Elizabeth Gourlay might not be a name that is familiar to you, but some of her work most definitely is. She worked for many years as a stylist for J. Crew! After the birth of her daughter, she returned to the workforce as a freelancer and has since worked for brands like Madewell, Target, Teen Vogue and Brooks Brothers. Elizabeth lives in Mt. Kisco, New York with her husband and two children, Ryen Skye and Dylan.
We interviewed Elizabeth to learn more about her work, how she approaches style and influencing her children’s style, too.
Your job sounds really fun, tell us more about that.
I am a soft goods and accessories stylist, so basically, I style anything that is not ‘on figure’. I do this for a variety of catalogs and websites. My role as a stylist is to arrange the clothing and accessories in fun compositions that give them personality. It may be folding them in a stack, pinning them to a background or grouping them in ways that tell a story. I get to work closely with art directors and photographers, it’s really a collaboration. Most of the time my work is done at a photo studio, but from time to time I get to go on location which is super fun.
What is your background? How did you get into styling for photoshoots?
I always loved art and being creative. I was first a Fine Arts, then Decorative Arts Restoration, major at FIT. I knew I wanted to stay in NYC but making a living as an artist isn’t so easy! It was actually totally lucky that a photographer friend of mine had asked if I might be interested in styling. Her boss was looking for people with an artistic background that he could train. I tried it out, loved it, and the rest is history!
What surprised you most about being a parent?
Probably lack of sleep! LOL
How involved are you with shopping for and/or dressing your kids?
I was much more involved when they were younger… I loved picking out and making up outfits for them. As they got older their peers at school began to play more of a role in dictating what is ‘cool’. I still try (of course) to help them because I want them to be original as often as possible. It frustrates me sometimes that there is like this ‘uniform’ of certain brands that they all gravitate towards… growing up I always liked dressing a little different.
Why is style important to you?
It can do so many things…. Create a first impression, elevate your mood, and it seeps into many aspects of your life, not just your clothes.
How do you approach style with your kids?
I urge them to be individuals. I let them pick out pieces that are on trend with what’s ‘popular’, but I also try and encourage them to discover their own sense of style.
How do your kids differ in their style personas?
My daughter, Ryen Skye, is 14 and getting more into fashion and in the blink of an eye becoming a young woman. She’s gone from leggings and sneakers to skinny jeans and riding boots. My son Dylan, who is 12, dresses on the preppier side. Girls have appeared, as if by magic… so last year’s athletic pants and sports tees seem to be replaced with chinos and collared polos…. They both still want me to help them with their hair though.
How do you balance working and family as a mom? Any tips / strategies that work best for you and your family?
It has honestly always been a bit of a struggle, but I really LOVE what I do for living and I think it’s important to maintain your own sense of identity. I freelance, so I can somewhat plan my own schedule, but it’s tough sometimes. I try to balance the best I can and I like to think that when my kids see me doing something I love for a living, then maybe the guilt I feel for sometimes missing one of their events balances out. I’m not the most organized, but a calendar… a BIG calendar, is good for the whole family! This way we all know what we are doing and when.
How would you describe your personal style?
I like to think I’m casual chic but I probably lean more to the casual side. When I go out to dinner or a concert with my husband, Colin, or friends, then it’s a favorite pair of jeans, a funky shirt or blazer and boots. When I’m working comfort is key. One minute I can be styling something set up on a tabletop, the next I am on the floor or pinning clothing to a wall.
Any favorite brands you gravitate towards for your kids?
Classics Like Levis, Vans and Converse, but if you asked them it would be Vineyard Vines and Under Armour for my son, and Hollister and American Eagle for my daughter.
What’s a typical weekend day with your family like in your city? Do you have favorite spots?
We live in Mount Kisco NY, the town I grew up in actually! I still miss living in NYC sometimes, but in a way, we get the best of both worlds. The strong sense of community in our town and we’re less than an hour from Manhattan.
On the weekends it’s Mom & Dad’s taxi service! Our weekends are filled with the kids’ various sports, but we like to get together for dinner with friends who have become our ‘village’ . Our town has lots of great restaurants so we don’t have to go far for just about any type of food. There are some awesome places to go hiking as well and we are less than an hour train ride to the city, so the sky is the limit!