First off, let’s get some fashion history sorted out. What made you want to become a stylist? How old were you when you knew what you wanted to do, and who inspired you?
My journey into the Fashion world began at 18 when I failed my freshman year of college at the University of Central Florida (miserably might I add). After THE longest lecture I’ve ever gotten in my life from my parents, I actually felt a huge sense of relief. I guess I always knew I wanted something different than a Psychology degree from a 4-year university, but I had no clue where to start.
Cue art school!
Although I’m STILL (reluctantly) paying off my student loans, art school essentially ignited my fiery love of all things style and fashion. I quickly realized that I loved pushing the envelope with my ensembles; I was always overdressed and wearing a lot of costume jewelry.
I looked to editorial spreads from Gucci, Chanel, and Alexander McQueen for inspiration, and did my best with a constraining budget to constantly try new things.
Fast forward to 2013, and I was packing up everything I owned and hightailing it to Los Angeles with my best friend; I was in the thick of some of the most eccentric, bewitching, stylistas I had ever seen. L.A. gave me the freedom to experiment with my wardrobe and to find out what worked, and what most definitely did NOT. I always pulled inspiration from designers, models, socialites, etc. - but I wore what I wanted to wear, when I wanted to wear it. I think it’s important to remain your own source of inspiration as much as possible, and when my friends started asking me to help them dress for nights out, date nights, and special events - I realized I had a knack for dressing other people as well….
I know you spent some time in LA, worked for a magazine, and have some pretty impressive styling credits on your resume. What’s your favorite thing about your job, and what part of your business do you want to see grow?
It was fascinating working at 7Hollywood Magazine alongside Alix Malka, helping him cultivate one of the most beautiful productions I’d ever seen; it was truly a dream come true. Shoot days were a total rush with their long hours, bright lights, and beautiful people. I was working with the best of the best, and I have zero complaints. I will never stop loving high-fashion editorials and couture, but being a personal stylist and bringing projects like The Styled Alchemist into the world gives me a different kind of rush. It fills my soul.
My favorite part about my job right now, is giving people a new-found sense of confidence. Some of my clients know their style, and know exactly what they want, and that’s great! It makes my job easier, but the clients who come to me without much direction are the ones that make my job rewarding. Curating someone’s wardrobe to align with how they want people to see them, and more importantly, how they want to see themselves, is incredibly important to me. I’m truly blessed to be entrusted with that responsibility on a regular basis.
I'd love to grow my client base here in Nashville, I know its difficult for people to trust someone who doesn't have much of an online presence as a stylist (I'm working on that), but I'm good at what I do, so I've been doing my best to market myself. I would also really love to use my talents to give back, I want to find a way to incorporate what I do into a charitable cause (I'm working on that as well).
One thing I love about your page is that it is so different from other fashion-focused sites. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fashion junkie, and I could stare at couture all day long. But you’ve moved beyond a mere celebration of aesthetics, and there’s something refreshing about your approach. Clearly you’re not just like any other fashion blog - why not?
I’ve always followed fashion blogs closely, especially the OG’s like Something Navy, Sincerely Jules, Song of Style, and The Blonde Salad. It’s amazing to gaze into the lives of these women and see the potential of where a successful blog can take you. As I got a bit older and the reality of life's trials and tribulations became more and more predominant, I realized that alongside their dreamy sponsored trips to Tulum and Mykonos, I wanted to see their struggles. I needed to know that it wasn’t all fun and fabulosity, so I started to follow more body-positive blogs, but they didn’t deliver in the styling department that I love so much. I also realized how fashion and lifestyle blogging can be really narcissistic and self-centered. I knew I wouldn’t be able to write about myself all of the time and truly gain any type of fulfillment from it.
I couldn’t have pictures taken of myself constantly and feel like I was doing something that made a difference.
I guess The Styled Alchemist is my own way of fulfilling all of my blogging and personal needs, and simultaneously hoping that it resonates with people. It incorporates fashion, style, philanthropy, empowerment, and the celebration of beauty in everything. I want people to know that fashion is for EVERYONE, not just the people with 10k+ followers. I want them to see past the smoke and mirrors of social media and understand that everyone is fighting a battle. I wanted reality, honesty, and more importantly beauty in all forms.
In my writing I wrestle with issues related to feminism and the world of work. Recently, I spoke about my issue with the pantsuit, and about the role of fashion in the workplace. I often find that my self-expression is severely limited at the office, and I’ve heard the same from other women who work in non-creative environments. What’s your take on corporate casual or business casual dress codes?
I think that style can transfer over into any job situation. Whether your required to wear a uniform, or simply abide by a dress code, you can make anything your own. I currently work for a huge corporate company and we are required to dress “business casual,” and although I wouldn’t dare show up in my weekend clothes, I’ve found different ways to express myself creatively in a non-creative environment. I play with patterns, colors, accessories, and makeup (if I wake up early enough).
It’s so important for people to not lose their individuality working for the companies that seem to do that for us.
My best advice is to dress to impress yourself and ALWAYS dress for the job you want, not the job you have. I want to be a full-time stylist and run a non-profit one day, so that is the job I dress for. Waking up and putting on an outfit that makes YOU happy, will make you feel better and most likely make you enjoy the day a bit more. Never hesitate to be yourself.
When we first met, one of the things that struck me about you was your work ethic. Clearly you aren’t afraid to hustle, and when we got to work together, I saw firsthand how passionate you are about what you do. The joy you find in your work is contagious and inspiring, but as a fellow lady entrepreneur - I know about the struggles too. How do you maintain your focus through the setbacks? What keeps you motivated?
I’ll be honest with you, I am by nature, a lazy person. I know I know!! I never want to admit it, but I could veg in front of the TV for several hours with a pint of Moose Tracks if I could, and I still struggle with that...always (the ice cream is also a struggle). Self-motivation is difficult, but I find listening to inspirational podcasts or Ted Talks keep me focused. I also keep my favorite stylists’ websites starred in my browsers to visit them whenever I’m feeling a lack of motivation, because submerging yourself in what you want to do will force you to think about it all of the time, this way you can’t escape it. Vision boards are also an amazing way to maintain the sparkle of inspiration.
Sometimes I talk to myself out loud as well....let me explain. Our minds are programmed to protect us at all costs, so whenever a task seems too daunting or scary, our brain tells us to abort mission. I’ve learned (after years of Tony Robbins pep talks), to recognize those thoughts when they come, and then I sit myself down in front of a mirror and talk it out - it works every time. We tend to look to others to help motivate us and there’s nothing wrong with that, having someone to hold you accountable is a HUGE help, but no one is going to want your success more than you. YOU have to pep talk yourself and get going!
As a feminist writer and sometimes lingerie model, I’ve gotten some shade thrown my way for what seems to some like hypocrisy. But I believe that fashion and feminism can go hand in hand, and I find courage and strength in both of those aspects of my life. Do you ever rub up against this dichotomy in your work?
By definition, feminism is advocacy for equality between sexes, but I think we’ve redefined that over the past few years.
I think feminism entails the equality of women with other women as well, and we need this more than ever within the beauty and fashion industries.
We’ve made strides in reshaping the standards of what is considered “beautiful” in our society, but its not moving quickly enough in my opinion. It’s upsetting to see all of my favorite designers still using 6ft, 110 lb women to walk their runways or appear in their editorials. Don’t get me wrong, these women are no less beautiful or no less of a woman than any other, and they are GOOD at what they do, but it’s not an accurate representation of all of the different types of women that want to wear their clothes. They’re doing themselves a disservice by being so incredibly exclusive and marketing themselves that way as well. We shouldn’t have to look to certain brands or styles that accommodate ALL women, it should be EVERY brand that is doing this. These are the issues I hope to strike a match on with The Styled Alchemist, and I look forward to helping fuel this fire that will catapult these industries into inclusiveness and attainability, thus achieving the feminist dream of equality and accurate representation for all.
Like most women who create content to share in the digital space, I’m still honing the boundaries between my personal and online identities. I’m actually a pretty private person, so I like to keep certain things to myself (and therefore off of social media). For me @miss.betty.p is very much a part of who I am in real life, but she’s not the full Liz. How do you balance what you share as The Styled Alchemist online, and the reality of your everyday life?
Well, I guess I protected myself in a way by separating T.S. Alchemist from my personal brand, although they compliment each other in vision. I like to insert myself in these stories in some way, but again, I didn’t want this blog to be about me, I want it to be about the people that I spotlight in my posts. I plan on publishing a personal post on there soon though, for the sake of vulnerability, of course. It’s been really difficult for me to write objectively on the matter because it requires me to recognize the role I played in the situation, but I think it’s important for me to put it out there. Be on the lookout readers!
With my personal account (@_messica) I try my VERY best to uphold myself to the same standards that I would any other blogger. It’s really difficult to post about things that make you or other people uncomfortable, and even if I’m not getting as many likes on those particular posts, I still try to maintain that transparency.
If I’m struggling with something, I write about it, because I know someone somewhere is going through something similar, and I want them to know they’re not alone in their struggle. I truly commend influencers like Jenna Kutcher or Nicole Mejia who really make it a point to be authentic and talk about their dark moments, as well as the lighter ones.
I’ve made a conscious decision to not allow my IG to just be another highlight reel of someone’s life.
Most of my readers are here for a dose of career advice, and many are in business for themselves. What advice do you have for other women who are considering starting a business? What are some things you wish you would have known when you first started out.
Research research research! DO. YOUR. RESEARCH. Know who your competitors are, learn exactly what is it they’re doing... so you can do it better, obviously! It’s so important to ask questions and set yourself up for success. I’m ALL about diving in head first, but make sure the water’s deep enough, you know?
Do not be afraid to ask for help when you need it, you’d be surprised at how many people are willing to help if you just ask. I started out doing all of this with a partner and that went awry, and I was on my own. I didn’t really know where to start, but I tapped into an AMAZING community here in Nashville that greeted me with open arms and answers to any questions I could come up with.
Find people who are going to challenge you to be better, and encourage you to do better. If you have anyone in your life who you feel is holding you back from achieving your goals, even if it’s your best friend… leave them behind. The purpose will show itself at some point, and you’ll understand why it needed to be done.
Finally, never doubt yourself. Have an open mind, and always be willing to adjust and adapt - but never doubt your ability to achieve goals and be successful, it’s going to be difficult but you GOT this!
8. So much of shopping is now done online, but that can be tough to find clothing that fits without trying it on first. For Nashville locals, give us the deets on your favorite places to pull from. Are there any off-the-beaten-path spots you like to shop?
Yes of course! I love recycled fashion, so Music City Thrift, GoodWill, ThriftSmart, Designers Renaissance, and FLIP are some of my favorite second hand stores here in the city. I haven’t had a chance to explore outside of Nashville, but if I find any more I’ll let you know over on @_messica!
As far as non-consignment type shops, there are SO many cute stores here I can’t even take it. UAL, POSH, Alexis + Bolt, and Emerson Grace are some of my favorite higher-end stores (no surprise there), but unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to find some quality, moderately priced stores that I LOVE. I’m always on the hunt! I’ll keep you posted ;)
To see more of Jessica, check out her website TheStyledAlchemist.com and follow her on instagram @thestyledalchemist.