What goes into dressing a celebrity for the red carpet
Secrets from a stylist
The photoshoots, the glamour, the headlines… Looking in from the outside, the red carpet can seem like an ethereal event. No matter how many times they’ve done it before, every celebrity aims to deliver an unforgettable look. As the stylist behind some of the best-dressed names in the industry, it becomes my responsibility to ensure that they own every red carpet they walk on.
Fun fact: Being a stylist is not all about sipping wine over leisurely brunches before going on a shopping spree. There’s a lot of lugging around suitcases; you learn the art of packing a thousand dresses into the tiniest suitcase. It is your job to make sure that beautiful couture creations arrive within the next two days in the right size. Juggling constant back-and-forth with PR representatives, squeezing fittings into an celebrity’s hectic schedule and getting all the last-minute touches done before they have to head out the door. Preparing for each red carpet is an event in itself, and today, I’d like to share a quick glimpse of all that goes on behind the glitz and the glam.
Getting a call for the event
The styling process begins when a celebrity client contacts you about an upcoming event and together, we decide the aesthetic we want to go for. Depending on the vibe of the event and what we’ve agreed on, the wheels start turning and we begin brainstorming at our end. It becomes our responsibility to reach out to as many Indian and international designers and labels as possible, depending on the aesthetic we’re aiming for.
Preparing for the event
After our initial discussion with the celebrity, we begin researching at our end. We keep an eye on new and homegrown brands as well as international brands, get a fair understanding of the celebrity’s current measurements and keep in mind what suits the occasion.
Getting pieces from designers
We begin by drafting an email with a profile of me, the actor and the details of our requirements. This is sent to known designers as well as upcoming gems that we’re forever scouting on Instagram. We often reach out to hundreds of brands if we have a month or two to prepare for the event. In other cases, it can even be as little as one week or a few days, if we’re running short on time.
Selection & Availability
Once we receive a response from the label, we scout through their look books and then shortlist a few options for the event. While some designers reply back promptly regarding availability, others could take a week or more.
Shipping & Courier
If the designer or label is based in India, we arrange for a courier service to pick up the piece. This is one of the most crucial parts of the process, and utmost care is taken by the team in ensuring that the correct details are provided to ensure safe delivery of the pieces.
Getting pieces in from overseas used to be easier, but the customs rules and regulations have changed over time. International packages are under greater scrutiny, even though we always call pieces for particular events and photoshoots, and not to sell. It’s a tricky situation that needs to be navigated carefully to get the pieces in on time.
Preparing for fittings
Packing the right stuff for the fittings is an essential part of the process. It is my responsibility as a stylist to ensure that the clothes are presented well to the client. We literally treat each piece like it’s a priceless artwork and take extreme care in packing it carefully into suitcases or boxes for safe transit to the celebrity’s home or office where the trial takes place.
Then starts the process of fittings, fittings and fittings followed by alterations and un-alterations! Which is why it is extremely essential to have a tailor present at the fittings. We generally make sure that there are shoes available at the fittings and some basic hair and makeup references in place, so that the celebrity has a fair idea of what the final look will be like. The number of pieces that we shortlist varies for different events but, on an average, at least 6-7 strong options is a good number for an event; if it’s a special occasion, this number can be even more.The look is then decided head to toe depending on what works best and what the celebrity is most comfortable in, but as a stylist must always do keep options ready for your just incase scenario!
One day before the event
The day before the main event is always mayhem as we’re making sure that the outfit fits right, choosing the final jewellery pieces, shoes and coordinating with the glam team to ensure that everyone is on the same page. The most important part is getting feedback from my style team. Getting a look right for the red carpet is a collaborative process, and a successful look is all down to teamwork.
Thankfully, I’ve never found myself in a position where none of the outfits worked a day before the event because we always, always work with a lot of options. But in case of a rainy day, it’s really important to maintain a good relationship with your ‘neighbour designers’. These are the designers who are in close proximity and are talented enough to come in at the last minute and salvage the situation.
On the day of the event
The day begins with ensuring that all pieces are ironed and the tags are taken off. The jewellery and shoe options are organised in neat lines for the celebrity to choose from. It is also extremely important to have a backup dress with the right measurements ready in case of unforeseen situations. It also pays to keep an emergency kit ready with a nude bra, pasties, safety pins and a tailoring kit ready at all times.
Alterations going wrong is a mishap we have faced a lot, and the problem is further compounded when you don’t have enough time to undo it. This is why having several options is a must. Mismanagement of time also occurs in a bustling city like Mumbai, and trying to juggle everyone’s schedules can be a task. Shoes are another big thing to consider, because they can look amazing but unfortunately turn out to be extremely uncomfortable for the wearer.
I remember styling Katrina Kaif once for an award function in an embellished Naeem Khan gown. Just as she was about to head out the door, the zip snapped and we didn’t have enough time to change into a new look. So, we literally stitched her into the gown on the spot! Such challenges are often flung your way as a stylist, but thinking on your feet and solving problems — even if it’s with a temporary solution — is extremely essential.
Once everything is ready, we walk the celebrity to the photoshoot set-up and have the look captured by a professional photographer in all its glory. These images are edited quickly, so that the celebrity is ready to post about the look on Instagram by the time they reach the venue. Once we reach the event, we escort the celebrity to the red carpet and ensure that the garment is captured properly in front of the gathered photographers and paparazzi.
I believe that if you do your homework well, then you don’t need to worry about how it will look on the red carpet because it will look amazing everywhere! This involves ensuring that you chose the right outfit for the red carpet, making sure that the fit is bang-on and that the fabric doesn’t crease too much, that the outfit is the right length and looks good on the person wearing it. It all comes down to the fit, the finish and the right amount of accessories — and sometimes none at all, if needed.
In a nutshell, this is what goes into dressing a celebrity for the red carpet. I have been doing this for the better part of a decade, and there is no denying the joy of creating something that’s unique to me! When I started my career and I was dressing the biggest names in Bollywood, it was a nerve-wracking process and I may have had a few breakdowns by myself along the way. Now, I find that it’s an instinctive call about what works for the event and what feels right at that moment. Making my client look and feel like a million bucks in what they are wearing is what makes the biggest difference for me!