Fashion,  Interviews

Insider | Image Consultant & Costume Designer Lisa Thomas

Lisa Thomas is an Image Consultant and Costume Designer based out of Memphis, TN. Since 2004, Lisa has provided her style expertise to both local and national clients; most recently, she worked on director David G. Evan’s 2010 drama The Grace Card (starring Louis Gossett Jr. and Michael Joiner).

Read on as Lisa gives insight into how she got her start, the challenges of working in a smaller market, and her top 5 tools that ALL stylists should have in their kit.

What inspired your interest in fashion?
I’d have to say it was my mom. She had a great sense of style. When I was in high school, I would sneak clothes out of her closet after she left for work. Not very many teenagers want to wear their mother’s clothes!

How long have you been working as an Image Consultant & Costume Designer?
I started in 2004. A long time friend of mine, Carolyn Bendall, bought Fashion Academy (an accredited school for image consultants) and she moved it from California to Memphis. I completed the training and apprenticed with Carolyn for about six months before venturing out on my own. I am also a certified instructor and member of Fashion Academy’s Board.

What was your first professional styling job? Any take-aways/tips that you carried with you throughout your career?
I believe it was a fashion show for the Girl Scouts of America. I learned that fashion shows are WAY TOO MUCH WORK! But, it was a real confidence booster for me.

Working in a city where the fashion industry is not large, have you had many challenges when it comes to coordinating your shoots (i.e. finding stores to do pulls from, MUAs, models, etc.)?
Working as a stylist in Memphis has been a challenge in many ways. The biggest challenge is lack of work. National projects are few and far between. Many large nationwide booking agencies have yet to discover that Memphis does have great local resources…very talented hairstylists, makeup artists, photographers, fashion stylists, and models.

My second largest challenge is that clients (corporate and individual) generally have less money to spend in this difficult economy. Therefore, I have a smaller styling budget with which to work. And understandably, many stores do not want to loan clothes unless they are being credited, which is not always possible. In reality, this challenge has developed into a great strength. Creating fabulous outfits on a budget has kind of become my specialty.

As an Image Consultant, do you only work with corporate clients or do you work with individuals as well? If so, what would you say is the biggest difference between the two?
I consult with a variety of clients; that’s what makes my job so interesting! I work with a lot of individuals employed in a wide range of occupations: business men and women, the social elite, and the stay-at-home mom who wants to look her best running carpool!

Many corporations are not as likely to hire consultants to work with their executives as they once did. I attribute that change to the current economic climate and the prevalence of business casual in the workplace. Instead, I might be hired by a company to speak at a seminar or luncheon about the importance of image at work.

What basic guidelines do you follow when styling someone?
When helping an individual client develop their own personal style, I take into consideration: personality, natural coloring, body shape, and lifestyle. The most important thing to me is that they are comfortable with their look and that it truly expresses who they are…only better. That may require them to step outside of their comfort zone a bit, but it should make them feel more confident, not self-conscious.

If someone is in search of an image consultant, what are a few main things to look for?
• Check out the consultant’s portfolio to get a feel for their work
• Make sure they are willing to listen to you and that they understand your needs and your personality
• Have reasonable expectations

What was it like working as the Costume Designer on The Grace Card?
It was a wonderful experience working on The Grace Card (despite the incredibly long hours and hard work I’m a native Memphian, so I was thrilled to hear they were making a movie about Memphis that was also going to be filmed here. After reading the script, I knew it was definitely a project in which I wanted to be involved. It is a beautiful and riveting drama about forgiveness and it features award-winning actor, Louis Gossett, Jr. It is great to see more faith based films being produced for the general public. The Grace Card premiered in theaters nationwide in February and was just released August 16th on DVD. It is a must see! Have plenty of tissues handy…you’ll need them.

Working in a digital age, has Social Media played a big part in how you network?
The social networks have not been a big source of clients for me, but other job related Internet sites have been critical in helping clients locate me, find out about my services, and view my portfolio.

Do you have any recommendations for those interested in pursuing a career in Image Consulting?
• Do it because you have a passion for the work.
• You must have a certain “inborn” sense of style, but constant research is a must.
• Don’t think it will make you rich or famous.
• Find your niche market.

When I first started image consulting, I did a lot of group seminars and I taught a continuing education course at the local college. I soon discovered that I missed the hands-on experience. I decided to branch out into styling photo shoots and I fell in love with the creativity of it.

What are 5 things that a stylist MUST have in their kit?
1. A commercial steamer
2. A collapsible, rolling clothes rack
3. LOTS of safety pins
4. Double sided tape
5. Scissors

Any future projects coming up that you can talk about?
Right now, I’m busy working with individual clients and a few photographers on some interesting projects. About the future…most big jobs for shoots come through out of town agencies and you usually get less than a week notice. Hopefully the future brings many wonderful opportunities!

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?
My portfolio and profile are available at
I also a have a fashion blog at

*Photos of Ms. Thomas c/o shortER Photography. Portfolio photos are the property of Ms. Thomas

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