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Fit to be tried: Image consultation

SPEND two hours with Frances Jones (right) and you'll lose four kilos, or at least look like you have.

No, it's not a magic diet -- Frances is an image consultant and stylist.

"Some people spend hours at the gym or eating well to improve themselves, and that's great," says Frances. "But I can help anyone to tweak their appearance so they look their best because they want to impress in a work situation, for a public appearance or celebrate how they look after losing weight."

Her walls are covered with thank-you notes from clients, including politicians, television personalities and corporate clients who insist on remaining anonymous (either because they want to take the credit for their improved style, or they're afraid of any signs of ostentation).

But Frances is not expensive, and a couple of hours in her company will give you many useful tips on how to use your own personality and make the most of what you have -- both in your wardrobe and with your physical appearance.

Her approach is understated -- no glittering eyes or stiletto heels. She also maintains her advice will save you money. "Most people wear 20pc of their wardrobe 80pc of the time," she says. "That's a waste you can prevent if you're making informed choices."

It may seem a bit vacuous to spend an hour or two looking at yourself in the mirror and holding up colour charts to see what might suit you or not and so I zone out a couple of times. Plus, I would never have considered using foundation or blusher.

But hey, we're all different, and there are worthwhile tips for everyone -- I certainly got some ideas I intend to use.

After all, if we try to look after ourselves with exercise and food, who wouldn't want to look a bit better on the surface?

"People think I'm going to give out to them, or act like their mammy and say 'You can't wear that', but that's not how I work at all," Frances smiles.

A session can be held in your home or office, or at her cosy studio in Dublin's Sandymount. At the end, she stands you in front of a full-length mirror and honestly appraises your strengths and weaknesses.

I tell her a health expert recently told me I'm an apple shape. "I want to kill that person," grins Frances. "You're lucky -- you're tall, curvy and you've a tiny waist." Hooray!

Her clients include children, and recently a woman who had lost two stone and wanted to celebrate her hard-won victory by looking her best.

Frances instructs me to get a haircut, wear light colours, and draw more attention to my top half. My shoulders are 38 inches, my hips and thighs 40. Waist is 26. New underwear is another suggestion (the fellas will probably escape this hint).

Frances picks your best colours to wear, and often goes on shopping trips with clients, or visits their home to weed out their wardrobe. Her makeover service includes an image report and a portable wallet with a sample of your best colours.

What about the males? "Men usually want to look better for work, or they're hoping to get a promotion or contract." So much for romance.

One prominent politician, who may soon be leading the country, has scrawled his thanks to Frances, whom he credits for improving his look on a recent 'Late Late Show'.

"Maybe appearance shouldn't count for so much, but it does," she says. "It's good to look your best -- it gives you confidence."

Now if only she could do that for the rest of the country.

The Verdict

Did it work? Looks like I lost pounds without even going to the gym

Pluses: Having an expert make you feel and look better

Minuses: Not having new underwear on the day

Cost: From €95 per hour for personal shopping services to €300 for a fullthree-hour makeover

Contact: Image Matters, 4 Durham Road, Sandymount, Dublin 4. Tel: 01 269 6180, 086 8119698, or email frances@imagematters.ie

Health & Living