Dressing for Fame: Cristina Ehrlich on Backup Gowns, Irene Albright, and Stylists-as-Celebrities-------
If celebrity status is conferred in red-carpet appearances, then no actress today can compete without the help of just the right stylist. As Kerry Washington once told Glamour after she noticeably upped the sartorial ante, “There were a couple of actresses whom I felt were having the upper hand careerwise—because they knew how to work that red carpet.” A carefully crafted collaboration between stylist and client, the perfect look can create an indelible impact on agents, casting directors, and those of us watching from the sidelines. Straight from the epicenter of all things celebrity, we’ve asked some of the industry’s top stylists to share their experiences and impressions from their perch above Tinseltown. With our Dressing for Fame series, we bring you an exclusive, insider look at everything it takes to create those iconic moments captured by a million photo flashes.
She’s put Penélope Cruz’s curves on the map, and done so in the most elegant way possible. She made a sartorial star of Margot Robbie this awards season, and Girls’ Allison Williams can thank her for constantly placing at the top of best-dressed lists. These are just a few of the leading ladies whom Cristina Ehrlich counts as clients. With a unique perspective on how the right look can shape the arc of an acting career, Ehrlich brings nearly twenty years of experience to the table—and a legion of unforgettable red-carpet moments with her. Here, she speaks to Style.com about which dress she’ll always remember, her background as a professional dancer, and the stylist-as-celebrity phenomenon.
How did you get your start?
The first stylist I ever worked with was Irene Albright, before she had the incredible Fashion Library. I was studying to be a dancer in New York City and moonlighting with my second passion, fashion, on the side.
Did your upbringing, family, or experience dancing professionally inform your decision to become a stylist?
Ever since I was a little girl, I was always very visually oriented. There was a dual love in me for dancing and fashion. However, at around 27, fashion took over and became the career path I wanted to pursue.
How do you feel about the stylist-as-celebrity phenomenon?
The business of celebrity dressing has transformed since I started out over twenty years ago. There is a relevance surrounding our job in the media today and with that, a certain cachet comes with working so closely with talent. The importance of my job is to work with my girls and create a beautiful arc in her career through the clothing she wears. At the end of the day, I provide a service, and that is what is important to me.
Is there one red-carpet appearance in particular that you feel has defined your own success?
Penélope Cruz wearing the blush pink Atelier Versace to the Oscars in 2007 was really a defining moment for me as a stylist. This was actually the backup gown I had on hold for her, as she was having a custom gown made by another designer at the time. Unfortunately, the custom piece fell through, and it was incredible to have such a strong “backup” on hold for her.
How would you define your styling aesthetic?
I do not draw my inspirations from trends. I appreciate vintage photography or iconic women from times past. Both lend themselves to creating timeless and beautiful looks that will be remembered.
Is it challenging to work with various clients who have such diverse tastes?
I feel lucky enough that with a high percentage of the women that I work with, it’s a collaboration. They depend and lean on me to help them make the best choices, and when we hit a snag and don’t agree, I try to explain to them that we are creating an arc in the different silhouettes that they wear and are working to cultivate many strong and relevant fashion moments.