Carrie Montgomery helps women discover a sense of style that sums up their personality and their soul
One of Carrie Montgomery’s earliest memories is of wanting—really, truly coveting—pixie boots and a Barbour jacket. She was 6 and was living in England.
“I would change my clothing three or four times a day,” Montgomery, now 42, says with a laugh. “I just loved trying on different outfits to see how it changed how I felt.”
The daughter of international banker Ralph Hurlbutt and interior designer Louise Hurlbutt, who bought furniture all over the world for Hurlbutt Designs, Montgomery was raised in London, New York, Philadelphia and Kennebunk.
“I had so much exposure to so many different cultures growing up, and my mom taught me to look at the world with an eye for aesthetics,” Montgomery says. “I’ve always wanted to wear what everyone was wearing, but a little bit differently. I used my eye and intuition to see what was in the market but also what felt good to me. I had to wear uniforms to school, but I always wanted to feel like it was my style, too, so I made edits and cheated the rules.”
She was an athletic teen: gymnastics, swimming and diving, field hockey and lacrosse and horseback riding on weekends. Intrigued by the possibility of a modeling career, she was also expressing her creativity on the other side of the camera.
Then, at 18, Montgomery had a riding accident—the horse fell on top of her and broke her back.
“That shifted my trajectory,” she says. “It wasn’t about what college are you going to go to. It was about ‘How are you going to live in this body that’s causing you pain?’” Even the task of getting dressed was painful.
“We all have to put clothing on every day, but it’s also a creative expression,” says Montgomery. “I turned away from the pleasure of anything—especially anything creative—because I was in chronic pain and in survival mode. I lost the pleasure of the creative process.”
For nine months, she tucked in her back brace and all her layers of clothing as if they were her armor, protecting her from the world, everything in its place. “It’s a very type A way of dressing,” she says. Fashion seemed superfluous, superficial and just plain uncomfortable.
Life went on and, despite a variety of chronic health issues, Montgomery graduated from film school and had a successful career in film production, sales and marketing, with side gigs in photo styling and lifestyle medicine consulting. She led a fast-paced life in New York. But she also endured 10 surgeries related to her uterus and ovaries and, at 38, had an emergency hysterectomy.
“Over the years, I would deal with bloating and distended belly, and people would ask me how far along I was,” Montgomery says. “We’re taught to cover up what we see as flaws. In New York, I used style as a way to create a barrier and an edge, instead of supporting and connecting with my body. It would disconnect me from people—being super edgy, wearing black leather leggings. And, whenever I’ve gone through a traumatic event, I’ve cut my hair really short. I always made shifts in my style to change the beat in my life.”
Understanding how deeply she needed to slow down, Montgomery moved back to her lifelong place of respite, Kennebunk, where her mother continues to run Hurlbutt Designs.
“It was only once I shifted the lens and started thinking about creativity and well-being that I really started to heal,” Montgomery says.
“It’s taken me a long time to feel confident in my body…I stopped covering up and started expressing how I felt.”
Friends would ask her for style and branding advice, and she saw that women—nearly all of us, no matter how successful—struggle with body image. She began to synthesize her decades of experiences with fashion, branding and lifestyle coaching, creating a technique she calls the Somatic Dressing Method to get women to see fashion from the inside out. Montgomery’s method pays close attention to “subconscious body image programming” and the Eastern energy philosophy of chakras, as opposed to an approach that focuses on simply looking stylish in the latest trends.
“This is not typical styling,” Montgomery says. “I help women get dressed, but it’s also about emotional and physical health, their whole being, their image, how they present themselves to the world. We create a visual identity around that. We take your story and infuse a fashion style with a soul archetype that sums up your style personality and your soul. Your style archetype is born out of who you are and where you desire to go.”
Her own style archetype is born out of her life’s experiences—her travels, her pain and her love of fashion as a form of creative expression.
“My style archetype is boho warrior, a bohemian vibe that’s chic and edgy,” Montgomery says. “You’re going to see me wear leather and lace, lots of buckles and design details, or mixed flowing fabric that may have gold woven through it. My friends call me their ‘fancy friend,’ but I try to rough it up a bit to not seem unapproachable. That’s how I was in New York: edgy and unapproachable—and uncomfortable. I’ve been through a hell of a lot, and I’ve fought really hard to get through it. But I also have this nomadic bohemian nature that’s loving, passionate and open.”
Acting on that bohemian nature, Montgomery is spending time in Europe this year, some on the Spanish island of Ibeza, some in Paris, Milan, Amsterdam and Barcelona, working remotely with her 10-pound Havanese-Maltese dog Nikita at her heels. Her online personal styling courses will continue to run all year.
“It’s taken me a long time to feel confident in my body,” she says. “I had a lot of healing and soul work to do over the years. As I’ve started to do deeper healing work and have taught hundreds of women around the world how to get dressed in a more emotionally healthy and energizing way, I stopped covering up and started expressing how I felt or needed to feel.”
For more information on the Somatic Dressing Method: carriemontgomery.com.
Amy Paradysz is a freelancer from Scarborough whose style might best be described as Cozy Writer.