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Former Lady’s Maid Alicia Healey Refashions Royal Experience into Styling Business

You can imagine our excitement when we had the opportunity to interview Alicia Healey, former Lady’s Maid in the Royal Household and author of “Wardrobe Wisdom: How to Dress and Take Care of Your Clothes.”

Alicia enjoying a Royal Ascot picnic at home

You don’t have to live in the U.K. to be curious about the Royal Family. Just stop by a grocery store and you’re sure to see Prince William or Princess Catherine’s face on magazine covers.

So, you can imagine our excitement when we had the opportunity to interview Alicia Healey, former Lady’s Maid in the Royal Household and author of “Wardrobe Wisdom: How to Dress and Take Care of Your Clothes.”

Tell us about the places you have lived and where you live now.

I’m currently based in Hertfordshire, [north of London]. I moved here from Monaco as it’s close enough to London for work but more dog-friendly. (I have a pug, so most of my decisions are built around her!) It’s also near my childhood home in Buckinghamshire. I have lived in various places – St Andrews (where I went to university), London for four years when working for the Royal Household, and Monaco/South of France for four years. Monaco/France is much more dog-friendly when you’re renting – they don’t discriminate against pet parents like they do in the UK.

What is your background and how did you become interested in fashion?

I have a background in art and art history; I studied art history at university. I sort of fell into this line of work– working for private households– as it was so hard to find paid work in the art world. I’ve always liked classic fashion and the way that wearing a well-put-together outfit can boost your mood.

Tell us about your decision to train at Buckingham Palace. How did that come about?

It wasn’t really a decision as such. I had a temporary summer job at Balmoral Castle after graduating, and they asked me to come back to the palace to work on a permanent basis.

Alicia attending the Buckingham Palace Garden Party

What were some of your typical duties as a lady’s maid, wardrobe manager, and personal assistant?

The duties vary depending on the client/employer. As a lady’s maid, the duties are focused on the wardrobe – packing and unpacking suitcases, laying out clothes, and organising the wardrobe and dressing area. They can also include things like assisting with hair and makeup, running baths, hand-washing clothes, ironing, and sewing. It’s an old-fashioned job title now, but there are still some roles around like this – usually with Middle Eastern, ultra-high-net-worth households. It’s more common now for this job to merge with other roles, such as a butler or personal assistant.

A wardrobe manager usually has to keep track of extensive wardrobes across multiple homes, so the duties would include creating a photographic inventory to itemise each piece, sourcing and purchasing new pieces each season, and dealing with things like clothing alterations and restoration. One lady I worked for had a real passion for fashion and had built up a vast collection over decades, stored in an external vault and across four homes – it was like a museum for clothes.

Private personal assistant work is more admin-based, e.g. managing diaries; booking appointments, hotels, and flights; personal shopping; hiring staff; and house management. Though the multi-tasking can be challenging, I like the variety of tasks that these jobs present and no two days are ever the same.

What was your favorite city that you visited as a lady’s maid?

I have visited many interesting places with work including Riyadh, Jeddah, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Jordan, The Maldives, Tokyo, Kyoto, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Koh Samui, Istanbul, Sweden, Rome, Venice, Milan, Florence, Paris, and Monaco.

I think Florence is my favourite European city, but I have a soft spot for Monaco as I lived there for several years and adopted my pug Dorothy there. I also liked visiting all the places in the Middle East. I admire their culture, the modest style and I like Middle Eastern food. I found them very polite and welcoming – my former Saudi employer brought me Arabic coffee and dates while I was packing her suitcases. Small touches like this go a long way in making you feel welcomed.

Alicia sitting by the sea in sunny Monaco with her pug dog Dorothy

Since many of our customers are in the U.S., what were your impressions of the U.S.? Where did you visit and what did you like about it?

When travelling with work, I found Americans very informal and friendly. In San Francisco, I remember a woman walking into the hotel lift I was in and saying really loudly, “You smell amazing!” That would never happen in the UK – we avoid eye contact at all costs in confined spaces! I visited Hawaii, San Francisco, Orlando, Miami, Las Vegas, and very briefly New York, back-to-back at the end of a three-month work trip around the world. I was quite jet lagged at that point of the trip, so it was hard to properly enjoy it. I would like to visit New York again properly one day. (My only experience of NYC was a taxi ride from Newark Airport to JFK Airport.)

Tell us about the decision to turn your experience into a brand.

I set up my Instagram page @theladysmaid in 2017, mainly as a platform to publicise my book, “Wardrobe Wisdom”, which was published in 2018. I started posting about royal style and realised there was a huge interest in it on Instagram; it also aligns with my preference for classic, timeless style. @theladysmaid has always been a side hustle – I built it up alongside full-time work.

Of all the services you offer, what are you most passionate about?

I like styling as it enables me to be creative and utilises my attention to detail and colour; it’s a bit like painting with clothes. I also like the practical nature of organising clothes; I’m not very good at sitting behind a computer screen in one room for too long.

What is one thing you want your followers to know about you and your work?

That I’m available for work! Most of my Instagram work is unpaid, so it can be quite time-consuming and not worthwhile to post on there so regularly. Instagram is a great platform for advertising, but I think it’s important to have content on your own website and to focus on work offline too. It is a fine balance between sharing something you’re interested in with like-minded people – engaging in that online community – and giving away your services for free.

People often DM me asking for style advice, thinking it’s a free service, as if I’m an in-phone complementary app, rather than a real person with bills to pay. When I set up @theladysmaid I did lots of personal styling for followers for free, but it’s not sustainable to keep doing that. I have to focus my creative resources primarily on paid work. Sometimes I feel uneasy about how social media encourages people to buy new things all the time. I have even influenced myself over the years and bought way more than I need, so I’m trying to strike more of a balance now – through recommending quality brands and pieces that last, including pre-loved items in my style posts, as well as posting about how to organise, store, and care for your clothes.

Alicia wearing a beautiful pale pink hat designed by milliner Rachel Trevor Morgan

Alicia wearing a beautiful pale pink hat designed by milliner Rachel Trevor Morgan

What made you decide to write a book?

The jobs I’ve done have mostly been for very high-profile/high-net-worth households, but the tasks of clothing care, organisation, and creating outfits are things that we all do, so I thought I could use my experience to offer tips to a wider audience. It’s so hard to write a book about style without it [becoming quickly outdated]. I wanted mine to be more useful and practical so it has sections on wardrobe organisation and clothing care, as well as different dress codes and how to build a capsule wardrobe. I wanted it to be a timeless guide that you could refer to year after year.

What is one item every woman should have in her closet?

It depends on your individual style and lifestyle. I don’t think there is one item that everyone must have. I think it’s more important to develop your own style uniform – pieces that suit you and that you know you can rely on to take the stress out of dressing.

There are some key classic wardrobe staples that offer versatility in most wardrobes, e.g. a striped T-shirt, a classic blazer, a white shirt – timeless pieces that transcend trends.

How can the average woman add personality to classic style so she can still feel trendy?

With accessories – statement earrings, an interesting belt, or colourful shoes can add a contemporary look and individuality to a classic outfit.

Other than fashion, what are you passionate about?

I like painting and drawing. I recently gave my Ikea dresser a painted makeover, but usually I paint on a smaller scale on paper. My little pug is my muse and takes up a lot of my time; I like walking with her in the countryside and I cook every meal for her due to a chronic tummy condition. Nursing her through her illness has been a struggle at times but also very rewarding to see her get better – dogs are the best company.

Dorothy the pug dog is one of Alicia’s greatest passions

Who is your inspiration?

Elegant ladies from the past like Jackie Kennedy and Princess Diana are sources of inspiration for timeless, elegant style. My dad always dressed smartly with a shirt and tie, and nice jumpers, so I think I subconsciously learned the importance of being well-dressed from him.

In the introduction of “Wardrobe Wisdom,” Alicia writes, “I have always been aware of the transformative power of clothing to change how we feel – whether it be a professional look to give confidence at work or dressing up for a special event. Even casual clothes – the trusty favourites you return to over and over again – are like a comfort blanket and when I’m properly dressed, I feel my best self.”

So it makes sense that Alicia helps other people discover the transformative power of clothing through her writing, online community, and personal services.

And, if you love Alicia’s timeless and elegant style, you’ll love reading our interviews with Gabrielle Jones and Marley Victory Bee.

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