Adrien Arpel has earned the nickname Queen of the Make-overs -- and no wonder.
For decades, Ms. Arpel, 50, has been "repackaging" politicians, corporate executives, movie and TV stars for the tidy sum of $500 an hour.
For the past eight years, she has traveled the country, sharing with ordinary women the tricks she uses to make her celebrity clients appear younger, trimmer and more dynamic.
The petite president of the $50 million Adrien Arpel Cosmetic Co. was at Dillard's in Orlando's Florida Mall recently to promote her seminars and talk about make-overs.
With her ebony pageboy hairdo and ruby lips, her shapely Claude Montana suit and knuckle-duster rings, she was perfectly packaged to convey an image of contemporary style, authority and creativity.
Originally, Ms. Arpel explained, her make-overs were limited to makeup and hairstyles. "But women always wanted to know what colors and clothes to wear with their new look," she said, "so I started doing that, too."
She also quit using only young, tall, slender models. Instead, she introduced "real" women to her shows -- including petites, plus-sizes and many over age 35.
Ms. Arpel doesn't try to change a woman to fit current fads in beauty and fashion. Rather, she works with each woman's natural assets -- and downplays the flaws -- in a way that will suit her face, figure, coloring and lifestyle.
"I want her to look like herself, but better," Ms. Arpel said.
She begins her seminars with what sounds like a biology lesson. There are three basic body types, she explains: the petite mesomorph; the full-figured endomorph; and the model-tall, model-thin ectomorph.
"The problem is, we all try to dress for an ectomorph body, so we're dissatisfied all the time. We're tortured by the image of the tall, thin ectomorph."
To illustrate the different body types during her upcoming seminars in Orlando, Ms. Arpel has booked three Orlando women to be her models. She will introduce them dressed to emphasize the problems associated with each body type.
Shellie Schwartz, 36, an elementary school teacher, is the petite mesomorph. In a shapeless jumper, flat shoes, delicate locket and big hair bow she looks nice and sweet, but dowdy.
Vickie Maile, 36, a computer engineer, is the full-figured endomorph. In a tight, white T-shirt and pants, she looks dumpy and uncomfortable.
Tanya Rouse, 19, is the tall, skinny ectomorph. Dressed in a black bodysuit, she looks every inch the typical model -- which she is.
"When you walk into a room, you have 30 seconds to make a first and lasting impression," Ms. Arpel said. The impressions made by her models in their "before" outfits were not impressive.
There was Ms. Schwartz, looking small and insignificant. Ms. Maile, old and fat. And Ms. Rouse, the shadow of a beanpole.
But what a difference, 30 minutes later, when Ms. Arpel's make-over team had redone the women's makeup, hair and outfits. Heads turned and eyes popped as the three posed in the mall for "after" pictures.
Ms. Schwartz, dressed in red from head to toe, "now looks like the second wife," Ms. Arpel joked.
The powerful color of her sophisticated, fitted suit demanded attention, as did her hat. Matching red hose and pumps created a strong vertical line, making her seem taller. And bold, gold buttons and jewelry signaled status and individuality.
For Ms. Maile, monotone dressing in fuchsia made her look younger and slimmer. So did the vertical lines of her long jacket, necklaces and gaily patterned scarf. A narrow belt, also fuchsia, hinted at a trim waistline.
"The first impression is of glamour, not size," Ms. Arpel said.
Ms. Rouse appeared less lanky and more shapely in a high-fashion outfit that combined a checked skirt and printed jacket with turquoise blouse and hose, black belt and heels, and seven bust-length necklaces.
"Each band of color eliminates a half-inch of height and adds a couple of pounds of weight," Ms. Arpel explained.
Which is why ectomorph models look terrific in wild bands of color -- and endomorphs and mesomorphs don't.
"The trick is to select just what colors and styles work for you," Ms. Arpel said.