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How to Start a Fashion Stylist Business

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A fashion stylist develops the image of certain people, from models to celebrities, for print, television and movies. Many stylists graduate from colleges with associate's or bachelor's degrees in fashion design, fashion styling or a related major, but there are plenty of fashion stylists without formal training. If you've got the gumption to work on your own and the skills to make someone look good, this is the job for you.

Determine on what kind of styling you will focus. You can work with wardrobe styling, celebrity styling, print or television styling, or all of them if you prefer. Because styling tends to be such a competitive industry, you'll find that full-time stylists branch out as much as possible, and might even do work in fashion editorial and public relations to make ends meet. Get ready to multitask.

Study up. If you want to become a stylist, you'll need a healthy balance of coursework and real-life experience. Because getting the gigs is based primarily on your portfolio, and not on your resume, consider this background knowledge a personal step. The Parsons School of Design, Fashion Institute of Technology and London College of Fashion (see Resources) all offer specialized courses for the budding stylist.

Consider shadowing a stylist as an assistant. By watching someone working in his field, you'll pick up tips and tricks, and contacts as well. Check for "Intern Wanted" advertisements in your city, or contact magazines and television stations to find out about open positions in the wardrobe department.

Prepare your style focus, or your niche, after getting experience in the field. Every stylist worth his salt can whip up looks that make him stand out in the crowd, from Patricia Field to Rachel Zoe. Go with your strength, from girly to glamour, and then refine it in the next steps.

Develop your portfolio. Work with a volunteer photographer and models to begin getting samples of your work to show to clients. Students or fledging photographers will be interested in your skills as a stylist to add depth to their work, and you'll need sample photo shoots to round out your portfolio.

Look into agency representation. If you are able to sign on with a reputable agency, you'll not only garner higher wages, but you will get higher-profile gigs at a more reliable rate.

Answer job advertisements and cold call companies that represent your areas of interest. The more persistent you are, the better. As a freelance professional, you will need to get the word out about your services.


Know that many photographers (even volunteers) retain rights to their photographs, and you need to determine their requirements before shooting with them.