In the Netflix series Styling Hollywood, viewers are given a glimpse into the fabulous life of celebrity stylist Jason Bolden as he dresses his roster of A-list clients for their high-profile appearances. “Nothing is more glamorous than walking the red carpet,” he says in an episode during which he sources a Giambattista Valli couture gown for Taraji P. Henson to wear to the Emmy Awards.
Stylists such as Bolden have become stars in their own right by pulling back the curtain on the trials and tribulations of dressing people for a life that seems like pure fantasy. But working with a professional to tweak your wardrobe can help with more practical closet concerns, too – even for non-celebs. In addition to scheduling a one-on-one consultation with a local stylist or in-store personal shopper, a growing number of apps and websites such as Glamhive, Wishi and Millie & Main connect the fashionably challenged to advice on everything from what to pack for a holiday to which lipstick to wear at work. Personalized shopping services are also a priority for online retailers including Yoox Net-A-Porter, which recently doubled its global team by announcing the addition of 100 new consultants and the opening of client relation hubs in San Francisco and Dallas.
So what is the Hollywood treatment like in real life? This fall, I tested three different styling services: the personal stylist, a retail personal shopper and an online service. Each offered its own perks, including efficiency, expertise and even a welcome boost to my self-esteem.
The personal stylist: Stacy L. Troke
Working with a personal stylist is like discovering you have a long lost, style-savvy sister, so it’s important that you choose one who really gets you and your needs. I zeroed in on Stacy Troke in Toronto, an experienced editorial, celebrity and personal stylist whose international flair, professional training and no-nonsense attitude won me over. Stacy’s pricing starts at $700 and she begins her process with an initial consultation where she’ll visit your home to discuss your mood board (I made one on Pinterest) and perform your colour analysis. She’ll then edit your existing wardrobe to establish what is and is not working for you based on your colouring, shape and the image you’re trying to project, incorporating advice on hairstyles and makeup.
The next meeting is a day of shopping where she’ll have a selection of pieces ready to try on at a mix of luxury and mass retailers. This is by no means a casual window shop so be prepared to move fast. Finally comes a styling day where she’ll show you how to combine your clothes into outfits for different occasions, documenting these in digital photos for easy reference. Troke is the first to admit that building a signature wardrobe takes time, so she maintains relationships with her clients and keeps her eyes peeled for pieces that they might like. She also invited me to text her photos whenever I was thinking of buying something. Having that ongoing support bolstered my shopping confidence well beyond our time together.
The retail personal shopper: Nordstrom
Larger retailers typically have a complimentary personal shopping service to assist shoppers one-on-one. I decided to check out the offering at Nordstrom, a national store renowned for its next-level customer service including perks such as free delivery to downtown addresses, on-site alterations and a 24-hour express service where someone from the store will fix your fashion emergency at any hour of the day. Its in-store personal styling sessions are complimentary, while an at-home personal styling session or a closet audit with one of their stylists comes at a cost of $50 and $400 respectively. Appointments for these can all be booked in person, online or by phone.
To finesse my day-to-day wardrobe, I spent a few hours with Tori Ludwig, the personal styling manager at Nordstrom Toronto Eaton Centre. She had a rack of outfits from a handful of designers and their in-house brands arranged for me to try on at the store’s JWN Room, a private suite of spacious change rooms with a relaxing lounge area that felt worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the country’s busiest mall (for male clients, there’s the Men’s Clubhouse at select locations). Ludwig has access to every item in stock at any Nordstrom store in Canada and is familiar with the fit of everything, so we were able to quickly narrow in on the essentials that would suit me. Having her one-on-one attention meant that I enjoyed an uninterrupted experience, a major perk when shopping with a specific goal in mind.
The virtual assistant: Wishi
The sheer volume of clothing available on the internet can make online shopping overwhelming; I know it leaves me wondering where to even begin. Celebrity stylist-run, virtual services cut through the noise, quickly matching shoppers with fashion-pro approved, on-trend pieces. Not yet available in Canada is Glamhive, an app that pairs users with in-demand stylists who normally do high-pressure work with celebrities such as prepping Angelina Jolie for the Oscars or Kristen Stewart for the Met Gala. Be prepared to invest in this A-List talent, though, as a complete makeover with one of their celebrity stylists costs a cool US$1,350.
One option that is available north of the border is Wishi, an app and web-based styling service run by Karla Welch, the British Columbia-born stylist famous for her work with Justin Bieber and Tracee Ellis Ross. To help me locate an outfit to wear to my partner’s work holiday party, I signed up for the Wishi Mini consultation, which starts at US$40. After completing a questionnaire about my personal style, shape and size, I was matched with Mateja, a New York-based stylist who selected a dress, a pair of shoes, a handbag and earrings all within my budget. The app links directly to the items at various online stores, making the buying process fast and easy. Mateja understood my sense of style and offered me alternate options when I told her I couldn’t wear open-toed heels in Toronto in December. This was definitely an efficient way to find an outfit for a specific occasion without having to browse endlessly online, but the personal connection I felt with my IRL stylists was lacking.