We’re forever impressed by the work celebrity stylists do, but honestly, it pales in comparison to the serious prep, planning, and man-hours that go into getting a singer ready for a tour that’ll last months and months. It’s a challenge that Marina Toybina knows, having worked with singers like Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, and Katy Perry (she won an Emmy for working on the latter’s Super Bowl halftime show, natch). Most recently she just finished crafting the looks for her second mega-tour with Underwood; you can see the stylish fruits of their labor right now on The Storyteller Tour, keeping the country star busy through July.
“With this tour we were able to work closely with multiple designers to manipulate each piece to make it tour-ready,” she explained, revealing that everything is made after a sketch is reviewed. “Only one is made and from there we do multiple fittings. After we agree on it, I go through and re-customize to make sure it’s the right length and embellish it to make it the best it can be.”
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When we got the fashion pro on the phone, we asked everything we could think of (including when someone finds the time to wash and repair these hard-working garments). Check out our conversation here:
Glamour: What’s the process of costuming a tour like?
Marina Toybina: Tours can be extremely different from one another; it can depend on whether we’re doing the dancers or just one artist. The process usually involves coming up with visuals with the creative director, looking at what the acts might be if the tour is split between various sections. From there I’d start doing my own sketches based on the general creative and proposing that to the artist. With Carrie, her creative director would come up with certain creatives, she would approve, and I’d come in after that process and come up with pieces that’d work best for each section. Then I’d sit with Carrie one-on-one and see what she prefers. If this is a high-beat act, what kind of shoes are we going to go with so she can move around the stage? Can the piece be a little bit heavier?
Glamour: How many looks in total does Carrie have for this tour?
MT: The show is split into five sections and for each of those she has about three or four options. Each night she can manipulate the look of the show or pick what she’s comfortable in. It’s an evolution and not the same for each show, so it’s about 20 to 25 various looks that are being continuously worn. We’ve always done [wardrobe options] with Carrie. Things aren’t done in duplicate forms because everything was so customized and each was so different. It’s a personal preference of hers to switch in and out of things when she’s performing. Not being tied down to one look on constant repetition makes it a little bit more interesting.
Glamour: Silly question, but how are things cleaned when you’re in the middle of a packed tour?
MT: At whatever arena, they’ll set up a traveling washer and dryer wherever unloading happens to help people. They’ll even make sure the band’s clothes are taken care of. An off-day is when most things are dry-cleaned or any special needs are addressed.
I work closely with the person who travels on the road with her, asking, ‘Can this be dry-cleaned? Can this be machine washed? Can this only be in cold water?’ We dissect each costume prior to opening night so if something happens like a rhinestone coming off, we know how to replace them. We make sure there’s enough stock just in case something goes wrong in a cleaning process or the handling of the costumes while traveling. There are always enough extra accessories to make sure you can rebuild it.
Glamour: Did you have to prepare for a lot of quick changes with this tour?
MT: Every one is always considered prior to us doing fittings. Even if certain things look or feel great, the first thing we do is make sure all zippers are changed out. As flattering as hidden zippers look on actual clothes, for any sort of quick change you need the industrial plastic zipper because it holds the shape best and gives it a weight so nothing catches when you’re trying to unzip. It’s more durable too.
Before rehearsals I’ll time how much time we have, and when we do our first pre-production rehearsal we’ll see if she can make all the quick changes and if not, what we have to adjust. We’ll make sure Velcro or snaps are involved, and do things in particular colors [to help with speed]: If we’re going to have a black zipper, we’ll have a silver hook-and-eye. There are these tricks that go into every single piece just to make sure can touch and feel it in case something goes wrong or the lights went out under the stage [where most of the quick changes happen.]
Glamour: You style Carrie for some red-carpet appearances too. How is that different than the work you do prepping for a tour?
MT: I pay attention to detail so even if we do a simple fitting for a carpet, it still becomes a big deal to me and her, making sure all the hems are correct and the fits are perfect. It’s not as drastic as coming up with something [brand new] for a tour, but it’s the same amount of detail and work that goes into anything she does. We re-customize the look from head to toe, adjusting the hem to make sure it’s the perfect height, especially with whatever shoe she’s wearing.
Glamour: You worked together when she hosted the CMAs and changed at least ten times. How was that?
MT: We had about 15 changes that she could have anywhere from two to five to 15 minutes for, and we were actually cutting down changes because we had such an incredible original fitting. The similarity between that experience and the tour is that when you’re on a tour each act and song represents something, and you want to match your visual to the vocals and the atmosphere. Hosting an award show, each time you’re on camera it’s something new, and you’re looking the part. If you’re presenting an award you want to be a little more elegant, while if you’re presenting a performance you have the opportunity to be more edgy and play with fashion.
Another celebrity stylist who’s been busy lately? Come meet the woman hired to revamp Katy Perry’s red-carpet look.
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Photos: Jeff Johnson, Getty Images