Carrie Underwood, CMT Awards

Rick Diamond/Getty Images for CMT

Carrie Underwood made her first post-baby appearance on the CMT Music Awards red carpet earlier this month in a stunning size 2/4 Thomas Wylde sexy white mini-dress and the internet exploded! Before Wylde CEO John Hanna's plane from Japan landed back at LAX, his phone was ringing off the hook with requests—buyers and stores screaming for the 'Pristine' white neoprene blend dress with hand sewn silver crystals or anything looking like the dress.

"The telephone hasn't stopped...I couldn't get off the phone because of my office calling me every few seconds. We received emails like, 'Where can we buy it? Where can you get us one? We will wait for it if you make us one.' It's a big PR situation for us, and any brand for that matter, too." Regarding Underwood in particular, Hanna says, "We are very honored that she would wear one of our dresses, especially with her—you know, she won three prizes and I think and she looked fantastic."

From the moment Joan Rivers started asking celebrities on the red carpet "Who are you wearing?" the cutthroat business of red carpet fashion took off. With a shout-out on the red carpet worth millions, the real show begins long before the red carpet is rolled out. Epic fashion battles are being played out behind the scenes in a desperate race to dress the small number of fashion worthy A-listers.

Blake Lively

Venturelli/Getty Images for P&G Prestige

1. "Who Are You Wearing?" Mentions Worth Millions

"There's nothing juicier than a verbal message—we live for them," says Marilyn Heston, president of MHA Media, whose company represent brands such as Bulgari, Thomas Wylde, Via Spiga, INGIE Paris and HANEY. "I would kill someone if they didn't remember the name of a designer."

Heston's company serves as a liaison between the brand and the stylist. Heston says an online mention on a top website is worth $80,000 of ad value and a single on-air mention during normal times is worth $136,000. However, during a red carpet event, a single mention can be worth upwards of $250,000.

While actors are versed in remembering their lines, they only have three things to remember when they are on the carpet: the designer of their dress, shoes and jewels. At times, they inexplicably forget. "Sometimes your people forget to ask so we are crushed," says Heston. "It's like they're actually talking about the movie and not the clothes. Hundreds of millions of people are watching so when someone stands on the little podium and says, 'Elle Saab, Dior'—that is really why these people do this."

These days a forgetful gaff isn't always fatal. Press releases are immediately whipped up and farmed out to editors, blogs, websites and media. And now, even social media fashion mavens and bloggers step in with lightening speed to name the brand.

"That name goes around the world like 156,000 times within four minutes or less," says Sasha Charnin Morrison, author of Secrets of Stylists: An Insider's Guide to Styling the Stars and former fashion editor at Us Weekly. "That's how a young brand can only have a T-shirt on the line but suddenly it's a brand and it's a label. It is like the freest billboard publicity you could ever get. And we're all sitting there, so it's like a billion of us just sitting there waiting and boom, you send it and then a career is born."

Julianne Hough, Emmy Awards, 2013

Jason Merritt/Getty Images

2. Fierce Battle for The Dress

With only a handful of A-list celebrity fashionistas and an even smaller pool of show-stopping dresses, the competition is fierce. Premium dresses aren't just handed over. Celebs working as product ambassadors (like Blake Lively for Gucci or Keira Knightly for Chanel) get first dibs on their brand's finest haute couture. For the rest, celebrities must enlist a stylist to help them lay claim to the right dress. Stylist are either ringside ready to pounce at the fashion shows, or they watch the shows live on and are prepared to call in a pleading favor to claim a dress.

"Over a collection, most of the stylists are going to gravitate to the same five dresses—that is the reality and the nature of the beast," stylist Anita Patrickson tells E! News. "Some dresses in a collection are amazing for editorial, and some are amazing for every day women, but then five are going to be standout red carpet show stoppers." Patrickson says the key is being in the right place at the right time. "When there is a big event coming up, that is when the dresses start becoming a little bit scarce because everyone is vying for the same one," she says. "Getting those dresses is, you know...That is the ticket."

"When I put Julianne Hough in the (sheer blue off the shoulder) Jenny Packham for the Emmys [in 2013], it literally came straight from the runway," says Patrickson, who also styles Emma Watson, Rachel Bilson, Chanel Iman and Nina Dobrev. "I was at the Jenny Packham show at New York City Fashion Week, because the Emmys are in September as well. I saw the dress walking down the runway and it took everything for me not to run across the stage and tear it off the model. I literally hopped out of my seat. The model walked behind the curtain and I grabbed the PR and said, 'I need that dress!'"

But not any actress can lay claim to a couture dress. A lot depends on their celebrity ranking. Morrison reveals certain designers have a list of who they will and won't dress. "They won't consider anyone not on the A-list," says Morrison. "You know, no B-list, no C-list, no D-list, and no reality TV stars."

Emily Blunt

Andrew Toth/FilmMagic

3. Dresses Decided by Committee

"A lot of decisions for the big events are made by a committee…It's not an easy decision to figure out what dress you're going to wear to the Oscars...It's a big decision and sometimes people turn around and ask a lot of opinions," says Heston. With so much on the line and the fear of public humiliation, actors often can't rely on their own opinions. Photos are examined by a publicist, a manager, an agent, a boyfriend/girlfriend or a husband/wife and, of course, the stylist, before a final decision is made.

Keira Knightley


4. 360-Degree Inspections – Secret Red Carpets

With big money and a brand's name at stake, there is no room for mistakes. Exposed undergarments, tape or—heaven forbid!—a nipple could be permanently etched onto one's Wiki profile. Rehearsals on secretly erected red carpets take place. Blinds are drawn, lights are turned off and the dress is photographed from every angle imaginable with a searing flash to pick up any flaws. Photos are then e-mailed around and examined.

Sometimes it might not be until the last minute when an undergarment catastrophe is spotted. "That's when you either have to have a degree in psychology, or you have to be very cool and you have got to figure out, 'Holy crap! What am I going to do now?' You have two seconds to figure that out," says Morrison. "Sometimes they change in the car and then they show up in something else and a lot of the releases come through and they say 'are expected to wear' because they can't guarantee it until they see it. And then you have disastrous things that happen—the release goes out, they don't show up in the thing and there is an entire six weeks barrage of stories about why the dress was changed."

And, of course, no one wants a fall on the carpet. Stylist Jessica Paster, who dresses Emily Blunt, Miranda Kerr and Abbie Cornish, says she makes sure her clients' dress linings are disaster-free. "I tend to want to do the lining two inches shorter than the actual hem of the dress, since that's what the shoe usually catches on because it's the tighter part of the dress," she says.

Paster says she also puts her clients through the ringer. "I like to put them in front of the window and see if we can see right through. If we see right through we put in another lining. Remember, you don't want to make things too dark—you still want that ethereal feeling of a dress—that whimsy of a dress. But yes, there are tricks that we do." To sit, for example, she says, "You want to make it tight enough but not so tight that you split the dress. And you don't want to make it so loose that it buckles in the front. You do want to walk around and walking on carpet is different than walking on hardwood floor. Everything's been a learning experience."

Halle Berry, Oscars, Dresses, 2002

Steve Granitz/

5. Money for Wear? 

No one would confirm or dish on pay for wear deals. Stylist Brad Goreski recently joked to a panel that if someone wanted to pay him $150,000 to have one of his clients wear a dress, all he needed to know was where to sign. But beyond being an ambassador and face of a brand where there is clearly an advertising contract in place, in candor or not, everyone else says it's just an honor to wear a couture dress for free.

But that doesn't mean the deals aren't happening. Heston tells E! News it's probable there might be some money changing hands at this point in the game because it has become a very lucrative big deal. Heston recalls the insanity when "back in the day," in the year 2000, she helped put Elie Saab on the map after Halle Berry wore the label's dress to the Oscars. "Kathy Horn at the time worked for The New York Times and she wrote in her post-Oscar review that Carlos, who still does work with Valentino, was quoted as saying that it was probably worth $25 million with free publicity for Elie Saab because nobody knew who he was at that point. And that was 15 years ago, so now you can see how hyper-competitive it is to place a dress or a piece of jewelry or shoes or a handbag on a nominee or a presenter."

"Look at the number of designers clamoring to be a part of this international stage," she says. "I think you could probably imagine that there might be some boardroom somewhere where these deals are made because looking at it from the other side, it's a job. I don't think that there's anything unethical about it."

Emily Ratajkowski, Met Gala 2015

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

6. Red Carpet to Retail

Red carpet dresses are knocked off within minutes of their debut. Lines like ABS Schwartz have Oscar dresses copied within the week, ready for production. And now, brands like H&M and Topshop have taken the idea one step further. Why not have the celebrity—such Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski and Hailey Bieber—wear your design at the Met Ball and have the dress available simultaneously for sale in the store? Topshop did just that at this year's gala and the looks instantly sold out.

With the power of Instagram and Pinterest, next year's Oscar dress could just be a click away.

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