Becoming a Fashion Stylist: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of a fashion stylist career? Get real job descriptions, career requirements and salary information to see if becoming a fashion stylist is right for you.
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A Fashion Stylist Career: Pros and Cons

Fashion stylists are responsible for helping people purchase and select clothing for magazines, television shows, special events or everyday wear. Continue reading to learn about the pros and cons to help you make an informed career decision.

Pros of a Fashion Stylist Career
A bachelor's degree is beneficial, but not required****
Can work in many industries (fashion design, print, television, film, retail, etc.)***
Job isn't repetitive***
Can help set fashion trends*****

Cons of a Fashion Stylist Career
Very little job security (it's primarily freelance)**
Varying average salary range (anywhere from $21,000-$80,000)*
May need to work with frustrating clients**
Experience in sales or fashion is often required****

Sources: *Payscale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ***Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, ****May 2012 Job Postings, *****California State University-Los Angeles.

Essential Career Info

Job Description and Duties

According to the International Fashion Stylists Association (IFSA), fashion stylists are knowledgeable of fashion trends and are able to put together attractive looks for their clients, often employing knowledge of psychology and art to create the ideal image. (www.ifsaonline.com). As a fashion stylist, you could work in many different industries, including retail, film, magazine publications or television. You could also use your knowledge to create styles for fashion shows, displays in store windows or magazine photo shoots. The IFSA indicates that you could work as a wardrobe stylist, not just for celebrities, but also for everyday people who are getting ready to start a new job or who want a fresh look. This could involve working for several individual clients as a personal shopper or working for a store or a company to help their clients purchase clothing.

Salary Information

The IFSA reported that more than 20,000 fashion stylists are employed worldwide. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of fashion stylists work on a commission or on a project basis, meaning there's very little job security. According to Payscale.com data obtained in 2015, the median salary of fashion stylists was about $50,000. The lowest paid 10% of these professionals earned around $21,000 or less, while the highest paid 10% earned roughly $80,000 or more.

Career Skills and Requirements

Familiarity with fashion is essential for this career, but there are no specific requirements to become a fashion stylist. You can gain experience by working in a retail store to learn what's trendy and how to create looks for clients based on their age, body shape and aesthetic tastes. Completing an apprenticeship by working under a fashion stylist or with a fashion designer are also ways to obtain needed experience. Additionally, some employers prefer that you have a background in retail or fashion design. Skills that could help you as a fashion stylist include the ability to:

  • Analyze clients to determine the image they seek to project
  • Listen and communicate effectively
  • Interact well with others
  • Sell products
  • Multi-task

Job Postings from Real Employers

Very few employers are looking for fashion stylists to act as personal stylists or to put together looks for magazines, television or movies, because freelancers usually fill these positions. However, several shops and boutiques are hiring fashion stylists to work for them, primarily as personal shoppers. Employers seek individuals who are energetic and able to work at a fast-pace while maintaining a positive attitude. The ability to provide good customer service is also desirable. The following job postings for fashion stylists were found on CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com in May 2012, and they can provide and idea of the qualifications employers seek:

  • A department store in the greater Los Angeles area searched for a retail fashion stylist who could develop client relationships, provide customer service and recommend products to customers based on current trends. The employer requested a goal-oriented team player who could work in fast-paced environment and meet sales goals.
  • A lingerie company in Los Angeles advertised for a lingerie stylist and designer who had five years of experience in lingerie design and, preferably, a bachelor's degree in design. The employer sought someone who was bilingual in English and Chinese or Korean. Additionally, computer skills, sketching ability and excellent communication skills were requested.
  • A bridal shop in San Antonio wanted to hire a bridal fashion stylist who had at least a year of experience in a high volume store to provide customer service to brides. In addition to up-selling customers and encouraging them to purchase the store's products, the employer wanted someone professional, who could dress in current trends and work weekends.
  • A department store in New York City was looking for a retail fashion stylist/personal shopper with at least three years of experience in retail sales or personal shopping to build relationships with customers, meet merchandise sales goals and recommend products based on the latest trends. The ideal candidate would be self-motivated, goal-oriented and able to multitask.

How to Beat the Competition

Fashion trends and styles are continually changing. As such, it's vital for fashion stylists to stay abreast of the latest developments. You can obtain this knowledge by reading industry publications, joining professional membership organizations and enrolling in continuing education courses. Both the Association of Image Consultants International (AICI) and the International Fashion Stylists Association (IFSA) are membership organizations that provide access to industry resources and networking opportunities.

Obtain Certification

According to AICI, obtaining certification can increase your earning potential and validate your credibility. The organization offers three levels of certification. Obtaining initial certification requires that you pass an examination demonstrating competence in several core areas. Earning the second level of certification involves being self-employed, submitting client evaluations, belonging to a professional organization and contributing to charitable organizations. To reach the third level of certification, you'll need four years of professional experience, client and peer evaluations, a portfolio, an essay and proof of having taken continuing education courses.

Other Careers to Consider

Fashion Designer

If you love clothing and fashion but you don't want to help others decide what to wear, becoming a fashion designer could be a better fit for you. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are no formal educational requirements to enter the profession, but many designers earn an associate's or bachelor's degree in fashion design or a related area.

A strong portfolio showcasing your designs and industry experience through an internship or position as an associate designer, sketching assistant or patternmaker can help you obtain a position as a fashion designer. This job requires selecting fabrics, including colors and textures, and creating sketches of men's and women's clothing, shoes and accessories. The BLS projected that the employment of fashion designers would stay the same between 2010 and 2020. The median annual salary for fashion designers was $65,000, as of May 2011.

Fashion Buyer

Individuals who are concerned about the freelance nature of a fashion stylist career can consider becoming fashion buyers. These professionals usually work for stores or retail corporations in an office environment. As a fashion buyer, you'll typically select suppliers, negotiate deals, purchase products, monitor contracts and review purchase records. Wholesale and retail buyers, except those selling farm products, earned a median annual salary of around $50,000, as of May 2011, according to the BLS. The BLS projected that the employment of buyers, purchasing managers and purchasing agents would increase by seven percent between 2010 and 2020.

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