brilliant images of celebrities in looks you wish they'd wear

"Fantasy Dress Up" is an Instagram-turned-magazine documenting the best red carpet looks that never happened (including Hillary Clinton in a pink Louis Vuitton pantsuit).

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Nov 10 2017, 7:06pm

Kendall and Kylie Jenner: burgundy knit slip dresses from Céline’s pre-fall 15 collection. Britney Spears: shredded denim courtesy of Marques’Almeida spring/summer 12. Helen Mirren as a mossy Marni burlap vision. These award-worthy looks never made it to any best-dressed lists in People or US Weekly, because they never actually hit the red carpet. But Richie Talboy and Lucas Lefler, creators of the popular Instagram (since 2014) and now magazine, Fantasy Dress Up, are creating a world in which celebrities have no branding contracts and tremendous sartorial backbone.

“In our age, everyone wants a genuine, unique moment to share on social media,” say the local fashion multi-hyphenates, who have produced content and imagery for brands including Prada and Maison Margiela. “These moments create an illusion of connectivity. The pressure is on to document moments of fantasy for a constructed reality.”

It’s not just about putting mainstream celebrities in crazy clothes. The most effective looks — Lisa Vanderpump in metallic Lanvin or Britney Spears in that ripped denim — consider their wearers’ personal aesthetics and pop culture histories. We talk to Richie and Lucas about paper dolls, celebrity autonomy, and the genuine optimism of Hillary Clinton’s bright pink pantsuit.

What was the original inspiration for Fantasy Dress Up?
Richie: Well Fantasy Dress Up the project was a response to a frustration with celebrity dressing. Then I think the magazine was an expansion of the idea into the world of fashion photography. We wanted to create a world for our fantasies to live in.

Lucas: And there was also a natural step from print to digital. Growing up in a digital age, we have always looked to print publications as something special. We wanted to take on the challenge to create a project that is both digital and print.

Your collages are inspired by old-school paper dolls. Do you remember playing with those when you were younger?
Lucas: I remember a cutout paper doll book of fairy tale princesses when I was little. If I had it now, I would put the Cinderella dress onto the Little Red Riding Hood character because it would suit her much better.

Is there a look you’ve created that you’re particularly proud of?
Richie: I love the one we did of Dita Von Teese wearing Margiela fall 14 couture. We chose a look that had a big red heart as the bodice that reads “I love you,” with a crystal panel skirt. The model's hands are on her hips, covered with white opera gloves. The look doesn’t necessarily feel burlesque, but when paired with Dita’s face it transforms. There’s something performative and campy about this look that I love.

Lucas: Hillary Clinton wearing a pink Louis Vuitton pantsuit is one of my favorites. When we posted it in 2015, it was an optimistic gesture towards what we thought was going to happen in politics. It was the perfect combination of a hopeful, forward-thinking facial expression with proud body language.

Who is your favorite person to watch on the red carpet? Who consistently nails it or takes fashion risks that pay off?
Lucas: When Leelee Sobieski heads to the red carpet, she always gets its right. LeeLee in Jil Sander spring/summer 12 is what dreams are made of.

How do you think social media is changing our relationship to celebrity fashion?
Richie: I think it’s funny how Kim Kardashian’s Instagram probably has more influence on global dressing than any designer or magazine. As social media has evolved, the individual has more power over a whole team of creatives. Individuals seem to be corporatizing themselves on social media (Kim’s app already has its own editorial content). It makes me wonder what the future relationship between magazines and celebrities will be.

In 2015, red carpet fashion became a big conversation, with many people claiming questions like “who are you wearing” were sexist. What do you think of such critiques?
Richie: Firstly, I don’t think it’s up to us to determine what is and isn’t sexist as two gay men. But I agree, there’s much more to the female celebrity than what she wears on the red carpet. The point of Fantasy Dress Up is to boost the autonomy of celebrities, without disregarding their accomplishments. The personal history of a celebrity is a very important factor in determining the looks we want them to wear. For example, Laura Dern wearing a tan suede Louis Vuitton shirt dress — a slightly safari look that nods to her her role in Jurassic Park. Or Kirsten Dunst in a Dior Couture gown with a hoop skirt, nodding to her career-defining role in Marie Antoinette. We do have their careers in mind, and would love it if celebrities were as playful and nostalgic as us, the fans.

Lucas: Fashion houses, PR teams, and stylists work together to place looks onto stars that will in some way add something to the brand. It goes the other way too. Stars choose to identify and align themselves with a brand that will a) pay them and b) express something about their own brand as an artist/celebrity. Our magazine both exposes and disrupts that logic. We put Taylor Swift in Céline because it's so antithetical to the brand and is so different from what she usually wears in general. It sort of exposes the apparatus that is the fashion-celebrity machine and disrupts the branding and synergy and coordination that goes into making her a brand. We also made sure it was a look that hid her belly-button, playfully acknowledging the rumor that she doesn’t have one.

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