Hear the word stylist and you might think of go-to-girl Rachel Zoe, who spiffs up celebs like Anne Hathaway and Cameron Diaz for their red carpet premieres.
But increasingly, non-famous types are turning to professional stylists to give themselves a stronger presence (and you don’t have to buy a whole new wardrobe).
Like a financial planner, a professional stylist can help you optimize what’s already in your closet, and even save money on new purchases. But to justify the expense, you may have to tweak your thinking a bit. Instead of looking at clothing and accessory purchases as expenditures that will eventually lose value, think of your closet as you would an investment portfolio, says Cindy McLaughlin, CEO of Style for Hire, a nationwide network of stylists.
You put money into a variety of pieces. They either perform for you, or they don’t. For about $65 to $300 an hour, a stylist makes sure you get the maximum ROC (return on your clothing). Count on spending about $250 for a consultation, and here’s what that money will buy:
Fresh ideas for the clothes you already have. A stylist will sort through your closet to determine what works (and what doesn’t) for your lifestyle, job, and body type. Typically, you’ll end up with new outfits (“Wow–I never thought of putting that dress with that belt and jacket!”), plus suggestions for accessories that can transform last year’s pant suit into your new favorite VIP meeting outfit.
Better deals. “Our stylists negotiate discounts on behalf of their clients,” says McLaughlin. For example, Style for Hire stylists get a 10% discount at Lord & Taylor and other retailers.
Smarter buys. A good stylist doesn’t simply look at the price tag of an item; she calculates what that item will cost you over time, according to McLaughlin. For instance, a dress that has to be dry cleaned whenever you wear it costs way more than one you can machine wash on delicate. And it may be worth paying $100 more for a quality cashmere sweater if it will last you for many seasons without pilling.
Another option is to hire a personal shopper at your favorite department store. You can give a specific direction, such as business casual or a special occasion, and the personal shopper will curate several looks for you—saving you both time and self-doubt.
The service is generally free, but remember that the shopper works on commission, so you’ll probably feel pressured to buy something—and it might be expensive. That said, a personal shopper wants you to be satisfied; if you return your items, she can say adios to her kickback.
After all, you’re smart and ambitious, and you want to look the part. Cultivating your style can only raise your stock on the marketplace.