Wardrobe-and-etiquette consultant Guillaume Coutheillas says a useful makeover can be as simple as getting rid of clothes not buying more
This self-improvement fad isn’t going away anytime soon.
With the popularity of self-improvement shows like “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and “What Not to Wear,” many Americans are making changes for the better. A makeover doesn’t need to be an extreme “Botox, veneers and liposuction” transformation like that Cinderella train-wreck, “The Swan.” And sure, some solid advice can be gleaned from these programs. But nothing compares to getting your own one-on-one consultation with an expert.
Meet Parisian transplant Guillaume Coutheillas, gay owner of Dallas’ LifeStyleDesign Services. Coutheillas specializes in taking wardrobes from blah to ooh-la-la.
Raised in a household that emphasized social etiquette, Coutheillas says he grew up in immersed in fine art and the fine art of entertaining. After a strict education in private Catholic school, Coutheillas attended college and earned an MBA in marketing, a masters in communication, and he attended Columbia University as an exchange student.
“I’m actually a bit over-qualified for what I do,” Coutheillas laughs. “But I enjoy it, and Dallas is the perfect market for my services. In New York, there may be a thousand people who do what I do. Here, there aren’t.”
Coutheillas says he’s a go-to guy for local media outlets seeking expertise on style and etiquette. Young, handsome and poised, he epitomizes European chic. His services include image consultation, personal shopping, and wardrobe editing or what Coutheillas calls, “closet surgery”.
“People bring in their clothes, and we go through them one by one and determine what’s good and what isn’t,” he explains.
Garments deemed acceptable are judged on suitable fit, fabrics, style and where the client plans to wear them. Some items are immediately tossed to the curb.
“I’ve had women cry. Many people have an emotional attachment to a particular shirt or something, and I understand that. They don’t have to get rid of it. They just have to promise not to wear it,” he says.
Nothing is actually thrown away. If the client doesn’t have a preferred charity, Coutheillas donates castoffs to Attitudes and Attire, a non-profit agency that helps women build confidence, find employment and become self-sufficient. Every two weeks, Coutheillas works pro bono for the group, providing workplace etiquette and other social-skills training.
While most of his clients are women, he does have a roster of male clientele.
“Straight men are easy,” Coutheillas says. “The improvements can be seen quickly and they usually don’t argue with my decisions.”
Gay men, however, can be a challenge.
“Many gay men are stuck in one extreme or another. They’re either dressing too young for their age, or too old,” he explains. “I have one client who’s about 41, but he looks 55. He’s single, and this is a problem.”
Is the 41-year-old trying to look twentysomething?
“Men shouldn’t wear belly shirts or anything like that after, well, like 25 years old,” Coutheillas says.
In Coutheillas’ opinion, gay men are more casual in many social settings than straight men because they know how to pull it off. But that doesn’t mean they put in any less effort. Coutheillas says gay men spend more time trying to appear effortlessly attired.
What are the mainstays of a man’s wardrobe?
“A good, fitted leather jacket. Brown. And tweed is always good,” he advises.
For women, he recommends accessories that showcase each season’s trendy colors. Also, main wardrobe components should be in classic colors that don’t go out of style.
What’s this season’s hot color?
According to Coutheillas, deep purple. And for men, the hot 2006 look is “hard rock” lots of black and (gasp!) leather pants.
“But they have to be good leather pants that fit,” he says.
While Coutheillas’ services aren’t cheap, they aren’t out of reach. An initial consultation runs $75, but the cost is credited back if the client purchases a service package.
“I don’t have celebrity clients. Or super-rich ones, either,” he says.
In fact, when he takes his clients shopping, you’re just as likely to see him picking through racks at Target and T.J. Maxx as you are at Neiman-Marcus. Forever 21 is also high on his list for women: The company announced that it’s adding a men’s line soon, which excites Coutheillas.
“Fashion doesn’t have to be expensive,” he says.
His favorite stores for men include Zara and Ahab Bowen, the vintage boutique in Uptown.
“For last year’s Black Tie Dinner, I went to [Ahab Bowen] and got this great tuxedo for like $55 and everybody was asking where I got it,” he remembers.
And speaking of the Black Tie Dinner, if a man finds himself without a tuxedo, he recommends finding a vintage one and getting it tailored.
“You’ll spend less than a rental, and it’ll look so much better,” he says.
He also reassures that a nice black suit is just as appropriate for semi-formal event.
But whether your social calendar finds you at black-tie affairs, buttoned-up corporate functions or simply planning a first date, Coutheillas can help you find your best-dressed look.
For more information, visit www.makeoverdallas.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, September 15, 2006.