The Meaning of Being Stylish

Stylish woman

Did you ever go through an experience that affected you on such a deep level that you would split your life to the before and after of having this experience? For me, one of those experiences happened eleven years ago when I met stylist Gayle Rich. Until that moment I did not like my body and I did not enjoy getting dressed. I kept on thinking that if only I lose some weight, my clothes would look better on me. Needless to say I was lacking confidence, I hated going out, and shopping for clothes was something I dreaded. But all that changed after I met Gayle, who made me realize that a woman can be beautiful with any body shape and size.  Working with Gayle was more than just figuring out what pieces of clothing looked good on me. It was a journey of self-discovery, in which I needed to define who I am and how I want to communicate this to the world. Figuring out my personal style was a transforming experience for me; it made me a new woman, a much happier and confident woman. For some people the true meaning of "style" or "being stylish" is somewhat abstract, that's why I've asked Gayle to help clarify the subject.  I hope that after reading this interview you will be inspired to discover your own style and find ways to express it.

Gayle Elizabeth Rich started her style consulting business Gayle Rich Style in 1997, after years in retail management and design work. She offers her clients a wide range of services as a personal stylist and image consultant. Gayle also offers speaking appearances where she inspires and educates women to recognize and develop their best self.  Her mission is to empower women by helping them choose clothing that flatters them and also to fit with their personal and individual style. Gayle is available in Seattle, the Puget Sound area, and in distant cities by arrangement.

What does a stylist do? 

Every stylist has a different goal. For me it is about helping a client to discover and anchor her unique and individual style, and then help her to make the right clothing choices that flatter her body shape with a wise sense of color choices. With that knowledge, I help my client make clothing choices that compliment her physically and that conform with her lifestyle. It sounds counter intuitive, but most women do not understand their natural silhouettes. After defining a client’s ideal style with her, I make a careful examination of her closet and teach her what works, what doesn’t, and most importantly – why. I make her a list of the basic items of clothing that she needs, and teach her to build a complete wardrobe from there. Later, after determining what is missing from her closet, I shop with her or for her. Shopping with a client is ideal in order to guarantee that she will learn how to effectively shop by herself and have fun doing it. There are stylists who sell clothing, or financially benefit when a client makes purchases. I do not do this.

How did you become a stylist? 

For me it was a very natural progression. It started with the initial excitement about getting dressed when I was three years old. There is this childhood memory I have of putting on a little dress and twirling around with joy. That feeling has stayed with me to this day; every morning when I get up I’m so excited about what I’m going to wear today. I know that a lot of women get stressed about what to wear, but it doesn’t have to be like that. I started sewing when I was 12 years old. After university, when I couldn’t find the things that I wanted in the stores, I would redesign some of the clothing I would buy. I still redesign my personal clothing, even some couture pieces. There might be a little something that is missing and sometimes it’s the volume of the piece that I want to taper down or accentuate. We are all individuals and we can’t forget that. Later, I went on to retail management and worked as a buyer. This work experience, along with my design interests, were the springboard of starting my own personal styling business.

Who is your Clientele? 

I have a wide range of clients, from those who shop for designer clothing to those who have a more modest budget. The women who need my services the most are the women who shy away from it. They think of stylists as people who only work with celebrities and prepare them for glamorous events. I love working with women of modest means and helping them build a stylish wardrobe from items we find at Target or Gap for example. I enjoy helping women focus their journey, and giving them a head start in life with clothing-confidence is so important. It is an investment, but it’s something that is truly life changing, and it’s worthy. I worry that the very women who need a stylist don’t even think about approaching that possibility for themselves. That makes me very sad, as those are the very women I want to help.

What do you love the most about your job? 

I love changing my clients' life for the better through clothing choices. Over the years I have had the joy of seeing clients’ personal and work lives being transformed because of a newfound confidence. It happens when women start dressing authentically as their real selves.

What do the words fashion and trends mean to you? 

Fashion or “The Fashion World,” seems to be something bigger and outside of the individual person. For me, fashion is the glamorous part of fashion-shows: the runway and the editorials in the magazines and on the Internet. It is a continuous creative process that can inspire us.
Trends can be a wonderful opportunity to experiment. If a new trend resonates with you, then incorporate it into your wardrobe. But make sure the trend enhances and stays on track with your true individual style. It is so important to examine if this "new idea" is going to flatter and enhance your body type, lifestyle, and honestly reflect who you are as an individual. We all want and need to be validated; but try not to fall into the habit of wearing what is trendy, thinking you will automatically be savvy. The goal should always be to find your own look based on what you truly love to wear.

How does one develop a personal style? 

Style is something that has to be completely individual and subjective. Unfortunately there is great peer pressure from the time we are little to fit in. We are encouraged to look like everybody else in order to be accepted in society. We should instead applaud those who have an innate sense of who they are and dare to express their individuality. I would like all women to reach that point where they go through self-discovery, giving themselves the freedom to express their uniqueness, and then show the world their own style.

In your opinion, what makes a woman stylish? 

A stylish woman knows who she is and confidently knows the clothing that will make her appear and feel outstanding. A woman who understands the taste she has, can carry it forward, and shows that she has personal power. Some women have it naturally, while others can learn it with careful guidance and education.

What are the benefits of being a stylish woman? 

Self confidence. When you truly know yourself – no one can take it away from you. A woman who expresses her individuality becomes more visible to the people around her and by that she gains the power to influence others.