Celebrity stylist, Susan Moses, has worked with some of today’s most well known entertainers as well as plus size models. She is highly sought after in the plus size industry, where image can make or break a models career. In this month’s issue of PLUS, Susan opens up about her role as a top stylist and shares her tips for curvy women.
Maddy: I heard your name for many years before I ever met you. You are the most well known “curvy” celebrity stylist. How did you get started in this industry?
Susan: Wow, you are taking me back in time, I have had quite a journey. I have been styling for at least eighteen years. I pretty much dabbled in different areas of the fashion industry. While attending John Jay College of Criminal Justice, I decided that I would try different things to make extra money. Aside from my interest in criminal law I was also intrigued by the fashion Industry. I dabbled in many areas of fashion from being a plus model to working in showrooms, visual merchandising, retail sales at a very high end boutique in Soho and working as a dresser during fashion week. Around 1992 I was asked to be the fashion director for the very short lived African American life style magazine “SHADE.” The fashion pages of Shade got a lot of attention from the music industry, and at that time there was a considerable demand for stylist. My first high profile client was the R&B singer “BRANDY.”
I worked with Brandy for seven years, and during that time I even relocated to Los Angeles, where I also worked as her personal wardrobe stylist for the sitcom “Moesha”. Those were good times, I will always be grateful for those years, I learned so much and I met so many wonderful people.
Maddy: Who have been some of your most exciting clients to date?
Susan: I have had the pleasure of working with so many over the years, sometimes you work with a client once or twice and sometimes they call on you for years. You just don’t know, I just always go in with an open mind. I have worked with Kathy Bates, Brandy, Hillary Duff, Queen Latifah, Monique, Da Brat, Angela Bassett and Angie Stone to name a few.
Maddy: One of your most well known clients is Queen Latifah. Even with the weight loss and breast reduction, she is still “top heavy”. What is your advice for women who carry most of their weight above the waist?
Susan: Funny that you should ask that question because I am also fuller on the top. The most important thing is to be fitted properly in your bra, an ill fitting bra can ruin an outfit. Minimizers and body briefers are also wonderful options because they give your beautiful blouses, tops and sweaters a smoother fit. I also think that v-necks are most flattering to women with a fuller bust because they elongate your neckline.
Maddy: You worked with Emme on the show “More to Love”. Can you tell us about this experience? Did you also dress the other women on the show?
Susan: I was hired to only dress Emme on the show More To Love. We had a really great time while filming; there was lots of laughter and long hours. The reality of reality television is that those cameras are going all the time so there is always something wacky going on. Aside from being absolutely stunning Emme is a complete joy to work with.
Maddy: Is there a rule of thumb for the three main body types?
Susan: There are so many rules for the apple, the pear and the inverted triangle. My only rule of thumb is to remember that every trend is not for every “body”.
Maddy: Being a stylist is a gift, you either have it or you don’t. How can those that “Don’t”learn to dress to impress?
Susan: I think that the most important thing is to purchase clothing in your size, invest in good bras, body briefers, spanxs and any thing that will give you a seamless appearance. There is tons of style information out there. You have to make time to try clothing on. Don’t be afraid to ask someone whose opinion you trust, but don’t get mad if they don’t tell you what you want to hear. The bottom line is that when style doesn’t come natural to you, you have to spend some time working on you. A little “me” time never hurt anyone.
Maddy: I can’t imagine the pressure of having to style a celebrity, especially someone that is plus sized. The critics can be so brutal. How do you handle the pressure?
Susan: The pressure for me has nothing to do with the critics, because everyone has an opinion. My focus is to make the client feel and look beautiful; it is the client’s opinion that matters most. The reality is that yes, the client will be in front of millions on the red carpet and yes I want them to have wonderful reviews but it would be a disaster for me to make that my focus. Maturity and the fact that I still love what I do, is another reason why I don’t feel like I’m under a gun. I have dressed women of all shapes and sizes and my approach is the same. The key to having your client look fabulous on the red carpet, or any appearance is several fittings, great communication between you and the client and options.
Maddy: I believe there is some hidden talent in the plus size industry, for those that have been thinking of becoming a stylist, what is your advice?
Susan: There are many aspects to styling and the first thing is to be open to learning. As a stylist we have to know how to deal with lots of personalities, we have to handle budgets; schedule fittings and delegate jobs to our assistants so you’re ability to communicate and your people skills have to be on point. Styling is not just about shopping all day. There are stylist that do lots of major fashion editorials, there are those that do tons of catalogue, there are those that only work with celebrities and then there are those that do lots of commercial advertisement. The key is to be open to learning, understand that it takes time to develop your portfolio and the other skills that we have to have in order to be successful in this business. Lastly, know that if you are talented being curvy will not hinder your success.
Maddy: If someone, that is not a celebrity, wanted to hire an image consultant, what should they expect?
Susan: They should expect to give up a lot of information about themselves in order to have a successful outcome in their imagery. They should be prepared to have their measurements taken, talk about the parts of their bodies that they like and don’t like, what colors they prefer and even their opinions about hair and makeup. Discussing your budget will also help the consultant give the client a fabulous new look. Lastly, I would suggest putting everything in writing.
Maddy: When you are shopping for a client, what are the three main details you keep in mind?
Susan: When shopping for a client the three main things that I keep in mind are:
a) What the wardrobe will be used for, is it red carpet, editorial or a commercial
b) The essence of the client
c) Lastly but most important the fit and how it will come across on camera
Maddy: What are your influences?
Susan: My influences vary and it all depends on what and who I am working with. Generally I am influenced by many things music, colors, fabric and texture are high on the list.
Maddy: What is the most common mistake women make when choosing undergarments and clothing?
Susan: The most common mistake is fit and in most cases it is to small.
Maddy: You have worked on countless shoots with plus size models. From a clients perspective, what advice can you give models about how important it is to be prepared on the day of the shoot?
Susan: Models should always arrive with clean hair, manicured hands and feet, cleaned and moisturized skin and always bring a variety of undergarments that you know give you a seamless appearance in any garment that you put on. Being prepared can make all the difference in you getting hired for just the one day or having an on going professional relationship in which the client hires you for months or even better, years. It is important to walk in flawless and be prepared for a great day.
Maddy: Who are your favorite clothing retailers or designers for plus sized women?
Susan: I believe in mixing the style pot so I love different designers for different pieces. Carmen Marc Valvo for making beautiful gowns in plus sizes!!! Marina Rinaldi for their fabulous coats and trousers. Micheal Kors, great tops and knits. Calvin Klein, David Meister and Tadashi for their amazing dresses. Lafayette 148 for tailoring and Baby Phat for jeans that give everyone a nice bum.
Maddy: What are the three items, for the winter season that women should absolutely have?
Susan: Every woman should have a fabulous pair of boots, a chic pair of gloves and at least one coat that turns heads!!!
Maddy: Not all trends are flattering for curvy bodies. What trend would you happily see go?
Susan: I would love to see “low waisted” jeans disappear. I think that we have all had enough muffin top to last a lifetime.
Maddy: The fashion industry is not an easy one to get into, what was your big break?
Susan: I would have to say that is was being the fashion editor at “SHADE MAGAZINE.” Although Shade was not around long it gave me an audience, it gave me a reason to go as a member of the fashion press to fashion week and I got the attention that I needed from an industry that was looking for stylist.