A "Fantabulous" Guide to the Fashion Styling World
Ever wonder what it takes to break into the fashion and film industries? Celebrity wardrobe stylist and costume designer Nicole Beckett knows. She has worked with some of Hollywood’s top talent throughout her career, including Sofia Vergara, Ben Stiller and James Van Der Beek. In Beckett’s new book, The Fantabulous Girl’s Guide to Wardrobe Styling, she shares her knowledge with aspiring wardrobe stylists and costume designers about what it takes to get your start in two of the most notorious industries.
Your book, The Fantabulous Girl’s Guide to Wardrobe Styling, has been quite the success, what pushed you to write such an awesome book?
Having to figure everything out by myself, I really wanted to give others the ins and outs and make it easier for them. There’s so many questions that one has when you are first starting off, it’s confusing and difficult to figure it out on your own. I go over how to get into a union, who to talk to, how to be on set, how to build relationships with PR agents, how to use studio services. If I had a book [like] this 10 years ago it would have saved me from making a lot of mistakes and would have saved a lot of my time and that’s what I hope to do for those who are trying to break into the industry.
Why do you think it’s so challenging for stylists to break into the fashion film industry?
It’s really because it’s so difficult to get to the right people and making the right connections. Having talent is only part of the equation, without the right connections you won’t be able to get very far.
How do you compare your life between NYC and L.A.?
NYC is very fast paced and there are more walls up; it’s harder to network, it’s harder to get in. L.A. has a more laid-back vibe, you never know who’s going to be the next big thing, so everyone is a lot more friendly to newcomers.
You have been a member of the Costume Designers Guild (CDG), Local 892 since 2005. Can you tell our readers a little about what it is and what it has done for your career?
In my book, I have a whole chapter about the CDG and how important it is to join. It can be a little confusing between which one to join and how to join in the first place. Local 892 is for illustrators, assistants and costume designers. The Motion Pictures Costumes Union Local 705 is for the costumers who are the people who want to help the costume designer complete the job from start to finish. It can be confusing on which one to join, because you have to decide if you want to get more work or if you want to focus more on just being a costume designer.
Image courtesy of Nicole Beckett.
You focus mostly on commercial styling. What about commercial styling do you like more than other forms of styling?
I really love it all; I like that it’s really fast paced and that it challenges me a lot. I almost feel like I am in a competition similar to Project Runway. It’s also great that I get to see my work very quickly, for example sometimes you will shoot in June and then see your commercial on TV at the beginning of August; it’s pretty awesome. I also love that there’s a lot of room for imagination; I have the freedom to put crazy costumes on actors, and it’s always so much fun when I get to do that.
What is a typical week for you like?
When I’m on a project, I wake up early as possible and I try to be the first one in the store; I try to avoid long lines at all costs. Then later in the day, I hit more of the specialty stores [and] keep going back to my car to drop off clothes. My producer will call three thousand times, will ask me a bunch of questions [and] will send me reference photos a bunch of times. Day two consists of fittings and critiques, you get a ton of questions asked about why you chose something and what direction you are planning to take things in. Finally, you have your shoot day, which can be very, very long but of course it’s a ton of fun. Shoot days are never the same; sometimes you have to make magic happen and sometimes the magic is already there. You have to be on top of everything at all times. By the end of the day, the hardest part is getting the actors out of their clothes; you want to do it as quick as possible so that you can pack everything and take it home. If you’re looking, you have an assistant and your assistant takes the clothes with them and does all the laundry but if you don’t, it’s your job to do the laundry.
What would you say is the main difference between the fashion and film industries?
In my experience with fashion, it’s more about creating for the masses to a certain extent, contrary to the film industry, where you are more focused on creating a character. I remember when I had my clothing line, [I was] able to be creative, but I always had to think about what my buyers were looking for and what were the new trends of the upcoming season and I feel that those thoughts held me back when being creative.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I have a lot of love for ‘40s trends. I keep all of the editorials that I see on my mind; I also like to watch movies and take different ideas. I remember I was once watching a sci-fi movie and there was a girl with tights over her heels and I loved how much that costumer designer had thought outside the box.
How would you describe your personal style?
It’s pretty eclectic; I seem to always fall for the hourglass shape. I also enjoy a lot of vintage clothing. My favorite designer is Tatyana, [who] makes a lot of ‘40s-inspired looks, and I buy a lot of her clothes and alter it to make it look more modern.
As someone who wears many hats, how do you balance your personal life with your work life?
What’s a personal life? Just kidding. As I get older, I make sure to relax when I’m supposed to be relaxing. I’ve come to realize that down time is extremely important, otherwise you’re going to wear yourself out and you’re always going to be stressed out.
Do you believe stylists should have a degree?
Yes, I believe in education; any education is going to push you farther along than not having any. Education is a good foundation, building a house with no foundation can look really pretty for a little while, but it will collapse at some point and that goes to say the same with life—without a good foundation, you won’t be able to get very far.
In your book, you mention Academy of Art University being a good school for those looking for a styling program. What was it about our school that stood out to you?
I really liked the fact that AAU isn’t just a fashion school, it’s a school that has so many different degrees and it’s awesome that you can all work with one another. There’s so much that you can learn from each other; I feel like a fashion major can take in a lot of good information from an advertising degree because that teaches you what the clients will want and what they are looking for. This is the school where you have endless possibilities, even if you focus on a degree that isn’t in the fashion program you can still find a career in fashion.
If you can give any aspiring stylist any advice, what would it be?
Besides reading my book, haha, I would say keep a positive attitude, treat everyone kindly, don’t always think about money, have enthusiasm and never ever give up.
The Fantabulous Girl’s Guide to Wardrobe Styling is currently available on Amazon. For more info on Nicole Beckett, please visit www.nicolebeckettcreative.com.