Boss Jackie Freeborn gets a new party style at John Lewis

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A flurry of festive party and awards dinner invites are enough to send a businesswoman Christmas crackers. You’re striving to hit early deadlines as the holidays loom, fit in all the shopping and Domestic Goddess duties the Yuletide season brings AND you’re expected to pitch up at party after party looking radiant.

Jackie Freeborn is used to multi-tasking. The mother of two runs two businesses and a charity – and chairs Women In Business for Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber. But a flurry of festive invites had got her feeling the pressure.

What to wear to get away from her fallback position of the simple, fitted, long black dress – and how to find the time and confidence to find a new party look?

Husband Terry came to her rescue by nominating her for Business Monthly’s Makeover The Boss. “I’m nominating Jackie because I have tried, and failed miserably, for the past 18 years to get her to understand that being ‘selfish’, that is to say looking after yourself, is a really good but essential thing,” he said.

Whenever Jackie goes to evening events, she never takes time out to get ready for them. I am usually driving her there while she puts on her make-up in the car. She’s even painted her nails at traffic lights. I hope that, on her makeover day, she will not look at her phone or her emails. I want to prove to her that life and work still function if she doesn’t.

“Plus she is the MD of industrial hand-cleaning and skin protection company Skincare Yorkshire Ltd, which makes her my boss, and it’s always a good thing to suck up to the boss!”

We solved Jackie’s dilemma with a trip to the personal shopper at John Lewis. The store offers a free one- or two-hour service which helps men and women redefine their style and update their wardrobe in one fell-swoop. You don’t even have to make a purchase.

Stylist Peter Kane listened to 56-year-old Jackie’s issues. “I have invites for the Cutlers’ Company dinner and the Doncaster Chamber business awards next month and I’d like to go looking special,” she said. “But at my age you get so entrenched in your style that you can’t even look at anything different and picture yourself in it. And I worry about hitting the right balance. I represent a women’s organisation and want a look befitting of that; glamorous yet age-appropriate. Not too sexpot, not too staid.”

A tall order? Not for Peter. He hit the shop floor running and brought back cocktail and evening dresses by labels Precis, Phase Eight and New York label Adrianne Papell.

“I wanted to create a very elegant and feminine look for Jackie in soft, faded colours to emphasise her blonde hair and the green in her eyes,” says Peter. “She prefers black, bold cobalts and navy blue so I brought those too, but the one I most wanted to see her in was the one she was most reluctant to try – a silver-grey Adrianne Papell with a fitted embellished bodice and a flowing skirt.”

The co-founder of the local Work-wise foundation,which arms young people hoping to land apprenticeships with social skills needed in the workplace, Jackie also runs a training and consultancy company. But she proved that she’s as good at taking advice as she is at giving it. “Peter’s expert eye was proved right,” she said. “I would never have picked the dress off the rail. I thought the style would look too matronly and the colour would drain me. Its only plus points were the fact that it had long sleeves – and was half price at £115.

“What a shock, though; it hit exactly the balance I’d been trying for years to achieve.”

Thanks to a £100 gift voucher presented to her by John Lewis at the end of her style session, she snapped up the ballgown for the Cinderella price of £15.