For celebrity stylists such as Micaela Erlanger, the Oscar nominations — announced Tuesday morning — mark the start of their playoff season leading up to the Super Bowl. Ahead of the Academy Awards on Feb. 26, the individuals who dress the celebrities for the most-watched red carpet of the year spend weeks finding the perfect look to make sure their client pops (and hopefully lands on the best-dressed list).
For Erlanger, who outfitted Meryl Streep in custom Givenchy for the Golden Globes, the pressure is on, seeing as the actress is also up for an Oscar for her role in Florence Foster Jenkins.
Erlanger, who also counts Hayden Panettiere, Gal Gadot, Lupita Nyong’o, among others as clients, doesn’t jump into action until she gets official confirmation.
“You wait for the nominations to come out. It’s not something I talk about until I know my clients are going. You don’t want to presume,” Erlanger tells Yahoo Style. (Of course, having Streep on her roster means she can speculate just a tad.)
Yet as soon as the names of nominees are read off, she jumps right into action to get her A-list clients prepped to shine on the important night.
Erlanger compares an awards show to “a heightened version of a premiere or a press tour. The press tour fittings are a precursor to an awards-show fitting. You’re either working on something custom with a designer, or you’re calling in runway samples from various brands. The starting point for me is you have a conversation. You discuss what they’re looking to achieve. Do they want to wear a certain color? Did they see something on the runway that inspired them? What’s the overall feel and direction of the awards show?”
As Erlanger explains, once she and her client decide whether they’re going with a pattern or print, black or color, pastel or brights, strapless or sleeved, they start throwing ideas back and forth. “You and the client exchange a bunch of photos and emails about fabric and silhouette,” says Erlanger.
And lest you’re under the impression Erlanger has plenty of time on her hands to create a winning look — think again! With a little more than a month, it’s a quick turnaround.
“You have to be ready to go. This year, the Globes were moved up a week. The timing is really awful. Everyone is working against the clocks. The factories are closed during the holidays. If you’re going to make something, you need to have your ducks in a row. Sketches have to be approved,” she says.
For an event such as this, the sartorial holy grail is a custom dress, which only goes to the top tier celebrities. Think of a dress cut and seamed precisely to your proportions, in your color and fabric of choice. Nice, right? Then again, a runway sample that’s never been worn before is also nothing to scoff at. And many design houses decide on just one star to dress for a major event, thereby heightening the cachet and prestige factor (Givenchy dressed Streep and only Streep for the Globes).
“The designers open up the couture archives. The process is: OK great, now if we’re doing custom, I’ll relay to the brands and review sketches and get fabric swatches. I provide a mood board. So we’re speaking the same fashion language. We review the sketches. Or if you’re working with a runway collection, it’s my job to know what brands are appropriate,” Erlanger explains.
And once the client decides on a dress, multiple fittings are scheduled. The dress is perfected, and the alterations are done. Erlanger continued, “You photograph things from the side and the back and the flash. You have to wear the right shoe. You have to be able to sit and stand in the dress. You have to be able to walk up stairs if you win. You have to fine-tune the accessories. The jewelry and the bag.”
On the day of an awards show, there’s nothing left to chance — literally nothing. If the client decided on a custom dress, there’s usually just one, out of respect for a designer’s time, money, and commitment. With runway samples, there are typically a few choices on hand.
“You make sure you have extra battery packs for your phone. Your car is full of gas. You’re there to get someone ready and out the door. You get the dress steamed and pressed perfectly. You’re laying out all the accessories. It should be as seamless and relaxed as possible. You get your client dressed, and you help them in the car if they need it,” says Erlanger. “You make sure their shoes are comfortable.”
That being said, “Fashion emergencies happen. I have my massive kit. It’s my toolbox of solutions, with double-stick tape. Hair and makeup and nails get done first. Maybe we listen to some music. Maybe have some nibbles. You make sure the client has their ticket. It’s very much a collaboration on everyone’s part. It’s not a one-man show. There’s a lot of time, hours, and details that go into a moment like this. You see it come together. I’m the keeper of the clock, and I send them on their way.”
And hopefully, hear their name called again.