Design, Photography, & Fashion

How to Become a Fashion Stylist: 5 Essential Tips All Fashion Stylists Need to Succeed

Written by MasterClass

Sep 5, 2019 • 3 min read

Actors, musicians, politicians, and business executives often show up to work looking exceptionally sharp, but many of them have a secret: their wardrobe was compiled by a professional fashion stylist. If you think you have the kind of eye that can make other people look great, then the career of fashion stylist may be a fit for you.

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What Is a Fashion Stylist?

A fashion stylist is a professional who coordinates all aspects of a person’s visual aesthetic to make them look as fashionable and appealing as possible.

Fashion stylists may be employed in a wide array of industries and they may work with clients who are quite famous or who simply want to look their best. Some stylists are famous in their own right. Celebrity stylists often work with Hollywood A-listers, musicians, and high-profile clients.

What Does a Fashion Stylist Do?

A fashion stylist’s job description is wide-ranging. Some of the typical tasks they will encounter include:

  • Attending runway shows, brand showrooms, and various fashion industry events to keep apprised of the latest trends and styles
  • Researching the fashion of previous eras (via magazines, movies, or an old lookbook) to design a period-appropriate aesthetic
  • Sourcing clothing from a worldwide array of brands and manufacturers
  • Consulting models, photographers, hairstylists, makeup artists, costume designers, brand creative directors, and art directors, magazine editors, and film and TV directors
  • Working with public figures to craft a personal visual aesthetic. This may include personal shopping and serving in the role of a personal stylist
  • Assisting clothing buyers for major retail chains

Where Do Fashion Stylists Work?

Fashion stylists can be found working in all of the following contexts:

  • On professional photoshoots
  • On the set of print advertisements and televised commercials
  • On the set of music videos
  • On a political campaign, maintaining the candidate’s appearance
  • In a TV newsroom
  • Consulting a sports team on uniforms
  • Advising a costume designer preparing for a movie or television show (in this role, they are often known as a “wardrobe stylist”)
  • Developing a personal style for a current or aspiring public figure

5 Essential Tips to Succeed As a Fashion Stylist

Professional fashion styling is hard work. As a stylist, you must develop a

  1. Develop strong networking skills. As a stylist, you must develop a client base, network with designers and industry professionals, and attend numerous industry events. If you fall behind, it can be hard to catch up—fashion is a notably cutthroat industry.
  2. Develop close personal and professional relationships. Personal relationships are essential to attaining new style clients. While some fashion stylists may gain notice because a client appeared on a red carpet or in prominent fashion magazines, most business will come from friends and colleagues of existing clients.
  3. Don’t be shy. To succeed, you can’t shy away from a little self-promotion. Try to get invited to parties or lunches, and don’t hesitate to ask your successful mentors for referrals as you build your own business.
  4. Experience is more important than a diploma. In terms of education, some fashion stylists possess a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree, but when interviewing to be someone’s personal stylist, the topic of college may never come up. Years of experience in the industry will open more doors than a particular diploma.
  5. Stay up to date. If you’re passionate about aesthetics, up to date on fashion trends, confident in your sense of style, have strong communication skills, and are willing to put in long hours for occasionally thankless work, a career as a fashion stylist may be ideal.

What Is the Difference Between a Fashion Editor and a Fashion Stylist?

These terms can be interchangeable, but that isn’t always the case. Take, for example, the different roles of a fashion editor and a stylist in a photoshoot:

  • A fashion editor is responsible for the look and mood of the shoot; they’re the ones who choose a photographer, the clothing, the location, and the models. Learn more about how to become a fashion editor here.
  • A stylist will also sometimes do all of this, but the term can also refer to someone who is choosing the clothing for a shoot or public appearance.

Want to Become a Magazine Editor?

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Want to become a better journalist? The MasterClass All-Access Pass provides exclusive video lessons from editorial masters, including Anna Wintour, Malcolm Gladwell, Bob Woodward, and more.

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