Super Shoppers

By Laura White (The Robb Report)
When Suzanne Dyer of Manhattan started her own direct-marketing business four years ago, she knew she would be marketing herself as well. Dyer needed a new image to go with her new business ___ an image that conveyed confidence, success, and individualism. “Coming from a background in academia and Wall Street, I had sort of a preppy look,” she says. “I wanted a stronger style. I wanted people to look at me and not see everyone else.”

Dyer knew what she wanted. Getting it was another matter; Dyer hates shopping. “Shopping is overwhelming, time-consuming, and frustrating,” she says. “There are just too many things spread over too many places in most stores.”

Enter Susan Dresner, a personal shopper and wardrobe consultant who heads Successful Ways & Means located in New York City. Dresner is one of a growing number of independent consultants who have entered the business. As more and more women are joining the professional work force, time demands have led many to entrust their wardrobes and budgets to personal shoppers who will arrange everything from career clothes, jewelry to hairstyles and make-up.

Dresner advises clients to spend a minimum of 10 percent of their gross incomes on their first from-scratch wardrobes, which usually means between $4000 and $7000. To Dresner such financial projections are the foundations of wardrobe planning. With her clients she prepares a plan that resembles a company prospectus, with columns labeled “priorities and immediate necessaries,” “projected needs”, “costs (actual)”, and “costs (variances)”.

However, she finds that even though her clients are professionals accustomed to dealing with the bottom line, “if you ask any of these women how much they spend on clothes during a year, they give you a blank look, shrug, and admit they didn’t have any idea. We figure a percentage of our wages for rent, buying a car, and even for vacations,” she continues. “But the image we present every day to the world we think just happens.”

“I want my clients to know exactly what they spend, what they have left over the next season,” she adds. Approaching building a wardrobe like starting a business is better understood by career women and take the mystery out of effective image planning.”

Establishing a client profile is the first step in developing her new “look”. Dresner asks customers what well-known woman they most admire. “Katharine Hepburn is the most popular”, she says. “She cuts through all age groups. Women says she has a clear sense of her own style, one that they’d like to have.” She then examines the client’s current wardrobe and prepares a list of clothing needs.

Women can count on her consultant to prune the fashion deadwood. Outfits that haven’t been worn but still occupy prime closet space are usually tossed. Items with potential are remodeled and teamed with new accessories to make fresh outfits.