Lupita Nyong’o has gotten plenty of (well-deserved) attention for her red carpet domination since making her first style splash last fall — landing a Vogue spread and Miu Miu campaign along the way. But she’s the first one to credit her style team for her rapid ascension, and that includes her stylist Micaela Erlanger.
Erlanger tells PEOPLE she started her career “sort of by accident,” coming up through magazines and costume design before landing her first client, Joely Richardson. From there she started working with Michelle Dockery (“she was the one who really put me on the map”), and Nyong’o, Dockery’s co-star in Non-Stop, followed suit. And the rest is history.
Both Dockery and Nyong’o are “100 percent involved” in putting together looks for events, Erlanger says. “I really can’t emphasize how much of a collaboration it really is. They both are interested in fashion. I think that they both appreciate and understand fashion more as they’ve been on the red carpet more. And they definitely have opinions and preferences.”
RELATED PHOTOS: Seven gowns we’re dying to see at the Oscars!
Speaking of opinions, we asked if she’d be able to narrow down her five favorite Nyong’o looks from the actress’s long list of exceptional dresses, gowns and jumpsuits. It was nearly impossible, but she named a few, including the Prada gown in which Nyong’o made her red carpet debut at the Toronto International Film Festival (“so beautiful, so elegant, so understated. It was all about her in that dress.”), the Chanel Couture number she wore to a MoMA event in N.Y.C. (“It was a such a fierce, bold look and it was such a departure from the others.”) and, of course, the jaw-dropping caped Ralph Lauren Collection dress from the Golden Globes (“I had a gut reaction with that gown … she is the only person who could have worn that dress and she did it beautifully.”)
Getty; Picturegroup; Invision/AP
For Dockery, whom Erlanger loves working with because “she loves fashion, wears clothes beautifully and is such a talented, elegant actress,” the stylist is partial to the gold-and-white Alexandre Vauthier gown she wore to the Golden Globes in 2013 (“That was a big moment for us … she is simply made for that dress”), the Peter Pilotto halter Dockery wore to an Entertainment Weekly SAG Awards party (“I was like, This dress needs to be on that girl. How can I get it? And I was right!”) and the rich red Prada worn to the Emmys last year (“That was the first time I ever did custom with her … To me it was so special.”)
Though both stars have had their share of major red carpets, Nyong’o is the first client Erlanger has dressed for the Oscars. “I’m so excited. It’s like a dream,” she says, while waving off any suggestions that the main event may be a lot of pressure. “Sure, it’s set the bar really high and all eyes are on her, and as a result all eyes are on my work, but the success that we’ve had is because we’ve been trusting our gut and doing what we love … I’m so lucky that I have someone who I can dress who showcases wardrobe beautifully, but above and beyond, is a force to be reckoned with as an actress.”
What would you like to see Nyong’o wear at the Oscars? Have you loved Erlanger’s work with Dockery and Nyong’o? Tell us below!
–Alex Apatoff, reporting by Jennifer Garcia