The Rules Of Red Carpet Styling

We’re smack in the middle of awards season (don’t miss our best-dressed list from tonight’s SAG Awards!), which means we are pretty much on constant red carpet watch. But long before a celeb steps out of her car and into the endless stream of flashbulbs, she works with a styling team for hours—er, days—to determine the perfect dress, shoes, hair, makeup and overall look. To give you an insider’s look into the intricate process, we talked to the women of our own Rachel Zoe Studio, experts in the art of prepping someone for a big night. Keep reading for the ins and outs of red carpet styling.

Rachel Zoe Studio Styling Rules

Rachel with Style Director Jill Lincoln (right) and Styling Associate Jordan Johnson. Photo: @rachelzoestudio.

Rule #1: You Can Never Have Too Many Options

"Certain clients have a very specific style, so we'll call in a few dresses according to what we know they'll love—but when we don't know exactly what we're going for, we'll call in several racks worth of options."

The studio before the 2014 Oscars. Photo: @rachelzoe

Rule #2: Customize When You Can

"When clients opt for a custom gown from a designer, we'll have several fittings to perfect that one dress."

Jennifer Garner, Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson in Oscar de la Renta, styled by Rachel Zoe Studio. Photo: @rachelzoe

Rule #3: The Right Shoes Are Everything

"You will always see lots of Jimmy Choo, Stuart Weitzman and Brian Atwood shoes on our clients. There is also a crop of cool younger designers we're seeing a lot of, including Aquazarra, Charlotte Olympia and Nicholas Kirkwood."

The studio, on any given day. Photo: @rachelzoe

Rule #4: There's Only Room For The Essentials

"Minaudieres and clutches don't hold much more than lipstick, an iPhone, a credit card and maybe a Q-tip."

Jennifer Lawrence and Jennifer Garner at the 2014 Oscars, styled by Rachel Zoe Studio. Photo: @rachelzoe

Rule #5: Always Think Outside Of The Box

"Silicone nipple covers double as fantastic foot pads. They mold to the ball of your foot as opposed to sticking to the bottom of the shoe."

Charlotte Olympia heels. Photo: @rachelzoestudio

Rule #6: You Can't Put A Price On Jewelry

"We've had clients wear costume jewelry that costs a couple hundred dollars, while others have worn jewels worth millions. There is no such thing as average."

A pre-Emmy Awards jewelry pull. Photo: @rachelzoe

Rule #7: After-Party Dresses Are Key

"If a client is in a barely breathable beaded number or a giant ball gown, they will likely not be able to get through the night without fainting, so we're always prepared with after-party dresses."

A rack of after-party options. Photo: @rachelzoestudio

Rule #8: Getting Ready Is A Cinch

"Once the dress is steamed and the accessories are selected and laid out, the rest is just zipping and clasping. It takes less than an hour."

Sofia Vergara and Kiernan Shipka at the 2014 Emmy Awards, styled by Rachel Zoe Studio. Photo: @rachelzoe