The dress that changed my life: Four women tell their inspirational style stories

The dress that changed my life: Four women tell their inspirational style stories



08:19 GMT, 25 June 2012

The dress that . . . got me my perfect man

Lissy Scarlett, 28, is an events organiser who lives in London. She says:

Lissy Scarlett

Lissy Scarlett

Chris and I have been together for
six months and are now planning to move in together, but I’m convinced
that if I hadn’t worn this black Issa dress on our first date, it might
never have happened.

From the moment Kate Middleton appeared
on Prince William’s arm at their engagement, I adored her style. I
coveted an Issa dress like the one she’d worn, but they were out of my
price range.

I began scouring, a
discount clothes website, and found this black silk jersey Issa dress at
200, a fraction of the original price.

It arrived
just in time for my first date with Chris, which I was very nervous
about. We’d been friends for ten years but I’d begun to see him in a
different light.

It had taken that long for me to
realise that I liked him as more than just a friend but I had no idea
how he felt about me. So I summoned the courage to ask him out on a
‘proper’ date.

I knew I
was putting our friendship at risk by asking, so I was relieved when he
agreed. That’s why I felt it was so important for me to look different
on that date to how he usually saw me.

I wanted to look like elegant girlfriend material. When I saw him as a friend, I’d wear an old pair of jeans and a top.

wore the Issa dress with a black jacket from Hobbs and black Reiss
heels and felt amazing. The date, at a champagne bar in West London,
went so well that neither of us wanted the evening to end.

didn’t kiss that night but I knew he shared my feelings when he texted
half an hour after the date ended, telling me how beautiful he thought
my dress was. We became inseparable after that. Sometimes a dress really
can change the course of your life.

The dress that . . . changed my body for ever

Kirsty Longford, 27, is a receptionist. She lives in Coventry with her boyfriend Tommy. She says:

Kirsty Longford

Kirsty Longford

I’ve always been overweight, and
when I turned 21, I couldn’t even climb stairs without getting out of
breath. I weighed 17st 11lb and was a size 24.

Most depressingly, my weight
affected what I wore. Only a couple of High Street shops stocked my
size, so I’d swathe myself in jeans, baggy hoodies and trainers.

remember watching my sister, Shelley, try on a size 10 blue silk,
strapless dress and thinking: ‘If I had the figure, I’d love to wear a
dress like that.’
So I set myself a goal weight — 10st 7lb.

ditched junk food in favour of healthy homemade meals with snacks of
fruit and veg rather than crisps and biscuits. I also joined a
ladies-only gym and started to enjoy going every night after work.

It took 13 months to lose almost 7st — it was a lot of weight, but I was determined.

Deep down I couldn’t believe I’d lost
that much, so when I went shopping with Shelley and she dragged me into
Warehouse, I protested, forgetting that I was now a size 12 and could
fit into their clothes.

was there I saw the dress. The colour caught my eye and I picked it up
before realising it was one-shouldered which I would normally deem too
risque for me.

But Shelley convinced me to try it on and I was speechless. For the first time in my life, I felt young and feminine.

The dress cost 80 — more than I’d usually spend — but I didn’t give it a second thought.

first time I wore it was to a university friend’s wedding and I think I
was smiling more than the bride! I got loads of comments about how
amazing I looked.

managed to stay at my target weight for the past two years and I put it
down to that dress. The thought of putting weight back on and not being
able to wear it destroys me.

It hasn’t just changed the way I look — it’s changed the way I feel about myself for good.

The dress that . . . inspired my career

Mena Ryan, 34, is married to jeweller Nick Bartley. She is creative director of her own fashion company and has a son, Hogan, two. She lives in Pimlico, central London. She says:

Mena Ryan

Mena Ryan

I was just 11 when I found the dress that set me on my lifelong career path. Every Saturday, I’d accompany my mum to the local market and loved one particular stall that sold vintage clothes.

I was growing up with brash Eighties fashions and found these beautiful pieces from the Forties to the Seventies a wonderful antidote.

I really wanted to work on her stall but was too young to have a paid job, so I asked if I could work in exchange for a vintage piece each week, and, amazingly, she agreed.

The first item I chose was a Sixties maxi-dress which was way too large for me.

I didn’t care, I just loved the colours, the print and the style. It captured the relaxed, happy feeling of summer.

Although the dress was too big, I
kept it folded neatly at the top of my wardrobe and vowed not only that
I’d wear it one day, but that I’d pursue a career in fashion, too.

first time I went out in it was aged 17 on a girlie holiday to LA with
my sister. I styled it with flat sandals and a vintage tote and it
looked as good as I thought it would when I spotted it six years before.

Since then, it has come out every summer, for lunches, shopping trips and relaxed barbecue dinners.

But, most importantly, it set me on my career path. I adored selling dresses on the stall and then afterwards at a boutique.

when I was 24, I opened a shop with one of my sisters, and after
working for eight years as a buyer, I decided to create my own label,
making dresses using vintage prints like the one on my cherished maxi.

Two years ago, I launched my label, Ingenue London.

my designs are new, my passion for vintage has never faded.

I love to
see history through clothes and think of the women who wore them.

all these years, the Sixties maxi is still my favourite summer dress
and it reminds me of my gutsy, 11-year-old self.

It marked the key
moment in my life that led to the career I love.

The dress that . . . won me my dream job

Sue Sherring, 44, from St Albans, Hertfordshire, is the managing director of a dating agency. She says:

Sue Sherring

Sue Sherring

I have always felt that what you wear has a big influence on how you feel and interact with others. When you’re dressed up, you’re more confident socialising; when you look professional at work, people take you more seriously.

Earlier this year, I was preparing for the most important interview of my life — to become managing director of a large dating agency.

I’d spent the past 15 years in marketing agencies where you can wear jeans and flip-flops and nobody cares, but this job was corporate and high-profile, and it was crucial I looked the part.

I wanted a change of direction for my career, so I was looking at dresses I’d never normally have considered. I looked in shops such as Zara, Reiss and Hobbs, but none of the dresses I tried on felt like me.

I was starting to think I’d never find the right one until, finally, I spotted this dark blue dress in the Preen concession of Debenhams. When I saw it, I felt that rare excitement you get when you know you’re going to love something.

As soon as I tried it on, I felt stylish and powerful. The colour was just right — sober without being gloomy, and I knew it was ‘the one’. It was very flattering, too — I’m 5ft 7in and a size 8-10, but I hate my legs so I was glad to find a knee-length dress.

The interview went really well. I was nervous beforehand, but wearing this dress gave me the extra confidence I needed. Thankfully, I got the job.

Usually, my style is very casual, but this is one of the smartest dresses I’ve ever owned, even though it was only 75. It’s more fitted than I usually go for and I always get compliments when I wear it.

Now I keep it for important meetings, and every time I put it on, I’m reminded that it changed my life for the better.

I could have carried on in marketing, but I knew I wanted to be the boss.

Now I’m doing a job I truly love — and I know my dress gave me the confidence to get there. I think every woman should have a dress that makes them feel that way.

Four dresses that could change your life

Yellow and beige, 42,

Yellow and beige, 42,

Red dress, 225,

Red dress, 225,

Blue print, 40,

Blue print, 40,

Yellow, 70,

Yellow, 70,