When asked in an interview with Vogue what she was most surprised with when becoming an actress, Nicole Kidman’s response is, “99 percent hard work, one percent glamour”. This is a common misconception that we make when seeing those in positions that require them to assume a sense of fabulousness attached to whatever job they have. When distracted by beauty, artistry and images of people in amazing lives, in careers that they seem genuinely happy in, it is difficult to imagine these career choices to be hard and even at times, dull.
I have always adored fashion, as most of my friends did as well. However, as I got older I became more aware of style and how to individualize myself based off of what I was wearing. Of course this influenced my eye for noticing other people’s styles and I (to my friends demise) became the ultimate critic of fashion choices. It didn’t strike me until a few years ago when stumbling across celebrity stylists like Kate Young, Monica Rose, and Jessica Paster that this interest— no— obsession I have for finding cool pieces and making outfits out of them can actually be a career.. a glamorous, meaningful and perfect career. Images of me attending cool events, sharing with a talk show host my ultimate looks for spring and posting Instagram photos of celebrities that I had dressed consumed me.
In an attempt to get the ball rolling on my pursuit, I began a certificate in fashion styling. Each class brings in a new industry expert to teach us what we need to know about taking this role on. While I initially thought I’d be learning how to put garments together and tricks on buying and fitting (which I can confirm I did learn), the information on the industry itself was all together humbling and a rude awakening as to how difficult it will actually be to get even remotely close to where I envisioned myself prior to these lessons. For those of you who are at all interested in pursuing this career, here is my summary of the most valuable lessons I have learned while studying fashion styling…
1. During shoots, you are a modern handmaid
One of my first experiences in styling taught me this. The models cannot touch the clothing due to makeup, hair, etc. Because of this, it is your job to do everything. I was prepared for this to some extent but not for how demanding of a job this is when trying to get multiple looks shot in very little time. Imagine getting dressed and undressed 10 times- now imagine having to do this to someone else while stressing about getting makeup on the clothing, ruining the hair or accidentally piercing a new hole into your models ear because you need to change the accessories in under 10 seconds. After coming home from a four hour shoot, I slept as if I had worked a labour job for a day and a half (it certainly felt that way).
2. No one cares if you can do one thing really well
This is a problem in not only the fashion world but the working world in general. Those starting out in any industry are expected to do more than what they are initially asked. It’s the classic bang for your buck scenario, where employers want to hire one person to do multiple jobs for the price of one. In the fashion world if you are a stylist, some components that you need in order to be respected include (but are not limited to) sketching, designing, photography, writing, photoshop, editing, blogging and social media. Even if your passion is dressing other people, this will simply not cut it on it’s own if you’re trying to get a job.
3. You have to appear to be ‘somebody’ before you can dress a ‘somebody’
Most of the time, a stylist does not get hired simply off of a Craigslist ad. There is a reason why celebrities, influencers and more decide to hire specific people to create looks for them, the biggest reasons being their reputation and recognition. Without a social media handle, a client cannot take notice of your abilities and want you to dress them. Because of this, half of the job with fashion styling is staying relevant and building your following so that people want to work with you. This takes time and creativity to do but is ultimately a huge priority if you want to build your network.
4. Contrary to what you thought, your opinion does not matter
You can have the best idea for a shoot with the most fabulous styling, but if your employer does not like it then it does not matter. Did anybody else watch The September Issue when Grace Coddington produced some of the most amazing looks and Anna Wintour nixed nearly half of them? If Miss Coddington is getting rejected, you can bet that your looks will be too. If your client does not like something, it does not matter how hard you worked to get the garments and put it together, your opinion is not what matters because in the end you are being hired to recreate someone else’s vision — not to produce your own vision on someone else.
5. You have to work for free. You have to work for free a lot.
A general consensus that was repeated in every class by different people. There are a ton of people trying to achieve the same things that you are and the only way you can get to where you want to be is by doing it as much as you can. You need to practice and build a portfolio before being taken seriously enough to be hired in a paid position. Many people think they have skills in styling. Many people like to take their best friend or mom shopping and call it “styling”. Just because you like clothes and like to help people with clothes does not make you a stylist. This is the definitive difference between those who deserve to be paid and those who do not want to stick around long enough to make it actually happen. A stylist will work for free simply because they need to practice their art as well as working with other people. Instead of being bitter about it you have to accept the process and let it inspire you to do as much as possible.
It may sound like what I have learned in my short time studying fashion styling has been discouraging to what I want to do. However, I can assure you that it has done the complete opposite. Nothing worth it ever comes easily. Seeing the hard work and patience that is required to achieve what I want makes me excited for not only the final goal but everything in between. Process is important. Hard work and sweat is vital to anything remotely glamorous or else you cannot recognize the true bliss behind the end product — this is ultimately what I have learned.