Monday, August 23, 2010

Aging in the Styling Profession

by Anne Ross

As a prop and wardrobe stylist nearing the big four oh, I am beginning to wonder how long a career in this field will last. I panicked as I realized that I really need to think about this. In my twenties, I spent my early career doing window displays in Chicago. I had so much fun but it was very physical work. We designed, built, and installed the displays. Then we’d dress the mannequins, style them and position them the old fashioned way with wire and nails (I think we called it “striking”) to complete the set. It was like working in a terrarium with the sun beating down, passers by always wanting to chat, smile, or play mime. That position segued into visual merchandising for some very creative companies involving design, store display, and lots and lots of furniture moving. In my current position as a photo stylist, I was recently rolling one of 6 completely overloaded rolling racks through the sidewalks of downtown L.A. I thought, “how much longer can I do this?” With a fervor, I remembered comments of older stylists -
”My back hurts!”
“Uggh…How long is this shoot going to go? I‘m tired!”
“I wear orthopedic insoles because I can’t stand all day anymore”
“WHAT’s our call time tomorrow??”

I would usually smile and try to stay somewhat positive but also realizing that MY back hurt too. And I could use some orthotics. And why DO we have a 4am call time? I too am aging.

During my last job, I began to survey the over forty crowd on their career direction. I’d ask how long they expected to stay in this field, what they thought would be a good segue career, and on and on. I enjoyed many conversations with reactions ranging anywhere from, “Hmmmm…..I never really thought about it” to “OH YEAH, we’re basically all f&*^ed! I mean how many old people do you see in production? NONE!”

As I paid more mind to my internal angst about my career direction, I started noticing some of my favorite new assistants and realizing I could be their mother! One assistant unintentionally horrified me by saying, “Oooh, I like your jeans! I should tell MY MOM to wear jeans like that!” These people are cute, energetic and in their 20’s. I began to realize how much they have to learn and really see strong potential in a lot of them. This is where life really gets fun….to be able to realize the amount of information and experience I have is such a gift to be able to pass on.

I’ve begun to see some amazing opportunities once I freed myself to think of what is possible for an aging stylist. There’s art direction, photo styling workshops, taking smaller jobs, taking bigger jobs and really training your assistants, and writing books. It’s just a matter of continuing to be creative but in a less physical way!

Anne Ross is a prop and wardrobe stylist based in Los Angeles. She has been styling for over ten years focusing primarily in advertising and lifestyle. While having experience in film and commercials, her favorite medium is print. She enjoys the artistry of capturing one moment in time.

Originating from Chicago, she began her career in visual merchandising creating window displays for various businesses including Marshall Fields, Anthropologie, Gucci, Prada, and Salvatore Ferragamo to name a few. The transition into photostyling was natural. She now works with many renowned photographers throughout the country both locally and on location. Examples of her work can be found on her website at


  1. Oh boy now you're making me nervous lol. I'm in my last year of my twenties, thinking about the day I trasition into wardrobe styling, (from my current gig as a boutique owner)...especially since I already wear special somethings in my shoes!

  2. a good question that is ever on my mind! I've been at this for 20 years myself, and having crossed the big 5-0 already I do wonder. I do it all- tabletop, people, animals- all seasons and all reasons. I don't see leaving this crazy life, though. I have always figured if I have to work it is better this than anything else- I get to be creative on a daily basis. I never get bored, but I do get tired!