Oscar Fashion: Gorgeous Gowns; Big Business

At the Academy Awards, a dress is not just a dress, but a message. And an advertisement — for the actress and the designer. So how do Oscar nominees decide what to wear?

As Julie Neigher writes for the LA Times: "It's a process far more involved than just spinning around, pointing a finger at a gown, and crying 'Voilà!' Each choice has a reason - and, often - a fascinating story."

Neigher's piece is full of revelations: Marlene Dietrich wore black when she found out other actresses were wearing pastels, and also made sure her gown had a slit on the "stage left" side, so everyone would see her leg as she walked across the stage. Bette Davis purposely dressed dowdy one year; so she could get the kind of roles she wanted. Vivien Leigh wore a filmy, spaghetti-strapped floral dress because after Gone With The Wind, she was sick of corsets.

Cher wore that infamous Mohawk-esque Bob Mackie ensemble as a "fuck you" to the Academy, since she felt that she wasn't given proper recognition or respect. And the relationship between actress and designer has only gotten more intense, since certain actresses are the "face of a brand. (Nicole Kidman, for instance, has a multimillion-dollar deal with Chanel.)

So while we're watching the red carpet arrivals and noticing cut and color, we're actually watching a commercial of sorts. As Neigher points out (emphasis ours):

The telecast has grown into an endorsement worth, according to some estimates, $1 million per gown or accessory in publicity for ateliers.

It's no wonder that the number one question, over and over again, is "Who are you wearing?"

Oscar Fashion's Back Story [LA Times]