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How to Become a Fashion Stylist: A Step-By-Step Guide

So, you want to learn how to become a fashion stylist?

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You’ve seen the glamour of the red carpet and you think to yourself “I can do that!”

The truth is:

You can!

And this guide will show you exactly what you need to do to get started.

What is a fashion stylist?

A fashion stylist is a professional who selects a look, sets of clothing, shoes, accessories and even hairstyles and makeup for a particular person.

When people hear “fashion stylist,” it’s understandable why they think fancy red carpet events and celebrities, models, politicians, and other public figures.

While many fashion stylists aim to land big-named clients, even regular people like you and me can hire these professionals to help us develop a personal style or look.

The job description of a fashion stylist varies significantly depending on the type of client, assignment, or the stylist’s specialization. Those in the magazine and fashion industries work at different seasons and with a bunch of other professionals, such as fashion designers and the press.

Fashion stylists who work on a person-to-person basis is accurately called personal stylists.

They can be hired as a consultant for one-off projects, or contractual (hourly/weekly/monthly) basis.

Those you see on beauty makeover TV shows are definitely a type of fashion stylist. Sometimes, shopping or reorganizing a client’s wardrobe is included in the job.

5 Must-Haves of a Fashion Stylist

There may be different kinds of stylists around, but if you wish to go into this career, you must work on these 5 must-have skills, characteristics and knowledge:

1. Knowledge of Fabrics, Fit and Sewing

Understanding how fabrics affect the appearance of clothes on a person’s body is important because it can make or break the fit and overall look.

Knowing the brands and their signature fabrics and style save a lot of time once you’re running around as a stylist during runway season, or you’re crafting a look for a particular client within his/her budget.

If you started your passion for clothes early, I’m sure you already know different types of fabrics just by feel.

Differences in cuts and designs are also as important.

Knowing these things can empower you to give clients the same tidbits that would help them in shopping for clothes in the future and dressing themselves.

Some fashion stylists are also good at sewing.

They have advanced knowledge of how clothes are constructed, so that they can use it if needed.

2. Up-to-date with Fashion Trends and Events

Fashion trends are probably the quickest-changing trends across all industries.

One day elephant pants are all the rage, the next day everybody was wearing skinny jeans.

And as a fashion stylist, you should be on top of these trends – differentiating which ones are hot and which ones are not because in most cases, your clients wouldn’t know which is which.

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The easiest way to get to the bottom of fashion trends is by actually attending events.

It’s also the best way to see designs and fabrics up close and understand the designers’ vision live on the runway as the models move with the clothes as the designers intended.

If you don’t have access to industry events, subscribe to as much fashion magazines you can.

Or better yet, bookmark websites of fashion-centered media like Vogue, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, Who What Wear, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue, and so on.

Fashion brands, designers or other similar employers prefer to hire stylists who have insider knowledge and their own ideas based on trends and history.

It shows that the applicant is serious about a career in fashion.

3. Solid Portfolio

It doesn’t matter if you’re doing this career as a freelancer, or as a member of a fashion house.

You should be building your portfolio since you started this line of work.

You can do it old school and print out photos of clients you’ve helped create their own styles – a before and after of sorts, and then place it on a portfolio folder to show potential clients.

You can also create a website to post your work, testimonials, and contact information for anyone who might want to hire you.

It’s best to have both traditional portfolio that you can bring along anywhere you go and modern versions, which you can e-mail as pdf or link to a website.

You don’t have to wait for your name to go big to start placing your work in a portfolio.

You can do this even as a student, or before that.

Just make sure the photos you use are high-quality for a professional look.

4. Passion and Determination

Being a fashion stylist may seem easy, but it’s not.

The industry in itself has some of the most creative people in the world, which also mean that you’ll be dealing with a lot unique personalities.

Your heart has to be in this industry 100%, or the fast-paced fashion industry will eat you up.

This is especially true during the first few years of your career, while completing internships (often unpaid ones) with one brand to the next.

You’ll be learning everything on the job, getting connections in the industry and collecting referrals for future paid work, so internships are definitely worth it in the long run, but they’re definitely not for the faint of heart.

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There’s no single path to take in becoming a fashion stylist – some take the traditional way with internships, others go straight into freelancing.

Both routes require that you love your job enough to work through the stresses, body-aching field work, and a million of day-to-day issues that will be coming your way.

5. An Ever-Expanding Network

Everything you do boils down to expanding your network.

From attending industry events to completing your internships and building your own portfolio, these things will give you all the connections and referrals you’ll need once you start working for yourself or another company.

You can also expand your network even if you’re not working.

Use social media as a tool for finding new clients or sharing your work.

Just make sure to follow online and social media etiquette (don’t spam, don’t bully, etc.) while promoting your service.

Fashion Stylist Job Requirements

There is no general requirement of formal training for fashion stylists, but there are courses available in related industries, such as fashion design, retail marketing, fashion merchandising, and visual communication.

Some schools offer fashion styling short courses, which may include lessons in marketing, photo shoots, trends, styling techniques, fashion industry history and principles, fabric construction and fit, and more.

While certificates in courses like these could help in advancing your career as a fashion stylist, most employers would look for referrals and past experience, even if it meant your experience involved an unpaid internship or two because hands-on, on-the-job training holds more value than any certificate.

How much do fashion stylists make?

Those with a fashion design background can earn up to $64,500 year. Some stylists are paid a daily rate, while some are booked per assignment or put on a monthly retainer. The salary of fashion stylists depend largely on where/who they work for. For example:

  • Editorial stylists (those who work exclusively on magazines and ezines) work by the hour with an average $17/hour rate.
  • Fashion stylists who are employed by PR and advertising agencies earn the most, with salaries ranging from range from$500and$5,000a day.
  • Interns and assistants of renowned stylists earn around $150 to $300 daily, but are rewarded with on-the-job training and industry connections

It isn’t easy to become a fashion stylist traditionally, but the job outlook for this profession as a freelancer is good.

Since companies have been gradually adapting to a global outlook where social media and online properties can work as well as old mediums (like magazine, runways, billboards, and so on), fashion stylists have better opportunities at working remotely instead of a 9-to-5 job.

Where to find Fashion Stylist Jobs Online

If you’d rather work as a virtual fashion stylist, there’s a place for you as well.

Here are several sites you should check out if you’re looking for fashion stylist jobs online:

1. FlexJobs

Start out with FlexJobs.

They currently have over 100 different remote positions available in the fashion and beauty industry with new job postings being added every day.

There are listings that feature clothing designers, fashion stylists, sales associates, and much more.

The cool thing about FlexJobs is that it indicates which positions are available as 100% work-from-home, 50% remote, and so on. It’s not just a job search platform for online opportunities either, since offline jobs are posted at FlexJobs as well.

The average fashion stylist salary of virtual positions is $15 per hour, but this can go higher for jobs that require formal education.

2.Stitch Fix

Stitch Fix Careers

This company provides a personalized styling service for men and women via a monthly subscription box.

As a virtual stylist with Stitch Fix, you help these customers pick out their clothes based on the personal styles they provided and your recommendations.

Stitch Fix then ships a box full of clothes, which the customer will sort for keeping and sending-back.

All virtual fashion stylists must complete a 6-hour training in their workshops at San Diego, San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Dallas, or Austin.

Once completed, stylists can now work from home initially with part-time positions (that’s about 15 to 30 hours a week).

After 90 days of work, full-time positions will be offered with an average rate of $15 an hour.

3. Dia&Co

If you have experience in fashion retail and customer service, you can apply for a stylist job with plus-size clothing company Dia & Co.

The only downside is that you’d have to begin working part-time (20 to 40 hours a week) for the first 60 days at the company’s New York headquarters.

Once you finish this initial “on-the-job training,” you’ll be given an opportunity to work as a remote visual stylist with a rate of $12 per hour.

4. Rocksbox

This company is similar to Stitch Fix, but instead of a personalized box of clothing, customers receive a monthly curated box of jewelry from well-known designers such as House of Harlow.

As a virtual fashion stylist, you mix and match jewelry pieces for customers using the Rocksbox platform.

You also need to write professional stylist notes for customers, which would help them pair pieces for a type of clothing, event (formal/casual), and so on.

You have to commit 10 to 40 hours weekly for the job, which includes some weekends.

If you’re interested, check back for openings on the site’s career page.

5. Bombfell

Like Stitch Fix, Bombfell provides a monthly subscription box of clothes personalized by a virtual stylist.

The only difference is that Bombfell caters exclusively for men.

Virtual stylists also write personal notes to customers each month and responds to inquiries about the delivered box via the platform.

Those who live near Connecticut, New Jersey and New York are lucky because they can attend the on-site, two-day training at the company’s headquarters.

After the training, remote fashion stylists can then work from home as long as they commit to 20 hours per week and a few hours every Sunday evening.

Pay rates range from $13 to $15 per hour.

The Bottom Line

The goal of many fashion stylists is to work their way from interns to assistant stylists to stylists of celebrities and other famous people.

Who wouldn’t?

Imagine earning thousands of dollars for just a day choosing clothes for a high-fashion model for a magazine shoot.

The years-long hard work, unpaid internships and non-stop networking will definitely be worth the wait once you reach celebrity stylist levels.

However, not every fashion stylist would want to become a stylist to the stars and step into the limelight.

Some prefer to work in the background.

If you’re one of these stylists and still want to use your skills and eye for fashion as a profession, your best bet is to use your connections to find work on the field or stay at the comforts of your home helping regular people make fashion choices by applying for virtual stylist positions.

The choice, ultimately, is up to you.

In the meantime, you can also see how you can get paid to wear clothes.