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What It’s Like to Be a Stylist

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In honor of New York Fashion Week, I nabbed a few minutes with stylists who work the runway (and the interwebs) to style everyone from celebrities to C-suite executives. One can be found dressing models or moguls in NYC. The other spends her time helping socialites and the like (plus the rest of us) from her home base in Orange County in-person and online–with clients as far as Hong Kong.

Clothes hangers in one hand and coffee in the other, they were gracious enough to sit down with me for some quick-fire questions on the life, love (and loathing), of a stylist.

“A stylist is an artist who uses clothing as her medium and it’s one of the few professions that your medium (client) talks back to you,” says Shaunya Hartley, stylist and creator of Shop, Eat & Sleep.

Hartley has worked in the field for over 12 years, beginning her career while still in college. Her first gig? An assistant on a photo shoot with Vanessa Williams from Ugly Betty. Not bad.

She says most newcomers think that since they love clothes, follow fashion trends religiously, and dress their boyfriends and best friends, they can be a stylist. Beware: there’s more to the job description than picking out cool threads. You’ll be fulfilling the needs of varying visions and personalities (sometimes people with multiple personalities). Imagine the characters involved….

To help paint a clear picture for you, here’s one of her, um, most memorable clients:

“I worked with a very well known, but difficult celebrity. We were going to Europe and we had to go that night. I had to get clothes, pack, and be ready for a flight in less than seven hours. This is before smart phones. The celeb’s assistant didn’t understand budgets or timelines. I enlisted my entire family and an assistant to help out. I got to the airport with seven pieces of luggage. Got held in customs, but created a fun look that was seen online.”

One more thing that she wants aspiring stylists to know is that most of the heavy lifting of the job has nothing to do with massaging and maneuvering large client egos. Nope, it’s actually the manual labor.

“Newbies should understand this is a very physically demanding job and requires someone to be detail oriented, super professional, and constantly learning. And, I’d also add constantly moving…running, skipping, and jumping if need be to complete a look before showtime.”

Damn.

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Nicole Longstreath is a wardrobe strategist and founder of The Wardrobe Code. She’s developed a virtual coaching program to help women all over the world build wardrobes they love at a sensible cost.

She says that her day to day can be extremely varied, but on an average week, you’ll find her shopping with clients in person, shopping for them online, and editing a client’s wardrobe.

“I try to go for clearing out at least 60%, and showing clients how to make outfits with what they have,” Longstreath says. “But a significant portion of my week also goes to marketing and networking.”

That’s something to note here, future stylists. It’s always a hustle if you want to work for yourself. And, your clientele doesn’t have to be an A-lister or government official, there’s a serious need to bring styling to the people, as competition in the workplace calls for people to spend more time honing their personal brands. It isn’t cheap, but it also isn’t expensive when you consider this:

“The truth is, knowing what you’re supposed to look like can save you money and time, and give you enough confidence to accomplish anything you want in life. I truly believe that wardrobe styling should be as accessible as getting your hair colored at the salon, or regular pedicures. My favorite part about my job is helping clients uncover the authentic style that’s already coded onto their soul, whether in-person here in Orange County, CA or online with clients across the globe,” Longstreath says.

Though most of what she does everyday is peachy, the one lemon in the stack of challenges is when a client lets fear get in the way of a transformation.

“Working with me as a stylist is hard work for both of us, and the client usually has to let go of bad habits and patterns that caused them to come to me in the first place,” she says. “Factor in overcoming body issues (we all have them) and the investment of services and clothing, and it’s easy to see how the process can become interrupted sometimes.”

But seeing clients change from the inside out is worth all the little bumps in the runway.

Want a work wardrobe makeover? Contact me at ProfessionGal for styling info.

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