I popped into our local Anthropologie recently and spotted this cute bubbly blonde. She asked if I needed any help. As usual, I was in a big hurry to grab a few things for a photo shoot. I thought to myself oh no she is one of those annoying well-intentioned salespeople who keep bringing me things to try on when I don’t have much time. I explained to her that I was a blogger and time was at a premium. She obviously checked out the blog. The next time I came in (also in a hurry), she quickly grabbed a few things she thought might work and I thought bam! This girl knows what she is doing. Having had a sister that died of alcoholism. I was inspired by her story, I hope you will be too. I hope you will enjoy Ageless Style, Kelly Grace Swift. It’s a long one but a good one.
Ageless Style Kelly Grace Swift
Please tell us a little bit about your personal background, dealing with addiction, and helping others heal
I was a resident of Southern California for 30 years, In 1987 earned an AA Degree in Merchandise Marketing at The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM). Upon graduation, I had a career in the retail fashion industry. I began at Robinson’s Department Store working in Women’s Designers Sportswear. I had no idea the exceptional level of customer service I was taught in those dressing rooms. I sat on the floor with our in-house alterations learning and listening, and pinning pants and skirts. It was wonderful. Women would call in with an event they needed an outfit for and I would pull things for them. I was styling back then but didn’t have a title. I eventually moved on to managing the men’s department, and eventually another move to the famous Wilkes Bashford’s test store Wilkes Sport in Southern California. We all had our Little Black Books and were in constant contact with our customers. Champagne, hors d’oeuvres, custom alterations-you name it, we did it to make them happy. After a successful career in retail, I wanted to focus on my family and raising my two children. I put retail on the back burner and got involved in creating and executing community awareness programs, televised events, and even a surf team for local schools. Additionally, photography, floral design, interior design, and staging kept me busy. Eventually, I became a self-proclaimed Creative Director.
Behind the scenes, my 30-year relationship with my husband, and my children were deteriorating. I found myself in a highly dysfunctional marriage and both of my children were enduring medical and emotional challenges. No one was healthy, and not one of us was happy. In time my focus shifted from community leader to advocating for my kids. Eventually, my daughter was diagnosed with Lyme Disease, my son with Celiac Disease and Histamine Intolerance. My family began a journey of despair and hopelessness. I was battling a disease called alcoholism. In addition to my failing marriage, medical crisis after medical crisis with my kids was wearing me down physically and emotionally. The worse things got the more I drank. Alcohol was my best friend as I sat up night after night, year after year searching and researching for answers to children’s health issues. I was in a vicious cycle of self-pity, victimization, and physical self-destruction. At age 50, I had persistent daily heart palpitations and weighed almost 200 pounds (I’m 5’ 1”). I had started stuttering, had neuropathy pain in my fingers and toes and began to experience severe short-term memory loss.During my annual physical exam, I was diagnosed with fatty liver disease, pre-diabetic high blood pressure, and an abnormal mammogram. As I was trying to save the lives of my children, and marriage, I was slowly killing myself one sip at a time. The doctor was very clear with me that if I continued down this road I would die. One day I reached my limit. I drove myself to an AA meeting. This was the first day of my new life, and I have not had a drop of alcohol since. In the beginning, it was extremely difficult to work through the cravings. The witching hour for me was dinner time.
To get through, I’d get on my computer and make Pinterest Boards. boards. Looking back I was manifesting what I wanted my life to look like: I had boards for clothes, hair, makeup, things for my home. That was six years ago. Today my children are thriving. I have reversed all of my medical conditions except some of the neuropathy pain. I believe it is my responsibility to share my story, to shed a bright light on this disease, and to help others still suffering know there is another way to live. I need to be transparent if I’m to be authentic. I appreciate my life and have profound gratitude for my journey. I value all the people that carried me through the darkness, walked by my side, holding my hand to celebrate my triumphs. There are constant challenges to overcome, but I am doing it one day at a time. I hope to inspire others with my story. it’s possible to change your life and heal. Early on in my recovery, I felt a calling to help others find sobriety and be a conduit for the big guy up above to save lives. I came to realize in my recovery that there is so much power in what the family does to promote change, I wanted to help families help their loved ones overcome addiction. I received expert training from top professionals in the nation (The Addictions Academy) and became certified to do interventions, recovery coaching, and family coaching. I also worked with clients to make changes in their homes and wardrobes to match the changes they were making in recovery. This was an observation I had learned early on and applied it to my own life. Obviously, I needed to have an environment free of alcohol. I created a wonderful coffee selection and bought great new coffee mugs. I removed the glassware that was used for cocktails. I didn’t want to sacrifice my serenity in my home so I needed to change the environment. New bedding, new pajamas and a regimen of taking good personal care at night with a lovely candle burning. I was creating a space for myself that would not trigger a relapse and I knew that I could also help others do this for themselves. I conceived this service, calling it “Healing Environments”.
Kelly’s Pacific Grove Home
These are important steps that shouldn’t be overlooked but often are in the recovery world. I truly view my past experiences as a tremendous gift, which transformed my life in ways well beyond my wildest dreams or hopes. My healing process was inspirational for a rewarding career path with significance and for a higher purpose in recovery. I try to be extremely transparent. I believe I have a responsibility to do so. I am sympathetic for others who feel they have to be something they aren’t or feel ashamed or less than for having life struggles. As a child, I used to think there were these ‘perfect’ families and that something was wrong with mine. But no, that is life. I believe every single soul comes into this world with lessons to learn. I just figure, if I don’t learn it this time around I’m going to have to do a repeat and that terrifies me enough to try and face my problems and help others. I want people to know you can have problems, diseases, mental illness, no money whatever the case may be, and that you’re OK! You’re normal. Today is a new day to start over and you’re going to go forward with more wisdom than you did yesterday because of your experiences. No matter what I’ve created or the job I’ve been asked to do, there has always been a common thread that has worked for me. My success has been a result of reaching people emotionally and getting them to buy-in on a new idea or vision and then executing it. My ah-ha moment in my own recovery was applying those tactics to myself and making the changes necessary in creating the life I wanted. I knew early on, that I wasn’t satisfied just working at any job that doesn’t affect people emotionally. I’m supposed to try and open their hearts so change can happen. That was a gift I was given and I take it very seriously. What truly brings me joy is helping someone move beyond his or her pain and find hope and joy from the inside out. Once I can get into someone’s heart, miracles can happen and God can continue to work.
Ageless Style Kelly Ann Swift
What brought you to your job as a stylist at Anthropologie?
I learned during the outset of Covid that though I loved what I was doing as a Transformational Coach, I was not good at balancing work and home life. I decided to discontinue my business and blog. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I needed to begin again. I needed to get back to ‘Kelly,’ and the creative pursuits that gave and give me life! I was hired at Anthropologie in the Carmel Plaza. I worked diligently and stayed on the right path of my life. I found myself with a new little black book, and in time Anthropologie took notice of ‘Kelly’ too. Being a personal stylist wasn’t even on my radar nor was it even a position offered at the store. But management saw my background in design and fashion and put their faith in me. My position as a home and wardrobe stylist is just about everything I love all in one position. I get to style people and their homes. Marketing, special events, and of course helping people emotionally through retail therapy! Many guests struggle with comfort in their own bodies following bouts with breast cancer and tummy tucks. There are women going through a divorce, and sending kids off to college. I would see mothers and daughters at odds, those dealing with the death of a loved one, prepping for weddings, and interviewing for jobs. Being of service is what I love. This is my dream job and I didn’t plan it or see it coming. I’m so excited to see what God has in store for me next! On a side note, I still get calls for interventions and I’m grateful and honored to still be able to direct those in despair to the right people. Anyone in recovery knows in order to keep it, you need to give it away. This is what we call a ‘we’ journey. I’m tapping into all of the things that make me tick and give me purpose. I’m so grateful to the supportive women I work with at Anthropologie. They are my cheerleaders and constant supporters.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The people! I fall in love with people every single day. My kids say I have the ‘gift of gab’. I so enjoy talking to people. There is also something about providing my clients with clothing or furniture that makes me happy. Working as a stylist is much more than helping people select clothing or things for their homes. There isn’t a person that I don’t find interesting. I feel an immense responsibility to help one leave feeling better than when they came in. I work to create an experience and looks that surprise and delight! It’s so rewarding when I can help someone find their style. I try to connect with each person, earn their trust, and observe their personality to create that perfect balance of fit and style. I love beautiful things and I enjoy helping others find things they love. I love creating beautiful environments that make people want to linger. I’ve learned over time that people don’t know what they’re missing until you give it to them. They think they like something until you select something really perfect for them that makes them happy. When I design a room or restyle it. I try to tap into all of their senses. That is what attracted me to Anthropologie. The store is designed to do just that, and it makes guests feel good and want to hang out. It’s so much fun and so rewarding. Clothing and spaces can help transform a person inside and out.
How would you describe your style?
My ‘style’ changes just like my design work. I appreciate so many period styles and love when clothing is influenced by them. It’s fun to change it up! I think I look best in clean lines, not fussy but with a touch of whimsy. Someone once told me, “Just because it’s in style, doesn’t mean it’s meant for you to wear.” That has stuck with me ever since. I’ll see things that I’d love to wear but know they would not look good on me. I’m 5’1” I’ve got to be careful of silhouettes and lines so I don’t look like clothes are wearing me.
Kelly’s Newport Beach Home
Do you have a style muse?
When I need confidence or creativity I look at the character Carrie Bradshaw’s pictures from Sex and The City. She is fearless and timeless all at the same time! Scarlett Johansson for old Hollywood glamour retro-inspired looks and hair and makeup, Charlize Theron’s, pantsuits, statement necklaces, strapless tops, as well as her hair and makeup! When my hair was long I used to try and replicate Bridgit Bardot’s look. I love Audrey Hepburn’s simple elegance. I’ve been compared to Adele, the singer and I’ll take that compliment in a heartbeat. One time I was at a restaurant in a big oversized faux cheetah coat and another guest insisted I was Adele even after explaining I was not. He finally said, well I won’t tell anyone you are here. That’s now officially my Adele coat.
Do you have a favorite accessory?
I could never pick just one! It depends on the outfit. Beautiful clean lines may call for interesting shoes or a simple statement necklace. I’m all about vintage. I collect vintage purses and love vintage-inspired clothes and jewelry. I also enjoy vintage in my home design. In my home, I have a second tree during the holidays that is decorated in 1950’s Christmas Corsages. My favorite sunglasses are vintage frames from a sunglass museum. They’re called The Patsy and I’ve one pair in black and one in tortoiseshell.
What are your favorite color combinations?
I will say that black is just so chic. I love wearing and designing with the different shades and tones of the hue. One trusted combination I love is black, white, and navy. I know, you’re not supposed to put navy and black together, but I think it’s so sophisticated. I find inspiration where ever color can be found. Color combinations come to me constantly: I’ll see a car and its interior then suddenly visualize a beautiful outfit! Or I’ll spy someone on the beach, their shirt backdropped by the sea, I’ll see the perfect color palette for a design. That’s how I designed my house, white on white. I have white walls, repurposed milk glass chandeliers, and fixtures. I added changeable pops and seasonal hues of color with accessories. My entire house has white wood walls and black-lighting. I rewired old lamps and lanterns from eBay. I have white slip-covered furniture and a brown leather sofa, and wood floors! With a house full of kids and animals people always ask how do you keep it clean. “You can bleach the heck out of the slipcovers! And they look brand new.”
Do you have a signature piece that defines your style?
I’m known for my vintage finds in clothes and home design. I love one-of-a-kind pieces that make the outfit and/or space singular. I don’t like cookie-cutter looks. I think what makes me a good stylist is that I can completely get into any look if it’s right for that person! I know it when I see a smile come across their face. Some have done a happy dance when I have hit the nail on the head. I have been blessed with a very broad imagination.
What are your favorite beauty products and why can’t you live without them?
IT Cosmetics, Bye Bye Foundation, I love this foundation, I love the color, it blends easily, and my skin feels moisture-rich without looking oily. Dermalogica PreCleanse. It feels amazing on the skin, it removes make-up very well and leaves your face soft, smooth, and well hydrated. Fur Oil, for barbering personal areas! It prevents razor burn and rashes and leaves skin smooth and healthy. Definitely a, ‘best thing since sliced bread’ type of product! L’Oreal Elive Heat Slayer straightens and protects my hair. It’s the only product that has ever worked. It makes my hair feel like it’s been flat-ironed but it hasn’t. L’oreal Barrel Brush Blow Dryer, a total game changer! No more having to pull out the curl in my hair. It gives me a salon finish and cuts down the styling time.
Do you have any style rules that you live by, or do you break the rules?
I’m such a rule follower in my life, but not at all with fashion, design, or special events. Think outside the box! That’s how trends start. I see young girls come in and they’re ‘designing’ using Anthro’s denim as a base. I hear them talking, “When we get home let’s cut it here and fray the bottom!” Every day I’m asked, “Is this how you’re supposed to wear this?” To which I reply, there are no rules. I like it on you, but how do you feel? I put together outfits just like I do a room. I am not afraid to put a $10,000 sofa next to a spray-painted table. No one ever knows! I have no problem putting on a St. John Knit with drug store jewelry. No joke, I bought a set of rings and hoop earrings from Rite Aid about five years ago. I wear them regularly and people go nuts for them thinking they’re real…what does it matter? If what you’re wearing looks and feels lovely, the price tag is irrelevant. That Right Aid jewelry has lasted longer than some of the real jewelry I’ve bought.
What are your favorite online or boutique sources?
I truly don’t buy much clothing online at all. I have to see it and feel it. I’m constantly touching, manipulating the fabric, and pulling to see if and where there is ‘give’ in a garment. I love thrift stores and am a keen thrifter, I think this is perhaps why I was successful in helping others start life anew with limited funds. I have a rare radar, and seem to find hidden apparel gems that always work just so…I have had the same fortune with furniture: I have a beautiful 1950’s bedroom set I got for $350.
Do you have a particular diet and or exercise regime that you follow?
I am a sugarholic, No joke. It’s a problem. I go in and out of cutting back on my sugar and going to Keto/South Beach recipes. My favorite dessert when I’m trying to avoid ice cream is frozen blueberries at night! For exercise, I believe in stretching, stretching, and stretching. Also, small weights three times weekly and walking are key! And of course vitamins…
Do you have any anti-aging foods or supplements that are your go-to’s?
I’ve turned many people on to Lavella Lavender tablets (oral lavender essential oil) for sleep and anxiety. It works wonders; it’s natural and non-addictive. While I get compliments all the time about my hair and skin and looking young. I can’t take any credit! Good genes, but I do take a lot of Lions Mane for memory, Aloe Vera twice a day for skin, Multi-vitamin, 5 -HTP for stiffness and fatigue and better sleep, Biotin for hair, and nails, and omega-3 supplement for my liver.
What advice do you have for women over 50?
Don’t wait to look wonderful.
Don’t wait for special events to wear pieces and ensembles that make you feel good. The milestone of weight loss, a special event on the calendar, or a visit from an old college friend. All we really have is right now. Dress for who you want to be now, or the (you) you see in those special moments. Celebrate yourself today by wearing something that makes you feel at ease, comfortable, and secure in your own body and breath, will many times be the catalyst you need to push forward.
Don’t design rooms like they are museums. Rooms and the things in them are meant to be used – my mom taught me this philosophy early on! Everything has its meaning and function.
Don’t act your age. I’m so tired of hearing about ‘fashion faux pauxs!’ At 50 you get to do whatever you want. My favorite documentary is “Advanced Style”. Just watch it! These women inspire me to be who I am. They are wonderful, beautiful, fearless and above all they are enjoying the gift of life that they’ve been given! I wish more people decorated themselves with clothes and the attitude of these women. It’s about how they carry themselves and not at all about money.
Some more advice?
As far as the wardrobe goes, I try to buy for the body shape. Remember, just because it’s a fashion trend doesn’t mean it’s meant for you. Spend your money on good-quality basics for your wardrobe. Fill in with less expensive ‘fashion trendy’ pieces. For each outfit, I try to have a focal point. Maybe it’s a fantastic vintage belt buckle a statement necklace or an incredible purse. That piece will really stand out and make its statement. For women over 50, spandex and high-waisted pants are our friends! So many of us carry our weight through our tummy area. When I see this body type, I immediately pull pants with more spandex and give. They are more comfortable and conceal the muffin top. Don’t underestimate the power of good fitting undergarments for shape and comfort. Spend the time to get bras and panties that are soft and give good shape to your outfits. Style is all about form, function, and ATTITUDE. If you’re not comfortable in the outfit, don’t buy it! You want to feel as good as it looks. You’re going to have so much more fun if you’re in an outfit that is not only beautiful but checks all your function boxes too…has the pockets you need, is roomy, soft, etc. There’s nothing worse than just dreaming of ripping off those heels or that uncomfortable dress at the end of the night while you’re only halfway through it. Clothes have a way of transforming us from the outside in. It’s depressing to wear old things that bring you down. I can’t tell you how quickly I see a change in energy and attitude when I can find a couple of pieces of clothing that gives a person a better perspective. Embrace who you are at this very minute and celebrate you. I had a woman in the dressing room, not too long ago that said, “I just always buy black, is that bad? I just love it, but maybe I need to buy something else?” I said, “If that’s what makes you feel like you and you feel happy then let’s go for it and look at different shades of black and different textures! She instantly perked up!
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Thank you so much for sharing your story and your style, and thank you readers for taking time to read Ageless Style Kelly Grace Swift. You might also enjoy past Ageless Style interviews here. If you are local and shop the local Anthro store, ask for Kelly. You can also follow Kelly on Instagram here.
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