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The Shop Doctors

It’s a new year and time for a wardrobe overhaul

Judy Domenici

Photos by Barbara Ries and Tim Porter

If you’ve pictured being featured on TLC’s What Not to Wear, or your wardrobe just needs an overhaul, it may be time to call in a pro. This New Year’s is your cue to seek out an image consultant and professional shopper.

“I’m going to take the anxiety out of it,” Judy Domenici says. This Larkspur resident and image consultant is confident and petite, with an infectious energy. “If a client says they need me to go and find them an outfit for the holidays, I’ll go to the store beforehand and pull a few pieces so it won’t overwhelm them.”

Today, Domenici is at Greenbrae boutique Lindisima with owner Linda Bottmeyer. Perfectly coiffed, she has a quick eye, scouring the racks for just the right frock, keenly aware of different price points to work with her clients’ various budgets. As a personal shopper, Domenici has relationships with most of the boutique owners in Marin, which allows her to hold numerous items for a client and get the inside scoop on pieces that will be coming in for the next season.

“I don’t have a typical client,” she says. “My clients come from all walks of life. I have clients who are experiencing life changes, such as divorce, loss of a spouse or weight changes, or those who have made a career change.”

“I discovered Judy a year ago at a fundraiser for CASA, Court-Appointed Special  Advocates program,  when I bid on her donated  services,” says Kathleen Mohn. “After winning the bid, I prepared mentally for an outsider to invade my closet and help me. Surprisingly, the time with Judy turned out to be fun. She shopped in my closet, saving me money for at least two seasons and revived six jackets that hadn’t been worn in years—suggesting alterations on two,” she says.

Domenici, who charges $140 per hour, says generally before she ever steps into a store or a client’s closet, she will discusses the person’s goals and desired results. The next step is a closet update, which clears out what does not work and makes room for what does work. “My end goal is that my clients’ closets and wardrobes be a reflection of who they want to be,” says Domenici.

Kristen Harper left her work as a psychologist to attend to both the inside and outside of a client’s persona. Her Wing Woman Consulting firm can help with anything from shopping for a single event to a total closet revamp.

“We have two different types of clients,” she says. “The workaholic client who has no time for her- or himself and the fashionably challenged client who may have the time but not the knowledge about personal style.”

With hourly rates of $150 or a monthly retainer option of $1,500, her aid doesn’t come cheap, but Harper’s approach is the person’s whole package—which could include a total hair and beauty makeover or even advice like which nonprofits might help expand a client’s professional network.

First, she finds out about her clients’ lifestyle and what they want their appearance to say about themselves. “Then we identify certain looks that appeal to them and from there go to the closet. You have to identify pieces that they haven’t worn for a year and figure out why they are keeping them.” She next organizes the closet by season and occasion and shops for needed pieces.

“As a personal shopper I want to enhance my clients’ presentation personally, socially and professionally. This is a fast-paced world and we only have an instant to make a first impression.”

Tara Kitami just recently started Kitami Ropa, her image consulting and personal shopping business, but the effervescent San Rafael resident has 15 years’ experience in the fashion industry as a buyer for successful boutiques and producer of fashion shows. “In this economy, it is imperative, now more then ever, to make smart choices with any kind of purchase, especially clothing,” she says. “We start with a lifestyle assessment to find out needs, desires and wants. We then write up a plan of action. Once we have created a unique, tailored plan, we typically do a closet audit.”

Kitami, who charges $125 for a general assessment appointment and then the same rate per hour for all services, says people often fall into trends without considering what will look good on their body shape. “People have said to me, ‘Once I lose a few pounds I’ll go shopping.’ You need to dress your body now, and once you feel good with who you are now, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish, including losing that extra weight,” she insists. “Quality clothes can be taken in, but clothes that never work are a waste of time and money.” She also offers a 24-hour wardrobe crisis hotline and sends out a monthly newsletter with tips and advice.

Kitami’s client June Ahern, a life coach, used her services while preparing for a book tour in Manhattan. “It was a  treat, especially in these economic times,” says Ahern. “It was the best gift I could have given myself.” Kitami brought various choices for Ahern’s self-described ‘goddess’ body-type and even worked through her closet to donate six garbage bags of clothes to charity. Ahern says if you’re wary of hiring a personal shopper, at least let her come over and give you ideas. “I wore that outfit she picked out in Manhattan and I felt confident. I felt like stepping out. I had a spring in my step. She has an eye and she surprised me. And you know what, down to the shoes, she got it right.”

Anyone can benefit from an image consultant, but even if you can’t afford it, all three women say, the one thing you should absolutely require in your closet is order. And that’s free.

For more information about personal shoppers contact Judy Domenici, 415.517.2514; Tara Kitami/Kitami Ropa, 415.368.6616, kitamiropa.com; Kristen Harper, 415.533.7083, wingwomanconsulting.com.

CAPTIONS: (Middle) Tara Kitami, (bottom) Kristen Harper

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