Mel Ottenberg on Christina Aguilera and the Looks He Styled for Her Sold-Out Hollywood Bowl Shows

Mel Ottenberg on Christina Aguilera and the Looks He Styled for Her Sold-Out Hollywood Bowl Shows

So okay, it was like two weeks ago on a Saturday, and I was feeling behind on my ideas for Christina Aguilera’s Hollywood Bowl performances that I was styling. So I blasted “Dirrty” and “Beautiful” on repeat while I drew, looked at shows, texted with designers, and started to figure it out. I wanted Xtina’s look to be rude and snatched and all about silhouette. And I wanted to be giving some glamour, because NOW more than ever is THE time to make a REAL EFFORT for an audience that is actually LEAVING HOME to see a LIVE PERFORMANCE. I wanted to give the people a bunch of LOOKS, even though I kinda hate reveals and didn’t want to do a bunch of quick changes backstage. So, I started thinking about a catsuit that could look killer on Christina and that would go with anything else we wanted to do. From there, the glamour and the vibes started to come together, and now I’m gonna babble a bit on the looks we created to accompany these backstage Polaroids and stage photos we have for you here.

So, Christina was into my idea of her wearing one amazing black catsuit throughout the show with different styling moments for different songs, so I got right to it. The catsuit she wore is really great. It’s designed by L.A. Roxx. They made George Michael’s leather jacket in the “Faith” video, they made Rihanna’s brown leather bustier for her Anti tour (also styled by yours truly), and they’re L.A. costume legends. Underneath, we’ve got some Wolford magic going on, and the rocks are a mix of faves: earrings by Nickho Rey, choker and ring from my pal Giovanna Engelbert’s first collection as Creative Director of Swarovski, and a vintage diamanté necklace from Kentshire, my favorite New York spot for vintage jewelry. The ruched belt was custom made by Anthony Canney, and the boots are Gianvito Rossi. She starts the show singing “At Last,” and then into “Ain’t No Other Man,” and I know it sounds ridiculous to say, because everybody knows it, but she can REALLY, REALLY SING!!!!!!!! Wow.

For the first change, we add a draped metallic skirt by M’Lynn Hass, a blinding neckpiece by Laurel DeWitt, and a pair of diamanté cuffs from the Swarovski archives. This was all in a genie kinda Christina vibe for “Genie in a Bottle” and some other big ones.

Next, we fuck with some hot sunglasses from Versace, custom leather gloves from Gaspar, and a necklace from the Swarovski archives. I love this look and it’s a great chance to show off Christina’s silhouette. This change would seem really easy, but it was kind of a nightmare backstage, going from one necklace to another… You never know how scary it can be to take off one necklace and put on another one until you’re trying to do it backstage in a tiny dressing room with the music BLASTING and the fans SCREAMING…

Okay, so the real moment for a stylist doing Christina for an iconic show like this is doing the full Xtina “Dirrty” moment, because “Dirrty” is fucking supreme. We all gotta bow down to Stripped-era Xtina. I mean, it’s not easy to express yourself that hardcore, and she got a lot of shit for it. I’m sure I was giving a lot of shit for it too (I know I was), but that whole Christina era has aged really well visually and musically. In retrospect, I think what she was doing with how she presented herself with beauty and fashion was really remarkable and great. I think it’s some of the best expression of pop and fashion of the early 2000s, if not THE best!!! LOW FOR SHOW! ON THE FLO!

Anyway, I knew I had to bring the house down with this look, and make chaps for Xtina that were right for a 40-year-old. So, tuxedo chaps. The idea was so LOLLLL and fun to me that I NEEDED THEM TO HAPPEN so I called Zaldy, my genius friend and designer who has made so many iconic stage outfits for everyone from Michael Jackson to Britney to every iconic RuPaul look ever. I knew he could turn it by putting his perfect pop fashion spin on the idea of “Dirrty” and chaps, and he really did with these tuxedo chaps. We really got serious about the thong and what the stoning would be, because we knew it was about a stoned thong. I felt strongly that “Vagazzle” was the right reference here, and yes, Zaldy fucking turned it. And this whole getup really brought the house down. This is one of my favorite stage outfits I’ve ever done, for sure. And I bet it’s one of Christina’s favorites now, too. A ring by Dena Kemp and earrings by Briony Raymond complete the look.

After Christina made everyone crazy in her tuxedo chaps and vagazzle thong and her insane vocals on “Dirrty” and “Lady Marmalade,” we got deeper into some Versace bangles and two necklaces from my favorite jewelers: an incredible diamanté necklace from Kentshire, and a skinny chain styled with two crosses from 14K. As for rings, we have a big Medusa from Versace, and a big gold and diamond ring from another fave, David Webb, courtesy of Broken English. This was the right vibe for songs like “Contigo” and “What a Girl Wants,” and look at that waist, right?

Then we got into some ballads and “Fighter,” so we remixed a glam old Hollywood Catherine D’lish feathered robe and the best diamond hoops I’ve seen in a while from 14K. I love how this one turned out, mixing the graphic black catsuit with the romantic old Hollywood robe to make some manga warrior fantasy feeling for “Fighter.” Catherine D’lish is so cool. I found her through Courtney Love many years ago and I really dig her stuff.

For the finale, Christina sang “Beautiful,” my fave Xtina song. The idea was a giant transparent diva ball gown skirt to go with the catsuit which, a million looks later, we haven’t changed at all. My pal Anthony Canney made the skirt for us, and it felt like the right way to end Christina’s great show fashion-wise. Seven clothing changes and an hour later, we were done. Dirrty fun for the WHOLE family. Should out to my L.A. dream team Abi, Charlie, Jose, M’Lynn and Jaine for really helping me turn Christina out. Also shout out to Sarah Francus, Sophie McNiel, Philipa Price, the show’s creative director, Stephen Galloway, the choreographer and the designer of the dancers’ looks, Kristen Vallow the set designer, Etienne Ortega, who did Christina’s makeup and took all these polaroids, and Iggy Rosales, who did her hair, and to Christina’s whole team. And especially to Christina for being an awesome collaborator and such an inspiring performer. She was so fun to work with.

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