As a wardrobe consultant and personal stylist for over 15 years, Maria educates and guides those who seek to make a stronger connection between their self-presentation and self-love. She fervently believes how we dress says something more profound about how we feel about our values and self-worth. Thus, to Maria, there is a profound intersection between style, psychology, and spirituality.
Her intuitive styling approach has helped hundreds of clients transform into the best version of themselves by leveraging their wardrobe to reflect these key insights. With a focus on sustainable fashion practices, Maria’s expertise is in re-imagining wardrobes to help her clients maximize what they already own by creating new combinations and alternative functions for those items.
A Dallas, TX native based in Boston, MA, Maria’s natural flair for confident fashion has been guided by influence from both cities. She has wardrobe and styling experience with large-scale retailers like Anthropologie and Nordstrom and small women’s home and apparel boutiques. She holds a B.A. in psychology from Loyola University, New Orleans, and an M.A. in pastoral ministry from Boston College. Maria has a passion for being of service to those ready to experience joy, fun, and a creative approach to styling.
See what Maria has to say in our recent conversation.
Maria, I’m so grateful to have met you. Your point of view on styling is a unique one. But, I’d love to know why you started your business? How did you figure out this is what you wanted to do?
I feel the same [with] meeting you, Jan! I’ve always been a helper (I’m a 2 in the Enneagram for anyone who knows that tool), so there’s a deep, intrinsic call for me to be of service to the world. I think for many entrepreneurs, you come to realize that the business idea that you initially created to help and benefit others actually started by first benefiting you. My story really begins from there.
My father died over 11 years ago from a year-long battle with cancer. And in the midst of the shock, sadness, and grief, I had to pack for his memorial in Texas. Traditionally, we are told to wear dark colors (like black) when [we] attend funeral services. Something in me just couldn’t do that. I needed to feel safe, softened, and brave. Black made me feel isolated, harsh, and fearful. I just couldn’t show up wearing something that wouldn’t support me through one of the hardest days of my life. I selected a short-sleeve cream wrap dress with a grey pattern and light purple hem accented by a 3-strand pearl necklace.
It wasn’t long after that I realized my wardrobe choice wasn’t just a tool for support (I did feel safe, softened, and brave), but it also helped me see myself with more compassionate, loving eyes. I somehow maintained composure and felt beautiful and strong. I realized that my self-presentation was an expression of my self-love belief, and it helped me do an incredibly hard thing.
It then became my mission to help people leverage their wardrobe choices to better reflect their authentic self-beliefs, which often means they must also heal the messages they say to themselves. The inner work of self-love often manifests in a desire to present (dress) oneself more lovingly, too. That’s why I often say my work is about the clothes, but it’s really not about the clothes.
Being a Dallas, Texas native, I’m sure you understand the differences in professional culture all too well.
Would you please tell me about how you’ve acclimated to doing business in Boston and what are specific nuances that you enjoy about the people in each city?
I love this question because Dallas has a reputation of being a place where you get dressed to go anywhere! I moved to Boston 20 years ago, and I remember the first time I went to the mall (this was when the Atrium Mall in Chestnut Hill still existed), and I saw people in sweatpants. That rarely happens in Dallas malls! There is a certain “dress to be seen” mentality in Dallas that can be misunderstood. I learned that there is something valuable about people who want to present the best versions of themselves to the world. I’m not assuming their reasons for doing so, but rather acknowledging the benefit of making [a] choice and prioritizing the self-care to do so. I’ve carried that belief with me.
Boston is a funny place when it comes to style. There is so much character in this town, and I think I’ve really grown to love and appreciate style in more diverse ways. I’ve certainly been exposed to more Black-owned businesses and designers, and I’ve learned to adapt my style techniques and practices more broadly because of the variations of style here. I believe I am appealing as a stylist because I don’t aim for people to dress like me; I aim for people to dress more authentically like them. Boston really has taught me that.
You have an incredible eye for detail, especially when it comes to the psychological side of dressing, intentionally picking out pieces to present yourself the way you want others to address or perceive you. What would you say are some of the biggest challenges for dressing in business today?
We communicate messages through our wardrobe choices. I want people to consider what messages their wardrobe choices say about who they are and how they want to be perceived. In business today, there is so much fluidity in dress codes and “appropriateness” for various work environments. I think people must feel a bit confused about what works or doesn’t in these moments, especially after the 18+ months of work-from-home style or even hybrid working arrangements we have now.
I also think many have either forgotten, lost touch, or maybe never discovered a signature style that actually represents who they are. So, they likely default to style or wardrobe choices that are “good enough.” We lose so much of an individual’s personality and unique interests with this mindset. I think we have to release any expectation we hold about wearing “the right” clothes and recognize there are experts out there (like me) who can simplify the process, make it fun, and uncover a personal, authentic style that looks and feels “right” to the individual.
You’ve spoken about your spiritual work and how it guides you with decision-making in style through our conversations. How can someone balance their professional wardrobe looks while keeping a sense of spirituality in mind?
There is a deeply spiritual connection with style that I harness and apply to my work with clients. Some may never hear me explicitly speak of it; others will engage readily. I am a very intuitive, empathetic person who listens carefully to my clients as they reveal their challenges and desires for improving their wardrobe. I listen for the messages they say to themselves or the messages others have imprinted on them. Sometimes these are deeply ingrained messages that need to be healed and redirected. While I am not a psychotherapist, I know the power of self-talk. When we speak lovingly to ourselves, we transform the beliefs we have. Those beliefs then manifest in the way we present ourselves to the world. This is a spiritual process, whether someone wants to name it that way or not. And every time someone walks into a board room engages with a client, or presents to a group, the world perceives that person’s self-talk just by way of their wardrobe choices.
I have a saying: “Great women know how to reinvent themselves over time.” It seems that your services fall in line with my belief. Can you provide an example of a transformational experience with a client from start to finish? Where did your journey together take them?
One of my biggest supporters and advocates is a best friend of over 20 years from graduate school. In 2019, I [visited] her and her family in Maryland, and she asked me about conducting a closet review while I was in town. She had been listening to me talk about the impact of wardrobe choices for years, and I was happy to finally engage in the process with her.
I’m not talking out of turn here: she would say her wardrobe was fine. Nothing really wrong per se, but it also didn’t match the incredible person she is. She had a pretty ordinary collection of cardigans, polyester blouses, cotton tee shirts, work pants, and a few dresses. She looked nice, but certainly not in a way that attracted the positive attention she deserved. As a psychotherapist, poet, and author, she is regularly in front of people communicating her expertise, passion, and insights. This gifted woman in her mid-40s made wardrobe choices that did not reflect the inner belief of how worthy she is. It was time for a shift.
I conducted the closet review to help her see which items had great potential when styled with new combinations and which just needed to go. We talked about the use of color, structure, and shape to really accent the best parts of her body while also elevating her overall look with certain style techniques. We talked about garment care and organizing her clothes in a way to make better choices. We shopped for new items to take her wardrobe to that next level. She started to see the vision of what I saw all along.
The best way I can describe her transformation was a comment she shared with me not long after my visit. She said she walked into her closet, looked at her newly organized clothes alongside the new additions we selected, and thought to herself, “I need to charge more for my work.” She shared with me that she immediately felt her value and self-worth increase once she saw how phenomenal her clothes made her feel. She quickly understood that her self-love belief HAD to be translated into her self-presentation. I’m proud to say now her look matches that core belief!
This example really makes you think about the long term impact of your service. Thank you so much for sharing. I appreciate your expertise and thoughtful answers and look forward to getting together again soon. Thank you for your time!
Please check out Maria’s business at www.mfdstyle.com.
Also, if you’d like to follow her on Instagram, click here.