Oscars red carpet watched for fashion statements, blunders
written by Lorrayne Anthony
The Brandon Sun - March 3, 2006

Yes, the Oscars show is all about awards, but what do people remember - the names of the winners or what the celebs wore?

It's probably hard for even dedicated Oscar viewers to recall who won, say, best supporting actress in 2001. But Bjork's swan dress left a permanent impression.

The Academy Awards may be the biggest night of the year for the film industry, but it's also a tremendous fashion event, with many calling the red carpet the most watched runway in the world. The show airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET, with red-carpet arrivals starting at least an hour earlier on some channels.

"I think people, to a great degree, are far more interested in that part of the evening," said Toronto wardrobe consultant Linda Gaylard, who has dressed many Canadian stars for gala events, including Elisha Cuthbert, Paul Gross and Wendy Crewson.

Nielsen Media Research says 5.4 million Canadians watched last year's Academy Awards, making it the most-watched program of the year. About 3.5 million tuned in to the pre-show festivities.

American screenwriter Diana Ossana will be wearing a Canadian design at Sunday's gala. Ossana co-wrote Brokeback Mountain with Larry McMurtry and also co-produced the film. If she wins for best adapted screenplay, her M Siamo gown will get international exposure.

Montreal designer Marisa Minicucci, the talent behind the M Siamo label, was tight-lipped about the dress.

"The 'O' dress must be kept as a surprise. I will say that inspiration came from the Hollywood glamour of once-upon-a-time, with a modern edge," she said in an e-mail from Los Angeles, where she was doing a final fitting for Ossana.

Even the colour of the gown is top secret.

Gaylard said the Oscars awards ceremony is a formal affair, unlike the red carpet which is known for unscripted moments.

While commentator Joan Rivers is interviewing a starlet about who she's wearing, viewers get to see what's going on behind Rivers' back. The red carpet is where people learned that then-goth chick Angelina Jolie brought her brother as a date to the Oscars, that Richard Gere felt comfortable enough to surprise Renee Zellweger with a little tickle, and that Cher felt donning a spider web was not just for Halloween.

For L.A.-based fashion writer Mindy Spar, Bjork's swan dress stands out as the worst thing she's seen on the red carpet.

"I actually have a couple of friends who thought the swan was genius, so daring and brilliant," she said in a phone interview. "But I just thought it was silly."

While Spar agrees that if Bjork had worn an elegant Valentino number, we wouldn't remember her appearance at all, she does feel there is a downside.

"Do you really want to be remembered for wearing the worst outfit ever?"

Although the swan and Dion's tuxedo are well-remembered fashion faux pas, Gaylard feels those were worn for the sole purpose of getting noticed.

"My recollection of the worst is Uma Thurman. She looked like her dress was made out of a box of Kleenex - tufts of white poking out everywhere," she said, referring to Thurman's full-length white ruffles with blue sash in 2004.

"You forgive Cher when she was wearing all those wild Bob Mackie outfits because she was bringing attention to herself. In Bjork's case ... and in Cher's case, it was all to draw attention and you know that."

"I think Uma really believed what she was wearing was fashion," Gaylard said, adding that hiding her great Kill Bill figure under "this mess of linen or whatever the heck it was ... it was the biggest mistake."

But even fashion gaffes of a lesser magnitude send ripples.

Reese Witherspoon accepted her Golden Globe award for her role in Walk the Line in a vintage white and silver Chanel dress. While she looked as lovely as ever, she had a problem with Chanel's definition of "vintage." She found out, after the fact, that the same dress had been worn a few years earlier by actor Kirsten Dunst - to a Golden Globe function, no less.

Celebrity magazines reported that the perennially sweet Witherspoon was put off and that her publicist told other clients, such as Jennifer Lopez and Renee Zellweger, not to wear Chanel.

Does this mean there will be a Hollywood boycott of Chanel at the Oscars?

"If I were dressing any of these people, I would be very nervous about going to Chanel," said Gaylard. "It will be very interesting to see if anyone wears Chanel on Sunday night."

Wall said the fallout will simply involve actors grilling their stylists about the history of the gown they'll be wearing and that Chanel will emerge unscathed.

"I think, at best, the dress looked mediocre on Reese ... but we are talking about it now, aren't we? I don't think it will hurt Chanel."

Spar predicted a lot more interesting jewelry will be worn on the red carpet Sunday, adding hopefully that the look of bare cleavage will be replaced with necks decorated with delicate understated jewels.

Gaylard said many gowns will reflect the empire-waisted regency styles seen in Pride and Prejudice, which has been nominated for four Oscars.

While there is sure to be a mix of vintage, modern-day va-va-va voom and classic Hollywood glamour, Wall is sure there will be a few fashion missteps.

"When you watch the carpet you're going to see the good, the bad and the ugly."


"It's very difficult for a new fashion designer to get his or her unknown brand into the market, the media and onto celebrities. But with Linda's help and support, many TFI designers have made that leap. Thank you Linda, for being a wonderful enthusiast of new fashion talent and for your tremendous support of TFI."
Susan Langdon, Executive Director, Toronto Fashion Incubator