Skip to content

Pink, purple, romantic & naïve

The style-book experience
Maria Lobanova and Susan Lundy. On Susan: Pink cashmere sweater by Cashmere Clouds ($195) and cashmere scarf, both from Bagheera Boutique.

SUSAN: Pretty in pink?

I probably snorted when Maria Lobanova offered to create personalized style books for me and my colleague, Lia Crowe. I am a jeans-boots-and-black-sweater gal; my colours are black, black and black, and my go-to wardrobe is easy, comfortable and “quiet.” I am not your dance-on-the-tables type, and my clothing says that.

Lia, on the other hand, is an ex-fashion model who has met and walked on the runway for iconic fashion designer Alexander McQueen. She directs and shoots Boulevard’s fashion stories, and always seems to be wearing exactly the right outfit for the occasion.

“Lia is your woman,” I said to Maria. “I have no style sense, whatsoever.”

But when I saw Lia’s style book, a multi-page wonder of personalized style information, I thought to myself, well, why not? Maybe I am a bit curious.

Supplying Maria with the necessary photos and documents took a bit of time and thought. She needed photos of my face with my hair back, full-body shots from different angles, and a selection of other images, some that seemed random, liked photos that showed interior design and architecture preferences. It was an interesting exercise.

Maria usually conducts an in-person meeting with her clients; however, I was away at the time. So, she relied on my photos to figure out my body shape, as well as my “DNA,” which would determine my overall look. Would my DNA be classic, romantic, naïve, folk or dramatic?

The style book Maria created was hugely detailed. The 70-plus pages that I received, along with a 90-minute Zoom presentation, really covered spectrum of personal style. My DNA, Maria determined, is a mix of naïve (ha ha, so appropriate) and folk, and the book started out with a description of these style categories, focusing mostly on naïve. It also identified my body shape and suggested complementary clothing silhouettes in everything from jackets to dresses and pants.

The book gave a colour palette for the naïve DNA, along with ideas for colour combinations. In the ‘80s, I was “colour draped” by season, a method made popular back in the day by the Carole Jackson book Color Me Beautiful. Ever since, I’ve gravitated to “fall” colours. So, I was surprised to see beautiful pastels, rich blues and greens and pinks in my colour palette. Black is also there (phew) but Maria recommended against wearing it in the “portrait zone.” (There goes half my wardrobe.) But I do love the naïve colour palette; it is heavy on pinks, which I rarely wear, but to which I’m definitely drawn.

Next came fabric recommendations; for me, rough textures like tweeds and linens. This prompted me to pull out a textured coat that sat forgotten in a back closet. I love this coat! Why was it hidden away? It even fits my body-shape silhouette recommendations.

The book also included naïve-oriented fabric prints, as well as shades and styles of jewellery, shoes and bags, makeup and nails.

The remainder of the book included pages and pages of my head photoshopped onto the bodies of models wearing naïve styles, ranging from casual wear to evening wear and sportswear, romantic looks, even nighttime outfits. Although Maria mostly included naïve styles in the book, she also added several from the folk DNA, using the naïve colour palette.

The whole idea around the naïve DNA is wearing clothes that are girlish, playful and fun. After much consideration, I realized that while I like to add some playful elements to my looks, layers of fun clothes with bows and polka dots, as shown in some of the style-book images, are not really my vibe. However, I loved the more boho-style direction of the folk looks that Maria offered, and when we met later at Bagheera Boutique, I was really keen on the naïve-style clothes she pulled for me.

Ultimately, the entire experience really got me thinking about style and fashion and personal expression, even self-artistry.

Lia said she loves fashion “because it tells the world about you.” And this is the crux of it, really, because when you feel comfortable in what you’re wearing, you feel comfortable in yourself.

The style-book experience has given me permission to explore different colours and silhouettes. A lot of my current wardrobe does not fit into the style-book suggestions, but this doesn’t mean I’m going to dump everything and start again. But I will definitely add some crucial pieces to my wardrobe, explore more playful elements and embrace new colours. Goodbye black. Hello pink!

On Susan Lundy: Paisley blazer by Circolo 1901 ($545), white jeans by Raffaello Rossi ($345) from Bagheera Boutique. On Lia Cowe: Dress by Circolo 1901 ($425) from Bagheera Boutique. 100% silk scarf by Maria de Lamar ($325) from Bagheera Boutique or Photographed at Bagheera Boutique Victoria.



LIA: In love with romance

If I’m being totally honest, even though I “should” know how to style myself and do my own makeup by now, I actually get it wrong a lot of the time. I know that I still have room for improvement and could be dressing way more feminine.

One thing I learned from my time as a model was to trust the professionals but also to interpret their advice for my lifestyle (which is obviously no longer walking the street of Paris or Milan) and still incorporate my quirky self in there somewhere.

I also see that people can sometimes get stuck in a “look” that no longer serves them; they don’t evolve as they age and so that is in my mind a lot. How do I evolve and honour this stage of life, stay somewhat current, look the best I can with what I naturally have, and still have fun with it?

The style book Maria created was both affirming and surprising. According to her formula, I am “classic” (always my go-to) but she also labeled me as primarily “romantic.” This is true of how I like to see the world—imagine a lavishly draped Italian Renaissance painting—but it is certainly not how I have been dressing. And my colours, according to Maria, should be heavy in purples and teals!

My style book was full of colours I never wear, dusty pinks and shades of violet and lilac in rich velvet, silk and brocade. I was shocked. Could this be right? But as I flipped through the many pages of runway looks, where Maria had photoshopped my head on to the model’s body, I had to admit that the romantic vibe looked pretty good.

I wanted to honour the work Maria had done, so I thought I would dip my toe into this “fairy queen” aesthetic and see what would happen. An easy place to start was with a manicure because, as most women know, choosing a nail colour is one of the most challenging decisions in life (wink, wink). That moment, when they hand you the carousel of 10,000 different colours and ask you to choose one, gives me a deer-in-the-headlights feeling every time, and I inevitably choose the wrong colour. This time I walked into the nail salon, showed them the manicure photo from my “style book” and pointed to a deep plummy-burgundy colour.

The result? I’ve never in my life had so many compliments on a nail colour, and every time I looked down at my hands it was very pleasing.

It’s funny, I can usually see on other people when their personal style really isn’t serving them well, but it’s really hard to see it on yourself! This whole experience was a bit of a wakeup call to put some attention towards my outward presentation, and I’m reminded that it is something that needs periodic revisiting (especially in middle age). It also reminded me what a huge method of self-care it is and that I can do better than I have been, even if it’s purely for my own delight.