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How Hollywood’s Heavyweight Stylists Kept Awards Season Glamorous

marie claire meets the wardrobe wizards who ensured Hollywood’s biggest names still got their Cinderella moment

For Andra Day, the Golden Globes began as they meant to go on: glamorously. The singer, who was nominated as Best Actress for The United States vs Billie Holiday, (and was also nominated for the Best Actress Oscar) commenced getting ready in the first of three hotel rooms in West Hollywood. Her stylist, Wouri Vice, arrived with the gown, a silver-grey mille-feuille confection from Chanel with a crocheted halterneck bodice, worked on by the fashion house for a month. “It was truly, truly a moment,” Vice says, the day after the ceremony. “Chanel made sure that it was a whimsical, beautiful night. Just like the gown.”

So far, so glamorous. Yet things looked a little different behind the scenes. Due to COVID-19, Vice and Day’s hair- and makeup artists were masked-up and nose-swabbed before they were allowed to enter their individual dressing rooms. Finally, Day was fitted into the dress and ready to step onto the red carpet – by which we mean the hotel terrace – where her photographer captured the images that would be shared all over the world as Day became the first Black Best Actress winner in 35 years.

Meanwhile, some 8700 kilometres away, stylist Colomba Giacomini was walking into upmarket London hotel Claridge’s, where Emerald Fennell – double Golden Globe nominee as the writer and director of Promising Young Woman – was preparing for her big night in. Giacomini carried the dress: a lemon-yellow Valentino gown with cascading sleeves. “It was just perfect for her,” Giacomini enthuses. “It’s regal, it’s glamorous, but not too over the top,” she says. “Well, it was quite over the top,” she adds, laughing, “but it was comfortable and easy for her to be in.” Plus, it was in keeping with Fennell’s “break-the-mould” style. “She didn’t want the simple, safe gown,” explains Giacomini. “She wanted something really fun.”  On the afternoon of the Globes, Fennell – hailed as one of this award season’s groundbreaking female directors – was having a nap. She needed one to stay up all night on London time to watch the ceremony. Giacomini arrived with the gown and Aquazzura heels, and after an hour and a half of hair and makeup, the pair staged a photoshoot in the deserted lobby. Later, Giacomini steamed the dress while Fennell ate a room service burger, then the stylist went home. Before the ceremony kicked off at one in the morning, Fennell re-dressed herself and prepared to log on to this year’s Golden Globes, coming to you live via Zoom.

Andra Day at the Golden Globes (Credit: Getty Images)

This is not your average award season. The Globes took place a year after the onset of the pandemic, which has had a huge impact on celebrity styling, as with almost every occupation. But styling – a cottage industry reliant on the world of film and television promotion, all which has been largely dormant over the past year of lockdowns – has specifically struggled since cut was called on the circus of premieres and parties. “Normally we’d be lolling around LA,” says Giacomini, laughing, “and there’d be loads going on.” But COVID-19 rates are still dangerously high in the US and the UK, and producers of the industry’s biggest award shows are opting for virtual ceremonies, with nominees tuning in from home. But no nominees in person means no physical red carpet, and no physical red carpet means that the stylists who dress the world’s biggest stars have had to adapt.

Instead of having their photos taken on the red carpet, professional shoots were conducted in an A-lister’s sunny home or hotel function room. The Queen’s Gambit star Anya Taylor-Joy roamed around an empty ballroom in her slinky emerald Dior gown before the Globes; Nicole Kidman, reclining on her sofa in hand-embellished Louis Vuitton, watched the show from Sydney with husband Keith Urban and their daughters. Elle Fanning, resplendent in aquamarine Gucci, roped in the photographer from The Great to capture her “red carpet” moment. “We are releasing images that aren’t just from Zoom,” explains Giacomini, “and it gives us a bit of creative freedom, which isn’t what we normally get with red carpet images. That, we kind of relish.” This unexpected side-effect has become something of a silver lining for those in the business of creating show-stopping celebrity sartorial moments. “Sometimes you can get on a red carpet and have an actual flub,” notes Vice. “When a person is walking, you can’t fix them – once they’re gone, they’re gone. This way, you have a bit of control over how beautiful the picture can be.”

Styling is a necessarily physical enterprise: in order to dress a star, creatives have to get up close and personal with them over the course of countless fittings. No wonder, then, that “everything ground to a halt”, Giacomini recalls, in the early months of the pandemic. For Aimée Croysdill, a stylist based in London dressing Nicola Coughlan, who plays Penelope Featherington in Bridgerton, the work evaporated “so suddenly”. When it returned, it was unstable. “It really felt very unpredictable,” she says.

Anya Taylor-Joy (Credit: Instagram)

As red carpets recommenced virtually, stylists were forced to adjust their methods. “We had to adapt to a different way of working,” explains Holly White, who styles Vanessa Kirby. “Clothes had to be quarantined for 72 hours, PRs only had access to samples on certain days, fittings and shoots happened via Zoom.” Some stylists drop off complete outfits to their clients, socially-distanced, with instructions on how to dress themselves. Regular Covid-19 tests are non-negotiable. Vice has noticed little challenges, such as the fact that because of remote fashion weeks, he didn’t actually get to see Day’s Chanel look in person until the week of the Globes. Adds Giacomini: “There [are] less gowns readily available. People’s selections are smaller and the ability to create custom is also much more limited.”

When pulling together outfits for Zoom events, in which only an A-lister’s top half will actually be seen, there are a few key differences to a stylist’s approach. For White, styling is now about “paying particular attention to what’s going on in the background – everyone’s home is different”. Croysdill, who recently worked on a star-making remote press tour for Bridgerton with Coughlan, believes virtual events are about “celebrating fashion”. “The goal is to make sure the outfit sings from the waist up,” she says. “Some looks rely on the bottom half, so those outfits get put to the bottom of the pile.” It’s been an enjoyable challenge, she adds, “to switch up how we view an outfit to it being all about details, accessories, and makeup that looks great on a low-res Zoom set up.” Such as the exuberant Molly Goddard dress that Coughlan wore to the remote Globes. “We didn’t look at any other options,” Croysdill admits. “We just wanted Molly and all the tulle layers she could give us.”

Globe-winner Rosamund Pike also wore Molly Goddard, opting for a frothy fuchsia number accessorised with chunky combat boots, photographed at her home in Prague. Pike eschewed a stylist altogether for the event, dressing herself in the gown – which she bought from London’s Dover Street Market – and doing her own beauty look over Zoom, with the tutelage of a remote makeup artist. The combination of a Villanelle-esque ballgown with a pair of biker boots felt like the perfect distillation of the current sartorial mood: glamour, but pared-back, and cut through with a sense of humour and joyfulness that could occasionally be missing from the same-old red carpets of yore. The best-dressed stars this virtual awards season are going to be the ones whose stylists have accurately gauged our collective fashion temperature. “It’s kind of ostentatious to be dressed up in a gown for a Zoom call, you know what I mean?” suggests Vice. “So it eliminates a lot of the things that we are supposed to do.”

As with most industries, the pandemic has brought innovation. One such shift is cutting down on the excess – the racks and racks of unused pieces, the boxes and boxes of bling – that used to characterise awards season in favour of a more considered approach. Elizabeth Stewart, stylist for Amanda Seyfried – whom she remotely dressed in peachy Oscar de la Renta at the Globes and a glittery Miu Miu tuxedo at the Critics Choice Awards – said this realignment is welcome. Now, stylists “really focus on the social and environmental impact of each look we work on”, she has said. “Using local brands, supporting companies that have sustainable practices and cutting back on unnecessary excess will all help.” As White puts it: “I love supporting local talent, so it’s been exciting to focus even more on these designers and find new brands closer to home.”

But thinking more sustainably does not, Giacomini says, mean less glamorous. Her plan for dressing Fennell for the rest of the season included custom designer looks for the BAFTAs and Oscars. “This is a huge thing for her, and all I’ve wanted throughout the whole thing is for it to feel as unbelievably special as possible,” Giacomini explains. “So, no – I definitely haven’t thought of it as, ‘Oh, they’re only going to see from the waist up.’ We’re going all out. We’re going as if she is walking the red carpet. No table unturned. It’s all going to be as glamorous as it would have been, even if it’s in a totally different way.”

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