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Best professional stylists

Women here are never supposed to look like we try. But hit shows about stylists—What Not to Wear, Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style—have suddenly made it OK to let someone else try for you. Anyone can help a size 2 society dame drop coin on Chanel. These stylists, on the other hand, create distinctive yet effortless looks for any woman on almost any budget.

Margaret Tan flies so far below the radar that some of her friends don’t even know she’s a professional stylist, and she likes it that way. “The clients who have had to seek me out are the ones who are truly motivated to change,” she says. While very fashion-forward, Tan is expert at finding a look suited to each woman’s figure, personality, and lifestyle. Says one customer, “We all look great, but we all look different. You’d never know we were styled by the same person.” $125/hour, 415-602-6534, margarettan1@gmail.com

Jane Matsui’s client list is so V.I.P., she’d sooner reveal a midriff than a name—but that classic look with a bit of a twist that you envy in the social pages might just be her creation. Matsui favors simple canvases with a “madcap surprise, like a black stem of a dress under a red coat with a huge collar,” she says. “Fashion should be fun, but not costumey.” $150/hour, 415-765-1506, jmshops@yahoo.com

Moms are grateful that Amy Roseveare feels their sartorial pain. In a typical week, they go from school to business meetings, playground to office, so their oft neglected wardrobes sometimes have to do quadruple duty. “A lot of the time when moms find me, their kids are two or three years old, so they haven’t thought about their style for years,” Roseveare explains. The Peninsula-based stylist helps clients choose outfits for every day, not just date night. $150/hour, 650-766-5933, aroseveare@earthlink.net

Linda Buckman is a one-woman makeover operation: In addition to assembling nifty outfits, she does her clients’ makeup and scouts Parisian boutiques for clothing finds. Her loyal customers come back to her season after season, citing her patience and her ability to “get” their signature style. “It’s not about telling women what to do,” says Buckman. “It’s about tuning in and allowing them to feel, ‘This is all about me.’” $175/hour, 650-568-0639, theshoppingsherpa.com

Former New York fashion professional Marcy Carmack tells her clients not to feel obligated to go trendy, but to embrace what looks great on them—period. As she recalls, “One client who loves patent leather asked me, ‘Is patent leather still in?’ I told her it just didn’t matter. It’s one of her signatures.” Satisfied customers point out that spending money on timeless pieces—and on Carmack’s time—saves them money in the end. $200/hour, 415-831-4485, chicwardrobesolutions.com