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Meet the Celebrity Tailor who works on the Sets for Music Videos and Photo Shoots

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Although they may appear to have little in common, Olivia Rodrigo’s latest, Awkwafina, and a recent Tiffany & Co. might not seem to share much at first glance. Each garment is completely different stylistically. The connective tissue lies in the perfect fit of each garment. Celebrity tailor is the woman responsible.

If you watched Fashion Police as much as I did in your formative years, you’ll know that the fit of a garment equates its aesthetic in almost every celebrity ensemble. A great stylist is behind every celebrity. A great tailor is behind every stylist. Ai, which is not known to the general public, is responsible for many of our favourite pop-culture fashion moments.

Ai cut her fashion teeth working in mass-market design. At the age of 11 she learned the art from her grandmother and was already teaching sewing when a stylist friend suggested that she be the tailor on Dancing with the Stars. Her career began. Ai now works on a variety of projects, including commercials, fashion magazine covers and music video sets. She also responds to stylist requests.

The day before we spoke on the phone, she had been working with Cardi B. Ai had already chosen an outfit for the celebrity and asked her team to make it ready in two hours. Cardi was still in hair and makeup. This is what a master garment-worker would expect. A photo shoot might require that models be fitted for the first day. Ai must have at least the first look on the call sheet ready for the next morning. Depending on the schedule, she may need to have the sixth look in four hours, the tenth in six, etc. She is constantly working against time.

“It is crazy because sometimes we’re understaffed and there’s this many looks and only one tailor and you just have to make it work,” says Ai, who works predominantly out of her studio in Long Island City. A dozen New York tailors work under her, as well as a few L.A. tailors.”

The concept of fit isn’t what it used to be, either. There are many options for lengths and styles to choose from. Specifications regarding the fit of garments vary depending on season and client. She explains that if the garment is Lemaire, their hems are more clean and there’s less break. “If it’s Telfar, the legs have more break if they’re shorter.”

After the designer specifications come the desires of the stylist and the talent. “The more I work closely with stylists, the better I get to know their tastes and style. With the talent, I learn that some people prefer things to be more fitted. Some like to show more cleavage. Others like it more conservative. It’s also important to consider what the performer will be doing. If they are performing on stage or walking down a red carpet, she needs to ensure that there is enough stretch material. If it is a campaign, the brand can also have a say. There are many opinionated chefs in the sartorial kitchen, it’s obvious.

The demands range beyond clothing, as well. For a Venus Gillette commercial, a stylist might ask for fabric that wraps around the dress and then flows in the air. I need to be able to understand how pattern-making works, what fabric to use to make the fabric fly in the sky while the dress is still fitted. Also, it’s important to know how to make the fabric feel silky and light in the air. Sometimes she is the opposite. She admits to adding weight to the hemlines and trousers of red carpet outfits to keep the wind out of her hair and wiring her hoodie to make it stand up. Sometimes, the requests don’t even require clothing. Ai was responsible for creating the puppets in Nicki Minaj’s Barbie Dreams music videos.

Known for her work with celebrities, Ai also works with “regular” people, in a loose sense of the word. A client of hers, an art dealer, has her personal shopper help her to choose her clothes due to time constraints. Naturally, not all of these items fit well. Enter Ai.

Though not often credited, the fit enthusiast posits that around 90 percent of celebrities have some sort of tailor involved in their process. She hopes that the service will be extended beyond the elite in the future. I hope people will be more open to it. Fit is important because it can make a difference in how you wear the garment, rather than it sitting in your closet. Below are Ai’s top tips for incorporating tailoring into your life.

  • Always Size Up Adjust the waist, hems and sleeves by sizing up.
  • Darts Are a Friend to Curvier Figures You can also Youtube the process. Simply press the edges and lightly hem – if you have enough patience and are able to thread a needle.
  • Keep Price in Mind “If you’re making a pair of trousers, make sure there is at least 2 inches of fabric allowance in the back seam. This can be done at the tailors.
  • Tailoring Isn’t Just for Size–Personalize! If you don’t love a pair of pants, you can make them short. You can make your jeans more stylish by adding patchwork. You can make a midi into a mini by cutting out or converting it to a midi.
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