The (Fashion) Evolution of Julianne Hough: The Star’s Stylist Tells All

Spencer Cain

In case you haven’t noticed, Julianne Hough has been looking strikingly chic lately. While the 24-year-old actress and singer has been walking red carpets since her “Dancing With the Stars” days, it was only recently that her sense of fashion has started to evolve in a very noticeable—and impressive—way. During the past year, she’s been experimenting with menswear, edgy silhouettes, and high-fashion labels such as Peter Pilotto and—as we’ve learned—behind every successful style evolution is a good stylist, so we were eager to chat with Anita Patrickson, the woman responsible for Julianne’s recent red carpet wins.

Patrickson’s resume is impressive, having dressed stars like Emma Watson and Kate Walsh for the red carpet, as well as styling covers for major magazines like Elle and Vanity Fair. Here, she gives us the honest scoop on what it takes to transform a regular star into a fashion star.

How long have you and Julianne been working together?

The first thing I did with her was the Emmys last year—that big, green mermaid-y business. So we’ve been working together nearly a year.

What did you want to transform about the star’s look specifically?

I think Julianne has had an extraordinary journey compared to most. She’s had about nine lives. A country star, a dancing star, and each one has a different sort of style to it. It’s hard—once you’re in that world—to transform yourself into a fashion icon. I think we both really wanted the same things when it comes to her look. When we first met and discussed whether or not we’d be a good fit, the goal we both had was to create a chic and timeless look to make her feel more fashion-y—more Vogue. You used to not see Julianne—you used to see a lot of makeup and a lot of sparkle. It’s been really fun actually helping to change that.

That’s a difficult transition. How did you make it happen—and do you have some tips for non-famous girls trying to evolve, style-wise? 

One of the things that we tried to start with was go back to neutral. We found a simple place where we could reassess. In order to evolve you look, you should go to a simple palette.

We didn’t immediately throw her into labels like Peter Pilotto. The people watching her style evolution wouldn’t be used to that. They have to reassess too. It’s not just Julianne—it’s a whole world and it takes time. We had to find clean, classic structured pieces, and that’s a really good way to start. You have to find a clean and clear voice. People get carried away with too much makeup and hair accessories, and you have to find one thing that shouts in your outfit, whether it’s an amazing shoe or crazy lip. You just need to go slowly and carefully.

When working with high-profile stars, how do you handle inevitable criticism and the constant scrutiny of celebrity fashion?

The older I get and the more I’ve done this, the less I worry. When you’re starting out you’re glued to the computer and reading every comment. One of the things I always [have to] remember is, “Hang on a second—I don’t even know who this person is!” The people whose [comments] you’re reading could be a random guy in Idaho wearing a “Napoleon Dynamite” jersey, and here we are stressing that he’s not liking her Giambattista Valli skirt! Nobody’s going to like everything. People who like Alexa Chung probably won’t like Sofia Vergara, and vice versa. Try and just be open and take it for what it is. We’re not curing cancer, we’re having fun.

As a stylist, do you take into account a star’s personal life when you are dressing them?

I think you have to be relatively conscious. Obviously you need to know what’s going on. After a sex tape scandal, you wouldn’t want to put someone in crop tops! A stylist and client are generally incredibly close. The first time you meet you’re like, “Let’s get naked!” You just become intensely close and often we have insight into what’s going on. But look, everyone is grown up you just have to get on with it—and have fun with fashion!

Is there anything Julianne won’t ever wear?

I don’t like to ever say never, but I think she’s not going to go back to overloading on the makeup or the hair or the tanning! She’s moved into another world. She’ll show me pictures and laugh and be like, “Oh my God, remember when I wore that!”

Her haircut has gotten tons of attention. Were you happy with it?

I’m very pro-haircut! She has an amazing hairstylist, and I love it and it’s gorgeous. It’s such a great change, it’s very refreshing.

Has the haircut changed the way you style her?

Yeah, absolutely. I think Julianne has opened up a whole world with her haircut. It’s very chic and it’s like when Emma Watson cut her hair. It’s a whole different ballgame. We can wear girly pieces without it being too pretty, you can wear edgy pieces and keep it really funky. I think it gives her image a revamp.

Doing a drastic hair change is an instant fix. When you’re looking to reinvent yourself, look for a haircut. Look at Anne Hathaway! Short hair is always very chic. For her, it was just a really smart move.

Do you guys have similar visions when it comes to style, or do you ever disagree?

I think we’re very lucky in terms of our relationship because we’re on the same page. The trick is, I need to push her—that’s part of my job. But at the same time, if she’s not confident and comfortable, then the pictures are going to show it. She’s way more adventurous now. I’m like, “A year ago, you never would have worn this!” It’s been a fun journey. It’s just about exposing yourself and exposing her. There are some things—like a skirt over pants—that she wouldn’t have understood a year ago, and now she’s so open and so brave, and she’s found that in fashion.

Julianne attended the recent Met Gala—how was dressing her for that?

The Met Gala was fun! We had a good time with that. The dress was from Topshop. It was hard to decide how far to push the punky theme, but we had a really good time with it. We actually cut the dress while it was on her to make it a little bit more punky. We did a spidery theme with her dress, and obviously her ring, and cool little punky earrings which were all different and mismatched. It’s a very personal thing how far you take these things.

Many stylists are starting their own lines, is that something you’d be interested in?

Yeah! I mean, that’s the great thing about this industry. You can do whatever you want, I’d absolutely love to do a fashion line at some point!

MORE: Kristen Stewart’s Stylist Dishes on the Star’s Met Gala Look and the One Trend She’ll Never Try
                Secrets of a Stylist: Alicia Keys’ Go-To Girl Fills Us In on the Star’s Favorite Designers