Mary Crenson has a job she likes, a husband who loves her, two great kids, and she just lost 90 pounds.
Things are good.
But she thought they could maybe be a little better.
“I feel like I have not completed my journey,” the 56-year-old Towson resident said. “I like me, and I don’t feel like I need to reinvent me. But I’d like to give myself a boost — to enhance me.”
That’s exactly what happened when she was the winner of The Towson Flyer’s inaugural free makeover.
Her day started by meeting with Pressman, who works with clients to enhance their best features and update their styles. Pressman does everything from completely overhauling wardrobes to spending the day store hopping to helping someone select an outfit for a special occasion.
The two met up at Octavia Boutique in Cross Keys, where they consulted with owner Betsy Wendell. Wendell and Pressman asked Crenson about her job (she’s a legal assistant) and her lifestyle (active) and they got to know her style preferences.
In part because she used to weigh a lot more, Crenson still tends to wear rather baggy clothes. Wendell said many people who are not comfortable with their bodies fall into this trap, but it ends up working against them.
“You want to keep the fabric as close to [the sides of] your body as you can,” Wendell said. “It’s like an optical illusion and it accentuates the figure.”
Wendell and her staff routinely work with customers to find looks that flatter and to suggest things that might take them off the beaten path.
“I love helping people find what works for them,” Wendell said. “We can show you these things, and then you decide what to do. We also have a fabulous tailor, Amy Wong, on the premises.”
The outfit they ultimately chose worked well both on Crenson’s figure and with her personality.
“Mary is fun and outgoing and open-minded and this outfit matches who she is,” Pressman said. “‘It fits in my life!’ That’s how you want someone to feel.”
Back in 2014, Crenson weighed 250 pounds. Her knees hurt and she was afraid that when she traveled, the airplane’s seatbelt wouldn’t fit around her waist. One day she said to herself, “I don’t want to be fat anymore.”
She started going on long walks with a friend, mostly on the trails at Goucher College. Then she joined Weight Watchers and took a series of exercise classes. She doesn’t go to the gym anymore, but she does walk four miles three times a week. She wears a FitBit and averages 11,000 steps per day. She loves bar food (wings, fries, burgers) but almost never eats it now and instead goes for grilled fish, veggies and fruit.
Although she now feels healthier and looks better, she wasn’t quite sure how to dress for her new figure. She said she loved the attention and advice she received from Pressman and Wendell.
“What a self-esteem boost that is,” she said. “No matter what size you are, you can say, ‘What looks good on me?’ I didn’t know you could do that or I would have done it sooner!”
After working with Pressman and Wendell, Crenson headed over to SASS Salon on York Road in Anneslie where she sat down with owner Debbi Basile for a consultation.
As she does with all clients, Basile asked a series of questions, including: What challenges are you having with your haircut? Ideally, how much time do you want to spend styling your hair? What would make today’s experience a 10? And (Basile’s favorite): Give me three words that best describe what you want your hair to say about your personality.
“I love my consultations and I ask everything I can,” Basile said. “You need to have a good relationship with your stylist. Some stylists keep giving you the same thing even if you want a change.”
Crenson wanted her color to be a warm, copper tone. (Although she toyed with the idea of dying it blue.) She also wanted to keep her length, so Basile gave her a long-layered cut with a “side-swoopy bang.”
Basile also explained in depth how to style the new cut so Crenson could recreate her look at home.
The products used were by Hairstory, whose owner also created Bumble and bumble. (If she doesn’t want to blow dry her hair, Crenson can use products that give her a beachy wave instead.)
Crenson doesn’t wear eyeglasses as a general rule, but she does need them for driving. When we saw the pair she owned, we knew they would never do for her her new look. While we waited for the color to set, I ran over to Clark Appler Optical.
The folks at Clark Appler hadn’t even seen Crenson, and of course generally spend time with each client in person to help them pick the best frames. But just by looking at some photos of Crenson they were able to set us up with an array of great styles for her to try.
(By the way, I have driven past Clark Appler, at York Road and Stevenson Lane, at least a thousand times but had never been in. From the outside it looks fairly plain, but inside it’s bright and airy and they have a huge selection of fashion-forward frames. I may or may not have taken a little extra time to try some on for myself while I was there …. )
After the color and cut, it was time for Crenson to head over to SASS’ cosmetics counter, which is stocked with products from Arbonne.
Basile applied primer, liquid foundation (using a brush), concealer around the eyes, eye shadow (including a darker shade applied with an angled brush to serve as eyeliner), mascara, lipliner, lipstick and lip gloss.
When Crenson saw herself in the mirror, while still wearing her big salon cape, she exclaimed: “Oh my God, who are you?”
After changing into the clothes and jewelry from Octavia and getting a sense of her new look, Crenson said she felt like “a whole new person.”
“I would absolutely recommend doing this — for anyone, for any reason,” she said. “Take the time to let someone else update you. I had no idea there were people out there who would do that.”
She said she especially loved the make up because it was not so exotic that she couldn’t recreate the look at home. And the clothes were something she never would have picked out, but she felt like herself in them.
“I feel amazing. Absolutely amazing,” she said. “This whole thing has felt 100 times better than the weight loss.”
Hair and makeup courtesy of Debbi Basile at SASS Salon
6715 York Road, Baltimore 21212
Eyeglasses courtesy of Clark Appler Optical
7301 York Road, Baltimore 21212
Clothing courtesy of Octavia Boutique: White top by Lola & Sophie ($125.99); black pants by Joseph Ribkoff ($154.99) and a sweater by Adore ($160). They were paired with drop silver earrings ($32.99) and a silver crystal cluster necklace ($58).
The Village of Cross Keys
94 Village Square, Baltimore, 21210
Styling by image consultant Judy Pressman