You've just received an old dollhouse from your grandmother. Said dollhouse happens to contain a tiny little person, named Sophie, who is thrilled when you give her a doll's beret. She invites you into her own little world, which you access simply by closing your eyes and imagining yourself in there.
Alas, all is not well in Beaumonde City. The boutique is about to close down... but with your eye for fashion and Sophie's enormous social network, you can surely raise it up as the fashion capital of the town! That is, if you can persuade Adelaide, the CEO of the company that owns the building...
Fashion Forward significantly expands the scope of the series. As well as 19,000 items of clothing, there are multiple NPCs with their own storylines who come to you for help with their fashion woes. Clothing design is back, revamped, and much broader and deeper - you can now choose what type of item you want to design, a variety of cuts, pattern, colours, as well as frills, bows, ribbons, and various other accoutrements. As well as the boutique, the player can pick up gigs at the beautician, hair salon, and hotel as well as doing some professional modelling, which provides a more varied gameplay experience as well as alternative revenue streams. It is also the first to be amiibo-compatible, certain (mostly female) amiibos unlocking unique clothes when scanned.
It provides examples of:
- Artificial Stupidity: Your beautician customers will sometimes ask you to copy makeup from a reference photo. Occasionally, the photo will be of the customer herself - meaning she will already be wearing the makeup she wants you to copy for her.
- Author Avatar: Sophie is your guide to the game, and her name is a clear reference to Syn Sophia, the developer.
- Be Yourself:
- Surprisingly averted with Xiaoling. She's a somewhat obsessive fan of Callie, to the point of insisting that her clothes, hair, and makeup be exactly the same (in a sequence which serves as the tutorial for the salon and beautician minigames). The moral of this sequence is that the customer is always right and that Noor and Arabella should have just given her what she asked for.
- But then it's played straight in the postgame, when Xiaoling actually gets to meet Callie. Callie is flattered that Xiaoling admires her so much but still admonishes her to find her own identity rather than copying someone else.
- Black and Nerdy: Arabella's brother Tarquin takes an explicitly scientific approach to makeup design.
- Blatant Lies: Callie will give Sophie and the player useful tips for dealing with stage fright. Not that she has first-hand experience of that, uh-uh, no way, definitely not.
- Cannot Spit It Out: As usual. This time it's Ricky and Tarquin, the latter being somewhat more subdued.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Rainbow is presumably an adult or at least in her late teens, but expresses childlike wonderment upon seeing a new colour.
- Continuity Nod: Renee from the first game can visit your boutique. Evie from the second game is a minor character, as well.
- Downloadable Content: There's free Splatoon and Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer themed DLC. Certain amiibo figures can unlock special clothing items based on the character on the amiibo.
- Fourth Date Marriage: A consequence of the game progressing in real time but events progressing based on player activity. As such, if you play for more than a few minutes a day, Adelaide will go from meeting her boyfriend to marrying him in just a couple of weeks in-game.
- The Ghost: The protagonist's grandmother Elaine, which is not seen and only mentioned.
- Gotta Catch 'Em All: You start off with a limited amount of color choices for hair and makeup. You have to get more colors by taking pictures of certain objects and showing them to Rainbow, who will then "notice" the color and make it for you to use.
- Idol Singer: The Stylettos. And you even get to design their stage outfits!
- Incredible Shrinking Man: Your character magically shrinks down during the opening cutscene with Sophie's unusual aid.
- Jack-of-All-Trades: The main character is skilled in clothing design, hair styling and make-up, as well as being able to professionally model. Add this to their main trait as a clothing coordinator who's also skilled in interior design (as in the other games), and you have one skilled lady.
- Lilliputians: This game takes place in a miniature, dollhouse-like world.
- Lovable Alpha Bitch: Callie is a well-known professional model who definitely doesn't suffer from any sort of insecurities, why would you even say that?
- Luck-Based Mission: Filling up the color palette can get very tedious. For example, there are some colors you can only get from a specific cutscene where someone invites you out to eat, which can take several attempts to trigger. There are also colors that are available only at certain times of day, or certain seasons.
- Man in White: Tarquin wears all white clothes, which fittingly evokes a lab coat.
- Market-Based Title:
- In America, it's Style Boutique: Fashion Forward
- In Japan, it's Girls Mode 3: Glittering Outfits
- Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Well, masculine is pushing it, but Adelaide is very utilitarian when it comes to clothing, seeing clothes as nothing more than something to cover the body. Her brother, Ricky, is the stylish one, annoying her by pursuing his hobby of staging fashion shows.
- New Game+: Beat the main game once and unlock the entire male wardrobe from the previous game, giving you the ability to change the outfit of any of the men in the game.
- Nice Hat: Sophie buys her white beret from you almost immediately after you meet her, as a sign of your new friendship.
- Pirates Vs Ninjas: When you meet Eliza dressed as a pirate, having failed at her Ninja audition, she'll say that pirates are cooler than ninjas.
- The glam clothing style was phased out. All the clothes that fit that style in previous games make a return, but they are now classified as different styles such as girly or bold.
- The hat for the red Flight Attendant costume sold by Purple Moon was turned into the White Beret, and is Sophie's trademark hat. As a result, the other Flight Attendant hats got a slight modification in their design. All the new designs carry over to Styling Star.
- Supporting Protagonist: Most of the various quests in the game are about helping people with their own issues, which can often be solved with fashion; the protagonist's own development is mostly incidental.
- Toy Time: This game is set in a dollhouse, explaining the cutesy, cartoony architecture.