LOS ANGELES — The flawless looks about to be unveiled on the Oscars red carpet have been months in the making and require an army of experts.
With perhaps the highest concentration of cameras anywhere in the world that night, plus millions of viewers keenly critiquing every outfit, Oscar's red carpet is the ultimate runway, where designers and their muses are discovered and celebrated. Hair and makeup trends are established. New style-setting stars are crowned. And sartorial scorn is heaped upon those who make even the slightest misstep.
All that perfection takes a lot of preparation. Here's a look at the standard steps and secret tricks that stars employ to get red carpet ready:
That dewy complexion isn't all makeup. Stars spend at least a week prepping for an Oscar appearance, says celebrity makeup artist Melanie Mills. They might do a cleanse to expel toxins and drop weight, she said, along with seaweed wraps to further detoxify and slim down. Mills also recommends a traditional Korean spa-style body scrub a few days prior to the show "to really get that skin exfoliated and super glowing." A facial and spray tan follow.
Show-day makeup takes about two hours, she said. One of her secrets: using body makeup before foundation for a "sunny, gorgeous, lit-from-within glow" that stays on all day — and won't transfer onto men's jackets during the many industry-requisite hugs.
"You should also mist yourself with a setting spray," she said, "especially if you're going to be schmoozing with a lot of men in black tuxedoes."
Skilled hairstylists can give stars a temporary eye lift with a lace-front wig, says Michael Shaun Corby, global creative director for Alterna Haircare. Using nylon thread, he sews a patch of lace into tight pin-curls, which helps lift the brows and smooth wrinkles around the eyes.
"Then we top it with a $7,000 wig and no one knows our little secret!" he said.
Hair extensions take hours of preparation, he said, "because we carefully sew individual wefts of human hair together in a multitude of colors to get the exact look and texture for the star."
"The stars need perfection on the red carpet," he said, "and we give it to them."
Besides a clean diet of healthy smoothies the week before the big show, trainer Harley Pasternak recommends that his Oscar-bound clients take at least 12,000 steps a day and do resistance exercises that improve their posture.
"When you're on the red carpet," he said, "it's really all about confidence and posture."
Stars who need last-minute help slimming trouble spots could try VaserShape, a treatment shown to reduce inches from thighs and bellies in about 45 minutes.
Botox and facial fillers can be done a few days before the ceremony, but face lifts, liposuction and the increasingly popular butt implants need to be done months in advance, says celebrity plastic surgeon Dr. Peter Fodor, who estimates "at least 80 percent" of the stars on the Oscar carpet have done something surgical to enhance their appearance.
"If the work is done right, it's undetectable," he said.
Stylists scour the fashion shows in New York, London, Paris and Milan to find the freshest looks for the Academy Awards, says stylist Brad Goreski.
Once found, what goes underneath and alongside are priorities. Custom and couture dresses have built-in foundations, he said, but other outfits need special consideration.
"You never want to see a visible panty line, ever," he said. "VPL is something I can't deal with." The seamless, invisible Commandos are a possibility, as is actually going without any underwear beneath a long dress.
Double-stick tape is a stylist's No. 1 tool. Besides keeping fabric in place, it can also create the appearance of firmer skin, Goreski said.
"In a very revealing dress, it can help to tighten the skin in different areas without it seeming that way," he said. "You know, pull a little wrinkle or something like that."
His key to making a red carpet splash? Color.
"Bright colors make people happy," said the stylist. "And those are also the (photos) people will run in the magazines."
Even men are getting more colorful. Supporting-actor nominee Jared Leto wore a bronze jacket to the Oscar Nominees Luncheon, and of course there's Pharrell Williams' attention-getting hat.
— Shoes: They're not comfortable and they're not going to be. "If we feel it makes the look, we go for it," Goreski said.
— Clutch: What actually goes into those impossibly tiny clutch purses? Fitting in the essentials is a major red carpet challenge. The phone goes in first, then money and ID. Corby recommends at least three hairpins and a hairband, plus a miniature can of hairspray, if possible. Mills suggests a "lip product," clear eyelash glue, blotting papers and a small compact.
"It's a little bit of a puzzle piece," Goreski said. "It's like Tetris inside of those purses."