I’m often asked by clients and people I meet how I became an image consultant. It’s not the kind of job that most of us grow up thinking about (doctor, nurse, teacher, fireman etc.). In fact, I didn’t even know of its existence as a job until I met an image consultant in 2003. But before I tell you about this, I’ll back up a few years.
When I was 16 and my body had developed to a womanly proportion, I remember going into Myer (department store) one day and trying on a pinafore (yes, it was the 1980s), and wondering why it looked so bad on me, yet had looked gorgeous on a friend of mine. It started me thinking about my body shape and its proportions and what shapes of clothes worked on my body.
I was also sewing most of my clothes at this time, I’d figured out that high waisted skirts didn’t suit, and neither did dirndls, but dropped waisted skirts looked great Trial and error was my teacher at this time.
In the early 1990s, I took a 1 day adult education course on colour and style and had my colours ‘done’ for the first time. The day was interesting, but it was a large group and I didn’t find out enough of the how and why that I really wanted to know about my body and how to dress it.
On a trip to New York in 1997, I enjoyed spending a few hours in a bookshop in the ‘Appearance’ section and discovered a world of books about image that weren’t readily available in Australia. I brought back 2 books and read them avidly, wanting to learn more.
During the mid to late 90s, I was working at Penguin Books Australia as a publicist, organising publicity tours for authors such as Stephanie Alexander, Bryce Courtney, Nick Earls and Paul Davies (amongst many others). It was a very busy job, one that I loved, but ended up having to leave in the end due to burn out in early 1999.
Not being able to figure out what I wanted to do with myself for work, I went and lived in the UK (I’m lucky enough to have an Irish passport, which allows me to travel and work in the EU). I worked for a short time in a high street jewellery store, Then I ended up working for CSC Computer Sciences, IT not ;an industry I ever thought I’d work in, and one I found rather dry on the whole, not creative enough, but I did use my time and position there to learn how to create basic websites (a skill that has been really useful when starting my business).
My Battle With PND
My son was born in Australia in 2002, having returned here in late 2001. I had no career and was taking ‘maternity leave’ from having to think about a new career. Post-natal depression and I became intimate when Aston was 3 months old but went undiagnosed until he was 8 months old. He was a hungry boy and I was breastfeeding, 2 hourly round the clock. Not living in the same state (or country) as other family members and so having no family support and a husband who was depressed at the time too, I felt lonely and alone, trapped in a small house with a child who wouldn’t sleep without screaming for 70 minutes and then vomit. I was having real trouble coping with being a mother. After having had a career that was very independent and self-directed, looking after a small person who was not interested in doing what I wanted him to and who made demands of me in a way I’d never before experienced, I found really tough. I could barely feed myself and was living on a diet of Tim Tams as the thought of getting out both bread and butter to make a sandwich was just too much for me to deal with.
Eventually, when my son and I attended a “sleep school”, the psychiatrist there diagnosed me with post-natal depression and this turned my life around. I had not realised just how badly I was coping.
I realised as I was coming out of the fog of PND that I am not made to be a full-time mother, with no work outside the home. I realised that I need challenging, work that is interesting to me to feel fulfilled and happy. I also needed some medication and ended up being prescribed the anti-depressent Zoloft, this helped me immensely, and made me feel normal again.
During my university years, I’d always thought that one day I’d like to run my own business, but I’d never figured out what that business would be. It had to be something that was a bit creative, used my interests and passions and allowed me creative freedom and also could be something that I could work around my families needs, work from home and be there for them.
Becoming an Image Consultant
It wasn’t until I met an image consultant in mid 2003 and we had a short chat about what she did and when we started talking about colour and she said to me “You have a very good eye for colour, have you ever thought about becoming an image consultant?” when suddenly a light switched on and I realised that this was a hidden passion. Something that I’d been interested in for years, yet I’d never realised that you could train to become an image consultant.
The next 6 months were spent researching image consulting as a business and training options. In early 2004 I trained and then set up my business. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and every day I count my blessings to be working in a field that I am so passionate about.
Starting and running my business helped me get over my PND, it gave me a new focus, something that I was excited about getting out of bed for each day. Something to take my mind off the constant drudgery of looking after a small child (that’s washing, changing nappies, cooking, cleaning, little in the way of adult conversation).
Isn’t it funny how our journey through life throws up opportunities to do something new and exciting? I’m so glad I grabbed hold of that idea and followed it through.& I’m so lucky that I now get to help women around the world develop their style and improve their self-esteem. It’s my life’s passion and I’m so lucky to have found my calling (and if you think it’s yours, find out about my online and classroom training options).
How about you? What small incidents have changed your life for the better?
Thanks so much for sharing your journey, Imogen. I'm not surprised to hear that color and style have been longtime interests of yours!
I can see the red thread there, which has led you to find the career of your life. I can´t place my finger on any specific incident. Meeting my husband over 36 years ago though, changed my life totally. Everything that had been forbidden in my childhood home, became possible, when I met him. I have had free hands to plan and decorate our home many times ( we have moved our quarters quite a few times ). I´m planning all the time.
What a great journey! My passion for style was kindled in a similar way – wondering why things I thought would look good on me didn't, or at least didn't look quite right, when they looked fine on other people. I'm also a modest dresser and was absolutely certain that one can dress modestly without looking like a frumpy, prairie hick chick. The study of style began and continues today!
Your story illustrates so many of the principles of finding satisfying work: follow your talents, but research the market, build skills (no matter what the job experience), look for a kind mentor, and know your preferred work setting. And best of all, you have DONE it!
I laughed about you building your interest in image consulting while working in IT. In my experience I loved the intellectual abilities- and (to generalize) they were not a crowd much concerned with how they dressed.
It's always interesting to hear how people got into certain careers, so thank you for letting us know about yours.
It's interesting how all those different career paths helped you when you finally became an image consultant.
Interesting. Is nice to hear how you got into image consulting. Quite a few different careers.
Thank you for sharing your story. Its so nice to hear when someone is getting to finally do what they are passionate about! It sounds like you really love it, and are good at it! Congrats on finding your calling.
BTW – you are so lovely! Nice photo. 🙂
Have you ever read The Celestine Prophecy? One of the first lessons is "There is no such thing as a coincidence" It is one of my favorite books. But each tragedy, each triumph leads you to where you are meant to be, IF you listen.
Good on you for listening and trusting yourself and allowing yourself to be! That is why you are so successful 🙂 xxx
What a neat story! Thank you for sharing your background with us. That's fascinating that you have previously been employed in such a variety of industries, and I didn't realized that you lived in the UK for a while, too. I'd be interested to hear more from you about dressing for different industries/workplaces based on your previous experience.
I'm good with colour too, if only I could be an image consultant..particularly considering I'll be a soon-unemployed web master. 🙁
BTW, here is a tip: when I click on the 'Inside Out Style' header from an RSS feed, I should be linking to your home page (currently getting an error).
Also, when I click on the banner/logo from any page on your website, I should return to your home page. It's a web standard. Sorry to be off topic but I'm feeling somewhat delicate today.
Fascinating story, I! The most satisfying paths are usually convoluted – the more we know (though crazy life experience) the more we can get to our core goals. And you are obviously doing something you love and at which you excel.
I love learning about your journey. I very much appreciate your honesty. So often people spin their story and leave out the bumpy bits that required a new road to be forged.
Happy New Year,Imogen! I hope this year is filled with dreams come true.
Thanks for sharing your story about PND. People very close to me have experienced it and it is not joke. I do think having something else to focus on helped them immensely. The Zoloft helped them all too!
Oh wow, this is so inspiring for me! Ever since I was 12 I've known I wanted to be an entrepreneur and I'm pretty sure I want my business to be in fashion but I'm not sure what subfield to focus on. I just discovered your blog and absolutely love it. I've got a lot of reading to do. Please keep up the great work!
That was a really illuminating and positive story, Imogen. Thanks for sharing it with us.
I admire your approach and engagement with the world.
Thanks for sharing your journey. I always fascinated by how people find their career paths. Thank you for sharing your journey.
I’m so happy you found your path, because you have been a great blessing to me, and many others. It would be lovely if we could skip over the depressing days, but of course that’s not real life. It gives us a measuring stick, so think of those days as a tool you used to craft a better you. Well done!
Thanks Gayle – me too! It has totally changed my life in so many ways for the better.