An email arrives in your inbox: you have been chosen to begin a new project for a big client. The excitement starts to build within you as you think of all the possibilities. Now it’s time to get to business because this shoot will involve some complex preparations, and you’ll need to find an awesome Wardrobe & Costumes Stylist.
For a Wardrobe & Costumes Stylist each shoot is different. The stylist’s job is to provide various kinds of clothing appropriate for each type of shoot. In fact, that is just what Los Angeles-based wardrobe stylist Stacy Lauwers loves about her job. Every job is different.
Shoots can range from a lifestyle commercial shoot with casual clothing to a specialized shoot of The Soup Show, for which each outfit is a custom piece. Sometimes the stylist will work with the client directly and other times with the photographer. That kind of uncertainy extends even to the shoot: a good stylist should be prepared to adjust as needed on the fly with modifications, tailoring, swap outs, and accidental spills on set.
Stacy recently finished a shoot for The Soup: her job was to recreate 12 different characters, including dresses that had been worn by Kylie Jenner and Cardi B, as well Mrs. Fox from the Masked Singer. Talk about complexity!
I was lucky to have about three weeks of lead time, so my first priority were the three costumes that I had to custom make, [especially the] Kylie Jenner lavender MET ball dress that she collaborated with Versace for the design and the Cardi B Grammy dress which was a vintage Thierry Mugler dress. Both dresses were couture that I needed to have close replicas made for under $2000 each within a couple weeks’ time. I found an independent seamstress that had a background in walkabouts and bridal gowns, so kind of a perfect match, especially since the Thierry Mugler dress had to look like a flower and we needed to use foam. Then I had to find fabric for the two gowns and get the seamstress started. I found some good options in the fabric district in downtown LA. The rest of the costumes I pulled from rental houses and found online.
For Mrs. Fox—a female version of Mr. Fox from the Masked Singer—I tried to get [the client] to sign off on a stock fox head and it didn’t fly, so I had to find someone to make the fox head. The rest of the steampunk outfit I rented, with a couple things purchased. I was kind of shocked how much “steampunk” accessories Amazon carried! Who knew? For the head, I found a talented builder Douglas Wright from Prop Art that works out of his house, so a little more within my budget than a big studio. He did a fabulous job and was a total pleasure to work with.
When New York-based stylist Jay Johnson is working on a live event, he makes sure to buy multiple sizes for the talent to wear. You have to be prepared in this situation since it cannot be recreated. When he is fitting a Dior gown and there is only one copy, for example, he won’t have the option for multiple sizes. For something like this, he has a team of seamstresses and tailors that can make the alterations in a temporary manner without cutting the garment.
One of Jay’s favorite places to source wardrobe in New York is the Albright Fashion Library:
They have everything you can imagine, and it is cataloged by each designer. They have an archive of many seasons. From Tom Ford to designers that don’t exist anymore, even Ralph Rucci. They will also rent to you, but keep in mind you need to be in the ‘know’ and on the pulse of the designer you are requesting.
For Denver, Colorado-based photographer Matt Nager the process typically starts with the client and the creative call, during which the goal and the visual style of the shoot should become clear. For example, it should be clear if the wardrobe choices be fashion or athletic. He will then reach out to the stylist to see if they are available for the dates requested, then follow up with creative. This may still be in the bidding process.
It goes back to the creative call — if it’s brand specific that will dictate the wardrobe. If it’s something else like fashion, I like to collaborate with the stylist.
The most important thing for Matt is to have a good working relationship with the wardrobe stylist and collaboration and trust. For his shoot for Popsockets, the stylist provided props and clothing for a successful outcome of the shoot.
For this PopSockets shoot, the prop stylist played a very important and key role. The set in each shot was highly stylized, as were the models clothing and the specific props in each photograph. Because each individual image was so different, we had to discuss the end result before shooting. Our stylist on this shoot actually found reflective tape and more or less made a jacket that would match the product. While I created the lighting and composition of each picture for the campaign, the prop stylist was in charge of the overall look and creation of the set. There was a lot of discussion and planning that went into prep for this shoot. Everything from the color scheme to the backgrounds involved styling.
Stacy has noticed a trend in lifestyle shoots. They used to want things to be perfect but now it is more real. Jay also noticed this trend lately in styling where women are dressing for who they are and not what the media is pushing them to be. “It’s a bit more natural with more honesty and virtue.” As it happens, this was true of “Departure Date,” a short film for Virgin Airlines.
In the end, sometimes it comes down to divine intervention — as Jay puts it, “Fashion Gods do exist.” For a recent shoot, Jay wanted to put a belt on his client. It came in two pieces and was custom made at an atelier. He requested it to have two buckles and during the fitting, one of them broke. He frantically took a taxicab from Newark, NJ to midtown Manhattan to fetch another buckle, sadly to find the store being closed. When he got back to the fitting the designer said it was designed with one buckle in the first place and to just leave it as is. On this project, he learned that “sometimes you just need to go with the flow. Don’t be so focused and zoned in on something, that you’re not recognizing something else.”
Sounds like good advice, no?
Next time you’re looking for a wardrobe & costume stylist, use Wonderful Machine’s Find Crew page.
If you are a wardrobe & costume stylist and you’d like to be listed, send an email or call us at 610 260 0200.