Does anyone really know what the difference is between a personal stylist, a wardrobe consultant, personal shopper, and image consultant really is? And which one do you actually need.

Ten years ago I could care less what the difference between all of them are until now. With the rise of their popularity, I wonder if anyone can differentiate them. 

I was at a brunch when one of the women asked what I did. I don’t know if I she wasn’t listening to my elevator pitch or if I didn’t explain myself well enough to her or if people doesn’t know how to differentiate the terms. “So you’re a personal stylist then.” My first instinct was to say, “that’s absolutely not what I do” but, I politely said no, and explained that there are similarities and clear differences between them.

As I drove to my next appointment, I got to thinking about other professions that have the same issues like  lawyer vs. litigator, nurse vs. aid, psychologist vs. psychiatrist, optometrist vs. ophthalmologist, and so on. (Que in the left or right Twix commercial). What’s the difference with all of them? And why does it matter? The thing is, it doesn’t matter—unless you’re looking to hire one. Let’s just say I would not want to hire a lawyer that settles his cases outside of court versus a lawyer who actually is comfortable getting a verdict in the courtroom. And I wouldn’t go to an optometrist if I’m looking to get eye surgery done since they’re not licensed to do one.

So what’s the deal? Personal stylist, wardrobe consultant, personal shopper, and image consultant which one is which, who are they for, and are they worth the “moola”?

Personal Stylists are just that, stylists. They tell you what the fashion trends are, styles, and colors. Stylists can also work to create a unique style for you. Wardrobe consultants on the other hand, go a little bit further as they dress you specifically to your needs, body type, personal style, and lifestyle. Then, there are the personal shoppers that actually accompany you or does the shopping for you. They guide their clients to products and services that are suited for their needs and desires – not just on their wardrobe choices. And then, there are the Image Consultants which are in a league of their own. They handle more than your actual wardrobe. They are the walking, breathing, marketing company for your image. Image Consultants (the real ones) doesn’t just consult on your appearance, but your behavior, communication, and digital/social presence as well. They help you create your own personal brand. Yup, your own personal brand! Image specialists is a combination of a personal stylist, wardrobe consultant, and personal shopper into one. They don’t just help you look good, they can help people land the job, get the promotion, get that second date even. They can also connect you to professionals who can improve your appearance like personal trainers, beauticians, and hair dressers to get you to that “image you want”. The best image consultants are those that make you look, talk, and behave to your ideal image without loosing the real you. Politicians, celebrities, business owners, paid speakers and other public figures are all known to need the assistance of image consultants. So which of these are worth the money and which can you just forget?

First and foremost, have a budget when picking which service is right for you. Just like choosing a car, you can only do so much research. And of course your budget can dictate your choices as well. If you really want to work with a personal stylist, but don’t have the funds, consider going to a department store such Nordstrom, Macys, Bloomingdales, Lord & Taylor that have personal stylists and wardrobe consultants that are free of charge and are at your disposal. Keep in mind that they can only suggest items for you that are in their store and not outside. The items that they pick can also be very limited depending on the season. Now, if you’re looking to choose what’s the biggest bang for your buck, consider what you need most. Do you need an image overhaul or do you just need someone to buy stuff for you? Consider what you need rather than what would be nice to have. (We’ve all wanted that sports car, but is it the best choice when you’re living in an area with the cold winter months?) My third piece of advice is to interview the individual. Will they just pull out items for you and have you try them on or will it be a more interactive relationship? Do they charge a travel fee? Is there a minimum number of hours to book with them?  Don’t be afraid to ask the questions and ask as many questions as you want!  Learn about their process and how they work because this will also give you an idea if they are someone you want to work with. Last and certainly not least, is do you like and trust the individual? They can be highly recommended, but can you openly tell them that you feel insecure wearing certain pieces of clothing? Or if you’re like me, have a phobia of wearing pleated skirts and high waisted pants? (don’t ask and if you do, please buy me a sundae first). Now if you’ve answered all these questions and think the Image Consultant is the best option for you find out if they really are image consultants. If they are, they will offer services on the big four: your appearance, your behavior, your communication, and digital/social presence. Sometimes they will offer services that touches on all four while others will offer services in each area which is a great advantage for those who want to work for one but necessarily have the funds to do so.

Regardless of your whom you choose, I hope you find the “car” that suits you and allows you to feel the most you.