"Hi, I'm Virginia—and I'm a personal stylist."

It’s my inaugural blog post! Wooo!

I’m so excited to have this space for free-wheelin’ ramblings and musing on fashion, our bodies, and getting dressed.

If you’ve landed here and don’t know much about who the hell’s blog you’re reading, check out my “About” page for more info on who I am and what I do. Or, keep reading for the informal story of how a tutu-wearing child became a fashion historian and then a personal stylist…

[Content Warning: mention of eating disorder]

I know what I want to do with this post: I want to explain my “why.” But I don’t know where to begin.

There are so many places I could start: with my childhood fondness for dress up, with my eating disorder as a teenager, or with my time as a graduate student studying fashion history. There’s not really a right or wrong way to start, and I think the point is that all the threads of my life (I am powerless against a fashion pun!) lead back to the same thing. So we’ll just jump on in.

 A typical “young Virginia” outfit!

A typical “young Virginia” outfit!

As a kid, I loved clothing. I was at my parent’s house recently, looking through old family photos. I saw the above picture and asked my mom “Was this Halloween?” She said “No, that was just a normal Tuesday for you.” I changed outfits dozens of times a day, refused to let anyone dress me, and frequently wore tutus and old Halloween costumes as everyday clothing. Getting dressed was, at this time, a joyful experience.

Middle school is where things got bumpy (who had a smooth transition into that awkward phase of life?), and I remember this as the first time in my life when clothing wasn’t easy. Getting dressed suddenly involved a body that was changing, outside pressure to “look cool” and “fit in,” and all the other random drama of being a teenager. Yikes.

High school and college were much of the same, and while I got closer to my actual style I still struggled with the fact that getting dressed required me to deal with a body that I didn’t want to deal with. It took until graduate school, as I was studying for my Masters in Fashion History, that I truly realized how connected my love of clothing and dislike of my body are.

[If you’re interested in that story, you can read about it here.]

So there I am, back at my parent’s house with my new Masters degree and no idea what to do with myself. My initial plan was to try and land a job in a museum setting, but I knew that would be difficult (there are a lot of fashion people vying for a handful of museum positions!). It also just didn’t feel right: I kept ranting to my mom that I wanted to do something helpful, but I had no idea what that “helpful” thing was.

At this point in my life, I had been going to therapy for roughly three years and was in recovery from my eating disorder. I had started following body-acceptance activists and plus size fashion bloggers on social media, and I could see how my thoughts about fashion and my body were changing for the better. Beginning to understand that my body is not the problem helped me dress the very body I so struggled with, and clothing was finally starting to feel fun again.

Flash forward a bit: I’m back in my college town, living in a 100-year hospital turned apartment building with nothing but an air mattress, two lawn chairs, and a 1940s dressing gown. I was working behind the cutting counter of my local JoAnn Fabrics, still unsure of how I was going to use my niche knowledge to help other people.

I don’t remember the specifics, but somewhere in this time of my life I signed up for a free online style class. I’m always curious about how other people approach fashion and style and liked the person offering the class (someone I follow on Instagram), so I tuned in. It wasn’t long before I turned it off: the body shaming and fatphobia was so overt I couldn’t watch a minute more.

Not only was this whole experience triggering as hell, I was so frustrated that the stylist running the free class (someone with a huge platform, mind you) was pushing the idea that the be-all and end-all of clothing is to be “flattering.” Because guess what? “Flattering” is just code for “looking as slim as possible.”

I used to think about clothing like that. And I don’t blame anyone in that class for wanting to look good or thinking their clothing should be flattering. Feeling any kind of discomfort in your body makes getting dressed really tough, and you just want a solution.

I was just so frustrated with the stylist for reinforcing so many of the harmful ideas already pushed on us by contemporary fashion and our diet obsessed culture. And I thought surely I couldn’t be the only person struggling with a history of disordered eating/body image issues who felt alienated by the way this stylist was talking about bodies.

I was sitting there, having turned my computer off, when I thought: “I could do this better.” I could help people get dressed by using what I myself had learned, and I could do it without making people feel like sh*t about their bodies or perpetuating fashion advice that reinforces a harmful beauty standard.

And so there it was, the helpful thing I’d been looking for: I wanted to be a personal stylist. Because I don’t believe that you need to be a certain size to look fantastic and be stylish, whatever that means for you. Some people want to wear a wizard cape to the coffee shop, others just want a functional wardrobe that gets them through the day. There’s no right or wrong way to get dressed.

I want us to move beyond “flattering” as the best thing our clothing can be. To me, there are so many more important questions to ask of ourselves as we get dressed. Does the fabric feel nice against your skin? Do the colors make you excited? Do you feel—physically, emotionally, mentally—comfortable in what you’re wearing? Does it make you feel like “you?” Can you do what you need to do that day in those clothes? Did you enjoy the process of getting dressed?

I want us to reclaim getting dressed as something we do for ourselves, not something we do for others. If you feel good about what you’re wearing, that’s what is important to me. Because so many of us lost that along the way, as we grew up and internalized a bunch of rules about what we’re supposed to wear and how we’re supposed to look.

My goal as a personal stylist is to help you create the most authentic way to get dressed for you, so that the process is exactly what you need it to be. I can promise you I’m never going to body-shame you or tell you you “can’t” wear something, and a lot of our work together is going to involve tuning out the B.S. and changing the way you think about clothing.

The end result is perfectly tailored (again with the fashion puns!) to your life and just as unique as you are.

I’m so excited to do this work. I can confidently say that my unique background and approach to fashion can work wonders, because I’ve seen the change in my own life. If you’re ready to reclaim the process of getting dressed, you can learn all about my services here. Feel free to get in touch anytime, and I’m so looking forward to spending time in this space together.

Virginia

Decade by Decade: A 20th Century Style Guide