People.com talked with Viola’s stylist Elizabeth Stewart about why they chose the color white and the process that went into Viola’s look for last night’s Oscars.
The star’s Oscar nomination for her performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom broke her own record as the most nominated Black actress ever at the Academy Awards
Viola Davis showed off high-fashion gowns from the comfort of her home throughout award season, but for tonight’s Academy Awards, she brought her bold style aesthetic to the red carpet.
While the Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom nominee, 55, has been leaning into bright colors throughout the season, she went back to basics at the Oscars, wearing a flowing white Alexander McQueen gown with a cutout bodice design and Forevermark diamond drop earrings on the red carpet in Los Angeles.
Stylist Elizabeth Stewart told PEOPLE that they specifically chose white since everyone was expecting Davis to wear color, sharing that the beaded gown was designed by Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen.
“I could wallpaper my living room with her beautiful sketches, each more beautiful than the last. Viola loves her work and we had dreamed over the years about asking her to make a dress,” Stewart said of Burton. “Viola’s only direction was white, but she saw the beading technique on the runway in a black top and asked for that to be worked in.”
The stylist also revealed that what looked to be skin-baring cut-outs on the red carpet were actually an illusion: “It’s actually a corset dyed to match Viola’s skin tone, achieved by trying about 20 swatches and also with the help of her makeup artist Autumn Moultrie, who gave the atelier makeup base colors she uses on Viola,” she explained. “The skirt is a very light chiffon to offset the heavy beading of the corset top.”
Davis kept her makeup look natural to give a luminous, glowy effect while rocking her natural coils in a pompadour-style up-do.
“Viola’s dress is always my inspiration for the look,” said makeup artist Autumn Moultrie, who used L’Oréal Paris skincare and makeup on the star. “We wanted the look to be soft and sophisticated, but also dramatic. That’s why I went with a soft lip but a dramatic bold and metallic eye.”
Before any award show, Davis likes to create a serene environment in her home as she gets ready with her glam squad and family by her side.
“We have music playing in the house before everyone gets here. It used to be R&B classics. Now it’s the Calm App,” Davis told PEOPLE when discussing her new L’Oréal Paris Voluminous Mascara campaign.
“There are diffusers and candles in every room. All the windows [and] the shades are drawn down so the light is coming in. And I always have some kind of new food for them to try. Last time [for the NAACP Image Awards] it was keto bread. That’s how we start,” the actress continued.
She also uses soothing aromatherapy scents to calm her mind before the rush of a red carpet.
“I even spray the Le Labo room spray because there is something about all those scents that it is [like] aromatherapy. Sometimes you attach it to an emotion,” Davis said. “It literally can just immediately relax you. So we have all that going on before we even sit down.”
Luckily, the serene vibes carried over onto the Oscars red carpet. “If people were here they would know how absolutely groundbreaking calm is!” Davis laughed during an interview with E! before the award show.
Davis has been keeping it bright and colorful throughout awards season, wearing a multicolor printed Lavie By CK for the Golden Globes that “spoke to her as a Black woman.” And chose an electric green hue for her custom Louis Vuitton column gown as a symbol of positivity at the SAG Awards.
“The brightness and color is symbolic. It provides motivation and hope towards a better future,” her stylist Elizabeth Stewart told PEOPLE.
Davis’ nomination in the Best Actress category for her performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom marks her fourth Academy Award nomination, which broke her own record as the most nominated Black actress ever at the Oscars. She first earned the honor in 2017 when she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Fences. She went on to win in that category, marking her first Oscars win.
The Rhode Island native, who overcame an impoverished childhood to become one of Hollywood’s most respected stars, earned her first Best Supporting Actress nomination in 2008 for Doubt, and a Best Actress nomination in 2011 for The Help.