When Jessica Chastain walked down the red carpet just before the 85th annual Academy Awards wearing a pale copper strapless gown with a mesh overlay by Giorgio Armani, her promenade was a two-part statement about the complexity of branding and the perilousness of glamour. The best actress nominee for “Zero Dark Thirty” marked herself as a woman settling into the Hollywood establishment, a sister to serious thespians such as Jodie Foster and Meryl Streep who do not indulge in trends but who strive to make a simple statement about sophistication and elegance. On the most photographed red carpet of them all, she steered clear of flashy designers, gossiped-about designers and controversial ones, too. Instead, she chose a classically glamorous gown by the godfather of red carpet style whose philosophy of celebrity dressing is: First do no harm.
For Armani, it was a significant coup. After ruling the red carpet for so many years, his dominance was starting to wane thanks to the likes of Chanel, Christian Dior, Alexander McQueen and newcomers such as Zahair Murad, who this year dressed Catherine Zeta-Jones in a tight-fitting, metallic gold column that gave her the look of a chorus girl among marque professionals. But this year, Armani nabbed Oscar’s biggest catch: the woman who recently signed on to represent the new Yves Saint Laurent fragrance, Manifesto, and who has galloped through awards season in McQueen and Dior. When faced with the night that roots high-end fashion most deeply into popular culture, she chose Armani.
Ben Affleck’s ‘Argo’ took home best picture at the Academy Awards. Ang Lee takes best director for 'Life of Pi' - as Seth MacFarlane plays a little naughty in his first Oscar hosting gig.
Acting wins for Hathaway, Waltz cap a night of honors spread among a disparate group.
REVIEW | Seth McFarlane and company deliver a medium-meh night of Hollywood standards.
Follow our merry band of reporters, bloggers and movie critic Ann Hornaday as we cover everything from the red carpet to the best picture, with reports straight from the Dolby Theatre and beyond.
The perfectly fitting dress almost disappeared against her pale skin. Her red hair hung in gentle waves. Bold red lipstick was her most prominent accessory. It all worked together to create a picture of subtle glamour — understandable, yet still aspirational.
It was the perfect branding moment in an era when an actress is no longer merely a thespian but a high-class worker bee whose every public appearance — from Starbucks to the Oscars — is in service to her bank balance and her bankability.
“The red carpet moment should be a little bit of the designer’s vision but also an actress’s vision,” says Booth Moore, fashion critic of the Los Angeles Times, who has had a close-up view of the rise of the celebrity fashion juggernaut. If the stars teetering down the red carpet on their Brian Atwood and Nicholas Kirkwood shoes put on a good fashion show for the media, “they could even get their own clothing line.”
For an actress, a solid performance during the Oscar parade — and a successful claim on the title of fashion icon — can result in the cover of any number of fashion and style magazines. It won’t matter if she has a current movie to promote. She may turn up as the co-chair of the Costume Institute gala at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, with its guest list that includes political bigwigs, business titans, social powerbrokers, media moguls and its grand red-carpeted stairway thick with media. The perception of style savvy — no matter that it was born of a village of stylists, makeup artists and hair gurus — opens the doors for lucrative advertising contracts. See Charlize Theron, Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Roberts, Chastain, et al.