The Oscars: why best dressed matters more than best actor
And the Oscar for best dress goes to...
Halle Berry steals the show at the 2002 Oscars in a sheer, embroidered top and a red ball skirt by designer Elie Saab.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Poll: The team at Life & Style have chosen a few favourite Oscars dresses of recent years. Vote for your favourite or leave a comment and let us know who we've missed.
- Halle Berry, 2002
- Cate Blanchett, 2005
- Natalie Portman, 2010
- Angelina Jolie, 2004
- Helen Mirren, 2007
- Michelle Williams, 2006
- Renee Zellweger, 2004
- Gwyneth Paltrow, 2007
- Nicole Kidman, 2007
- Anne Hathaway, 2009
Total votes: 919.
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