Stevi Jelbart: Fashion adviser to the Stars

Authenticity in Style and Embracing Your True Self.

Writer Matt Russell, was fortunate enough to speak to fashion adviser and costume designer to the stars, Stevi Jelbart. They spoke about how important it is to look and feel like yourself and why the ability to change should always be something exciting and never be anything else.

Stevi Jelbart was immediately enamoured with fancy dress and creative design from a very early age. This talented young lady stuck stridently with her instincts much to the shock of some of her family members. Yet her dalliance in relation to fashion history and vintage clothes was something she believed was always “very much in my veins.”

She went on to study Fashion Design with Business at The University of Brighton. Then, shortly after graduating, Jelbart set up a stall at Portobello Road “selling frilly knickers and nipple tassels” with her friend Emma.

While branching out the business they also won Swatch Young Designers of the Year with the company Ophelia Fancy.  After those endeavours ran their course, she took on a job at ITV’s costume department on the south bank.  “I loved it,” said Jelbart. 

Almost 20 years later, she’s now very busy working freelance as a costume designer. She is also a stylist on TV dramas, light entertainment shows, fashion stills, commercials, music videos and everything in between. She’s also working for Disney, Netflix, NBC, BBC.

With the theme of this month’s issue being the change, it was great to chat to this driven young lady. She proves that creativity has no boundaries if you love what you do. Especially if you are very good at doing it.

When was it you found such a love of fashion and costume design?

From day dot, I was obsessed with fancy dress and creative dressing – much to the chagrin of my mother. I spanned most subcultures in the way I dressed before I was 20. Fashion history and vintage clothes were very much in my blood.

When did it dawn on you that you could make a career out of your love of fashion?

Randomly, I think I always knew. I’ve never been book smart but colour and shape and the ability to turn something 2D into a 3D form just came naturally. I would be in trouble if I couldn’t earn money from it!

What are the most interesting projects you have worked on?

Last year I designed the Masked Singer special for I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! It was great to draw creations that came to life. I have also recently finished a series for NBC America. The show was called Hot Wheels Ultimate Challenge. They made real life-size Hot Wheels on the set, it was a real spectacle. I’m really lucky as loads of interesting shows come up all the time.

Which projects have been the most complicated and why?

As with every job, some people are easier to work with than others. Dressing somebody is incredibly personal whether it be in character or styled as themselves. It’s more about finding that perfect balance: what do they want to change about themselves or develop for example. Clothing tells a story, and you can read so much from somebody’s choice of how they want to be perceived – be that by the person themselves, or a variety of other important visual decision makers. It is a delicate process to find the actor/celebrity, mine and the director or execs vision, and pull it all together. 

If you have the opportunity, what aspects of the industry would you change?

As with most things, it is dependent on the production. It’s hard being in a very female based department and role. It sometimes has a tendency to be overlooked on set. Time is often given freely to the camera and sound departments and costume and make-up come secondary to that. It has got so much better in my 20 years in the industry but there is still a load further to go. Sad but True… Metallica even wrote a song about it…lol!

Which celebrities have you enjoyed working with the most?

I’ve worked with Arielle Free for a number of years and she became one of my best friends. I love working with her. We have similar taste in clothing and we have an absolute scream in the process. On another random note Bette Midler was a dream come true, she’s as bonkers as she looks and we had a great ol’ time.

And conversely, which celebrities have you least enjoyed working with? Feel free to say no comment.

Well, yes there may have been a few. But a lot of my job is based on discretion, so as a professional, I’m going with your option of no comment.

What has been your most enjoyable job thus far?

A kids show for ITV called Scrambled. It was one of the first shows I designed but the cast and crew were amazing and utterly ridiculous. We shot it over seven years, and for four years after filming stopped we all still meet for drinks once a year. The guys would play football outside at lunch and everyday something hilarious. would happen. Sam lost his continuity shoe in a tree once and I had to paint another one to try and match it in 5 mins… chaos!

When it’s the most challenging aspect of the work you do?

We work insanely long hours and as freelancers we take work when we can, so it very much gets in the way of your social life. You have to love it to do it! It can also be really challenging if you have anything else going on in your life because your emotions are secondary to getting the job done. And that inevitably catches up with you in the end. 

What are you currently working on and what do have planned in relation to future projects?

I’m currently designing The Dumping Ground for CBBC and as soon as it finishes, I’m off to do this year’s Royal Variety Performance.

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