Last week, Avril Charnock talked about her style after retirement. In this week’s interview, Sarah Guerra talks about kicking her confidence-busters, and the joy of dressing for herself.
There comes a time in a woman’s life when she has to decide to keep playing it safe, or to take some chances in the wardrobe department. Sarah Guerra was at that crossroad when I met her.
‘I spent so much time trying to make myself look like other people,’ she says. ‘I always had a fear of looking and feeling stupid. I had lots of hang-ups from my childhood. If you wear certain things, people will make assumptions. It’s not that I don’t care what people think. My hang-ups came from wanting approval – of being liked and being accepted.’
What inspired me to interview Sarah was her honesty and bravery in the image consultations we’d done together. She voiced thoughts that many of us might feel, but would hesitate to admit so openly.
There’s a good kind of vulnerability in her strong sense of self. She’s fun, down to earth and humble. But she’s also confident and direct. Her style mirrors her bold personality.
‘Being inauthentic takes up so much energy,’ she reveals. Clothes can create illusions, concealing our niggling fears.
‘Wearing a suit can fool people into thinking you know what you’re doing. I used to think if I painted my nails and did my make up, that would get me through the day. I thought what I wore was more important than what I actually said.’
Sarah’s clothes are no longer a way of hiding or blending in. ‘Now my clothes say that I’m confident and individual.’
And she’s definitely walking the talk. Sarah was about to start a new job when I interviewed her. When I asked what she’d bought for the new higher-visibility role, she said ‘nothing, actually! Previously I would have bought new stuff to create “the character.” But I’ve realized I’m good at what I do – I don’t need to create a character. I’m really comfortable in my own skin.’
I ask how it feels to kick those confidence-busters, and finally dress for herself. ‘I’m so much happier, she adds. ‘I feel like the world is there for the taking.’
Biggest fashion disaster? ‘I can’t really identify a particular fashion disaster. I never took any risks. From a young age, I was always so middle of the road.’
Best outfit ever? ‘A slinky black Karen Millen dress with silver embroidery that I bought 10 years ago. I went to a wedding in Sydney, Australia, as my gay best friend’s date. The whole experience was so exciting – it was the closest thing I’d had to a family wedding. That outfit made me feel glamorous and sexy. It was the most money I’d ever spent on a dress. One thing I’ve realised is that I’ll never be elegant – but that dress made me feel whatever my version of elegant is. It was really special.’
Advice for women seeking their own style? ‘Have a session with a stylist. You’ll learn to trust yourself more. And don’t worry about other people’s opinions, or take on their negativity. Just dress for yourself.’
Next week, meet Emma Louise.