Working With a Personal Stylist

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There was a time when personal stylists were the exclusive domain of the rich and famous, but today almost anyone can enjoy the professional services of a style expert. Just as an interior designer helps you pick out furniture and home décor, a personal stylist can help you choose clothing and accessories that reflect your personal style.

Services provided by stylists range from shopping for a single look for a special event to organizing a client’s closet and providing advice on a whole new wardrobe. Clients are frequently undergoing significant life changes that require new clothing, such as embarking on a new career or experiencing a sudden change in relationship status. A stylist can play an important role in easing the transition by reducing a client’s anxiety about fashion choices.

Celebrity stylists such as Rachel Zoe have helped familiarize everyone with the concept, but personal stylists, also known as personal shoppers or shopping consultants, have been around for a long time. Major department stores such as Nordstrom’s and Macy’s have long offered the personal stylist services for free. You begin by making an appointment for the type of service you need: special event, job interview, trend refresh or complete wardrobe update. Before your appointment, a stylist will get in touch to discuss your style needs, preferences and budget. You will probably also be asked about favorite brands and designers. When you arrive at the store for your appointment, your stylist will have picked out a variety of looks to try on, frequently with coordinating shoes and accessories. Together, you will decide what works for your body type and lifestyle.

If you ask around, you may also find smaller shops and boutiques that offer a free personal shopper service or that will assign a knowledgeable sales person to provide personalized clothing suggestions. Keep in mind that in both large and small stores, the stylist is expected to encourage you to make purchases and may be working on commission. Even so, a good stylist should keep the sales pressure to a minimum and allow you to reject fashion choices that exceed your budget or don’t feel right.

Freelance personal stylists are another alternative that typically offers a wider range of services than store-based shopping consultants. In addition to helping pick out a single outfit for a special occasion, these stylists serve as makeover artists and image consultants. Like a store shopper, a freelance stylist will begin by getting to know how you live and work and how you want to look. The process may involve going through your closet together and evaluating each garment for fit, wearability and style. The stylist will provide advice on discarding outdated pieces and finding new combinations for pieces that are being underutilized.

Following wardrobe evaluation, many stylists will also play the role of shopper, but in this case the items may be borrowed from a variety of stores and brought to your home to try on. Alternatively, your stylist may help you create a shopping list and then meet you for a goal-oriented shopping trip. As a final service, many stylists will provide a set of digital photos of different pieces from the client’s wardrobe, making it easier for the client to put together a complete head-to-toe look.
A good stylist should be able to discover your inner essence and help you build a wardrobe that is both flattering and practical. Stylists need to keep informed on fashion trends, have a good understanding of how clothes should fit and possess the ability to put together fashionable outfits for a variety of ages and body types. The fees for personal style services range from as low as $20 per hour to several hundred dollars per session, so it pays to shop around for services that fit your budget. Since there are no special training or licensing requirements for stylists, it also pays to look for a stylist who comes highly recommended by former clients.

As with many other lifestyle industries, technology is having an impact on the world of personal styling. Online styling is the newest trend in personal styling, providing access to a real or virtual stylist. Examples of online styling services include, a website that connects customers with stylists who handpick a selection of clothing built around items you already own; and, where you complete an online quiz about your personal style and budget and then receive five garments by mail that you can try on at home and then purchase or return.

Whether you’re working with a store shopper or a live or virtual shopper, the most important things you can bring to the experience are a basic understanding of your body type, a well-defined budget and an open mind. HLM

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