From “What’s that?” to “What Not To Wear” to a $761M Market: The Evolution of the Personal Stylist

With the New Year upon us, I have been reflecting on my career as a personal stylist. It is no accident that as my business and clientele have grown, so has this relatively new industry.

Believe it or not, personal styling didn’t exist until the 1990s. At that time, professional stylists like Philip Bloch and Jessica Paster “suddenly found themselves in the vanguard of Hollywood’s hottest profession — stylists…They were among the most enterprising former magazine editors and design assistants who worked their connections to corral exquisite designer gowns and designer baubles on loan…”  (Teri Agins, Hijacking the Runway).

When I started working as a stylist nearly a decade ago, it was still viewed as a service primarily for the wealthy and/or famous.  I started small, trained with Stacy London, and slowly grew my expertise and reputation. I marketed to the professional D.C. woman who wanted to look and feel put together, but didn’t have the time, patience, or know-how to make it happen. I spent just as much time educating potential clients about what exactly a personal stylist is and does as I did selling our services.

Over the past decade, the idea of the personal stylist has become much more democratic. This growth can be attributed in large part to the popularity of shows like What Not To Wear and The Rachel Zoe Project and the proliferation of #ootd, i.e., Outfit of the Day posts on social media. The general public now has a heightened interest in achieving a personal style that suits them. Personal stylists are addressing this demand and serving a greater population who view the service as not just a luxury, but a practical, cost-effective way to approach daily clothing, style, and wardrobe.

Today, DC Style Factory is one of the leading style teams in the D.C. area. We are in great company with a number of other reputable, professional, and expert stylists. The personal shopping industry has grown 4.1 percent to become a $761 million industry over the past five years, per research company IBISWorld. There are more than 28,000 personal shoppers in the U.S., according to this same study, and this is exclusive of styling services at department stores and e-commerce sites.

“Consumers are busier than ever and overwhelmed by new brands, faster trends, and ever greater clothing choices. Women, who remain the main customers of this industry, are increasingly working in high-pressure and fast-paced environments and looking for ways to save time,” said IBISWorld analyst Sarah Kahn. “Personal shoppers and stylists can save these busy customers time and energy by offering their services as well as advice.”

With demand increasing, I field no less than five emails, phone calls, or social media direct messages per week from folks interested in becoming personal stylists.  Most people I speak with are looking for a “career change,” “love fashion,” and “are the go-to when their friends and family need styling advice.”

Because of this heightened demand and interest in the field, DC Style Factory is partnering with Real Life Style for The Stylist Studio — a comprehensive professional training program for up-and-coming personal stylists.

As we kick off 2017, I am excited to see where personal styling and DC Style Factory will head in the coming years. As someone who is inspired each day by my clients, I can only imagine the best is yet to come.​

  • The latest from Rosana
Founder, Chief Stylist | DC Style Factory
Rosana has 15 years of fashion retail and styling experience, including owning, running, and buying for an award-winning boutique in Washington,D.C. She has styled hundreds of men and women since launching DC Style Factory seven years ago.

DC Style Factory is a personal shopping and styling service for men and women looking to add polish and individuality to their wardrobes. We believe personal style is for anyone who wants it — regardless of age, size or budget.

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