Fashion StylistA fashion stylist helps clients put together outfits for various situations. She determines what level of dress is appropriate for the occasion, then selects the best color, cut, and style of clothes that will allow her client to shine. She then adds flattering accessories, creating a finished look that makes her client look like she stepped out of a fashion magazine.

Stylists know what fabrics, textures, and colors go together, as well as what accessories do and don’t work with an ensemble. Sometimes they come up with cutting edge trends, sometimes they use classic pieces to create unforgettable looks. A fashion stylist‘s job is to make their clients look good, and in this age of social media where images can instantly encircle the globe, the very best are worth their weight in gold.

But while the term “fashion stylist” has only been around since the mid-90’s, the service they perform – creating polished, pulled-together looks – has been around since ancient times. Dressers, personal maids, and valets have been an integral part of aristocratic households for millennia. Royal dressmakers like Rose Bertin (Marie Antoinette) designed head-to-toe looks, as did Charles Frederick Worth, the father of haute couture. Later, Hollywood studio costume designers created signature styles for their biggest stars.

Yet while much praise has been given to fashion stylists – and many celebrities and socialites swear they can’t get dressed without one – putting together head-turning outfits isn’t all that hard. Once you know what’s entailed, it becomes relatively easy.

What a Fashion Stylist Does

Here’s what fashion stylists do that you can do for yourself:

They determine:

  • Your body shape
  • Your best colors
  • Your clothing personality
  • Your best styles
  • What type of clothing is appropriate for the occasion, time, and season
  • Which accessories best suit you and the ensemble
  • Which hairstyle is appropriate
  • What makeup should be worn

If you ever watch Project Runway, you see this routine every episode. The designers are given an assignment, which they spend most of the time executing. Once their models have been fitted, the designers accompany them to the hair and makeup studio where they tell the hair and makeup artists what they want. They finish the look with appropriate accessories before sending the model down the runway.

Project Runway
Project Runway
Korto Momolu’s seat-belt coat
(season 5, episode 7)

It isn’t rocket science. Yet walking down the street, it’s easy to see why many people think so: because they were never taught how to dress. Or, they just don’t care. Comfort has replaced style and for many, clothes just don’t matter any more. They wear the same hairstyle and makeup for every occasion for decades.

But here’s the thing: in thousands of years of dressing, clothing and accessories have ALWAYS played an integral part in signifying wealth and importance. ALWAYS. They still do.

The Kate Effect” is just the latest evidence of that.

Elizabeth I had people copying her clothes, too, and she got so annoyed, she added to the sumptuary laws to make them stop. Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire (and daughter of the 1st Earl Spencer) had groups of reporters – 18th century paparazzi – waiting outside every social event she attended to report on her clothes. The Empress Eugenie launched the careers of Charles Frederick Worth and Louis Vuitton with her patronage. Copying great style is not new.

But creating it?

That’s new.

It’s why great designers, fashion stylists, and fashionistas are so revered in our society: they think outside the box. When you can look at a blank canvas and create a brilliant story from it, people can’t help but admire it. And when you’re in the public spotlight? People can’t help but copy it. That’s why anything the Duchess of Cambridge wears sells out right away, including her hats, shoes, clothes, and nursery items.

Christian Dior Fall 2013
Christian Dior, Fall 2013

But I don’t want you to blindly copy what others are doing, because what might be right for them may not be right for you. I want you to learn to think for yourself and create head-turning outfits that suit you and your personality – not a future queen or a pop star or a Real Housewife. You.

So do what fashion stylists do: know thyself, learn what’s appropriate for different situations, and then learn how to put together ensembles that will have people admiring your fashion savvy. That’s what fashion stylists do.


Diana Pemberton-SikesDiana Pemberton-Sikes is an image consultant and author of Fashion Style Blueprint, THE fashion styling resource that helps you put together head-turning, one-of-a-kind outfits.

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    3 replies to "What Does a Fashion Stylist Do?"

    • Angel chigbo

      I am 5″11 feet woman in my early 40s. I just want you to give me a little bit of ideas on how to dress and look gorgeous this summer. I don’t like exposing my arms because of some stretch marks on them.
      Thank you.


    • Joyce

      Hi Diana!

      I have been a fan of your site for years and I just love it. In the past, when you showed and an outfit you always showed where it came from. The outfit you have at the top of this article, the beige skirt, white shirt and bag, where can they be purchased?

      • Diana

        Hi Joyce,

        I’m so glad you’re enjoying all the material! Thanks for your note.

        The details for that beige outfit can be found at:

        You’ll have to scroll through their picture archive, but you should be able to find it.

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