Dress To Express

Find out if you're a water, fire, earth, metal or wood personality and how to realign your wardrobe to suit your cosmic chi.

My Saba shift dress has never been so closely scrutinised.

Staring at the blue tunic draping around my thighs, Fashion Feng Shui teacher Evana Maggiore confidently declares me to be 'Water'.

A room-full of heads bob in agreement.

While traditional Feng Shui experts come into your home and move furniture in order to encourage your energy flow, Evana prefers to adjust your clothing.

Using the five universal elements central to the Chinese concept of Feng Shui (water, wood, fire, earth and metal), the slim blonde American has developed a new-age theory of fashion to replace colour charts, skin analysis and personal shoppers.

According to her fans, Evana has revolutionised the world of image consultancy.

In Fashion Feng Shui everyone is connected to an element. Once you've worked out whether you're Water (philosopher), Wood (pioneer), Fire (pleasure seeker), Earth (peacemaker) or Metal (perfectionist), you can begin to dress from the inside out.

"Fashion Feng Shui is more about soul and spirit than it is about style," says Evana to a room of 25 women, who have each paid $500 for this all-day session. My fellow students range from those looking to express their inner Sienna Miller to wannabe Fashion Feng Shui masters.

After a couple of hours, I've discovered that my elemental archetype is Water, making me a natural philosopher.

Sitting in silence with the rest of the Water gang, watching the Fire group laugh and gesture wildly, I sense that Evana's archetypes might not be entirely bogus.

We're then introduced to our style personalities.

If Evana is to be believed, water women are supposed to like dark colours, flowing fabrics and solitude. Within minutes we've established that everyone in our group feels most comfortable in a dress, loves soft materials and spent their childhood playing alone.

Even so, Evana accepts that no one is likely to display all the personality traits of one elemental archetype. So once you've identified your primary archetype, it's time to ramp it up a notch.

After a few hours I'm armed with a Water body type, a skin, hair and eye colour chart, two style personalities of Water and Metal and a Wood intention.

By this point I'm starting to feel the strain, especially when three women hold me in a chair and start arguing over whether I've got Wood or Metal eyes.

But despite the barrage of jargon, Evana's appropriation of ancient Chinese theories, and a room of women who might be better off not worrying quite so much about the colour of their scarves, there is no denying some of the benefits of this idea.

Unlike other methods of wardrobe analysis, Fashion Feng Shui focuses on the individual's needs, rather than their natural ability to wear magenta.

Halfway through the day, we each present a collage of our 'Ideal Self'.

Mine is mostly pictures of Alexa Chung, but others display their hopes and dreams on two-metre long rolls of paper while the rest of the group smile on encouragingly. It's a world away from elbowing women out of the way at Myer and looking disdainfully at celebrity fashion choices in Grazia magazine.

The longer we talk about our intentions, the more I feel reassured by my current wardrobe.

Asked to bring four significant items of clothing with me, I take great delight in casting aside a brand new Audrey Hepburn style-dress that I never wear - but think I should - because it clearly isn't 'Water'.

My own needs are suddenly more important than fashion trends or the dictates of my wardrobe.

In the language of real life, Evana has helped me to notice who I am and how I can express that, while giving me practical tips about what suits me.

But I'm not sure how often I'll describe myself as 'water with a hint of metal' in polite company.

Evana Maggiore's five Fashion Feng Shui ways to recession-proof your look

Water

This element inspires us to look deep within ourselves for the answers to life's challenges. Do the same in your wardrobe.

Lurking somewhere in your closet or hidden in the depths of a drawer could be what wardrobe and style consultant Brenda Kinsel (www.brendakinsel.com), calls 'Beauty Bundles'.

A Beauty Bundle is a small group of colour-coordinated or otherwise related garments and accessories that come together to form one great-looking ensemble. For example: blue-tinted sunglasses, a big blue scarf and a blue denim jacket. Dive deep and see how many you can locate. It's getting something for nothing!

Wood

Re-invent and re-vitalise your wardrobe with the Wood element. Try taking a fresh look at your clothes and see how you can make old-hat look up-to-the-minute.

Find those clothes and accessories you've worn to death and give them a fresh start. Wear your favourite pearls with a cool t-shirt or tuck your out-of-style trousers into a trendy pair of boots.

Other times, you have to inject new life into clothes that have seen better days. I have a friend who dyes her old handbags and shoes to match the colour of the moment or to go with a new outfit.

It's amazing what a change of buttons can do for jacket or blouse. A little TLC (Tired Look Control) can go a long way when money doesn't.

Fire

The Fire element, the attention-getting energy of the universe, inspires us to step into the spotlight with our clothes.

Moschino's Cheap & Chic line (although it's not so cheap) is a fun way to wear designer-label clothes. You can also take inexpensive clothes and make them look fun and designer label-worthy.

A favourite sweatshirt of mine (my sweatshirts never really look like sweatshirts because of my Metal energy) cost less than $50. I charisma-tise it by wearing with a cashmere T-shirt, trendy shorts and sparkling jewelled sandals. It looks like a million bucks.

I actually love to mix cheap and chic. Too much cheap looks, well cheap. And, too much chic fashion victimises you.

Earth

The Earth element inspires us to practice practicality and rely on the tried-and-true.

This is not the time to experiment with your personal style. Find out what works best for you and stick to it until more prosperous times return.

Practical clothes do not have to look boring. Mindful choices assure that your wardrobe will be functional AND fabulous. By taking a few practical steps, such as making a shopping list and sticking to it, you can keep your clothing budget intact.

Metal

The energy of metal and money inspires us to choose quality over quantity.

The Universal Law of Attraction teaches that like energy attracts like energy. Since we happen to be on the subject of money, let's dress you to do just that!

To wear Metal energy choose lighter or metallic hues of your colour palette, curved style lines (in a neckline, lapel, pocket, silhouette or accessory), a polished finish or luxury fibre fabrics (prima cotton; cashmere instead of wool), and monochromatic ensembles.

Take your real jewellery out of the safe deposit box - and wear it.

Purchase a designer handbag or status watch. I have had clients report that they have upscaled their income and life because they attracted more moneyed customers, friends and lovers after they upscaled their attire.

Don't be afraid to invest in yourself.

For more information on fashion feng shui go to www.fashionfengshui.com
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