Plenty of stylists have gotten credit for transforming a star’s image—take Rachel Zoe and Nicole Richie, for instance—but few have had the rapid impact of Micaela Erlanger, who took unknown actress Lupita Nyong’o and turned her into a bona fide A-lister, all with the help of a few seriously jaw dropping gowns.
Besides being the fashionable force behind looks for Nyong’o including the red Ralph Lauren gown that Nyong’o wore to the Golden Globes and the radiant blue Gucci gown she wore the SAG Awards, she also calls Michelle Dockery, Olivia Munn, and Winona Ryder clients.
Here, a few things to know about 28-year-old Erlanger, who was just named The Hollywood Reporter’s third most powerful stylist. Something tells us she’s just getting started.
1. She was pre-med in college.
Erlanger didn’t always have her sights set on being a Hollywood stylist. While she attests to always having fashion on the brain, she was originally a pre-med student at Eckerd College, in St. Petersburg Florida. She eventually transferred to Parsons the New School for Design in New York City, thinking she wanted to be a fashion editor. It was after an internship at Cosmpolitan that she decided to pursue styling.
2. She trained under one of the best.
One of Erlanger’s mentors was the late stylist Annabel Tollman, who counted Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and Scarlett Johansson among her clients. “I worked with her six years and she taught me everything I know,” Erlanger told us. “She was an incredible talent and teacher.”
3. Lady Mary was her big break.
While Erlanger’s first celebrity client was Joely Richardson, who she dressed for the “Anonymous” and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” press tours, her first major client was “Downton Abbey” star Michelle Dockery. Her first time working with Dockery was when she dressed her in a white and gold Alexandre Vauthier Couture gown for the 2013 Globes.
“Michelle was my first major client, her Globes dress was life-changing,” Erlanger says. Dockery, who worked with Nyong’o on the movie “Non-Stop” was the one who introduced Nyong’o and Erlanger, too.
4. Her red carpet strategy: All about the individual.
Unlike celebrity stylists who dress their clients in their image, Erlanger’s approach is all about the individual. For Dockery, Erlanger opts for A-line gowns and cinched waists. “Michelle is my elegant English rose,” she says. Her approach with Nyong’o is different. “She loves color and bold choices. It’s about being super-playful,” she says.
5. Trick of the trade.
Erlanger advises women to “take pictures of yourself front, side, back, and see how things read.” Other things she says to consider are color, and picking pieces with that little something extra. “It’s all about having a little bit of surprise,” she says, of putting together a great outfit.