Published in The Strip, winter 2014, nominated for Golden Quill Award
“Bear Brandegee: Dressing the Women of Pittsburgh”
For many of us, getting dressed in the morning is anything but a formulaic experience. We toss aside shirts that don’t quite look right, skirts that fall at an awkward length, and finally settle on something that isn’t too offending.
For Bear Brandegee, style floats somewhere between science and art. She follows a proprietary formula, which she has perfected over the years, but also relies on something a little less tangible: an innate sense of style.
A Pittsburgh-based stylist and personal shopper (and Lawrenceville resident), Brandegee is a behind-the-scenes force that many of the city’s most influential women rely on to look their best. She reflects these women’s authority and intellect in their wardrobe, helping them choose ensembles that are unique to them and their business environment.
Brandegee works with her clients at her chic downtown studio, Doncaster on Fifth and Piatt Place. For the past ten years, she has been a Doncaster style consultant. Doncaster is a fashion house that’s been creating gorgeous clothes for women for more than 80 years. According to Brandegee, “The collection runs from size 0 to 24, featuring an impressive plus-size collection. “All the fabrics are from the finest mills in the world, including those that produce for design houses such as Chanel, Prada and Armani.” Through her partnership with Doncaster, she is helping to make dressing beautifully a way of life for women in Pittsburgh.
However, Brandegee’s path to becoming a leading force in Pittsburgh’s fashion scene didn’t follow a predictable route. Her corporate and entrepreneurial experience, as well as her fashion and business degree, are what really set her apart from the rest and help her relate to her client base.
“From dot.com entrepreneur to corporate communications executive, my career BF (before fashion) focused on business and brand building,” she says. “Now I use many of the same techniques to help other women build and manage their own personal brands.“ From vice president at Fleishman-Hillard to speechwriter and media relations advisor to the chairman of Mitsubishi Electric, Brandegee’s early career unknowingly prepared her for her career in fashion.
In 1997, Brandegee earned an Associate Arts degree in fashion merchandising from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. Her degree complemented her previous University of Chicago B.A. in English Literature and University of Southern California MBA. This unique mix of experience and education opened the door for a career in fashion. In 2004, she became the owner of her Doncaster business.
Now, Brandegee works with women who she can genuinely relate to. Because of her career experiences, she understands how little time her clients have to deal with shopping and dressing, and how dressing well is essential to her clients’ success. “The majority of my clients are business women who have high-powered and high-stress careers and need to be at the top of their game in every way,” she says.
“I work with doctors, attorneys, judges, bankers, financial advisors, marketers, sales executives and business owners. I also work with women who are social activists and community leaders, who serve on boards and are active in not-for-profit organizations,” she says. “The common thread among them all is a belief that their visual presence amplifies their voice and their professionalism.”
“Styling a new client involves an interview process and time in front of the mirror,” explains Brandegee. “We talk about lifestyle, body challenges, style icons, flaws to camouflage and assets to highlight.” She and her client then discuss favorite fashion trends, personal style, likes and dislikes. This allows her to pull together a variety of choices for her client to try and to help them understand why some styles work and others don’t.
“I will assess her style needs and make recommendations on the fabrics, colors and silhouettes that work best for her figure and coloring. Then I’ll curate a selection of the best looks of the season that are just right for her,” she says. Clients shop in a relaxing environment, enjoying lunch or a glass of wine while they peruse the fashions. They leave her studio feeling confident and beautiful, assured that they will look their best for whatever the day brings their way. “I have looks that will take my clients from office to cocktail party from casual chic weekend retreat to formal dinner,” says Brandegee. She is also able to keep client budgets in mind, a key difference that sets her apart. “I help my clients create the maximum number of options with the minimal amount of pieces.”
So what does a styling service like this cost? Well, nothing; you only pay for the clothing you purchase. Brandegee’s consulting and styling advice are complimentary services. She operates with the belief that if a woman is investing in fine designer clothing, she should have expert styling advice and an indulgent shopping experience available to her. Brandegee makes perfecting your wardrobe a full-service experience, like it should be.
There’s one other reason why Pittsburgh women can trust Brandegee: she’s a Pittsburgher at heart, herself. She was born and raised here, and after living in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, she moved back with her husband and daughter to make Lawrenceville their home.
“Living in Lawrenceville is perfect for us. My husband and I often enjoy our morning espresso at Espresso a Mano and evening cocktails at Tender.” Brandegee and her family live in a gorgeous renovated church loft, with plenty of space to entertain and dance. “We love the gritty, earthy urban culture in this neighborhood.”