The Personal Stylist: Your Closet’s New Best Friend

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There was a time when personal stylists were the exclusive domain of the rich and famous, but today 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 style.

Services provided by stylists range from shopping for a special event to organizing a client’s closet and providing advice on a whole new wardrobe. Clients frequently undergo 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 Karla Welch 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. The store may well have a web page in which you can “meet” the stylists in your area and view their curated looks and specialties. You begin by making an appointment for the type of service you need: special event, job interview, trend refresh or complete wardrobe update. 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’s both flattering and practical. Stylists are 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 for services that fit your budget. Since there are no special training or licensing requirements, it pays to look for a stylist who comes highly recommended by her clients.

As with many other lifestyle industries, technology has impacted the world of personal styling. Online styling is ever evolving and provides access to a real or virtual stylist. Stitch Fix was developed for the busy woman as well as those who become anxious at the thought of shopping. Dia & Co. offers style boxes for sizes large and above. Clothing rental websites keep closet clutter to a minimum and don’t burden your capsule wardrobe. thredUP touts sustainability, affordability and a wide range of designer brands. Subscription boxes can soothe a nervous shopper and keep her trendy; Rachel Zoe’s Curateur service, offered on The Zoe Report, offers a box of five items for four seasons, all selected by Rachel herself.

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.

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