With any awards show today, it is inevitable that the glamour of Old Hollywood will make an appearance on the red carpet. This, of course, is especially true at the Academy Awards and this year was no exception. As always, much of the inspiration in fashion comes from the most iconic costume design of classic cinema...movies I have called The Style Essentials because they represent some of the most influential of the HISTORY OF FASHION IN FILM.
At last Sunday's show, The Academy even shined a light on the significance of costume design by decorating the entrance to the Oscars with sketches of some of its best. It's only fitting that this included ones by my hero Edith Head, who has won more Academy Awards for costume design than any other in its history--8 over her almost 60 year career. She is a legend in the industry. She should also be considered a legend in fashion since she is directly responsible for many of the designs we take for granted today. For example, her Oscar-winning strapless dresses for Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun (1951) immediately inspired thousands of copies. As a testament to their timeless style, we are still wearing them today...from dances to weddings to the Oscars. Amy Adams (in Alexander McQueen), Jennifer Lawrence (in Christian Dior), and Jennifer Aniston (in Valentino) all owed some debt to Edith for their looks at this year's Academy Awards.
Perhaps my favorite look of the night, though, was worn by Jessica Chastain whose Armani Prive looked truly inspired by the genius of Jean Louis. His gowns for Rita Hayworth in Gilda (1946), particularly from her performance of "Put the Blame on Mame," are a perennial favorite for fashion designers. In fact, the Oscars red carpet included others like Reese Witherspoon (in Louis Vuitton) and Olivia Munn (in Marchesa) who also chose to channel this iconic style. Interestingly, due to the nude effect of her copper and crystal dress, Jessica said she personally felt inspiration from another Jean Louis creation--the illusion gown that Marilyn Monroe wore to sing "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" at Madison Square Garden. And even the classic makeup and hairstyles of the 1940s, especially those made famous by Rita and Veronica Lake, were favored by Jessica, Reese, and others at the Oscars and have really been on trend this entire awards season.
Adrian is another costume designer whose talent has always been felt in fashion. His wardrobes for movies like Dinner at Eight (1933) and The Women (1939) are iconic and still influential today. He is perhaps best known for the styles he established during the 1940s, most notably the strong shoulders he made famous on stars such as Joan Crawford. That design element alone seemed to define much of 1940s style and made an enormous resurgence in the 1980s. Fashion designers from Norma Kamali to Thierry Mugler made the most of it in their collections. Today the look is back once again and the Oscars red carpet had Halle Berry and Jane Fonda--both in Versace--strutting Adrian's signature style. One of his gowns for Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story (1940) may have been a particular inspiration.
In addition to all the dress designs, the influence of classic cinema also includes hair and makeup (as mentioned above), accessories, and jewelry. Jean Patou's groundbreaking designs for Louise Brooks in the silent classic Pandora's Box (1929) included a dress with jeweled detail down the back. That look launched a strong trend then in the 1920s and continued into the 1930s where a plunging back was all the rage. The look also seemed to inspire uber stylist Rachel Zoe last week when creating the Oscar looks for both Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway. Though few were a fan of Anne's dress, unfortunately--a last minute change from Valentino to Prada--there was considerable buzz about how both stars were styled with necklaces draped down the back. I have no doubt this will kick off a trend in fashion now, but we should remember that much of this goes back to Pandora's Box.
As I often say in my class on the HISTORY OF FASHION IN FILM, the most successful stylists and designers know their film history well and are always culling classic cinema for inspiration. Here is just some of the evidence from the biggest night of the year in Hollywood. Cheers!
ABOVE: Jessica Chastain in ARMANI PRIVE shows a modern take on Rita Hayworth
The always inspiring Rita Hayworth in her iconic Jean Louis gown
for "Put the Blame on Mame" in 1946's Gilda
Other ladies loving Rita's look included Reese Witherspoon in LOUIS VUITTON
and Olivia Munn in MARCHESA
Costume design sketches lined the red carpet including those by Edith Head,
who designed the iconic (and Oscar winning) strapless gown for Elizabeth Taylor in 1951's A Place in the Sun
The Edith effect on Amy Adams in ALEXANDER MCQUEEN
and Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence in CHRISTIAN DIOR COUTURE
Jean Patou's bejeweled dress for Louise Brooks in 1929's Pandora's Box
seemed to inspire stylist Rachel Zoe with her clients Anne Hathaway and Jennifer Lawrence
Adrian was known for the strong shoulders in his gowns,
such as for Katharine Hepburn in 1940's The Philadelphia Story
VERSACE clearly channeling Adrian in dresses for Halle Berry and the ageless Jane Fonda...
can't wait to see Jane at the upcoming TCM Classic Film Festival!
Thanks to The Academy, the Huntington Post, and Tom + Lorenzo for event images