The second best thing to winning an Oscar last night was having the franchise on sequins. Most of the dresses were black or white and dipped in sparkle and glitz, a traditional formula for Hollywood, revived for the 55th annual Academy Awards. Bare shoulders, skin-tight clothes and long gloves heightened the sexy, glamorous look.
For some it was heavy doses of dazzle, as on the all-sparkle gown of Luise Rainer, or the vintage Bob Mackie dress worn by Cher. Others were barely beaded, like Best Supporting Actress nominee Teri Garr's black dress with a pattern in sequins from Chloe', or Susan Sarandon's black gown edged in rhinestones. Even Meryl Streep's peach-toned maternity dress had sequins. And the briefest costumes of all managed to shine. Sandahl Bergman and her back-up dancers wore shiny pailletted tops with the barest bathing suit-cut bottoms. Carol Burnett had shine only on the shoulder straps of the red-and-black dress she took right off the rack of Bob Mackie's new collection.
The men played it safe with traditional tuxedos, some with wing-collar shirts and many sparked with a touch of color, always red. Louis Gossett Jr. wore a rose in his lapel and a red polka-dot tie in his pocket. Motion Picture Association of America President Jack Valenti and actor John Travolta followed suit with red squares in their jacket pockets. Comedian Richard Pryor sported a burgundy tie and pocket square. In the audience, George C. Scott and Jack Lemmon had red bow ties. Sylvester Stallone opted for a sparkly, diamond-shaped rock in his lapel.
Glitter is hardly a new idea and the best of the sparkling dresses may well have been the oldest. Actress Jamie Lee Curtis wore an all-glitter dress reportedly made in the 1950s for Marlene Dietrich by Jean Louis. (Curtis' fiance' is Dietrich's grandson, Michael Reva.) Singer Melissa Manchester found a new place to wear sequins: They spilled over from her pink dress onto a pink sparkly microphone. And Buffy Sainte-Marie had sparkles on her feathered headdress as well as on her dress.
Two of the sexiest dresses were accomplished, Rita Hayworth-style, without a sequin. Both Raquel Welch and Sigourney Weaver wore draped, jersey off-shoulder dresses by Norma Kamali and blackelbow-length gloves.
Most women bypassed styles with pants;only Liza Minnelli in a black tuxedo for her opening number, and Kristy McNichol in a white mess jacket and trousers picked up on this winter's tuxedo rage for women.
Many women opted for short dresses. Best Supporting Actress Jessica Lange, who had collected dresses from three designers for the event, decided to wear, braless, a pale green, above-the-knee dress with sequins and scatter diamonds by Valentino. Nastassia Kinski presented an award in a short gold-and-black costume. It was easy to see the dress but hard to see her face as she constantly tossed her hair in front of it.
When pop musician Stephen Bishop bypassed the style of the evening, tuxedo a la Fred Astaire, by wearing a white suit speckled with color, it was really a shocker. With it he wore a white-collared shirt and pink tie, as good a choice asany to go with a suit that seemedspattered with paint.
"We used to tell the stars what to wear, but people have their own taste," said Ray Aghayan, official costume designer for the Academy Awards, whose job included checking with each award giver and nominee on his or her dress choices and giving them guidance on what was best for the lighting. "It's not my position to reject anything."
Aghayan was responsible for the costumes in the Irving Berlin salute, perhaps remarkable more for the quick changes by Bernadette Peters than for the costumes themselves. They were splashy and appropriate to the settings, however.
But when it came to the costume award, there wasn't a sparkle anywhere. It was the totally unadorned costumes for "Gandhi" that won the Oscar for costume design, the beginning of the "Gandhi" sweep.
But dancer Ann Reinking, who with actor Steve Guttenberg presented the costume award, wore a strapless black gown . . . with a wide midriff of black sequins, of course.