I love the Oscars. Actually, I hate the ceremony itself, but I love the pomp and circumstance and promise of glamour surrounding it. That's what I really watch it for: the glamour. Dashing men in tuxes, women in sparking sequined columns, lacquered hair and oodles of jewels. Which is why I loved writing about Armani, and his role in creating the modern red carpet, for The New York Post. Armani was the first fashion designer to really view Hollywood as a powerful publicity tool for his designs. And, while his designs are no longer as radical as they used to be — his minimal slip dresses and chic pant suits really did shock the establishment after the froufrou of the '80s — they still carry with them symbolic weight on the red carpet. And, as Naomi Watts, in a shimmering sapphire column Sunday night, demonstrated, they still look freaking fabulous.
But I also just really like being surprised by someone's outfit. There were a few that particularly stuck out in that front. The first was Saoirse Ronan's fierce, sexy emerald Calvin Klein look, easily the hottest thing the Irish actress, who usually prefers the more twee and bohemian, has ever worn, while still looking true to her personality. The second was Charlize Theron's deep-plunging flaming-red Dior gown, which, I don't even know if it was really that great a dress, but boy did she look like a movie star in it. And the last was a bit of a controversial one: "Mad Max" costume designer Jenny Beavan's biker jacket and jeans, which stood out for being so different and outsider and so confident and brazen and full of attitude that I couldn't help but fall in love with her as she strutted down the aisle to pick up her statuette. The Hollywood Reporter had a great interview with Beavan about her outfit, and what's great about it is that it was actually well thought-out and meaningful, not something she just threw on because she was lazy:
I am a real jeans person. I have clothes to dress up in, but [the Oscars] was a really conscious thing of not just doing the plain black suit. I am British with a slightly rebellious character; I always have been. But, actually, in truth, you’ve seen me. I’m short, I’m fat. I really would look ridiculous in a gown. What I was actually wearing at the Oscars was sort of an homage to "Mad Max" — a kind of biker outfit. I thought, “If I can’t beat them, or if I can’t sort of join them, then why not try doing something a little bit fun?” And George [Miller] loved it. The [vegan] leather jacket had the Immorten Joe symbol on the back and I was just giving a little wink to "Mad Max."
I love it because the red carpet isn't real life — it is costume in a way. (In the olden days, as I wrote in my article, the stars were dressed by their studio's costume department for the Academy Awards.) Red-carpet outfits should be more than pretty dresses, they should be statements, even if it's just a statement about the kind of person or star or character they want to be at that moment.
Oh, P.S., I also went on an Oscars cleanse and LIVED TO TELL THE TALE.