Before we begin, let’s get this straight... I am no Carrie Bradshaw (or, perhaps more apt in this situation, Rachel Green).
Sure, I’m a writer. But I’m a writer that has been known to rock holey cardigans and shoes that are well past the point of being wearable anymore.
I’m a creature of sartorial habit, a fan of comfort and totally overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choice when entering a shop.
My wardrobe consists of a lot of navy and black dresses, a pop of polka dots and a fair few florals. I stick to what I like and don’t tend to venture far out of my clothing comfort zone.
So, it is with a certain amount of trepidation that I enter Bloomingdale’s one morning to try out the personal shopping experience they offer.
I arrive early, before the store even opens, so I loiter outside, pretending to be the kind of person that often shops in places like this. Soon enough, the big gates slowly slide open, revealing a serious shoppers’ utopia and its fashionable staff within. Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York blares through the speakers.
Now that’s an entrance.
I’m led to my personal shopper for the day, Ayesha Bari, a former fashion house PR from New York, who recently found she has a talent for choosing flattering clothes for other people (and, clearly, for herself).
And so, today, she’s doing it for me – dressing me up like a real-life Cinderella, preparing me for the ball.
After a quick cup of coffee and a Magnolia Bakery cupcake (apparently they get a lot of requests for these from clients), we begin by having a little stroll around the floor so Ayesha can get a feel for my preferences and ‘style’.
We walk through the likes of Alice and Olivia, Tory Burch and Moschino, pulling out potential outfits and chatting about Ayesha’s regular clients as we go. She tells me about the lady who blindly bought more than 80 outfits for her daughter one day, and about how she’s helped pick out some red carpet looks for well-known celebs in the past.
It’s not all about garments, either. Ayesha works with the other Bloomingdale’s teams to pick out your home furnishings, make-up, accessories and more. It doesn’t matter what you want, as long as the store stocks it, then Ayesha can help you choose it.
And the best bit? It’s all completely free. You can wander into Ayesha’s vicinity any day, take as much time as you might need, and there is absolutely no obligation to buy anything (we’d like to see you try not to, though).
Taking full advantage of this golden opportunity to learn how to properly dress myself, I decide – as I spend much of my life at a desk, writing important investigative pieces about free personal shopping experiences in Dubai – I’d benefit from more transitional pieces which can be accessorised for the office and a night out. For this, we go for a flattering black and white stripy number by Opening Ceremony, with some rather jazzy Sophia Webster shoes.
Then we look for something more casual. Ayesha picks out a T-shirt and skirt from House of Holland that have bright pink and orange tassels hanging from them, to be paired with some Alexander McQueen sneakers. It’s certainly something I would never have chosen for myself, but today is the day I’m willing to give anything a go.
As I wander back into the fitting room, with its numerous mirrors and a podium, I see the walls are lined with pre-picked options ready for me to peruse.
I throw on the outfits (sometimes rather stupidly so, and Ayesha needs to help me wear it “properly”) and attempt to perfect my very own Blue Steel look for the camera. (I end up looking far more like a constipated Chandler Bing than a suave Derek Zoolander.).
While everything is lovely (I’m still sceptical of that House of Holland look, however), it’s the emerald green gown by Reem Acra I fall in love with. Cinderella will go to the ball.
Free. Bloomingdale’s, The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai (04 350 5333).
Four to try Personal shoppers
This Peruvian brand works by appointment and, as part of the personal shopping package, offers body assessment, colour testing and picks outfits that best suit you. The whole process takes between 90 minutes and two hours.
Free. Citywalk, Al Safa Street, www.michellebelau.ae (04 344 9989).
This other major department store, which stocks a wide array of brands from across the world, offers a similar personal shopping experience for men, women and kids. You tell them the occasion, and they’ll find something that looks great.
Free. Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha (04 409 8888).
The homegrown brand, which stocks pieces by local and regional designers, offers personal shopping across all concepts. This includes clothing, gifts, lifestyle items, jewellery and kidswear. Send them an email with what you need and they’ll personalise the package.
Prices vary. www.shopatsauce.com (04 346 3393).
British designer Rachel Ohan has her own unique and fun collection that’s designed with the real female figure in mind. She offers a bespoke service and will assess your body type, then tailor the clothes to fit perfectly.
Free. Voluptu, Objects & Elements, Al Quoz, www.voluptu.ae (050 625 7577).