Style and Substance

Meet The Stylist: Sarah Shah

A Houston image consultant on why most makeovers don't stick.

By Sarah Gabbart January 17, 2014

“Image isn’t everything,” says local "image consultant" Sarah Shah. “It’s just a tool. Substance is everything—but people can’t get to know your substance unless they’ve gotten through your image.” Shah's vibe is less What Not to Wear and more “what do you want to wear?” She doesn’t want her Houston clients—who range from medical and finance professoionals to small business owners and creative types—to shape themselves to fit the world around them.

Kathi Crawford: before (inset) and after. Photos by Pink Posh Photography.

It's almost as if she engineers escapes from the mind-constricting, fashion-blind world of corporate Houston. Take Kathi Crawford, the founder of People Possibilities, a consulting firm specializing in leadership coaching and human capital development. Crawford faced a big challenge when she transitioned from working in the ultra-conservative corporate world to running a successful consulting business. Her clothes were very traditional and, frankly, aged her way beyond her years.  Shah worked with her to find something that showed prospective clients a savvy and competent businesswoman. 

“How do you help someone [like Kathi] present the image they want?” Shah asks. “For me, you start with the human, then go to the dress code [of their industry or profession]. Most people in the image business start with trends or fashion or the dress code, and make it fit someone's life. I think that’s why most makeovers don’t stick—they’re not about the person first.” 

She says that while your image is an important part of your success, it's just one piece of the puzzle. The way you present yourself, says the former physicist and author of Dress Yourself Skinny, is a “sorting mechanism” for the world, and if you put your most authentic foot forward in a way that you feel most comfortable, it’s easier for people to connect with you. 

For Crawford, her makeover didn't end when the closet door shut. Her wardrobe empowerment has helped grow her business—even her clients have noticed.

"Now, I love what I see in the mirror and my clothes make me feel empowered and confident," Crawford said to Shah in a testimonial. "And, guess what? My clients have noticed and have commented about how much more relaxed, confident and approachable I am.”

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