Wouldn't it be cool if you could shop for a living? And I don't mean for groceries or socks or diapers. I mean Bloomingdale's, Saks Fifth Avenue, Armani, the toniest boutiques on Rodeo Drive - I mean, shopping, baby, yeah! For Hollywood wardrobe stylists, this kind of high-end shopping largely defines the job.
"Obviously it's fun to get paid to spend money," says Jami, "and to get to feel like one of the rich and famous. But I also like to help make people look good. And one of the best things is that it's never monotonous. Every job is different, from game shows to commercials to movies."
Jami had no idea this job even existed until some actresses she knew kept telling her she'd be good at it. A natural clotheshorse, she already had a distinctive personal style, so she apprenticed with a well-known stylist ("I basically carried around her shopping bags for free.") and learned the business, including stuff like who has the best military uniforms or evening wear, which tailor can do overnight alterations, and where you can get a sailor suit for a dog.
"My Favorite Actor Was a Chimp"
Occasionally, a stylist has to deal with big egos as well as big budgets; it just goes with the territory. "It's hard not to let your own ego and tastes interfere, but ultimately you're not the final decision maker," says Jami, who thinks for a minute and then says, "My all-time favorite actor was a chimp, because he didn't talk back and he didn't drop his clothes on the floor. We ended up dressing him in custom-made jeans, a white t-shirt, a letterman's jacket, and Birkenstocks."
Anything Can Happen on Set
In her 14-year career, Jami's seen a lot of crazy things...including an incident involving Crazy Glue. It seems an actress tried to glue in her own hair extensions and ended up covered in the stuff, her lips glued together, her blouse glued to her chest. And speaking of chests, "I once had to build a set of fake breasts using duct tape and shoulder pads. This was before the silicone kind were so common."
It's no wonder these style mavens are often credited with setting fashion trends around the globe. A stylist might give an actress a funky retro bag or amazing scarf to wear to a premiere. Once it's splashed across the pages of every fanzine across the country-voila! It becomes a trend! Trend becomes fad, fad becomes craze, and the next thing she knows, she's got her own line of accessories and a boutique at Sunset Plaza.
No Job Security
Alas, there is a downside to the job: it's freelance, and as such offers no job security, giving rise to what Jami calls "that dread feeling of never working again." But day rates - usually $600 to $1,000 - are generous, in part to compensate for the on-again, off-again nature of the job. And there are benefits, paid through a theater workers' union.
So the next time someone compliments your sense of style, think of becoming a wardrobe stylist...and dream on!