JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

The Oscars: why best dressed matters more than best actor

Date

Kate Waterhouse

And you thought the Oscars was about the films. Kate Waterhouse looks at what turns heads on the red carpet come awards season, from classic couture to total frock shockers.

Halle Berry steals the show at the 2002 Oscars in a sheer, embroidered top and a red ball skirt by designer Elie Saab. Click for more photos

And the Oscar for best dress goes to...

Just a few of the more striking looks - good and bad - to have graced the Oscars red carpet in recent years. 

When the Oscar nominations came out last week, two things happened: film fans started speculating on who would walk away with the little gold statues and fashionistas got down to the far more important question – what would the stars be wearing on the red carpet?

The Oscars – and similar events – has long been the place where celebrities pull out all the stops to look their most glamorous but in recent years it's become as important as the international runway shows for highlighting the latest styles and designs.

Almost universally, the first question actors are asked when they step out of a limo is, "And who are you wearing?"

The designers are acutely aware that if Nicole Kidman, for example, drops their name as the brains behind the frock, there's a fair chance that design will be flying off the racks for weeks . . . no matter what the cost.

And for the stars, it's equally important.

The right gown can cement an idea of just who that actor is.

Meryl Streep, for example, exudes grace. Her choices are always age-appropriate and this keeps her in directors' and producers' sights, and the public's mind, as someone who is regal, refined and eminently watchable.

When Liz Hurley showed up at the Los Angeles premiere of Four Weddings and a Funeral in THAT black Versace dress, she instantly went from being Hugh Grant's girlfriend to a star in her own right.

And Heidi Klum, who's never made a film worth mentioning, regularly tops "best-dressed" lists when she surfs in as a plus-one to her song- and film-score-writing hubby, Seal.

The red carpet, it seems, has become the new catwalk and the Oscars is the biggest of them all.

So with just a few weeks before the big night, right now in the studios of Milan, London, Paris and New York (and maybe even Sydney, given we've got two women up for awards), stylists and designers to the stars are creating garments that they hope will appear in magazine spreads around the world.

All except Helena Bonham Carter's peeps. They're possibly scouring Vinnies bins looking for inspiration.

PLAYING IT SAFE

There are some stars who you can guarantee will top the Oscars best-dressed list every year, so much so you can almost guess which designer, colour or at least what style they will be wearing. These best-dressed veterans will look elegant and stylish time after time but they fail to push the fashion boundaries on every occasion. Nicole Kidman, Angelina Jolie and Anne Hathaway can't put a foot wrong in the style stakes but it seems they can't step out of the box.

FREAK SHOW

At the other end of the spectrum are the ones we love to hate . . . such as Helena Bonham Carter, who, until recently, was more famous for her red-carpet misses than her box-office hits. Then there is no forgetting Cher, who was known for her outlandish costumes. Whether it was a mohawk headdress or a transparent sequinned gown, she certainly knew how to get attention. Celine Dion is backwards in the fashion department at the best of times but was literally so when she wore the back-to-front white tux with a floppy hat in 1999. But nothing tops Bjork wearing her swan gown at the Academy Awards in 2001.

SHOW-STOPPERS

There are always going to be beautiful dresses but it's the jaw-dropping wow-factor gowns that are remembered forever. We can't even work out why Heidi Klum even attends the Academy Awards but sure enough, every time she is a head-turner. Penelope Cruz can go from sex siren to girl next door and she always has that va-va-voom. Cate Blanchett netted her fashion accolades in her effortlessly slinky, dramatically embroidered John Galliano gown when she was a best-actress nominee for Elizabeth in 1999 and has never failed to impress since. But it was the red ball skirt and a sheer top embroidered with flowers that Halle Berry stole the show in, in 2002, when she was named best actress. The dress not only put designer Elie Saab on the fashion map but it is one of the Oscars' most iconic dresses.

TIMELESS BEAUTY

Style encompasses much more than just fashion; it's not just the look, it's the attitude and elegance that accompany it. It seems some people are born with it and it lasts a lifetime. Just look at Sophia Loren, who at 76 still reigns supreme in the fashion department. Annette Bening, a four-time Oscar nominee, shows style and grace year after year. Helen Mirren, whether she is in her bathing suit or a red-carpet gown, is a knockout every time. The bodice-skimming Christian Lacroix dress she wore when she was named best actress for The Queen in 2007 didn't fail to impress. Then there is Meryl Streep, who has received no fewer than 16 Academy Award nominations. She might have won only two but she triumphs every time when it comes to the fashion department.

NEW COOL

There is a whole new generation of cool that has hit Hollywood and that posse includes Carey Mulligan, Kate Bosworth and Keira Knightley, who all combine old-school glamour with a twist of modern quirkiness. Michelle Williams led the way when she wore Vera Wang to the 2006 Oscars. Not everyone can pull off a mustard-hued number but she did it with ease and her bold red lip pulled the whole look together. Natalie Portman is effortlessly stylish (even when she had a shaved head) so we are sure the pregnant actress will shine once again at this year's awards.

CARE FACTOR, ZERO

Having a fashion disaster moment is one thing but it's another ball game when you can't even be bothered to even get it wrong. Tilda Swinton has her fashion hits and misses but when it comes to make-up and glam factor, the care factor is zero. Not even a skerrick of mascara could be found when she won the Academy Award for best supporting actress for her performance in Michael Clayton in 2008. Sam Worthington looked the part from waist up but took a step backwards in his Payless lace-up shoes that he wore to the 82nd Annual Academy Awards last year. However, nothing beats John Travolta teaming jeans with his tux jacket in the same year.

10 comments

  • This is really a pointless article...we all know the 'stars' cannot dress to save themselves and that they pay stylists thousands to dress and style them...thats not news. Whats worse is they often demand to borrow clothes and jewellery for free......and most of them could easily afford to pay..........At least Helena BC has the guts to make her own style..she is one groovy girl and more power to her !!

    Commenter
    teachers pet
    Date and time
    February 01, 2011, 9:21AM
    • Meryl Streep accepted her Oscar for Kramer vs Kramer in a blouse from K-Mart. If you want to go back to the re-birth of Oscars glamour, why not mention Uma Thurman's lavender Prada dress in 1995? It was a stand out and saved us from more Kim Basinger/Geena Davis atrocities. Or Kate Winslet's amazing Alexander McQueen dress in green and gold, or anything she's worn since - she's always a standout of elegance every year. No mention of Nicole Kidman's lime green Dior masterpiece either.

      I agree with teachers pet - at least Helena Bonham-Carter knows who she is and dresses true to herself. She's a individual in a sea of sheeple.

      Commenter
      Andrea
      Location
      FTG
      Date and time
      February 01, 2011, 10:10AM
      • Where's the option to vote for Bjork? Much better than this crew of try-hards.

        Commenter
        Spud
        Date and time
        February 01, 2011, 10:37AM
        • @Teacher's Pet
          The stars don't "demand" to borrow the jewelery! Designers give the jewels out like candy in the hopes that when Angelina Jolie tells E! who designed the jewelery, their sales will go through the roof, which it often does.

          Commenter
          Emma
          Date and time
          February 01, 2011, 10:38AM
          • bssst...thanks for playing Emma...but in fact you are wrong....not only do the stylists demand the jewellery for their clients (with the caveat that they will announce who 'lent' it to them.....they also get their noses well out of joint when they find out someone else has worn the dress/jewels etc..if you don't believe me check out the hysteria that SJP generated when she found out she wasn't the first to wear a gown......its really is a little bit obscene celebrating all that is veneer and vanity but its the fawning public who pay for the photos...we are the problem, not the 'stars'

            Commenter
            teachers pet
            Date and time
            February 01, 2011, 11:26AM
            • There is nothing more tired, boring or played out than the so-called 'fashion' on the red-carpet. Too many unqualified stylists and too many deeply insecure actors ruined all that.

              Commenter
              bigeetah
              Date and time
              February 01, 2011, 11:56AM
              • Just love Helena Bonham-Carter! All the others.... ho-hum, no matter how glam. HBC is one cool and unique woman and her red-carpet creation is always the first that I check out.

                Commenter
                Kaliani
                Date and time
                February 01, 2011, 1:18PM
                • @Teachers Pet
                  Designers and Jewellers give/lend the stars their gowns and jewels for free in the hope that they will mention who they are wearing......it's great publicity for them.

                  Commenter
                  Jas
                  Location
                  Sydney
                  Date and time
                  February 01, 2011, 1:41PM
                  • Personally, I love Helena Bonham Carter's style. It's never boring, she wears what she wants and she's fun.

                    Commenter
                    Emily
                    Location
                    Melbourne
                    Date and time
                    February 01, 2011, 1:57PM
                    • Helena Bonham-Carter is a breath of fresh air!
                      I am so sick to death of seeing the same perfectly groomed, manicured and styled-to-within-an-inch-of-their-lives celebrities. It's sad that they don't have the guts to wear what they like instead of what their stylist says they should.

                      Commenter
                      Jesmine
                      Location
                      Greystanes
                      Date and time
                      February 01, 2011, 5:35PM
                      Comments are now closed
                      Featured advertisers

                      Horoscopes

                      Capricorn horoscope

                      Trust others to think for themselves. Don't be snobbish about what seems obvious. Everyone learns at their own pace, including you.

                      ...find out more here