updated 17 Aug 2012, 13:15
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Wed, Aug 15, 2012
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Helping women everywhere dress to their potential
by Candice Cai

The "wearapist" is in.

American fashion host and stylist Jeannie Mai from E! channel's "How do I Look" and Diva Universal's "Fashion Star" programmes stopped by Singapore last month for a short visit, and I had the opportunity to have a one-on-one shopping trip with her.

The no. 1 style tip I gleaned from the pint-sized fire-cracker? Don't be afraid to tailor your store-bought outfits to suit your frame and body type.

I accompanied the half-Chinese and half-Vietnamese styling whiz as she went about what she does best - shop. And along the way, I picked up some useful style tips as well.

Mai, 31, showed me how a simple shift dress could be tailored to flatter my frame more just by stitching it up by an inch, and having it tapered slightly towards the hem.

As I griped about the size of my hips, Jeannie gently reassured that "curves are fabulous". She shares that to make her boyish frame look more curvy, Mai even tailors her shorts to make her hips 'pop'.

And as she picked out clothes for me and nipped and tucked them to perfection, I could feel my confidence soar.

If this is "wearapy", as Jeannie calls it, I'm in.

Mai's mantra is that there is a definite connection between what you wear on the outside and how you feel on the inside - a connection she coins the "psychology of style".

Another style tip? Buy metallic belts that can be used to jazz up any outfit. "It's so hard to find a good one, when I see one, I grab it," says Mai.

Besides dispensing style tips and tricks, the former make-up artist also took the time to answer some of our questions:

Q: Welcome to Singapore. It is not your first time here, so what do you love most about Singapore, and your favourite Singaporean food item so far?

A: Mai fave thing about Singapore is how much everybody smiles, it is so welcoming. The second thing I love about Singapore is the melting pot of accents. I love the style in Singapore, let’s not forget that passion is playful, and the more that I can see people taking risks the more I can see there is a great future ahead for the many ways that cultures can inspire each other.

Mai fave food? I am a spicy girl so it would have to be Laksa, although I just discovered that toast with the crust cut off could be mai next new diva request here in the States.

Q: "How do I look?" How often do people come up to you with that line, and are you ever sick of it?

A: (I am) never sick of it, it is an honour to advise people on what they can do to look and feel better about themselves. It’s just painful when they start crying.

Q. Do you use that line on anyone, and whose taste do you trust most?

A: I absolutely think it’s healthy to ask that of people around you, who know that you just want to be at your best. Thankfully I have a husband (American television presenter Freddy Harteis) who knows mai closet well enough to help me dress to mai potential too.

Q. Your retorts when subjects ask "how do I look?" are some of the funniest moments on the show. Do you come up with them yourself?

A: Yes, but sometimes when I'm creatively challenged I'll defer to the people sitting around me. Also, it doesn't hurt to have that "mean attitude", for effect.

Q. What's one of the best and worst moments on the show?

A. The best moment in the show is always what I term the "psychology of style". That "ah ha" moment for those women, it is life changing, and it is always better for them to realise it for themselves than for me to tell them. Worst moments are when someone does not accept the idea that they could dress to their potential. It kills me inside when women lower their standards to be comfortable.

Q. Blue highlights in your hair seems to be your signature look, are you planning on changing it up anytime soon?

A. I'm always open for anything but for now it makes me feel pretty fantastic.

Q. What is the best style tip you have received and who was it from?

A. Mai mother taught me to dress to mai potential. Always look five steps ahead of what you want to achieve in your everyday life and dress with that in mind.

Q. Singaporean girls have been criticised for their poor dress sense, mostly because they can't be bothered and are happy putting on a T-shirt and jeans or shorts and flip-flops . What do u think?

A. I think that there are people like that everywhere, not just in Singapore. However, I would judge them more if these woman dressed that way to a job interview, party, or dinner engagement etc. I am more concerned about how a woman dresses for the occasion. On the contrary, I think that Singapore women are some of the most adventurous when it comes to couture or daring trends.

Q. You are pretty energetic on your show and in person. Where do you get all that energy from?

A. From living mai dream. I feel very blessed to be doing something I love. In every facet of my work, through styling or hosting, mai goal is to empower woman to live their dreams and see their potential. As long as I am creating that motivation, I am a happy girl.

Fashion Star airs Every Monday at 10pm on DIVA Universal (StarHub Ch 522).

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