A general manager of the technologies arm of a security company, Jean Tham’s casual, cool look belies the fact that she is the 56-year-old mother of two grown children in their twenties.
“I’ve come to a point in my life where I’ve got everything, my kids are grown up, so my obligations as a parent, as a mother are done,” she said.
“I’ve done as much as I can in my career and my job, so I ask myself, ‘What is next for me?’ and I realise what I really want to do now is to start living for myself.”
Jean had never paid much attention to her looks before. “I was stressed a lot of the time, and looking fit was the furthest from my mind, so I was just like any woman then in her 40s, with little or no exercise. Even though I signed up for gym memberships, I did not end up going.” She was 75kg and “not attractive; people wouldn’t have given me a second look.”
But four years ago, when her children finally entered university, “I decided that one of the things I really wanted to do was to get fit, be strong and get into shape.”
Over time, Jean lost 13kg and has stayed in shape since. She found herself suddenly in possession of a shapely figure. “It’s not only about weight loss – exercise actually gives you back the necessary form and posture. It also gives movement, mobility and agility, and that gives you a certain level of confidence. It’s been a journey of transformation,” she said.
Jean then decided it was time for a wardrobe transformation as well. She still has most of her clothes from her pre-weight loss days, but “my wardrobe was more functional, more for going to the office,” she said.
“If I put on some weight, instead of tucking in my blouse, I would leave it out. I didn’t pay very much attention to clothing – it was just to get by. And then with weight loss and having a figure, I started opting for a tighter fit and more sleeveless and collarless tops, to show off a good form.”
She added: “Yet I feel that other than black, I have no other options. So, I need a lot of help with colours and combinations, and accessories. I’m still very clueless about all that!”
At the Style Switch shoot, Jean turned up in a green tank top and denim shorts, a regular look for her. At work, Jean usually wears pants, a blouse and boots or shoes.
When it comes to casual wear, she’s a fan of the sporty, rocker tank-top-and-shorts vibe. “People usually tell me I look too casual,” she admitted. “Sometimes they say my dressing is a bit mismatched.”
Jean added: “I feel I have work to do. I want to look as good as I can. I need to develop some dress sense and makeup skills.”
Stylist Yang Derong noted that Jean works in an environment where she is surrounded by men. “What she wants is to look feminine but still in control,” he explained. “So we set out to empower her.”
Jean agreed that she was looking forward to achieving a classy and feminine look. “I would describe my current style as scruffy,” she said. “And I love the ‘rocker’ style. But I really would like to improve in all these areas of dressing and hair and face.”
Derong was careful to respect not just the nature of Jean’s job but also her personality. “She’s a mature lady who is confident and knows what she’s doing. So what we did was give her some ‘kick’ to her look and encourage her to explore her feminine side,” he said.
He picked out for Jean a capsule collection of prints and colours – “a fun and cosmopolitan look” – that reflected the happy, active and confident person she was, yet allowed her to maintain authority. Working to accentuate her athletic physique, Derong found pieces that showed off her “great arms”.
For the office, he picked out a fitted sleeveless top with cropped pants, worn with heels. He finished it off by draping a short jacket over her shoulders. The effect is professional and smart, but also sexy.
In a departure from her pants-heavy wardrobe, he also asked her to try on a colourful dress that added femininity to her look.
For weekends, “there are many ways to dress up a casual look,” Derong pointed out. “Ways to layer; to balance the shape of your shirt with your shorts. It’s still tropical dressing that’s great for the weather, but it looks nicer.”
He added: “And for shoes, get some great slip-ons, some really nice trainers. Explore dressing it up a little.”
In the end, Jean was very happy with her makeover. “I think this whole thing is surreal,” she said. “It’s been a golden opportunity. I have neglected one big aspect in my transformational journey, which is my entire appearance, so this is the icing on the cake that I really need. I really, really want to keep it up and keep going, and really make it part of my life.”