Endless hours seem like minutes while you’re flipping through the pages of every fashion magazine you can get your hands on, but you stop flipping when you land on a breathtaking Vogue editorial by Grace Coddington. You’ve memorized every one of Carrie Bradshaw’s outfits styled by Patricia Fields and you’ve seen every single episode of Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model. You have a hard time going out because you’d rather be at home pinning your favorite runway looks and exploring #OOTD on Instagram. You’re thinking maybe it’s time to turn this hobby obsession into your career. So you want to be a Stylist, now what?!
First of all, “Stylist” is a really broad title, so you should think about narrowing down to the focus that really speaks to you. You would be amazed by the diversity in opportunities for Stylists. Celebrities rely on Stylists not only to put together killer outfits but to design a cohesive personal brand (especially when celebrities become social media influencers). Everyday, fashion consumers ask Stylists to help them dress in a way that makes them feel confident and chic. Individuals in business work with Stylists to create their professional wardrobe. Media of all kinds, from blogs to print magazines, hire Stylists to create art in the form of fashion editorials. The market is vast with people who rely on image in one way or another, but struggle to see the vision.
Some people say Wardrobe Consultant, some say Image Consultant, Fashion Stylist, and some even say Personal Shopper. However, these titles are NOT the same and most people really don’t know the difference, so let’s break it down.
Wardrobe Consultants analyze their client’s closet with their lifestyle in mind, focusing 100% on the wardrobe and how it supplements their clients’ lives. They ensure the client has a full wardrobe of looks they love and all the basics, accessories, and proper undergarments to complement them. WC’s work extensively with what a client already has and guides them in adding new pieces. They are generally available to their clients for advice ranging from the day-to-day to special events.
Image Consultants focus not only on wardrobe, but on the client’s full look. They advise the client on the best colors to complement their face shape, hair, and skin tone; they also suggest silhouettes that work well with the client’s body type. Image consultants concentrate on a full image makeover including first impressions, makeup selection, hairstyle, and wardrobe. For further information, reference AICI: Association of Image Consultants International www.aici.org
Personal Shoppers either accompany clients on shopping trips or save their clients from the hassle of shopping all together. Usually, the client will provide the PS with shopping guidelines such as a look for a special occasion, pieces to complement their wardrobe, or a seasonal wardrobe update. The personal shopper is familiar with local and online shopping opportunities and will plan a shopping trip with the client or proceed alone with purchasing items, deliver them to the client to try-on, and return the items that didn’t work.
Fashion Stylists (such as myself) generally work with media businesses and celebrities. They are hired by media (print, online, TV, and films) to style everything from magazine editorial photo shoots to your favorite TV and film stars (supporting the celebrity's personal brand for day to day excursions, appearances, and red carpet events). Fashion Stylists also work with designers and clothing labels to style runway shows and look books.
Once you do a little exploration into the different areas of styling (search engines are your friend), you’ll have a stronger focus when starting out. Don’t be afraid to ask local fashion industry professionals to meet you for coffee or answer a few questions via email to learn more about what they do! Austin is a growing city and most people in the fashion industry here are very supportive.
So what next? There are three little words that will go a long way in getting you started: Intern, Volunteer, and Assistant. If there’s a company or media outlet you dream of working for, ask if they have internships or volunteer positions available. Connect with established fashion professionals and ask if they need an assistant. Though these may be unpaid opportunities, it’s an investment in your future and you’ll be paid more down the road when you excel at what you do.
When seeking experience, don’t turn down “small tasks” as they will eventually lead to more responsibility. Your resume of work must show that you know the basics. Be eager to learn, observant, and absorb what’s going on around you. No matter which area of styling you choose, it’s imperative to know current trends and colors. Even though you’re busy, make time to explore the Internet, browse photos from Fashion Week, and flip through fashion magazines. Ideas from last season's collections are not going to impress anyone.
Finally, don't forget to take a step back and pat yourself on the back for how far you’ve come. Every little stepping stone is taking you closer to your goal.