. Around her neck is a brass choker, an Ashanti necklace with carved cowrie shells at each end. Her black hair, which hangs below her waist when loose, is wound in a chignon at the nape of her neck.

She dissects her own image: "This outfit is right for today to meet you, but it's certainly not right to gain authority in a male office. IT's too playful, even though red usually gives authority."

She analyzes Emily Cho is the picture below.

"That photograph was for the back of the book to show I had the authority to write it. That's about as soft as an executive can look. I generally feel a little masculine and strong; therefore, I like to soften. I'm constantly sizing up and balancing the attributes of the person. It's really like painting a picture."

Her image with her clients must be a "little different, but I can't be scary." Too much jewelry makes her frightening, she says. "I have to look approachable, real, and a little bit exotic. It's tough."

About as tough as keeping her bright red lipstick unsmudged during an entire lunch. Yes, she thinks about her lipstick because when she eats hamburgers (she was eating asparagus), somehow her lipstick ends up on her chin if she's not careful. She never touches her eyes, either -- it might smear her makeup.

For 10 years Miss Cho has applied her "artist's" touch to the closets of women who are too busy to coordinate their own wardrobes and who can afford the make-over jobs.

Her clients incline toward florid adjectives to describe their transformations -- "incredible," "fantastic," "absolutely amazing."

"She has integrity," adds one woman.

"There's not one item of clothing Emily picked out that I have said we made a mistake," says Gina Toppins, who will soon change jobs from personnel work to television production.

"She wants to help a woman become more of herself, rather than make her into something," says another client. "I was in a shirtwaist, A-line skirt rut before."

Miss Cho's initial visit with a client lasta an hour and costs $100.

"I meet the woman in her closet, or she brings clothes to my office so I can see what she wears. I have come to closets where there were no clothes at all. They said they were so embarrassed that they cleaned out before I came."