Today, we are fortunate to have Amber Lehman guest writing for us about the madness of being a Nashville stylist during awards season. Amber’s full bio is included at the end of today’s post. We asked her to keep to track of the madness during the CMT awards to give us all a behind the scenes look, as well as a few tips for our own special moments. Enjoy!
“Stylist” has got to be one of the most misunderstood jobs of all the vocations. I recently talked to a potential intern on a phone interview and when I asked her why she wanted to be a stylist, she said she watched the Rachel Zoe Project, and “it, like, looks really cool, and I just think it would be cool to be a stylist. It must be, like, so fun.” Hmm, first of all, that’s probably not the best answer for your potential future mentor. Secondly, it’s a LOT harder than it looks, particularly during an awards show week that happens to coincide with the biggest country music festival of the year, CMA Fest. It is not possible to carry a Vente Starbucks and do this job! Those hands are made for schlepping and hauling! Being a stylist takes not just style, but hard work, the most organized personality, and great communication skills.
Every time June rolls around in Nashville, I know I’m in for a wild ride. (Bye social life!) It’s one of my busiest times of the year with artists attending the CMT Awards, performing and appearing at many CMA Fest events and preparing for summer tours. In the weeks leading up to a red carpet or other press opportunity (like CMA Fest) for my artists, my days are packed with shopping here in Nashville and online and sending copious emails to PR companies on both coasts, scouting for the perfect dresses for my gals, and the perfect suits for my gents. We hope to get as many “loaners” as possible—shoes, jewelry, clutches, and gowns, and it’s always better to have as many choices as possible while being aware of the budget given to us by the label. Staying within budget can be SUPER challenging, especially when EVERYTHING is so pretty and sparkly!
When all these lovely pieces start arriving, it feels like Christmas morning, full of excitement. But you know that chaos after all the gifts are opened? That’s the way my house feels! My guest room, doubling as my studio, is sometimes full of up to three racks of clothing, spilling from the “studio” into my living room, dining room, and kitchen. My poor husband has got to be the most patient man on the planet to spend basically three weeks leapfrogging shoeboxes and passing through doorways hung with red carpet gowns posing as curtains. “It feels like we just cleaned up from the ACM’s,” he says. Me: “Babe, that was in APRIL. Gah.”
Thank goodness for my two fabulous assistants, Carrie and Beth. Carrie can be reached at all hours of the day to coordinate with the showrooms to get the pieces to my house on time, and Beth is an organizational rock star. She separates all the goodies and directs them to the correct fittings. After the show, she ensures that these gowns, some of which are one-of-a-kind couture and can be valued at upwards of $15,000 each, are carefully packaged for return.
This year we did CMT Awards fittings for all our artists attending—Thomas Rhett, Edens Edge, Lauren Alaina, Kenny Chesney. And we helped Grace Potter, also. For a fitting imagine this: all three of us loading my Toyota Highlander and usually one of the girls’ cars with the gowns (those beads are heavy!) and suits and then heading to the label or management office with our gear—full-length mirrors, our kit of goodies (safety pins, clips, scissors, double-stick tape), wardrobe racks, plenty of snacks, and very comfortable footwear. This is a workout!
Carrie, who is the queen of setting up a fitting in no time flat, and I worked with Lauren Alaina a couple nights before the Awards this year. For Lauren’s red carpet look, we wanted to highlight her new short haircut, and I thought the best way to do this would be with a short, sassy dress where we could really rock out her hair. To keep the look fun, since this awards show is a little less serious than others, we added a strappy bright blue shoe.
Day-of an awards show is completely insane! This year, I started early by meeting Grace Potter at her hotel with my tailor to choose her jewelry and to be sure that her dress, which had been over-nighted from L.A., did not require any final alterations. Grace’s dress fit great, but she wanted more comfy shoes to dance the night away, so Carrie attacked that job. Beth then headed to get Edens Edge and Thomas Rhett dressed, and I split for the Bridgestone Arena for Lauren Alaina’s dress rehearsal and a consult with her hair and makeup artist. A red carpet look is simply not complete if the hair and makeup don’t reflect the same vibe as the outfit.
While at the Bridgestone I met Kenny to give final approval for his outfit, all the while fielding frantic texts from the other girls: “Clutch emergency!” “There are NO strappy shoes at the Green Hills Mall!” “OMG, where is the stick-on bra?!” Those few hours on the day-of are some of the craziest of my year, but then “the carpet” happens, and all is right with the world. Our beautiful people, feeling their best, looking amazing…we’ve somehow pulled it off again. Now for a tall glass of vino and a TV to enjoy the show! Oh, and a few trips to FedEx for all those returns…
Amber’s tips from the CMA’s that apply to everyone:
- If you don’t have a good tailor, get one! They should be as close to you as your hairdresser! MOST clothing items could use alterations. Yes, MOST!
- Adding a shoe that is an unexpected color is a great way to add some fashion and whimsy to your outfits, especially with basic black.
- Hair and makeup need to reflect the same vibe as the outfit. This is an important piece of the equation for any event you are attending.