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In Seattle, a personal shopper and stylist who only shops at thrift stores

Kelly Herzberg in her natural habitat. (Photo by Rachel Belle)

Until last May, Kelly Herzberg worked at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

“I was a psychometrist. I did IQ testing for kids who were doing through the diagnostic process for autism.”

Herzberg’s coworkers would often compliment her on her style.

“When people would ask to shop with me I’d say, ‘I prefer shopping at Goodwill.’ So we’d go through their closet and sort through their clothes, we’d make different outfits together and then I’d write some thing down like, ‘If you had a pair of black jeans, I think this could work better for you.’ or ‘What if you had a pair of black booties? I think you’d get more out of your wardrobe.’ So we would shop together and I’d pull some things. But eventually, it kind of caught on at work, like wildfire. And I realized: there’s a niche for this!”

So Herzberg started Sweet Kelly Anne Styling, her personal stylist business. But she exclusively shops for her clients at thrift stores.

Herzberg gave me a mini session so I could understand how it works. First, we emailed back and forth and I answered her questions. I described my style, what I was looking for, what my budget was and I sent a few photos of outfits I already own that I love.

“I really don’t have to meet somebody in order to get a sense for their style,” said Herzberg. “I do it sort of intuitively.”

Herzberg goes to a thrift store and spends about an hour pulling clothes into a shopping cart. Then the client will meet her there to try things on.

“Usually it takes about three hours to try on. A lot of that is the styling pieces of that. Somebody is pulling on a pair of pants and then we’re changing out shirts. You can wear this! Or lets try on a jacket or lets add a scarf or what about this pair of shoes? Even if people aren’t interested in buying shoes or buying hats at Goodwill, it’s still nice to see completed outfits. That’s what I try and give people, this idea of completed outfits.”

Herzberg makes personal styling affordable. There’s also the environmental element of reusing clothing and not succumbing to fast fashion. And if you’re someone who gets overwhelmed pawing through the racks at thrift stores, Herzberg’s love for finding treasures is insatiable.

“Usually, at the end of each session I’ll go and thrift myself. So I have so many clothes! Now I feel like I need to stop buying at thrift stores,” she laughs.

Having someone else pick out your clothes is an interesting experience. There were many items that Herzberg chose for me that I would have never selected for myself. But once I tried them on and she cuffed the jeans and paired the shoes with the right top, I liked how I looked in these new styles.

“Typically, at the end of it all, my clients spend anywhere from $250 to $350. It’s about $10 an item so you’re getting anywhere from 25 to 35 pieces of clothing. It’s quite a lot. It’s a really nice way to experiment with new styles that you might not be comfortable with. Like a pair of wide legged crop pants or a crop top and high waisted pants. When you spend $8 to $12 an item it’s a lot easier to swallow that.”

After trying on a shopping cart full of tops, dresses, jackets and shoes, I was ready to check out.

“Ok, so you got two pairs of shoes, one hat, one coat, three shirts, one pair of pants,” Herzberg tallied. “The number of items totals eight and you paid $64.87 cents. Eight dollars an item?”

The next day, Herzberg sends an email with price comparisons, showing what the items you bought would have cost if you bought them new. The Steve by Searle coat puffy jacket I bought for $12.50 at Goodwill sold for $450 brand new. And the Banana Republic jeans I bought for $8 are on sale online for $88. She also sends photos of you in the outfits, so you can look back and see how she paired things.

Herzberg charges $50 an hour for her services. You can connect with her at Sweet Kelly Anne Styling.

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