Faith Hill Invited Kelsea Ballerini to Raid Her Closet
Back in the early '90s, the women of country music were as well known for their big hair and big sequins as they were their big voices. And then came Faith Hill. Her style icon was Audrey Hepburn, and her red carpet looks echoed the timeless, clean-lined minimalism of the Hollywood legend (with a subtle southern twist, of course).
Through her love of craftsmanship and designers like Versace, Armani, and Tom Ford, Hill paved the way for a style renaissance in country music that has continued with fashion-lovers like Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, and Kelsea Ballerini. “There was a time in country music when it was all big hair and as many rhinestones as you could put on your body, and I think Faith brought it back to being natural and classic,” says Ballerini, who has opened for Hill and her husband, Tim McGraw. “She has a girl-next-door approach to style, but it’s so elevated and sleek — and that's why I'm obsessed with every look that she’s worn.”
Since Ballerini, who recently dropped her third album, Kelsea, has long admired Hill’s music and fashion vibes, we connected the two singers to talk shop for InStyle’s June Style Crush chat. On the agenda? Red carpet regrets, a mutual love for white T-shirts and worn-in jeans, and why Ballerini is now invited to borrow from Hill’s closet (lucky girl!).
Their full chat, below.
KELSEA BALLERINI: Faith, I’m so happy to talk to you. What a time. How are you and the family doing?
FAITH HILL: Everyone’s well. We’re social distancing in the Bahamas trying to stay healthy and not go insane. How are you?
KB: I’m just excited to have some human interaction! I’m stuck in downtown Nashville, overlooking a very empty interstate. And I’m trying to learn how to cook. So far, it’s decent.
FH: Oh, I’ll send some easy recipes to get you started. We’ve been playing cards and board games. I’m a news junkie, so anything to keep me from watching TV all the time is good. [laughs]
KB: I was thinking about when I first got to know you. I opened for you and Tim in London, and we ran into each other backstage. I was nervous and you were so friendly to me.
FH: We took a picture together, and I loved it because you were wearing a merch shirt. And then I also remember when we performed together at the CMAs [below]. That show has always terrified me more than the Grammys or the Oscars, and you had such poise and confidence. You actually made me feel calmer that night.
KB: Oh my gosh, thank you. I can assure you that I didn’t feel calm, but I'm so glad it came off that way! So, since we’re talking style today, I have to tell you that I’m obsessed with every look you’ve worn. There was a time in country music when it was all big hair and as many rhinestones as you could put on your body, and I think you brought it back to being natural and classic.
FH: Bless your heart. But it took me a minute. And it took a great stylist, Petra Flannery, whom I’ve worked with for most of my career. Sometimes I would put on an outfit to perform and I’d feel nothing like myself. What’s the point of that? I had to learn to be comfortable in my own skin.
KB: In the beginning, did people try to tell you what to wear?
FH: No one directed me. I just made the wrong choices. [laughs] I used to find pieces at vintage shops and go to Michaels to find some really unattractive flowers to pin on a vest. There was a lot of crazy stuff that I thought was cool.
KB: It happens to the best of us. I wrote my first album when I was 19, and all the clothes I wore were bright and glittery. I also look back and cringe a little bit. [laughs] How would you say your style has evolved over the years?
FH: Well, my look definitely changed with each album. I also just became more interested in style while working with Petra. Sometimes she would bring clothes to me that would look so boring on the hanger, and I’d say, “No, I want a look that has a little more something-something.” And she’d always say, “Faith, trust me. It’ll look so much better on your body. It just doesn’t have hanger appeal.” And she was always right.
KB: What's your strategy like for touring? I love to wear heels on stage, but when I'm headlining a show, the heels get chunkier and shorter.
FH: I remember for our Soul2Soul tour in 2006 and 2007, I had this incredible wardrobe planned with these amazing heels. And then once I got to rehearse, I had to change the entire wardrobe because I couldn't even walk in the shoes. We changed everything to slacks — my favorite thing to wear — and found some cool tennis shoes. I felt like a teenager! It was awesome.
KB: One of my favorite looks of yours was when we opened the CMAs. It was that black Armani Privé gown with a big architectural shoulder.
FH: Loved that. I also loved my J. Mendel gown at the 2015 Oscars [above] and the white Chado Ralph Rucci look I wore to the 2011 CMAs. I try to find something with a sleeve because it gets so cold when you’re nervous and waiting to perform at an awards show. What has been your favorite?
KB: My bright pink Zac Posen dress [below]. Zac hand-pinned it on my body, and I got to watch him go into artist mode. So cool. And he got me to wear a bright color, which is hard to do.
FH: That was gorgeous on you. I think your style is sassy, classy. You’re just a sassy girl with a lot of class.
KB: That made my day. I’m walking into my closet right now thinking about what I actually wear, and my x karla cropped white tees have become the things I buy the most of. What is it for you?
FH: Probably white boyfriend T-shirts by ATM and black cashmere Michael Kors turtlenecks. My go-to look for, like, the grocery store is probably a T-shirt, sneakers, and my favorite pair of Joie jeans that I’ve had for almost 20 years. It’s almost like wearing sweats because they’re so loose and comfy.
KB: I always used to wear tight jeans, but I just discovered this high-waisted boyfriend style by Agolde that I love. Jeans are the perfect article of clothing. I really stand by that.
FH: Oh, I agree. 100%.
KB: You and Tim always look so sharp together.
FH: That’s sweet. Tim’s wardrobe is insane. I mean, his closet is so much more interesting than mine.
KB: I don’t ask my husband, Morgan [Evans], for fashion advice. He’s from Australia, so he thinks that board shorts are pants.
FH: Ha! I do ask Tim for his opinion, but we also have three daughters who give their thoughts very freely. Just in case I ever wanted to walk out the door in something that I shouldn't, they let me know. [laughs]
KB: I bet! Whose style do you admire?
FH: Audrey Hepburn’s, in terms of dresses. But I like a woman that can wear a pantsuit too. I love Tom Ford’s style too. Tom is such a craftsman. He knows how to dress a man, and he knows how to dress a woman. Strong and sexy but in a way that’s not offensive.
KB: What’s your most prized fashion possession?
FH: The white shirt I wore for my first showcase at Warner Bros. I got it at The Limited Too. Remember that store? And I had a seamstress sew lace across the front. My gosh. But I got a record deal, so I always kept it.
KB: OK, one last thing. Your music video in the desert for Breathe set the bar for all of us. So many artists like Carrie [Underwood] and me have tipped our hats to it in our own videos. Did you know it would be so iconic?
FH: Honestly, what I worried about most was my mom seeing it. And I was an adult woman with two children at the time! I told her, “I want you to know that I had clothes on when I was under that sheet in bed.” [laughs]
KB: A mom disclaimer! Well, you’re everything that a new artist like me wants to be. So, thank you for being such a classy, wonderful example.
FH: And you’re so damn talented. Come to my closet anytime. I have all the clothes.
For more stories like this, pick up the June issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download May 22.