“Think about this: On a daily basis, we are just trying to get through the grind, but we aren’t checking in with ourselves to say, ‘Does this really make me happy? Is what I’m doing really fulfilling? I’ve always wanted to try X.’ We aren’t tuned into thinking about that kind of stuff, but taking the time for you is important — all women deserve that,” says Style Coach Megan LaRussa Chenoweth of Megan LaRussa. “Life is way too short not to get really connected with yourself and your purpose and what you’re meant to reflect to others, and that happens with your clothes. Whether you think it is shallow or not, it is a fact that within three seconds, people form an opinion of others based just upon what they are wearing. So, why not make sure you are reflecting the best version of you.”
Megan’s Transformative Work
Megan is not just a personal shopper or stylist. She is an enthusiastic fashion educator, coach and mentor who wants to arm her clients with an understanding of their personal style and a working command of how to shop for and dress their body type for the results they want, thus removing any dependence on her and empowering them with self-awareness, confidence and style. She’s dubbed herself a “style coach,” and she’s turning her clients across the country into their own expert shoppers and stylists extraordinaire.
“The fashion industry has always been elite and exclusive. There are the experts, and then there are the consumers, and the experts tell you what to wear. What I’m trying to do is bridge the two. Fashion is for everyone. We all have to wear clothes,” says Megan with a laugh. “So, why not wear something that gives you confidence for that meeting or date night or even working from home. And I love seeing how they just beam with confidence when they love what they are wearing. It is the most exciting, empowering, inspiring thing to watch my clients blossom in different ways. It makes you feel more in line with your purpose, not just in line with who you are, but with what you were put here on this earth to do,” says Megan. Her process inevitably delves deeper into her clients’ personas as she works with them to define their personal style and what they want to reflect to the world. Many of her clients are professional women looking to take their careers to the next level, and as they work on themselves from the outside, change inevitably happens within.
She’s had clients start businesses, end — and begin — relationships, lose weight, change professions and even start a band, among other transformational experiences. “It doesn’t always have to be as big as that. Change can happen more subtly, but it feels just as rejuvenating. And style coaching isn’t the only way, but it is one avenue, and I see it every day,” says Megan. “Getting really in tune with your own style helps you figure out who you really are, your true passion and mission even. It’s so cool what unfolds. It’s like peeling back the layers of the onion to figure out who we are on the inside, and that person changes. And so you need to have that skill set of managing your wardrobe so that it evolves with you. It’s so much deeper than people think. It really is.”
Journey to “Style Coach”
Megan’s own journey to Style Coach began with a style crisis of her own. After college, she was working in New York City as a trend forecaster — taking street style photography; reporting on the latest in cutting-edge boutiques like Louis Vuitton, Bergdorf Goodman and Zara; and analyzing the runways and trending Pantone colors — all while taking continuing education courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons School of Design. Megan’s own style predicament occurred while she was immersed in this New York City life, at the center of the fashion universe. “Ironically, I was in a huge style rut. I had gained a little weight, but I wanted to wear what the models were wearing. I tried! I experimented a lot, but I didn’t know how to dress for the cold weather in a way that was stylish, and I didn’t know how to wear comfortable but cute shoes. I felt really stuck, and I didn’t love my wardrobe for the first time,” she says. She worked her way out of that funk by questioning how each garment made her feel, how it worked with her body and why it worked, ultimately realizing that she didn’t have to wear every trend if it didn’t work for her — she was changing, and her style was simply evolving with her.
Megan moved back home to Birmingham and began a blog that not only garnered attention, but also gigs doing photo shoots with magazines and fashion shows with Saks, Belk and Gus Mayer. Along the way, she began to get requests for personal shopping, closet cleansing and styling. She said “yes” to every opportunity and juggled a huge load of fun projects, but eventually, she realized that it was becoming too much and she needed to pick a direction.
“I realized the one-on-one, personal connection with clients was where my heart was. I just love how they glow with confidence and how streamlined their lives can become when their closets aren’t cluttered and it’s easier for them to get dressed and go everyday,” says Megan, who decided to focus solely on her work with clients. “It started out with a session here and there, personal shopping and closet clean-outs. I was talking to them about their personal style, what’s flattering and what’s not, but it was more me just doing. My clients weren’t getting the lasting results I wanted them to have, and I realized something was missing.” So, she thought about her own personal style journey, how self-education and critical thinking got her out of her fashion funk in New York City. She realized that for her clients to get lasting results, she had to take them deeper; they needed a well-rounded fashion education with basic building blocks and a way to define their personal style. So, she set about developing a process of self-discovery through fashion. And that shift — going from stylist and personal shopper to educator and style coach — was a major turning point for Megan and for her future clients.
“My clients are busy women. They don’t have time to have 15 shopping sessions. They want it now, and they deserve it now,” she says. “When we go shopping, we’ve done so much prep work that they end up so much happier and with so much more value. By doing that prep work and laying a solid foundation, it gives them the clothes that are in line with who they are. They may not even know what they want to project when they first come to me, but that’s what I’m there to help them figure out.”
Before the first session, Megan assigns a fashion “homework assignment” involving looking through style magazines, curating Pinterest boards and thinking about your style icons. Then, she takes body measurements for the client’s “body type guide.” She encourages those about to embark on this style journey to remain open-minded, to be curious. “I’ll tell them, ‘This is a process. There is no judgment here, so just be curious. When we get into your closet, let’s just explore and see what happens.’ So often we want to put ourselves into a box and say, ‘I only wear this,’ or maybe you have more insecurities and you don’t know what to wear. When you are curious, there’s not as much judgment or frustration or anxiety surrounding the process.”
Laying the Groundwork
In the first session, she works with the client to delve into personal style and body type, and get a really clear picture of their personal style and the qualities they want to reflect to the outside world. No matter your style preference or body type, Megan says it is 100% possible to marry any style preference to any body type. And Megan handles the inevitable insecurities and body issues with an expert touch. “I’ve worked with women from size 00 to 30, and there is something that every woman doesn’t 100% love about her body. My job is to come at it from a very open-minded, loving place, because I don’t want to add to those insecurities, because I’ve been there. We all have,” says Megan. “If a client is really struggling with body image, I have a lot of coaching exercises I’ve learned through various programs on how to coach them through it, to get out of that place of body hatred and to a more positive place. And I’m so grateful that my coaching experience allows me to do that for my clients, because I know how important it is for me.” Megan says it is not uncommon for the sessions to open up to other aspects of lifestyle, because feeling your best is part of looking your best — they go hand in hand.
Then, it’s on to the closet cleanse. “It’s amazing when we clean out the closet, because more often than not the client realizes that the things they’ve been buying aren’t in line with their personal style that we discovered in the first session. They more clearly see what works for their body type and why,” says Megan, who often donates the discarded garments to YWCA’s My Sister’s Closet.
Shopping with a Fresh Perspective
Megan says that the shopping session is especially exciting, because it’s their first glimpse of their “ideal” style self. It seamlessly melds body type with personal style, and the client sees, for the first time, what reflects the style they want to reflect. “We’ve all had those horrible shopping experiences with awful lighting in awful dressing rooms and pushy sales people talking us into things that end up being a waste of money. So, I’m very stringent and adamant about making the shopping experience as pleasurable as possible, and oftentimes that means bringing the shop to my office or a client’s home,” says Megan. “I recently ordered some things online and pulled some things from Saks and Etc., brought it all to my office, set it up beautifully with candles and French music and brought in lunch.” Megan always focuses on finding long-lasting, quality items that will work with the client’s style, body type and what’s already in their closet, saving her clients money and enhancing the quality and diversity of their wardrobe.
Building Outfits & Beyond
The final steps are creating outfits, teaching clients how it all comes together, so it’s easy to just pick an outfit, wear it and go! Megan has formulas for everything, from accessorizing and styling tricks to creating more advanced outfits, which her left-brain clients especially love. “It’s not about ‘this looks good’; it’s about ‘why this looks good,’ so they can replicate when I’m not around. What’s the point in giving them a bunch a scarves or jewelry if they don’t know how to wear them? Otherwise, it’s a waste of their money. So, I want to make sure I give them that skill set, whether they want to keep it basic and easy or take it to the next level.” Megan has clients who love to continue their education and experiment and grow, while others have confidence in their foundation and the basics and just want to get a refresher every now and then.
Megan says that she’s a big believer in letting time work its magic. If you’ve dressed a certain way your entire life, you’re not going to change overnight. “I’m never going to make a client wear something that doesn’t feel authentic to them. It’s a process, and it takes time,” she says. “So when we get together in the spring, I’ll push you this much. In the fall, you’ve grown; you’ve learned; you feel better; you feel more stylish; it gives you confidence. You’re ready for the next stage. So, it’s just baby steps.”
Megan’s unique skill set has become so sought after across the Southeast, she reached a saturation point. She even had a waiting list for her one-one-one “VIP” clients. She hated saying “no” to people in different regions or in different price brackets — anyone hungry for a style transformation. So she thought outside of the box and created Style Yourself Chic, an online course offering her style journey of self-discovery via online self-study sessions. Now, Megan juggles her one-on-one VIP clients, her virtual Style Yourself Chic clients, style seminars and appearances, as well as work with her favorite charities. And she’s never felt happier, more fulfilled or more herself.
Once Megan deepened her practice, pivoting from stylist to style coach, her life and her business changed completely. “I felt so much more in line with my purpose. I’m attracting more and more of my ideal client, because I’m more clear on my purpose, the services I offer, and I’m really standing in that,” she says. “Now that I know how I want to work and how to give my clients the best, long-lasting results, it’s awesome. I feel so much more energized about the work I’m doing. I love that I have taken what I’ve learned in my own style journey, I’m now able to give to my clients.” It only seems fitting that a self-realized, ever-evolving woman offering personal transformation to her clients should experience a metamorphosis in the process herself.