By Design

Well-Traveled Fashion Influences Whitney Whiten’s Style Business

By Dawn Onley | Photography by Turner Photography Studio | Posted on 02.08.19 – Lifestyles, Style

Whitney Whiten grew up admiring the stylish getups of her mom and her aunties, who were current and chic and effortlessly classy. She also got her fashion fix watching then teen celebs, Lauren Conrad and Kristin Cavallari, a few years older than she, become trend setters on the reality show Laguna Beach and its spinoff, The Hills.

The storyline, along with the outfits, always drew inspiration for Whiten as she was dabbling with her own sense of style—going from a tomboy phase in the fifth grade, where she felt most comfortable in Adidas slides and T-shirts, to a girly fashion sense with colors and sparkles and accessories—be it brightly hued lipstick or statement earrings to cap off a snazzy ensemble.

Looking back, Whitney can see how her career as a fashion stylist was cemented in her youth, perhaps even predestined. “I’ve always been interested in fashion,” says the 28-year-old fashionista, who would later earn a degree in fashion merchandising from Fairmont State University and cut her teeth in the industry in the glitz of New York and polish of London.

Whiten’s interest in fashion eventually led to the launch of her own Frederick-based company, Styled by Whit, which offers personal shopping and styling, fashion and style advice and closet organization and editing. She charges a $50 per hour fee, with a minimum of two hours, to provide personal shopping expertise and she charges the same amount for closet reorganization services. “Personal shopping is probably what I do most of,” Whiten says. “I find a bunch of looks and send them to them. I do normal and virtual styling.”

Whiten also offers a “look book” service, which like the title suggests is a book she puts together of different style looks for her clients. Men, in particular, have been drawn to this option because it enables them to flip a page and literally pull clothes out of their closet to match up the designer looks. Each book costs $30 per hour to put together and the entire process usually takes about two hours, Whiten says. “This is a book that the client gets to keep that I put together of different outfits. It’s a book of looks for you to refer back to and it makes it really easy,” she said. “All my clients love it, especially the men.”

Although she can’t draw and never learned to sew, Whiten said she knew at a young age her niche would be “styling” clients, which means finding out their style leanings, their body sizes, their age, what colors they like and how well they step outside their comfort zone. This, Whiten learned, she could do well. Plus, she takes a special interest in helping clients find the perfect fit and look to help boost their confidence.

“One of my favorite aspects of my job is having people feel good about themselves. A lot of people, the way they’re dressed, they’re not always confident,” Whiten explains. “I think that’s a really good gratification.”

She has an innate ability and keen fashion sense, sure, but Whiten also has had plenty of practice.

She spent a few months in London attending classes, researching fashion trends and putting together “looks” for some of the city’s most hip and fashionable residents. She also worked for a year and a half as a fashion stylist intern in New York, outfitting clients on their style needs and pushing them to stretch a bit from their normal fashion colors, styles and selections. After New York, she helped dress clients at Rent the Runway in Georgetown, when the store launched.

Whiten said the impetus to launch Styled by Whit came while she was vacationing in Las Vegas with her family in May 2016. “I literally started Styled by Whit there,” she recalls. “I had been thinking about it before. Dad helped me with my name.”

On a chilly winter morning, Whiten discusses her company, her clients, what’s in for spring (hint animal prints are still hot) and why she chose Frederick to start her company. She is decked out in her mom’s oversized greenish-blue metallic sweater, which was purchased from H&M in 2017.

She adorned the sweater with a Gucci belt, which turned it into a fashionable sweater dress. She paired the look with over-the-knee black boots.

As she does with most posts on Facebook (where you can follow Styled by Whit, as well as on Instagram), Whiten utilizes the Like to Know style app and provides links to the specific items she’s wearing, or items that closely resemble what she’s wearing, for consumers to quickly view and buy.

She discusses the fashion differences between some of the major cities. Known for being a trendsetter, as well as a place where tourists and residents alike come to shop, Whiten says she was a bit surprised to find a large number of New Yorkers in neutral-toned attire with a specific emphasis on black and gray hues. In London, she says, people were more apt to have their own style and feel free to express their uniqueness—in colors, textures, lengths and designs. When Whiten recently visited Los Angeles, she felt a trendy vibe and saw a certain “in” fashion crowd that hearkened back to Laguna Beach and The Hills.

All of this made her wonder about Frederick’s fashion sense. Whiten says she pondered what Frederick’s style personality was, and even more, whether her hometown was ready for her personal style brand—or any for that matter. “I wondered whether I would get clients since I can’t draw and I don’t design clothes,” Whiten said. “I’ll just try it, I thought. My goal is to style normal people. I just want to help the everyday person feel good about themselves and be confident and be stylish.”

She says she is doing a fair bit of business in Frederick, but also other parts of Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia and other areas; with digital styling apps and online shopping, it allows her to do more for her clients digitally when geographically, she can’t meet them physically.

What Whiten says she learned quickly as a way to set herself apart was that she needed to grow a social media following and create buzz on her Facebook and Instagram pages. She appears to have done this with her bubbly personality and solid understanding of fashion.

Whiten knows looks. She knows the elements of timeless style, she trusts her instincts and she isn’t swayed by any fashion rules or faux pas. Who says you can’t wear white after summer? Or that you can’t mix animal prints? Not Whiten. She says go for it. “If you like it and if it makes you feel good, do it!” Whiten enthuses. “There are no fashion rules. Try to dress for your body. When you look good, you feel good.”