Is it time to transform your life?

Advertiser journalist Caroline Whelan meets local stylist Niamh O’Donovan

It is around this time of year that one starts to give some thought to New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you are stuck in a bit of of a style rut, and are feeling a bit dowdy as we approach the festive season? Do you find yourself constantly wearing the same clothes, with no idea how to change your look? Once upon a time, the idea of hiring a stylist to sort out wardrobe issues may have seemed like a slightly frivolous concept. Nowadays thanks to fashionistas like Sonya Lennon, Brendan Courtney, and Marietta Doran, stylists have come of age.

Niamh O’Donovan began her business Simple Styling due to the demand that was out there from women for a little helping hand. And she is happy to style the men folk as well. What sets Niamh apart from the average stylist is she will also happily transform your home as well as your wardrobe.

The Gort based mother-of-three is well known in local fashion circles as the former owner of Madison boutique on Abbeygate Street. She is also one of the few local women to hold the distinction of being crowned Best Dressed Lady at the Galway Races - an accolade she picked up in 2003.

Niamh says her love of fashion began long before it became her career. “I was always dressing up in my mother’s high heels, I started that when I was about three! I worked as an air hostess with Aer Lingus for a number of years and used to fly to all the big fashion capitals like New York and Paris - that was just shopping heaven! I then opened Madison which I ran for about nine years and I loved every minute of it. It really was my dream job - styling people every day, going away on buying trips, doing fashion shows, etc. However after having my third child, I was finding it difficult to juggle childcare, and school runs, and I decided things had got a little bit too hectic. I made the decision to take a bit of time out and spend some time with the children.”

Talented

After her sojourn, the idea for Simple Styling developed following a trip to a friend’s house to lend a hand with her wardrobe. This led to a complete overhaul of the woman’s home. “After I had gone through her wardrobe, we sat down to have a cup of tea. I then started pulling apart her kitchen and sitting room. I ended up changing the whole house around. Her husband walked in a few hours later and could not believe the change - just from working with everything they had within the house. This is where the idea for the home styling came in to the equation. I am a fresh pair of eyes, and often all a room may need is furniture moved, a lick of paint, or a new pair of curtains to be transformed. The majority of houses I work on have all beautiful accessories but the homeowner may not be utilising them as best they can. The emphasis of my styling is working with what you have, and certainly not about spending a fortune on new furniture, things are improving a little but most people have not got the money for that.”

It is the same ethos regarding the clothing - there is no need to spend a fortune on new clothes. Niamh says the first part of her job is a major de-clutter. “Everyone has piles of clothes - piles and piles! Generally I empty the entire wardrobe on the bed, as most women have so much clothes they can’t even see what they have. I go through each item and ask questions about it. On average, most people only wear 30 per cent of their clothes which is very little. But if you think about yourself, we all veer towards the same things that we feel comfortable in, or we know we look good in. At the end of the process I usually have two big black bags for the charity shop. A big part of the problem for many people is they have so many clothes they can’t even see what they have.”

She will also look at things like body shape, colour, and skin tone. “I advise on simple key pieces you might be missing that would tie four or five outfits together, for example a blazer, a shirt, or a black trousers. The majority of wardrobes I have worked on, want them styled by outfit to make life easier. I can shop with someone if they want a new outfit - shopping is my speciality! I love when I go shopping and choose a piece that a person would never think of picking - and it is amazing on them. That is very rewarding. But most of the time, I work with the pieces people have.”

Make time for yourself

The stylist meets a lot of busy mothers who are looking for a little guidance with their clothes. “I work with every age group, from younger girls right up to older women but I find the majority of my client base are women like myself, who are running around after the kids, and have very little time for themselves. Between working, school runs, soccer, hurling, and everything else, life is just very very busy - but it is very important that women look after themselves as well. You feel better for it yourself - a bit of lipgloss and a fancy scarf will give anyone a lift. It is easy to be stylish on the school run with a tiny bit of effort.”

After three children herself, she has an amazing figure and is obviously impeccably groomed. She seems to radiate positivity and it is clear she gets a great buzz from her work. So how does one look this good and also be supermum? “I do a bit of gym work and I have a little gang of mammies I go walking with, I try to keep as active as possible. I definitely love my job, I don’t regard it as work. There is great satisfaction when you style someone’s wardrobe or home and they are delighted with the result.”

+Niamh O’Donovan can be contacted on 087 7101920, e-mail [email protected], or check out Simple Styling on Facebok.

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