Stepping onto the red carpet is intimidating for even the biggest stars privy to a team of professionals. Little wonder that for those reliant on their own resources, it is downright daunting. Through trial and error, a group of industry insiders have learned how to navigate awards season in style.
“The first time I went to the Oscars, I [was] dressed by a designer, makeup and hair by a fancy professional. It took forever,” remembers “Concussion” producer Elizabeth Cantillon. “We ran out of time to do last looks. When I got in the car and checked the mirror, I was horrified — I felt like I was dressed for Halloween.” Her takeaway? “I now do my own makeup…for better or worse.”
“UnReal” writer-producer Marti Noxon has particularly bad memories of “one cringe-y tight mermaid-y number.” But she picked up a valuable lesson: “I learned that I can pull off ‘va’ or ‘voom,’ but not both at the same time.”
Here, Cantillon, Noxon and others share some hard-learned lessons for nailing the carpet.
1. Dress for endurance.
“I wish someone had told me how long the nights are,” says Cantillon. “When I started, I wanted to wear something so special that it didn’t matter how I felt in it — and that’s everything. If the clothes are wearing you, you’ve lost. If you’re uncomfortable, you’ve really lost. If the shoes don’t fit well, you’ve lost after a half-hour with seven more to go.”
2. Pinpoint your go-to labels.
“I know which designers fit me,” says “Power” showrunner-writer Courtney Kemp, whose go-tos include Victoria Beckham, Erin Fetherston, Alice + Olivia, J.Mendel and Aidan Mattox. Noxon, a conflicted “feminist with a boob job,” relies on Carolina Herrera and Monique Lhuillier: “Those ladies know how to celebrate.”
3. Call on your connections.
Prentice Penny, showrunner for “Insecure,” went to college with 1Man’sTrash owner Erik Dixon, who has styled Usher and Ellen. “I usually have some idea of what I want to wear and then he and I will talk,” says Penny. “He’ll come back with some amazing ideas and make it a million times better.”
4. Bank on bargains.
“I have a very hard time paying full price for clothes,” says Noxon, “especially with the great sales you can find online. I bought one gown on Gilt.com and kept
it in my office as inspiration. I said, ‘If you hem it, they will come.’ And then we got nominated for a Critics’ Choice Award for ‘UnReal!’”
5. Find a great tailor.
Everything looks better when it fits like a dream.
6. Recycle like a pro.
Most producers, agents and showrunners say they always wear the same thing twice. “I’m a husband and father of three, so I don’t have tons of money to spend on clothes,” says Penny. “But I at least try and change the shoes, the pocket square, the tie.” The secret, says Goll, is timeless gowns that never go out of style — she relies on Gucci, Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren and Dolce & Gabbana.
7. Choose comfortable shoes.
8. Pack your must-haves.
“I love a good toothpick,” says Richard Tanne, writer-director of “Southside With You.” “Chewing on it helps channel any nervous energy.” Carol Goll, partner and head of global branded entertainment at ICM Partners, never leaves home without a phone, credit card, lipstick and mints.
9. Invest in great underpinnings:
“Corsets are everything — they help your shape and your posture,” says Kemp, who swears by Agent Provocateur.
10. To err is human, to strut is divine.
“I do worry about how I look,” admits Kemp. “I’m human. But I just remember what a privilege it is to get to go, and I suit up and show up.”