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Read as Lauren Schugar talks about her career as a Wardrobe Stylist.  Find her at www.laurenschugar.com and www.vegasfashionstylist.com or on her Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview.

What do you do for a living?

Freelance wardrobe stylist.

How would you describe what you do?

To create images for ad campaigns, create looks, make sure everything is in-tack concerning wardrobe on talent, shop…return.

What does your work entail?

Getting work! Steaming, shopping, returning, e-mailing.

What’s a typical work week like?

Currently I have been getting regular work at Nordstrom Direct (Studio N). Where the e-commerce/ clothing is shot. This happens to be an 8-5, Monday- Friday job and they usually schedule out the whole week.

How did you get started?

I started my business by personal styling (www.imagebylauren.com). My friend at the time was doing PR for a local casino (in Vegas) and didn’t have a budget to pay for a wardrobe stylist so he asked me as a big favor to do it for free. After that shoot I met a photographer who ended up hiring me and from that point on I knew.

What do you like about what you do?

Seeing my work in magazines, billboards, TV. Working with other creative people. Being around clothes. Working with new talent all the time, always making new friends.

What do you dislike?

Hustling to find work, nagging and always following up w/ past clients so they remember me when they have another project. Not getting paid on jobs, being so busy that you don’t have time to pee, 14 hour days, craft service tables filled with only junk food to eat, not getting a regular pay-check every two weeks.

How do you make money/or how are you compensated?

I work on a half/ day ($400) or full day rate ($600).

How much money do Wardrobe Stylists make?

There is a very big range on this one, and I also think it depends on where you live. How much work you get really depends on you finding it. So if you don’t hunt you don’t eat. Celebrity stylists and costume designers for movies/TV shows I would assume make six figures. But there is a wide range of styling work. I just relocated to Seattle and Amazon for example, houses one of the largest photo studios in the country and is based here. They fly stylists in to work in their studio. Most of the styling I have found is e-commerce. I am originally from Las Vegas and e-commerce stylists are non-existent.

The average income varies between the city you live in and the work available in your area. For example, a stylist based in LA might have a day rate of $1,000, where in other cities it might be $500/$600 a day. Your day rate depends on your skill level,  years of experience, and most importantly your book.  If you’re just starting you might even consider assisting for free just to get some experience so you know how to steam clothing properly. Styling assistants make anywhere from $150-$300 a day depending on what the client will pay for. I would say the average stylist in the Seattle area makes about $75,000 a year. But there are some other things to factor in. Paying for your own Health insurance and paying your taxes at the end of the year. If you end up getting with an agency, they take the taxes out for you.

The average assistant stylist makes $200/day, $25,000-$35,000 per year.

The average stylist makes $550/day, $65,000-$80,000 per year.

The average stylist w/an agent in LA/New York makes $85,000-$100,000 + (with at least 5 years experience).

This is not a job for everyone, but it is like anything else, if you are passionate and work your ass off, at some point the money will come.

How much money did/do you make starting out? 

I made about $20,000 my first year personal styling and every year I have made more. But my range of services has changed. I do speaking engagements, wardrobe styling, personal styling and represent a customer shirt maker. Last year I cleared $62,000.

What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?

Be on time, know how to save/manage your money.

What is most challenging about what you do?

Actually getting booked for the job. I do not have an agent so I do a lot of hunting finding my own work.

What is most rewarding?

Getting a big check in the mail, and being proud of my work when I see it on the streets.

What advice would you offer someone considering this career?

Be really realistic about how much money you need to live. Reach out to others in the industry and offer to be an assistant. Think about where you want to be in the next 5….10 years. If you can dream it you can be there, because only the strongest survive.

How much time off do you get/take?

Freelance means if you aren’t booked than you are off…. Which I have a lot of three-day weekends.

What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

That it is easy and glamorous. Shopping for 10 hours a day is not fun especially when you have to return most of the merchandise a few days later.

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

I would really like to work in film. Moving talent is a different beast compared to still photography. I love movies and how the make up and wardrobe really create the character.

What else would you like people to know about your job/career?

Write a business plan, because you are basically running your own business. If it was easy everyone would be doing it. Don’t give up.

It takes 2 out of 3 things to be successful: Luck, persistence, and/or talent.


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mia S October 5, 2015 at 4:34 pm

Thanks so much for writing this article. I’m a fashion merchandising student and we have to do a career paper and i’m doing it on being a celebrity stylist. This article just helped me so much!

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Srishti September 25, 2015 at 2:40 pm

I loved the article! Thankyou!
I am a fashion stylist myself and completely agree with a lot of points mentioned above. In India, in Delhi you are hardly paid as an Assistant. Like absolutely nothing. In Mumbai, you still are paid something. I have worked as an Assistant for almost 1.5years. The salary brackets you have quoted for Assistants is hughhh(as compared when converted to INR). The city/country one resides has a lot to do with your Salary in addition to your lookbook,years of experience and styling sensibiities.

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