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Darcy Camden ('04) helps us make peace with our wardrobes

Story by Mary Lane Gallagher

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Darcy Camden | Photo by Amanda Howse

Ask Darcy Camden (‘04) how she became one of Seattle’s best-known personal stylists, and she’ll tell you about her major in Communications.

Back when she wore pajama bottoms and her boyfriend’s sweatshirt to class, Camden was picking up the fundamentals of communication she would later use to help her clients master the elements of style.

“It’s not about the clothes,” says Camden, founder and chief stylist of Styled.Seattle. “For me, it’s less about ‘You look amazing in that dress,’ or doing cartwheels over a pair of shoes. I think of myself as more of a consultant or problem-solver.”

No makeovers for people who don’t want them.

Camden was working as a publicist in 2005 when she got a last-minute call from KOMO-TV to help on a series of “ambush makeovers” on “Northwest Afternoon.” She helped dramatically transform the looks of dozens of people who had been nominated by co-workers or loved ones.

Camden learned that while a biker chick certainly looks different after reluctantly giving up her black leather for frothy chiffon, but she may not feel like a better version of herself. “My rule with makeovers now is that you have to nominate yourself,” Camden says.

What a styling session is like.

“You get to know people very, very well,” says Camden, who launched Styled.Seattle in 2006 as a side business and now employs another full-time stylist and a few part-time assistants. “Never in 700 clients have I had anyone say ‘Tell me what to wear.’ It’s not about me telling anyone else what I like for them. It’s more about helping them uncover what they like for themselves.”

After going through clients’ wardrobes, Camden and her stylists set up camp in a special fitting room in Nordstrom or Macy's and stock it with outfit ideas from many stores.

“We teach our clients to think and shop in outfits,” Camden says. “I have a rule of three: Everything you buy should work three different ways.”

There aren’t enough movie stars and celeb-utantes in Seattle to keep Camden in business.

Most of her clients are “regular people with regular jobs,” Camden says – business actually tripled during the Great Recession. Many clients come to stylists the same reason they go to accountants or landscape architects – they’re looking for expertise that will help them save money and time.

If you hate shopping, maybe you’re not doing it right.

Many of us are too specific when we shop, Camden says. “You’re looking for that thing; meanwhile you’re missing all the other awesome possibilities.” Better to keep an open mind and look for the types of things that look best on you.

Camden is also skeptical of sales. “If it’s not worth the original price to you, don’t buy it,” she says. “Those are the things I end up purging out of people’s closets.”

Rock your own look.

Camden still appears on television as a stylist, particularly on “New Day Northwest” on KING-TV. But she is through picking people out of a crowd to tell them they’re getting a makeover. “I think it would be so wrong to look at someone who already feels good and say, ‘You don’t feel good.’ If you feel awesome,” she says, “that’s great.”

Mary Lane Gallagher is editor of Window magazine. Her closet contains a zebra-print jacket that she bought on sale and never wears.