Elizabeth Stewart discusses Viola’s thoughts on picking out those gorgeous dresses she wears during Awards Season with Vanity Fair.
Stylist Elizabeth Stewart discusses her client’s perspective on fashion this awards season.
Viola Davis is the heavy favorite to take home the best-supporting-actress prize this weekend at the Academy Awards. She is sure to be one of the most photographed attendees at the ceremony, which means her dress is going to be one of the most photographed dresses, as well. Davis’s style has recently become a topic of great fascination in the press, as a recent New York Times profile—in which her style was described as a “symbol of hope in dark times”—signaled. (Her fashion sense, and the way she embraces color on the red carpet, has been celebrated on VF.com for some time, as well.)
But the public may be more invested than Davis herself is, according to her stylist, Elizabeth Stewart. “The interest in what Viola’s wearing is way greater than the attention she pays to it,” she told Vanity Fair, with a laugh. When asked if Davis enjoys the process of selecting her outfits for awards-season events, Stewart answered quickly: “No, I would say I’m like the dentist to her.”
Stewart explained that she usually gets about “five minutes per fitting” with Davis, who is often tied up with her commitments to her film roles, as well as to her television series, How to Get Away with Murder. The process this awards season, her third with Davis, was extremely straightforward: “[Davis] is super-decisive. We literally had a five-minute discussion while we said we’re going to do color, clean, strong, bold. That was going to be our M.O. for the season and we pretty much stuck to it.” Stewart continued, “Given the time constraints, she just doesn’t have the time to devote that much to fashion. We sort of figured out what works for her and it’s like, ‘Here’s what works, here’s what we wanna do.’ ”
Stewart said that the comfort and elegance Davis exudes makes her something of an icon for the “all-American woman.” She explained, “This is an important award season, so, I think [the impetus for her looks] came from [focusing on bold colors] and also the working-woman thing. There’s a real simplicity to what we’re doing. It has an effortless vibe, and that works also with everything that she has. I feel like she’s the all-American woman because she’s busy, she does so many things, she’s a mom—and this is what works for that kind of woman. What she’s wearing is, to me, an inspiration to working women across America. Find what works for you, get your formula, stick to it.” Stewart reiterated that it’s all about efficiency when it comes to dressing Davis. “I think she enjoys when I make it a three-minute fitting instead of a five-minute fitting, let’s put it that way.”
Stewart—who also works with Julia Roberts and Jessica Chastain—said that Davis’s yellow Michael Kors Golden Globes gown is the one that she would call her favorite of this particular awards season. “It was just sort of exactly what we wanted to be,” she recalled. “I think Michael Kors is such a great match for Viola. When I describe our M.O. for the season, it’s him. He is not doing her Oscar dress, but, that said, he sort of sums up what we were after [this awards season].”
Ah, yes, her Oscar dress. Stewart is tight-lipped about the designer of the frock—other than excluding Kors from the mix. All she’ll say is that the dress is a “continuation of our sort of story.” She then repeated, “Yeah, I mean, we’re sticking to the story, so to speak.” She did note that, while everything was mapped out from the get-go, each garment has been custom-made, and, as of earlier this week, Stewart was still waiting for items to come in. “Even though we know what we’re doing, conceptually, we have some choices and, believe it or not, they’re arriving late,” she said.
For Stewart, a veteran of the red carpet at this point, the actual day of the Oscars is not particularly stressful, though, as the key decisions have already been made at that point. “It’s not chaotic. The day of is when everything is finally done, so it’s really just hoping for good weather and that nothing spills on the dress. But we always have a backup in place because if you don’t, something will spill on the dress. The day of tends to be calm and happy because we’ve gotten all our ducks in a row, so to speak, and that’s really what styling is all about, just being ready for anything.”
Stewart—who said she is also very excited to see what Emma Stone (not her client) wears on Sunday night—acknowledges the shift in the world of fashion in terms of the focus now on celebrity. “I moved [to Los Angeles] to get married and I was working at W magazine, and The New York Times Magazine, and I came from that editorial world, and, since I got here, it completely switched over from editorial to celebrity.” She paused briefly. “Covers changed to celebrity and the interest in the red carpet just grew and grew and grew. That’s what has been funny to see, and sort of ride along.”