Getting Ready
uzo aduba 2018 tony awards

The Inspiration Behind Uzo Aduba’s Tonys Dress Will Surprise You

What went down when she got ready with stylist Cristina Ehrlich.

By: Dena Silver

Not every awards show is created equal—at least not in the eyes of stylist Cristina Ehrlich. The seasoned red carpet regular, trusted by Laura Dern, Mandy Moore, Penelope Cruz, and Greta Gerwig, has been working in the biz for quite some time. As she puts it, “I came out of the womb screaming Fed-Ex!”

So Ehrlich knows a thing or two about turning out a serious fashion moment for the Oscars and creating a look that oozes glamour for the Cannes Film Festival. But when it came to the Tony Awards in New York, one awards show where pretty much anything goes, the stylist knew that the time was right to amp up the drama for Uzo Aduba. She collaborated with the Orange Is the New Black actress on a custom yellow dress from designer Cristina Ottaviano—and the partnership did not disappoint.

The stylist walked us through the process of creating this dress, the unusual point of inspiration, to the final, finished product. But, Ehrlich warned us, it’s been a whirlwind night. As it turns out, the stylist’s roster of musical theater actresses also includes Mean Girl’s Tina Fey, in addition to Christine Baranski and Jessica Keenan Wynn. Luckily for Ehrlich, Aduba also happens to be a pro at nailing an awards-show arrival.

“Tonight Uzo is wearing Cristina Ottaviano, a New York-based designer who we have been doing quite a few collaborations with. This silhouette was inspired by a hairstyle that Uzo really wanted to explore for the Tonys. Sometimes I’ve started with a piece of jewelry or a color or a photograph for inspiration, but this time we started with a hairdo.”

Photo: Courtesy of Cristina Ehrlich

“We started working on this custom dress three weeks ago, right before Memorial Day, so we were transparent with Cristina [Ottaviano] that we would have to move fast and furious on this dress. We knew that we wanted a really strong color—and it was between an emerald green or a strong marigold yellow. The yellow won, because the contrast was just incredible against her skin.”

Photo: Courtesy of Cristina Ehrlich

“It didn’t take long for Uzo to get ready tonight, including hair and makeup. She started at 3:30 PM and was out the door at 5:45 PM. It was actually a dream; it turned out exactly like the picture, and Uzo zipped into the dress perfectly. She wore Lorraine Schwartz jewelry, Jimmy Choo sandals, and a Michael Kors clutch”

Photo: Courtesy of Cristina Ehrlich

We do a lot of custom dresses for Uzo, at least for carpets. For Uzo’s past few looks we worked with Sally Lapointe and Christian Siriano. We’ve also made custom dresses with Jonathan Cohen for the Emmys, Randi Rahm for the SAGs, and Juan Carlos Obando for the Tonys a few years back.”

Photo: Courtesy of Cristina Ehrlich

“The Tonys are a different carpet. I [think] there’s a little bit more of a range and diversity to it. The Golden Globes, the Oscars, BAFTA, and SAG Awards, or even Cannes have more of a formality to them. At the Tonys you see women in suits, women in cocktail, some people taking it a bit more costumey, some people taking it a bit more glamorous. The carpet is elevated, and it’s taken seriously, but there’s some frolic and whimsy.”

Photo: Courtesy of Cristina Ehrlich

“Since the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements started, I think a lot of singers, actresses, and Broadway performers have noticed that there’s more of a landscape now for the red carpet. They’re not out there dressing for the casting director—they really want to celebrate who they are and what they’re going to.”

Photo: Courtesy of Cristina Ehrlich

“Uzo is very involved and, since I started working with her in 2014, has really evolved in terms of her eye. She loves fashion, takes her presence on the carpet seriously.”

Photo: Courtesy of Cristina Ehrlich

“This dress from Cristina Ottaviano has all of this draping throughout the corset and a small slit in the front. We were trying to establish whether or not it was going to be more column and hit the floor straight, or if it would be a puddle. Uzo definitely weighs in on those decisions. She looks at her body from different angles and asks all the right questions.”

Photo: Courtesy of Cristina Ehrlich

“Dressing actresses is much different from dressing influencers or models. A model can throw anything on; it doesn’t matter if it’s lined or if their nipples are showing. The rules are different with models. With actresses, I have a specific DNA, and I want them to appear timeless. Even if there’s a trendy element to a dress, I want them to be able to look back and say it was a gorgeous moment. I never want them to ask, What were we thinking?”

Photo: Courtesy of Cristina Ehrlich

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