Austin Style Coach Uncovers Deep Connections with Clothes
Elyse Holladay helps women experience new dimensions of personal style to uncover deeper connections with the clothing we wear
Words and photographs by Riley Reed
We’ve all stood in front of a closet full of clothes and felt as if we had nothing to wear. It’s how we feel about the garments we possess and put on our bodies—and what they say about our lives—that is at the heart of Elyse Holladay’s styling practice.
“There is this idea of a perfect closet, but it’s a myth,” says Holladay, who is based in Austin. “We think we need the right stuff, but what we’re really longing for is the feeling of satisfaction, this feeling that our wardrobe is finally complete and finally feels like us. We all have such different lives, bodies, cultures, dreams, goals, values, aesthetics—there’s no one definition of a perfect wardrobe that can apply to us all.”
The formula of factors that create a sense of style—and the ways clothes allow self-expression and shape our outlook—contains multitudes. These elements are both visible (color, cut) and tangible (texture, coverage), but also intangible and impossible to see. Consider the history of an item of clothing: Is it new or has it been worn before? Is it expensive? Is it handmade? Was it produced sustainably? What was its human cost?
“Clothing may be superficial—on the surface of our bodies, literally—but it touches every aspect of our complex lives,” Holladay says. “Clothing relates to our bodies through body image, fitness and health, gender expression. It relates us to the earth due to overconsumption, waste, pollution and human rights issues in the [fashion] industry.
It relates us to each other through presentation and representation, racial and class implications, and financial purchasing power.”
Holladay, who has impressive experience in engineering, product management and design, carved out space for her title, personal style coach, because she wanted to help clients express their inner selves through their outer appearance. Her passion comes from her own experience with bad shopping habits, clothing she didn’t like and frustration with the fashion industry.
“My relationship with clothes was a baffling and even painful hurdle I could never seem to jump,” Holladay says. “Finally, I decided it’s time to change that. It took years, but I finally managed it. I did it by building systems, like wardrobe inventories, seasonal assessments and everyday practices that helped me anticipate and manage my style—and shopping.”
Sustainability as a principle underlies every aspect of Holladay’s work and philosophy—and it is twofold, because of the toll fashion can take on the outer world as well as on our inner selves. The industry is pollutive and exploitative; it also encourages women to experience unnecessary, unsustainable anxiety around beauty and style.
To combat these forces, Holladay strives to transform her clients’ relationship with clothes through intentionality, accountability and healthy habit-building. To achieve this goal, she seeks to better understand her clients’ shopping behavior by asking them to define their values, creating a vocabulary for what their style looks like and finding clarity on what matters most.
Holladay elevates mindset over aesthetic by guiding clients through a process that determines their core ethics, money stories, self-expressions and purchasing practices. She encourages productive, minimal shopping that bolsters a positive self-image.
Building personal style that feels connected to your identity is relevant to a deep desire to show up as your true self in the world—a better world. Holladay’s objective is to help women make confident choices that reflect their values while expressing their own unique personalities.
“This is the main thing I do with clients that makes me different from a personal stylist,” Holladay says. “I don’t shop for you—I help you define style clarity on your own terms.”