Norwich personal shoppers can help you be at the cutting edge of style

There is a long-running fashion service in Norwich that can help you with any outfit emergency – and it's free. EMMA HARROWING puts four personal shoppers to the test.

The personal shopper was once deemed a privilege of the rich and famous. But did you know that you can get this VIP treatment for free in many shops in Norwich?

It seems some of you are unaware that this service exists.

Debenhams, Jarrold's, John Lewis and House of Fraser all offer a free personal shopping service which involves you relaxing in a VIP room with a cup of tea or coffee while an experienced personal shopper brings you items of clothes in your size that suits your colouring and flatters your body shape.

Anyone can book an appointment to use the service, and you can use it to solve any fashion dilemma you have, from finding an outfit for a special occasion to getting shoes to go with an outfit you already own, to just wanting someone to update your wardrobe for you.

Whatever your style emergency there is an expert advisor on hand to give you the impartial advice that many of us, men and women, do not always get from our husband, wife or friend. And each advisor is trained to pick clothes that will hide the parts of the body you don't like and accentuate your best bits. So does this miracle service really work? Although I like to think that I have my finger on the fashion pulse, there are times when even a seasoned fashion pro struggles to find certain items for their wardrobe. So can the personal shoppers of Norwich help me? Here are the results:

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Debenhams personal shopper Emma Parncutt. Fashion dilemma: Finding a good fitting pair of trousers.

My thighs just do not suit trousers. Try as I might (and believe me I have tried numerous pairs), trousers just make my thighs look bigger.

I also have a curvy figure so my waist is small but my hips are big, making trousers that fit snugly on my hips gape around my waist. Add to this the fact that I am 5ft 3in, so petite styles are sometimes too short and regular too long and my trouser dilemma turns into a nightmare shopping expedition.

Says Emma: 'Finding the perfect pair of trousers is a challenge that no one finds easy. If you are curvy you could find that trousers gap at the back. If you are slim and straight, trousers can be too big at the top of the leg. If you are tall or short, you can have a problem with length. The secret is that when you find a brand that suits you, stick with it regardless of what trouser shape is in fashion.

'This is where the personal shopping service is helpful as we have expert knowledge of how different brands fit different body shapes and we know what styles we have in stock, so instead of you having to walk around the store hunting for the perfect pair of trousers, we can do all the hard work for you.'

Emma chooses a classic pair of wide leg black trousers from Collection and a pair of palazzo trousers which are a key shape for summer and tipped to be a trend this autumn. I had never entertained wearing wide leg trousers, mainly because of my deep ingrained fashion rules that dictate that if you are short, wide leg trousers will make you look wider and shorter. After I had tried a pair on, however, it seems that this rule doesn't apply to me.

Says Emma: 'Trying clothes on is the best way to find a style that suits you, even those styles that you would never dream of wearing. These are sometimes the ones that suit you the best.'

House of Fraser personal shopper Lee Sinclair. Fashion dilemma: Finding an outfit for a wedding.

It's a challenge that most of us find ourselves facing as soon as the invitation hits the doormat. What do you wear for the wedding/races/Royal Norfolk Show or other special event?

For me, finding an outfit for a special occasion usually involves racing to the shops and selecting the first dress that fits. I never have time to browse through rails of clothes trying to find the perfect dress that will make me look and feel every bit as special as the event itself.

Says Lee: 'Shopping for that perfect outfit takes time and it's time that a lot of people just don't havee. This is where a personal shopper can help. We can find you the perfect outfit for a special occasion, we can give your wardrobe an update or we can find you that one item you are struggling to find. This will save you days of shopping time and you will get an outfit or a collection of clothes that you will always wear because you look and feel great in them.'

Another benefit of a personal shopper is that you find the courage to try something just that little bit different. By walking around House of Fraser with Lee she encouraged me to try on different styles, and working with what I told her about my likes and dislikes, she came up with outfits that took me out of my comfort zone. The dress chosen for me was completely different to my usual choice; a higher neckline, ruffles on the top half and a more floaty shape is usually something I'd admire on the hanger but feel that my bigger bust would be accentuated and the material would hang as if it was more of a maternity dress. I was wrong. The dress made me feel elegant. And the best thing? I had found my perfect dress in under an hour.

Jarrold's personal shopper Judy Chapman. Fashion dilemma: Putting together a holiday wardrobe.

How many times have you gone on holiday and come back with unworn clothes in your suitcase? If you are like me you will take clothes for every eventuality.

These days it's fashionable and money savvy to take a holiday capsule wardrobe with you; a collection of clothes that can be worn with each other to create a varirty of outfits from just a few items.

Says Judy: 'The key to taking just a small suitcase, possibly one that you can take on the plane as hand luggage, is to select your holiday wardrobe carefully. Choose a base colour such as white or beige and another two colours that can be worn together, such as red and blue. This way any top can be worn with any bottom. Also take a selection of belts and beads as these can take a summer dress into the evening. As for shoes, you only need two pairs; a pair of flip flops for day and a metallic pair of flats for night.'

After spending two hours with Judy, I learnt how a few items could be mixed to create different outfits so I'd only need a small suitcase and still have enough outfits for a two-week holiday.

Judy's holiday capsule wardrobe consisted of: three vest tops in red, white and blue; one white linen dress; two pairs of shorts; one blue linen skirt; a pair of white linen trousers; a white linen shirt; one evening top; one bikini cover up; three bikinis; a beach bag; a pair of white flip flops and a pair of silver metallic flat sandals.

John Lewis personal shopper Julia Kaluska. Fashion dilemma: Revamping my style.

There are times when I get fed up and long for a change, but I end up buying the same kind of clothes that look great but which I feel uncomfortable in when I wear them for the first time. I want a stylish look every day without having to open my cluttered wardrobe and declare that 'I have nothing to wear'.

Says Julia: 'Everyone wants a wardrobe full of clothes that make them look and feel great. The way to do this is to find out what colours and shapes suit you so that you can gradually build up a collection in these styles and colours. Our fashion advice service can help you start your collection by giving you advice on colour and shape and helping you shop for the first key items. Then each season we can help you fill any gaps in your wardrobe.'

My colour and style consultation with Julia lasted for about 15 minutes. In that time she told me that my ideal colours were spring shades as these best suited my warm skin tone. For my hourglass shape, Julia recommended that I stick to classic shift dress shapes and tailoring. Mid-length skirts and pleated front trousers were the key shapes I should avoid.