Genius Style Tips From Celebrity Closet Confidential's Mary Alice Haney
And see the red carpet style upgrade she gives LeAnn Rimes on her Style Network special tonight!
Mary Alice Haney is a celebrity's secret style weapon. Having worked with stars ranging from the Sex and the City cast to Blake Lively (and everyone in between), she knows just how to upgrade a client's style while keeping them happy and true to themselves. Tonight at 10:30 pm on her juicy Style Network special Celebrity Closet Confidential, you'll get to see Haney sort through LeAnn Rimes' closet in order to get the fashion intel she needs to dress her for a red carpet event. The result is a definite winner: when the star hits the carpet in a stunning cleavage-baring Tom Ford white dress, it's clear this is a revamped, chicer-than-ever Rimes. Explains Haney, "In each episode, I take a great celebrity, and I help them have a real fashion moment. Going into their closet is part of the research I do—I go back and really see their fashion past so that I can elevate their fashion future."
We recently chatted with Haney about everything from why she loves her yoga pants to how to use your iPhone as your secret fashion weapon. Read on for her expert tips and then shop our mini-slideshow of the five looks she feels every woman ought to have in her closet.
Lucky: Whether a client is a celebrity or civilian, what problems do you encounter over and over again?
Mary Alice Haney: Well, I think that the biggest problem is that most people get stuck in a style rut; they sort of like things that looked great on them in the '80s and still think they look great on them now. It's a matter of evaluating—you know, your body changes, your style changes, you age. I’m someone that believes that women in their forties can still wear things that women in their twenties can wear, but she may not wear all the things that she wore in her twenties, maybe showing the midriff is no longer appropriate for you during your forties. The first thing is going in there and saying, “Okay, how can we use what you have?” In other words, shopping your closet. It’s not about going into someone’s closet and throwing everything out, it’s really about going in and saying, “Okay, here’s some great pieces that we can use and just add some new things on."
How often should people evaluate what's in their closet?
Every year, at least. Some women do it more, though If you have a tag on something after a year and you haven't worn it, you’re probably not going to wear it. There are so many places now you can give your old clothes to—online, charity, etc. if your closet is super-cluttered, you won’t really be able to find anything.
Are you good at eliminating things personally?
Oh, I’m terrible, but then again I keep everything. By the way, I'm never saying, "Get rid of an amazing Chanel jacket that you got in the '80s.” Get rid of styles that don’t suit you anymore. You know, every trend goes away and then comes back. Old becomes new again. So a lot of the Balmain that was on the red carpet recently – I wore that style in the early eighties. Some things to come back, like the jacket with the shoulder pad. It’s just a matter of great quality. If you think something may come back in style and it would still be appropriate for you, don’t get rid of it. But I’m terrible, I keep everything.
What do you do if a client won't take your advice?
The same goes for celebrities and real women. You hire me for my point of view. I’m not somebody’s assistant that goes out shopping. I do research, I go to the shows, I know what’s going on in fashion, I study the history of fashion. You hire me for that. I spend my days doing that. You’re hiring me for my point of view, and you have to believe that with my twenty years at magazines and styling celebrities, that I know what I’m doing. If I have a client that really doesn’t want change, or if I have a celebrity or a shoot that doesn’t want to go in the direction that I want to go – I’ll never just leave or fire them, but I think the greatest moments are the ones when somebody really does want you to transform them. It happens a lot, especially with celebrities, that they think they know what looks good on them. I would show them a million pictures and be like, "Nope, look at this, look at this, let’s look at these moments in your fashion history and find something better.”
Do you recommend people take a picture of themselves in an outfit to know if it looks good?
You can do that, and now, especially with iPhones, that’s something that I always recommend. I’ve even done that for a party! I wore that outfit to your Lucky party, and I was in a lot of pictures, and later I was like, "Oh my God, that was so bad!” I mean, it was overkill with the headband and the sparkly jacket. But it happens to the best of us. It was so fun, but then it was just weird. Just not a good outfit. So even I do that! But if there’s a big moment coming up in your life, it’s really important to just take a picture and deal with it! You can really see the difference.
What one piece do you find that women struggle with the most?
I think the hardest piece to find for your wardrobe for me, and for most women, is a great pair of pants that you can wear with flats. If you’re a mom and you want to run around and you still want to look chic casually, I think that’s a hard item to find. Most pants are too long or built for a taller woman. I tend to wear my Beyond Yoga capri pants with a loose sweater and my Guiseppe flats, or my Chanel flats, because I just can’t find a pair of pants that are as flattering as those Beyond Yoga pants. I think it’s easy to go out and pick a really glamorous event outfit. It’s much harder to pull off a really chic casual look.
Who have been some of your favorite celebrities to dress?
Blake Lively—you know, that was a real collaboration. She loves fashion so much and she is so knowledgeable about fashion so that was really fun for me. It's fun to work with someone who does as much research as I do. Who else? Well, I have so many friends that I work with, too, and I love to work with all of them—and I love doing magazine editorials. I loved that Sex and the City cover that I did for Marie Claire. I was really pregnant at the time and I was flown to New York and it was just so chaotic with all the girls there and trying to figure out what they were going to wear. We had four different covers! I also really like working with amazing photographers. One of my first shoots was with Mario Testino which was, like, an inside fashion shoot. I will never forget that one—first because I was assisting Polly Mellen, and second, because it was Mario Testino. That picture still holds up today.
Do you shop high and low? Are we as likely to catch you in J.Crew as we are in Gucci?
No, you’re most likely to catch me in the Gucci store, honestly. I tend to shop high personally. I buy pieces and I will wear the hell out of them but they will be really high-end. Like, five from Gucci, five from Dolce, five from Yves Saint Laurent, but I do mix them. Same thing with my shoes—I tend to buy Christian Louboutins, Guiseppe, but I will mix them. J.Crew has my favorite t-shirts, so I will buy a great J. Crew t-shirt. I have a lot of great high-end jewelry but I will throw on faux jewelry or vintage jewelry. I tend to really buy for quality, something that’s going to last forever, so you won’t really find me at Zara.
Do you have any embarrassing fashion phases in your past?
I have a ton! When I first moved to LA, you couldn’t not find me in anything but a midriff top. Like it was all about a black miniskirt and a tummy-bearing top. Horrible!
Can you tell us about a recent fashion risk you took that paid off?
The other night, I wore this beautiful old Gucci dress backwards. It looked much better the way that I wore it than the way that it was and it’s great when you can end up wearing clothes the way that suit you best. For me, the dress looked better the other way. It was really drapey, and the back was more low-cut so I turned it around so the front was more low-cut.
Don't forget to tune into Celebrity Closet Confidential on the Style Network tonight at 10:30 pm. And read on to shop the five key pieces Haney believes every woman should own.