How I Started My Career As a Stylist
By: Caroline Vazzana
Becoming a stylist was something that had always interested me. Growing up, I thought that a stylist was someone who just dressed celebrities for red carpets and movie premieres. At least that's what I had taken away from following Rachel Zoe's career (and TV show). However, when it came to actually pursing a career as a stylist, I honestly had no idea where to begin. And, like a lot of career women who are first starting out, I really just wanted to get my foot in the door- so I was willing to take on anything. When I was around eighteen, I did my first summer internship in the Big Apple working in production for a major fashion designer, so styling wasn't necessarily on my radar yet. It wasn't until the summer before my senior year of college when everything changed.
The summer before my senior year I was just about to turn twenty-one and interning at Marie Claire Magazine. I was the personal intern to one of their fashion editors, so I was able to help her with requests for photo shoots and assist her on pages in the magazine. I was incredibly lucky because the editor I worked with really wanted me to learn and grow in the industry. So fortunately, I had the complete opposite of a “Devil Wears Prada” experience, and from that internship forward, I set my sights firmly on becoming a full-time fashion editor. I loved everything about the magazine world and knew that was where I wanted to be upon graduating. Little did I know, the day after my internship ended was when a new dream would come to life.
All summer long I had been posting on social media (this was right around when Instagram first came out) about my internship. From my day-to-day at work, to scenic shots around New York, I loved sharing my daily adventures. When I woke up that morning, I had a Facebook message from a friend I hadn’t spoken to since high school. He had been following my fashion industry adventures on social media and was reaching out to me with an opportunity he thought I might be interested in. Long story short, he asked if I wanted to style two celebrates for the MTV Video Music Awards. The two women were up-and-coming stars from a recently launched MTV show and this would be their first time attending the awards. Upon first looking at the message I was instantly intrigued, but, as I took a step back, I realized that I had never actually styled anyone ever, so I really didn't know if I could take on such a huge project with so little experience. So, there I was at a crossroads in my career, I could either accept the challenge and see if I could somehow make it happen, or, I could kindly turn it down. I’m guessing you probably know which decision I made.
To be perfectly honest, I really didn’t know what I was doing at the time. I was so new to the industry in general, so taking on a project like this was overwhelming, but, all I could think was “this could be my big break.” I quickly went to my computer and started researching what people usually wear to this event in particular, and from there, I began reaching out to contacts I had made and relationships I had established from my summer of interning. Many designers turned down the opportunity, and in the end I don’t blame them. They had no idea who I was or if they should even trust me with their pieces. Thankfully though, a few designers did agree to lend their clothes and I had them sent to the MTV office for our fitting.
So the day after my twenty-first birthday, I headed to the MTV office for our fitting, and I was petrified. I was so worried about: 1. Would the clothing actually be there? And 2. Would they hate what I called in and I’d be a failure? To my surprise, the fitting went wonderfully and they loved everything, but the hard part wasn’t over yet. It was now late August and I had to head back to school, but, I also had to be in NYC to help them get ready for the awards show. I arranged with MTV that they would send the looks the girls chose to their hotel room for the day of, so that I could just worry about making it there.
After our fitting, I headed back to my college, which was in Pennsylvannia on a Grey Hound bus. I felt like Hannah Montana at the time, living a double life. And a few days later, after attending classes and trying to settle into school, I jumped back on the bus to NYC to help them get ready for the VMAs. But, aside from being exhausted from the back and forth of traveling, the day of was magical. Helping them get ready made me feel like I’d really made it. Like I really did belong here, in this magical industry, and that this was only the beginning.
The day after all of the VMAs magic, I had to handle all of my returns. This is one of the very unglamorous things that you don’t necessarily think stylists have to do. Yes, we have to return all of the clothing we call in. So there I was, the next day, running around the city, arms loaded with garment bags, making my way to various PR firms and design houses. But, once all was said and done, and all of my garments were returned to their rightful owners, I once again headed back to the bus to go back to reality. I was excited to get back to school and enjoy the simplicity of my senior year. But, as I was closing the chapter on the summer that really started it all, I knew my city would be here, waiting for me to come back, and continue to make my way and make my mark.
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