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!
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 B.S. 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. 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 I’ve done everything from purchasing clothing for a man’s photo shoot (that he would use to propose to his wife), 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 definitely a must! However, considering yourself a trendy person 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!
While there are some certification programs and courses available, most fashion stylists are self-taught. I don’t regret my 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!
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 fashion, how to handle common issues, and where to find the items you’re looking for.
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 fashion 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 more confidence you can start to ask for referrals.
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 or television ads or photo shoots
- Costume Services – You work on wardrobe services for actors in television or movies.
- 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 local newspapers and magazines. 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 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 for style inspiration and shopping tips: People StyleWatch, InStyle, Vogue
Originally published March 28, 2017