Celebrity Style

The Cheeky Meaning Behind Katy Perry's Smile Album Cover Outfit

Celebrity stylist Alexandra Mandelkorn opens up.

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10:  Katy Perry attends the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center o...
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With awards season in full swing, celebrity stylist Alexandra Mandelkorn is preparing for red carpet fashion that’s a little, well, chaotic.

“Red carpet fashion is going to be all over the place,” Mandelkorn tells Bustle. “But I’m okay with that — it keeps it interesting. I love that some people will be showing up to virtual awards shows in gowns, and others will be in sweatpants or chic pajamas.”

Mandelkorn — who’s worked with Katy Perry, Janelle Monáe, and Jurnee Smollett — believes the pandemic has ignited a fresh sense of experimentation when it comes to high-profile fashion moments.

“Red carpets can feel so serious and stressful,” she says. “We’re all experiencing this universal moment together and however we choose to show up, whether it’s decked out in diamonds or curled up in sweatpants, we’re all just doing our best and making it through.”

She’s also branching out creatively, having just been tapped by four of the world’s top female athletes — soccer phenom Alex Morgan, snowboarder Chloe Kim, swimmer Simone Manuel, and hoops star Sue Bird — to style the debut campaign for their new media and commerce company, Togethxr.

“It was incredibly inspiring to be around such strong, accomplished women,” she says. “I found myself thinking about how hard they train and fight to be at this level, especially in a world catered so heavily to men.”

The experience motivated her to translate that strength and grace into the athletes’ wardrobe and get them out of their usual sporty garb. “[I wanted] to help them feel like their most boss selves, while also pushing them out of their comfort zone and into fresh ways of thinking about the cross section of strength and femininity in their fashion,” she says.

Ahead, Mandelkorn walks Bustle through four of her favorite fashion moments she’s helped create — including Katy Perry’s Smile album outfit — and what made each look so memorable.

Katy Perry’s Smile Album Cover Dress

Courtesy of Alexandra Mandelkorn

“Styling Katy for the Smile album was such a fun day. The direction for the album was circus-themed, so the wardrobe was all really fun and playful. I loved our look for the album cover itself, because the design was from a genius up-and-coming Egyptian-Danish designer, Yasmin Julie Bergmann.

“I love showcasing these types of brands on international stars like Katy, because it brings new energy to the fashion table. We don’t always have to use the big-name brands on the big stars. It’s refreshing to see young talent, especially with this checkered look. The silhouette was so funky. I’d never seen anything like it. It felt perfectly Katy.”

Katy Perry’s Smile Album Photo Shoot Dress

Courtesy of Alexandra Mandelkorn

“I loved this look from Moschino. As you can see, it fit the circus theme perfectly. The whole gown was beaded and gave the illusion of dripping paint dots. Of course the oversize red tie [gave] classic clown vibes.

“To top it off, Jeremy Scott came to set that day, because we shot this just before the Met Gala and he was fitting Katy for her chandelier dress. Since he was there, Katy had him throw a whipped cream pie in her face while she was in his Moschino creation. It was silly fashion perfection. Definitely a moment!”

Jurnee Smollett’s Zuhair Murad SAG Awards 2021 Look

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“Jurnee wore a pre-fall gown by Zuhair Murad in a gorgeous raspberry color with stunning Bulgari diamond and ruby jewels. The dress was the first one we tried on in our fitting and we immediately knew it was the one. The color was so gorgeous against her skin and the high-low gown skirt shows off her killer legs, the off-the-shoulder top was a beautiful frame for her collarbones, it was highlighting all right spots.

Once we had the dress locked in, I knew I wanted jewelry that incorporated the color of the dress. Bulgari has some of the most beautiful diamond and precious gemstone jewelry so I knew they’d have some pieces that would work for us. I absolutely love the way we layered the choker with another longer necklace. It gives the look a bit more of an edge. We finished off the look with Roger Vivier crystal buckle heels.

With this look, we were hoping to bring back some of the glamour and drama we’ve been missing so much from this awards season. It’s been a bummer not to have the pomp and circumstance of the season’s usual festivities, and we wanted to have fun. From the voluminous gown to the sparkling Bulgari jewels, we really wanted it to feel like a true awards show red carpet moment. This was our last awards show of the season so we wanted to go out with a bang.”

Janelle Monáe’s Surrealist Met Gala Gown

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“[We were] a week out from the MET and Janelle asked me, ‘Do you think we can get the eye to blink?’ As a stylist, and a yes person in general, I always exhaust every single possible angle before delivering a ‘no.’ I thought, ‘With the timing and the technicality of this ask, this might really be impossible!’

I did my due diligence and went on a deep internet dive for companies that merged fashion and tech. That’s when I found Smooth Tech. I reached out to them via DM, said a little prayer. Lo and behold, they got back to me within hours and said that not only could they achieve what we were looking for, but that they were based in NYC and could be at the Christian Siriano Atelier the next morning. The universe works in magical, mysterious ways, but it definitely had my back with that one.”

Janelle Monáe’s Jean Paul Gaultier Grammys Look

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“The 2019 Grammys look came together at the very last minute. We were deciding between two looks and in order for Janelle to really love the Jean Paul Gaultier outfit, she wanted a hat. We had been searching for the perfect one, but hadn’t found anything quite right. Then, the night before the Grammys, we were scouring the internet, Instagram, anywhere, looking for brands based or housed in LA that might have something that could work.

That’s when we found Steve David. He’s a hairstylist based in downtown LA who happens to make avant-garde head pieces. I made several selections from his IG but had a clear favorite and prayed he had it. Of all the selects I made — and I made many — he happened to have the one that was my absolute favorite and that I knew would work. That ended up being the iconic gold safety pin hat she wore that day!”