Louisa Ellis: Shopping From Head To Toe
By Nichole Dupont
Two days before my 40th birthday I walk into Louisa Ellis (its new home is a larger space at 294 Main Street in Great Barrington) thinking I was going to have a brief sit-down interview with the store’s owner/innovator/maven Melissa Bigarel. I’m wearing an orange sweater. This is an important detail. But about five minutes into our interview, as I inquired about women and their beauty hangups, Bigarel, who is dressed in a flouncy blouse and tapered jeans, stops me.
“Do you want to just try it?” she asks.
“You mean… everything?” I eyed the softly lit shelves of the Beauty Bar, full of pastel packaged products — Klorane chamomile conditioner, Mario Badescu collagen moisturizer, Avene sunscreen — and the glamorous corridor of mirrors and red leather chairs meant solely for makeup artistry. “Why the hell not. I’m going to be 40 in two days.”
Bigarel perks up and looks over at Brielle, the store’s makeup genius.
“We’re going to do an anti-40 look,” she says decisively.
And suddenly, I am whisked over to one of those fancy red chairs.
The experience that is Louisa Ellis begins with a light floral fragrance that hangs magically in the space, lingering on the clothing, which runs the spectrum from Sundry loungewear (the softest I have ever laid hands on) to Diane Von Furstenberg dresses. Bigarel is not afraid of color, and that becomes apparent with the racks of jewel-toned blouses by Three Eighty Two and Milly, raw-edged blazers (Amour Vert), and bling-y Atelier necklaces.
Not long ago, the store expanded into its new space, this time with new product. Bigarel partnered with Jane Iredale (president and founder of Iredale Mineral Cosmetics, and unofficial mayor of Great Barrington) to create an elegant retail experience that provides not only apparel, but also everything in the Iredale line. And someone to put it all together for you. Bigarel and her associates offer head-to-toe stylizing.
“This is a place where women can shop holistically,” she says. “Our goal is to provide pieces that help women feel feminine, lively and confident — to help women look and feel their best. The inclusion of the Jane Iredale Makeup Studio has further helped us deliver that experience.”
I was definitely starting to look my best as Brielle put the finishing touch on my “wingtip” eyeliner, then let me take a full look at my “new” face, which was surprisingly recognizable, but brighter.
“We’ll wait on the lipstick until after you pick out what you’re going to wear,” Bigarel says.
She has already selected a few things for me to try on, but I am somewhat pressed for time. She points to a deep burgundy pink dress and says, “Try that one on first.” And then hands me a pair of delicate, nude heels.
Bigarel is a true master of her craft. And that comes from years of working with clients with different tastes and varying levels of comfort in their own skin. My utilitarian doubts about the feminine dress melt away. Suddenly my wide shoulders are an asset. When I ask her how she’s able to make her clients feel so at ease with thinking outside the box, she says, “We just talk to them. We listen to what they are telling (and not telling) us.”
“Louisa Ellis is more than a store, we are a community of women that love, and love to share, style. When you spend time in our store, you are not just buying a new top or picking up a new lipstick, you are spending time with women that are as invested in your personal style as you are. We want your time with us to be educational, tailored to you and enjoyable.”
Bigarel’s own style is seemingly effortless, relaxed and confident. Her hair is not coiffed, nor is she caked with makeup. She has a few go-to essentials to achieve her style, but nothing too fancy.
“I am not a fan of the ‘Top Ten Things Every Woman Must Own’ type lists, but I do believe every woman should have a series of tops in her best color (mine is navy); complete looks in her favorite silhouette; and a couple of pieces that are constants that she can wear every day,” she says. “Jewelry that has personal meaning is a great way to do this. My essentials are a navy silk Daniela Corte tie-front blouse because it works with everything — jeans, nude shoes and a watch my husband gave me. My makeup bag always includes Jane Iredale PurePressed Base — I’ve been using it for 17 years — eye cream (I’m partial to Avene’s Physiolift Eye Cream) and a lip pencil.”
I get back into my civilian garb — jeans, platform boots — but hesitate with the orange sweater. Its relevancy, especially sporting the bright berry-stained lips, is dwindling. Bigarel senses my hesitancy and suggests something in navy, which she says should be the base color for my wardrobe. Then she hands me a soft, boxy T-shirt in that shade. I put it on. She shows me how to do a little tuck in the front to give me “some shape” and it works. It works wonderfully.
“I’m wearing this out,” I say, dropping the sweater into its casket — a pink bag from the store.
294 Main St., Great Barrington, MA