Meet who the stars go to dress them for red carpet
Stars like Gwyneth, Uma and Gemma rely on one woman for event dressing
Diva moments are for movies. Usually, the bigger the name, the smaller the ego.
“I can’t cook,” confesses Elizabeth Saltzman. “You come over and I’m going to give you one meal. But I know that I can’t cook; I know what I’m good at, and I know what I’m not good at. I like people who are brave enough to say that they’re not good at something, and they need someone to help them.”
What Saltzman is good at — really good at — is styling. Settling in London after stints as fashion editor at Vogue (in the U.S.) and fashion director at Vanity Fair, she now uses her connections in Los Angeles and New York as a stylist to some of the world’s best known A-list actresses.
Gwyneth Paltrow, Uma Thurman, Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton all have Saltzman to thank for their consistently high places on those perennial bestdressed lists. Not that such status means her clients are tricky to work with.
“Diva moments are for movies. Usually, the bigger the name, the smaller the ego,” Saltzman says. “Of course, there are moments when you think: Can you please just put on the shoes? Can we please not discuss this button anymore, or whether the split should be this high or that high? Once I asked Gwyneth Paltrow, ‘How many dresses do you think I’ve gotten in for you in our lifetime?’ And she said, ‘How many do you think I’ve tried on?’”
A place on best-dressed lists is the ultimate endorsement, and Saltzman’s pinch-me moment came dressing Paltrow for the 2012 Oscars — she chose a Tom Ford caped white dress.
“Knowing what a risk that was — it didn’t have a sequin or a pouf, it had a cape — I wrote all the worst headlines that could possibly come. I didn’t have a backup dress, there was no other fitting. But that’s been remembered every year since; every Oscars, I turn on to watch E! while we’re getting everyone else ready, and it always comes up.”
The pressure of nights like the Oscars for stylists has only increased since social media caused what she calls “a meteor shower of awareness” of the industry.
But the visibility cuts both ways, and the possibility of getting panned by the media is always there.
“I’ve had moments where things just haven’t worked. But that’s when you get to be really creative. If you stress and get into a tizzy and pull your hair out, you’re just going to end up overeating with your hair pulled out,” she laughs. “Whereas if you just focus, there’s always a dress out there.”
Red-carpet dressing now is a lot more strategic than just choosing a beautiful dress for an A-list client, Saltzman says. Given that contracts with beauty houses can mean huge sums of money, for both the actresses and the stylists who broker the deals, you can see why.
“It’s a really crazy time in fashion, this uber-stylist moment,” she says. “There were never awards for stylists before — now there are. There was never notoriety — now people want to be known. I don’t want to be known.”
Today, she has made an exception to discuss her latest project — a line of embellished wedge flipflops, in collaboration with Rocket Dog (rocketdog.co.uk).
“It all started at the Vanity Fair Oscars party, where everyone took off their shoes in agony by 9 p.m. I ended up buying simple wedgie flip-flops and customizing them for my girls so that after the awards ceremony they could put them on under their long dresses to go to the after-after-party, without me thinking they were going to cut their feet on the glass or step on their dress.
“And I ended up wearing them, and then I ended up really wearing them,” she laughs. “Everyone kept asking me where I got them. I thought, ‘What? That’s what people are stopping me about at fashion shows?’ ”
Growing up in a creative household (her mother was fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, her father an interior designer) and in a time before social media and smartphones, Saltzman “would try anything ” when it came to clothes. “I remember my poor father’s face sometimes when he’d see me. He’d ask, ‘What’s under the coat?’ But in this day and age, if I had daughters, I’d be like, ‘You’re not going out dressed like that.’ ”
These days, Saltzman says her style has softened. “Now, I like classics, with a tiny little twist.” Her approach to high-stakes event dressing — and one every woman can follow — is to wear what makes you feel confident.
Saltzman’s learned from the A-listers in that sense. “If you look at Elle Macpherson or Uma or Gwyneth, who have incredible skin and legs — Elle’s over 50, the others are in their 40s — they have incredible bodies, and they work really hard to achieve them.
“Five years ago, people would have said they shouldn’t be wearing things above their knees. But that’s just not true.”
Gwyneth Paltrow, wearing Gucci, poses for photographers at last year’s LACMA Art+Film Gala in Los Angeles. “If you look at Elle Macpherson or Uma or Gwyneth, who have incredible skin and legs — Elle’s over 50, the others are in their 40s — they have incredible bodies, and they work really hard to achieve them,” says stylist Elizabeth Saltzman. “Five years ago, people would have said they shouldn’t be wearing things above their knees. But that’s just not true.”
Elizabeth Saltzman and Gwyneth Paltrow, wearing Gucci, attended the LACMA Art+Film Gala in 2015.