The Oscars are the most glamorous date in the awards season, and Joanne Black - an Irish stylist based in LA - reveals just what happens before the stars sashay down the red carpet. By Gillian Fitzpatrick
On Sunday morning at 10.30 LA-time, a glittering red-carpet season comes to its pinnacle when the much-anticipated 87th Academy Awards begins. It will, of course, be another seven hours before Neil Patrick Harris kicks off the ceremony itself. However, for the streams of preened celebrities gathering outside Hollywood's Dolby Theatre, the day is a particularly long one.
"The early bird catches the worm," one agent who has two clients attending the Oscars on Sunday told the Irish Independent from Los Angeles this week.
"If you're Keira Knightley or Reese Witherspoon or Julianne Moore will you be there at 10.30am? Absolutely not; nominees will be prominently featured whatever time they show.
"Everyone else - including some big names - is quite literally up at the crack of dawn to get ready and hit the Dolby early and get their picture taken. It's frantic for everyone involved."
Despite her cool demeanour and rock-solid reputation, stylist Joanne Black has already this week weathered her fair share of frenzy. A former Miss Ireland and model, the County Cavan-native now counts the likes of actress Goldie Hawn, model Petra Nemcova and our own Sarah Bolger among her clients.
In recent days alone there was a movie premiere to navigate, while last night she attended the Oscar Wilde event in Santa Monica. Tomorrow she is styling Petra for Harvey Weinstein's iconic pre-Oscars party in Beverly Hills, and on Sunday she's dressing Petra again along with Sarah Bolger for the coveted Elton John Oscars bash.
"At this time of year, the city is really alive," she explains yesterday morning from her LA base. "It's hectic, certainly."
However, for Joanne this week also marks the accumulation of months of work.
"Once the new season stuff is out, you contact all the designers as soon as you can and have fittings lined up. I'm always glued to fashion weeks; eyeing up the catwalks and identifying what my clients are going to want. Then it's a case of contacting the designers to request a piece," she says.
"The likes of Elie Saab I work with a lot but you know a label like that is always going to be a red-carpet favourite so you have to be quick off the mark. The pieces worn this weekend will largely be from spring-summer collections that were first seen last September."
Joanne adds: "But remember, a lot of actresses aren't models, they're not 5ft 9in or 5ft 10in, so you need to alter the dress to fit their dimensions - you can't always just order the dress and throw it on on the day."
The 41-year-old also reveals that every minute counts for a big star with a hectic Oscars weekend diary full of high-profile events.
"Petra is in London at the moment and won't arrive in LA until tomorrow for the Weinstein party, which is a big ticket to get. We're going to have to work fast. She lands early and we'll transfer immediately to a Grazia shoot. Then it's straight into an afternoon fitting - we've pulled half a dozen dresses but we'll get that down then and decide what exactly she'll wear for Weinstein and for Elton John. We' still have no idea!
"My job entails hair, makeup, accessories and jewellery too. It has to be a coordinated image. Petra is an ambassador for Chopard so the one thing I do know is that she'll be wearing lots of diamonds.
"Thankfully her hair and makeup will be done from the Grazia shoot so that will save us time - we'll just do touch-ups later in the day. Her car will arrive to take her to the event in the evening and then it will all kick-off again for her on Sunday.
"At least I did Sarah's Elton John fitting yesterday before the Oscar Wildes so she has her look finalised now.
"Then it's straight into an afternoon fitting - we'll decide then what she'll wear for Weinstein and for Elton John. We still have no idea!
Understandably when schedules are so tight, things don't always go to plan.
"At the Cannes Film Festival two years ago there was a bit of a hairy situation with Petra. Initially the Pucci dress had been a little big on her so a tailor was on hand to nip it in. But just before she was about to go on the red carpet the actual dress split.
"Petra just turned to me and said 'Jo, what are we going to do?' It's Cannes after all - there is no where to hide. There are walls and walls of photographers numbering thousands.
"But she had this incredible Smythson clutch bag which I told her to hold over the tear at the back of the dress. 'Just work it!' I said. And she did. She pulled it off perfectly. No one ever saw and we were able to laugh about it afterwards. Smythson saved the day!"
As for what we can expect to see on Sunday, Joanne says she loves the glamour of the Oscars.
"They are always so elegant," she says.
"You're always going to see beads and block colours, and you'll always get someone that will just throw in a very out-there look. Dior will have something stand-out, I suspect. And I adore all the jewels and accessories too."
Though she won't budge when pressed to reveal who she thinks will nab the best-dressed - and indeed, worst-dressed - accolade.
"Isn't that part-and-parcel of the fun," she laughs. "Let the battle commence, I say!"