how to become a personal stylist

Some of my readers are aspiring personal stylists who would love to know how to become a personal stylist, while others are simply curious about my job. Mostly, I am writing this post on how to become a personal stylist because everyday I receive e-mails from teenagers, women, and men who want to become personal stylists. Whether they are coming from high school, or changing careers, they desire my help, and unfortunately I don’t have time to answer any longer. I have been sending a quick e-mail linking to an interview I did with Seventeen magazine, but often the e-mails I receive are from people who have read that article already and want more information. So, below is my further advice on how to become a personal stylist.

UPDATE 2020: Due to popular demand, I have written a book on how to become a personal stylist: The Personal Stylist’s Handbook, a comprehensive and detailed manual on how to become the top personal stylist in your city. It’s the handbook I wish I had when I first started my business. An efficient, no-fluff resource. Just the nitty-gritty business of personal styling.

What Degree Should A Personal Stylist Get?

My degree is Theatre/Film with an emphasis in Costume Design and a minor in business marketing. It served me well, although I wish it had a class on set etiquette for when I first started in the television industry. I had no idea what to do. (Why do degrees often lack real experience classes??)

I love my degree, but if I was going to create a degree for personal stylists, these are some of the classes I would recommend: Marketing, Accounting, Excel/Quickbooks, PhotoShop, PR, Pattern Making, Sewing 101, Dying 101, Color Theory, Public Speaking, Etiquette (Good Manners and Professional Decorum), Psychology, Costume History before the 1900’s, Costume History after the 1900’s, Clothing Production, a class on Fabrics (names, how they work, how to clean them)

A lot of the classes I am recommending are business classes because being a personal stylist is running a business.

I also recommend having any kind of job in fashion before diving straight into personal styling. You can find fashion jobs on You can also find stylish side hustles there while building your business.

What Do I Need To Know To Be A Personal Stylist?

  • Fabric

You need to know how a garment is made, what they are made of, how the material moves and stretches, and how to clean them. You need to know how to iron. Why? because your clients will ask you or want to talk about it. If you don’t know, you officially loose your authority. If you don’t know something, find it out, or refer them to a source that does know. For instance, I have bookmarked how to’s for stains that I send clients sometimes. It’s just easier than standing there telling them how to do it. Lastly, learn all your fabric vocabulary. Dupioni, chiffon, silk, rayon, polyester… know what they are and be able to identify them by touch and sight.

  • Body Types

When discussing how to become a personal stylist this is the most important aspect. You need to understand all the body types out there. Find out what silhouettes flatter a woman with an exacerbated apple body and lean legs. Know that fit and flare is the best thing ever for a woman lacking a defined waist.

  • Brands & Fits

Understand how brands fit. This goes hand in hand with how to dress a body type. What brand of jeans will fit well on that woman with an exacerbated apple body with lean legs? Not Your Daughter Jeans and Chicos will. You need to know that. You need to know that BCBG and Theory run small. You need to know that Felicity and Coco is the most trustworthy source for flattering maxi dresses. You need to know that Eileen Fisher, La Fayette, and Free People run bigger. You need to know these things, so you can find the items you want for your client and be able to accurately shop online for them when needed. Are you going to tell them to order a size small or medium in Free People? You need to know that. You need to know who makes petites, and what jeans have a long enough inseam for your 5’10” client.

  • Stores & Stock

You need to know what is available for sale. If your client wants a giant flower hat, you need to know where to find it. People hire me to know where everything is, or to be able to find it quickly. Time is of the essence.

  • Referrals

You need to have an amazing tailor on hand. You need to have a trustworthy hair stylist and make-up artist and more. Your clients and you need these people, and you will be judged on your referrals.

  • Organization

There is nothing more important than organization. All my clients have extensive files with their sizes, all their past shopping lists, life details, names of their children and more. When you get to where I am with 150 clients, you need these files more than you need air. What is the point of showing your client an amazing dress, if you already got it for them a month ago? They don’t need two of that dress and you’ve just wasted their time as well as looked the fool. I keep detailed notes, always have a shopping list and I take pictures of what I have bought a client.

  • Etiquette

Behave yourself like a professional. Don’t talk about yourself unless prompted with sincere curiosity, and even then, keep it short. This is not the time to gossip and vent. This time is about your clients, not you. Carry their bags, hang up their clothes. You are a personalized service and you want them to feel cared for. I practically treat my clients like children. I am their fashion mama. I tie their shoes, I button their coats, I pat them on the back and tell them ‘great job.’ Whether they are 25 or 75, they are in my care, and I take that seriously. On this note, like a mother, you are not a servant, I deserve respect and do not tolerate rudeness. Thankfully, I have almost never run into this, but I am ready for it. You should be too. How will you handle it when a client has a tantrum? Cries? Gets frustrated?  You keep it together and always behave with kindness and professionalism.

How To Become A Personal Stylist – Do you actually want to do this?

Just because you can dress yourself well doesn’t mean you can dress other people well. Just because you love fashion doesn’t mean you can translate that love to other people. Being a stylist does not mean putting your style on others. Being a personal stylist is about flushing out someone else’s personal style and then shopping it, and putting all the pieces together in a way that flatters their unique body. You have to be able to see who they want to be, not who you want them to be. You need to appreciate and be able to create all the styles out there: edgy, bohemian, conservative, sophisticated, comfortable, preppy, athletic with a hint of chic…

In summary, being a stylist is a highly stressful job that demands focus, logic, organization and incredible people skills that work with all the different kinds of personalities that will cross your path. You need to love people more than you love fashion.

how to become a personal stylist

Photo Credit: Riviera Magazine