Christian Siriano was by far the busiest designer at the Oscars, dressing 17 stars in extremely different ensembles. The hardest-working designer in the business tells us about coming up with so many designs and what it was like to see all his hard work come to fruition on the Oscars red carpet
There may be no busier person in the fashion industry – well, make that the universe – than Christian Siriano. The designer, who just celebrated a decade in the fashion industry, has spent the last few months alone dressing dozens of stars for major red carpets (including 10 at the Golden Globes and 3 at the SAG Awards), putting on a fashion show with a celebrity-studded front row, launching a makeup collection with E.L.F. Cosmetics and keeping up his empire (which includes a Payless shoe line, handbags, eyewear, fragrance and bedding, not to mention a book and custom clothing for Barbie dolls).
And still he somehow managed to find time to create 19 total outfits (two stars got two dresses!) for a host of celebrities on Oscar Sunday, from sweeping ballgowns to statement-making suits. We rounded up almost all the looks in one place and caught up with the designer to hear more about the “wild” process of creating distinct looks for a group of women that included Oscar nominees and winners, activists, Olympians and performers.
And though 19 looks were worn, Siriano says there were still more custom outfits that didn’t make an appearance on the carpet: “We sent out so many gowns this season, it was nuts,” he told PeopleStyle. “We made a few more custom looks that didn’t end up on the carpet so we probably would have had about 22 total if that would have happened. It’s hard to say no when you love these women so much and want to support them.”
Whoopi Goldberg got Siriano’s night off on the right foot, so to speak, when she praised the designer for creating a beautiful teal floral gown for her that prioritized her comfort – right down to her combat boots (“I told her I did not mind,” he explains). He also dressed Best Supporting Actress nominee Laurie Metcalf in blush sequins, Kelly Ripa in a ballgown with a green-and-pink bustled bow, author and activist Janet Mock in a sequin and chiffon tank dress with train and Olympic skier Lindsay Vonn in a sexy sheer tulle number (which had sleeves attached mere moments before she hit the red carpet). (Not pictured but also in Siriano: Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors.)
The designer says the longest lead time he had on some of the gowns was about three weeks, while others (including Vonn’s and Mock’s, above, and Janelle Monae’s, below) were created in two days. Some actresses (including Metcalf) had several options to choose from and picked the winner during the final week of fittings. “It has been wild,” he says. “The studio is a war zone with fabric all over the place and custom patterns for so many actresses. Right before the Oscars we just showed our largest collection to date with 72 looks celebrating my 10 year anniversary so I’m not sure how my team survived! But we did it and feel really proud.”
Siriano also created custom gowns for singer Keala Settle, who performed the nominated song “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman. She walked the red carpet in a peach gown embellished with crystal vines and brought the house down in a cornflower blue V-neck number with iridescent sparkle detailing. Settle, who also wore a Siriano design to the Golden Globes, wrote that she felt “honored and blessed” on this Oscars red carpet. (Settle’s performance was a highlight for the designer, he says: “Keala Settle was sick a few days before and did even see her dresses until the Thursday before and she had rehearsals that day. When she hit that stage and sang her butt off in that gown, it was a great moment.”)
Siriano’s night didn’t slow down once the Oscars ended. His designs were seen on at least 10 more stars (including Mock, who changed into another of his looks), all as individual as the stars wearing them.
From left, Busy Phillips wore a tank dress with steel blue sparkly skirt; Amy Adams wore a black gown with structured shoulders and a neckline cutout; Janelle Monae picked a lipstick-red peplum suit with crystal epaulets and train; Patricia Clarkson wore a sapphire sequin spaghetti-strap number with flared hemline; Alicia Silverstone selected a high-neck highlighter-pink column.
Holland Taylor wore a suit of Siriano’s design; Rachel Bloom selected a midnight-blue velvet column dress; Abbie Cornish donned a long-sleeve gown with full floral skirt; Jessica Williams stunned in a black silhouette-hugging strapless gown with large bronze ruffle down the side, and Sarah Silverman wore a dress with peplum and mermaid hem. And you’ll notice that each of the stars, who range in age from 32 (Monae) to 75 (Taylor) has a distinctive style and personality that Siriano works to capture in his red carpet designs.
“It is hard and challenging [to create so many unique looks for one evening], but that is actually my favorite part,” he says. “Just working with so many different women and their stylists and they all want to look and feel different. So I try to make them happy but also keep my voice as a designer alive.”
Siriano has long garnered praise for dressing every age, skin tone and body type, working with stars (perhaps most notably Leslie Jones) who have previously felt marginalized in the fashion industry to design gorgeous, just-right-for-them ensembles – and in doing so, he’s gained a huge, vocal (again, notably Leslie Jones) and star-studded fan base. And while Siriano is a big fan of the recent drive to talk about causes on the red carpet, he’s also adamant that the artistry, hard work and, yes, business sense of the fashion industry continues to be appreciated as well – a fact proven further by his Instagram of the team that made the 17 celebrity dressings possible.
And though Siriano needs a vacation about as badly as you do after reading about his crazy 2018 so far (“Maybe a beach in Mexico?” he suggests hopefully), he says the rewards were worth all the hard work. “Getting sweet notes from so many of the women was a great moment,” he says. “Getting a text that says ‘I feel so great tonight’ is a designer’s dream.”