Local personal stylist inspires her clients to re-discover their beauty
By Richard Gaw
Katelyn Milley, personal stylist. Photo by Blue Pear Photography
By Richard L. Gaw, Staff Writer
Over the course of a day or week or a year or several years, in a time line that seems to stretch toward infinity, you are always the last person you think of.
You are a mother and a wife and a carpool driver and a fixer of things and a giver to everyone else, and all you have left for yourself is the picture you see of who and what you've become: A miracle worker in a well-worn baseball cap.
The client list of personal stylist Katelyn Milley is liberally dotted with women just like you, from Landenberg to West Chester to Chadds Ford to Kennett Square to Philadelphia and everywhere in between.
"My typical client is a woman between her late thirties and mid fifties, who comes to me in need of a style starting point," said Milley, who has managed her one-person business since May 2013. "I get the sense that many of these women have sacrificed so much for other people in their lives, that they feel like they’ve lost themselves somewhere along the way."
Although the components of her work are varied and many – from Fashion and Beauty Consultations to Closet Edits and Personal Shopping – finding a new wardrobe or choosing blush over eyeliner is not Milley's primary objective.
"Finding a woman's personal style is not about duplicating trends or the latest looks that are in magazines," she said. "It's about being true to yourself. Style is true self expression. The people we meet in our lives may not know our innermost thoughts and our heart, but they can see what we're wearing and establish a true sense of who we are...I help women show the world who they are."
Milley's consultation program doesn't begin by rummaging through stores with her clients and trying on new clothes. It starts with Milley establishing an understanding of who the woman is by learning about her personality, her lifestyle, and background. During the Fashion Consultation, clients are asked to show Milley a photograph of something they enjoy – a home interior or art piece, for instance – and describe why they enjoy it.
"I'm looking for adjectives, words that help evoke a feeling and an emotion," Milley said. "I'm looking for words like 'Warm,' 'Strong,' 'Beautiful' and 'Whimsical.' What ends up happening is that the words they use to describe these images are really expressions of themselves. They are words that already define them, or terms for who they’re on a journey to become."
With words and aspirations in place, Milley and her client will then conduct a personalized color and body shape analysis that will help determine which clothing silhouettes and tones will best compliment her client’s body shape and hair, skin and eye color.
Milley also has a Beauty Consultation with her clients that reviews the woman's current make-up application, hair styling routine, and beauty goals – as a way to create a beauty style that best compliments her face shape, skin and hair type and natural coloring.
To many women, a wardrobe closet can serve as both a tiny palace of fashion or a den of antiquity, but for Milley, it's an essential place to go during her work. Working alongside her clients, she performs a Closet Edit in order to determine what the woman is currently wearing, what works and what doesn't, and what needs to be tailored, kept or given away. By the end of the session, the client's closet will be streamlined and organized, according to clothing type and color.
During the Closet Edit stage, Milley will create a "To Buy" list, and then purchase the items with the clients according to a pre-determined budget.
In an industry that has saturated every available form of media in a 24/7 news cycle, Milley is not interested in using her skills as a stylist as a bridge to become a spokesperson or a television personality. She'd rather connect with just one person, rather than two million.
"I've been blessed to be invited to events, and some are wonderful opportunities for women to gain a perspective on themselves, and in many cases, confidence, but it's just not me to be that person in front of all those people," Milley said. "I'd rather take one woman in the back row and meet with her for three hours. I'd rather have that deep connection with just one person."
Included on Milley's website is a Bible passage from Psalm 139, verse 14: "I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.'
A person of strong faith, Milley applies these words directly to her mission as a personal stylist.
"It's about how you treat and value people," she said. "My approach is always about the positive, never the negative. If we need to get rid of an item because it doesn't fit, I put a positive spin on it by saying, 'That is not good enough for you' or 'You deserve better than that blazer.' I don't use the word ‘Makeover.' I'm not making anyone over.
"Instead, I use words like 'Transformation' and 'Authenticity.' Dressing authentically is not about dictating what you should wear. It's about finding your own authenticity...your very own freedom."
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail email@example.com.