What is Fashion Styling and What Does a Stylist Do?

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What is Fashion Styling?

Styling in fashion is the art of combining clothes and accessories into outfits representing a well-defined fashion style or combinations of fashion styles with current stylistic trends to confer the wearer with a unique visual identity and personal fashion style.

The Origin of Fashion Styling

The Origin of Fashion Styling Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette’s era marked the beginnings of fashion styling, with her advisor guiding outfit choices for various occasions.

The first records of fashion styling as a profession date back to Marie Antoinette – the wife of Louis XVI, King of France – and the person who advised her on the most appropriate outfits (clothing styles, colors, and patterns) according to the occasion.

What is a Fashion Stylist?

A fashion stylist is an expert in curating, mixing, and matching clothes, footwear, and accessories of similar aesthetics into outfits depicting fashion styles, fashion trends, or blends of both.

What is a Fashion Stylist?

In most cases, the outfits put together by fashion stylists depict classic fashion styles or blends of fashion styles with contemporary fashion trends to showcase the wearer’s group belonging, social status, and lifestyle.

Fashion styling is a complex skill to master that requires an understanding of fashion history, aesthetics, patterns, motifs, colors, cutting and sewing styles, and design.

The Core Roles of a Fashion Stylist

Fashion stylists are the vital link between concept, design, presentation, and finished product as put together in the form of outfits and accessories worn by their clients.

Fashion stylists are aware of the work of past and contemporary fashion designers, brands, fashion shows, fashion weeks, fashion trends, and fads, and how subcultures use garments as forms of self-expression and cultural identity.

Main Roles of Fashion Stylists

Like fashion designers, stylists scan for the current fashion trends, create visual brand and design concepts, and ensure accuracy and relevancy at every step that leads to the finished product.

Fashion stylists have excellent knowledge of classic fashion styles, historical, cultural, and socio-economic trends, clothing design, manufacturing, branding, photography, and marketing.

Main Roles of Fashion Stylists fashion forecast
Fashion forecast on social media.

Apart from stylists specialized in fashion, there are hair and nail stylists with expertise in their own fields of activity.

These stylists are often found working together on projects that require work on creating the full image of a celebrity, politician, or specific events, together with teams of assistants and personal shoppers.

What Do Fashion Stylists Do?

The work of a fashion stylist starts by understanding the client’s need, context, occasion, thematic background, season, and budget.

Dressing for a Gothic-themed wedding in New York in the winter requires a different approach than a Preppy-styled wedding in the South of France in August.

What Do Fashion Stylists Do?

Similarly, there’s a different approach to putting together an outfit for a dinner gala in London than styling a client for a sporting event in Rio de Janeiro.

The stylist will also perform a body and personality assessment and explore variations that suit the client best.

Once these aspects are well defined and established, the stylist develops a styling concept further inspired and informed by historical and current fashion styles.

What Do Fashion Stylists Do?
Example of a fashion mood board.

The styling concept is built as a mood board that illustrates the stylist’s vision and comprises materials, colors, patterns, and visuals that the stylist deems appropriate, given the information provided.

Accordingly, apart from working with public figures to craft their personal way of dressing and unique look, stylists engage in a wide range of activities such as:

  • Attending runway shows, fashion brand showrooms, and fashion industry events to keep apprised of the latest fashion creations and trends.
  • Researching period-specific aesthetics and the fashion styles of previous eras (via magazines, movies, and old lookbooks),
  • Identify and source the most suitable clothes and accessories from various clothing manufacturers and apparel brands worldwide.
  • Consulting fashion designers, costume designers, creative art directors, fashion models and magazine editors, film and TV directors, photographers, hairstylists, and makeup artists.
  • Assisting fashion buyers for major clothing retail chains and online marketplaces.
  • Advising costume designers for movies or television shows (in this role, they are known as “wardrobe stylists”).

Where Do Fashion Stylists Work?

Where Do Fashion Stylists Work

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

  • At the clients’ venue or their own styling lab.
  • On professional fashion photoshoots.
  • On the set of fashion advertisements and televised commercials.
  • On the set of music videos.
  • On political campaigns, maintaining the candidate’s appearance.
  • In the TV newsroom.
  • Consulting sports teams on the season’s appearance and uniforms.
  • Advising costume designers for movies and television shows (in this role, the stylist is known as a “wardrobe stylist”).
  • Developing the personal fashion style and dressing of an aspiring or current public figure.

Who Needs a Fashion Stylist

Fashion stylists often work with Hollywood A-listers, actors, musicians, politicians, business executives, and high-profile clients.

Who Needs a Fashion Stylist
Celebrities who work with fashion stylists.

These experts are stylist celebrities in their own right, recognized and appreciated for their skills.

How to Become a Fashion Stylist

Professional fashion styling is hard work. However, specific tips help in becoming a celebrity stylist.

How to Become a Fashion Stylist

  • Get educated – You need education to understand fashion styles, aesthetic patterns, motifs, color matching, material selection, etc. Knowledge of past fashion styles and a good understanding of related sectors such as clothing design, manufacturing, branding, photography, and marketing are critical.
  • Develop a strong network – Connect with fashion designers and related professionals by attending fashion industry events.
  • Stay up to date with the latest trends – One of the core skills of a successful stylist is the ability to understand historical, cultural, and socio-economic shifts and forecast emerging fashion trends.

What Are the Different Types of Fashion Stylists

There is commercial, editorial, and personal styling work and all the associated careers, each with mood boards, styling types, clients, agencies, fashion photoshoots, and shows.

What Are the Different Types of Fashion Stylists

There is a wide range of career opportunities for candidates in styling, and below are the most popular job roles for fashion stylist graduates:

  • Fashion Design Coordinator
  • Personal Stylist
  • Wardrobe Stylist
  • Celebrity Stylist
  • Fashion Editor

Wardrobe Stylist Vs. Fashion Stylist

Wardrobe stylists are fashion stylists who advise costume designers for movies or television shows.

Fashion Editor Vs. Fashion Stylist

Fashion editors are fashion stylists specialized in creating photoshoots for fashion magazines by choosing the photographers, models, outfits, and location or background.

Fashion Stylist Course Types and Duration

Various types of fashion styling courses are available, each with a different duration.

Most fashion colleges offer direct admissions for short-term, diploma, and certificate courses.

Fashion Stylist Course Types and Duration

However, postgraduate and advanced fashion styling courses require a written test, a styling portfolio, and an interview.

  • Short-Term Fashion Styling Course – 6 Months
  • Certificate Course in Fashion Styling – 6 Months
  • Diploma in Fashion Styling – 6 and 9 Months
  • Fashion Styling and Forecasting – 1 Year
  • Post Graduate in Fashion Styling – 2 Years

Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with the latest in fashion, beauty and style!

After years of managing hundreds of fashion brands from London's office of a global retailer, Mandy has ventured into freelancing. Connected with several fashion retailers and media platforms in the US, Australia, and the UK, Mandy uses her expertise to consult for emerging fashion brands create top-notch content as an editorial strategist for several online publications.

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