The 90th Academy Awards is in full swing. But before that, let’s take a look at the most important part of the annual event (yes, it is!) – the red carpet dresses.
Here’s a look at the top five looks of the evening.
Who: Mary J. Blige
Wearing: Atelier Versace
Looking stunning in an all-white design was Blige. With her hair and makeup at its most minimal, she looked simply radiant.
Goddess In White
Who: Laura Dern
Wearing: Calvin Klein
It seems that white is a popular colour on this year’s red carpet. Dern appeared in a stunning dress featuring soft, cascading folds.
Wearing: Giambattista Valli
Zendaya proved her status as a red-carpet icon with an off-shoulder Grecian design. The sleek topknot was a nice touch indeed.
Who: Allison Williams
Wearing: Armani Prive
Old-school Hollywood sophistication at its finest. Williams looked the very picture of a real-life princess with a simple yet chic ballgown.
Red Carpet Drama
Who: Allison Janney
Wearing: Reem Acra
Drama? At the Oscars? How apt. Janney brought on some style flair with her billowing sleeves and a fiery red colour.
A radiant Grace Kelly glided from her seat, pulling up her long opera gloves, her little evening bag balanced on one arm, as she collected a best actress trophy for The Country Girl at the 1955 Academy Awards.
She kept her speech short and sweet: “The thrill of this moment keeps me from saying what I really feel. I can only say thank you with all my heart to all who made this possible for me. Thank you.”
It was a moment that might not have endured without the cool mint satin gown designed for her by Edith Head. At the time, Kelly was the screen’s most memorable blonde, radiating a sophisticated glamour “pre-Princess of Monaco”.
Today, the thin-strapped gown is among the top fashion moments in the Oscars’ 90-year history. It was also an inspiration for designers to come, said Hal Rubenstein, who wrote the book 100 Unforgettable Dresses.
The gently draped sheath with a near-bustle effect received a riff in soft pink by Ralph Lauren for Gwyneth Paltrow (albeit a little saggy up top) for the 1998 ceremony. Escada’s take in sherbet green was made for Kim Basinger’s Oscars turn the year before.
Kelly wore the gown two other times, at the film’s premiere before the Oscars and on the cover of Life magazine after. It offered a level of glamour that didn’t exist in 1929 at the very first Academy Awards, when best actress winner Janet Gaynor wore a simple skirt and sweater with a casual scarf draped cross her shoulders.
In this March 1955 file photo, Kelly (left) and Marlon Brando, hold their best actress and actor Oscars. The actress wore an icy green satin gown designed by Edith Head.
“Edith Head was a costume designer rather than a couturier. Worn with elbow length gloves and little other adornment, Grace Kelly set the bar for a new modern glamour and yet the colour is deliciously unorthodox,” said Jo Ellison, fashion editor at the Financial Times and author of the book Vogue: The Gown.
The 1960s and 70s provided some fashion wow, of course, but red carpet frenzy reached stratospheric heights among designers in the 80s, Rubenstein said.
“If it wasn’t for Armani, nobody would have cared,” he said. “He’s the one who discovered the PR quality in dressing people for the Oscars. He’s the one who latched on to Anjelica Huston and Jodie Foster and Michelle Pfeiffer.”
Among Ellison’s top Oscar moments: Lauren Hutton in 1980, in a shiny gold short playsuit by Zoran.
“Wearing gold to the Academy Awards is today such a cliche. I hardly notice, but this gold lame stops me in my tracks every time – the glossiest, most glamorous and most glorious gold outfit to grace the red carpet ever,” she said.
Today, the Oscars is the most important carpet of the awards season, but those moments depend as much on the human inside the outfit.
Enter Lupita Nyong’o
It was her vibrant red Ralph Lauren gown with cape at the 2014 Golden Globes that launched her as a fashion “it” girl in 2014, but it was her soft blue Cinderella Prada later that year, with its crystal sparkle in the pleats, low V neck and delicate headband that secured her spot, let alone on screen with 12 Years A Slave and, now, Black Panther.
“She took it to the next level,” said Joyann King, editor of HarpersBazaar.com. “It was stunning and it really set her apart.”
The next year, Nyong’o wore a white faux pearl-embellished dress by Calvin Klein to the Oscars. Yes, it’s the one that was stolen soon after but later returned by the thieves.
Sometimes, it’s all about colour. Oscar fashion moments based on that factor include Michelle Williams in her ruffled buttercup yellow Vera Wang in 2006 and Nicole Kidman’s 1997 embellished chartreuse Dior by John Galliano, Ellison and others said.
- Basinger in Escada.
- Streisand wearing Arnold Scaasi.
“Nicole Kidman completely transformed the red carpet culture,” Ellison said. “It was one of the rare times an actress had worn a designer gown from a French couture house, cementing the union between high fashion and the film aristocracy.”
For Williams’ look, it was as much about style and personality, she said. “The dress was totally captivating with the strong colour and the red lip, all accessorised with her beaming smile. It earns my nomination for the best Academy look of all time.”
King, however, points to precursors who took some risks. For example, Arnold Scaasi put Barbra Streisand in a see-through sparkly trouser look in 1969, the year she tied with Katharine Hepburn for an Oscar for Funny Girl.
The sheer set with a white Peter Pan collar, black bow at the neck and wide white cuffs remains one of the more puzzling fashion moments for a major star in Oscar history.
The pants included huge, swishy flares that began below the knee and tripped her up a tad on the stairs on her way to collect her statuette, which she greeted with a resounding: “Hello, gorgeous.” – AP