Orange resident and personal stylist Hallie Abrams has had a relationship with clothing for as long as she can remember.
“My interest started young,” Ms. Abrams said on a recent morning from her home office, a room reflective of her own personal style and complete with original artwork, family photos, classic white furniture and graphic elements including cheetah print carpeting.
“Barbies were my favorite toy to play with — and to dress — and I still would happily play with them today,” Ms. Abrams, 52, said with a laugh.
Her early interest in fashion – “I can remember every event in my life according to what I wore” – was something she thought shallow and superficial in the early days however, she recalled, so despite working in various stores and boutiques, she would at first deny her true calling.
Both her parents and grandparents were in the fashion and retail business, even her great-grandfather was a tailor, and experienced some of the down sides, she continued. Long hours, weekend work and a career where you’re on your feet most of the time was something they didn’t want their daughter to experience, she said.
As a result, they encouraged her to pursue other interests, which led the 1988 Hawken School graduate to a degree in marketing and communications from Syracuse University.
The mother of three went on to work in the field, still always holding on to side jobs in a store or helping friends shop, before experiencing her first real exposure to styling, an illuminating discovery and realization of her ultimate career path.
“It’s my origin story,” Ms. Abrams began.
It was around 2006 when her sister-in-law in Baltimore, whose children were entering kindergarten, was heading back into the workforce and asked Ms. Abrams for styling advice.
“She had clothes for PlayDoh and spit up and to go out with her husband on the weekend, but didn’t have grown-up clothes,” Ms. Abrams recalled.
“Basically, I did the first generation version of what I do now,” she said. “We went through her closet and decided what to keep, what to get rid of and made a list of what was missing.”
Then, they would go shopping together for those missing pieces and integrate new items into her wardrobe, resulting in go-to outfits for her new life roles.
For Ms. Abrams, it was pure fun – and something that came naturally.
“I was told I have a business here” in doing exactly what she did that first time, she said.
At that point, her husband Greg, an entrepreneur, helped her remove whatever stumbling blocks existed, set up systems and structures, and Hallie Abrams Personal Stylist took root.
She began building a clientele of all different backgrounds, while word of mouth over the next decade would lead to more and more referrals.
Ms. Abrams would also tie her talent into a charitable component, donating a closet cleanse or wardrobe analysis at various benefits and people would bid on it.
“The pain points in 2006 are the same in 2022,” she noted. “It is really about, ‘should I keep this or give it away,’” with Ms. Abrams assisting in that decision and providing a fresh eye.
“Very often it’s about me being a problem solver and a fixer,” she noted.
She has had clients pose numerous questions and scenarios, fielding them from all over the country, such as: “every time I put this on, something is off and I don’t know what’s wrong.’
“Being able to look at it and connect those dots,” she said of what her role is, often answering or assisting with more global issues, such as a mom of a preschooler with a lot of cocktail gowns.
“Sometimes it’s helping them match aspirational life to actual life” with clothing, she said, noting that her services are not one size fits all.
“I have a roadmap of where they want to go, but we might stop and get Starbucks along with the way,” she said with a smile.
Ms. Abrams has been in closets of all sizes, and dressed people for all occasions, from red carpet events to family weddings and everything in between.
“At the end of the day, 99 percent of my clients say they are actually saving money” using consulting services, because they are not “miss-buying” when shopping or returning things that simply don’t work. “This is an investment for them,” she said, “an investment in themselves.”
When it comes to shopping for and with clients, Ms. Abrams takes a very individualized approach, she described.
“For some we do need to go shopping together, while others say they don’t have the time or energy” and she will do it for them.
It was on a shopping trip to Nordstrom that Ms. Abrams met Anastasia Walker, a Kent State University student in their fashion program. She would eventually mentor Ms. Walker, who later went on to style famous musicians in Los Angeles.
“I love mentoring young women,” she said. “It’s really important to help them see their worth” and realize that what may come easy to them – fashion – is not a superficial goal.
Her interns, both from Kent State and Ohio University, have gone on to work in a variety of fields in the industry, including journalism, for record labels or styling celebrities.
Ms. Abrams credits Ms. Walker for helping her jump start her social media presence, starting with an Instagram handle, “The Wardrobe Consultant,” and the rest, like they say, is history.
Fast forward and Ms. Abrams, with perfectly manicured nails, checks her Instagram and proudly notes well over 100,000 followers, all while blogging, styling and consulting, thanks to Zoom, clients all over the country.
She offers tips that run the gamut, from how to cinch sleeves that are too long with a rubber band to positioning hangers in one’s closet backwards, only switching them forward when wearing the item, to gauge what is worn over time and what isn’t.
“It’s just the little things I do,” she said, “and other people are like ‘wait a minute – that’s amazing.’”
Ms. Abrams is grateful for every click of the mouse and every “like,” and has even planned an online course in January “How to be your Own Personal Stylist.”
Speaking of, she defines her own this way – “mine is elevated, classy, comfortable and creative – with a little bit of cool.’”
She shops a lot of time on her travels, including regular jaunts with her family to the Hamptons and to visit distant relatives in Israel. Recently, she and her daughter, a graduate of Hathaway Brown, traveled to Iceland.
“Travel is a huge part of me,” she said.
Just last week, Ms. Abrams lent her expertise to an online Summit of Style as one of six presenters to an audience of over 5,000. Proceeds from the summit were donated to the charity Samaritan’s Purse.
“A lot of things I do I tie to charities,” she said. “That’s sort of how I’m programmed.”
Beginning next month, Ms. Abrams will work alongside New York jewelry designer Frieda Rothman, doing personal appearances together in benefit of Medwish. Each year, she donates to the Cleveland Food Bank in lieu of giving client’s holiday gifts.
During the pandemic, she would continue these efforts, donating proceeds to the food bank of her virtual style sessions.
Ms. Abrams is also heavily involved with the Jewish Family Experience, JFX, in University Heights, and serves on several family foundations through the Jewish Community Federation, where she was a past board of trustee member. She also is on the board of the JCC.
She guides people to find their authentic self when it comes to style, noting that it is always something evolving and changing.
“It’s not like your blood type,” she said.
Ms. Abrams has styled clients who are New York Times best-selling authors planning a wardrobe for their book tour and recent college graduates planning their first wardrobe for the working field to a fan going to a Browns Game and wanting the perfect outfit.
“It’s not aways the big moments,” she said, “but the everyday moments that are building confidence.”
Is she living her dream job?
“One thousand percent,” Ms. Abrams said, glancing at the vintage Barbie prints on her office walls.
“This all brings me joy.”