By Vanessa Bisetti
What does it take to be labeled one of Refinery 29’s Hottest 30 Under 30 in one of the biggest cities in the country? Ask Katie Jackson-Meara, who made this prestigious list this past year in Chicago for her entrepreneurialism and success within the event and bridal industries. Katie, who is a planner, stylist and founder of So Dressed Up, hit the ground running after graduating college. Her career began working for Jam Entertainment where she had the opportunity to take on huge projects, such as an over-the-top gala at the Chicago Theater with celeb Stevie Wonder. “It was a lot of work and I was really young, but they trust you implicitly right away,” describes Katie of her time there, “…I was really, really lucky to have had that job.” After her work with Jam Entertainment, Katie took a job with Modern Luxury Media, where she contributed to events involving a variety of demographics. “I could be working on an interior designer showroom event one day, then a cocktail party at a new residential building the next day,” explained Katie of her experience. Only in her twenties Katie was working with the city’s best chefs, restaurants, stores and designers.
However, that was just the beginning for the ambitious Chicago native. In 2009, an underpaid Katie began a company called So Dressed Up that served as a side business to make extra money while being employed fulltime. Her inspiration stemmed from her careers with Jam Entertainment and Modern Luxury Media where she realized her true love for planning events and eye for detail. For So Dressed Up, Katie began freelancing for Macy’s, taking on whatever projects she could. Macy’s events were centered on fashion, which she found intriguing. “That kind of sparked the idea of focusing more on events where people really have an appreciation for style.” Katie’s concentration on style landed her noteworthy opportunities. Her first real experience with styling professionally came when she helped style a photo shoot for the 10th anniversary of Oprah Magazine. In the midst of the grind between side work and being fully employed, Katie came to a realization that it was time to take a risk and dedicate all of her attention to So Dressed Up. “While it was great,” referring to her fulltime job at the time, “I just felt like it was a good time to make the leap.” With that, she went from the stability of a two-week paycheck to facing the challenges of being small business owner.
That leap landed her on the fast track to being an extremely prominent entrepreneur. Her now fulltime career started out with a bang as the So Dressed Up launch party was held at none other than Kate Spade. “To have something at that caliber for my kickoff party was really exciting!” From that grand entrance until now, So Dressed Up has exceled as one of Chicago’s top wedding and event planning businesses. In recent work, Katie was honored to be the planner for the first birthday party of wedding dress retailer BHLDN. BHLDN only has two locations in the United States, so she was flattered to have had the chance to work with the team from the Chicago store.
Weddings are part of her everyday work, so it was only natural for Katie to take on the task of planning her own wedding when that time came over a year ago. Katie had a strong sense of style and knew exactly what she wanted for her big day. With her knowledge of all the vendors as well as her personal connections, she didn’t feel the need to pass the work onto someone else. “I think by nature, I had high expectations on myself and I think I felt like other people might have had those expectations of me because it was also my job…but it was a lot of fun and went so fast!” Her beautiful and well thought out wedding was topped with an amazing dress by Priscilla of Boston; the dress fell low in the back and had a classy front held up by elegant straps. Katie laughed when describing the long process to find her perfect dress, but that special moment occurred, “The moment that they say you have when you put it on, it did finally happen!”
Discussing all the glamour of Katie’s wedding brought about the recent glamorous nights in Hollywood. In light of award season, I was curious as to which award show she would most want to contribute to the planning of. “The Grammy’s!” exclaimed Katie, “I love, love, love music. And it’s such a fun show, from the fashion to the performances!” As for celebrities, she would love to throw a “fab fete” for First Lady Michelle Obama who has been a part of award season herself, presenting Best Picture at the Academy Awards this past Sunday. “She is so classic and graceful…and I always have extra love for ladies from my hometown!” Though Katie worked on styling for Oprah Magazine years ago, she would love to plan a party for Oprah who to her is an inspiration.
The sincere love Katie has for her hometown is evident. When asked if she has considered relocating, she explained that it was not in the cards at this time mainly because she loves Chicago. “I love so many things about this city! Strolling Michigan Avenue, walks along the lake…I love just taking in the energy of the city.” For those who have not had the chance to try out Le Colonial, she personally recommends it as one of her favorite restaurants for dinner. She continued her list of her fave Chicago spots with Glazed and Infused donuts for those lazy Sunday mornings and the Signature Lounge located on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Building, a great place to enjoy a cocktail.
Katie’s passion and enthusiasm for what she does have led to her success. It looks like this Chicago-grown lady will be running the city for a while! To check out all of Katie’s services, customer reviews and more, visit her website: Sodressedup.com.