As a young girl growing up in small-town Illinois, Kirsten Cunningham looked forward to the annual shopping pilgrimage to Chicago every January with mom, Carol and grandmother, Nanny. They’d have lunch someplace special, shop the sales along Michigan Avenue, and stay over night in a fancy city hotel. This beloved family tradition served as the early influence to Cunningham’s appreciation for and love of all things fashion related—including the closet.
“I developed a love for fashion, which evolved over time into closet organizing and personal styling,” says Cunningham, a Hinsdale resident since 1997 and the founder and owner of The Perfect Pair.
Kirsten’s evolution would first take her to college at the University of Iowa for a degree in marketing. She then traveled the world for a time, and established a career in commercial real estate in Chicago, where she met husband David. They settled in Hinsdale (across from Burn’s Field), when his company moved to Oak Brook, and started their family of three children who are now mostly grown—William (21), Grace (19), and Joseph (17). They’ve called Hinsdale home ever since.
“We love the proximity to city, small town feel, sense of community, and the fact that Hinsdale is close to my family,” she says.
After staying home to raise her children for a number of years, Cunningham decided (about five years ago) that she wanted to find some additional purpose in her life.
“Friends were always asking me where I got something I was wearing, or to help them shop and pick out an outfit for an event,” she explains. “I had a knack for finding things at good prices—things I saw in magazines and on Instagram and bloggers’ posts.”
With that, The Perfect Pair was born. With the tagline, “Your Fashion Concierge,” Cunningham’s business can take care of just about anything fashion-related. The Perfect Pair encompasses services from closet organizing and personal styling to event dressing and packing for a trip. Yes, someone (Cunningham) will take away the burden and stress of the dreaded “what do I pack for vacation?”
But, the fact is, according to Cunningham, “I knew I needed to start in a person’s closet, to see what they have, what they need, and what they don’t need. I’ll help them get that organized first. Then comes the shopping part. That’s where closet organization and fashion and came into play.”
While most of us probably dread the idea of organizing our closets, Cunningham says, “My closet is one of my favorite places in my home.” And her approach to the subject is matter-of-fact. “The first thing I do when I get up in the morning is go to my closet and think about what I am going to wear today. So do most other people. Would you rather be stressed about this or feel good about picking something efficiently and about what you are wearing today?”
Cunningham says, from personal experience, that once she did her own closet, then her husband’s, then her kids, she knew she could help others simplify and streamline their organization and their daily process for getting dressed.
“It makes dressing much easier when things are coordinated and categorized,” she says. “And you will be in it at the beginning of the day and the end of the day (and maybe during the day).”
By way of an example, Cunningham says she recently organized a man’s closet. “He couldn’t’ find things,” she remembers. “He told me he woke up at night stressed about what to wear the next day. After we organized his closet, he told me it was a huge relief and burden off his shoulders.”
And while many of us may think it is cost-prohibitivie to hire a stylist or closet organizer, Cunningham says she helps people make he most of what they already own, feel better about their closets and wardrobes, and possibly find that special coveted piece at a great price. Plus, her fee is affordable and worth every cent.
“I help my clients put together outfits that they might not have thought of by using their existing clothes,” she explains. “It’s like shopping in your closet for free,” she laughs. “I’ll add a scarf, an accessory, or a pop of color with some shoes, and it will look like a whole another outfit.” When it comes to finding an outfit for a special occasion, Cunningham works within each client’s budget. “I’ll do research to find it at a better price or on sale,” she says. “I keep apprised of the latest steals and deals too.”
Cunningham learned the art of shopping for a value with her mother and grandmother all those years ago during those annual shopping expeditions.
“I’d try on all the shoes in the store, and my mom would say, ‘Those are all pretty, but let’s find them at a better price.’ ” And they would, by shopping different stores during their sales. Now, the power and efficiency of the Internet and social media has been a game changer.
“It’s a different generation with social media,” says Cunningham. “I have found, especially with Instagram, it is a way to get great exposure. I am also now a lot more aware of what people are looking for and looking at. If I post a look or an outfit, for example, people will ask me where I got the blazer or a certain piece. If I post a before and after of a closet, people will respond to that.”
Cunningham says she also gets a lot of inspiration from Pinterest, and has had a lot of success setting up boards for The Perfect Pair and personal Pinterest boards just for her clients. A couple that she currently follows are Song of Style and Hello Adams Family.
It’s clear that Cunningham is upbeat and loves her work. She’ll even meet a client at the mall for a fashion emergency.
“I love helping people feel good about themselves,” Cunningham says. It’s really that simple.
For more information, visit ppstyling.com.