June 4, 2011 - Research

            Recently I chose to continue my research by reading 3 different articles. The first was titled Social Identity and the Meaning of Fashion Brands by Susan Auty and Richard Elliot. The second was The Survivor by Ruth La Ferla. And finally I read You’re a what? Image Consultant by Elka Jones. The first article furthered my knowledge of how fashion works while the other two gave me a better idea of what a life would be like in the industry and as a fashion stylist.
            The article Social Identity was written by two university professors for a scholarly journal so I found myself struggling a bit with the terminology. None the less, I was completely intrigued in what it had to say. The article outlines a study considering the importance of social identity in the interpretation of brands of jeans measured by Snyder’s Revised Self-Monitoring Scale, which distinguishes between people who are highly motivated to respond to social cues and those who remain ‘true to themselves’. The article begins by claiming that “diverse theorists have demonstrated the use of clothing as a code”, then quote a London shopper who says “If I’m wearing a white T-shirt and sneakers, that label [Armani] will fill in the rest of the information about me”. Growing up in a community like Orinda, I have always been aware of the way clothing brands label people but had never thought about how much that might effect a fashion stylists decisions. I realized that when a photographer asks a stylist to style the models in a certain way, the style of clothing is not only important but the brand of that clothing as well. The study then goes on to talk about why clothing is primarily a means of communicating not personal identity, but social identity. I was extremely surprised by this claim because I had always believed that clothing was a way to personally identify yourself. However, when I thought more indepthly about it, I realized a business woman may ask for a personal stylist not because they want to show people who they really are, but because they want to identify with high ranking professionals. Finally the article concluded on how important it is for advertising and clothing manufacturers to identify what social status they want their clothing to be sold under. Often they models they choose for their advertisements and they way they style their clothes will attract people from different social categories and should therefore be mostly advertised in areas with similar social rankings. This was another point that I had never thought about but realized that it is something extremely important for stylist to think about when working for various clothing companies.

Marc Jacobs in his office
            Because the research was done post-presentation, I wanted to make sure I focused some of it on the final question of my project; Is being a fashion stylist the right career choice for me? After discussing this with Mr. Poling he generously found me an article about the life of famed fashion designer Marc Jacobs in the New York Times. The articles main focus was to discuss whether Marc Jacobs career was in full swing or if it was falling flat. One of the biggest points made was about how necessary it was to stay ‘relevant’ in the industry, but without changing your personal style. This meant that one is criticized if they are not constantly staying on trend, but also criticized if they change too much and loose what they are known for. The same is true for fashion stylists who commonly become known (and hired) because of the certain stylistic approach they take to styling a client. However, one of the most important parts of a stylist job is knowing exactly what is trending right then, which proves a difficult balance to keep.
            My final piece of research was about the life of a fashion consultant, a job much like a fashion stylist but usually pertaining more to individual clients then companies and models. The consultant, Lori Johnson, talks about how much more there is to her job then just fashion knowledge. She discusses how important it is to be able to read and understand people and then adapt to their needs. Lori also says that “part of her job is to help make the experience less stressful and to provide encouragement”. Her comments made me realize how important ‘people skills’ are in the business even thought it is often not taught or emphasized when learning about styling. The final part of the article detailed about how Lori not only consults but also does makeup and styling work for photographers, speaks about image and attire at conventions, and even volunteers her services to homeless shelters. Being self-employed, it is necessary to also know how to do your own business related tasks such as managing finances, billing clients, and personal advertising. Many of these things I had never thought about, but quickly realized I am going to need to know so much more than just how to style.
            Throughout my research I thought extensively about whether or not fashion styling is the right job for me. After reading Lori Johnson’s story I realized that I could definitely see myself living the same life she is but wondered whether I had the courage to throw myself into a career that didn’t always have the most promising income source. In the end, I believe that I really should purse what I love to do, which is styling, but also believe that I need to find a career that will guarantee a comfortable life in the way of a steady income. However, I have yet to find exactly what that will be.

Auty, Susan, and Richard Elliot. "Social Identity and the Meaning of Fashion Brands." European Advances in Consumer Research 3 (1998): 1-10. Association for Consumer Research. Web. 30 May 2011. http://www.acrwebsite.org/volumes/display.asp?id=11145.
Jones, Elka. "You're a what? Image Consultant." Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Dept. of Labor, Fall 2005. Web. 30 May 2011. http://www.bls.gov/opub/ooq/2005/fall/yawhat.htm.
La Ferla, Ruth. "The Survivor." New York Times 2 June 2011: n. pag. Print.

Post-Presentation Reflection

            As I look back on the past week of presentation preparation and how it all ultimately turned out, I can confidently say that I am proud of everything I have done. I began preparation by creating a small packet for my audience to read. Beginning with the presentation outline, I was able to formulate my thoughts into the basic points of my presentation before focusing on the details. I then went back to read the entirety of my journal to find my favorite entries. As I read I smiled at happy memories, wondered about the things I might have done differently, and, with embarrassment, changed a lot of spelling mistakes (whoops!). I don’t think I truly realized how much I had changed until I went back and read my journal. I found that many of my opinions had been tweaked or completely changed by the experience. One of the things that struck me the most was my beginning goals and how many of them I believed were things that I could easily change about myself, however, looking back, I realized that they were not so simple in their answer. This, I decided would be the basis of my presentation.
            After several days of preparation, the time had finally come, so I arrived 2 hours early to make sure everything would run smoothly. As friends, family, and evaluators entered the room, my nerves kicked into high gear. However, just a few minutes into the presentation I felt the words flowing from my mouth and the nerves being suppressed by the excitement of finally giving my presentation. As the minutes flew by I watched the clock, not wanting to over-talk and bore my audience, but found that there was still so much more I wanted to say. As the 30 minute mark rolled by my brain began to display signs of fatigue. I began getting caught up in my thoughts and losing track of what I was saying allowed. I charged on, determined to end the presentation as well as I had started it. Finally, as I concluded my last points, I smiled and took a deep breath. As I sat down for the evaluation, I had no clue what to expect. If all was judged based on the expressions I had seen on my evaluators’ faces during the presentation, all would have been a failure, but luckily expressions do not always match thought. As I had always wished, my evaluators all exclaimed about how well I communicated my emotions both through my writing and through my presentation. One woman began by telling me that she had spent her whole life in the fashion industry and that, as she read my journal, she saw so much of herself in me. This was truly amazing to hear, knowing that an experienced professional in the field believed that I could be a successful as she was. The only criticism I was given was about some things I had left out in my presentation, which made me wonder if they would have preferred an hour long presentation or to just continue on without ever knowing. This also made me realize that my laziness when it came to my journal writing had really hindered my full potential my journal had and I longed to go back and tell the world every detail. However, I cannot change the past, only the future and as the evaluation came to a close, this phrase gave me a yearning to continue the life I had begun with WISE. After I thanked each of my evaluators and watched them leave the room, Trish and I turned to one another and smiled. It was finally over.
            The presentation was the best possible way I could have imagined to end my WISE semester. Being able to look over my entire experience and reflect on it as a whole gave me a true sense of accomplishment.