Fashion 101: Everything You Wanted to Know About Personal Shoppers

In the realm of careers in fashion, the role of a personal shopper has got to be one of the most hands-on and fun. You are a stylist for the common woman; dressing people not for photo shoots and runways but for real life. (This is what I had imagined, anyway.) Also, not only is it fun to shop for others, having someone shop for you can be pretty enlightening. Personally, I love looking good. But I have often dreamed of having someone else do the heavy lifting- looking for sizes, calling other stores, putting everything together- while I just show up and get dressed. Before I take the personal shopper plunge, though, I decided to call one – known only as “DivaDebbi” – and get the 411.

Where do you work and what exactly do you do?

I am the Women’s Personal Shopper at Richards of Greenwich, Connecticut. I am also a Beauty and Fashion blogger for Glam Media and TotalBeauty. My blog is DivaDebbi.

Why do you think people go to personal shoppers – because they don’t have time to shop, or because they feel clueless about buying their own clothes?

Most people who use personal shoppers aren’t clueless, they’re just busy. Many of my clients have incredible style. Their lives are very full. I just take care of making them look fabulous 24/7. For example, they often email me copies of invitations, so I know what to keep my eye out for, as appropriate things for their events come in. It becomes my headache, not theirs!

How well do you know your clients? What is the clientele like there? Do you have clients any who you have worked with a long time?

I have long term personal relationships with my clients and I treasure that. We usually sit down and catch up before we get started, sometimes howling with laughter! They know I will never breach their confidence, and I have been on the receiving end of some great advice as well. My clientele tends to be women married to high profile men. They are extremely active in the community and their children’s schools. They travel often. Family is their first priority but of course they want to look great. Most of clients have been with me for well over 10 years.

Do you shop for many of them regularly, or do you mainly just do one-offs?

I have clients who have been referred by friends for a one time event, like a wedding. After they see how much fun it is to shop this way, they invariably become regulars, meaning two to three major wardrobing sessions per year, plus help with events and gifts in between.

How much does it cost to get a personal shopper?

I’ve never heard of a store charging customers a fee to work with their personal shoppers. That’s why it is so hard for people to do this independently…there are talented personal shoppers (stylists, really) at the ready at nearly every major department and specialty store.

What other kinds of personal shoppers are there?

I only work with women, but of course there are men’s personal shoppers and people who specialize in bridal and home at other stores.

Is this a well-paid field? Do you work on commission?

No one at Richards works on commission, which clients love. It’s total teamwork, with everyone working with the client’s best interest at heart. Experienced Personal Shoppers with a loyal following can make substantial incomes. Of course, I spend a ton of it on clothes!

Before you became a personal shopper, did you use personal shoppers?

I didn’t, no. Now that I understand how easy it is, I wouldn’t hesitate to in the future.

How do you know what to buy for people? Do they tell you or do you just know how to buy for them?

The body dictates, I always say. If you are small shouldered and pear shaped, you will not be rocking skinny jeans with a Dolman T-shirt. That body needs something like an Etro A-line dress that emphasizes their small waist and great arms. There is always something for every body type (though some seasons are more challenging than others). Color is also a huge factor. I rarely recommend red for a blonde or olive on a brunette.

What did you do before this?

I’m a people person! I started my career in the Human Resources department of Estee Lauder. I found Benefits to be mind numbingly dull, so I took a job at Paul Stuart and worked there on Saturdays. I loved retail so much, I quit and began working there full time!

What skills does it take to be a personal shopper?

Fashion has got to make your blood race. I have wept over new arrivals! You must have impeccable taste and an understanding of what is and is not appropriate to where for many different occasions. I’ve dressed and help clients pack to visit castles and go hunting in the English countryside.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into this field?

You have to be willing to start from the ground up. That means working long and hard on a retail selling floor and developing your book of loyal clients who will follow you anywhere. I worked for two establishments in Greenwich before Richards and each time, everyone came with me. You must tell the truth, always! I never “lose” a sale. I make it up the next time when the outfit is perfect. If “we” both don’t love it, we move on. Trust is everything in this business!

Do you love your job? Cause it sounds pretty awesome.

My job is a blast! I love what I do, who I work with, and who I work for. It makes every day a pleasure! I appreciate it immensely. You have to make your own happiness in life, at work, always. Take chances! Change is good!

I’m sure you can’t tell me, but do you have any famous clients?

No, and yes.

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    • partease Ease

      What a nice post.. Thanks for sharing such a fabulous post with us.. Keep posting..

    • Sassy Countess

      “That’s why it is so hard for people to do this independently…there are talented personal shoppers (stylists, really) at the ready at nearly every major department and specialty store.”

      I’m sorry, but there are MANY personal shoppers out there. Some make upwards of six figures.

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    • Diva39

      So, if Richards doesn’t pay with commission. Is it paying with salary? What other ways are there to be paid as a sales rep?