Location: Chicago, IL
Marital Status: Married
As a senior at an all-girls Catholic high school, Stacy Wallace-Albert loved her school uniform. “When I put on that uniform; that plaid skirt, (I never went for the jumper) and the white shirt, it just felt really comfortable to me.” Over thirty years later, Stacy, the former Chicago magazine fashion editor turned personal stylist, helps her clients find their “uniforms.” “Once I’m in a woman’s closet, our session is all about them. I am on my hands and knees, grubbing around in the backs of closets to come up with their uniform.”
And that white button down from her Catholic school days? It’s made a huge comeback in Stacy’s life. An article she wrote on her favorite Brooks Brothers’ white shirt for the Chicago Tribune was picked up by The Oprah Winfrey Show. The shirt sold out almost instantly and Stacy landed a gig as a Brooks Brothers spokeswoman.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Watchung, New Jersey, close to New York, but also I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time at the Jersey shore, where I still go in the summer.
Did you go to high school in New Jersey?
I went to public school until senior year of high school, when I switched to an all-girl Catholic high school, Mount St. Mary’s Academy in Jersey. My parents had always wanted me to go to Catholic school but I resisted until senior year when I looked at my grades and thought, ‘I better get this together or I won’t be able to get into college.’
Were you a wild girl?
I definitely pushed the envelope. As soon as I was old enough to get working papers, I became a waitress. I wanted different clothes than my mother wanted for me. I wanted Peanuts pants, which were the lowest rise jeans that came out at that time. They came in neon colors.
What was your style like when you were younger?
I wore those Peanuts pants, which never looked cute on me because I have a very athletic build. I wore Huckapoo shirts and long, denim prairie skirts with a ruffle at the bottom. Looking back, the shirt and skirt didn’t look so cute.
What were your parents like? Were they strict?
Yes, my mother was. She was a young mom, only 20 years old when I was born. I was the oldest child and the only girl. I was not allowed to get my ears pierced until I was 16.
Did she work?
No she did not. My father worked and I always thought his life was so much more interesting than hers. He sold Caterpillar tractors.
When did you become interested in journalism?
Senior year of high school, I was the editor of the newspaper. I was really good at headlines. I changed the name of the paper from like the Mt. St. Mary’s Observe to Mountain Peeks and they still use it.
Did you go locally to college?
I went away to the University of Maryland and, quite frankly, had a very spotty college career.
When you first started to work, what brought you to Chicago and what did you do?
I went from Maryland to the College of St. Elizabeth, back to Maryland and then quit school. I started at Young & Rubicam advertising agency as a runner for the executive floor. I remember one day the CEO said ‘what are you doing here?’ And I said, ‘Well I thought I could work my way up to being an account executive.’ He said, ‘Not in this industry. You have to go back to school. When you graduate, call me, and I will get you an interview.’
What did you do? Did you go back to school?
Yes and I graduated on the dean’s list in a year and a half.
Did you go back to Young & Rubicam?
I called the CEO, got an interview but declined, because everyone remembered me as a runner there. So he got me an interview at Ogilvy & Mather and I became probably the worst assistant media planner in the history of Ogilvy & Mather advertising.
So I guess you didn’t stay there long?
No. From there, I worked for Billy Joel’s agent. I helped Christie Brinkley and Billy Joel apartment hunt. That’s how I got into real estate…
Wow, from advertising to temping for Billy Joel’s agent to real estate… So how did you get into fashion?
I was 22-years-old when I started becoming aware of style. For me, shopping was not buying, it was research. I went to Bergdorfs and I went to Bendels. I was very picky because I couldn’t afford much.
FOF: What did you like to wear at the time?
Oh those hideous Gunne Sax things. I had streaky brown hair and freckles and hazel eyes and I was wearing horrible greys and blue. Some of the women at the real estate company I worked for started giving me their hand me downs, like a Sonia Rykiel knock off.
So tell me how you segued into everything. You moved to Chicago, then what?
I made a list of all I had done: advertising, copy writing, media planning, sales, printing and then my passion, shopping. I found my calling. I published a shopping guide to speciality stores in Chicago called The Source. That little guide morphed into a magazine called The A List. When I decided to close The A List after three years, during which I made no money, the editor of Chicago magazine called said were looking for a fashion editor, do you know anyone? And I said yeah, how about me? And I became the fashion editor of Chicago magazine.
Do you still work for Chicago magazine?
I’m still a contributing editor. I do events for them and fashion show commentary.
So what else are you doing?
I am a personal stylist and a spokeswoman for Brooks Brothers.
Tell me about the personal styling.
I edit my client’s closets. I prefer to edit their closets with them than to shop with them. I started shopping women’s closets five years ago. I found that the women who I started to work with doing their closets were busy, were on the cusp or just graduating to something new. None of them wanted more clothes.
What do you do for Brooks Brothers?
A couple weeks after the Oprah segment hit about their no-iron white shirt, Brooks Brothers called me and they said, ‘let’s have lunch, we’d like to thank you in person.’ They told me they wanted me to be the spokesperson for their white shirts. I love this company and I love this product. I just did a QVC segment for Brooks Brothers on Super Saturday.
What is your personal style?
Quotidian elegance. Everyday, plain old elegance. Or maybe more approachable chic.
I like Maria Pinto. She doesn’t do disposable fashion. I have pieces of hers that go back over ten years and they’re not cheap, but one of my mantras is have fewer, better things. Her clothing does the work for you. And that’s what I tell women, ‘let your clothes do the work.’
Do you have a fashion inspiration?
Millicent Fenwick, she was an editor at Vogue and a congresswoman. She always wore the most amazing suits that showed off her figure. She always wore pencil skirts.
What perfume do you wear?
Fleur Orientale by Miller Harris. It’s scrumptious and sophisticated. There’s nothing fake about the scent.
Do you have a favorite skin care product?
The Olay Pro X SPF30. It’s not harsh; it doesn’t burn my skin, and it protects me. I like my skin to feel moist. I don’t like that dried out, chalky feeling. I have been sent an unbelievable amount of product as a fashion editor, but I love this one.
What is your single most important thing you’ve learned in your career?
That if you do what you truly love and don’t care about the money, you will end up making a living that way.