Fashion Forward: Handling red carpet pressure
Published: Monday, September 17, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 23:09
Signing your first check is a big step in life. Signing your first lease is even bigger. Signing your first contract agreeing to the liability of borrowing diamonds worth more than the mortgage of a comfortable house—let’s just say that is kind of a big deal. Surprisingly, I can say I have signed my John Hancock to all of the above.
I was working as an assistant to fashion stylist Aldene Johnson in London this summer, juggling multiple projects including a photo shoot Johnson was scheduled to style in France. But in the wonderful world of freelance, last minute red carpet events for music artist Florence Welch can pop up, including The Harper’s Bazaar VIP Gala and The Elton John White Tie & Tiara Tea Ball.“I have no choice but to send Meg while I’m in France,” Johnson said to Welch’s manager on the phone. I almost gagged on my coffee. I would be the one solely responsible for these events?
There is a lot of scrutiny when it comes to the red carpet. Every single intricate detail is caught on camera and all eyes are focused on one image. A press photo is worth a lot more than a thousand words; it is the celebrity depending on you for presentation, the designers relying on you to exhibit their pieces properly and the stylist counting on you to execute their vision. It is so much more than just picking a pretty dress.
Luckily, at this point, I had lots of practice. The day before Johnson and I were rushing to get Welch ready for BBC’s Radio 1 Hackney Weekend 2012—a two-day music festival with a lineup including Lana Del Rey, Jack White, Jay-Z and Rihanna. Useful tip: licking the needle eye instead of the string is a quicker way to thread a needle in case a crowd of 50,000 fans are waiting for you to stitch fast.
The mechanics of “putting on a dress” is a lot harder than it seems. There are so many things to consider: the undergarments, how to attach the mic-pack, how to securely fasten the dress and anticipating every wardrobe malfunction that could ever possibly happen.Then there’s the manual part of the job, whether it’s zipping a metal beaded gown the weight of Medieval armory chainmail or hovering an intricate mesh bodysuit over a full face of makeup. Sewing pieces together, cutting loose threads and remembering to remove the tags on shoe soles—things people don’t think about, let alone even care about, but have major effects on presentation and working as a visionary.
Before I knew it I was working solo and getting Welch ready at her house. The jewelry guard handed me a case of diamonds along with that intimidating contract to sign. I added the final touch of BVLGARI rings to the outfit before Welch thanked her team and was off to her event.Watching her go felt like a scene from Cinderella, and after that we could only cross our fingers and hope for the best. After hours of hair and makeup, multiple fittings, minor wardrobe malfunctions and quick improvisations I had gotten through two days of dressing Welch for the Harper’s Bazaar VIP Gala and The Elton John White Tie & Tiara Ball. Completely exhausted, I almost fell asleep through my favorite recreational part of my job—the car ride from Welch’s home back to the studio. Most of my time working in cities requires a lot of underground transportation, so the simple pleasure of being driven past Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral and observing all the pedestrians and street fashion was such a satisfying way to end a hard day at work.
People often ask me why I’m part of a line of work that demands high stress, time, commitment and extensive knowledge of clothing. Believe me, I’ve asked myself that many times since I began at 19-years-old. There’s a rush, drive and passion in the art of styling that you cannot explain unless you’re willing to persevere and have an inherent love for creating. After years of continuity control, chasing dresses around and thinking five steps ahead with the mentality that everything could be thrown right back in your face, there’s nothing else I’d sign myself up for time and time again.