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This Is What it Really Takes to Make the Best Dressed List

ESC, Journey of the Dress

ESC, Journey of the DressWireImage,AP

What does the journey of an Oscars dress entail? An easy transition from runway to red carpet? Not exactly.  

Not many understand how much detail, work and politics are involved in the process of choosing a gown. And while the end result may look glamorous, getting to that point involves many choices and challenges that, sometimes, net out in a less than stellar dress pick.

“It’s a really fun and exciting process…and it’s a crazy whirlwind. It’s like a rollercoaster,” said Sophie Lopez, Kate Hudson‘s stylist. “It appears to be so glamorous and easy, but it’s a lot of work.”

STYLE FILE: Alicia Vikander’s road to the Oscars red carpet

The Custom Dress Route: The calmest scenario is if a celeb has a campaign or ambassador deal with a brand, according to Aliza Licht, author and founder of Leave Your Mark (a.k.a. the former DKNY PR Girl). Oftentimes, the celeb is contractually obliged to wear that designer and knows months in advance that a custom dress will be created for them. And because it’s a gown made specifically to fit one person (like Lupita Nyong’o‘s Calvin Klein Collection pearl perfection from the 2015 Oscars), the celeb goes home with a one-of-kind dress.

ESC, Journey of the Dress Inforgraphic

Borrowed From the Brands: Then there’s the “organic way,” said Aliza. “It’s much more stressful; it’s like rotating dresses from one celeb to the next. One dress can be tried on by 10 different celebs.”

It Gets Political: If the dress is straight from the runway, brands sometimes have to gamble on whether they want to send the dress to sales—where buyers from boutiques and department stores shop—or straight to stylists for consideration.

“Sometimes, designers design with a specific celebrity in mind, someone who gets a lot of press or photographs well…and they’ll send them several options,” said Natalie Saidi, stylist to stars like Vanessa Hudgens and Mindy Kaling.

Star Status Matters: “If you’re J. Lo, a brand will probably give you everything they’ve got,” added Aliza. “If you’re someone else, they might give you one or two [dresses]. They want the talent to be an extension, a human form of the brand, if you will.”

STYLE FILE: Rooney Mara’s road to the Oscars red carpet

It’s a Numbers Game: “From 40-75 options—about four racks of clothing—I’ll have my top 10 choices for my clients,” said Natalie. Some clients will want to try on everything and go through the racks, and others will tell you to pick for them.” Although most stylists can nail a dress down on first or second suggestion for longtime clients, the more options the better. 

“There are some dresses that aren’t so amazing on the hanger but look great on a body,” added Sophie. “You put something on, and it comes to life.”

STYLE FILE: Cate Blanchett’s road to the Oscars red carpet

Indecision, Indecision: “Sometimes talent will confirm [that they’re wearing a dress], and they’ll show up on the red carpet and they’re not wearing it,” noted Aliza. “A dress they feel great in on Sunday may not be the dress they feel great it in on Monday.” It’s not uncommon to see “assistants in LA drive around with massive amounts of dresses in their car” for this reason, she added.

The End Result: Post-event, the stylist will return the dress back to the brand or the designer will send a courier to retrieve it. It’s almost like all that work never happened—the only evidence of a job well done is the thousands of red carpet photos and videos capturing a glamorous moment. #NBD

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