You may not know her name, but you know her list of iconic, Oscar style moments. Megastars Cate Blanchett and Hilary Swank both won Oscars under her styling expertise, and she's scored other past show-stopping successes with Emily Blunt, Miranda Kerr and Kate Beckinsale.
This year Jessica Paster is styling Oscar attendees Bette Midler and Chrissy Teigen, among other celebs. Paster shares some behind-the-scenes photos from her studio and talks to HLN about the challenges of her glamorous career choice, the chaos that is Oscar prep and her beef with the "Fashion Police."
HLN: What trends are you expecting on this year’s Oscars red carpet?
Jessica Paster: Pretty chiffon. There’s always going to be beautiful sparkles and stuff like that. You’ll see everything from pretty ball gowns to things that are fitted. And a lot of leg. I think you’re going to see softer colors as well, black and gorgeous red dresses.
HLN: Last year, Anne Hathaway made headlines for her last-minute dress switch -- the result of another attendee with a similar look. Why don’t duplicates happen more often?
JP: First of all that [Hathaway] wasn’t a duplicate. It was different designers but it was similar. At this point what’s innovative about any dress? Everybody is getting inspired by past collections. And to this day we don’t know if it [Anne’s dress] was a similar color, if it was similar silhouette. But I will tell you, any girl that’s walking that red carpet, any of the major girls that are nominated, dresses are being made for them or they’re getting stuff straight off the runway, so there is no duplicate because, guess what, it hasn’t been made yet.
HLN: What is the recipe for that show-stopping Oscar look that grabs all the headlines?
JP: If you have someone like a Charlize Theron who’s so comfortable in her own… everything that she’s going to rock a dress, that is always going to make for a gorgeous dress. I think that my favorite dress last year was Charlize’s Dior dress. It was so absolutely chic, and it was gorgeous, and it was sexy. I think that if you have the confidence, you’re going to wow in any dress.
HLN: How important is an Oscar look to the career of an actor or actress?
JP: If you nail an Oscar look, and you look absolutely stunning and beautiful, it just makes the fashion world take notice of you, and that’s when the endorsements come your way. I can’t speak to their acting career because I’m just a stylist not a director or a producer, but I will say that if someone gets a lot of notoriety that just makes people want to hire you, because more people are going to go see you in the movies.
HLN: What are some of the looks you’re proudest of?
JP: I loved when Cate Blanchett won her Oscar and wore the yellow and burgundy Valentino dress. I loved it when Minnie Driver wore that red, beautiful Halston dress. I loved when Emily wore that beautiful pink Dolce and Gabbana dress to an awards show.
HLN: Who should we be watching for this year on the red carpet?
JP: Lupita [Nyong'o, nominated for “12 Years a Slave”] is the one to watch. I’m so excited to see what she’s gonna wear.
HLN: What are you expecting this year from the men?
JP: Bradley Cooper is always going to look handsome. Matthew McConaughey has been looking very interesting. I give him kudos for going out of the box and doing something different for men. Jared Leto is so interesting and so much fun to watch.
HLN: How does styling for the Oscars differ from styling for a shoot or other event?
JP: When you’re doing the Oscars you try to overthink it and overthink it and overthink it. And you shouldn’t. You always want to find the perfect dress, and what is the perfect dress? They’re all pretty.
HLN: What is your planning and preparation process leading up to the Oscars?
JP: If you have a nominee, you start working on it in November or December. You’re already looking at collections. You’re already talking to designers. You’re already planning what direction you want to go. You’re already getting sketches and stuff like that.
HLN: Stars sometimes say on the red carpet that they just decided on their dress the morning of the Oscars. Does that really happen?
JP: It’s happened. I remember I did it with Parker Posey. I remember she was shooting a movie, and we did it the morning of. She flew in, and we had the tailor in the room, and we did everything.
HLN: What’s more typical as far as timing?
JP: I’m doing fittings all this week. If there’s something that I just love, maybe we’ll do it two weeks before.
HLN: But your clients know what they’re going to wear before they actually try it on, right?
JP: They kind of do know what they’re going to wear. They know what their dress looks like, the silhouette. You’ve seen sketches, you’ve seen fabric swatches. [The last-minute fittings are because] everyone’s working on movie sets. The collections are happening as we speak. You’re on the time of the designer. The dress is ready the week of.
HLN: The Oscars are just days away. What does this week look like for you?
JP: Right now what I’m doing is ordering clothes, doing fittings, looking at shoes, looking at jewelry. That’s what all this week is all about. If anybody wants to have dinner, work out, anything, that’s not gonna happen this week.
HLN: What’s in your bag of tricks when you actually go to get a client ready for the awards?
JP: Breast Petals, Foot Petals, Low Beams (nipple cover stickers), cooling gel, double stick styling tape, safety pins… hole belt puncher, steamers, silicone nipple covers, mini push up pads… Spanx, shoe pads, slips, bras, numbing cream so your feet won’t hurt while you’re walking on those shoes… extra fabric, and if it’s in the budget, I’ll bring the tailor along as well.
HLN: What are your biggest styling tricks?
JP: It wouldn’t be a trick if I tell you, would it? I have a couple. I do weird little thing with a bra to make your boobies stand up a little higher. I do something for your waist to make your waste a little smaller. I do little things like that to modify your little body a little bit.
HLN: What are some of your biggest freak out moments right before a show?
JP: I think for every stylist the biggest panic is that friggin’ zipper breaks. There are plastic zippers [on the designer gowns] so they bust easier, while the old-fashioned zippers were a little more sturdy. They bust all the time, and that’s pretty scary. And that’s when you need to be able to sew really, really fast.
HLN: What are some of the biggest challenges of your job?
JP: I wish there was 29 hours a day to work the week and a half before the Academy Awards because we can use those extra five hours. I wish that I could clone three of myself, and then I would be the happiest girl – four!
HLN: You’ve had some complaints about the “fashion police” analysis of awards dresses. Explain?
JP: I don’t complain about the “Fashion Police.” I love that show. I think they’re all awesome. What I’ve complained about is I wish to God that they would get real fashion people to be part of those panels, not an actress that hasn’t been able to get a job, or a comedian. It would be fine for them to be in the panel, but then get two other people that are actually in the fashion world.
Refinery29: The best red-carpet beauty moments