Women who want to look more businesslike, more glamorous, more elegant, or just more current are seeking help from a growing field of specialists: the wardrobe consultants.
Many of these clothing advisers have private services, while some stores are offering wardrobe consulting.
The consulting services work in various ways. In New York, Emily Cho, who has been a consultant for 10 years, considers herself to be one of the "veterans" in the field. She is a Cornell University graduate who has worked on several fashion publications and is a co-author of the book "Looking Terrific."
Miss Cho's fashion consulting and shopping service, called "New Image," now has more than 300 private clients, many of whom come season after season to buy her guidance at $50 an hour. New clients pay her an initial fee of $100 for discussion and analyses and a second $100 research fee for which Miss Cho spends about four hours scouting stores and assembling a completely coordinated wardrobe for the individual.
Says Miss Cho, "I help them identify their own personal style. And I don't consider this a superficial approch at all since the demand of society today is that women not only perform well but look terrific."
In Seattle, Jan Mclaughlin and Camilla Nowinski have run a fashion consulting service called "J'ambry" for more than three years. They charge a flat $30 an hour for all aspects of their service, and their average total fee is $150. They make home calls, even going through their clients' closets, or they consult and gather individual wardrobes in their office.
Their customers range in age from 14 to 75, although the majority are in their 40s. Many are career women, but just as many are homemakers and mothers who need wardrobes for their volunteer work, travel with their husbands, and entertaining.
About half their clients come back each season or so for additional help. "We just want to simplify life for women," said Jan McLaughlin in a telephone interview. "And to let them get on with their lives knowing that they look right. We always work out a basic wardrobe plan which enables them to easily put themselves together."
In many small specially shops, such as Nan Duskin in Philadelphia, fashion consulting has long been a carefully cultivated art and service. Nan Duskin's sales staff is trained to give such assistance, and most customers expect it. This may include assembling and coordinating a suit, coat, hat, purse, jewelry, shoes, and even hosiery for an individual customer.