Figuring how to get into different career fields becomes a lot trickier after you’re past career days in high school. While some job paths are pretty clear and direct, others are more unconventional in every sense! Today I’m sharing a few tips on how to get started as a fashion stylist!
How I Got Started as a Fashion Stylist
As a kid getting dressed truly was my way to express myself to the world. I was pretty shy and quiet but you would never have guessed that by the clothing I wore! I was always interested in mixing patterns and colors and my sense of what worked and what would be the next big trend was pretty clear, even before I really knew what I was doing!
Growing up it never occurred to me that I might want to work in fashion one day, instead I planned a career in government or law. (I have a bachelor’s degree in Governmental and Legal Studies.) By my senior year of college my passions and hobbies were starting to intersect and I spent a little time considering furthering my education in fashion design. (It was hard to shake all those years of reading fashion magazines!)
Right after college graduation I decided instead to try my hand at a career in fashion styling and personal shopping! I started giving friends advice on purchases, offering to shop for family members, and looked for opportunities to learn about trends, clothing fit, and working within a budget.
Throughout my career as a fashion stylist and image consultant I’ve done everything from purchasing clothing for a man’s photo shoot (that he would use to propose to his girlfriend), to buying a formal gown for a woman to compete in a pageant at her retirement home. I’ve spent lots of time in closets with women (90% of my clients have been female) dissecting their clothing, listening to their concerns, and creating a plan to have them looking and feeling their best.
I have provided styling services for commercials, photo shoots, and spent six weeks last summer in a small town in Texas overseeing the wardrobe of a movie. (It was set in the 1950s so you can imagine a LOT of research was needed!) These days I prefer to share my styling knowledge on a fashion blog (and still take on a few clients and projects occasionally) so I can devote more time to overseeing this website instead!
Who should be a fashion stylist:
A love of fashion is a great start! However, considering yourself a person who is up on the latest trends or someone who loves to shop does not a fashion stylist/personal shopper make!
The key to a great stylist is listening to a client to determine what works for them and not just buying them things you like! (Trust me, I’ve bought many things for clients I’d never wear myself!) A keen eye for trends and how to make them work for any body type or budget is also a must! Solid research skills are a major plus here too!
A few skills that are good to have:
- Fashion Knowledge: An in-depth understanding of current fashion trends, fashion history, and an eye for emerging styles is essential. This includes knowledge of various fabrics, cuts, and designers.
- Color Theory: Understanding how colors interact and complement each other is crucial for creating visually appealing outfits.
- Body Types: Knowing how to dress different body types to accentuate strengths and minimize areas of concern is key to being a successful wardrobe stylist.
- Attention to Detail: Being meticulous about every aspect of an outfit, from the fit of the clothing to the accessories chosen, is important for creating polished looks.
- Communication Skills: Strong communication skills are necessary for effectively understanding and interpreting clients’ preferences, as well as articulating your own ideas and concepts.
- Networking: Building and maintaining relationships with designers, retailers, and other industry professionals is vital for staying informed about the latest fashion trends and accessing a wide range of clothing options.
- Creativity: The ability to think outside the box and come up with unique, innovative styling ideas sets great wardrobe stylists apart. Creative skills will carry you a long way with this type of job!
- Organization: Managing multiple clients, schedules, and wardrobe pieces requires excellent organizational skills to ensure everything runs smoothly.
- Adaptability: Fashion is ever-evolving, so being able to adapt to changes in trends, client preferences, and industry standards is essential.
- Problem-Solving Skills: Quick thinking and the ability to solve wardrobe malfunctions or unexpected issues during fittings or shoots are invaluable traits for a wardrobe stylist.
- Budgeting: Practical skills like working within a budget is a must. Being able to work within a client’s budget while still achieving their desired look is truly a special skill!
- Styling Techniques: Knowledge of different styling techniques, such as layering, accessorizing, and mixing patterns, helps create dynamic and visually interesting outfits.
- Cultural Awareness: Sensitivity to cultural nuances and understanding how fashion varies across different cultures is important, especially when working with diverse clients.
- Tech Savvy: Familiarity with fashion-related software and social media platforms can be advantageous for showcasing your work and staying connected with clients and industry professionals.
- Self-Promotion: Confidence in marketing your services, building your personal brand, and showcasing your portfolio is crucial for attracting clients and establishing yourself as a reputable wardrobe stylist.
Don’t worry, you’re not headed for a college degree from fashion school! Well, not of the brick-and-mortar variety. While there are some certification programs and courses available, most fashion stylists are self-taught.
I don’t regret my formal education or degree of choice – the research and writing skills are always useful, but if I were to do it over again I would have added on a few business and marketing classes along the way! A degree in something like the fine arts might be beneficial too, some like fashion marketing, fashion merchandising, product development, styling, or design.
There are definitely ways to continue your education along the way, stylist associations, courses, social media groups, and plenty of written resources can all help you to stay up on what’s current in the style world, what fashion designers are currently producing, how to handle common fit or design issues, and where to find the items you’re looking for. If you want some practical advice and help getting started, check out online courses from a successful fashion stylist or an website like Udemy.
If you’re ready to take the plunge and try to make a career as a fashion stylist, the first thing you need to do is get a little experience and knowledge under your belt. There is a lot more to dressing someone or shopping for them than finding pretty clothing. Knowledge of fabric, fit issues, designer details, and clothing brands is imperative to doing your job well. Clients come in all shapes, sizes, and budgets, so you need to be prepared to handle any need!
Staying up to date on fashion industry trends is also important. While not every client is looking to dress like a Vogue cover model, you can gain great insight into what’s new, what’s available, and how you can make it work for the current job. Magazines and personal style blogs can offer great insight into what people are shopping for and the common fit issues that are faced – clients who are petite, plus-size, tall, short, 16 or 86!
Once you have made some progress with your knowledge base, a great way to get some first hand experience is to offer services to friends and family to feel more comfortable with the process. Once you have some work experience and more confidence, you can start to ask for referrals. Potential clients include, well, just about everyone you know!
Types of Styling Services:
Maybe you only want to offer personal shopping services, or only do closet audits. You can find where you really excel! You don’t have to offer every type of styling or shopping service under the sun, start by offering a couple of different options and then build up or remove things that don’t suit your skills. Typical services by a fashion stylist include:
- Personal shopping – You shop for (or with) clients for new wardrobes or for certain events (weddings, special occasions, etc.)
- Closet Audits – You spend time in a client’s home going through their current wardrobe and weeding out items that are either out-dated or ill-fitting, You then make suggestions on how to wear/style items they own. You also can make suggestions for new items that will complement their current wardrobe.
- Media Styling – You can work with photographers or advertisers on wardrobe needs for print, television ads, or photo shoots
- Costume Services – You work on wardrobe services for actors in television, movies, music videos, or other on-air personalities.
- Style Blogging – Share you knowledge and experience by posting style tips and shopping finds on your own website.
- Referrals – Your best introduction to clients will be through friends and family. You might need to offer deep discounts as you begin your work as a way to gain experience and trust. Do a great job and it will be noticed!
- Press Releases – When I first went into business for myself I had zero connections, experience, anything! I put together a press release and sent it to a few newspapers and magazines in my local area. Some publications contacted me for more information and each time they ran a small story I got calls.
- Website/Social Media – No need to rent office space, everyone will hit the web to find out more about you. Make sure you have an online presence that includes a website with some information about yourself and your services. Client testimonials and style tips are other great things to include. Make sure you set up social media accounts – Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram so you are easy to find.
- Other Style Professionals – Check with friends who are makeup artists or hair stylists and let them know you’re looking for clients!
Many fashion stylists work on a freelance basis, but others may be part of an agency. There is also representation (an agent) available for stylists if you start to really get a lot of opportunities.
Other resources to check out:
- Simply Stylist – conferences and workshops on getting started in styling (I have no experience with this company, just know that they provide resources.)
- Books: What Not to Wear, Dress Your Best, Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style, Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible
- Magazines/Websites for style inspiration and shopping tips: InStyle, Vogue, WhoWhatWear
- Fashion shows – You don’t need an invitation to New York for this, simply hit the web and you can view the latest shows straight from the runway.
A career as fashion stylist requires dedication, creativity, and a passion for the world of fashion. It’s hard work, but by honing your skills in fashion knowledge, color theory, communication, and organization, you can pave the way for a successful career in styling.
Stay adaptable, continuously seek inspiration, and never stop learning about the ever-evolving trends and techniques in the industry. With perseverance and a keen eye for style, you can turn your love for fashion into a fulfilling and rewarding career!