Today’s reader email about personal shoppers was a bit outside of my area of expertise — so I’ve asked my friend (and stylist) (and former lawyer) Kalyn Johnson to answer it. (Pictured: I’m done with matching socks, originally uploaded to Flickr by susansimon.) First, here’s the question…
Could you do a post on the ins and outs of personal shoppers for women – both those from department stores and those that work on a freelance basis. How do they work? Do they charge? If so, what’s worth paying for? In the near future, I am going to make a significant investment in new work clothes for my first big firm job after finishing a clerkship. I have a bad track record with business casual, and I am considering getting outside help. Any suggestions or experiences you could share would be very helpful!
If you’re looking to take your game up a notch — you know, do a true overhaul of your wardrobe — you may want to hire a Stylist or possibly a Personal Shopper. Stylists and Personal Shoppers aren’t just for celebrities – a stylist can help you hone your sense of style and teach you how to edit and refine your wardrobe. Think about the best-dressed person you know – she’s not particularly trendy. He’s not flashy. But they are well put together, their clothes make them seem polished and poised before they even open their mouths. And we all know that first impressions are lasting impressions. Someone once said, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression … Those who stand out from the crowd are people who’ve created consistent signature looks for themselves. Some just have a natural flare for it. Others hire folks like me to help them get there; it doesn’t matter – well dressed is well dressed, right?
Stylist v. Personal Shopper
A Stylist is more than a Personal Shopper. Stylists are hired to help clients achieve “overall looks.” Generally, a stylist will help you hone your sense of style and teach you how to edit and refine your wardrobe. A Stylist does act as a Personal Shopper and will either shop for you or take you shopping, but he or she typically does so with full knowledge of you, the clothes you have in your closet and the “look” that you are going after. Rates for Stylists vary depending on the city/state in which you reside as well as the services they’re offering. Some Stylists charge a flat fee, while others charge an hourly rate. The best way to find out is to do some investigation online to find a Stylist whose philosophy comports with yours and then just pick up the phone or shoot them an email to ask for their rates if rates are not posted on their website.
A Personal Shopper is just that, someone who shops for you. Nowadays, many department stores offer “Personal Shopping Services”. Most of the time this service is free and just requires that you make an appointment ahead of time. While the service is free, the clothes are not; most department store Personal Shoppers make a commission on the clothes they sell. Which means that it’s in their, and the store’s, best interest to steer customers to the higher-end brands. While this is by no means the “rule”, it is something to be aware of before setting up a personal shopping appointment. Typically, people use in-store personal shopping services when they have a special event to attend and want more than a salesperson’s help. However, many of these services will gladly work with customers on a regular basis to help them dress for all occasions. If an on-going relationship is cemented, then a department store personal shopper may in fact become your “stylist”. She will get a sense of your style, your price tolerance and your closet (because she’s helping to fill it) over the course of time. Nevertheless, a great personal shopper should act as your “stylist” for the day in terms of trying to understand the event/item you’re shopping for and finding the right thing for you.
Is Hiring A Stylist Worth the Money?
I can’t speak for all stylists, but my goal is to help you out by providing you with the tools you need to look good on a daily basis. The biggest complaint I hear from clients is that they have a closet full of clothes but never have anything to wear. Unfortunately, too many of us find ourselves in this dilemma on a regular basis. Having too much to wear is almost worst than having nothing to wear. There’s nothing wrong with a little retail therapy every now and again. Having new things provides a momentary high, but shopping for the sake of shopping often leads to a closet full of clothes, not a wardrobe. I teach my clients to shop strategically so that they have exactly what they need for just about any occasion.
My Wardrobe Evaluation is nothing like what you’ve seen on TV, or at least I hope it isn’t! My job is to take away your anxieties and worries about getting dressed in the morning. I want to learn about you and who you are so that I can help you make the clothing decisions that are going to be best for you. I view this as a collaborative process. So, I ask my clients to be open to the possibilities of new styles and to contemplate stretching their comfort zones a bit … all in all, my intent is to make this a fun and positive experience. After all, it’s just clothes, not rocket science. Through a 2 hour block of time either in your home or via Skype, I get a snapshot into your world. I take the information I’ve gathered during the Wardrobe Evaluation and create a LOOK for you – something fun, that will help you begin to see yourself as the “new you.” A few of the looks I’ve created for clients include: The Marriage Material Girl, The Edgy Sophisticate and The Errant Heiress. While none of the LOOKS sound professional, The Marriage Material Girl is a physician, The Edgy Sophisticate is a corporate lawyer and The Errant Heiress is a record industry executive. We’re all multifaceted individuals with interests that are often divergent from our day-jobs; I try to marry the person, their profession and the way they see themselves. The “LOOKS” provide a vehicle for clients to begin to see themselves in a new light. I’m successful when a client calls to tell me how happy they are because they’ve received a ton of compliments about their new clothes and overall LOOK.
Fashion Stylist and Lifestyle Blogger, Kalyn Johnson is a former corporate lawyer who turned in her precedent binder to pursue her passion of making fashion attainable. Her company, Style by Kalyn Johnson, is a style consultancy focused on personal branding for professionals. Send Kalyn an email to learn more about her styling services.
I can’t afford a stylist but the internet is as always a great resource. My favorite style advisor at the moment is insideoutstyleblog.com She advises you on how to style depending on your body shape, and tries to help you find out what your style is. Then you can shop based on that, no matter if you shop in department stores or in high-end boutiques. I’m not paid to advertise her blog.
My new idea is to try on outfits from my closet and post photos on http://www.gotryiton.com. If an outfit gets terrible reviews, then I donate the clothes to a local charity. It’s a brutal, but helpful way to make necessary cuts.
That is really cool! Honest opinion is good, even though as you mentioned, it can be brutal BUT at the end of the day, it becomes a win win situation. Thanks for the idea. I will definitely try this.
Very curious about what the “Marriage Material Girl” look is all about.
I am not sure what “the look” looks like, but it sounds a bit desperate.
I’m guessing it’s more of a “Take Me Home to Mom” look, than a “Take Me Home (for a One Night Stand)” look.
That was my understanding too
I’m so glad someone else mentioned this! So, so sad, the Marriage Material Girl look. I might prefer the Preppy Secret Ninja Crimefighter Look, myself.
Ha! Awesome! Now you’ve all but guaranteed that I will NEVER hire a stylist because I would be so disappointed if they didn’t create a Preppy Secret Ninja Crimefighter look for me :)
I wonder about the Errant Heirress. I’m picturing Paris Hilton after she was lost in the woods for three days.
i really want to know what these looks look like.
… or maybe after she got out of jail.
I think it is to dress very conservatively, to impress your BF’s parents. If you go to your BF’s parents house for Thanksgiving, make sure NOT to wear a low cut cami, because the parents will not like you. Last year, my ex BF’s parents came to his law school graduation early and found out he was living with me, not in the dorm. They were SOOOOO mad that my ex had to wimp out and said that he was just with me for sex and fun, not marriage. FOOEY ON HIM!!!!!Now, I know NEVER to sleep with a guy until I know he will respect me and that means having his parent’s approval of me first. So no cleavage until the parents approve, and this year, I am NOT going to my new BF’s house for the holidays unless I get a ring.
It is clear that there’s no BF in your life! Otherwise your fingers would be elsewhere 3 in the morning. So your the ugly one. I am NOT a troll, you are! Fooey on you! Fooey!
I actually like Corporette’s trolls. They’re hilarious.
I flip between being annoyed and amused. And a little sad for the poor guy in his parent’s basement at 1 in the morning who has nothing better to do with his life.
Its always the same person who emphasizes WORDS in CAPS and things they would NOT do but rich boyfriends they DO want
yes, come to think of it. i have a hard time at my desk trying to stop the laughter at the troll-comments! And the CAPS are a DEAD give away:)
Ok trolls, carry on!
I had to google troll :)
Just go to Jcrew and make an appointment with a personal shopper, they’re usually super nice and helpful and its Jcrew so the clothes are awesome.
I’m generally down on jcrew because they don’t carry very much in petite sizes but I have to say, their customer service is great. Just had a great experience today with them so I may need to check out their personal shoppers.
I walked in JCrew this weekend for the first time in a while and experienced some extreme sticker shock over some of their festive attire – I think the sparkly jacket I glanced at was $500!!
oops, just checked, it was the mini that was $500 http://www.jcrew.com/womens_feature/NewArrivals/skirts/PRDOVR~33091/33091.jsp
the sequined jacket was $128
A friend of mine swears by the Bloomingdales personal shopper – when she goes in an assortment of things in her style are all set aside for her to try on, she doesn’t seem to ignore the mid market brands (though she doesn’t hesitate to bring out some investment pieces), and she sets aside items about to go on sale she thinks my friend might want.
I saw a review in a newspaper (maybe the WSJ?) regarding personal shoppers. The author tried out all of the big stores (Nordstrom, Saks, Bloomies, etc.), and his favorite was Saks by a mile, he said. Apparently they were very considerate to how much he wanted to spend and his style, and they already had clothes pulled out when he got to the store so he didn’t have to wait (which the others apparently didn’t do, although it sounds obvious). I haven’t actually used it myself, but the article was convincing, and I plan to make an appointment soon.
For the more budget-conscious, I have done Macy’s in NYC and found it very pleasant. They had pulled out clothes for me in advance also, and the great thing is you get to avoid the nightmare of finding an available checkout person and waiting in line.
I’ve used my personal shopper at Macy’s for about 6 years (since I got my first job as a lawyer) and she is the best. I do not buy clothes without her. She is DEFINITELY much more a “stylist” than just a personal shopper. She knows what’s in my closet (I bought 90% of it from her) and always recommends new pieces that can be mixed with what I already have. Very much a wardrobing type of service than just a one-time shop kind of thing. And yes, she has introduced me to some of the higher-end bridge lines, but also mid-range and sale items, and she always keeps in mind my budget. The only thing is if you are trying to build a wardrobe you need to be realistic about what a real budget should be for professional, work-appropriate wear. The service is free, she earns commission on the clothes I buy from her (well earned, in my opinion). I have probably referred about 30+ people to her and have yet to hear any complaints.
I use Nang Broenen at the Macy’s in Milwaukee, WI. She’s at 414-471-3545. She even has clients who come up from Chicago to see her she’s that good.
Why are so many of the followers here always so rude and snarky towards Kat’s guest posters?
Well, I’m not sure if you took what I said as snarky (Very curious about what the “Marriage Material Girl” look is all about) or not, but I didn’t really see any of these other comments as rude or snarky. Inquisitive, yes (seriously, what does an Errant Heiress “look” entail?) but not rude/snarky.
I didn’t think this was snarky either, but if there is any residual rudeness perhaps it’s because *sometimes* things are written in a way that feel insincere or maybe just a bit inartful.
Sometimes, too, it’s just the fact that something is a sales pitch, and it’s hard to make a sales pitch sound authentic (last week’s guest post on gifts comes to mind).
As for the “looks” comment — I just think that strikes me as funny. Like, “hmm, I want to hire a stylist to find me a man b/c I’ve been wearing non-marriage material clothes this whole time.” And, that’s probably not how that came about at all — more like a bunch of fun clothes that we would all wear, put together and given a fun name. But, hey, being teased about something silly is the price you pay for giving something a gimicky marketing name. My friends and I do the same with nail polish names.
Oh! JessC, that makes so much more sense. I was thinking Material Girl in the Madonna sense and trying to fit that into marriage. (Really. Sometimes I miss the obvious).
I did EXACTLY the same thing… ;)
I was like whoa, this maaaaaaaakes NO sense. Desperately seeking susan but w/ a ring on it????
For anyone in the SF East Bay: a few years ago I knew a woman (in her mid-50s, if that matters) with great, great style. Upon inquiry, she said really great things about the personal shoppers at Nordstrom Walnut Creek.
This is great to know! I’m a bit younger than your friend, and trying to hone my professional image. Maybe I need to head over to Nordie’s. Was there anyone in particular to see? Thanks for the tip!
I used a personal shopper for a couple of years at Nordstrom. I really liked her on a personal level, but she spent one minute with me before diagnosing my personal style (incorrectly) and then very dogmatically stuck to it in all of her selections for me. To a certain extent, she pushed me outside my comfort zone, and I ended up wearing colors and styles it wouldn’t have occurred to me to try. I was and am grateful for that. On the other hand, there were several items I wore once or maybe twice before giving up on them altogether. So my review is mixed on the topic. Here’s the long and short of it, for me. If you’re into shopping and fashion (and if you’re a reader of this blog, I’m thinking you probably are), you can probably do better on your own. That’s me. But if you really, really, really hate shopping, never have time for it, and at the same time can stand your ground in a hard-sell situation – and particularly if you find yourself buying basically the same pair of black pants over and over – then by all means get a personal shopper for yourself. You will discover items you’d never have found glancing through the racks on your own.
I agree with everything mamabear says, but would add that another key to making the best use of a personal shopper is to work with the same person over and over again. I have been using the same shopper at Nordstrom for three years now. Initially, her picks were hit and miss but at this point I like almost everything she pulls for me–even when she is trying to push me out of my comfort zone. And I’ve found that some of the things she picked at early appointments that might have gotten minimal wear the first season I had them (I’m thinking especially of a particular pair of pants) have become closet staples as my style has evolved a bit.
That said, I would love to hire a stylist to come in and evaluate my closet and help me identify other (less expensive) places to shop. I love Nordstrom, but my savings account does not.
I hired a shopper/ stylist who doesn’t belong to any store. She came to my house, went through all my clothes, had me get rid of some, and made outfits up with what was left. Then she made a list of what I needed and went to stores ahead of time without me and then I came and tried on the stuff she had put on hold. Now I mostly buy stuff on my own but use her help to come up with outfits. It’s really helpful.
Does anybody have recommendations for good and relatively inexpensive stylists in NYC? I have been *dying* to get one, but I don’t want to spend a ton of money (i.e., under $500). Just need someone to come over, assess my style, throw out half my stuff, make some outfits for me out of what I DO have and then possibly go shopping with me. I am tired of hating everything in my closet and never feeling put together!