It takes a village to prep for the VMAs, and no one understands that quite like Heather Zweigel. Heather’s worked as the lead stylist for the VMAs and Movie Awards styling trophy models, celebs, and even the hosts themselves. Over here at MTV Style, we’ve been wondering how people come up with the costumes that will grace the stage at our awards shows, so we asked Heather to give us the full lowdown.
MTV: What’s the first step in figuring out how to dress the host?
Heather Zweigel: The first step comes from the input and notes I receive from the producers who are getting the creative concepts from writers, producers, and oftentimes the hosts themselves.
MTV: When does the prep for costuming the show start–from the designs, to getting in touch with people, to actually getting the clothes?
Heather Zweigel: The prep starts about three weeks out from the show. The first week consists of receiving the creative for the stage renders of the venue as well as what talent I will need to either design or shop for the show. Two weeks out, the research relative to the potential designs/looks begins, creating mood boards and reference images to send through to the writers, producers, and the host’s team for their feedback and final approval.
Once approved by all, the designing process begins, which involves sketching the designs to create visuals for my seamstresses, tailors, and costume-makers. This is also when I start fabric sourcing as well as shopping and showroom pulling to see what can be shopped verse what may need to be custom-made. In other words A LOT happens in the two weeks prior to the show! One week out from the show the collaboration and construction of the garments and costumes starts, the shopping continues and fittings are scheduled with talent to try the looks on to perfect them for the final show reveal.
MTV: From start to finish, how much time do you generally have to get it all together?
Heather Zweigel: I typically have two weeks from the time I get approvals and hit the ground running until the last thread is stitched and we are receiving the garments the morning of our fitting. The shows that we only have one week prep for multiple looks certainly keep it exciting due to the miracles that are happening in such a tight time frame!
MTV: There’s obviously a lot of scripted stuff that the host does with sketches and visual gags with other performers and artists. How do you plan the outfits around the script?
Heather Zweigel: If the script calls for it, my job is to make it happen, however necessary. The wardrobe can often be a huge factor in the bit or sketch and truly needs to represent what’s written in the script, so I strive to create my best interpretation of what the writers and creatives envisioned for the look. Creating mood boards and references for feedback and approval make all the difference to ensure that I nail their vision.
MTV: What are the costume changes like backstage?
Heather Zweigel: Insane! There’a lot of clothes being thrown, nudity, and talent running in heels while we run after them trying to get them fully zipped up before they go onstage to be seen by millions.
MTV: How much input does the host have in their costumes for the show?
Heather Zweigel: The host is essentially representing themselves on a such a grand scale so they have a huge influence on what goes and rightfully so! Hosting the VMAs is a big deal!
MTV: What is it like working with a person like Miley who has such a prominent individual style?
Heather Zweigel: I personally haven’t had the opportunity, but would imagine it would be a constant style adventure where there aren’t too many limitations, which would be extremely liberating to a stylist!
MTV: What are some of the most iconic VMA looks/shows that you’ve been a part of?
Heather Zweigel: My team and I worked alongside the Beyonce styling team for last year’s VMAs to ensure the quick changes were seamless. Beyonce truly made that show iconic. She absolutely stunned in her custom Tom Ford creation and her performance was unforgettable.