Celebrity stylists have started to shine with so much star wattage over the last few years they're scoring the same lucrative licensing deals, coffee-table books and TV guest spots as their red carpet clientele.
But with fame comes the inevitable fall.
And so we have last week's Rachel Zoe-Nicole Richie split, covered with all the mudslinging, drink-flinging drama of a tabloid divorce.
When Zoe, Hollywood's hottest stylist, got her manicured mitts on the "Simple Life" star two years ago, Richie was a style nightmare, with ragged hair extensions and ever-visible bra straps. But by the summer of 2005, Richie had turned into a sleek trendsetter, photographed everywhere from Kitson to the carwash, alternately channeling Audrey Hepburn's gamine cute and Zoe's own brand of 1970s glamazon chic.
The Zoe look -- long, blond tendrils, bangle-loaded arms, smoky eyes and bottle-bronze tan -- was so prominent that summer it became difficult to tell her clients apart. Richie, Lindsay Lohan, Mischa Barton and Jessica Simpson were running around town like wafer-thin clones.
Then came the news flash last week that Richie had "fired" Zoe. The two have been duking it out in the tabloids ever since, arguing more about their relationship with food than with each other.
First came the Us Weekly report quoting a source "close to Richie" saying that, after seeking medical help regarding her weight, the starlet "wanted to surround herself with positive people and influences" and Zoe didn't make the list.
Then came a response from Zoe, released to TMZ.com, saying, "After trying to be a good friend to Nicole, we made a mutual decision to sever our working relationship."
Richie countered with a nasty item on her MySpace blog, which was picked up all over the Internet and in every $1.99 rag in town. The post, which has since been taken down, seemed to point to Zoe: "Blind Item: What 35-year-old raisin face whispers her order of 3 peices [sic] of asparagus for dinner at Chateau [Marmont] every night, and hides her deathly disorder by pointing the finger at me, and used her last paycheck I wrote her to pay for a publisist [sic] instead of a nutritionist? HINT: Her nickname is lettucecup."
Oh, the drama.
For now, that's Richie's last word on the subject. She didn't respond to numerous requests to comment.
Zoe, on the other hand, is still talking. "People stop working together all the time," she said by phone Thursday. "It should be a personal thing, not tabloid news.
"I'm very healthy. I plan to have children. I would never tell someone to lose weight, not even my sister."
As for the back-and-forth, Zoe, 35, said, "I've lived my teenage years once and I don't need to do it again." (She was adamant about publishing her birth date -- Sept. 1, 1971 -- hoping to clear up long-standing rumors that she is lying about her age.) "I feel like I ought to get my birth certificate out. This is what it's come to."
Lately, fashion has moved on from Zoe's signature 1970s look to the 1980s S&M; and punk-rock style at the Proenza Schouler, Giles Deacon and Dolce & Gabbana spring runway shows.
So it may be the end of the blond clones -- or the beginning of the brunets. Recently, Zoe has been working with the very non-blond Cameron Diaz, Demi Moore, Jennifer Garner and Salma Hayek. She's the first guest editor on Gap's new shoe website, Piperlime.com, and has a book in the works and an ongoing collaboration with Judith Leiber to design luxury handbags.
And Richie has gone brunet too.
Red carpet results for the rest of us
Last week, Richie turned up in a stunning, chunky gold-beaded vintage Dior gown at the American Music Awards, dressed by the dynamic styling duo Cristina Ehrlich and Estee Stanley.
The stylists, who work with Penelope Cruz, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and Eva Mendes, among others, are decidedly more low-key than Zoe, staying mostly out of the spotlight. But they are no less ambitious. With the debut next week of their Premiere line of lingerie for Frederick's of Hollywood, they will soon be working their chicken cutlet and fashion tape magic on real women too.
The red carpet-inspired shape wear is designed to solve the problems their clients have finding the right foundations to wear under sheer tops, thigh-skimming bottoms and bum-grazing gowns.
"None of the girls we dress have the same body type," Ehrlich says. "They have boobs and booties, and a plunge is a plunge. And for the 15 minutes they are on the red carpet, they are very self-conscious."
Pieces are sold in handy hanging prop kits, $125 for the top kit in sizes B, C and D, and $110 for the bottom kit in sizes S, M and L, which are online at www.fredericks.com now or in Frederick's of Hollywood stores on Monday.
"The nipple covers are my favorite," Stanley said over lunch at the Water Grill recently, offering a peep between courses. "Really, I'm not shy about showing them at restaurants. I showed them at Pastis the other night." (Lunch with Stanley and Ehrlich is like a fashion comedy routine.)
The Cover Up Silicone Gel Petals are actually invisible silicone disks to wear under close-fitting tops. And they are less noticeable than similar products already on the market, especially the ones with the scalloped edges. (Never understood the rationale of those; instead of nipples, you want scalloped stickers showing through your blouse?)
The TLC Low Rise Shorts suck in the stomach and thighs "and don't feel like you're wearing a wetsuit," Stanley said. The Stuck Up Fashion Tape keeps plunging tops in place. ("There's not a celebrity who goes out without it.") And the Flex Body Bra, or "the next generation of chicken cutlets" as Ehrlich calls it, molds to the breasts.
And, if you don't want to plump up your butt the Ben & Jerry's way, there are even gravity-defying Pick Me Up Bands (worn around the thighs, they help lift the derriere) and silicone Booty Booster Pads.
Because God knows who, but apparently someone in Hollywood wants a bigger backside. "The rounded butt is really in right now," Stanley insists. "And the Booty Pads make it happen."