While celebrities undoubtedly provide a generous helping of fashion inspiration and rules to live by, there’s really no one better to turn to for tips than the creatives responsible for dressing them. We recently had the pleasure of speaking to Anita Patrickson, stylist to stars like Chrissy Teigen, Julianne Hough, Chanel Iman, and many more. From the styling-kit items we need at home to the best way to launder our black garments, Patrickson kindly shares her tricks of the trade with us. Read on for her style tips.
WHO WHAT WEAR: For starters, tell us what inspired you to become a stylist:
ANITA PATRICKSON: Actually it was pretty random. It sounds ridiculous to say, but it wasn’t really anything I thought I would do. I grew up on a farm in Africa; I didn’t even know there was such a job as a stylist, let alone that you could make money from playing with clothes all day. I actually wanted to work at CNN but ended up getting a job at Conde Nast, where now I look back and think, “That was the luckiest situation I could ever find myself in,” but I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time.
And then once I started at Conde, my eyes were on stocks, and I just fell in love with the whole world. I thought I would want to do more on the journalism side, but I just got so lucky. My first shoot I was assisting on a Mario Testino shoot, which is CRAZY, and I finally started realizing, “I’m literally starting to work with the most talented people in the industry, and I need to just be so grateful for all of this.” I fell in love with being on set and creating a story with clothes and working with the makeup, the hair people, the photographers… That whole world was just so much fun. From there, I left Conde and went out on my own, and that’s that, really.
WWW: What are the most exciting aspects of your job? What do you find most challenging?
AP: I think it would be marrying what my clients’ personalities are and what their tastes are, and then marrying that with my own and finding that balance. I never want any of my clients to walk down a carpet and for people to say, “Oh, obviously Anita’s styled her.” I would obviously way rather them look like the best versions of themselves. I think style has such an individual take.
It’s a confidence booster, and that’s why I love my current partnership with Woolite: The brand’s whole concept is about sharing confidence, so it really kind of rigged me when they came and brought this to me. But going back to your question—I love the fact that when they’re ready to walk down the carpet or go to an event, they feel fantastic. So I think it would be about finding that balance between their style and my style, and meeting in the middle with something that’s a little outside their comfort zone.
WWW: How do you recommend people get into this field? What’s the best way for someone to reach out if they’re looking for an assistant position?
AP: I think honestly the way it happened for me was incredibly lucky. At places like Conde Nast and Hearst, the job openings don’t happen that often. I learned my discipline from being at a magazine, and I’m very grateful for that, but if you are 100% dead set on being a celebrity stylist, the best thing, honestly, and I hate to say it, is to intern. And then following that, to assist. Just because there are some things, if you get thrown in, you just wouldn’t know. It’s not rocket science, but as an intern, you don’t really have to make the mistakes; you can just kind of learn, do, and watch. And by the time you have a role as an assistant, you’ve got it down.
WWW: Describe what it’s like when you first start working with a new client. How do you combine your client’s personal taste with what looks best?
AP: I think when I start working with a new client, obviously the first fitting is going to be the most rickety, just because you’re figuring each other out. I like to ask questions on the phone before we start, or go and have a coffee with them to get a vibe. At the moment, I tend to work with people who are pretty established, so I can Google a lot of the time.
I have a list of questions that I really run through no matter who it is: what body parts are they comfortable and not comfortable with, and who their style icons are. That’s a really telling question, because then you both visually can get on the same page. When I do a first fitting, I really over-pull—instead of having two edited racks, I’ll have four—just to get a scope and have them try on a bunch of different things so we can have a chat about each one. I also want to start that relationship with the client and the designer, so if it’s a new client, I want to see if they have an existing relationship—how Oscar de la Renta might fit on their body, or how Marchesa might fit, what their reactions are to those.
So the first time we have a fitting, it’s more of an involved process, but you go quickly. With a stylist and a celebrity client, it’s a very immediate kind of closeness you have, because you’re like, “Hey, nice to meet you! Let’s get you completely naked and in a nude thong,” which is obviously the most vulnerable position you can be put in. So the first meeting is really a building block.
WWW: Tell us about your latest endeavor with Woolite Darks. What tips can you share in regards to keeping our dark pieces from fading?
AP: So Woolite Darks, it’s quite funny when they came to me, because I said to myself, “Ahh my mom uses Woolite!” Which is such a comforting reaction, because I trust everything my mother uses. But she’s been using it for years for a reason, and I think Woolite having broken off into these really great products—there’s the darks, the delicates, the regular wash—and the one thing I’ve picked up from when I started working with them is that they really are all about sharing confidence.
Their message is so positive, especially with the darks. We all feel more comfortable in dark clothing; that’s why we wear them the most, and the Woolite Dark Wash is all about caring for your fabrics. I think of it like my skincare. I use a morning scrub, and a day and a night one; why wouldn’t I do the same for my laundry? It’s really easy, the dark wash is great, it actually has a dye magnet in the product, so when you’re laundering your pieces and they start to wash, the dye normally seeps out into the water, and what Woolite Darks does is when the dye starts to seep, the magnet pulls it back in, so you really don’t have that fading effect like you do with a lot of detergents.
It also just protects your clothing. It doesn’t have a lot of the harsh chemicals, which is huge right now. I have clients who are pregnant, and everyone’s a little more conscious about what’s in our homes, what’s next to our skin, and I personally don’t want any of those chemicals near me. And knowing that Woolite Darks is especially really gentle and has taken that into consideration is a big factor for me. It’s also about caring for the pieces you have. We shouldn’t be having to replace our black tees and blouses as often as we do. It’s putting your money back into our wallets; it’s about feeling good and caring for our pieces.
WWW: You mention pregnant clients, so we have to ask, what do you enjoy most about working with Chrissy Teigen?
AP: It’s that she makes me laugh from the moment I step foot in that door. She’s just got such a great spirit and definitely has a great perspective. She doesn’t take anything too seriously, and she’s just an absolute joy to dress, and she’s just so beautiful, which doesn’t hurt either. It makes my life very easy; everything looks amazing on her.
WWW: What are some of the best styling tricks you’ve learned throughout your career?
AP: So many! I would say that obviously darks are great if you’re ever not feeling quite your best. I have a bunch of pieces that I just know I look good in, so I don’t have to bother looking in the mirror. So I would say everyone should have a couple of pieces in their closet that make them look good. I always veer to the darks on those days, just because they always make you look slimmer; it’s just a fact.
I would say everybody should have a little styling kit of their own—whether it’s in your bathroom or bedroom, there’s nothing worse than putting anything on and not having double-sided tape or a lint roller, and not being able to wear something because you don’t have the correct styling pieces.
I would say make sure your underwear drawer is well-stocked. There’s nothing worse than finding the right dress and not having the right underwear to wear it out—it’s so frustrating, and underwear can make or break your outfit. So just stock up, go to Target, that’s what we do. We spend $100 and get six amazing different bras. I’m not afraid to put scissors to the spanks, so I would say don’t be afraid to cut things. There are also these amazing foam bras at target for just $20, they’re really light, and you can cut the seam around—I’ve done all sorts of things. I think it’s about not being afraid to get a little creative in order to make something look amazing.
I would say take a photo if you’re going somewhere special, like a friend’s wedding or a birthday. Take a picture of yourself in the outfit and look at the picture, because often you’ll see something and say, “Oh, that’s so cute,” and then you look at the picture and think, “Oooh, that doesn’t photograph so well.” We live in an age of social media where everything you do is documented, so why not look and feel your best?