I remember what she was wearing- which isn't typically what I remember about someone- but she was a stylist so... it mattered. Anyway, Annabel showed up to meet Alexis and me at our office in midtown in a long gray cotton knit sleeveless dress with a big brown belt, flats and giant boobs. She had blond hair and magnificent soulful blue eyes.
She was hot, gorgeous and completely enchanting. I remember thinking - that's a girl who knows how to put herself together- imagine if I could do that!
Annabel was hired to dress us for our TV show "Whatever Martha" that summer.
Initially I wasn't sure shed take the gig- because Annabel had fancy (celebrity!) clients- and I wasn't just NOT fancy, I was DUMPY.
The concept of a stylist for most is fairytale-like... but for fat, insecure and out of sorts me... it was terrifying. I knew I'd have to be measured. I'd probably be judged. And ultimately I'd be dressed in some sort of camouflaging moo moo covering what I deemed everything but feminine and appealing.I was really ok with my boobs blending into my belly because, frankly, to distinguish the two meant acknowledging my big belly and.. Ick.
Plus I had a GIANT ass. Or as Annabel gently put it an "ample bottom" "like a shelf."
So Annabel showed up to measure me for her first shopping trip on my behalf (because she wanted to make sure that the clothes she purchased would fit ensuring that this fat girl would feel ever so slightly less freakish.)
And when she measured me , Annabel hid those measurements from me knowing I'd be traumatized. And when she measured me, Annabel made sure to stress my positives "you have a lovely waist" and "we will find things with an open neck because you have a lovely bosom"
"But Annabel my big boobs are so big and floppy and not perfect and perky"
"Jenny no one has perfect boobs except Michelle Trachtenberg."
This was another exceptional thing about Annabel. She wouldn't trash talk. Not me. Not Anyone. Just wasn't her thing. She really sought out the good in people , even the good in clients who I knew gave her trouble.
Annabel went shopping that spring of 2009 and came back to my house with 10 matching monogrammed giant duffle bags filled with beautiful clothing for someone other than me...had to be because these clothes were beautiful, girly, sexy, and not very fat girl friendly.
These dresses showed my boobs, and the tops were in luscious fabrics with beautiful patterns. And each item I tried on fit. When paired with a small cardigan- I looked curvy rather than fat. I mean I looked fat because I was fat - but I looked appealing regardless of my fat.
I fell in love with Annabel Tollman that spring because she was this incredible creature and she was nice to me.
She made me feel safe in my blubbery body - dare I say she dressed me in ways that made me feel attractive!
She was this cheerleader- always making it her mission to better my style and self esteem. And it worked.
Plus she was very funny.
With her almost Madonna-like accent which was authentic because she'd spent her early life across the pond- Annabel would make me laugh- she was elegantly bawdy- not one to overuse curse words- very choosy with her words- smartly funny in her observations and delivery.
I remember a dinner we had over a particularly difficult summer-
Oh. I've jumped ahead.
I should've mentioned that after that first time Annabel styled me, we became really good friends. The kind of friends that didn't have to talk all the time but did talk plenty - the kind of friends who could be brutally honest- though Annabel lacked that brutal gene- she was inherently kind. She had a uniquely kind character- at least to me she did. Still she was completely honest in any assessment she gave me whether clothing related or other- but she was never searing or critical. She was purely constructive.
I felt adored by her.
And definitely took advantage of that.
I would text my fancy stylist friend whenever... Morning, noon, middle of the night-
Annabel "I want to find sexier pajamas" she'd send me a link! "You can do better than ratty sweatpants and a t shirt. How about a white cotton night gown."
"Annabel I have to do this appearance, go to that party, see someone I haven't seen, be discounted at this store, get new jeans, blah blah blah " and she'd just say "yes, sure, ok, email you blah blah blah"
Easy. She was so darn easy to be friends with. To work with. To cry with.
Annabel was part of my life during great transitions. And was as excited for me when I lost weight as my sister was.
She couldn't wait to put me in even smaller cardigans. She couldn't wait to encourage me to show my body.
Oh! Some tips:
Annabel always said a cardigan should be teeny tiny- smaller than small. Trust me. This is spot on advice.
The bra one wears is MOST important. And she took me to be fitted- bought me bras and changed my life.
Men like my Boobs. Nope. They like my Annabel Tollman bra fitted boobs!
She was a fan of showing a waist. And finding the appropriate length dress for one's body type.
Because of Annabel I learned I could wear a skinny jean even with my larger legs -because I have nice ankles... She hated her calves and ankles.
She also had issues with her forehead/brows and her hair.
She was stupidly beautiful and didn't realize it.
Annabel defined "head turner."
She had a glow. This glamorous essence to her. Really.
Maybe that's why she was so gifted in making others feel gorgeous - maybe she understood how we felt so very less than that!
We would definitely spar about my accessories and love of bling. Annabel was supremely elegant. I'm a touch trashy. But she respected and helped me with my specific style.
I'm extra sad that Annabel died so young because I know had she lived she would've become a household name. The kind of inspiring stylist for the right reasons- to really bring out someone's best. To brighten her client's day.
Most of what I wear on TV comes from Annabel's work- through the years I've amassed a lovely bunch of clothes that ill wear now with even more meaning.
Annabel didn't love my platform somewhat goth boots I still wear
and will probably continue to wear. It'll make me smile knowing how she'd look at me and shake her head "You look lovely but you can do better"Love you Annabel. xo