Red Carpet Ready in La La Land

During the build up to the Academy Awards, several hundred women in Hollywood are on a focused mission to get red carpet ready. There are a few tinsel town elite who, with their trusted team of stylists, hair & make-up artists, dressmakers, aestheticians and trainers, glide through February as if it were any other month. Some call these the fortunate few. I call them smart. Oprah Winfrey once mused that, “luck is preparation meeting opportunity”. Rest assured that as awards season comes to its grand finale, it is the prepared few who will shine the brightest.

Kirsten Lea at the Academy Awards 2008 © DR

In 2008, I was invited by a guest to accompany her to attend the Academy Awards. At the time, I had little experience of red carpet procedure; all I knew was that I would need a stunning dress and I should embark on a strict diet with a fierce exercise routine as soon as possible.

Rather like hosting an event, one should aim to look the best they possibly can when the spotlight shines upon them.

I always treat an invitation to walk the red carpet as a privilege that may never happen again. Other than a wedding, it is possibly the only occasion that a lady can justify spending all one’s savings on a gown. Whether you are ordering made to measure couture or selecting something elegant from a local store, I advise every girl to have a good understanding of her body type and learn what dress styles compliment her bodily features best. With the Internet now offering GlamCam 360, where viewers can see their favorite stars from every angle, it is more important than ever to ensure you have someone take pictures of you at every dress fitting.

For most red carpet functions, a floor length dress is mandatory. However, if you love your legs, you can show them off with a high slit. When it comes to fabric and texture, comfort is crucial. Fabric affects the silhouette, the way you walk and the ease of sitting and standing. Awards shows are marathon affairs so it is imperative that the fabric of your dress is still comfortable on your skin after six hours of wear.

It is crucial to have a fitting of your dress several days before an event, while you still have time to choose something else or have a seamstress alter or add lining if necessary. Another consideration is comfortable footwear. While high heels give a lady perfect posture, I am always amazed when I hear red carpet veterans complain of sore feet only a short distance into the evening. If you have a particularly low pain threshold, then I advise packing a pair of foldable flats in your purse for transitions and departures.

Once you have design and durability covered, there are occasionally logistics to consider as well. Being British, I like to support English designers, so often have my dresses made and shipped to me from London. Over the years though, I have witnessed several scenarios of lost luggage and gowns being held up at customs, so I always ensure that I leave extra time for delays. In once instance, I had my stylist personally escort a dress in her hand luggage to ensure it arrived in time for a premiere. While this may seem a drastic measure to some, it gave me the peace of mind to focus on my other preparations.

The Best and the Worst of Beyonce Knowles at the Grammy Awards 2011 wearing Stéphane Rolland and House of Deréon at the Academy Awards 2009

Even more important than the outfit, is the confidence of the woman inside of it. While you may surround yourself with respected opinions in the dressing room, it is always important to follow your instincts, as nobody can know what makes you feel confident the way that you do yourself. And when you are photographed on the red carpet, it won’t be anyone else that readers will blame when then see you in something that really doesn’t suit you.

jennifer-lopez-2011-golden-globes-and-2010-Academy Awards

The Best and the Worst of Jennifer Lopez wearing Zuhair Murad at the 2011 Golden Globes and Armani Privé at the 2010 Academy Awards

Often confidence will come from having the right under garments. Don’t make the mistake of leaving lingerie to the last minute, as Beverly Hills department stores are renowned for running out of stock in during awards season. Therefore, hand-in-hand with a dress purchase, should be the purchase of appropriate underwear. Your corset must work harmoniously with the fabric and silhouette of the dress with the aim of being invisible. If you’re wearing a satin dress then a thin-skinned spandex girdle will provide a seamless effect.

See through dress experiences with Natalie Portman, Nicole Kidman and Rihanna

If you plan to wear tights, make sure that you purchase at least one spare pair. You hardly want to be photographed with an unsightly run in your stockings. If your dress is strapless, a well-fitted brassiere is of utmost importance for both a good cleavage and good coverage. Most importantly, you will not want to be without a fine selection of variously sized safety pins and taupe tape.

Accessories are a big deal on the red carpet, yet finding the perfect purse can often be the most challenging task in getting red carpet ready. I wish I had an invisible bag to carry all my essentials. I often make a list beforehand of all the items I will need on the day, including the all-important tickets, identification and limousine pass, so I don’t have to concern myself with trying to remember everything at the last minute.

Possibly the most exciting part of your outfit, will be the jewels that you sparkle in. Jewelry is a high-profile accessory, as prone to the question, Who are you wearing? as any gown. More important than the brand name, is the jewelry’s role in enhancing your overall look. An understated dress can be highlighted with colored stones or flawless diamonds but if your dress is already dripping with beadwork, then minimalistic jewels will help keep the focus where it should be.

While a dressmaker or stylist can work diligently on your ensemble, it is up to you to work on your body. Exercise is an all too obvious precursor to any public appearance and a trainer can help you maintain a strict regime. Along with exercise, many starlets take a series of slimming body wraps or even colonic irrigation sessions to look and feel their best. A healthy, toned figure never goes unnoticed and exercise also releases endorphins, which will help you feel as fabulous as you look.

The best doctors and dentists in Beverly Hills are booked up well in advance of awards season to keep the stars looking young and beautiful. Many celebrities use their Christmas vacation as a time to heal from dental and cosmetic surgery procedures. This includes facial injections, which require up to two weeks to settle.

The most prized asset in Hollywood is a clear, glowing complexion. Many stars have a favorite aesthetician or dermatologist whom they see regularly to keep fine lines and pimples at bay. If you don’t already have one, then you will need to plan even further in advance as most require a consultation before a series of treatments begin. No matter how thorough your derma-care regime, skin is an ever-evolving organ, susceptible to minor hormonal and environmental changes.

Not forgetting the other areas of skin that may be on show, you will want to ensure that you have exfoliated and are well moisturized. In Hollywood, glamorous skin is often equated to tanned skin, but like everything else, do not experiment with a new spray tan just before one the most memorable moments of your life. And please, please, always have a professional apply your tanning treatment. Whether it be a mist or cream application, orange fingers are never a good look.

Even before you step foot in the beauty salon, you will want to have made all the necessary trips to the hair salon. Never get a haircut on the day of your event and always have coloring done a week or so before the big day. Again, I cannot emphasize how important it is to have someone you trust working on your mane, as the perfect hairstyle can make or break your look. Good hairdressers know what styles will best frame your face. Of course, your dress will be the main factor in choosing your do. In particular, necklines tend to determine whether your hair will look best pulled-up or kept down. Like everything else, you will want to have several rehearsals if you are trying a special style, and like with your dress fittings, it’s wise to take photographs along the way to see what you like from the front and the back.

Once the hair on your head is taken care of, you will want to make sure the rest of your hair is well kept. Women usually feel their best when they know that every part of them is well looked after and this goes for full body waxing too. As with facials, you never want to have this carried out on the day, but several days in advance, to allow for any redness or reactions to settle.

One beauty treatment that is best left to the day is your Mani Pedi, which can be done while your hair is being styled, saving you precious time.

The final member of your red carpet dream team will be your make-up artist. Once the preparative skin enhancement is underway, it will help to have a make up artist who is also familiar with your skin. For those who have scars or tattoos that they wish to cover, a make up artist can be invaluable for camouflaging. Most awards ceremonies start in the afternoon, so it is always best to play it safe and use shades that you know have worked in the past and that bring out your best features in natural light. Body make-up should not be forgotten; there are few things worse than getting caught with your décolletage two shades lighter than your face. Body makeup can also be used to enhance arm toning and cleavage. Again, take photos of the planned make-up scheme in natural light, to confirm your choices.

The list of preparation topics can be daunting. And what a shame it would be if, after all of this planning, the person behind the facade fails to shine through. Awards season is inarguably stressful. Even the most careful planning can leave your head spinning. For this reason, it is important to utilize relaxation and pampering rituals, to rest and rejuvenate your spirit. Exercise can certainly be categorized as one of these. But, one might also consider steam rooms, massage and meditation as a way to soothe your nerves. And lets not forget to get plenty of sleep and hydrate well by drinking lots of water.

As I mentioned at the start, there are red carpet moments in everyone’s life. While it might not be the International press snapping the shot, the resulting photographs will be equally lasting.