People usually remember three things about every Oscar ceremony when it’s over: who won, who was best dressed, and who was worst dressed. But increasingly, choosing a great dress is not enough for those looking to make a splash on the red carpet. They have to choose the right pose, too.
With red carpets more heavily photographed today than ever before, having the right red carpet pose can be the difference between an actress being deemed a fashion winner or a fashion loser. Additionally, the sheer number of red carpet events photographed today, from awards ceremonies, to film screenings, to charity events, means that actresses have to bring their fashion A-game just about every time they step out of the house. That means hiring stylists to help them select the perfect gown for a film premiere, and the perfect pose to go with it.
Stylist Jason Bolden, who works with 2009 Academy Award nominee Taraji Henson, as well as Being Mary Jane star Gabrielle Union, said that coaching his clients on nailing the perfect red carpet pose is part of his job. “Right when we make the decision on what look she’s going to wear, we practice [posing] in that look. We even take the iPad out and take photos.” He said he has clients study the photos to see which angles work best on camera in a certain ensemble.
His reasoning for ensuring his clients remain disciplined about perfecting their red carpet pose: “because it will destroy what I picked for them if they don’t do it right.”
Rachel Johnson, a stylist who works with Serena Williams and LeBron James, among others, summarized the importance of red carpet posing as follows: “A celeb's facial expressions and poses on the red carpet will make or break their look. A certain stance and demeanor denotes a high level of confidence and swagger, which is paramount to selling a look.”
Luke Destin, a stylist who has dressed Oprah Winfrey and Cameron Diaz, said he works with clients on finding the most flattering pose because he wants to make sure that when they step on a red carpet it’s clear that “it’s not that the clothes are wearing her, but that she’s wearing the clothes.” His most common reminders for anyone about to hit the red carpet are “walk gracefully and suck in.” He recommends specific poses for specific body types and specific garments. “Depending on the outfit, there are side poses. There are front poses. There are poses with your hand on your hip. There are poses with your hand on your side. There are poses with you standing straight and your legs crossed.”
But he said there is one safe go-to pose he recommends. “Stand facing straight ahead. Right leg straight. Left leg bent inward and left hand on the hip. That’s the best. When in doubt, rock that pose.” This may just be the most photographed pose in red carpet history, seen in so many photographs that it has spread beyond Hollywood and can be seen in photographs among us civilians.
But Jason Bolden says that while it is ubiquitous, it is not his favorite. “I tell my clients that there are two poses that are mandatory: It’s the one with the slight uncomfortable lean, and there’s always the one where you are walking off the carpet and wave.”
All of the stylists contacted by The Daily Beast said the proliferation of social media and blogs have made style details like posing all the more important. For instance, Destin noted that a number of outlets like to show two starlets wearing the same garment and then ask readers to vote on who looked better. The pose can make the difference.
While those of us who are not walking red carpets regularly may not get what all the fuss is about, a recent Vanity Fair article on the world of Hollywood stylists noted that the right red carpet looks can often land actresses magazine covers and lucrative brand endorsement deals. So red carpet posing is not shallow, it’s big business.
But posing is not something that comes naturally, no matter how talented someone may be on screen. Luke Destin noted that while he is a fan of Meryl Streep, Queen Latifah, and Wendy Williams, they rarely look comfortable when photographed on a red carpet. Asked to name his favorite red carpet superstars, however, he picked Halle Berry, Victoria Beckham and Oprah Winfrey. Bolden said Diane Kruger and Angelina Jolie tend to look and pose great--although Jolie highlighted just how judgmental media can be about red carpet posing when her revealing pose at the 2012 Academy Awards became its own Internet meme, thanks to her strategically placed leg.
Glee actress Lea Michele also found herself a subject of red carpet ridicule for her dramatic poses, which Modern Family actress Sarah Hyland mimicked on an episode of E’s Fashion Police with Joan Rivers. Michele later claimed the mocking hurt her feelings.
Stylist Rachel Johnson wrote in an email that “A good pose includes straight back, poised shoulders, firm core, elongated neck, staggered or crossed legs, delicate hands and a winning smile.” And she suggested that for us non-celebrities who aren’t regularly walking red carpets but want to look our best in photos there are plenty of lessons we can learn from Hollywood. “To nail the perfect pose for photographs, mimic your favorite celebrity's poses. Notice their facial expressions, chin placement, hand gestures, angle of their body, foot positioning and arch of their back.” She continued, “Then get dressed in your favorite duds and practice, practice, practice in the mirror.”