Thursday February 21, 2013
Best and worst dressed celebrities at the Oscars
By LOUISA LIM
There was a time when the Oscars wasn’t just about floor-sweeping gowns. We take a look at how — and why — it’s evolved over the years.
THE late fashion designer Patty Fox didn’t call it “the greatest and biggest fashion show in the world” for no reason.
We’re talking about the annual Academy Awards – not Fashion Week – and Fox’s experience as a fashion adviser to the stars has taught her that Oscar night isn’t just about who wins the little, gold statuette called Oscar, it’s about who hits jackpot in the style department.
“I like to think of the red carpet as being all about fashion and, once you’re inside the theatre, it’s all about film,” she said in a 2008 interview with BBC.
It’s no surprise that that designers scramble to be part of the Oscar action each year – the crème de la crème of Hollywood command attention and, according to Fox News, an average of one billion people watch the Oscars, meaning that more eyeballs will be on a star’s gown than on the movie she was nominated for.
According to Merle Ginsberg, entertainment editor of Women’s Wear Daily and W magazine, Oscar fashion could increase a celebrity’s bankability and even spark trends.
“Last year, Nicole Kidman wore a very, very pink dress. Suddenly that became a huge colour in fashion,” she said in 2003. “If Nicole Kidman wore a Chanel dress, do people buy more Chanel perfume? Yes.”
As such, a celebrity’s half-hour walk down the red carpet may take months and months of preparation.
It all begins as designers and stylists negotiate to broker a breathtaking ensemble. Subsequently, it takes a small village to pull the entire look together: to make stars like Halle Berry, Faye Dunaway and fashion model Iman look Hollywood-worthy. Celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch told Fox that he has to work with a team of assistants, tailors, make-up artists and hair stylists.
“It’s countless amounts of phone calls, and phone tag, phone tag, phone tag,” he said. “Calling clothes in, returning them, fittings, and flying back and forth a lot.”
But it hasn’t always been like this. ABC News stated that, at the first Academy Awards ceremony in 1928, Janet Gaynor accepted best actress in a very casual outfit. Actress Ingrid Bergman also did something that would be a huge fashion faux pas today: she wore the same dress twice.
Television cameras only came to the Oscars in the 50s, bringing the red carpet to every American home, so everyone could “ooh” and “ahhh”. Fox, who has authored a book on the history of Oscar style, told ABC this was a time when style-savvy stars like Vicki Dougan had a major influence on what people wore.
“She is the epitome of the A-list Hollywood star,” Fox said. “She set styles also. She is one of the few people that owned all of her own jewels. So consequently, her gowns were designed around the jewel.
The jewel was the first thing and the gown was made as a beautiful frame.”
It wasn’t until the 80s that designers started cashing in on the free publicity. And then, claimed Fox, the “designer race” started in the 90s after Giorgio Armani began designing high fashion for nominees.
These days, a celebrity’s gown may cost five figures and up.
But for some, this will prove to be a costly mistake – after all, who can forget Bjork’s swan dress or Celine Dion’s reversed white tux jacket? Certainly not Fashion Police’s Joan Rivers.
In conjunction with the 85th Annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles this Sunday (Malaysian time 9.30am, Feb 25), we reminisce about fashion’s most memorable moments on the red carpet.
Jennifer Garner, 2004
Said Valentino of the gown he designed for Garner: “Fifteen yards of taffeta – I lost count of the amount of silk chiffon! The skirt alone has two layers and that train goes on forever, darling. It took four couturiers more than 300 hours to create it.” The end result couldn’t be more spectacular.
Cate Blanchett, 2007
Apparently, nothing looks better on alabaster skin than a liquid platinum Giorgio Armani Privé gown. Made from taffeta silk and crystal mesh, the end result skims over Blanchett’s curves and makes her shine brighter than she ever has. Halle Berry, 2002
It’s not easy to do classy and sexy, but Halle Berry pulls it off effortlessly with this peek-a-boo embroidered gown by Elie Saab. We can’t decide if she became the first black woman ever to win a Best Actress Oscar because of her acting chops or that amazing dress.
Michelle Williams, 2006
You know what they say: no guts, no glory. This is true on the red carpet too, as Williams jettisoned the customary solid, red, silver or black frock in favour of this mustard-hued, vintage-inspired gown by Vera Wang. We can’t help but drool.
Mila Kunis, 2011
Pretty and feminine, this gorgeous chiffon gown with tiered lace detailing and a grosgrain ribbon waist is another Elie Saab creation. The lovely lavender hue is offset by Kunis’ raven updo, making it a sight to behold.
Gwyneth Paltrow, 2012
Who says capes are only meant for superheroes? Paltrow stunned everyone when she turned up in a striking Tom Ford cape dress, looking every bit like a wonder woman. With a chock-full of that favourite staple – old-fashioned Hollywood glamour – this is one dress that we will never forget, for all the good reasons.
Uma Thurman, 2004
Shiver me timbers! How did this strange Christian Lacroix ensemble manage to find its way from a pirate ship and into this wench’s wardrobe? We have no idea. In any case, Thurman did not just kill Bill, she also killed fashion. Jada Pinkett Smith, 2004
Talk about awkward. The ruffles, the print, the sheer side, the fishtail hem ... we don’t know what to make of Smith’s dress, but it sure looks like it was recycled from several dresses (and a curtain). Here’s some advice: fire the stylist.
Whoopi Goldberg, 1993
Looking at the aubergine psychedelic satin frock coat and brocade trousers combo, we can only deduce that this funny lady has decided to pay homage to Halloween, eight months too early. But we guarantee even ghouls would flee at the sight of her get-up.
Helena Bonham Carter, 1987
Oh, lookie here, it’s Mrs Tim Burton channelling Corpse Bride in an over-the-top tulle ensemble and a frizzy updo to match. But then again, that’s an insult, as corpses have better fashion sense!
Juliette Binoche, 1997
Wait a minute, aren’t the French known for their style? Well, we suppose Binoche is an anomaly. Of the many outfits available, she chose this: a velvet gown, with a velvet coat and a gigantic vampire-like collar. In dark red. Well, at the very least, Count Dracula would be proud.
Wearing a showgirl-worthy beaded black two-piece with a towering two-foot headpiece made of rooster feathers will certainly get you attention, but for all the wrong reasons. Perhaps Cher hasn’t moved past the days of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. Unfortunately, the series expired in the 70s, along with her sense of style.
> The 85th Annual Academy Awards will be shown live on Astro’s Fox Movies Premium at 9.30am on Feb 25.