Live in the (Style) Present, Prepare for the (Style) Future

When I started working in retail, I discovered I had an uncanny ability for visual recall. I wasn’t always great with names but faces and clothing became finely ingrained in my memory. This gave me that innate ability to suggest items to customers based on incorporating them with their previous purchases. And thus, a stylist was born!

I think it’s because I see such a close correlation between who we are and what we wear. The relationships I have developed through working with clothing have become a richly woven tapestry. Whether it was helping to find the perfect outfit to wear to a high school reunion, letting a client borrow a pair of earrings because nothing else would fully complete the outfit, or an eleventh hour request to find a dress for a daughter to wear to her father’s funeral…I have come to realize my calling is deeper than just styling women.

Those of you that already know Megan Brown won’t be surprised that I remember the very first time I met her. I was working at Hysteria and Gina, a mutual friend and neighbor, came in with her friend Megan. I very quickly detected the special bond between the two of them. However, the most memorable part of this introduction was this: Gina was shopping for a dress to wear to an art opening.

The elusive “Art Opening” dress had become my metaphor for so many pieces at Hysteria. I would frequently describe our most exciting and forward pieces worthy of wearing to an art opening. It had even started to become a joke within the staff.  Let’s face it, even those that go to art openings may not wear something as alluring as I had in mind. But in walked Gina and Megan that day and I was about to have my iconic moment! I finally had someone who was going to a legit art opening and it was Gina White…this was like spotting a unicorn!

The other funny thing I recall was that Megan was preggers with her second son and Gina was touting her amazing yoga and Pilates studio. I recall a few jokes about the leap of faith one takes when assessing Pilates programs from an owner with a pregnant belly — Megan clearly had the last laugh! At the time, I lived in Old Town and walked to work and Pilates and never made the switch to try Mind The Mat.

Time went by and I moved the Beverley Hills neighborhood where I had grown up. Major life events occurred throughout this major move and my weekly workouts had become nonexistent for well over a year. Elizabeth invited me to join her for one of Megan’s Friday Hot Pilates classes where I was humbled (and terrified!) after such a long hiatus. Through commitment and dedication, Mind the Mat has been stretching, strengthening and molding my body ever since. Coincidentally, I see more than a few women who make the trek from Old Town and beyond…simply because it’s worth it.

As a stylist, I’ve had an opportunity to work with Megan on a couple of occasions through TSALT. Getting together for photo shoots is like sitting in a hair salon or going to book club; you dish and talk a little about everything under the sun. Megan had suggested a while back doing a Stylebook post discussing “when to say when” or “what is the expiration date for pieces you wore in (or before) your 30s?”

Resurrecting this idea got me thinking about what my value is to clients. My business model is not about satisfying the masses, necessarily. I have chosen to keep it tight knowing my brand starts and finishes with me. Working with fewer clients in a more consistent manner give me the opportunity to be more effective. Developing a deeper trust over time allows me to not only grow with them but start anticipating their needs. Although I’ve never worked directly as Megan’s stylist, I have styled her, and thus retained some very interesting insights into her brand and her style.

Megan’s personality can be described as two parts infectious energy followed by a health dose of inevitable laughter. If you’ve ever been in one of her classes, the humor is the Yin to the brutal Yang of her glute workouts. Did you know the gluteal muscles are the MOST underutilized muscle group in the human body yet THE MOST important for longevity? Megan is a firm believer in stabilizing your bottom line as well as protecting your assets!

As for her style, she likes to define it as “Ho Chic” (she’s also known for having a little fun at her own expense). Ho Chic is best described as body conscious clothing. I know this because I’ve dabbled in it myself from time to time. I’ve also worked with plenty of women who aren’t in the health and fitness industry who want to make sure their bodies are celebrated due to the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into achieving those goals. It is, after all, our prerogative! Right, Britney?!

While still easily in her 40s, Megan can rock her present style without much worry of a misstep. However, they are not long, the days of wine and roses. My job often entails providing clients with insights to what they will need in their future that will provide longevity…sound familiar?! Gluteus Maximus meets Palazzo Voluminous. Touché! Just like Hot Pilates…you may not like what’s in front of you but you’ll be thankful later. As one with one foot into the next decade, I’ve espoused to be the Yoda to Megan’s young Jedi and fast forward her into a not so distant galaxy by reigning in “Ho Chic.”

 

Currently, I am investing more in one piece per category.  For example, instead of having five pairs of low-end jeans, I invest in a quality brand that may be more flattering and longer lasting.  I bought this brown suede motorcycle jacket last fall from The Hive, and I remember mulling over it for three weeks after I first tried it on.  I tried it on three more times before I realized it is OK to invest in well-made, high-quality pieces if they are classics and will work with most of my clothing.  It just simplifies my life more.  I’ve realized how confident I feel wearing simple but well-made outfits, especially if I know the whole look is put together.

 

Shopping during sale season can make things a little tricky with an overall lack of inventory. My goal was to design a capsule wardrobe for Megan using just a few specific pieces that would incorporate things I knew she already owned. I asked her to bring her favorite pair of denim in order to show her how playing with proportion and scale can subtly transform her Ho Chic into Mo’ Chic.

 

Raquel Allegra Party Pants, $495 | IRO Black Batwing Top, originally, $276, now $195 | ASHA MOP Cuff, $495 | L’Agance Sleeveless Top (in both ivory and black), $270 | Veronica Beard Wide Leg Cropped Pant, originally $395, now $277 | Vince Cameo Bayron Heel, originally $275, now $50 | Stuart Weitzman Chaingang, originally $445, now $312 (available in size 9.5) | Lizzie Fortunado Earrings, $275

 

I was not loving the flow-y pants with the flow-y top together; that is usually not my vibe. However, with the belt and the right about of “jujing” (is this how do you spell this?!) I really felt confident in that look and could get used to putting something like that together for a dinner party or at a speaking engagement.  It ended up being “fitted” without that overly “body conscious” factor.

 

Of course, the shoes. I love shoes, especially stilettos, but I know I can’t wear them often or for too long — they just aren’t practical!  Because of that, I was drawn to the stacked heel by my comfort favorite, Stuart Weitzman, again. His shoes are an investment but given my new model of buying high quality in each category, he fits my fashion plan!  I also loved the top with my own jeans, tucked or untucked, and paired with the right shoe, I could live in that outfit.

 

 

 

Yigal Azrouel Floral Scuba Skirt, originally $590, now $236 | L’Agance Sleeveless Blouse, $270 | Vince Camuto Bayron, originally $275, now $50 | Krewe Sunglasses, $205 | ASHA MOP Cuff, $495 | ASHA Tribal Necklace, $175 | Lele Sadoughi Lily Flower Earrings, $198

 

I’m getting into physical therapy education more with my career and need to look more professional. That’s my struggle. I am used to just wearing my favorite yoga pants and top, or even dressing up like Beyoncé every once in a while. Well, that’s not going to fly when lecturing to Doctorate students. But I want to feel like myself at the same time. I felt this professional balance with these outfits chosen for me. The fitted skirt with either top felt true to my style.  I appreciate the high-quality make of the skirt and the flow of the blouse (saying that word blouse reminds me of my mom). I like that I could tuck it in or leave it out depending on the event or my audience. I can see myself at a conference during the day then out to dinner that evening and rocking the shoes, of course!

 

Yes, exploring these different options that I normally wouldn’t pick for myself has given me other ideas of how to utilize my current clothes. I feel I can now identify where I can fill in with new quality pieces without changing my whole wardrobe.

 

As the mother of two teenagers I have come into some uncharted territory with regards to occasional style conflict. There are two things you want to avoid if at all possible.

  1. Competing with your daughter as she develops her own style.
  2. Drawing unintended attention from your teenage son’s friends.

These pages were definitely missing in my copy of What to Expect When You Are Expecting! Who knew those little, adorable offspring would grow up and have opinions about what you wear?! Thankfully, both my children know how I roll but it still keeps me thoughtful and respectful of them and their comfort levels when their friends are around.

Crossroads are inevitable as we get older. As far as one’s style is concerned, I’m here to tell you there are no hard-and-fast rules. Everyone is different and knowing your style at any age will provide the ease of moving into every new decade with grace and ease. Of course, having Yoda in your pocket isn’t such a bad thing either!

 

  • The latest from Alicia
Alicia was born and raised in Alexandria, and married a local boy. She is happily married and the mother of two amazing children and one adorable and terribly smart border terrier named Dixie. Alicia has always known she was a creative. She collected editions of Vogue from junior high on and has always loved clothing and design. She studied interior design at VCU and parlayed that degree into commercial interior design, the web design, and ultimately found herself managing a local boutique and serving as a stylist to many Alexandrian women. She now has a successful full-time styling business, The Tulle Box, and makes it her business to make her clients feel great about themselves and the way they look.

2 Comments

  1. Jamie Smith says:

    I always love your posts, Alicia. I appreciate your opinions about style (and life) and find something useful in every post. But today – as the mother of two teenagers myself – I laughed out loud at your two rules about not competing with your daughter as she develops her own style or drawing unintended attention from your teenage son’s friends. Well said.

  2. Karolyn W Stuver says:

    Always awesome, Alicia!

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