I get asked this question on a regular basis, so I thought that I would write a little bit about the subject.
What exactly is a wardrobe stylist?
My personal definition of a wardrobe stylist is someone who selects and styles wardrobe and accessories through the eye of the camera.
Over the years, It seems that the “styling” part of being a wardrobe stylist has almost gone away. The general public seems to believe that fashion styling is picking out cute outfits for celebrities and models, but there is so much more to the job.
How did I become a wardrobe stylist?
I graduated from design school in 1998 and had no real idea of what I wanted out of my career. One Sunday afternoon I read a small article about the production industry in the newspaper. I saw the term “Fashion Stylist” within the newsprint, so I decided to find out more about it. I picked up the yellow pages and looked up the word fashion. Under “Fashion Consultants” there were only two companies listed. The first company listed was called Atomic Funk. I picked up the phone and spoke to a really nice woman named Teddy Gunter. She owned Atomic Funk, which is now called Atomic Style Agency. I told Teddy that I wanted to learn more about this fashion stylist thing, so she invited me to her office on Lincoln Road. When I got to the office Teddy looked exactly how I expected her to look. She was absolutely fabulous and wore a colorful vintage poodle skirt and funky pair of platform wedges. I showed her my college portfolio and my resume and she hired me as her intern. I interned for a year.
Overall, I worked as an intern /stylist assistant/ freelance stylist from 1998 to 2001. (Money would get tight from time to time, so I also worked retail & fashion industry jobs during this time period) Now in 2012, I still work as a fashion stylist from time to time. Wardrobe styling is no longer my main career focus.
What did I learn as an intern at Atomic?
Teddy Gunter taught me how to:
- properly buy and return
- build relationships with showrooms to get the appropriate wardrobe needed.
- style a garment without damaging the fabric by using safety pins, clips, tape, and even plastic bottles.
- read and follow a call sheet
- have a specialized attention to detail (for example: noticing loose threads)
- invoice clients
- understand industry terminology (for example: what is a book, a test shoot, an editorial, production season, tear sheet, etc)
- build a styling kit
What did I do as an intern at Atomic?
- I did whatever Teddy asked me to do.
- I steamed garments
- I called show rooms and faxed media information to get the desired pieces that were needed for bookings.
- I safely transported clothing and accessories to and from shoots and runway shows.
- I sat in on meetings with producers and photographers to understand what they needed for each shot or scene.
- I also worked as a dresser for fashion shows.
Who did I dress? Who did I work with?
I dressed Ricky Martin and Trick Daddy. I also dressed Mos Def once for a fashion show. (Let me clarify. I only worked with these artists. I was not their personal stylist.) I did a few jobs for the Source Magazine, Kmart, Sears, Goodwill, Ocean Drive Magazine, The Hamptons Magazine, Absolut Vodka, Salvatore Ferragamo, Macy’s, etc
Here is a Trick Daddy video that I worked on and styled with Tony Major. (If you look closely you can see me in it at 2:22) LOL!
What do you need to be a stylist?
- You need to have an extreme attention to detail. This is very important. (I often cringe when I see the mistakes in music videos and print ads) The finished product should be very clean. Tape on the bottom of shoes, lose threads, or stains should never be seen by the public.
- Awesome people skills. Contrary to popular belief it isn’t smart to have a stank attitude in the fashion industry, especially when you are just getting started.
- Relationships with clothing stores.
- A high credit card limit to buy and return
- Understanding of call sheets and basic production terminology to work on set for commercials, print ads, videos, and commercials
- You must have a well stocked styling kit. (Full of shoulder pads, jewelry cleaner, scissors, tape, etc)
- You must have a high taste level. Everyone believes that they have great taste, but the average person does not. I know that this seems kinda mean, but it’s the truth.)
- A strong work ethic. Sometimes being a stylist requires working long days with 6AM call times. Unless you have an assistant, you will be lugging around clothing, rolling racks on and off the set, and working in extremely hot or cold temperatures.
- You must be a responsible person. As a stylist, you are responsible for all of the wardrobe and accessories. This means that if an item is lost or damaged you are responsible for the cost of that item.
- You must be able to keep secrets. Sometimes you get to see a very personal side of models, celebs, and industry people.
- You must have a good understanding of fit and sizing. This includes men’s suiting.
Things that may surprise you about being a stylist?
- It is a lot of fun.
- In general, you will get paid day of or net 30 after you complete a job. The thing that people don’t tell you is that sometimes you may have to wait a few months to get paid from a completed job.
- It isn’t always glamorous. Sometimes, there will be sweat.
- Keep a close eye on your wardrobe and accessories. I’ve had wardrobe stolen from a set before.
- You must stay within your client’s budget. Do not overspend.
- Sometimes clients want a very high end wardrobe to choose from, but have very tiny budgets. You must learn how to work with this issue.
The goal of this blog post was to give you a realistic view of what it’s like to work as a new wardrobe stylist. I still style from time to time, but it is no longer my main source of income. I truly hope that this post was helpful.
If you have any questions or comments for me, please leave them below.
© Allison McKenzie and AFashionSlave LLC, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Allison McKenzie and AFashionSlave.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.