The 2018 award season has been a flurry of politics and fashion, with the red carpets showcasing a stunning collection of black gowns that speak volumes on the current social climate while still remaining fashionably chic.
While the stars on the red carpet always look their best, there is an entire world that goes on behind the scenes and in the lead up to the event – a rollercoaster of sourcing, fitting, tailoring, and changing that results in the stars looking uber glamourous.
Elizabeth Saltzman and Ilaria Urbinati, stylists to A-listers including Uma Thurman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tom Hiddleston, and Armie Hammer, spoke to Vogue about their styling secrets and everything that goes into creating Oscar looks that shine.
Saltzman, who has also dressed Ladybird star and Best Actress nominee, Saoirse Ronan, explained to Vogue that styling the stars has to do with “a narrative,” with fashion choices not only about looks, but about telling a story.
“You want the public to like them and to make them seem accessible,” she said. “There’s so much that fashion can do and say – it sends messages. You’re not just putting on a frock and walking out the door.”
How Long Does It Take For Stylists To Find The Right Dress?
The process of finding a dress is lengthy, one that starts from the year before. As Vogue explains, finding a dress usually begins around October when the nominations are first announced. The extensive search means that over 60 to 70 dresses can be gathered for a leading lady in a bid to avoid fashion disasters (notably, a repeat outfit).
When Anne Hathaway discovered that Amanda Seyfried was to wear a very similar dress to the 2013 Oscars, her choice of dress was changed 24 hours before, with Anne explaining, “It came to my attention late Saturday night that there would be a dress worn to the Oscars that is remarkably similar to the Valentino I had intended to wear, and so I decided it was best for all involved to change my plans.”
As Tara Swennen, Kristen Stewart’s stylist, told Teen Vogue, “I start pulling dresses and sending out requests as soon as they get the nomination and for one look it can take weeks and weeks. If designers email me two or three weeks before, my girls are already dressed. I like to do it before the wave hits so I know my girls are set.”
Others are slightly less organised, though not always by their own fault. According to Teen Vogue, Zendaya’s stylist, Law Roach, had only one week to dress her for the Golden Globes.
Others, like stylist Manny, was put under the pump when he received a last-minute phone call.
“I remember receiving a call at 1 P.M. to dress Kendall Jenner for the British Fashion Awards on the day of the show,” he explained to the publication. “The red carpet was at 6 P.M., so I only had five hours to pull something together and it was my first time meeting her too.”
Worse still, he was asked to style Lily Donaldson for the Elle Style Awards after the event had already started.
Styling an A-lister for an awards show is a lucrative business – one which draws in millions of dollars.
In 1997, Nicole Kidman was paid $2 million to wear a John Galliano for Christian Dior gown to the Academy Awards. Since then, the deals have skyrocketed.
A contractual agreement with Dior means that Jennifer Lawrence has a 3-year partnership worth over $15 million. Simiarly, Emma Stone’s $10 million deal with Louis Vuitton has her locked in for 2 years.
As Ilaria Urbinati explained to Vogue, other deals work on a more personal, ad hoc basis.
“Part of my job is to introduce them and get them excited about certain clients and start to cultivate that relationship,” she says. “And certain brands and clients … just click, and it’s a thing where the brand fit and aesthetic just happens to work on the client season after season.”
How The Day Actually Goes Down
Preparation is important, right down to the moment the stars step on the carpet.
Stylists are in charge of ensuring the outfits are ready to go, and dresses are often shipped in or hand-delivered a few days before.
Vogue also spoke to Rita Wilson’s stylist, Ali Levine, about what occurs on the day. She says the hotel room – one that is nearby – is generally packed.
“Everyone is there to make sure everything goes right and without a hitch. There’s everyone from their manager and agent, to their hair and make-up team, the stylist and those assistants, the professional tanning team for touch-ups, a nail tech and more. At some point [the jewellery] is delivered by security.”
Preparing for the event can take up to 12 hours, though as Urbinati explained, the difference in time for red carpet arrivals makes it more manageable for stylists and their teams to prepare multiple stars.
Styling Hacks From The Professionals
Saltzman’s recommendation is simple when it comes to creating smooth lines – Spanx. It’s also not uncommon for underwear to be sewn into a gown to avoid any obvious lines.
“With Gwyneth with the white cape dress I had her lying way back so there would be no folds and then the cape was stretched out into the back of the SUV with two people holding it so it didn’t get crumpled,” she told Vogue. “There are ways to sit or not sit to prevent creasing.”
Halle Berry’s stylist, Lindsay Flores, says that carrying emergency supplies is a must, with a needle and thread being a priority, as well as fashion tape.
“Static Guard also is something I always spray on the garments,” she said. “Even just the littlest bit on the skirt so that it doesn’t stick on the carpet too much or to them when traveling to and from the event.”
At the end of the day, the stylists agree that the most important thing that comes with dressing actresses is that they are happy, confident, and comfortable.