The celeb designer shares an inside look at her getting ready process for the CFDAs

By Alex Apatoff
Updated June 03, 2014 05:14 PM

Whitney Port knows a little something about clothing design, so she wasn’t going to turn up to the CFDA Awards wearing just any old thing. Luckily, she had designer Dennis Basso on hand to take her as his date — and to outfit her in a classic, fitted graphic sheath that stopped traffic on the red carpet. Port gave us an exclusive inside look at the process of picking the dress and putting the whole look together, and she couldn’t help but rave about her look for the evening.

Credit: Humberto Carreno/Startraks

Humberto Carreno/Startraks

“I love this dress because it was so modern and sleek. It has beautiful hand beading too!” Port tells PEOPLE. “I love Dennis because he makes a woman feel glamorous and chic. I originally requested, like, 25 dresses and ended up trying on five. His designs make me feel elegant and sophisticated.” Basso echoes Port’s enthusiasm for the match of girl and dress. “Whitney has a very fresh, young and yet chic aesthetic. I love that she chose a more classic or understated silhouette … and added her own vibe to it,” he shares. “I looked to the glamour of some of my Old Hollywood favorites like Ava Gardner and Jane Russell, but not to make the looks feel vintage. It’s perfect because it is youthful and sexy and I knew that she could carry it off.”

But before she could make her major red carpet entrance, Port had to put in the work with her glam squad to achieve the pretty, polished results. She tapped Katie Jane Hughes of Butter London for makeup and nails, Neil Gogoi for hair and stylist Lara Backmender for help in making the whole look come off perfectly. “I definitely have a lot of say and work collaboratively with my stylist and hair and makeup artist. I have a vision, tell them and then am always open to suggestions,” she says. “Lara wanted me to look sleek with a pop of color on the lip so that’s what we did!” See photos below for the team’s take on the evening.

Courtesy Whitney Port

Gogoi styled her freshly-chopped hair into a sleek down do. Port admits to still being in the short hair adjustment phase (“I now try to think of creative ways to wear my hair, as there aren’t as many!”) but says she’s not looking back: “I do not miss my hair — I love the fresh new look!” she says. Gogoi played up that new-hair excitement with her CFDA do: “Whitney recently went for a complete change with her hairstyle. Since the CFDAs was the first unveiling, we wanted to let the shape speak for itself: Razor straight with lift at the roots to give movement and texture, keeping it young and fresh,” he says. He worked EVO’s “Root Canal” spray in for volume and worked through the line’s “Easy Tiger” smoothing balm before drying, then added a little more of the root spray at the end to make sure the shape stayed lifted.

Courtesy Whitney Port

Hughes also went for a “fresh and quite trendy” look to update the classic vibe of the dress, creating “dewy skin, a natural, smoky eye and a bold lip. She achieved the latter courtesy of Butter London’s orange “Lady Bird” shade (in stores this fall), saying, “a red lip would have been a bit too cliché, so orange was perfect.” Hughes extended that “effortless and young” look from her taupe eyes to her similarly-toned nails (Butter London’s “Yummy Mummy”), which Hughes called “a gorgeous shade … to elongate the fingers.”

After popping some champagne, the team was ready for the finished result. “I pulled the look together with cool accessories, great texture and shape to give the Dennis Basso dress a touch of Whitney’s fun and stylish personality,” says Backmender. That included “black closed heels by Nicholas Kirkwood, jewelry by Eddie Borgo and Ilana Ariel and the clutch by Rafe New York.”

Courtesy Whitney Port

What do you think of the finished result? What’s your favorite part of the look? And are you loving her new do? Tell us in the comments!

–Alex Apatoff