Fashion is a powerful tool for self-expression and making a statement. The clothes we choose to wear have endless potential to increase our confidence and contribute to achieving our personal and professional goals. However, the importance of fashion tends to get overlooked or dismissed entirely. Creating a wardrobe that speaks to an individual’s career and life can be seen as intimidating, costly, and time-consuming to many.
Canadian stylist Julianne Costigan is on a mission to provide the tools to make fashion accessible, easy, and unique to every one of her clients. Through her work, she is showing the world that the clothes we choose to wear everyday has a significant impact on our mental health, self-image, and productivity, especially in the midst of the pandemic.
Driven by meaning, ease, and sophistication, Julianne forms trustworthy and empowering relationships with her female clients to help them “find their armour” in their male-dominated fields. When asked what finding your armour meant to her, Julianne expressed “Getting dressed in the morning can be overwhelming, so people end up gravitating towards the same things every day. The clothes may not make them feel their best, but they are what is easy. For me, and any of my clients, finding your “armour” is about recognizing how you feel in your clothes and making sure your clothes make you feel your best. Everyone’s armour is different. Personally, a blazer, denim, and some sort of top (blouse or t-shirt, depending on where I’m going) is my uniform”.
After trying on her very first Smythe blazer as a university student entering the workplace, Julianne developed her own signature style that is recognizable in the fashion world. ” As much as I chose my armour, my armour chose me. It is about recognizing what pieces make you feel your best, and a lot of people don’t think about that. They see getting dressed for the day similarly to brushing your teeth, as it is something you have to do every single day. To my very point, I believe that because you must do it every day, why wear something that does not make you feel your best?”
Julianne and her team have provided personal and celebrity styling, advertising and editorial styling, and corporate/brand consulting. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Julianne created the Digital Style Guide to give women around the world access to the benefits of having a stylist. “I found that a number of women were struggling with shopping online. There are an abundance of choices, and they did not know how to narrow it down. They wanted some help, so we decided to create this guide and give it to women at a price I felt was attainable for the average customer, who couldn’t afford my one-on-one services but still wanted access to a stylist”.
The Digital Style Guide includes a mood board, shopping list, and 30 different ways to style the pieces, equaling one outfit a day for a month. Julianne and her team also provide discount codes, beauty and nail recommendations, and a Zoom call to connect the entire community. The opportunity of the Digital Style Guide is as rewarding for Julianne as it is for her clients. “It has always been a dream of mine to style anyone, anywhere. Location has always been a limitation for me. I would only be able to style people abroad if they would fly me there. Otherwise, I’ve only been able to work with people within Canada. The Style Guide has allowed to work with clients everywhere”.
The connection between fashion and mental health is not lost on Julianne. She utilizes her work as a tool to improve the wellbeing of her clients, empowering them to fulfill their potential in every area of their lives. When asked about her approach to fashion, she explains, “Early on in my life, I recognized that I felt a certain way when I wore certain clothes. So, I used those tools in my closet to feel my best on days that I needed the extra boost of confidence. That is how my philosophy cultivated”. Julianne’s career in fashion began in a small boutique in the Kitchener-Waterloo area.
The relationship she had with her clothing allowed her to teach other women to have a heathy relationship with themselves while finding what fits them best. “I quickly realized that a lot of women did not know they could feel much better about themselves if they changed what they wore. Through this philosophy and my relationship with my clothing, I was able to have a really positive impact on people’s mental health”.
Julianne gets to know new clients by asking them to set personal and professional goals for themselves. Understanding what her clients want from their lives helps her choose clothing that help each individual woman feel their best to achieve their goals. “I lean into the goals they share through the silhouettes, structures, and fabrics we shop for. I think all of those help you create a personal brand that speaks for you”. Julianne also takes inspiration from pieces that her clients already own and wear regularly. ” I also ask “what piece in your wardrobe do you feel your best in?”, and I develop their day-to-day uniform based on that”.
Many of Julianne’s clients are women who work in male-dominated fields, who face extraordinary challenges in the workplace. It is a part of Julianne’s mission to use her expertise in fashion to help women to feel capable and fulfill their full potential. “Women working in male-dominated fields are afraid of being too stylish because they do not want to be recognized for their clothing.
They just want a seat at the table and to be heard”. One of Julianne’s most influential clients includes Brittani Donaldson, assistant coach of the Toronto Raptors. Donaldson is the first female to coach the Raptors and the youngest coach in the NBA. “We started working together because she said to me, “I need help. I don’t know what to wear. I’m an athlete, I know the basketball uniform, and that is about it. I’m going to be on the court with 98% men, and I want to be heard. I don’t want them to comment on my outfit, for good or for bad. I want to wear something that will give me the ability to speak and be heard”. Since working with Julianne, Donaldson has been a trail blazer in the sports world. She is confident in her expertise and embraces her differences from her colleagues.
Fashion is a tool of empowerment for those who choose to participate in it consciously. Making a small yet significant change in outfit choices has the power to shift one’s mentality to a more positive state of being. Julianne and her team are creating ripples of multiple colours, textures, and sizes. As an intelligent businesswoman, her work is empowering other women and changing lives, one wardrobe at a time.