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Become a Fashion Stylist - Degree & Certification

Fashion stylists are the 'invisible hand' behind photo shoots, fashion shows, and celebrity wardrobes. To become a fashion stylist, you need artistic, technical, and social skills that you can learn through formal courses or internships. Read on to find out what you'll learn in fashion stylist courses and certificate programs.

What is a Fashion Stylist?

Fashion stylists are responsible for selecting the clothing, make-up, hairstyles, and accessories seen everywhere from photo shoots to movie premieres. As a fashion stylist, you will work to help visually realize the ideas of a director or photographer. There is no single path to a career as a fashion stylist, but work experience, networking, and formal training are all helpful in landing jobs. Through various modes of training, you can learn how to execute appropriate styling for photo shoots, videos, and live performances.

How to Become a Stylist

There is no one, set path to becoming a fashion stylist. Those interested in the field typically pursue some combination of coursework, internships or on-the-job experience, and professional certification. The following sections discuss these options.

Educational Requirements

Although no specific educational requirements exist, having formal education could help your career. To become a fashion stylist, you might take individual courses to supplement on-the-job training, or you may take advantage of fashion stylist certification programs or related degree programs. Examples of fashion stylist degree programs include fashion and retail marketing, visual communication, fashion merchandising, and fashion design; some schools also offer fashion stylist specializations within these programs. As a student in one of these programs, you may encounter topics such as:

  • Trends and design
  • Marketing
  • Photo shoot planning
  • Fashion styling for media
  • Styling tricks of the trade
  • Fundamentals of styling and fit
  • Fashion industry principles

Work Experience

Formal courses will enhance your professional knowledge, but real-world, hands-on training can also help jump-start your career as a fashion stylist. You can gain this valuable experience in the fashion styling field by apprenticing with an established fashion stylist. Internships with major retailers such as Macy's, Bloomingdale's, or Saks Fifth Avenue can also help you gain important experience, such as coordinating photo shoots and fashion shows.

Certification

The Association of Image Consultants International (AICI) offers professional certification as a certified image consultant, which can be valuable in the field of fashion styling. To obtain this certification you must pass a written exam and submit a portfolio of your work in fashion styling.

Important Facts About Fashion Stylists

Online Course Availability Fully online fashion-related programs are available
Key Skills Artistic ability, business and marketing, creativity, eye for detail, good communication, knowledge of textiles and trends
Work Environment While some stylists work for production studios or large retail companies, many are self-employed; weekend/evening hours are common
Similar Occupations Purchasing Manager/Agent, Art Director, Model

Possible Alternative Careers

If you're interested in the field of fashion, you could also consider a career in fashion design, which paid a median annual salary of $72,720 in May 2018 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Art directors earned a median salary of $92,780 during that same year. Purchasing managers earned $118,940, per the BLS.