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STYLE: Every week is buy week for these personal shoppers

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Gabrielle Poshadlo

An old friend from my hometown in Michigan recently asked me to shop for her. She’d lost some weight and found herself not only in need of clothes that fit, but for the first time caring what they look like.

I was happy to help her, and knew it would be easy since I’ve known her half my life. But as I scoured my favorite online shopping haunts to choose items to suit the “laid-back musician look” she’d envisioned, I wondered how the pros do it. I trust my eye in selecting things for myself and my friends, sure, but more goes into that than knowing what silhouettes most flatter which body shape. It helps to know their ambitions, their sense of humor, their penchant for, say, all things film noir. There’s some truth to that expression, “Don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want.” One’s clothes say a lot about a person and therefore picking them is no easy task.

Below, I’ve profiled three personal shoppers who possess not only a knack for dressing people but a background to qualify each as an expert in looking good. Heck, I’d trust them to dress me.

Murph Damron, MDImage

Long before she became an Indianapolis-based consultant for the U.S. Shoe Corp. conducting wardrobe seminars for brands like Casual Corner and Petite Sophisticate, Damron was modeling in Vogue and walking in fashion shows for a very young Betsey Johnson.

The transition to personal shopping came naturally, she said, because other people had been dressing her since adolescence.

“There’s a technique to dressing someone, of course, but being a personal shopper is like modeling. You either have it or you don’t,” she said. With high-profile clients such as IPL chief Ann Murtlow and Larry Bird’s wife, Dinah, Damron specializes in dressing women often in the spotlight.

She likes to start with what a client already has, and simply fill in the gaps. Damron charges $75 per hour for personal shopping services, plus double the state sales tax on purchases, as she’ll travel out of state to find that perfect item.

Sola Adelowo, ImageCube

As a certified image consultant and inches away from earning her MBA, Adelowo takes a decidedly scientific approach to personal shopping. She offers the option as an add-on for other consulting services, like devising career strategy or personal branding.

In order to select garments that align with an individual’s goals and unique traits, Adelowo administers a personality test.

“I need to understand each client on a very deep level, otherwise my advice won’t stick,” she said.

Adelowo focuses on those who work in high-stress and traditionally formal business environments, which has made WellPoint Inc. executives among her largest clients. Adelowo bills 20 percent of the total clothing purchases. As executive director and co-producer of Indianapolis-based Midwest Fashion Week, Adelowo is also applying her knack for making good impressions to the local fashion industry as a whole.

Stephen Garstang, Garstang

After studying at Tufts University and the Fashion Institute of Technology, Garstang began his career in fashion in 1996 selling his clothing line “Garstang” at Barney’s in New York City and Fred Segal in Hollywood.

When he moved back to his native Indianapolis in 2000, his first project was dressing Tamara Zahn, president of Indianapolis Downtown Inc. for the Nordstrom opening at Circle Center mall. With Zahn, and every other client, he first tries revamping the existing wardrobe, like taking out shoulder pads or adjusting hems. He says the process helps the client save money, but it also teaches him a lot about who they are and where they’ve been.

“I look at it like being a doctor. It’s important to know your patient, not just on their good days but also on their bad,” he said.

When shopping for a client, Garstang focuses largely on vintage because he says it’s the best quality for the price. If he can’t find the right blouse, dress or suit, he’s also willing to design something custom. As a base, Garstang charges $175 for a consultation and $65 per hour thereafter. Day, weekly and travel rates are negotiable.•

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If you’d like to share your own style ideas or know anyone who’s making waves in the fashion community, contact Poshadlo at gposhadlo@ibj.com. This column appears monthly.

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