If you think Ruben Studdard has designers tossing free extra-large leather pants at his feet, guess again. Along with his fellow ''American Idol'' contestants, the big guy has to hit the mall like everybody else. We talked to the show's stylist, Miles Siggins, about where Ruben finds his 5X-size outfits, which contestant wouldn't show skin, and why Simon is no style guru.
Where do all of these outfits come from?
Initially, we could only work with the contestants' own clothes, so we pulled together outfits from what they had. It was only when we got down to the final 10 that we actually started taking them shopping. We go to the Beverly Center [in Los Angeles], and Clay gets a lot of his clothes at Traffic there. I get most of Kim's clothes and some of Clay's at Loehmann's [an off-price specialty retailer], and we buy almost everything for Ruben at the Fox Hills mall, which is kind of urban.
What, no Rodeo Drive? Don't you guys have a clothing budget?
We didn't initially, and it's quite silly. The producers thought we were getting money for the kids every week, so they were asking, ''Why does so-and-so not look so good?'' And I was thinking, Well, it's hard to get them an entire outfit for $90. The kids do get paid, but this is the first decent money they've made and they want to use it to pay off their debts. The last thing they wanted to spend it on was clothes. We finally had to sit down and tell them, ''There's 25 million people watching you, and we're not getting any phone calls yet saying, 'I want to dress like so-and-so.'''
When you hit the mall, do they close stores for you?
We have security with us, but we walk into the store with everyone else. It makes shopping take twice as long. With Ruben, it takes three or four hours, but it's really only one hour of actual shopping. The rest is spent signing autographs.
So, who are the big spenders? And who is tight?
Clay was spending money even before we got the supplementary budget, and Ruben doesn't like to repeat things at all. The other kids will mix in stuff that we'd bought before, but for Ruben everything has to be fresh every time, which is great. Trenyce was the first to say she was thrifty, so it was difficult with her, trying to get her out of Rampage and into something more high-end.
Is Ruben difficult to dress because of his size?
Actually, at the Fox Hills mall there's no problem getting him leather jackets, jeans, T-shirts, everything. I'd never heard of the place until Ruben told me about it. Before we started shopping, I was calling Sean John [P. Diddy's label] and all the other urban labels trying to get stuff in, and they were saying, ''We don't do 5X except for special orders.'' And Ruben said, ''Dude, I know where we're going.''
If Ruben isn't a problem, who is?
Trenyce was very difficult, because she wasn't very sure of herself. So we'd just walk around the store as she said, ''No, no, no, no.'' Carmen had restrictions because of her church. We weren't allowed to show shoulder, midriff, or above the knee. It was a shame, because we could have done so much more with her.
Who is a dream to dress?
With Kimberly Caldwell, you could do pretty much anything. We'd buy these amazing dresses, cut them in half, and turn them into little crop tops. But even though I wasn't on the show last year, I think this season must be harder because everyone's a different shape. I can't put Clay or Josh into cut-off shirts, that sort of thing.
What happened to Ryan Seacrest's suits?
Last year he was wearing those suits and garish shirts, and that's just not my style. Ryan told me he wanted to be younger, more contestant-friendly, so we took it in a European direction. Most of his clothes come from Diesel and J. Lindeberg, a Swedish company.
Have you tried to take Simon's black T-shirts away from him?
And get him to loosen his belt! I've tried. But Simon does his own thing. He likes to give advice, but very rarely likes to take it.
When will we see an ''American Idol'' fashion line?
It's a damn good idea, since they have their name on nearly everything else. It would have to be massively diverse, but it's something to talk to Target about.
Do you have a favorite bargain find?
We got Clay's Hugo Boss suit for half price, and we got him a pair of Gucci pants for $98 that were marked down from $1,000 at Loehmann's. Loehmann's has been great, because not only do they get larger sizes, but you can get designer clothes. And these kids have to look like pop stars, even if they're on a budget.