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Jennifer Michalski-Bray, Celebrity Stylist and Costume Designer

Jennifer is a celebrity stylist and costume designer, who has worked on such fashion forward shows as the CW’s Gossip Girl and Netflix’s The Duchess. Here she brings us behind the scenes of her glamorous career, sharing her styling tips and favorite moments from her life as a celebrity stylist.

celebrity stylist Jennifer Michalski-bray

On Working in a Dream Career

I am an American celebrity stylist living in London with my husband James, our two children Waverly (2) and Hudson (8 months), and our dogs Perry and Nori. Even though I live in London, I am often working out of NYC and LA. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to work in fashion. My mom dug out a letter over the holidays that I wrote at 10 years old to my ‘grown up self’ answering a bunch of questions about where I saw myself as an adult, and I wrote that I thought I would work in fashion. So it’s safe to say that it’s been something that I’ve seen myself doing for quite some time.

behind the scenes gossip girl fashion
Jennifer hanging wardrobe on the set of Gossip Girl

On Styling Gossip Girl

I had read the Gossip Girl books in high school and loved all the characters and had actually chosen Blair Waldorf’s character as my inspiration for my college sewing class’ final collection. When I found out Gossip Girl was going to be made into a television show, I was at ELLE magazine working under Creative Director, Joe Zee. I used some contacts at the magazine to organise an interview, and they hired me as an intern which then parlayed into a position as a Costume Design (Fashion) Assistant. I had my interview after they were halfway done filming the first season of the show, so, I had already seen the Costume Designer, Eric Daman’s work on the show, and was even more excited to be part of it. Eric had worked under Sex and the City’s, Patricia Field, so he had learned from the best in the business. Working on all the cover shoots during my time at ELLE had given me experience working with celebrities, which helped at Gossip Girl. I learned a lot about the tricks of the trade and how to mix high and low pieces… especially during the first season I was there. Some designers were still reluctant to lend, so we relied on Eric’s ability to put together outfits that looked a lot more expensive than they were, to champion the high end, Upper East Side aesthetic.

On the Overlap of Art and Life

I feel like art and life overlaps for everyone on a daily basis whether or not they realise it… getting dressed is an art, everyone is their own arist and their art is reflected in how they dress. Besides the aforementioned, we have just moved into a new home and I’ve been really enjoying getting creative with decorating. I love finding second hand pieces that no one else will have, or mixing and matching prints and colours that make the space more quirky, yet maintain the inviting, cozy, period charm. When I’m not working, I really enjoy travelling, whether it’s to a relaxing destination or just a city break for a weekend away. We prefer to share experiences and memories with our extended family and our friends so our trips are always something to look forward to, and we definitely try to cram as many escapes into a year as possible. When I’m not working, I try to stay off my phone and social media to spend the maximum amount of quality time with my family. The perfect day in London would be having as much of a life as is possible with 2 little ones; going for a walk on Hampstead Heath with the dogs and kids, and maybe stopping for a pub lunch before walking back and having the babysitter for the evening so my husband and I can have a quality dinner and drinks with some friends.

costume designer fashion tips

On Being a Fashion Chameleon

The majority of the time, I have a ‘more is more’ approach but I tend to be more of a fashion chameleon and enjoy having different vibes on different days. My style is all about everyday glamour… I love to add a little sparkle or shine when possible even if I’m wearing something dressed down. Some days I take inspiration from the ’60s, the next day it’s Cher from Clueless, it just depends on my mood when I wake up. If I were to work on another television show as a costume designer or stylist, I would hope that it was another fashion-forward program like The Duchess, Gossip Girl and Sex and the City. I had the pleasure of working alongside my best friend on The Duchess, so I’m not sure how another show would top that. What I know for certain is that period dramas are not my thing… I would absolutely hate it. I admire the men and women who design those as it would so not come naturally to me! If I could pick any celebrity to style, I would love to dress Jennifer Lawrence! I feel like I can’t really answer what I would put her in as it’s always such a collaborative experience when working with a celebrity. She seems like a really fun person who doesn’t take herself too seriously… who also loves a glass of wine. Dream Client.

On Midwestern Roots

I didn’t really come from a family that was much into fashion, or beauty either for that matter. My mother, grandmother and aunts always looked put together and naturally beautiful but never put much time into their routines. Before I got my ears pierced when I was five, my Aunt Patty said ‘Beauty is Pain’ and that’s about as much beauty and fashion advice or wisdom that I’ve received! My mom used to let me dress myself for school, so I always was able to decide what I thought looked good from an early age. Although I like to think my ability to get ready quicker than my British husband is thanks to my midwest roots. For fashion and beauty inspiration, I took the majority of my inspiration growing up from magazines and media. Seventeen magazine was my go-to and I loved looking to my favourite movies and television shows for fashion inspiration and I was never afraid to try new trends before anyone else at school.

career as a fashion stylist
Jennifer as a child, fully accessorized on the beach

On The Duchess and Career Highlights

One of my most memorable moments professionally would be taking part in the ‘Me Too’ movement at the 2018 Golden Globes, when I dressed Gillian Anderson in a gorgeous, black Solace London gown. Another memorable moment is all of the wonderful press I received from styling Katherine Ryan on the show The Duchess. On The Duchess, Katherine’s wardrobe evolved with her character. I’m immensely proud of each and every outfit from the series, because our budget was not big… at all, but I think we managed to make each outfit tell her story in it’s own way. When she was at her lowest, she looked the least put together, and when we thought her life looked like everything was going swimmingly, she looked like a mega boss babe in simple but chic outfits; not over complicated or screaming for attention, but just bright enough to really stand out. When dressing a celebrity or a character on a show, you have to learn how to compromise. Collaboration is key with celebrities. When I’m styling a press junket, I try to keep a theme for the client the entire way through. Sometimes your vision might not be the exact vision that they have, and in the end all I ever want is for the clients to feel like their best selves and ooze confidence. I’m a firm believer in confidence being top priority in anything that you wear… you can basically justify wearing anything if you wear it with confidence.

Gillian Anderson at the Golden Globes, me too movement
Gillian Anderson at the Golden Globes, wearing Solace London

On Must-Have Accessories for your Zoom Calls

I have a current love for all things headwear… I can’t get enough of headbands, barrettes, hats, bows, scrunchies… you name it as long as it’s hair related I’m all about it. Accessories for your hair should be high on everyone’s must have list this year as we are heading into year two of the pandemic and everyone is still stuck sitting on countless Zoom calls where you only see the top half of your body… It can help you look totally put together with just a quick clip of your hair to the side.

On Looking Great on a Daily Basis

What comes to my mind first and foremost is sleep… which I know I (and probably half the people reading this) don’t get enough of. Besides that, I think if you are having a rough morning a hat is a great way to hide any unruly hair and help you look chic if you’re running around town. My favourite go-to at the moment is an Isabel Marant newspaper boy cap. I’m lucky enough to have some makeup artist friends, who I get to tap into for tips and tricks on photoshoots or filmings. They sometimes even try new trends out on me but I am pretty low maintenance when it comes to beauty. I like the basics and love a good face mask and facial.

the duchess fashion

On Quality Over Quantity

I am really into the entire buy less, wear more movement that’s going on at the moment. I think the Western world has gotten so caught up in fast fashion and cheap clothes that you wear once that we’ve forgotten about the planet and the people who are behind the scenes making our ten dollar dresses. In previous decades, women purchased items that they knew they would keep for years and years, they would take such good care of each and every item they owned. Ever since I had my daughter, Wavy, I have been trying to save for more quality purchases that I know I can pass down to her.

On Favorite Brands

Since we’ve been living during the pandemic for nearly a year now, I have been using online retailers a lot more, and my go-to for ease of use is matchesfashion. I love their packaging and their customer service is top notch. Additionally, I love love love resale sites like Verstiare Collective, The Real Real and even ebay. My favourite designer brand for ready to wear is Valentino for all of the intricate detail that goes into each and every piece that they craft. Aquazzura is my favourite shoe brand… they make the comfiest heel in the game. I’ve been coveting this pair of Roger Vivier black leather combat boots with a crystal buckle… but even in the sale they’re pushing it. How many black boots can one woman own!?

Katherine Ryan, creator and star of The Duchess, in one of Jennifer’s favorite looks from the show

On Finding Your Style

My advice would be that you don’t have to categorize yourself into one style. I love a fellow fashion chameleon who isn’t set on one set look. In addition to the hopeful return of the red carpet, I have been working on a handful of different projects that will be out this year, but one of my most exciting projects is a book that taps into my years of styling experience and tricks of the trade. On my instagram I’ve been doing a lot more IGTV pieces and hoping to do some fashion TV segments in the future to diversify myself even more.

Thank you Jennifer! You can keep up with Jennifer on Instagram or her website for fashion inspiration and updates about upcoming projects!

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