This year, I’ve focused on how I can improve SSP’s client experience. What can I take off of client’s plates so that they can show up to sessions relaxed and ready to enjoy their family time? How can I serve them? One of the things that has been a landmark thing for the client experience has been offering wardrobe styling services and a Client Closet. Clients can borrow dresses that photograph especially well, just for their session. No more having to stress-shop! A client closet is a great resource for serving your clients well. If you’re stumped on how to start a client closet or what to buy, read this post for tips!
What to Look for When Shopping for Your Client Closet
One benefit of a client closet is that clients can step outside of the box for their portrait sessions. We get to create art with these images, and wardrobe plays into that, big time! But truly, when are you ever going to wear that epic gown again? Clients don’t mind buying a dress they’ll wear again and again, so they look for dresses that would be fine to wear as a wedding guest, to church, and so on.
Not only can that be overwhelming to try to check all the boxes, but they might end up with a dress that is just…fine. We’ll still have beautiful photos, but if deep down they really were hoping for an epic shot with their dress blowing majestically in the wind, that Target dress just won’t cut it. We’re talking about two different types of dresses.
For that reason, I love to stock my client closet with those one of a kind, epic dresses. Dresses you probably wouldn’t wear for a regular date night or to church, but when you put them on? It suddenly feels like you’re making ART! It doesn’t have to be a big, bold gown. In fact, many aren’t: I’m still shooting family sessions and mamas want to be able to cuddle their kids easily. I look for unusual detailing, feminine lace or embroidery, fabrics that swish and move as mama spins with her babies…that kind of thing!
One last note before you start shopping: you’ll want your dresses to be flexible, suiting as many clients as possible. Looking for elastic bodices or waistbands and adjustable straps will help your investment go further. Avoid anything with a zipper and no give: that’s only going to fit a small number of your clients. To get the most out of your money, aim to start with around 10-15 dresses with flexible sizing.
Favorite Brands for Client Closets
This is by no means a complete list, but I think this is a great starting point as you start to collect dresses for your client closet! These shops generally have flexible sizing, soft neutral colors, and subtle patterns.
Where to Buy Dresses for a Client Closet
Buying clothing new at retail price for your client closet can get expensive. If you’ve identified some target brands and styles that would fit your business well, there’s no reason you couldn’t source them secondhand in good condition. Here are my favorite sources for finding affordable, good quality secondhand dresses.
Photography Facebook Groups
These have been a great source for dresses for me! Find one that fits with the style of photography or dresses you’re looking for, and you’ll be on a roll!
This is a referral link, which means I get a small commission if you purchase through this link. However I make it a point to only share tools and resources I truly love and use. The extra good news: you get a $10 credit with Poshmark when you sign up with this link.
Poshmark is like a virtual consignment store, where people all over the US share items in their closet for sale. You’ll pay shipping for each purchase from an individual closet, and it’s an at-your-own-risk sort of thing unless the item was clearly described inaccurately, but I’ve always had great luck with it.
It’s always good to be wary with Facebook Marketplace, but you might come across a great find!
Brand-specific Facebook Buy/Sell/Trade Groups
Reclamation has a great buy/sell/trade group, and I know other brands do as well, particularly maternity gown brands.
How to Start Using Your Client Closet
To really showcase your client closet, consider holding a few styled shoots. They can be large scale productions, or just a friend or favorite client trying out the process with you. I loved venturing out to the Columbia River Gorge to test-drive my client closet last year with some photographer friends. This way, clients can see the options you have in action, and you could collect testimonials about what the process was like. I’ve found that client closets are a new thing for many clients, so it helps to have some visuals and testimonials to show how helpful they are to clients!
Client Closet Alternatives
Style and Select
If styling isn’t really your jam and you want to be super hands off about it, Style and Select is the way to go! You give your clients a styling code, they answer a few quick questions about their preferences and family on the website, and they’re shown a bunch of coordinating outfits with the links to buy them right there! Easy-peasy. I did find when I used them a few years ago that their styles veered a little richer and moodier than my clients prefer, but there were some light and airy options. But how cool is it that you can outsource this so easily?
Create Style Boards
I create style boards in addition to offering my client closet, because I don’t offer a full family wardrobe in the closet yet. (Yet!) I put together a few options for each family member based on the dresses from the client closet we’ll be using, and send it off to my client with shopping links for those exact pieces. If a client closet isn’t for you, you could do this option for the entire family. It’s a great mixture of still providing personalized service and doing the art directing of the session while not having to invest in a client closet. Here’s an example of what that might look like, taken from an earlier post I did about what to wear for spring family photos (head there for shopping links for these pieces!).
Partner with a personal stylist
I’ve partnered with Grace at Builtgracefully, a Portland personal stylist, to offer clients an additional resource if they’d like expert help on pulling together their family photo wardrobe. Personal stylists are a fantastic resource for styling your clients if that’s not something in your wheelhouse. Check out this great post that Grace wrote for my clients!
- outsource all of your styling to a personal stylist
- have them create educational material for your clients
- offer them as an optional service
If this was helpful for you as you build your client closet, let me know in the comments! If you’re still considering whether or not to start a client closet, pin the image below to save it for later. And if you’re in need of more what to wear for photos inspo, check out this post on what to wear for fall family photos!
PS, today’s installment of my favorite photography blogs from around the world has my friend Jasmyn up with a great post on Phoenix midwives! I always love Jasmyn’s work, and I adore the care she’s put in to finding the best for her maternity and newborn clients.