Desiree Hartsock makes her living as a bridal stylist, which means that, in addition to the romantic exploits, there are bound to be some fashion highlights during season 9 of The Bachelorette, which kicks off tonight.
“Desiree is very fun. She has a touch of tomboy during the day. She’s very athletic, she likes to do every sport that all the boys are doing. Then at night, she likes to pull out the super glam sexy short dresses. She’s got those legs that are killer when she’s in a short dress,” says wardrobe head Cary Fetman, who has been dressing Bachelorettes since 2008. “She’s also more classic, she doesn’t wear a lot of jewelry. Last season I could pile as many necklaces [on Emily Maynard] as I wanted to, but this Bachelorette brings something different as to how to she carries the clothes.”
EW talked to Fetman about how Desiree has stepped up her style game since appearing on The Bachelor, the rose ceremony gown she designed herself, and why the way she dresses for a date can tell us what she thinks about a guy.
We met Desiree on The Bachelor, has her style changed now that she’s the star of The Bachelorette?
CARY FETMAN: When it’s your show and you’re the one that’s trying to appeal to everyone and you’ve already had the experience of what people say about you, I think you either take more chances or you’re more cautious. It just depends on how the press, how the [audience thought of] how you looked. Also, Desiree didn’t have a stylist when she was doing this by herself [on The Bachelor] and now she has someone to bounce ideas off of. She would tell me things that would make her less comfortable and things that she’d be willing to try. Like at work she always wears a tight skirt, I loved her in a longer skirt sometime. Or she loved a chiffon blouse, I loved her in something sexier than she would pick. It’s a give and take, she was like, ‘I want to try to experiment, let me try the concept.’ What you can afford to take a chance on? Are you willing to take the chance if you’re not sure that you’re going to be comfortable? We all have a tendency to wear what we would normally buy [instead of] taking a chance. With Desiree, we could do things that maybe in her real life she wouldn’t have tried.
What are some of the fashion risks we can look forward to seeing Desiree take?
She went a lot shorter on dresses. I was shocked that she loved sparkles as much as she did — I didn’t think she thought she would like them as much as she did until she started going through the racks. I think she did the fantasy of all the gowns well — that’s one of the things that’s always exciting [for The Bachelorette], you feel like Cinderella when you’ve got racks and racks of these long gowns that you get to try on. You get to say yes or no. [Desiree is] so used to working with bridal, she’s used to that side of the market, but I think that when you’re picking it out for yourself and it’s not just bridesmaids dresses or beautiful bridal gowns that’s exciting. She’s a designer so she’s got that designing eye about how she would make something. She even designed one of her own gowns for the rose ceremonies.
What does the gown she designed look like?
It’s a very pretty purple stretch silk jersey with crystals. She did crystal bibbing. You can sketch something, then to put it into a concept — I want this fabric, I want this kind of beading, I want that kind of chunkiness, I need it to look like this instead of normal crystals — we had fun doing that process. That was one of the few times that we’ve ever had that option to work like that with somebody. Desiree was the first Bachelorette to design her own dress. That part was very fun.
What were some of the designer labels you out her in?
Some of the gowns are Randi Rahm. I always like to mix expensive with cheap because I do believe…. obviously people like to see the fantasy part of it, but they also don’t want a show to be so expensive that there’s nothing in there they can afford to buy. So I like to take an inexpensive tank top or something that anyone can buy. [This season] I really hit Old Navy. I did a ton of Old Navy things where I mixed and matched with stuff. You start shopping for these things early in the season long before the stores are carrying it. All of the sudden, Old Navy had all these spring and summer goods that were bright and amazing. It gave [Desiree's look] that boldness and excitement.
How many outfits will Desiree wear this season?
We must go through 65-90 full outfits. It’s a lot of clothes. I don’t think anybody realizes when you’re watching how many actual [wardrobe] changes there are.
You said last season it was a challenge to dress Emily because you couldn’t predict the weather in the cities you traveled to. Was weather a factor with Desiree?
This season we were kind of fighting weather everywhere we went, so a lot of beautiful short dresses and sexy things that Desiree was really excited about she just couldn’t wear. We were going to do two pairs of boots and that was going to be it for the season because everywhere else the dates were supposed to be warm and sexy, but everywhere we went a cold front had come through. Including Los Angeles!
How did you deal with the unpredictable weather?
We’d either have to change the date because it was so cold or Desiree would wear a jacket. We used the same leather jacket, jeans and boots over and over again because no matter where we’d arrive it would be cold. A lot of the clothes we pulled the audience won’t even get to see. They’ll be sitting there like, “Wow Desiree must have really liked that leather jacket!” or “She must have been crazy about those boots!” When you travel for a show sometimes you can’t prepare for everything. Here’s a girl who had never traveled, she’d never been out of the country. With the show, [we're] in this situation where we didn’t know where [we're] going, but you’re told to pack something wintry. We got to one place that was so cold the crew was in parkas and gloves and the poor girl was in a sleeveless dress. Even though I made her wear long underwear underneath and an evening coat it was freezing! Just standing on the floor was freezing. I have to give it to her, she never complained.
How does Desiree’s style differ from previous Bachelorettes?
Some girls are over the top, like last season Emily was a “girl’s girl.” She wasn’t [playing] sports, she stood on the sidelines and applauded. She was a southern belle who was always dressed up in girlie girl clothes. Dez is more of a girl who was like, “I want to get in there with the guys, I want to throw the football,” so for her we needed more sporty things. At the same time, she wanted to be a girly girl at night. She just wasn’t a prissy girl.
Do you dress the guys too?
No. I go in before the season to consult [with them]. I dress them at the finale and sometimes for a special themed date, but for the most part that’s all them. I think that’s the best part. [This season], some guys brought shoe cases and they had everything you could possibly think of for no matter where we were going. Other guys came with four suits, two shirts, five ties and two pairs of jeans. [I'm like] “You know this is 10 weeks of TV right? What are you going to do if you go some place cold?”
Did Desiree tell you what she was looking for in a man, style-wise?
Not what look she wanted in a man, but she was very specific when she’d go on a date who she wanted to dress up for. She was specific about who she wanted to be extremely sexy for and who she didn’t care about.
– With reporting by Nakisha Williams