Melissa McCarthy's Stylist on 'Ghostbusters' Tour Looks and Dressing Real-World-Size Women
"In between L.A. and New York, not everybody is a size 2 or a size 4," says stylist Judy B. Swartz. "That’s the real world and that’s the world that’s not serviced. And I’m out there every day looking for things."
At Saturday's Ghostbusters premiere at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Melissa McCarthy took to the red carpet in a 1950s-inspired custom creation in an up-to-the-minute yellow hue with lacy floral embroidery.
It's the latest in a series of killer looks McCarthy has donned during the film’s run-up, showing a witty but chic style that dispenses with all the old axioms about dressing real-world-size women.
“It’s an elegant version of new and old Hollywood,” says stylist Judy B. Swartz, who collaborated with the star on looks for the film’s pre-release press tour. “And the takeaway from that [premiere] look for any woman is not to be afraid to experiment and to always keep your look evolving.”
A sketch of the custom gown McCarthy wore to the film's Los Angeles premiere.
Stylist and designer Swartz first met McCarthy when she was asked to consult on the launch of the star’s own fashion collection, Melissa McCarthy Seven7, which debuted at the end of 2015. (A Tinseltown veteran of music videos as well as commercial design, Swartz is perhaps best known for working with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen during their tween years, handling both their personal styling and the creative direction of the sisters’ then-billion-dollar-a-year brand for Walmart.)
“My sister’s a plus size, so I was always interested because I would go shopping with her,” Swartz says. “So, when they approached me about working with Melissa, I jumped at the chance, I loved her.”
McCarthy at the 2016 Golden Globes
After consulting on the first two seasons of Seven7, Swartz was asked to style McCarthy for a couple of big events last year: the 100th episode party for the CBS series Mike & Molly and then, notably, the big 40th anniversary celebration for NBC's Saturday Night Live.
“I wanted to make her kind of edgy because she’s beautiful and she’s young and she’s hip,” recounts Swartz. The result was a much-noticed sequined skirt mixed with a T-shirt turtleneck top. After signing on for the press tour for the McCarthy film Spy, the next collaboration was the liquid metallic panne velvet gown for the 2016 Golden Globes, which landed McCarthy on several best-dressed lists and garnered a call out from Vogue.com. “I think the whole vision of her changed,” Swartz says.
McCarthy at SNL's 40th anniversary celebration
For the Ghostbusters press tour, Swartz often styled looks using pieces pulled from Melissa McCarthy Seven7, like the smart pink shirt and geometric-print skirt the actress wore recently doing press in London. “I was blown away by the line,” she says. “Even if I wasn’t working with her, I’d use it.”
But key events called for custom pieces made by Swartz and her star client, with the input of McCarthy’s fit specialist Daniela Kurrle. Along the way, the actress's willingness to break “rules” about plus-size dressing has provided a template for high-impact style for women with real-world figures.
Take the dress McCarthy wore for June’s Elle Women In Comedy Event — a fitted style with bell sleeves in an unexpected fabric, hot-pink neoprene.
For this “fun” look, Swartz says, “I found a silhouette that I liked and showed it to her and she loved it. She picked out the neoprene fabric and we loved the color.” What made the outfit work was McCarthy’s keen eye for fit, the stylist says. “The most important thing a woman can do is make sure her clothes fit properly.”
McCarthy at the Elle Women in Comedy Event
When McCarthy joined Ghostbusters director Paul Feig last month in Singapore at an event where hundreds of the movie’s fans set a new Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of people dressed as ghosts at a single venue, McCarthy stood out in an impressionistic floral chiffon gown with filmy layers of oversize blooms, the kind of style that larger women may traditionally have been advised to bypass.
“I’ll be honest with you, I really feel that women should not limit themselves," says Swartz. “I’ve seen women come alive in things you wouldn’t think they should wear.”
McCarthy shares her stylist’s fondness for prints, and Swartz explains that the actress has a keen eye for finding the right ones: “She doesn’t like every print and she doesn’t like big bold prints. If they are on the bigger side, she likes a lot of negative space and careful placement. You want to avoid a Garanimals effect.”
McCarthy at a 'Ghostbusters' press stop in Singapore with director Paul Feig
Swartz says ultimately fashion is an individual decision and that women should wear what makes them feel good. Of course, the choices are not always there, as the fashion industry has been slow to respond to the diversity of women’s shapes and sizes. McCarthy sidestepped the recent conversation around her Ghostbusters co-star Leslie Jones, who tweeted that no designer wanted to dress her for the premiere. But Swartz recalls similar comments that McCarthy made two years ago when looking for an Oscar gown.
But the situation is changing, with new lines including Melissa McCarthy Seven7.
“I feel like there’s some kind of momentum going on and if you can get the retailers on board to trust that vision and give the floor space to that woman, I think they would get themselves out of the hole,” says Swartz.
“In between L.A. and New York, that’s really where the market is and not everybody is a size 2 or a size 4,” she adds. “That’s the real world and that’s the world that’s not serviced. And I’m out there every day looking for things.”