The rise of the in-store stylists


Natasha Silva-Jelly

Stylist Madelin Tomelty helps Erin Phillips choose clothes in Cue at Bondi Junction, Sydney.

Stylist Madelin Tomelty helps Erin Phillips choose clothes in Cue at Bondi Junction, Sydney. Photo: Janie Barrett

Savvy retailers know it's not only big bargains that will bring the shoppers these days. 

Taking their cue from Hollywood, in-store stylists and personal shoppers are now all part of the service. 

And no, you don't need to have an A-list budget to take advantage. 

Stylist Madelin Tomelty helps Erin Phillips choose clothes in Cue at Bondi Junction, Sydney.

Stylist Madelin Tomelty helps Erin Phillips choose clothes in Cue at Bondi Junction, Sydney. Photo: Janie Barrett

Booking a session with your very own Rachel Zoe - who will talk you through the latest trends, dissect your individual style and then take you off in search of the perfect pieces  - is often complimentary. 


Even when it's not, indulging in a personal shopper can actually save you money (and landfill) say the fashion experts.  After all who hasn't succumbed to the impulse buy only to toss it out later?

"Our Personal Styling service sends the message that stylists are not just for celebrities, but absolutely anyone who is after advice on what styles are fashionable and what the best options are for their lifestyle, body shape and budget," says Madelin Tomelty, National Stylist for Westfield.

After establishing – usually over a latte - what a client's day-to-day life entails and what they hopes to achieve from the styling session Tomelty will trawl stores like Cue, Veronika Maine, Saba, Witchery and Portmans for "affordable, on-trend clothing and accessories".  In the event a client has no clue what they like or need Tomelty, who has styled fashion shoots for Marie Claire magazine and dressed the likes of Tara Moss and Rumer Willis, says "discovering which celebrity's style they admire is always a good place to start."

Like Westfield, our department stores David Jones and Myer, along with mega fast fashion brands Sportsgirl and Top Shop are all trying to woo customers with in-store personal styling and shopping services.

Which is a classic case of win win.  For retailers it translates to cold hard cash and for those consumers; stuck in a fashion rut, in desperate need of the perfect frock for a special occasion, too busy to shop for themselves or new mums needing a solution to their changing body shape; a personal shopping session is a godsend.

For Erin Phillips, 24, a patisserie chef engaging the expertise of a personal shopper took her completely out of her comfort zone and exposed her to clothing she would never had considered.  "I desperately needed a new wardrobe. I tend to play it safe and was tired of looking plain.  I learned how to create lots of different looks with the same pieces what best suited my body shape.  I felt like a new person after and have definitely become more adventurous with my fashion choices, " she says.

Every serious fashionista should be using this service if they want to make an original and personalized style statement," says Stephen Kulmar of Retail Oasis. Kulmar also believes "personalised advice is important if brands care about the way they want you to wear their clothing and accessories." 

Sportsgirl, according to Kulmar "were really the first in Australia to do it in a complete way with their private suites and free one-on-one stylist appointments." 

Internationally Kulmar cites US department store Neimann Marcus as one of the first and still the best with their personal shopping offer.  "It's great to see David Jones and Myer now playing catch up.

Former fashion stylist for Vanity Fair magazine in New York, Howard Steeves now works as a personal shopper for private clients as well as for Westfield and says the instant gratification and rewards that come with overhauling the wardrobes of incredibly satisfying.

"Customers are overwhelmed by choice but a personal stylist can help you through the shopping experience much faster and come out with the best colours, styles and trends to suit you.   There is nothing better than seeing a client have that "Ah huh!' moment, even if it's transforming a housewife who lives in tracksuits into a better quality version of the same.  It's not about dressing people in ridiculous stuff that doesn't suit them just because they saw it in a magazine, " says Steeves.

Tomelty agrees the best part of the job is seeing the expression on a client's face when they see the outfit that's been sourced.  "The are always so shocked and excited.  It's amazing what a good outfit can do for a person's self esteem."

2 comments so far

  • I remember going to the Sportsgirl personal shopper in the mid 80s. Walked out with an entire work wardrobe. Have been a fan of this type of shopping ever since. No wasted items, I get plenty of wear out of everything.

    Date and time
    April 22, 2013, 12:02PM
    • I used a personal shopper at Diana Ferrari at Westfield Doncaster, what an amazing experience. I have followed her advice and felt more confident in my choices ever since.

      Date and time
      April 22, 2013, 7:13PM

      Make a comment

      You are logged in as [Logout]

      All information entered below may be published.

      Error: Please enter your screen name.

      Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

      Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

      Error: Please enter your comment.

      Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

      Post to

      You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

      Thank you

      Your comment has been submitted for approval.

      Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.