We recently caught up with Monica Barnett of Blueprint for Style. Monica just re-launched Pocket Personal Stylist, a virtual service that gives you access to an expert wardrobe stylist to get style advice or item recommendations including direct purchase links on-the-go! You send the request via text or email, and within 48 hours, your style conundrum is solved. We love this quick fix offering and we love that you can try the first service for $1! Read on for our AWU Q&A with Monica.

Where do you reside and how have you been managing COVID-19? 

I am currently living in Washington, DC and have been for the last 15 years or so, and prior to that, it was Chicago (and then a few other places). I’ve been a bit of a rolling stone since it’s been all about work and my business. I think I managed through COVID-19 ok because I had a partner for most of it so he made it fun. We split right after my birthday in late October but that put me right into Q4 which was okay because I threw myself into my business and the like. My new little world looks colorful and a bit more spread out. As someone who lives alone, I can move to my own beat and I’ve taken to using different corners of the house to grow/launch my new projects so instead of what would normally be a very organized place, I have ½ of my sofa was items for a photoshoot, an upstairs hallway with a clothing rack, and a bedroom with fedoras all about as I think about how to showcase them. I don’t think I’ll be inviting anyone to my place anytime soon!

What has been your go-to meal during this time? 

Starting out, the pandemic meant I was eating more and eating healthier because I was actually grocery shopping and making food especially since there were two of us. As summer came, I moved to BBQ and I indulged in more than my fair share of Hebrew National hot dogs because nothing signals summer more than a charred hot dog! If it could be grilled, I was doing it. Now that I’m solo and it’s winter, I’ve taken to comfort foods like chili, lasagna and homemade vegetable soup. I’ve shared my lasagna recipe below. It’s an ideal go-to because it’s hearty, you can freeze it and pull it out later, you can eat on it for days, and it can be eaten in a bowl which is the preferred method of delivery when nestled on a couch with a glass of wine! This lasagna recipe is pretty good except that I substitute ground turkey for the meat because my sister doesn’t eat it. If anything I may go a little overboard on the cheese and save some sauce to put on top right before I eat it.

What has been one indulgence or luxury (small or large) that has helped you cope? 

My one indulgence has been reading. I used to be an avid reader when I had more time to exhale but somewhere along the line, I traded that in for thinking about work, the next project, etc. The pandemic has given me a chance to get back to reading because I canceled my Directv account to save money and to allow me to focus more during the day, and when I want a break, I now read a few pages in one of the books I have. As of now, I am reading my newest book, The Creatives’ Closet, Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazi, and Fashionopolis by Dana Thomas. They all give me something different and then I also sprinkle in my magazines which I am now completely current on!!! 

How would you characterize your COVID style? 

I’m a wardrobe stylist so the stylist in me kept searching for the “perfect” pieces so I could replicate and repeat. Plus it quickly became the number one question I was being asked by clients who had never worked from home or done remote working before. I conducted several seminars for companies focused on how to do business virtually and how to dress for it as well given the new dynamics at play. The stylist in me went to work to systematically figure out exactly what you needed for what. For me, my go-to has been a 3-part plan: first, get out of bed and get clean; next, review the agenda for the agenda for the day so I that I can figure out how I need to dress; and finally, I’d rock one of 4 uniforms with my favorite being a sweatshirt dress because it requires very little thought, it’s warm, and always looks together for any quick video chatting. My COVID-19 style hasn’t changed much from my standard WFH uniform since it’s how I’ve been living for years. It’s only slightly expanded my search for cool sweatshirt dresses and increased the sharing I do with friends, clients, and followers. 

I have several items I cannot live without but, for the sake of trying to stay on-task, I will lump them into two must-haves: my scents and my jewelry. Spritzing on a scent for the day, just gives me a little extra pep and mentally signals that I’m going out and that’s helpful for me. The jewelry is a must-have because it’s my reminder throughout the day that I’m put together and ready for whatever. It can be a quick coffee run or post office drop, or maybe it’s going to a hotel to work for the day. While clothes are the “bricks” or foundation of your look, jewelry (and accessories, in general) represent the “mortar” that brings and keeps any outfit together.

How has COVID impacted your work? 

COVID-19 initially stopped my business in its tracks but after lifting my head from the sand, I figured out how I could capitalize on the current circumstances. I’m not sure I did it successfully but I expanded my virtual services, my virtual style classes, and seminars. Because almost 60% of my time was working from home already, there hasn’t been a ton of change except that I do create new little spaces to work from throughout the house and have taken to working from hotels more (so I can see people). The tendency when you work from home is to let your day drag on but I’ve implemented a hard stop by 7pm and if I go beyond that, I make sure I give myself at least 12 hours before starting work again (e.g., if I end my work at 9pm then i don’t start working until at least 9am the next day).

Let’s dream a little - what do you think the future will look like for your industry? 

This part is fun because I dream a lot!!! The future will be much of the same but with a fairly even spread of folks who work from home and those are doing partial in-office time. The result is easy pieces that can dress up will be the aspiration. For personal styling, more people will want and demand virtual services thus the Pocket Personal Stylist will be ideal to access an expert, be quick, have low commitment and cost, and get rapid, personalized responses! As someone who is a slight germaphobe, I am excited that things will be cleaner in general and that there is greater awareness on the topic. I also think it dovetails nicely to think about being more environmentally conscious which is something I think we’ll see more of as well. The number of questions I get asked about sustainable fashion brands increases weekly.

What constitutes a good day these days? 

A good day these days are the ones where I get up and my hair and I are on the same page, it’s dry outside so I can go for a workout walk, and I get to have some type of human interaction whether pizza delivery man, client Zoom, or chatting with a boutique owner. As a single introvert, I’ve managed to find time for myself so my fun now is in finding ways to connect with others… which is almost counterintuitive given my introvert status. By the way, I find that I have more good days than bad so I’m winning!!

Do you have a mantra that is seeing you through these days?

One of my life mantras is ‘to whom much is given, much is required’ but right now the one that is resonating with me HARD is “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”. I’ve taken them much more seriously these days and am continuously looking for ways to uplift Black, female-owned businesses because they don’t get enough kudos, to find ways to deplete the earth just a little less since she’s done such a fabulous job in keeping us, and bringing my A-game as much as possible because as one of my other favorite mantras reminds us, “a rising tide raises all ships”.