How to Become a Fashion Stylist (Duties, Salary & Steps)

You’ll be dressing people up for a living!

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

How to become a fashion stylist

Working in fashion is a dream come true for many people, and being a fashion stylist is a role that is critical to many areas of the industry.

Fashion stylists have a broad remit and need to use a variety of skills to curate looks for brands and people. If this is a role that you would love to get stuck into, then read on to find out more about being a fashion stylist, as well as some handy tips on how to get started in the role and how to create a career path in this profession.

What is a fashion stylist?

Fashion stylists are creative professionals that select clothing, accessories and sometimes makeup to create outfits and looks for various productions such as fashion shows, as well as private individuals. Fashion stylists use their keen sense of style to work with photographers, models and designers to bring these outfits and looks to life.

What are the different types of fashion stylists?

The career path an employee takes in fashion styling can be varied; there are different niches in the profession. Here are the main ones:

  • Celebrity stylists dress their famous clients for events, and secure labels and brands for their use
  • Costume stylists create specific looks for various film, television, theater and music video productions
  • Commercial stylists work on advertising campaigns, creating looks that align with brands
  • Personal stylists (sometimes referred to as wardrobe stylists) provide a bespoke fashion styling service to individual clients
  • Photoshoot stylists work for publications such as magazines, collaborating with photographers and editors
  • Runway stylists attend fashion shows, collaborating with fashion designers to showcase their collections

What does a fashion stylist do?

Fashion stylists are heavily involved in creating looks, from their conceptualization to reality. It’s a highly creative role. Here are the main responsibilities of a fashion stylist:

  • Consulting with stakeholders to understand their needs and preferences, as well as measuring up their clients
  • Selecting clothing and accessories, and organizing or editing the client’s current wardrobe
  • Fitting and styling the client, as well as supporting with shopping
  • Collaborating with stakeholders such as photographers, editors or models
  • Developing a portfolio and marketing their talents to other potential clients
  • Researching fashion trends and developments to sustain their inspiration and creativity

What is their workplace like?

Fashion stylists can work in a variety of settings.

Stylists employed by a company might work in an office or a hybrid setting. They will have access to studios as well. Freelance stylists might be more readily based at home and travel to clients or coworking spaces as needed.

The work environment for fashion stylists is exceptionally creative. You’ll need to come up with unique and striking fashion styles, as this is what you are paid to do! Therefore, you’ll be working in open, collaborative workplaces and will likely be expected to work in a fast-paced and dynamic way in order to achieve exceptional results.

What hours do they work?

Fashion stylists will typically work 40 hours per week, about the standard for many professions. Whereas many fashion stylist roles will be based on a standard 9-to-5 pattern, there will be plenty of variations to this.

Stylists for high fashion companies, demanding clients, or those based in similar settings might be expected to work longer hours whenever there are deadlines or requests. This, however, might be balanced with time off in lieu.

Freelance fashion stylists will be able to set their own hours but will still be expected to work and turn in projects whenever their clients demand it.

How much do fashion stylists earn?

The salary range can depend on a number of factors, such as experience or your employer. Salaries are also heavily driven by location; if you’re based in a fashion hub such as New York, you might be paid more. Similarly, if you work in a more advanced role with higher-profile clients, you will also earn much higher wages.

Current market data suggests that the average salary for a fashion stylist is around $50,000. One estimate puts the average annual salary at $57,378, with the salary at the 10th percentile being $46,399 and $67,518 at the 90th percentile. Another estimate reports that the highest earning fashion stylists make as much as $246,297 per year.

What is their job outlook?

Being a fashion stylist is a niche role, and although sometimes the job gets entangled with fashion designers, there are not many stylists in employment; one source puts the current number at just under 3,500.

The profession is projected to grow at around 3% year on year to 2030, which is the average growth across all professions in the US, and the same as other roles in fashion.

Driving this growth is the emergence of new fashion trends, a greater awareness of fashion, and people existing in the industry or moving into different roles in fashion. Being a fashion stylist offers a horizontal career path, with well-connected and influential fashion stylists taking on extra work. This makes the profession competitive and hard to break into.

What are the entry requirements?

Becoming a fashion stylist can be a streamlined process, as it’s more about understanding the skills and qualities needed to work in the role as opposed to formal academic qualifications and licensure. Here’s what you need to have in place to become a fashion stylist:


Whereas formal education is not mandatory to become a fashion stylist, this doesn’t mean that you should slack off at school! Good grades in subjects like mathematics provide foundational knowledge that can help you later in your career.

Going to university or college and studying for an arts, fashion or merchandising degree can be useful and can facilitate entry to fashion school.

Skills and qualities

You’ll need to apply many different skills and qualities to become a fashion stylist. This skill set includes:

  • An eye for fashion and style
  • Business acumen
  • Creativity
  • Interpersonal and networking skills
  • Knowledge of fabrics and textiles
  • Resilience
  • Strong work ethic
  • Visual communication

Will you make a good fashion stylist?

As discussed, becoming a fashion stylist is less about formal qualifications or rigid career planning, and more about your interest in the industry and your ability to “hustle” your way to the top through networking, showing off your talents and staying on top of trends.

For this reason, you’ll need to be exceptionally passionate about fashion and style, and learn the hard way, through knockbacks, failures and receiving feedback.

If you’re still struggling to choose a career path and you’re wondering which ones could be best suited to your skills, career goals, interests and values, then consider using CareerHunter, a six-stage assessment that assesses these areas against various careers, giving you a selection of best-fit jobs, and tips on how you can get started in them.

5 steps to become a fashion stylist

So, if you have read about what it’s like to be a fashion stylist and are sure that this is the dream role for you, then read on to discover what you can do to get started in this incredibly exciting role.

Step 1: Learn about fashion and develop your eye for style

The best way to hone your fashion skills from an early age is to start immersing yourself in the world of fashion and style as soon as you can.

Consider learning about fashion through formal means such as attending fashion school or enrolling in other creative-based education. Follow designers, trends and fashion publications, picking up the tricks of the trade and learning about stylistic eras, influences and cultural considerations. Finally, use this knowledge to develop your niche and find your stylistic specialization.

Step 2: Work on your portfolio

When looking for fashion stylist jobs, your portfolio is as important as your résumé, if not more.

It’s never too early to build your portfolio. Practice your styling skills on friends and family, photograph them for your portfolio, and go from there. Include projects from fashion school and apprenticeships or internships in your portfolio, and collaborate with photographers, makeup artists and models to give your portfolio a polished look.

Slowly but surely, your portfolio will grow into a comprehensive body of work that showcases your capabilities.

Step 3: Network

Networking is critical to becoming a fashion stylist. As you work your way up in the profession, do all you can to get out in the industry to meet your peers, suppliers, models, photographers, makeup artists, and anyone else you can collaborate with.

Attend fashion shows, industry seminars and training sessions to meet people, and do all you can to sustain these connections by supporting and collaborating with them in the same way you would expect. Finally, tap into social media, following stylists and stylist-related pages and blogs on sites like Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook for more immediate networking opportunities.

Step 4: Gain experience and work your way up

If you attend fashion school, your institution might be able to support you with apprenticeships or internships that might lead to permanent entry-level roles. Regardless of how you get started as a fashion stylist, you won't land your dream stylist job immediately.

Start from the bottom and gain skills and experience, building your résumé and contacts and working on increasingly prestigious events and contracts as a stylist. As you build your reputation, pad out your portfolio and work on your career development, you’ll find long-term success and exciting advancement opportunities.

Step 5: Stay up to speed on trends, technology and techniques

Your continued success as a stylist is dependent on you remaining professionally relevant in a very competitive industry. Therefore, it’s essential that you stay up to speed on what’s moving and shaking in the world of fashion. Seeking feedback from others is also important to remain competitive and learn new skills.

Read up on industry trends and emerging technology in fashion styling such as software or apps. Even technology that’s not directly related to fashion can help you work smarter, such as editing tools or AI styling platforms; this will then leave you more time to think creatively and come up with fresh ideas.

Final thoughts

If you’re passionate about fashion and have a sense of style that would give Anna Wintour or Edward Enninful a run for their money, then becoming a fashion stylist could be a great personal career choice for you. The role is fast-paced and stressful, and requires you to use all your skills to survive in a competitive environment.

Being a fashion stylist is all about showing people what you can do. This includes putting together an incredible portfolio, networking with the right people, and staying up to date and informed on what's moving in the world of fashion. If you get all this right, then the doors will open to an exciting and rewarding role.

Got a question? Let us know in the comments section below.