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Chicago Magazine July Cover

20 Jun

The Trump Tower Terrace never looked so good thanks to the invite by Chicago Magazine to shoot their July cover.  That night I had one of those deep, overwhelming love patters for the city of Chicago.  It’s a really beautiful place when you’re not chattering your teeth to get out of the cold.  On top of that, apparently there’s more than 165 things to do?!!

Photographer: Jeff Sciortino

Hair and Make Up: Cindy Shute

Wardrobe: Me, Courtney Rust

Digital Tech: Nathaniel Smith

Assistants: Grant Hogdeon

Producer: Amanda Gray

A HUGE thank you to Bloomingdales for graciously allowing me to borrow wardrobe for our hero models (group around main table)!  Jewelry was provided by T0pshop.

Philadelphia Cream Cheese Advertisement with Con Poulos

18 Jun

This simple advertisement is a good example of how much work goes into each and every image.  Most people would look at this and think that there were maybe 4 people in the room: the photographer, assistant, boy and dad.  In short, it took an army: 2 food stylists, prop stylist and prop stylist assistant, wardrobe stylist (yours truly), a whole bunch of photo assistants, and of course, New York based photographer Con Poulos.  There were also three little boys on deck in case one of them had a melt down, and sure enough, the #1 choice for the little boy did.  The lesson to be learned is that it often takes a small army to get it right the first time around.

Advil Campaign with Martin Schoeller

6 Jun

It’s not everyday you get the opportunity to work with a photographer as admired as Martin Schoeller.  When I got the initial phone call saying I was being considered to work with him, I jumped up and down.  Then, when I got the phone call saying that he wanted to work with me, I did a celebratory sprint in my apartment, which was more like a shuttle run do to its tiny size.  Martin Schoeller?!  Martin Schoeller!!! If you’re not familiar with his work, here’s a little sampling.

And the controversial Time cover:

Here’s the Advil advertisement I did the wardrobe styling on.  I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “But there’s no wardrobe?”  Not true my friends.  Behind that hint of a cardigan, blur of a necklace and hip mom glasses, there was a full rack of different tops for the mom, AND the kid’s hands, as well as a table of glasses and accessories. Here’s the thing, you never know where the crop is going to be and how much you will see, and I rather die than let Mr. Schoeller down.  It doesn’t look like much, but that doesn’t bring down my excitement.  A big THANK YOU to everyone who let me be in the same room as him.

Am I missing something?

4 Jun

For the past year I’ve fallen into a big dark work hole and haven’t had time to think about anything except for the current project that I was working on (which has been AMAZING!).  The past week is the first time in memory were I had a big project cancel and I was able to sit down without any distractions and ask myself, “Am I missing something?”

As a freelancer, the easiest part of the job is working on projects/being on set.  You have someone telling you where to be and what you need to do.  The toughest part is figuring out how to use your spare time as effectively as possible.  It seems like how hard you work during the ladder is just as important, if not more, than the former.  The second I stop working, I feel an overwhelming pressure to figure out my next step.  That’s the killer.  It creates a lot of sleepless nights.  The internet, which was your best friend becomes your enemy because you can’t help but drive yourself insane researching what else is going on out there.  Unlike a photographer, what I can’t do is go out on my own and build my portfolio.

For wardrobe and prop stylists and HMU artists, their portfolios are comprised a little differently.  To some extent, we’re only as good as the people who hire us.  What I mean by this, is that I can dress a set that I think my mom would be proud of, but if the photographer is an average shooter, the model falls flat, the hair & makeup is terrible, then the image is useless to me.  My work is only as good as the people I’m working with.  This is why it takes a hell of a long time to build a portfolio that you’d want to write home about.  Even at that, once you have images you like, there’s the next question, “Is this how I want to present myself?”  Which is followed by, “Does my work represent what I want to be doing?”  That’s where I’m at now and that’s where it has become pretty clear to  me that I need to revamp my website and this blog.  It’s a daunting task, one that may not be completely necessary seeing how most crew members beyond the photographer don’t put a ton of effort into their web presence because 80% of our work comes from referrals, but god damn it, it may help me sleep.  I want to look pretty on the inter web because I’m damn proud of what I’ve done since I’ve started this steam roller 10 years ago.  Here I come.

Luol Deng – Nike, “How will you make it count?”

11 May

I realize my timing of this post may not be the best.  Therefore, I would like to start by saying that I wish the tables had turned in a more favorable direction for the Bulls in this post season, and I’m sorry for their loss due to the team’s injuries.  After turning off the game, it inspired me to find the Nike commercial I wardrobe styled of Luol Deng last December because I hadn’t seen it yet.  Um, yeah… it’s amazing.  I’m so excited to have been part of the massive crew that made this happen.

If my mom told me driving home from my fourth session of basketball camp in the summer of 1993 that I would someday dress a Bulls player for a Nike commercial, I would have never taken down my Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen posters I got from the book fair.  At the time, I was pretty sure that I would someday be surrounded by fellow players that could dunk, but it would be from my basketball merits, not from my ability to source an ungodly amount of Nike merchandise in less than 24 hours.  Either way, this commercial makes me smile ear to ear.  It fulfills a dream.  It’s a different dream that includes a lint roller, but still… I’m honored to be able to stand next to such an amazing athlete under any circumstance.  Go. Team. Wardrobe.

Wardrobe Stylist – Courtney Rust

The Returnist doesn’t return everything.

29 Mar

For those who are scratching your heads at where I came up with the name, The Returnist, it is a hybrid from the famous fashion blog, The Sartorialist, and the famous back end of all styling assignments, having to do an insane amount of returns.  For those who don’t work in the industry find it really shocking that we return everything that we don’t use.  Here’s where the name, The Returnist is getting me in trouble, and getting all stylists in trouble; now with scrunched down budgets, everyone thinks that since we have tag guns we can return EVERYTHING.  Sure, we can.  You can also steal jewelry easily from Macy’s too if you wanted to, but that doesn’t mean it’s right.  Wardrobe budgets are getting silly small, UNREALISTICALLY small for the needs of the project.  If we kept everything that touched skin, meaning smelly crotches (pants) and boderific odor smelling shirts, we’d be limited to shopping at discount stores like KMart and Target.    The thing is, we all know that you can’t show up with only options from these stores when presenting to the client.  Of course, it all depends on what you’re doing, but with things like business attire, you can’t cheat a good looking suit or ladies button down shirt.  It’s true that things are probably OK if the model only wore it for a couple of minutes, but not all pores are the same when nervous and in front of the camera.

I’m writing this post to bring some awareness to the fact that putting stylist in a position to have to return soiled garments (ew), puts us in jeopardy of having bad relationships with the stores we rely on, or for having bad karma for the rest of our lives to ensure that we’ll catch bed bugs when we least expect it at Neiman Marcus.   My suggestion is that if you’re unsure what wardrobe and props will cost for a job, you should contact the stylist you’re thinking about using to give you an estimate.  Remember, if you can’t afford solid gold, you can’t wipe your armpits on solid gold.

Gold Motel – Chicago Magazine

22 Feb

Here’s a recent portrait I styled with photographer, Brian Kuhlmann of Chicago’s own Gold Motel.  I’m usually not a big fan of using black because it creates a hole in the frame, but when you’re working in an old bank vault with walls of gold safety boxes, black is your friend, especially some good ol’ black leather (singer’s dress, although you can’t really tell.  It looked AMAZING on her!  Dress is by Elizabeth and James.)

Hair and make up done by the great Carley Martin.

Check out Gold Motel’s summer time jams, HERE.

My 5 Year Goal

17 Feb

I’m always amazed at what people can get away with when they’re really good at something.  For instance, I had got a reservation for my husband as a Christmas gift to go to the impossible to get into restaurant, Schwa.  The reason why it is so hard to score a reservation is not only because of chef Michael Carlson’s legacy for being a mind blowing amazing cook, but also because he’s a terrible business man.  When you call, there is about a 95% chance you’re going to get a voice mail box telling you it can no longer take messages because it is full.  If for some crazy reason you’re able to get someone on the phone and make a reservation, there is about a 95% chance they’ll cancel on you and make you reschedule.  This not only happened to me once, but TWICE!  The thing was, I wasn’t mad, because I understood it was part of the experience.  As much as his cooking, his otherwise known to be shoddy behavior, is part of his claim to fame.  Chef Carlson will only open if everything is absolutely perfect and he can present his best work to his guests.  Dang, I wish I could get away with that… I’ve worked while having food poisoning.

Next case and point, I recently got to wardrobe style for probably the most well known photographer I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with thus far.  I went to look at his website prior to the shoot, as I always do even though I’m very familiar with his work, to find that there isn’t one single image on his website, just a bunch of contact numbers to his agents.  Now that’s when you know you have made it; a photographer that doesn’t need to show any pictures.  “You know what I do,” must be a pretty comfortable place to reside.  He doesn’t need a website because you can see his work everywhere.  Awesome.

Last example and one you’re all familiar with; the artist formerly known as Prince.  Shit, screw names.  I’ll have an ugly tattoo represent me.  I don’t need to explain why this is amazing.

Now for my goal, and feel free to contact me if you’d like to collaborate on this.  I want a portfolio exclusively consisting of “real” people, butt ass naked, posing with no props, on a white sweep.  Use your imagination people.  Let my legacy as a wardrobe and prop stylist paint the picture for you.*  If you want to book me, you’ll have to get my address off of my contact page because I now only accept letters.  My 3rd grade dream can now be fulfilled of having the most pen pals.

*I feel I need a disclaimer out of fear for those who may read this that don’t already know my sarcasm.

Best Soft Good Styling EVER!

15 Feb

And I had no part in it, but I did style the cute girl sitting on the top of this pile of fabric goodness.

If you’re wondering who did this colossal masterpiece of squishy fabric, you’ll have to thank the prop crew for the Land of Nod Spring catalog.  The prop team consists of Dane Holweger from LA, and Chicago locals, Melissa Elias and Justin Vandenberg.  You’d be surprised how to tough it is to stack that many unmade beds and make it look that inviting.

As for the doll sitting at the top, her outfit came from a scary expensive to destroy Anthropologie nightgown, which I cut the sleeves off.  I then sliced my personal polka dot scarf that I got at Walgreens 8 years ago into strips to adorn the sleeves.

Here’s a couple of other highlights of the wardrobe I did for the Land of Nod Spring catalog.

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Personal Shopper Confusion.

6 Feb

A weird thing happened the other day; I was parked outside of Target at the beginning of a hefty return day, pulling out a couple of Ikea bags and a woman stopped me and asked, “Are you a designer?”  I did a shady, “Um, uh… no,” without making any eye contact.  I then proceeded to do my routine return and the woman followed me in while accompanying me during my awkward moment at the customer service desk and said, “Have you ever thought about personal shopping?  I’m a really busy mom who’s also a massage therapist who would love to have someone shop for me.”  To be honest, there were a number of asshole responses that ran through my head.  First, and probably the least offensive, “I’m a busy wardrobe stylist that would also love to have someone do my ‘shopping.'”

I feel like I should first preface my explanation as to how my job is different, and why I would never be a personal shopper by saying, I have absolutely nothing against being a personal shopper nor do I think I’m better than someone who is a personal shopper/closet organizer type.  It’s a great career that I’m sure is challenging, and allows you to make people feel good about themselves and their surroundings.  Here’s how my job is different and why I wouldn’t take on personal shopping/closet organizer onto my roster.  I do what I do, not because I like to shop, not because I like to see the people surrounding me in clothes that they’ve worn within the last six months from their perfectly edited and sensible closet, and not because I feel like I need to fix the sometimes sensitive to the eye outfits I see on a daily basis.  I actually enjoy a hoarder, a wrinkle, an outdated capelet from Ann Taylor, and a pair of cargo pants that with a tug of a zipper becomes a breathable pair of shorts.  It’s telling of your personality, and it tells a little story, which brings me to the reason of why I spend a crazy amount of time filling my car with things from shopping establishments… I like to tell a story.

The reason why some stylists do both on set work and personal shopping is that styling is a mix of traits that lend itself to personal shopping; knowledge of everything current in every single stores, resourcefulness, ability to listen to your client to make a strong guess as to what they might like, knowing what is in style and works for someone’s body, and working within a budget.  Why being a set and wardrobe stylist is different is that you’re one single part of big team.   You’re shopping for the agency, the client, and the photographer, as well as all the variables you might run into on set, which will likely change  your original intentions.  What works in person, or what we thought worked during the pre-production conference call may not hold true once you’re on set, which in the end is the bottom line.  It all has to make sense and tell the intended agency and client’s story.  It’s a much different mind set when shopping; one that I personally think is tough to mix with a personal shopping client, or even my own shopping list.   Therefore, please e-mail me if you want to pick up my dog’s food.