The Unglamorous Job Of Styling A Shoot

26th April, 2013

thelooks_1One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding the job of a stylist is that it’s a glamorous task; I’m here today to dispel that notion once and for all. Please don’t get me wrong, I love it. But it ain’t easy.thelooks_2Once you’ve got a concept locked down, the real work begins with putting together THE LOOKS. Depending on the shoot, this part usually starts with a detailed trolling of, then hours (days!) of emailing back and forth and back and forth with dozens of designers, PR reps, and showroom coordinators, trying to track down and secure the loaning of the clothes that best fit your vision. Most of the ones you want won’t be available, so then you’ve got to start pursuing a Plan B, then C… Of course, you can’t forget the hats, sunglasses, jewelry, handbags, hosiery and shoes. That involves more emails and showroom visits and dips into stores all over town, because you’ll want lots and lots of options. thelooks_3Then, someone’s got to cull all these elements into one place. That means you’re running all over town doing pickups, begging brands to provide messenger services, and praying your interns and assistants (when you’re fortunate enough to have them) don’t get lost on the subway with 30lbs of designer gowns thrown over their backs. Everything about this part is miserable, but it inevitably leads to the really fun part, when it all starts coalescing… thelooks_4…Which is to say that sometime late, late, late the night before your shoot, you’ve got all the clothes and accessories you’re going to get, and it’s time to figure out what the heck you’re going to do with them all. What’s the visual narrative? Which blouse will really sing with those pants? Who is the character you’re trying to create, and would she wear a turban with that caftan or is she in a big sunhat mood instead? thelooks_5If you’re really lucky, you’re shooting in the same city where this prep work is happening, so the transportation agony is limited to wheeling a rack bursting with garment bags plus several suitcases of accessories down to a hired SUV, getting reamed out by your always-angry doorman in the process. That’s the easy option. On a location shoot, however, plan to add in either the hassle of flying with ten 50lb trunks, or banking on the inevitability of your shipped boxes being lost somewhere in Alabama, in which case you’ll be awake for two days straight trying to locate and save them in time, only to find out the hotel had them all along and just didn’t realize it, despite your asking 10 different employees to check again at least 5 different times (which is exactly what happened on THIS SHOOT). So then you end up heading to set on absolutely no sleep, with varying levels of frustration and exhaustion threatening to cloud your creative mojo. But you won’t let them! You’ve got too much still to do… thelooks_6Once you’re on set (be it a photo studio or an arid desert moonscape or a dreamy strip of beach), your #1 duty is MODEL MAINTENANCE. Her well-being is your responsibility, because you’re not getting the shot if she’s not happy (or warm! Prepare for lots of apologetic bear hugs between shots). modelmaintenance_5 modelmaintenance_2You might also ruin THE shot if everything about her look isn’t perfectly in place, and your photographer is too busy and too focused to look out for these sorts of details ~ that’s your job. Is her sweater tucked perfectly? Is the waistband fitting properly? Is anything bunching weirdly? Are her sleeves pushed up with just the right amount of jauntiness? These minutiae make or break a moment, and that too is on you, baby.modelmaintenance_3 modelmaintenance_4 modelmaintenance_5 modelmaintenance_6It’s all part of FIGURING IT OUT: being the photographer’s second set of eyes, and seeing things before they have a chance to, so that their flow isn’t ever interrupted. They have to worry about lighting and focus and apertures and framing; you need to make sure everything inside their lens fits the vision you share in your heads, and is the best it can be in every way imaginable. Don’t ever look away; you must see the things that no one else could, and be ready with solutions when something’s not working or could potentially be improved. You are always ON.figuringitout_1figuringitout_2 figuringitout_3 figuringitout_4 figuringitout_5Finally, go ahead and throw out your ego, because you’ve got a lot of PUTTING ON SHOES to do. puttingonshoes_1 puttingonshoes_2 puttingonshoes_3 puttingonshoes_4 puttingonshoes_5It’s all an interesting hybrid of creative expression, manifestation, collaboration, role playing… and good old fashioned manual labor. I’m pretty into it.

|PHOTOS| by Ann Street Studio

  • aglowjue

    love to see you get right down to it 😉

  • Wow, I always thought the life of a stylist was all fun and easy and carefree. But I’m so glad you introduced this side of it. I would love to be in your shoes. I love being a hard worker, and being creative when it comes to fashion. Wow! I wasn’t aware of the many “shoe-putting-on” stuff you had to do!

    Huge fan of your blog. Keep up the great work! 🙂


  • Marian Bonner

    This is awesome- I think my all time favorite post-

  • Thanks for the insider look at styling! It’s amazing to see the contrast between the finished photos and all of the work that goes into them!

  • love this post! by far my favourite from your blog! <3

  • yours truly

    now you should do one on what is really means to blog.

  • Courtney Buell

    The gorgeous photos you got make the whole process worth it, even the mundane parts. Also, where on earth did you get those boots?? I need them.

  • Denisa

    perfect pics and I like the behind the scene photos. Have a nice day.

  • I’ll keep it as the Styling procedure it really is..thanks for your confessions…they are going to help a lot of fashionistas realise that are always two sides on the same coin…even at a such a glamorous world as fashion…


  • Mina

    My favorite thing about your blog is that your commitment to your job and your commitment to creating art always, always comes thorough. You blow away all of the fashion blogs that are just about pretty girls wearing pretty clothing.

  • Cory Scott

    Your styling is really amazing!
    Paris-NYC Fashion Blog
    The Deep Blue Cory Fashion Blog
    The Deep Blue Cory Facebook Page
    Xoxo Cory

  • I truly appreciate this behind the scenes look at what you do. I knew you worked hard, but damn girl!

    The Occasional Indulgence

  • monkeyshines
  • thanks for sharing!

  • Ta
  • Jennifer

    Love this inside look into your job!

    xo Jennifer

  • Thanks for this post. It really puts into perspective all the work that goes into creating an image of a woman with ‘effortless style.’

  • brunetteletters

    Wooowww!! Great post!!! It is amazing to see how much it has to be done to ensure a perfect look…

    Great job in looking good, working super hard, and still managing to share posts with us.

    Brunette Letters Blog

  • Thank you for writing about the true work that goes into your job, I love reading about the behind the scenes stuff with jobs like yours.

  • This was a very nice insight into how these beautiful shoots come together. I know they’re not easy, but I think the fact that you make things look effortless is a testament to how well you do your job. 🙂

  • miss b bobochic

    Thank you for letting us have a look behind the scenes. A great deal of hard work and creativity to create these stunning photos.

  • Gloria Hernando

    I truly love every post, it is such an inspiration! Would you mind telling me what polaroid camera you used in these pictures? Thank you!

  • Kiah

    This is an amazing post. Thank you for sharing!

  • Tania

    this is exactly what I had to go through when I interned for a fashion stylist at Blackbook magazine. very tiring.

  • amber

    Not that my shoots are ever as involved as yours…but when your subject is 12 months…well, let’s just say there’s never a dull moment:

  • wow! thanks for sharing! That is a lot of work, but always turns out fantastic.

  • rhodawong

    styling looks like so much fun!

  • erica jensen

    Looks like such a great job!

  • Thank you so much for this AMAZING post. I think this is what a blog is all about… not reinforcing the magical wander behind the shoot and pretending that everything is perfect and just “happens like that”, but being honest and telling the truth about what really goes on. Congratulations! This was truly insightful and a pleasure to read xx

  • Sandy D

    Interesting post, Kelly, but one thing I have come to hate about fashion editorials is loving an item and trying to find it, then being told it is the stylist’s own. I fell in love with a couple of pairs of sunglasses used in an Australian shoot – I didn’t care for the clothes but I absolutely ADORED the sunglasses – only to be told the store didn’t sell them and they were the (unnamed) stylist’s. I have spent many many hours searching online trying to find them, to no avail. Having looked at zillions of pairs of sunglasses, from the most expensive down, from brands I had never ever heard of, I have come to resent stylists! Why do you do this to innocent civilians? I call it cruel and unusual punishment (in a very first world kind of way).

    • Hannah Thiessen

      I know in my experience this happens when you need a finishing touch and you happen to have the item on or with you — you just use it. Or if you feel like you should pack just two more of something and you grab from your own collection to make sure you have plenty of options…

  • Melanie Pogson

    Awesome insight, Kelly. My favourite posts are the behind-the-scenes posts. Great job!
    And love that Kevin gets to be the one who holds the model’s hand, or her shoulder haha!

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  • Lubna

    Seriously, this post was informative in so many ways. I have always contemplated whether to become a fashion designer or a stylist, and while both are quite similar, I find being a stylist more appealing as it’s such an exciting job hunting down designers and putting together outfits. You’re a diligent worker and your styling is always top-notch. Keep it up! xo


  • Dea

    Really great work! No matter how hard a job, even without too much sleep, one can do it just because the energy comes from passion. Love this post! xx

  • LOLO | Luxury Leather Goods

    very good post, and big photos, we see now all dispositive for to do the photos, thanks

  • CJAJ09 CJAJ09

    love this post, I can relate but if course, when you see that final result, you breath that sigh of relief, and then go do it all over again

  • Alexandra Donald

    Loved this post. A real “day in the life” and no-one could accuse you of romanticising your job!

  • GlamourGirl_bg
  • I’m happy to know that it’s not just my shoots that feel like shlepping and gathering and waiting. You make it all look very glamorous though, my dear. xo

  • Leah S.

    My dream! I know the unglamorour side of things though, but it’s fun to dig and get your hands dirty doing what you love.

  • thanks for sharing this post. Most people think fashion is just about pretty clothes and girls and no intellect is needed. You have a special knack of blending the creative, the intellectual and the manual labor of the industry and doing in such a glamorous way.

  • thanks for sharing! this was super informative and really interesting.

  • Hannah Thiessen

    The biggest part is that people don’t realize that you have all this work to do whether the shoot is big or small, and the smaller the project, the harder it is to get people to rent you things or lend you things, and the WORST is when the client is in a foreign country and you go there and don’t speak the language and then they expect you to find some last minute ideas they had in local stores… blargh!

  • Fashion Hound

    Nothing worth having is easy…but its always worth it…well done x

  • Fashion Hound

    Nothing worth having is easy…but its always worth it…well done x

  • elianass

    Nice shoot!!! Interesting!

  • Em

    This is fantastic! You always see fashion shoots and stylists working behind them, but you never hear the NITTY GRITTY details. Is isn’t all glamour and you did a great job telling it! Thanks for doing that and being so honest as well.

    Great post overall!

    xoxo, Em

  • Em

    This is fantastic! You always see fashion shoots and stylists working behind them, but you never hear the NITTY GRITTY details. Is isn’t all glamour and you did a great job telling it! Thanks for doing that and being so honest as well.

    Great post overall!

    xoxo, Em

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  • I thoroughly enjoyed this post! So refreshing to hear what being a stylist is really like. Thank you for sharing!

  • I LOVE this. I think i would have the time of my life with this, the schlepping and all! I adore fashion and the otherworldliness that a landscape combined with the right look can create. Its so fun and worth the effort to create that for the viewer. Its truly an art form with integrity unto itself! I’m 20… I’d LOVE to be your assistant on a shoot!!!!

  • OMG! YOU are such an inspiration. I adore you and you allow for my creative energy to flow and flow and flow.
    Thank you, Kelly.
    -Latoya aka BFLYsouljah –>

  • I’m with Marian (below), this may be my favorite post to-date. The behind-the-scenes shot are AS stunning as the editorial itself! And the narrative is perfection. Thanks for the insider look Kelly!

  • L Saur

    I love this post! I’m going to save it forever and ever for reference.

    xo Laura

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  • Alice K

    Thank you for sharing this with us. I think nobody here will stop fantasizing though! Great post!

  • ellalea

    The Process! From the base to the prfect End. And the pink-orange dress…..amazing!

  • SO happy to see this post! I’d love to get into styling but its so hard to figure out what actually happens and the responsibilities.

  • craigjames

    Thanks for the share, I’ve been starting assisting fashion stylist, and she ask me to carry the shoot items on my scooter, and guess what!! ? I’ve lost one of the bag, impossible to find it, what is my financial responsability towards her? I havent signed any paper, can she ask me to pay for the lost items??? So stressfull

  • kathlyn

    I have to admit that you are totally a chic lady.

  • katrina

    There is always not enough apparels and accessories in a woman’s closet.

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TheGlamourai is a webzine produced by Kelly Framel, a multi-media creative director based in downtown New York (but constantly bouncing around the world). Part fashion blog, part glossy mag, part fantasy travel portal, it's your ultimate online destination for stylish daydreams. Tune in for inspirational editorials, beauty tutorials, outfit ideas, DIYs, jet-set travel tips and more!
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