I Styled Rachel Bilson for a Week in NYC—5 Looks I Packed for Her 5’2″ Frame

As unfortunate as it is, most clothes weren’t designed with petite people in mind. Count the 5’10” and above models on the runway for proof. Yet many celebrities that err on the shorter side still manage to pull off incredible high-fashion looks on a regular basis. The “how” attached to that has one simple answer: stylists. 

When it comes to dressing the petite population in Hollywood, celebrity stylist Nicole Chavez is one of the absolute best, with clients such as Jessica Simpson (5’3″), Kristen Bell (5’1″), and Rachel Bilson (5’2″). Knowing that, when Bilson’s looks from her New York City press tour for the Fox show Accused hit Instagram recently, it felt only right for us to get the inside scoop on each of her outfits from the trip. Keep scrolling for Chavez’s petite-styling tips, every detail surrounding Bilson’s NYC looks, and so much more.

“Rachel and I met almost 20 years ago working on The O.C. She was my first client, so my love for her runs very deep,” says Chavez, who worked in the show’s wardrobe department. When the stylist got the call that Bilson was headed to NYC to do press for her new role on Accused, she jumped at the chance to not only build her wardrobe for the trip but to also join her on it. “We used to travel all the time together, but now that we’re both moms, it’s a little more challenging,” she says. This time around, though, it felt imperative that she went. “I felt like this opportunity coming to NYC gave us another chance to be creative again,” she says.  According to Chavez, she and Bilson were initially drawn to each other because of their mutual love for fashion and similar aesthetics. “But in your 20s, your style is very different than it is now, so [with this trip], I wanted to make sure that we reflected her growth—not just personally but also in style,” she says. “When I think about the silhouettes that we used to do, we were very feminine with lots of prints and colors. This time, with Rachel in her early 40s and in this new phase in her life, there were definitely more sophisticated silhouettes—a stronger shoulder, a longer sleeve, a tailored trouser, and other suiting.” Chavez says that Bilson would have never worn suiting or anything oversize for events back in her O.C. days: “Everything was very fitted, short, and poofy.” For the Accused tour, the goal was to step away from that mood. “It’s been really nice to grow with her into this next phase of her style and reflect where she is in her life,” she says.

On Rachel Bilson: Paco Rabanne dress; Les Belles Opaque Tights ($24); Christian Louboutin heels; Jennifer Fisher Micro Samira Ear Cuff ($125); BY FAR bag; Oliver Peoples eyewear. “Rachel was part of The O.C., which was really her ingénue period, so now, we’re in a different phase of her life, and therefore, we’re dressing more elevated. That lends to stronger silhouettes and more dynamic proportions, which is what we were going for with this dress,” Chavez explains. “In terms of petite dressing, I’m also 5’3″, Rachel’s 5’2″, and I also work with Kristen Bell—who’s 5’1″ or 5’2″—so it’s an art form that we have mastered. I made sure that, with this dress, we paired it with some opaque black tights and black patent-leather heels to really elongate the leg. That’s really important: not to break up the leg. Instead, you want to make sure that it is one long visual.”

On Bilson: Aya Muse Eury Wool-Blend Jacket ($885) and Eury Wool-Blend Miniskirt ($465); Dorothee Schumacher trench; Charles & Keith platforms; Bera Design bag; Jennifer Fisher Kate Huggies ($225) and Micro Samira Ear Cuff ($125); Oliver Peoples eyewear. “Again, we were playing with proportion [with this look] in order for Rachel to feel more elegant and elevated,” Chavez says. According to the stylist, they paired the micro miniskirt with suiting as opposed to a cropped blouse to keep the look age appropriate and styled it with chunky platforms to ensure that it didn’t feel too romantic. “In the past, we tended to dress in more feminine looks—puff sleeves, florals, etc.—which we still love. But again, in this next phase for Rachel’s fashion, it’s definitely a little more streamlined. We paired it with black tights and chunky platforms on purpose to create visual length because she is so petite. Dressing monochromatically also helps with length, so a navy trench with the navy suit and then the black tights and black chunky platforms, it really gives a clean look.”

On Bilson: Camilla and Marc turtleneck; BY FAR Stevie 99 Metallic Over-the-Knee Boots ($463); Jennifer Fisher Ascending Ear Cuff ($295); Bera Design bag. “This was a last-minute look that we threw together for the evening,” says Chavez. “We weren’t really sure what was happening. I just knew there might be an evening event or appearance, so I had this as a backup plan.” According to the stylist, Bilson’s gold thigh-high boots were a must-bring on the trip, especially given the weather. (The material made them surprisingly practical.) “Because they are such a statement piece, I knew it was important that we pair them with something simple, like a black turtleneck, and since Rachel’s so petite, it became a turtleneck dress instead of a turtleneck sweater, which actually worked perfectly for the boots,” she says. “They were such a showstopper piece that, everywhere we went that night, people asked her what boots she was wearing.”

On Bilson: Camilla and Marc tunic; Mother Tunnel Vision Pleated Faux Leather Straight-Leg Pants ($260); Chanel bag; Larroudé Dolly Boot ($475); Jennifer Fisher Micro Samira Ear Cuff ($125); Dorothee Schumacher Double-Breasted Coat ($821). For a talk show, Chavez put Bilson in a pair of faux-leather pants from Mother that she styled alongside a Camilla and Marc poplin tunic and a black Dorothee Schumacher trench. “I love her coats so much,” Chavez says. “It was perfect to have this black coat to sling over her shoulders—it was really important to me that we didn’t lose the look underneath the coat, so I didn’t have her put her arms in so you could see her frame. That’s another trick for us petite girls: When you’re wearing a long coat, throw it over your shoulders so you can still see your body.” This styling trick also ensured that the cutout on the back of the tunic remained visible. “I used the Chanel bag chain as a crossbody to break up that massive white space [of the shirt], and we paired it with a super-high platform ankle boot by Larroudé, again, to give her extra height,” she says. Chavez kept the pants and boots the same color to avoid breaking the line of her leg, thus giving her more visual length. “I felt like this was the biggest departure from Rachel’s previous style, as it was much more masculine and workwear inspired,” she says. “Fifteen years ago, Rachel probably would’ve just worn the shirt as a dress, but it felt like—because it was New York and we’re in a different phase [in her style]—the leather pants were the way to go. We were going for less girly and sweet and more elevated and sophisticated in her style.”

On Bilson: Magda Butrym Cropped Turtleneck Sweater ($1170) and Ruffled Knit Mini Skirt ($1500); Saint Laurent boots; Anine Bing bag; Jennifer Fisher Micro Samira Ear Cuff ($125). “I was obsessed with this [Magda Butrym] knit set when I pulled it. It felt so perfect for the trip, and I knew, again, that we were going to need knits, coats, and other warm pieces because the weather was quite cold there, so this was a great combination of chic and comfortable for a cold, rainy day,” Chavez explains. “I also made sure that the hairdresser put her hair back just to create length on the neck because she was wearing a turtleneck. Turtlenecks sometimes can be tricky, especially on camera, so that’s an important note for the petite girls out there.” The stylist went on to explain the importance of showing even a small amount of skin if you’re petite, which is the reason she had Bilson’s hair put up. “Seeing a little bit of skin always helps with portions and visuals with petites,” she says.  For shoes, Bilson wore her own Saint Laurent thigh-high boots that, according to Chavez, the actress bought “many, many years ago for another press tour” and has worn countless times since. “She’s a size 5 in shoes, so when it comes to samples, they’re few and far between unless we have time to order them in advance. Because of that, Rachel has an extensive shoe closet that we’ve been building over the last 20 years,” she says. “Overall, I love the proportions of the strong shoulder on the sweater with the miniskirt, and then the tall boots are very elongating and add visual length.”

Coming up: Rachel Zoe Has Confirmed These 3 Trends Will Look Good Years From Now

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