Answering my most frequently asked question I receive from other photographers, “How did you start your client closet?” I am spilling all the details and tips and tricks I have learned while putting my closet together!
Going into 2021, my focus for the year was to elevate my clients’ experience. One way was to include a complimentary client closet. At the time, my goal was to have 50 dresses to offer clients, but I ended the year with well over 100!
A client closet is a complimentary wardrobe for clients to use at their portrait session. There are bonuses of having one for both photographer and client. On the photographer side, you are able to curate what you want to photograph more of and what gets you excited. On the client side, they don’t have the added expense of a dress, they don’t have to return dresses that didn’t work out, and you took the guesswork out for them on what photographs like a dream! A client closet doesn’t have to be limited to only dresses, that is just where my focus was. You can provide wardrobe for the entire family!
If you were looking for a way to set yourself apart in your market, elevate your client experience or to take a step towards the luxury market, then you should consider offering a client closet. But before we jump into it, there are three things you should keep in mind.
There are a few options on ways to begin collecting dresses: buy the dresses from your client at a
discounted rate after their session, offer discounted portrait sessions and have your your client purchase a pre-approved dress, Facebook marketplace, you can be as creative as you like. For majority of the dresses in my client closet, I purchased them on sale. Very rarely would I ever purchase a dress for full price, and I encourage you to do the same. Once word got around about my client closet, friends and past clients would reach out and gift me their old dresses.
Size: Majority of my clients are a size small, so that is where I tried to focus a good portion of my client closet. I did make sure that I included a variety of sizes though. A tip is to look for dresses that can fit a variety of sizes and are maternity flattering.
Style of dress: Maxi dresses with sleeves are for the win. I avoid strapless dresses – because I do not want clients to constantly adjust themselves during their session, and I avoid short dresses – they don’t make for a good twirl or sit down pictures. A variety of styles is important to incorporate since people have different body types.
Colors: Stay true to your brand when selecting colors. My style is all about whites, creams, and pastels, so that is what I stuck to. I initially focused on neutrals when I started my client closet. I built colors in a variety of sizes off of it afterwards
Wash: Unless you include dry cleaning into your expenses, try to avoid purchasing dresses that involve going to the cleaners. I wash all of my dresses on delicate and hang dry. A tip if you photograph on the beach, hang your dress on your porch overnight so all the sand can fall out. The next morning shake the dress and then you can wash – sand free!
Either have models or a mannequin to display the dresses for future clients. Make sure to capture the details, such as an open back, so your client can wear the appropriate undergarments. Then you can display your dresses on your website or a private gallery, be sure to include the sizes and descriptions of the dresses. For example:
If you do not have a studio and you are not okay with clients coming to your home, you can do what I do. I meet my clients at the parking lot of our shooting location with a pop up dressing room in hand. I bring at least 5 dresses, even if they only selected two dresses, because sometimes the dress clients like online, they don’t like once they try it on.
There are some extra costs that you may want to consider when starting a client closet such as:
Building a client closet is an investment into your business. Take your time and do not feel pressured to purchase 50 dresses overnight. Purchase the dresses that have you excited to photograph. I hope this helps you create the client closet of your dreams!
Whitney Kilcrease, San Antonio Family Photographer
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