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How to Become a Fashion Stylist

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Fashion stylists are experts on visually representing a specific lifestyle, personality or brand. Stylists create, direct and produce the artistic elements for digital or print fashion magazines, catalogs, ad campaigns, fashion shows and videos, or commercials. For example, an outerwear company may hire a stylist to design a scene that shows how water-resistant their clothing is. Some fashion stylists work for individuals to select apparel, accessories, hairstyles and makeup colors tailored to their client's appearance and preferences.

Degrees and Electives

Fashion stylists typically have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in fashion design, costume design, fashion styling, marketing or merchandising. However, since many stylists are self-employed, a foundation of business knowledge is essential. You should take business courses in addition to a fashion degree or choose a program that includes the basics in its curriculum. Independent stylists understand every aspect of business, including operations, marketing and administration. They take advantage of technological tools that can impact or assist their business, such as social media outlets.

Skills and Abilities

Stylists have a thorough understanding of fashion, including principles and elements of design, historical perspectives, clothing and accessory styles, fashion theories and apparel functions. They know about fashion trends, cycles, forecasting, color theory and visual techniques, such as pattern-making and draping. Fashion stylists are skilled in figure and body proportion analysis, makeup application and jewelry selection based on facial shape. They excel in wardrobe planning, dressing for events, coordinating clothing and gauging sizes.

Experience and Network

Stylists may start their career through internships or paid assistant positions with professional stylists. Others get experience working with various brands and sizes through jobs in boutiques or department stores. Getting experience will provide you with important insight into the industry, including where to find clothing lines, how to adapt to a variety of personalities and the differences between stylists and personal shoppers. Additionally, go to as many events related to fashion as possible. In the fashion industry, networking can be as crucial as styling ability.

Advancement and Employment

Fashion stylists who work for a company may advance to supervisory or managerial roles, such as creative director or department head. Those who excel in marketing, promoting and networking may be successful in launching their own brand or business and contracting their services. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those who have a solid portfolio, formal education and related work experience should have a leg up on job competition.

2016 Salary Information for Fashion Designers

Fashion designers earned a median annual salary of $65,170 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, fashion designers earned a 25th percentile salary of $46,020, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $92,550, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 23,800 people were employed in the U.S. as fashion designers.