The saga of dressing two Bachelorettes: 30 suitcases, 520 outfits, and one very devoted stylist
Before any Bachelorette can begin her "journey" to find "love," she needs to figure out what she's going to wear every step of the way. And that's where Cary Fetman, who's been the Bachelor franchise's chief wardrobe stylist for the past 20 years, comes in. Prior to the start of production, Fetman meets with the season's star to help her pick outfits for every occasion — from glamorous gowns to athleisure to comfy jeans to snowsuits and fur-lined hats for those romantic moments on a glacier.
"Challenged with having to style two Bachelorettes all season for the first time in franchise history, Cary rose to the occasion and countered with four times the glam," says Bachelor/Bachelorette executive producer Bennett Graebner, who is quick to add that Fetman's role on the show goes far beyond helping the leads pick nice clothes. "Cary is so much more than a stylist. Confidant and friend to nearly all both in front of and behind the camera, he's the den mother of the franchise. And if you don't get along with Cary, that's a serious red flag. It's like having beef with Mr. Rogers."
Ahead of tonight's season premiere, Fetman shared some behind-the-sequins secrets with EW, including what went into choosing Gabby and Rachel's night-one looks, how he handled it when both Bachelorettes had their eye on the same dress, and why you never, ever want to be behind him at the airport.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How would you describe each Bachelorette's style?
CARY FETMAN: Gabby's style is very sexy. She is the girl that probably lived next door to you that never wanted to wear clothes and just was constantly ripping off her clothes. Gabby loves as little amount of clothes on as possible. And with that body, I don't blame her. There are photos of [the dress she wears] the first night, where she literally looks like she's naked underneath, and that's probably because she almost is completely naked underneath. Beads were added to certain parts of that dress just to make it so that she could wear it.
Rachel's style — her self-described style, which I don't necessarily agree with — is "mother of the bride." She doesn't want to look that way, but she feels as though that's the type of clothes that she picks. That's the type of clothes that she feels most comfortable in. But what I loved about her was she said, "Just change me. Do whatever you want. But just know this is where my go-to taste is." There were times where I looked at her and I thought to myself, "Okay, let's do this look 10 years younger." She sometimes will be the more sedate of the two obviously but wants to be that [sexy] girl too.
What I loved about both of them is they allowed me to play as much as I could, but I tried to stick within their comfort zones too. I know people always think when they come on the show that I'm this magician that just changes the girls all to look like Bachelorettes, that they all are gonna be dressed in beads and things that I pick for them. That's so far from the truth…. The first two days [of helping them choose their wardrobe] is just shopping through the showroom. Just shop, pull everything you want. It's all about you all day long.
Did Gabby and Rachel "shop" in the showroom together or separately?
It was three days [separately] for each one of them before we even get to picking our first gowns. There are just so many clothes per season for the show — between the coats, the stoles, the scarves, the hats. We were in cold climates, we were in hot climates. We needed boots and shoes with thick soles because they were going to be walking on cobblestones… However they lead it is how I'll follow it. So if they get bored looking at gowns, maybe they'll jump to blouses. It's really them that leads the fitting. I'm just there to facilitate it.
Season 6 had two Bachelors for night one, and season 11 had two Bachelorettes for night one, but this is the first time you've had to style two leads for an entire season. Was that daunting?
We've never had a full season of two women — and going to four different countries with all different weather and climates and weather changes, where one day it was supposed to be sunny and beautiful and instead it poured. One country was 15 degrees colder than what they had forecasted for the whole week and rainy. It was a different season, not only two women, but a lot of different climates and different kinds of streets and things that they'd have to be walking on and more outside activities and things like that.
What would you say was your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge with them was being able to give them both the same amount of time, the same amount of energy. Also just understanding that, while there they have to look like they're going to the same party, they are completely different personalities. There were times when they both chose the same dress, and I was trying to figure out which one gets it. It's amazing to me because their taste is so different, but there were at least 10 dresses that they both picked on different days, and I'd think, "Okay, how do I decide? Which one gets that dress, seeing that you both have fallen in love with the dress?"
So how did you decide?
You go through the rest of the dresses with them [again]. It's like a week later, so maybe one of the dresses that you pulled in the beginning isn't as important when I know that somebody else wants it. And so I'd try to do that. And sometimes, it's just being honest and saying, "Hey, here's the thing. You both want this dress. Do you care who gets it? She's needing it a little more right now than you are. Are you okay if I give that dress to her and I'll take this one and give it to you instead?"
They were amazing about all of that. Neither one of them cared that much about [specific outfits], and when they did, they were just really beyond good sports about it.
Well, that's good to hear. If they're not going to fight over dresses, hopefully they also won't fight over men.
Yeah. It's really interesting. They don't have the same taste in guys. The excitement will be that, yes, there's a couple [of guys they both like], but they were both so excited to be going through it together, neither one of them wanted to make any kind of issues over silly things, and they didn't.
Let's talk about their night one looks. How did you and Gabby pick her sheer dress?
The gown had an overlay, and at first we thought we would take the overlay and add a lining, but it just became ordinary. It was a beautiful dress, the lace, the beading, it's all hand beaded. It's beautifully done. It's a Randi Rahm gown… Gabby saw that dress and one other dress. She put this dress on and we were both looking at going, "It's pretty, but it's not." And then I said, "I have an idea: Let's start from just the part that we love, which is the outer [overlay] part." And we put it on, and she was completely nude underneath it. I was like, "Okay, this isn't going to work. But looking at the difference of how much hotter the dress is with you being completely naked underneath, maybe I'll try and put a layer of something [under it]."
We started adding very sheer layers, but it just started making the dress look heavy. The prettiest thing we could do was to take everything out and just bead [the overlay] where it needed beading. There's things that were definitely necessary to cover, but the illusion certainly is that you're seeing everything. I can assure ABC, no, you're not seeing everything.
And what about Rachel's dress?
Rachel's dress also was Randi Rahm. She wanted that dress from the minute she saw it. I'm sure that the fans will say, "Oh my God, he's used that same style of dress 14 times. It's another Randi Rahm with a high leg split." The cuts are basically the same — a person falls in love with a cut. It doesn't mean that it's the same kind of beading, or the same coloring. Yes, there have been similar gowns, but no, there's never been a gown in this color with that kind of beading. So for all those people who will immediately say, "Oh my God, he's used this down a hundred times," the answer is you're right, but you're wrong — it's completely different.
Last time we spoke, you said you generally needed anywhere from 8 to 14 suitcases when traveling for a season of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. How many did you need this season, with two Bachelorettes?
We used to get up to 11 at the most. This time we were at 30, I think. I think it was between 28 and 30 suitcases... You never want to wait in Customs behind me [at the airport], because that's the worst.
There were tons of coats! Usually we'll go to warm climates, so all you need is a couple of bathing suits. And there'd be one cold climate, so you'd need a week's worth of coats and maybe some boots and things like that. This was a lot of chilly weather, a lot of rain, a lot of outdoor activities where they were dressed up. And with two girls, we have so many more outfits. There were so many times where they just had to talk to each other [outside of the dates] — like, "Hey, she's having a problem. They need to have a conversation… Tomorrow morning, before they go on their date, they can talk to each other about what's going on in their heads." Normally, we used to do [a season of The Bachelorette] with 173 outfits. I bet on this season they must have gone through at least 260 outfits per person.
Wow. We know from Clayton's season that Gabby will just get down on the ground during a date and play with a dog that she meets in the park. Did you have to factor in her unpredictability when you helped her choose her looks?
She's completely unpredictable. And yes, having to remind her sometimes, "You are just barely in that top. If you bend over [too much], that top is not going to be there when you get up." I love her spontaneity, I understand it, and so yes, we would take into account that you never knew when Gabby was going to jump up and start playing basketball with one of the guys, or get on the ground and tussle, or see a dog that she just wanted to go and play with. She is very much the Gabby that everybody loves and that was part of the fun of [working with her]. She can be both a tomboy, but she can also be the most gorgeous, stunning person that you've ever seen.
And Rachel's the same — Rachel loves to play. Rachel's all about playing, but she prefers to feel more dressed up. The hardest outfit to do with Rachel was a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. We would spend more time on trying to do a jeans and T-shirt [look], or a pair of shorts and a T-shirt than we would putting her into a cocktail dress or a gown.
When I found out that she was having a casual day, I would go in 20 minutes early and lay out outfits, just knowing, okay, today's going to be a rough one. She's gonna walk in and go, "What hat do you mean I'm wearing a pair of jeans?" She feels more in her comfort zone [when she's dressed up]. It makes her feel more self-assured. She is a girlie girl.
Are there any spectacular looks during the season that you can tease for us now?
For one date, we go to a city specifically because of an outfit that one of them wanted to wear. She had had a rough day and [producers] decided that we were going to go by ourselves — the four of us plus a camera crew and a producer — and go to a different city in the country, and the date was created around a coat that one of them wanted to wear. The other one had a favorite gown, and so they both got their chance to wear [their special outfit].
The Bachelorette premieres Monday, July 11 at 8 p.m. on ABC.
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