Stacy London’s Style for Hire Brings ‘What Not to Wear’ to Your Closet

August 16, 2012

1:00 pm

After moving across the country and having two kids, Cindy McLaughlin had traded heels and jewels for bottles and blankets. “I was schlubby and in sweatpants and didn’t really recognize myself as the professional I had once been,” says McLaughlin, who cofounded apparel brand Abaeté.

In a fit of fashion desperation, she called her stylist-friend Stacy London, the blunt and vivacious cohost of TLC’s What Not to Wear. They commiserated over dinner, then London took her shopping.

McLaughlin recalls, “She would walk into the store and she would point and say, ‘Go get that and that and that and that.’”

McLaughlin knew she wasn’t the only busy woman in need of a fashion overhaul. Now – after four years of recruiting stylists and making partnerships with brands and consignment stores – she and London are launching Style for Hire to give women around the country that same experience.

Stacy London and Cindy McLaughlin

For as low as $65 per hour (or $40 for “apprentices”), Style for Hire customers get to meet a stylist who will do their shopping, design outfits from their current wardrobe, or help them say goodbye to old favorites. With 143 stylists and growing, the New York-based company finds new talent by hosting two-day, hands-on workshops in the city.

Stylists are trained in London’s fashion philosophy. As McLaughlin explains – with the caveat that she is the business brains of the operation – this philosophy uses clothes to create the “optical illusion” of an hourglass shape. If you have wide hips, that might mean adding bright colors, ruffles, or a necklace that draws the eye to your neckline; if you have broad shoulders, a peplum jacket will flare around your waist.

Another key is calculating “cost per wear” for each garment, which depends on the price, how often you wear it, how long it lasts, and the cost of alterations or maintenance. An expensive piece can be affordable if you wear it daily, while a cheap one that sits in the back of your closet is a waste.

In her own words, McLaughlin used to be “price schizophrenic”: she occasionally splurged on expensive pieces that clashed with her current wardrobe, just because she fell in love with them. She was also guilty of the fashion faux pas of buying clothes that didn’t quite fit or looked cute on the mannequin (but not her).

Now, with a little help from London, she’s back in the fashion world and happy with her style: “classic with a twist.” (When I interviewed her, she lifted her black collar to show that it was detachable, a fun accent.)

“The most valuable benefit of our service is just confidence,” she says.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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