There’s no time like right before New York Fashion Week to make a girl feel like everything in her closet looks like crap. So imagine my joy when I was offered a one-on-one session with Jen Rade, the A-list stylist responsible for some of Angelina Jolie‘s best red carpet moments ever. Jen, who also dresses Katharine McPhee and Pink, has earned a spot on the Hollywood Reporter‘s Most Powerful Stylists list for two years running—so suffice it to say the lady knows how to pick out an outfit.
Not even five minutes after arriving for my appointment, Jen said she could already tell I was "a skirt girl"—totally true, as I loathe pants. While she made me promise to try on a pair of wide-leg Rag & Bone trousers (I obeyed), we mutually agreed it might be best for me to venture a little less far from my sartorial comfort zone. Over the course of about an hour, Jen and I sifted through racks of designer pieces pulled from T.J.Maxx and Marshalls, both of which the stylist works with closely. After trying a lime chiffon Calvin Klein dress (cute, but not right for fall) and a floral silk one from Rebecca Taylor (too safe, considering the current state of my closet), we eventually landed on a buttery-soft pleated leather skirt from Elizabeth and James, which Jen suggested pairing with a sheer black lace top by La Perla. And thanks to the skirt’s longer length and Jen’s selection of a sturdier suede shoe, the whole ensemble didn’t look too Fifty Shades. Did I mention that the head-to-toe look, including a Rebecca Minkoff carryall she added at the last minute, cost just $625? And that the skirt alone originally retailed for $400? Mission accomplished, I’d say.
After our session, I sat down to chat with Jen about how she picks pieces for her many clients, her favorite styling triumphs and which looks she’d never consider.
Lucky: What’s the biggest difference between dressing someone for the red carpet versus a more personal special event? Do you approach the two differently?
Jen Rade: At a red carpet event, you’re going to be photographed from absolutely every angle, and the photos are happening so quickly that you don’t even know if the flash is coming from behind you, in front of you, to the side of you. So every angle has to look good. But at the same time, no matter who I’m dressing, I want the person to feel confident and comfortable and like they look good from every angle.
Do you have any particular designers you always go to first?
That’s a really hard question because it’s so situational—not just in terms of what the event is, but who the client is. There are so many types of red carpet events, and in any one season, there’s never one designer where I’m like, "Wow, I love all 40 looks from so-and-so." I generally like a couple looks from here, a couple from there. That said, I obviously love Reem Acra, Elie Saab, Versace…
Walk us through how you’d tackle a red carpet dressing job.
Well, I come in very cold, and live extremely in the moment. Basically, if you called me and said, "I’m going to a premiere in eight days," at that moment I’d start looking online, or in my lookbooks. I’d look at 50, 75, even 90 shows and eventually would fit you in something. But if another client called, say, three days later, I’d start all over, and look at the same shows again. Because all the looks I glossed over for one person might look amazing on another person.
What’s something you’d never put a client in?
I don’t do a lot of prints—almost none on the red carpet, actually. I find they’re very tough to photograph, and my aesthetic tends to be more clean, more about shape. I like either loose, tossed-on, blouson sexy, or else very silhouette-y with incredible structure and shape. I’m also not really into cutouts—I think they’re very hard to pull off, and often times not very flattering.
What are some of your proudest fashion moments?
On myself, you mean? I wear the same clothes for four days straight [laughs]! Of my clients, definitely Kat McPhee at the Golden Globes. She was presenting, and we didn’t do the fitting until midnight Saturday night—the Globes were the next day. So it was a little nerve-wracking, but she ended up on WWD‘s Best Dressed list. And Kat at the Met Ball! It was her first Met Ball, Anna had personally invited her…and I’d never dressed anyone for the Met Ball, so it was very exciting for me too.
What are three fashion essentials every woman should own?
Great black boots—a knee-high flat boot, a shorter motorcycle style or a little combat-type lace-up deal. Anything cashmere, like a boyfriend-style V-neck. And a great black jacket, whether it’s a blazer or a leather jacket.
Finally, as a spokeswoman for T.J.Maxx and Marshalls, what are some of your best finds from those stores?
I’ve gotten some really great statement necklaces at T.J…honestly, in the past six weeks I’ve gotten four amazing ones there. I’ll wear them, and since I’m a stylist, people will ask about them—and they’re always stunned when they learn where they’re from. They’ll be like, "Did you get that on vacation in Bali?" And I’m like, "Nope—I got it at T.J.Maxx on Ventura Boulevard in Encino!"
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