Megan LaRussa Chenoweth always knew fashion was her calling. And it all started with inspiration from her personal style icon, her mother, Marie Wright. “She has always dressed very flattering and authentic to herself,” she says of her mom. Marie gave Megan the power to be herself growing up, never telling her to dress like everyone else. And today she gets to share that same advice with the women she coaches in style—living out Yves Saint Laurent’s famous quote, “Fashions fade, style is eternal.”
But she’s had to learn that herself as an adult too. After graduating from Birmingham-Southern College with a degree in art history, Megan followed her passion for fashion to New York City to attend the Parson’s Design Program and work as a trend forecaster, catching fashion shows and learning the industry as quickly as she could while documenting her experiences on a blog.
She had arrived in the city with her fearlessness in dressing, but as time went on she noticed her confidence fading as she began comparing herself to others in the industry. Rather than dressing true to herself, she found she was dressing like her coworkers who had much different body types than her own. It wasn’t until a stylist in New York mentored her about body types that she realized she had been dressing for someone else’s body.
“Dressing accordingly can be very freeing for women,” she says, “especially when body issues come into play.” And now that’s what she gives other women the knowledge to do, weeding out what works and what doesn’t, whether they are shopping in a store or their own closet.
After less than two years in New York City, the budding fashion stylist realized she craved something more from her career and missed the tight community of the South. “Retail can be tough,” she says. “You don’t always get to know someone on a personal level and really understand her or her style.”
And so in 2010 she moved back home to Mountain Brook to try her hand at a more personable form of fashion with freelance wardrobe styling and fashion show production. Relatives and friends began seeking her advice on outfit choices for special events, wardrobe updates and cleansing their closets. As her clientele began to grow, Megan realized she could coach women to embrace their own style right where she grew up.
Nearly a decade later, today Megan works out of her office above dg in Mountain Brook Village, with a brand she takes deep pride in and a small team of likeminded women to help her navigate her increasingly busy schedule. Her clientele spans across the Southeast and beyond, and she shares her industry knowledge as a speaker at schools, businesses and garden clubs.
When it comes to her personal style, Megan has been inspired by travel and cultural immersion, starting with her first trip to Paris. As a nod to her art history degree, she finds herself in museums, galleries and taking other various art forms along the way. And as a self-proclaimed magazine-hoarder, she finds inspiration from home in her two favorite publications, British Vogue and Porter. Although she no longer attends New York Fashion Week, she stays current with updates from various blogs and editorials like Women’s Wear Daily, a website dedicated to all things fashion.
Megan’s style clients range from their mid-30s to their 60s, many of them mothers who haven’t had time to focus on themselves for years, or women who feel lost in their wardrobes. And that’s where she comes in, “to help them get back into having fun with their wardrobe.”
Along the way she finds many women she works with struggle with “dressing their age,” often dressing too mature rather than too youthful. Their outfits date them, keeping them from looking pulled together and fresh. So she shifts the focus to her concept “Style Evolution.” That might mean shopping at different stores, trying different cuts of fabric, or even different hem lengths, ever teaching women to be thoughtful about what they wear.
“With every decade we are changing, be it lifestyle, profession, size,” she says, “and if your wardrobe does not evolve with you, a style rut can occur.” But “wardrobe and fashion are not meant to be stagnant,” she’ll tell you. And in it all, “Nothing is more valuable than confidence,” she emphasizes.
Laura Colebeck has now added much of Megan’s terminology to her fashion know-how too since they worked together on her personal style. After a comprehensive closet cleanse, Megan led her through a full wardrobe rebuild focused on tips for shopping online for her body type. “I was at ground zero, so Megan recommended books for me to read, magazines for me to subscribe to. And I learned so much by working with her at our private sessions,” she says.
Clients like Laura stay up-to-date with Megan’s style membership site, Style Yourself Chic Society, which houses her favorite style tips, articles and videos. “Not every woman grew up learning how to shop or dress her body,” Megan notes. “We as women think we should naturally know these things.” Her Facebook group allows women to ask questions like what to wear to important events and if their favorite blouse is still in style, and her fashion tips also transition over to her Instagram page where she shares content as well as client stories.
On whatever platform she’s giving style tips, Megan recognizes women don’t fit into a cookie-cutter style category, but rather a multi-faceted style that describes the person that they are. To find their personal style, Megan has her clients think about the image they want to portray, and suggests they consult Pinterest, magazines, blogs and Instagram. “Visuals are a great tool to find what you’re really attracted to,” she says. Her clients select a group of images that inspire them, and from there, a common theme for their personal style is formed. She also takes her clients’ measurements to create a body type guide to help them dress confidently and understand why certain styles won’t work for them.
Another concern Megan’s clients face is fashion in the workforce. Some women become stressed transferring their personal style into office wear, and for busy working women, getting dressed for work can be monotonous. If the same pieces are chosen, workwear becomes a uniform. “My clients just want what is easy and comfortable,” she says. “They want an ‘easy button,’ but for fun, personal and professional outfits.”
The popular capsule wardrobe concept might create ease in outfit selection, but Megan isn’t sold. She finds it’s limiting for most women, though she believes in having staple pieces that mix and match, along with the skillset to put it all together. “We are not meant to look like the same robot,” she says. “Nothing is more boring than buying something straight off a mannequin. Curate your closet and find cool pieces when you travel, or try boutique and vintage shopping.”
One way to build your staple collection, Megan says, is to add a few investment pieces of “certain foundational basics”: a pair of well-fitting dark jeans, a beautiful white blouse, a classic leather jacket and a great nude pump. A little black dress is classic, but Megan finds it is more important to have one go-to dress in any color you choose. Investment pieces don’t have to break the bank, but simply be the best quality for your budget. “Look for pieces that are timeless in shape and cut without a lot of trendier details,” she says. “Otherwise they won’t have longevity and aren’t worth the investment.” When making an investment purchase, she says, “Consider cost per wear. Can you wear it multiple ways? How long will it last?”
Accessories are often worth the investment, and Megan believes strongly in the “magic of the third piece.” A scarf, necklace, blazer or a great handbag can be the missing link that completes the outfit. For Megan, that often means her hoop earrings or one of the beautiful silk scarves she inherited from her great-grandmother, another personal style icon of hers.
As she curates style from her hometown, Megan also dreams of travelling to Paris to shop with clients—she has even begun brushing up on her French. But no matter where she goes, the core of her advice remains the same: “Dress confidently. What’s the worst that could happen?”
Learn more about Megan’s work at meganlarussa.com or follow her on Instagram @megan_larussa.
Spring Trends to Watch For
Megan is curating a Spring 2019 trend guide for all her clients, spelling out the top ten trends and how to wear them. Expect a continuation of fun statement sleeves, but with a more ethereal, peasant shape. These bohemian pieces will pair with utility items for a fun, fresh look. Yellow will be the color trend.
Megan’s Top Picks
- Dream Purchase: Classic Chanel blazer, a staple piece that can be passed down
- Blog: Garance Doré, a French fashion illustrator and photographer
- Currently Reading: In Praise of Difficult Women
- Vintage Item: A 1950s prom dress from Zoe’s
- Café Spot: Continental Bakery
- For Lunch: Brick & Tin
- For Dinner: Chez Fon Fon
- Unique Gifts: Outpost
- Jewelry: Jordan Alexander
- Skincare: Village Dermatology and Beaute
- Boutique: Tulipano
- Sushi: Bamboo on 2nd
- Sweet Treat: Chocolata
- Drinks: Paper Doll
- Entertainment: Alabama Theatre