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How to Become a Fashion Stylist
Fashion stylists (also known as wardrobe stylists) are experts at knowing how to put together stunning outfits. They have an innate sense of what clothing and accessories will work well together, and a passion for staying on top of fashion trends. Nearly every look you see in magazines, on television, on CD covers, and on the red carpet has been put together by a fashion stylist. If you have a sixth sense for fashion and the drive to succeed at making it in the fashion business, this may be the career for you.
Types of Fashion Stylists:
- Celebrity Wardrobe Stylists – These stylists are the most famous of all fashion stylists (think Rachel Zoe and Petra Flannery). They work one-on-one with artists and actors to dress them for events, award shows and press meetings.
- Editorial Stylists – Also known as fashion editors or art directors, editorial stylists put together looks for magazine shoots, advertisements and other visual campaigns.
- Image Consultants – Stylists who work as image consultants typically dress business people and socialites. They may be called in for a wardrobe overhaul or asked to create a signature look for a client.
What skills and personality traits do you need to be a fashion stylist?
Fashion stylists need to be go-getters, people who aren’t afraid to put themselves out there and take the initiative. Making connections is a huge part of this business, so you need to be outgoing and personable to succeed, as well as unafraid of self-promotion. Fashion stylists need to be confident in their talent, fearlessly innovative and creative in their thinking. When budget or time deadlines throw a bump in the styling process, a stylist needs to be able to think on his or her feet and come up with a solution.
Along with being detail oriented and knowledgeable of fashion trends, a fashion stylist needs to know how to fit clothes to a client. What looks good on a runway model may not look good on a socialite, and a stylist should be able to make every client look flawless. Working for high profile designers and clients, a fashion stylist will need to be able to humbly take direction while also being able to lead.
Do you need a degree to become a fashion stylist?
There is not one standard route to becoming a fashion stylist, and while a degree can certainly help your credentials, having one is not a necessity. This career is more about connections and self-marketing. If you would like to obtain a degree, you can look into fashion design, fashion marketing or fashion merchandising programs. More importantly, study up on fashion history, designers, styling techniques and trends. Learn to use fashion and entertainment industry terminology, and research networking tips and tricks. Budgeting and administrative skills are also important for fashion stylists.
What are the first steps to becoming a fashion stylist?
After honing in your skills in styling, and increasing your knowledge of fashion trends and terminology, seek out a fashion styling internship or an assistant stylist position. These usually will not be paying gigs, but you will be building your portfolio, your network and your experience. Sometimes these positions can lead to interviews and jobs with other stylists.
Every fashion stylist needs to build their own “book” or portfolio, which is used as a business card. Keep a book of photos of every shoot you help style to portray your work to potential employers. Team up with local makeup artists, hair stylists, models and photographers who are also looking to build their portfolio, and set up a shoot. This is referred to as a test shoot.
Accept any job you can get when you are first starting (paying or not) in order to build your portfolio and your connections. Network at parties, benefits, dinners and other social gatherings, and remember – every person may be a future connection. Always dress your best, styling yourself in a way that represents how you would dress clients while staying within your current budget. Begin to develop your niche, or signature style, to show people you have a statement to make in fashion.
Where should a fashion stylist be located?
To be highly successful as a fashion stylist, you need to live where the fashion is happening. The two fashion hot spots in America are Los Angeles and New York City. If becoming a celebrity wardrobe stylist is your goal, you may want to consider moving to LA. If your desire is to work with designers and editorial, consider New York. When you are first starting out, wherever you land an internship may be the place you need to go.
Here are some fashion books to get you started:
For more information on becoming a fashion stylist, check out these links:
Interview with successful stylist, Hope Misterek, including how she got started as a stylist, pros and cons of working in the fashion industry, and tips for the hopeful stylist, via On This Day In Fashion:
Interview with four successful stylists, including what steps they took to start out, best advice for someone looking to get into the industry, and skills required for the job, via Mama's a Rolling Stone: