Chloe Hartstein has dressed the likes of Glenn Close, Melissa McCarthy, Chris Rock and Antoni Porowski for countless appearances, award shows and editorials throughout her career. But the New York-based stylist is facing a new challenge as she prepares to dress Emmy nominee Betty Gilpin for Sunday evening’s awards show without a red carpet.
“I think it’s kind of fun,” she tells Yahoo Life of preparing for the unprecedented event. “I like that we’re being thrown this challenge and we just have to deal with it.”
Hartstein explains that “you really have to roll with the punches” while working as a stylist. Still, she could never have anticipated how much her job would change from last year’s awards season until now before the coronavirus pandemic suddenly hit the United States back in March. Along with a number of other industries, social distancing protocols and mandated quarantine periods turned the entertainment industry upside down.
“It was such an abrupt kind of stop to our operations. I think we all felt it even at the Oscars really, we all felt like something was amiss and we all kind of still barreled through work,” Hartstein says. “And then by mid-March, those last few jobs were really strange. And then it shut down and it was startling.”
But as jobs have started to pick back up and awards season quickly approached, Hartstein explains just how different her role as a stylist has become in a world with less traveling and less touching, especially for a job that’s so hands-on.
Pre-COVID, Hartstein says that she was typically in possession of an item from the time she would request it from a brand or showroom up until it is unpackaged and placed onto her celebrity clients. With social distancing in place, it was the first time she had to delegate some of that process and even became concerned about how it could possibly put people’s health at risk.
“I’m, first of all, thinking about the amount of hands that are touching that particular garment, that package and being mindful of, OK, so how many people am I potentially exposing to getting sick?” she says. “Then shipping things to my client, messengering things to my client and being organized in a way where, you know, we’re sending boxes of clothes with looks that are already set up for them with a PDF and pictures giving them a breakdown of what goes with what, and then getting on the phone and they’re having to handle the clothes.”
Even more important than the hands-on aspect of the job is what Hartstein explains is the “emotional” part of being in the same room as a client when they’re trying on a garment and being able to get a true sense of how they’re feeling in it. “As stylists, I often say that we’re kind of like therapists and we’re able to walk into a room with our client on any given day and we have to read the room within seconds and know how that person is feeling — if they’re feeling confident and if they’re a bit self-conscious,” she says. “Clothing is like armor when you’re doing press, so it’s knowing how they feel and how we’re protecting them with clothes. So there’s a layer that’s not there because we’re doing it on Zoom or FaceTime. So that’s also strange.”
When it comes to the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards it’s no different, as attendees will all be virtually tuning into the event to show off their looks and accept awards in front of their screens. It’s certainly unprecedented, but for Hartstein, it’s a welcome change.
“If I have a client that’s nominated, I want them to feel their most confident possible. And if that means being on Zoom and wearing a gown and diamonds, that’s what we’ll do. If that means wearing sweatpants, that’s what we’ll do. But I want my client to feel good. That’s the end goal,” she explains. “I’m excited to see how we’re going to tackle all of it … We don’t know what to expect.”
While preparing Gilpin, who is nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy for her role in GLOW, Hartstein shares that she’s even excited for there to be less pressure on what people are wearing.
“For actresses, there’s such tremendous pressure on a red carpet. The best-dressed list and how it appears in social media and who picks it up. That’s still present, but because of the circumstances, it’s a bit lifted. And I think that’s really nice. I think we deserve a break from that pressure in a way,” she says. “And there’s more focus on actually celebrating these talents. They’re nominated for this incredible award and we’re focusing on them and their achievements, which I find awesome.”
She also doesn’t neglect to mention the conversations she’s had with Gilpin about the current state of the country amid a pandemic and calls for social justice while finding the right look. “Is it appropriate to wear couture when I don’t know how many people are unemployed and furloughed?” she recalls considering. “It’s a really tricky time to do this.”
In the nature of show business, however, Hartstein hopes that Sunday night’s festivities can serve as an escape from all that is going on in the world right now. “It’s really important for us right now to be able to disconnect and kind of project ourselves in something that’s not 2020 and a global pandemic and what’s happening politically and climate change and all of that,” she says. “I think it’s great to be able to dream.”
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