A truly radical approach to assembling a wardrobe has emerged right here in KC. Except it’s not new — it’s timeless, really — and it has nothing to do with what’s currently on the runway, although it will make you look your best ever.
“What looks correct on someone has absolutely nothing to do with trends in fashion and hitting the mark with what’s happening there,” says personal stylist Molly Bingaman. “I’m on the war path against trends. It’s mixing signals. There’s another way to do it that’s better — hitting the mark with what expresses you as an individual.”
She and business partner Rachel Doescher have opened Ladybird Style Lab in a revamped bus station at 501 Southwest Blvd. It’s an idea Bingaman has been fleshing out for the last three years.
It started as an intuition during closet audits and shopping sessions with her clients, where Bingaman discovered commonalities among personality types and the clothing choices that work best for them. When she looked into it, she realized that grouping people into types goes as far back as the Greek physician Hippocrates. More recently, women including Carole Jackson, Taylore B. Sinclair and Carol Tuttle have pioneered the “image consulting” field, all using a four-group framework.
“Here’s something I think is really important: We don’t think of this as a ‘system’ that someone invented,” Bingaman says. “It’s not something anybody ‘owns’ or even ‘created,’ but it’s something humans have been discovering.”
Ladybird’s business model zeroes in on how people move and how clothing should move in the same manner.
“For years, I’ve been trying to whittle this down to explain it in a way that makes sense,” Bingaman says. “It’s not just physical, but how you move through life, how you prioritize and relate to people and time. There’s an underlying pattern that exhibits personalities at the very bottom, like a current.”
Ladybird uses a four-corner system that organizes human characteristics and actions with cuts, colors and materials that match. They didn’t invent this system, but they’ve brought the discovery process to life in a customized, experiential way.
Here. A visual helps.
Those who fall in the first corner — the Ones — are positive, creative, social, animated, random and always moving. Ones don’t want to be boxed in and like variety. Clothing and accessories are light, bright, flowy and cutesy.
The second corner’s pace is more relaxed, casual and slower. The look is blended, subtle and pretty. Twos are all about comfort. Doescher falls in this corner and notes that clothes not only have to look right, they have to feel right, with thin, light and soft materials.
Third corners’ move forward actively, dynamically, quickly and abruptly. Threes are efficient and have amazing capacity. They’re leaders and motivators, and don’t want to be told what they can’t do. Their wearables are textured, substantial, angular, chunky and edgy. Operations intern Andrea Long fits in here.
Fourth corner wardrobes have no movement; everything is set in place, precise. The look is bold, sleek, defined and geometric. It’s the realm of black and white with bold pops of color. Bingaman is the consummate Four.
Clients try on garments in each corner to go through the process of unearthing their innate style. Each look is dissected and photographed. One will stand out. “It will resonate within you, and you will get the signal,” Bingaman says.
Sometimes there’s a secondary corner influence. For instance, Bingaman has a One influence in which she gets playful with details on her shoes or shirt. “There’s a ton of variation in each group,” she says.
The style lab is key to the discovery process because the highly controlled environment shows clients their ultimate potential — to understand what is right for them and to cringe when it’s not.
“We’ve created a separate world so clients get a side-by-side comparison,” Doescher says.
Reactions range from triumph to tears. “People cry here all the time,” Doescher says.
Style matters not only to self-esteem but also because it communicates to others.
“It’s important to get right such a powerful tool,” Bingaman says. “It helps others know, understand and like us. What we choose to wear can allow or impede that.”
Bingaman adds that clients make better decisions for themselves moving forward in general. “People stop spending money doing stuff that’s not right for them,” she says. “It takes awhile for this experience to shift everything in your life, but it does. Once you know the truth about yourself, you can’t not know it.”