In certain circles, the Oscars red carpet generates more buzz than the awards ceremony itself. That two-hour window when stars stroll, preen and gush often showcases the results of hours and hours of prepping by a team of experts tasked with readying their client to face a sea of photographers and impromptu interviews — to say nothing of the worldwide TV audience and the crush of off-camera media in critique mode.
For an event as big as this one, that team often includes a fashion stylist, tailor, hairdresser and makeup artist. Their work may have begun months ago, starting with the stylist combing through images from designer collections online or jetting to New York or European ateliers to lend input to custom creations. Here’s a look at some of the people behind the scenes whose work will be on display Sunday as actors glide down the red carpet for the main event and its attendant parties.
Wendi and Nicole Ferreira | celebrity fashion stylists
“We live at Barneys; it’s like our living room,” says celebrity stylist Nicole Ferreira, who, along with her sister Wendi, is in charge of dressing supporting actress nominee Octavia Spencer, who has been raking in awards all season for her role in “The Help.” (Other clients include Elizabeth Banks, Channing Tatum, Chris Pine and Sheryl Crow.)
On a recent visit, the duo is grabbing heels from the department store’s first floor shoe section for a client attending a premiere abroad — just one of more than half a dozen jobs they are juggling. In addition to shepherding Spencer through awards season, they have multiple movie premieres for Tatum and Pine and parties and press for Banks.
“Right now, we are spending most days jetting from fitting to store,” Wendi Ferreira says. Although shopping is fun, she says, keeping track of multiple clients’ clothes is challenging. “We have to stay organized. I’ll say OK, the front seat [of the car] is for Elizabeth, the middle seat is for Octavia, to the right is Chris,” she says — showing the way they keep garment bags organized on a busy day of picking up clothing.
“We definitely feel extra pressure during awards season,” she says. “It’s such an international audience. And really, there’s only about 10 women each year who go to the Oscars and are really in the spotlight.” This year, Spencer is one of the 10.
The duo met the actress in June a couple of months before “The Help” was released and quickly got to know that “she has a really strong, good opinion on what she likes,” Wendi Ferreira says.
Since their initial meeting, the sisters have been robing the actress in a mix of custom and off-the-rack dresses from Los Angeles-based designer Tadashi Shoji, who they say has a wide variety of styles that fit Spencer well. Among the notable looks were a teal wrap gown she wore to the NAACP Image Awards; a V-neck, ruched front lavender gown to the Golden Globes and a shimmery silver gown with an embroidered bodice and draped skirt to the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
They agree that their favorite look for Spencer so far was her Golden Globes gown, a custom-made number based on a sleeveless Tadashi cocktail dress. “It was the first custom gown made for her,” Nicole Ferreira says. “We all collaborated with Tadashi to come up with the color, sleeve, length and final design. The Irene Neuwirth jewelry completed the look and brought the whole thing together.”
The Ferreiras have been working on Spencer’s Oscar dress since nominations were announced in January, meeting with her once a week since then. Though they can’t divulge any details, the styling team says that, like the rest of Spencer’s red carpet looks this year, the focus will be on fit and comfort. “Octavia’s style has been about flattering her figure and what makes her roll her shoulders back and feel beautiful and gives her an extra sparkle,” Wendi Ferreira says. “That’s how you can tell when a client loves a dress and that’s how you know, that’s the dress.”
Ludmilla Tomashevskay | tailor
At every fitting for an actress’ Oscar gown or actor’s tux, there is a tailor ready to nip in even the tiniest portion of fabric or rework a dress entirely to suit the vision of the stylist and celebrity.
“Gowns are supposed to fit like a glove,” says Ludmilla Tomashevskay, one of Hollywood’s go-to tailors. “They need to be exact and perfect, and that requires a lot of work. Most of our customers have beautiful bodies, and we really have to sculpt the dress to their bodies.”
Tomashevskay operates her business, Ludmilla Couture, on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood. It’s where stylists for musicians, actors and actresses come to have stage costumes custom-made and red carpet gowns altered to perfection. Christina Aguilera, Kim Kardashian, Nicole Richie, Jessica Simpson and Miley Cyrus are regular clients. Last year, she worked on E! host Giuliana Rancic’s gown for the Oscars, as well as on the dress Kardashian wore to Elton John’s Oscar-viewing party, and she’ll be fitting Kardashian again this year.
She estimates that she attends 20 to 30 fittings during awards season — sometimes going to two or three in one day.
To ensure secrecy, the tailor usually meets the celebrity and stylist somewhere private for fittings. She works with the dress on the celebrity’s body until the fit is exactly right. Most times, the fitting takes place one or two days before the event, and Tomashevskay and her team of four seamstresses must work quickly, sometimes through the night, to have the gown ready.
In addition to fittings and alterations, Tomashevskay and her team are often asked by stylists to create the “back-up” dress — a gown that the stylist can have on hand in case something unfortunate happens to the chosen dress or a celebrity changes her mind.
“Tailoring for the red carpet is always complicated, because it’s gowns and beaded pieces,” she says. For beaded pieces, alterations are done by hand because the fabric cannot be cut. Many dresses are on loan and must be returned to the designer in their original condition, so Tomashevskay must do temporary alterations that allow a garment to be returned to its original size and shape.
Despite the work and long hours of awards season, Tomashevskay enjoys the pace and challenge. “Fittings can take three to four hours. There are so many dresses, and it’s kind of like playing dress-up,” she says “You can see how each dress a person tries on changes them. How they act, smile, try on jewelry or put up their hair. It’s fun. It’s always fun.”
Leslie Lopez | makeup artist
Leslie Lopez’s client roster reads like a list of the last decade’s most glamorous Oscar and Golden Globes winners. She is the makeup artist that Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway call on regularly, keeping her constantly shuttling between New York and L.A. for premieres, parties and, for the last week, the Oscars.
Lopez is scheduled to do Paltrow’s makeup for the Academy Awards. Even after a 23-year career working in fashion editorial and advertising, the Oscars still bring butterflies to her stomach each year.
“Awards season is nonstop busy, but very exciting too because you feel the energy in the air,” Lopez says.
To a certain extent, makeup artists fly by the seats of their pants. Sometimes Lopez will have seen a photograph of the all-important dress ahead of time, but usually she doesn’t see it until she arrives at an actress’ house or hotel room only a few hours before the event. There she collaborates with the fashion stylist, hairstylist and celebrity about makeup to suit the dress, taking into consideration the gown’s color, cut and any embellishment.
Lopez’s approach to red carpet makeup is to individualize a look for the client to amplify her natural beauty, rather than implementing a trend to make a statement. The look starts with radiant skin accented with glamorous touches such as dark, full lashes and defined cheekbones. At the 2010 Oscars, Lopez played up the blue of Parker’s eyes by lining them in a dramatic black liner and coats of heavy black mascara. The eyes stood out against the actress’ fair skin and pale yellow Chanel gown.
Lopez’s makeup design is integral in defining the overall image of the celebrity, and it can have repercussions in the real world too since a much-photographed look can influence makeup trends.
The day of the Oscars, Lopez gets a little more dressed up than her usual workday uniform of jeans and flats. She says that the day always feels special and she can’t help but get into the spirit by replacing some comfortable staples with heels and a nice top. “I like to do a little something extra, because it’s a festive day and everybody’s feeling it.”
Didier Malige | hairstylist
Hairstylist Didier Malige has had an impressive 40-year career, regularly coiffing the hair of models and celebrities for the covers of Vogue, V, Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar, as well as working on advertising campaigns for Prada, Miu Miu, Armani and YSL. A lead stylist for Frederic Fekkai, based in New York, Malige made his entree into red carpet hair in quite a big way last year, creating Natalie Portman’s side-swept curls for the Oscar ceremony in which she took home the lead actress statuette.
After working with the world’s biggest photographers, stylists, art directors and celebrities on countless photo shoots, Malige says he still finds the red carpet “a bit nerve-wracking.” “You have to imagine that there are [millions of] people watching, so it means a lot. I wouldn’t say you get used to it.”
He will be tending to Portman’s tresses again this year and, like Lopez, has to create the look on the spot after seeing the dress the actress chooses to wear. “You have to be ready, mentally,” he says. “You have to be prepared to think on your toes, and I like that, because sometimes it’s not good to think about it way before. I like to be spontaneous and not overthink it.”
Malige will collaborate with Portman’s fashion stylist and makeup artist hours before she leaves to attend the awards show. But, as with the makeup, the final style will depend on what the actress wants. He says that last year, Portman was pregnant and did not want to look overtly sexy. Malige swept her brown hair to one side and fastened a piece of diamond jewelry where the hair was gathered, for a soft and romantic look.
“A photo shoot is one frame and you either like the hair or don’t,” he says. “With the red carpet, you see the whole person and not just her hair. You see who she is and the way she responds to questions. It’s more about what the person is doing and how the hair contributes to the person and what she is doing.”