Stylist Secrets: Nicole Chavez Dishes On Dressing Rachel Bilson

Nobody nails celeb style like Rachel Bilson. The oh-so-perfect jeans, the always-on-trend sunglasses, the flawless hair, and the occasional dash of Chanel all come together for an effortlessly chic A-list effect. And she can thank style genius Nicole Chavez for all of that.
The celeb stylist has known (and dressed) Bilson since her O.C. days, and is very much the force behind the star's recent metamorphosis into a grown-up glamour girl. So, obviously, we sat down with Chavez to pick her brain on everything from her insane collection of magazine tears to dressing her baby bump (she's eight months preggers!) without succumbing to maternity wear. Read on, and take notes. We see a ready-for-the-taking winter shopping list in it for you.

What's the best styling trick you've learned from all of your years of working with Rachel Bilson?

"When it comes to Rachel, anything goes. But she doesn't like to make a decision, so I always have to have options. But I think that's what makes her look so successful. She likes to mix and match, so her style never feels premeditated. Always go for the unexpected. Rachel taught me that a long time ago. Like, there's always the obvious choice, maybe with your shoe or something, but you just kinda want to think outside the box a little bit. I like to think about what would feel different, to the point where someone would stop me and say, 'I wouldn't have done that.' Trying to push the envelope is fun, because you want people talking, and you want people to take notice. There are no rules. There are suggestions, but there are definitely no rules. So have fun with fashion."

Where do you draw inspiration, when you're styling, and shopping, and working?

"I love street-style bloggers, and I read, or I should say, glance through, every magazine. And I do a ton of tear sheets. But I keep them, which is weird. I file them in plastic covers, and then I keep a beauty folder, a hair folder, a weddings folder, really I have a folder for everything. But they go way back. They are way old. At least ten years old. Because I even have my old clippings from Rachel's first red carpet, and things like that. And it's so crazy to look at the fashion now!"


What do you listen to, when you're styling?

"I'm such a weirdo with music. I don't ever have music on around me, when I'm working. I have this huge sound system that pumps into every room in my house, so I could listen to anything, but I just sit in silence. For me, I just need quiet when I'm working."

What's your favorite purchase of the season so far?

"I've definitely bought a lot of Isabel Marant pieces lately, but my favorite is by far the Navajo sweater. I've been living in that. I feel like it's chic even though it's oversized. You can do it with leather leggings or skirts. I've been wearing it with a little T-shirt dress and tights. Or you could throw it over your workout clothes and go to pilates. And then, Rachel Bilson and Kristen Bell and I work with a charity called Invisible Children, and they have the cutest tote that we're all obsessed with. It's the cow tote — obsessed."
[Ed Note: the bags are all crafted by women in Northern Uganda, who were formerly abducted by the LRA. You can learn more here.]

Isabel Marant Navajo Sweater, $379, available at Barneys; Mend Slingshot Cow Tote, $75, available at Mend; Forever 21 Retro Floral Maxi Dress, $29.80 available at Forever 21; Shoemint Pauline Suede Platform Bootie, $79.98, available at Shoemint.


Photo: Courtesy of Nicole Chavez


Rachel's style has really grown up in the past year or so. What's the direction you see it going in from here?
"To be totally honest, it's not that premeditated. Rachel and I work really well together, and we've always shared a brain when it comes to fashion. It's super-organic, and it's actually creepy. Like, I'll go to her house, and we'll both have the same tears on our bulletin boards. So it's really about what's in the moment, where she's going, and what we're into. And it's about where we are in our lives. Rachel turned 30 this year, and she's a woman. And her look is just a natural progression of that."

Who are your go-to designers, when you're working with her?

"We both love Preen and Carven. Vanessa Bruno is such a staple for us. Isabel Marant, too. Those are definitely the super-go-tos. And then Chanel. But it's also fun to look outside the box. She's so petite, and when you're dealing with samples, you have to get a little creative, and try other things too."

You're eight months pregnant right now. What's your secret to staying chic while you're expecting?

"I've been thinking about my maternity wardrobe for a long time now, and I always thought I'd be clad in muumuus and oversized dresses, but I actually prefer things that are more fitted, otherwise you get lost in the fabric and end up looking bigger and more pregnant than you really are."


What are your maternity must-buys?

"I'm still trying not to wear any maternity clothes. I'm just trying to be really creative with my clothes, adding elastic in any pants or skirts that need it. I've always been an A-line or empire dress wearer, so I can still get away with a lot of those. And then I'm just trying a lot of tricks like wearing cropped jackets or little vests, to accentuate my ribcage, which is small, and that letting the belly do its own thing. It's definitely been fun. It's been like the ultimate styling challenge."

Any funny styling tricks you've learned from pregnancy that you use on your clients?

"Well, I'm working with Jessica Simpson right now, and we're both pregnant. So there's been a lot of information transferred back and forth. I've found that the longer dresses are more flattering. You sit more awkwardly when you're pregnant. When you're seated it's just not cute, when you're pregnant, to be in shorter dresses. You can't cross your legs! Oh, and bra extenders have been my best friends. You just get a little wider. You don't completely change in size, until you actually have the baby, so it's just nice to have a little more room without having to get a whole new size range of bras."

Fashion Forms 2-Hook Soft Back Bra Extenders 6-Pack, $8, available at Bare Necessities; ACNE Extreme Color-Block Merino Wool Maxi Dress, $350, available at Net-A-Porter; Shoemint Jolly Lace-Up Wedge Bootie, $79.98, available at Shoemint.
Photo: Courtesy of Stylemint