Designers receive validation that they are — or remain — players in the fashion industry. But for actresses, it can forever establish who they are in the public consciousness: serious actress, sweet ingénue, sexpot, ballsy rebel. And for a young actress like Quvenzhane Wallis, her choice was reassurance that she is a down-to-earth nine-year-old, a sweet child and not a Hollywood monster headed to rehab. For the occasion she wore Armani Junior — another coup! — in navy tulle with a back bow and carried her signature accessory: a puppy purse. She was accompanied by her mother and older sister.
The rote question called out from the media gauntlet on Oscar night remains “Who are you wearing?” But the more salient one is really, “What does the clothing say about your personal brand?”
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Acting wins for Hathaway, Waltz cap a night of honors spread among a disparate group.
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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.
Is there any doubt that what Helen Hunt — best supporting actress nominee for “The Sessions” — was saying with her simple navy strapless gown, which she volunteered was made by H&M even before E! Entertainment host Ryan Seacrest thought to ask? She is serious. She stands apart from this out-of-touch Hollywood glitz. She is as willing to take a fashion risk and be judged brutally for it as she was willing to get stark naked on film without benefit of candlelight and traditional romance.
Zeta-Jones’s look-at-me Murad gown suggested insecurity. Kerry Washington’s rock-crystal-embellished Miu Miu dress reflected an actress who is in the thick of claiming her stardom — at least it did once she stopped tugging on it. Jennifer Lawrence’s elegant Dior couture ball gown with its fitted bodice and tiered skirt spoke of her formal relationship with the house’s advertising campaigns, as did Theron’s white, sculptural Dior gown. Their choices — were they really even choices? — spoke of being tethered to a company. And Anne Hathaway’s pale Prada halter dress with its pointy bosom was a statement of independence and control, particularly since an alert had already gone around the Twitter-verse that she would be wearing Valentino.
There was a time when the Oscars were a runway show ruled by the fashion industry. In the midst of delightfully ridiculous red-carpet displays of feathered headdresses, bicycle shorts and sequined mermaid gowns, Armani dispatched his personal representative, Wanda McDaniel — a former journalist and a Hollywood insider — to put a stop to such egregious bad taste. Armani opened his Rodeo Drive boutique in 1988, and the following year he led the fashion industry in a takeover of the Oscars red carpet. He styled actress Michelle Pfeiffer in a navy silk cocktail suit. It was understated and chic and practically austere when measured alongside the one-armed, self-designed gown worn by Kim Basinger. In the next days parsing of the awards, the fashion trade publication Women’s Wear Daily prominently featured the two actresses under the single headline, “The Agony and the Ecstasy.” The fashion industry recognized the advertising potential and leapt into the pursuit of celebrity hangers.