Sunday was the 86th annual Academy Awards and there were a record number of people watching this year's show. Of course there were likely even more enjoying the red carpet beforehand, with coverage coming from television channels all over the world. As always, I hope the audience was able to see just how much classic cinema acted as inspiration for many of the gowns that graced the presenters, nominees, and soon-to-be winners.
More than those winners, what we largely talk about afterward are the trends that emerged on the red carpet. Some are strong, some are subtle. Sometimes it's a silhouette. Sometimes it's a color--this year, whites, nudes (often with shimmer and sequins), and pale metallics were very popular. Kate Hudson, Naomi Watts, Cate Blanchett, Julie Delpy, Sally Hawkins, Sarah Paulsen, Jessica Biel, Kristen Bell, and Jennifer Garner all tapped into this trend with their ensembles. Sometimes red carpet trends simply reflect what's "in" fashion--not a surprise since these gowns generally come from the most recent runways. In many ways, though, the red carpets of award season become their own runway. And the bigger the show, the more style seems to revert back to what is frequently referred to as "Old Hollywood glamour."
"Old Hollywood glamour" does not always mean the same thing. The Golden Age of Hollywood stretches from the late 1920s to the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and much of the 1960s. Obviously, that encompasses a lot of different style. When The Artist swept much of the awards at the 2012 Oscars, many gowns had an Art Deco feel a la the 1920s and 1930s. That also happened to be a strong trend in fashion at the time, which started with the influence of The Artist itself and didn't end until Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby premiered. Then that same year, at the 2012 Golden Globes, gowns took much of their inspiration from film noir of the 1940s. Costumes from The Killers, The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Gilda were just some of what influenced the design of dresses on the red carpet.
This year, the 1940s were popular once again. There's usually at least one gown that owes something to Rita Hayworth in Gilda (1946) on any red carpet, and this year's Oscar nominee (and past Oscar winner) Sandra Bullock came closest with her Alexander McQueen. Many of the hair styles, including Sandra's, also played homage to Rita and Veronica Lake with their long loose waves. The 1950s made a strong style statement, too, with references to that era's icons Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marilyn Monroe. This is just the beginning.
What was impressive this year was that there were far fewer dresses that took directly from the costumes of classic cinema, but rather took inspiration from different design elements. The gown for Lupita Nyong'o, for example, seemed like a combination of Grace Kelly's ice blue chiffon in To Catch a Thief (1955) and Elizabeth Taylor's white chiffon in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958). The gowns for Kate Hudson and Julie Delpy were very different, but both seemed to make some reference to Marilyn Monroe's gold gown in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) and even a little nod to Bette Davis in Now, Voyager (1942). Without question, the gown for Angelina Jolie took its lead from the many illusion gowns of Marlene Dietrich. And the gown for Charlize Theron reminded me of a couple great looks from Ava Gardner, but also made me think of John Singer Sargent's late 19th century painting Madame X (one of my favorites). Of course there were many more references to classics at the 2014 Oscars, and all show just how much iconic costume design continues to impact the way we dress. This is only part of our ongoing conversation.
Charlize Theron in DIOR
Madame X by John Singer Sargent in the late 1800s
and Ava Gardner in the 1940s
The illusion straps on Charlize's Dior made me think of this neckline on
Ava Gardner in Helen Rose for 1954's The Barefoot Contessa
Sandra Bullock in ALEXANDER MCQUEEN
Rita Hayworth in Jean Louis for 1946's Gilda
and her signature side-swept hair
Kate Hudson in VERSACE
and Julie Delpy in JENNY PACKHAM
Marilyn Monroe in Travilla for 1953's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
and Bette Davis in Orry-Kelly for 1942's Now, Voyager
Lupita Nyong'o in PRADA
Grace Kelly in Edith Head for 1955's To Catch a Thief
and Elizabeth Taylor in Helen Rose in 1958's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Angelina Jolie (with Brad Pitt) in ELIE SAAB
Marlene Dietrich in Irene during 1945 USO tour--same gown also used in 1948's A Foreign Affair--
and in Jean Louis for her 1950s Las Vegas show
Thanks to Getty for red carpet images