I have re-read Tina Fey's Bossypants at least 4 times at this point, but the other day as I lounged on the beach, a little gem from the chapter Amazing, Gorgeous, Not Like That jumped out at me. Though I've read it before, this story of a typical celebrity photo shoot had me scaring away seagulls with my laughter, because it hits so close to home.
It's usually in some cool space called White or Smash House or Jinx Studios. Sometimes it's an amazing hotel. Wherever it is, it's nicer than where you had your wedding.
Absolutely accurate. It's either at Milk- the giant marble fortress where Lady Gaga is shooting in the airplane hanger down the hall from where Rihanna is filming a music video. Or Smashbox Studios, where the VIP dressing room's velvet walls surround the oak pool table, top shelf whiskey stash, and the biggest medieval conference table you've ever seen. Or at Siren, where the cars are lifted by elevator into the garage, and the coffee bar is INSANE. And photoshoots are the only time I'll ever be in a suite at The Four Seasons Beverly Hills, that's for sure.
You'll be introduced to the stylist and be shown racks and racks of clothes. She has been given your sizes ahead of time and has chosen to ignore them. All the shoes will be too big and all the pants and skirts will be a 5T.
If I had a dollar for every time, as an assistant, I thought "There's no way [insert name of slightly larger than sample size celeb] is gonna fit in this shit." I'd have like, $50 at least. It's actually my superpower that I can accurately size someone up (especially a man) from as little as a photo.
When you inevitably can't fit into a garment, the stylist's assistant will be sent in to help you. The stylist's assistant will be a chic twenty-year-old Asian girl named Esther or Agnes or Lot's Wife. In a few years she'll be running the editorial staff, but at this point in time her job is to stuff a middle-aged woman's bare ass crack into a Prada dress and zip it up.
Firstly, thank you Tina Fey, while not Asian, I am chic, and on my way to running the editorial staff... but I digress...
When you know someone's not going to fit into a garment, and you've dared to tell the stylist that you don't think it's going to work- you're sent in there anyway to deal with the celebrity's wounded ego... it's a bit like going into the lion's den... tread carefully. Luckily for me, being both of normal size, and of the fairer sex, I could always play to the issue with "Balmain cuts TINY. No one fits a Balmain sample." or just tell the men it's because of their "athletic thighs". Worked every time.
"How's it going in there?" calls the stylist passive-agggressively. Reinforcements are called in to push on both sides of my ribcage until the zipper goes up. To avoid conflict, we all blame a third party. "It's these damn invisible zippers!" we say in unison. "I don't know why designers use them!"
Since I tell my story from the assistant's point of view, I can tell you the urge to roll your eyes and give the finger is so strong at this moment, that the only thing preventing you from doing it is the fact that you are in the presence of an Oscar/Grammy/Emmy award winning artist. We are buttoning as fast as we can.
Once your hair and makeup are done, you'll slip into your first look. It will most definitely be one of the dresses that didn't even come close to fitting you, so Lot's Wife will bridge the gap with a thick piece of white elastic and some safety pins. Don't ever feel inadequate when you look at magazines. Just remember that every person you see on a cover has a bra and underwear hanging out a gaping hole in the back.
The Russian tailor will then remove a piece of fabric from a secret spot on the garment- and bridge the gap using ancient Russian tailor magic. It never ceased to amaze me how they could turn a slim size 38 tuxedo jacket into a 42 Long, or add a sleeve to a couture gown. After the shoot, Olena/Lena/Sonia would sew it back, good as new, not a trace of the Russian witchcraft left behind.
So take it from a former celebrity stylist assistant, everyone you seen a cover is either sewed, clipped, or taped into that dress or suit, sometimes there's even a thankless assistant crouched behind them holding it together by hand.