The Art of Dressing an Up-and-Coming Star

The brands they wear, the way they pose — it's all in a stylist's day's work.

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

New York Fashion Week has officially wrapped, and the front rows were packed with some of Hollywood’s buzziest new talents. Rachel Sennott cozied up with besties Ayo Edebiri, Emma Seligman, and Molly Gordon at Proenza Schouler. The next morning, Sennott sat next to The Summer I Turned Pretty star Lola Tung at Sandy Liang, who had kicked off fashion week at Coach alongside Bridgerton’s Queen Charlotte herself, India Amarteifio.

While the SAG-AFTRA strike has put publicity on pause for most actors, a packed fashion week schedule has nothing on a typical promotional circuit. Here is a non-exhaustive — and yet, somewhat exhausting — list of appearances expected for the star of a major new project, each and every one requiring a different look: Premieres and screenings in London, New York, and Los Angeles; morning, daytime, and late night talk shows across multiple continents; afterparties, panel discussions, and festival circuits for the network; plus plenty of paparazzi street style moments and Instagrammable photo opps in between.

That can quickly total dozens of outfits, a daunting task for any up-and-coming actor. But multiply it by two, and you have the work that was cut out for stylist Holly White, who prepped Amarteifio and Queen Charlotte co-star Corey Mylchreest for their major press tour last spring. Thankfully, in White, the duo had a well-vetted expert — she’s also styled fellow Bridgerton stars Charithra Chandran and Luke Newton, as well as House of the Dragon star Milly Alcock and actress Michelle Dockery — plus the most invaluable luxury of all: time.

“I was connected with Corey and India back in September or October [of 2022], so we had a lot of time to relax into it,” White says. “They don't know what's ahead of them, so being able to organically and very slowly build that relationship with me enables us to build up that trust, too, and create that safe space. Then we can really start to push the boundaries.”

And push the boundaries they did. Amarteifio shined throughout the tour in sparkly pieces from brands like Valentino and Elie Saab couture, while Mylchreest cut a dapper figure in Prada suits and Loewe knits. It was the kind of first-time press tour that establishes not just Hollywood stars, but red carpet ones.

<p>Instagram @mollydickinson</p> Sadie Sink in Armani styled by Molly Dickinson

Instagram @mollydickinson

Sadie Sink in Armani styled by Molly Dickinson

So how do newcomers like Amarteifio and Mylchreest find stylists, like White, who can elevate their profile far beyond the screen? Through fellow actor friends, through publicists and agents, even by personally researching the stylists of stars they admire. The process can be a lot like dating, with talent taking meetings with multiple stylists. In the case of White and her Queen Charlotte clients, they connected through “couldn't-shut-us-up” Zooms. But whether it’s a coffee date set up through publicists or a phone call arranged via Instagram DM, stylist-performer chemistry is key.

“Our respective teams will set up a call for the client and myself to discuss what the client is envisioning of how she wants to be seen in the fashion world,” says stylist Molly Dickson, who is responsible for the red carpet style of Sydney Sweeney and Sadie Sink, among others. “This initial call is very important to see if not only our expectations for her style are aligned, but also our personalities; the relationship between a client and stylist really is very unique and the personalities must mesh well together.”

The next step is exchanging ideas, whether that’s through Pinterest boards (stars: they’re just like us!), vintage photos and coffee table books, or shared Instagram posts, all of which should help pull together a collective vision for the star’s prospective red carpet style. “Bouncing reference and inspiration photos is very important to me, so we can both make sure we are on the same page,” Dickson says. Stylists will ask which body parts the client likes to accentuate, which they wish to cover up, what they’ve worn in the past that makes them feel most comfortable and what they’re most excited to try out, which colors they love and which they hate.

Clients also share brands they gravitate towards — and it should come as no surprise that new actors are more aware than ever before of how the right brand or look can make a statement on the red carpet without having to say a single word. “We live in the age of social media, and they want to make sure that they are understanding the connotations that working with particular brands might have,” White says. Amartiefio, for instance, was interested in brands with a sustainable angle.

Often, clients and stylists are presented with an opportunity to take their partnership for a trial run in what the business calls a spec shoot. These are photoshoots done with the purpose of creating content that the production companies can share ahead of their project’s release, whether that be headshots of the actors or promotional cast photos. The stakes are lower and the mood is more casual — ideal for feeling out a new professional relationship. “The client can see how we vibed on set, how they felt, how they looked, and you start building a relationship from there,” says stylist Britt Theodora, who works with stars like Elliot Page, Pete Davidson, and Reservation Dogs actress Paulina Alexis.

Planning a full-blown press tour with a newer talent is, in many ways, the same as figuring one out for an established star: The stylist gets a list of all upcoming appearances, and the process of pulling options and holding fittings begins. But there may be more roadblocks when requesting loaned items for untested actors versus their more recognized peers.

“It's a two-way street when it comes to brands working with actors. An actor can love a brand, and the brand may come back and decline the actor,” Dickson explains. “They may not feel she is the right fit for the brand; the event may not be big enough to generate enough press for them; or they may want to first see what style we establish for her to make sure it resonates with their brand. And vice versa — brands may love an actress, and she may not feel aligned with the brand.”

<p>Getty Images</p> India Amarteifio at the world premiere of 'Queen Charlotte' styled by Holly White

Getty Images

India Amarteifio at the world premiere of 'Queen Charlotte' styled by Holly White

Any stylist worth their rolling racks knows how to work around those obstacles, though. Ideally, there are existing personal relationships with brand VIP leads a stylist can lean on. Maybe a brand doesn’t want to loan current season; that’s fine, the star can wear something from a previous collection. Instead of going for a major label with a stable of paid brand ambassadors, they can play with pieces from smaller designers.

And speaking of those valuable actor-fashion house relationships: New talent knows that if they play their cards right, those kinds of deals could be in their future, too; stylists take note of those goals.

“It's a whole other business for them, if they do it right, creating relationships with designers,” Theodora says. “They see it as a big opportunity, because if you start working with a designer — big or small, you never know where their career is going to go — [the designer] might want to work with [the actress] on other projects, like fragrance campaigns, campaigns for whatever season they have coming out. It's a big part of the strategy for those types of clients who want their career to go in that way.”

The work of the stylist doesn’t stop when the outfits are perfected. For many emerging stars, these occasions mark the first time they’ve ever been on a red carpet. A well-seasoned stylist knows all the tips and tricks for making an actor look their best on camera, beyond the clothes (although they make sure those photograph well, too, by taking test shots in the studio). Stylists will talk through the client’s hair and makeup choices and, most crucially, help them practice posing.

“I joke with my clients about having a class where people can learn how to pose on the red carpet, because it's really intimidating and it's not natural at all,” Theodora says with a laugh. “It's like, if I'm wearing a dress with a slit, should I pop the right leg or the left leg? That's definitely something that takes up time in a fitting.”

It can be a lot of responsibility, helping to craft the image of a budding star. But for stylists, it’s also an opportunity to play with fashion and have a hand in helping an actor find bigger success — and, hopefully, build rewarding relationships along the way.

“In those early days, what we're trying to do is create those looks that feel truly like them,” says White. “I am here to build their confidence and discover who they are, and then build them up from that.”

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