These people get paid to make your vacation pics look glamorous
For Ilyse Dolgenas, planning an exotic vacation is a terrific excuse to splurge on clothes.
But the busy real-estate lawyer and mother admits she has neither the spare time to shop, nor the kind of sharp eye for trends that makes digging around department stores fun. “I would have a closet full of black dresses if it were just up to me,” says Dolgenas, 49. “Same color, same silhouette.”
And so, when the Upper West Sider has an upcoming trip on the calendar to a white-hot destination such as Greece, she calls in the big guns: a professional stylist to help her pack for her trip.
“At this point, it’s so much easier for me,” says Dolgenas, who is currently working with stylist Stephanie Tricola on bright and breezy looks for her family vacation to Nantucket, Mass., next month. “Just with work and wanting to spend time with my daughter and my husband, the convenience of working with someone I know and trust and love her sense of style — it’s just great.”
A-listers may keep their stylists on speed dial, but image-conscious jet-setters from the less visible trades of law, finance and real estate are also spending thousands of dollars to let the pros take control of their closets. And for these clients, few occasions justify a wardrobe overhaul like a trip to some glamorous destination. With jampacked itineraries in places such as St. Barts, St-Tropez and Paris, these industry leaders are turning to stylists to make every destination — and every outfit — picture-perfect.
“It’s usually an event or a vacation that prompts someone to hire a stylist for the first time,” says Tricola, who first started working with Dolgenas in 2003, when the lawyer was planning her wedding and subsequent honeymoon to Australia and New Zealand. When she’s not styling the likes of Chrissy Teigen, Priyanka Chopra and Vanessa Hudgens for photo shoots and red carpets, Tricola devotes her time to decking out well-heeled clients for trips all over the world — occasionally even sewing custom garments for them.
“Some of them have planes and yachts,” says Tricola of her clients, who either pay her an hourly fee or keep her on a retainer. With her help, they frequently drop anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 on clothes for their vacations. “A lot of times, I have them equipped so that they can just show up [to their jet or boat] and be ready to go with all the clothes they might need, from their socks to their tuxedos.”
Chad McWhinney, a Denver-based real-estate developer with a 100-foot yacht, depends on her for this service.
“I was just in Spain for two weeks, and [before my trip], I was able to say, ‘Here’s where I’m going, here’s what I’m doing,’” says McWhinney, who was introduced to Tricola by his pal, entrepreneur Kimbal Musk, who’s also a client. He has Tricola style him for vacations, but also has her supply him with quarterly shipments of event-appropriate, on-trend items. “And then, in a few days, a box showed up at my house with all of these different things that she’s curated and found.”
The father of two teenage daughters is far from budget-conscious, delighting in Tricola’s picks from high-end designers, including Saint Laurent, Gucci and Maison Margiela. “I don’t really have a budget per se,” he admits. “I’ll go through and keep what I want. If I had to guess, I probably spend about $5,000 to $10,000 per quarter with Stephanie on clothes.”
This kind of spending is not at all unusual, says Amanda Sanders, a Manhattan-based personal shopper and image consultant.
She charges from $250 to $350 an hour, depending on the service, and regularly sees her “high-end clients” pay $10,000 for all-new travel wardrobes. She says she’s been getting more calls to style trips in recent years, and credits the uptick to Instagram: “Everyone wants to put out how much better their life is.”
Sanders takes her clients shopping and then, after the travel wardrobe is approved, goes one step further by packing the items and documenting them. “I’ve literally bought them luggage. Then I’m rolling the clothes, putting it in the bags and making a list of what they have: three new thongs, a t-back bra, a blue jean jacket, etc.”
And if the fashion stylist won’t provide this convenience, then someone else will.
Barbara Reich is a professional Manhattan-based organizer — she doesn’t shop for her clients, but she will efficiently pack their bags for a fee of $350 an hour. She says that people who live across multiple homes often need a bit of guidance about what to send where. “Let’s say the stylist has already shopped for them. Not everything is going on one trip. Some items are going with them on vacation and others are going to the house in the Hamptons and some things might be going to Aspen … It does become a little complicated.”
The desire among the wealthy for fewer responsibilities is precisely what keeps her in business, says Sanders. After all, a vacation — no matter the destination — is meant to be carefree and joyful.
“Once you have a relationship with a stylist, you become very dependent upon [them],” Sanders says. “Time is money, so you’d rather trust somebody who will make you feel pulled together for everything.”
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