Test Drive: How a bit of “Style Therapy” guided me to clothing that makes me feel my best

Lillian Gray Charles looks at your body type and lifestyle when helping you choose clothing and accessories, yes, but she also delves deeper into your emotions


Style TherapyAs I lovingly scroll through the final-sale offerings on my favorite athleisure website, I hear a little voice inside my head. It’s not my bank account talking, tired from all the transactions and repeatedly faked out by my tendency to fill online carts and then abandon them at checkout. It’s not my husband, wondering why I would need a 989th pair of black leggings (“You don’t understand,” I cry. “This one has mesh panels!”). It’s not even my own inner voice, occasionally critical of my shape, reminding me to be practical because we are returning to a world that requires pants with a semblance of structure.

The little voice inside my head belongs to Lillian Gray Charles. She is the founder of Style Therapy, a one-woman fashion-styling business in Atlanta. But really, it’s more than that. Charles looks at your body type and lifestyle when helping you choose clothing and accessories, but then she delves deeper, plumbing your emotions to find pieces that make you feel and be your best.

In her Instagram fashion shows and inspirational posts—including a video that reminded us there are no wrong bodies, just wrong clothes—Charles’ voice is kind and calm, authoritative but not arrogant. Using her intuition, Oracle Cards (like Tarot Cards but with fewer “rules”), and Reiki healing techniques, she guides you through the process of culling, cultivating, and curating a wardrobe that looks good while making you feel good.

I was a bit nervous to sign up for my “Illumination Session,” given the current, incongruous state of my wardrobe. A pair of boring black pants—bought so I’d fit in at my fairly conservative workplace—hangs next to a riotously rainbow-sparkled bomber jacket that color-shifts when you caress it. A cropped workout tank dangles precariously from the same hanger as a flowing-silk dress. Neighbors include several pairs of jeans, faux leather pants, a green miniskirt made of scuba material, and a timid, pale-blue button-down.

I filled out an online questionnaire that acquainted Charles with my life (writer, editor, mom, wife, fitness coach, singer in a band) and the styles I’m drawn to (architectural details, solid colors, sporty chic, edgy shapes, and enough sequins to blind a magpie). Then we met for a virtual tour of some key pieces in my wardrobe and to talk more about me.

I showed her a black bomber jacket from Forever 21, skinny jeans from Banana Republic, a white mesh T-shirt from who-knows-where, wedge sneakers with a snake print, rose-gold Stella McCartney heels, and a sequined romper. She was not fazed by the variety, pointing out what works for my petite, shoulders-narrower-than-hips, fit-but-feminine figure (the black bomber and the jeans, if they’re pulled up and shortened to show some ankle) and what doesn’t work (the romper, given that the waistline is defined only by a wimpy seam; I need more to draw the eye in).

Charles then clicked over to some shopping sites to show me examples of what she’d suggest to best express what she called my “Sporty Queen of Dragons” personality: a black petite jumpsuit with shoulder details, to elongate my 5’2” frame and balance out my hips; 3/4-length leather-like leggings to highlight my strong legs; a sequined T-shirt that shows off my real waist; combat boots for edge; color-blocked Nikes for fun; and a cute cross-body bag for fashionable function.

Links to all of these items—along with the text from my Oracle Card reading and a video summary of what she’d taught me during our session—were placed on a personalized webpage that I now consult every time I’m tempted to buy a gigantic housedress (nah) or a pair of round-toe pumps (nope). And when I hear her voice in my head, telling me that I can for sure pull off a chunky chain necklace or a bodycon dress, I hear more than fashion advice. I hear that my body and my personality are to be celebrated, and that I deserve to feel good—from the inside, out.

A version of this article appears in our April 2021 issue.