Finding your Style

Kelly Hillegass Styling helps clients achieve confidence

Kelly Hillegass0006 Story

Do you have a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear? Are you going on a trip and want to plan your outfits? Or are you an amazing mom who has put herself on hold and now ready for a style refresh?

KELLY HILLEGASS, owner of Kelly Hillegass Styling in Wilmington opened her dream-come-true business in 2018 helping clients who are stuck with personal, commercial, and editorial styling.“I always wanted to be a stylist. And now I’m working with a local up-and-coming lifestyle brand and with personal clients while living close to family in a town that I love,” Hillegass says.

Hillegass credits her mom, grandmother, and older sister for her passion for fashion. “My mom was stylish and beautiful. She was always thrifting which engrained a strong sense of taking something old and giving it a refresh,” she recalls.

Growing up, Hillegass spent lots of time with her grandmother. “This was honestly one of the best gifts of my life. My grandmother always had creative projects to work on together. She loved to shop and took me with her.” Even going to school was a fashion occasion. Borrowing from her sister’s closet came with fashion and hairstyling advice.

During and after earning a communications degree from Cape Fear Community College, Hillegass worked for Wilmington lifestyle photographer Eric Von Bargen pulling clothes for photo shoots and assisted local stylist Jess James + Co. with events. After graduation, she fell in love with offering tailored shopping experiences at Hot Wax Surf Shop where she also handled merchandising, managed fashion shows, and styled photoshoots.

In 2015, Hillegass moved to New York City to work for PR Consulting Inc., a public relations firm with clients the likes of Dior, Dries Van Noten, and J Brand. Here she coordinated clothing samples for national and international publications, worked at New York Fashion Week, and managed digital and print press clippings.

“I loved New York. It felt like I was the star of my own The Devil Wears Prada moment,” Hillegass says.

But Hillegass found herself missing her “little beach town” and one year later returned to Wilmington to work for Simply Noelle. “I learned a ton while working at Noelle,” she says. Hillegass managed catalog photo shoots and created lookbooks, hired and managed talent, and did product development. She even spent time in China for production.

Today, local brand Beach & Barn is one of Hillegass’s commercial clients. She manages entire photography sessions from selection of location to scene set up with props to the styling of the models with a focus on the store or a particular brand. Hillegass also offers fashion-forward editorial styling for magazines.

Kelly Hillegass Story2But it’s personal styling she loves the most. Her clients range from brides looking to put together outfits for photos to working moms climbing the corporate ladder while spending weekends running kids to soccer. “I especially love helping these clients put focus back on themselves.”

While COVID-19 caused pause to Hillegass’s new business, there was a silver lining. “It was a scary time that became the beautiful gift of being a stay-at-home mom with my newborn son. “I slowed down which I hadn’t ever done and focused on my next goals.” During this time, Hillegass vacationed in Puerto Rico and photographed a collection of vintage clothing preparing to open her online shop, Heaven and Sea Market, this spring.

“COVID has caused an overall slowdown including the fashion industry. “So, I am focusing on items that can be worn multiple ways, like lounging or doing computer work, but can be dressed up for an outside dining event. House dresses have been huge. These loose comfy numbers will continue to take us into the summer.”

Her number one style tip? Take time for your closet. Keep it tidy and display items in an easy-to-shop way.

Hillegass concludes, “What I love more than working with clothes is the people. I love helping someone have the confidence to shop with purpose or create a new look for a fresh start.”

To view more of photographer Terah Wilson’s work, go to

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Categories: Culture