Fashion Consultant And Entrepreneur Elizabeth Bean Smith

By Bob Vitale The Columbus Dispatch

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Elizabeth Bean Smith shares how she transformed her passion for fashion into a unique local business.

Columbus

You've seen it on cable TV. The snooty stylist breezes in, pooh-poohs everything in a person's closet and starts chucking it into garbage cans.

That's not Elizabeth Bean Smith.

"I can't imagine doing that," laughs Smith, a fashion consultant and founder of Wardrobe Therapy. The firm offers wardrobe consulting and personal shopping services for women and men that are infused with Midwest gentility.

Wardrobe Therapy's clients aren't just executives and business owners with big money to spend on clothes and a consultant to help them put looks together. Smith says her staff of four stylists offers services at different price levels, and their wardrobe suggestions fit clients' individual budgets.

Smith started her career as a visual coordinator for Columbus-based Express before going into business for herself in 2006. In December, she welcomed Katie Wolfe Lloyd, vice president of civic affairs for The Dispatch Printing Co., former owner of The Dispatch, as a partner and investor.

The Wardrobe Therapy founder spoke with Columbus CEO about the fashion business and fashion.

Q: So many of us have been working from home the last few months. Do you think this interlude will change how we dress if -- or when -- we return to the office?

A: We're definitely seeing extremes on both ends right now. Several of our clients who were used to dressing formally everyday are enjoying the chance to dress casually. It might ultimately result in some companies relaxing their dress codes, though there aren't many left with really strict codes anyway. On the flip side, we're hearing from a lot of clients who are anxious to get dressed up again.

Q: How has dressing for work changed (for women and for men) in the time you've been in business with Wardrobe Therapy?

A: I would say dressing for work has become more fun for both men and women. When we started, suits were the norm. Now, most corporate offices are allowing a more relaxed atmosphere, so dressing for work is more about looking polished while having the opportunity to showcase your personal style.

We've also seen a major shift in how people view their wardrobes. So many people used to think their work wardrobe and their personal wardrobe were two totally different things -- like they were for two different people. Now, we really try to put those together.

That doesn't mean every item is appropriate for every occasion, but a really great wardrobe can be mixed and matched so a person's individual style always comes through.

Q: What's new fashion-wise outside the workplace?

A: One of this season's biggest women's trends is something we're calling '70s chic. It's the high-waisted jeans, flowy blouses, bow-tie blouses, tops with statement sleeves, mini- and maxi-dresses and blazers. The easiest way to try it is by pairing a silk blouse with a bow-tie neck into high-waisted jeans and popping a blazer on top. Sharp and on point.

Q: The idea of a wardrobe consultant sounds like it's geared toward executives. Is your type of service affordable for people who are still climbing the career ladder?

A: Absolutely. We work with so many different types of clients -- busy professionals, stay-at-home parents, spouses of executives, emerging leaders, entrepreneurs. Those emerging leaders and young entrepreneurs might not have that executive paycheck yet, but they still want to look the part as they climb the ladder. So we help them do it on their budget, whatever that is.

We help them identify their look and maximize their wardrobe. We also know what not to waste money on and where to find the best deals. The end result is always the same: They look their best and feel confident.

Q: Was there any business like yours in central Ohio when you started Wardrobe Therapy? What made you venture out on your own with your own business?

A: I definitely saw a void in the marketplace for this. Which actually made it hard, because it wasn't something people had heard of. We had to convince them why it was such a value. The good news is, once clients started working with us, they became our best advertising.

I never thought, "What if it doesn't work?" I really didn't. I knew I'd have to work hard, but that was OK, because I had such a strong passion for the work. I also knew I was a stylist who'd have to learn business along the way, and I have.

It hasn't been easy, but I'm living my dream and helping other people pursue theirs. It doesn't get any better than that.

Bob Vitale is a freelance writer for Columbus CEO, a sister publication to The Dispatch. Read the whole story on Wardrobe Therapy at columbusceo.com. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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