Oscar favors the bold

Fashion ShowsEntertainmentAcademy AwardsAudrey HepburnJodie FosterSocietyNicole Kidman

Once upon a time, Oscar fashion was little more than a footnote to the event.

Who could forget way back in 1988 when Jodie Foster proudly confessed that she'd worn an outfit she'd picked out herself!

This was just a faint and slightly unsettling memory, referenced at today's academy fashion show, an annual tradition held in its Beverly Hills lobby to spotlight the styles expected on the red carpet.

Oscar telecast producer Gil Cates took time for the morning event, smiling warmly as models strutted past.

Show presenter Patty Fox reverentially detailed the fashion highlights at the Oscars, from Audrey Hepburn's lace dress in 1953 to Julia Roberts' bold Valentino gown decades later.

The show highlighted the Oscar styles of "fashion icons" Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman, Hilary Swank, Gwyneth Paltrow, Charlize Theron and Rene Zellweger with a phalanx of willowy models swanning in gowns inspired by these famous ladies.

There were lots of bold colors -- cobalt, canary, gold and scarlet -- lots of strapless gowns and tens of millions of dollars in diamonds.

Jewelry designer Martin Katz, who has loaned jewels to hundreds of stars over the years, watched as photographers ogled a blond model wearing $550,000 worth of his rose-cut diamonds. The academy preview show, he said, prepares him for "what is going to be thrown at me" by stylists dressing the stars.

In 1991, Fox began scouting up-and-coming designers and inviting them to design red-carpet gowns to be showcased for the press at the academy to pique the interest of celebrities -- the A-listers themselves "didn't understand what we were doing."

Fox knew things had changed a couple of years later when she spotted a reporter on the red carpet holding a paddle with two questions written on front and back: "Who did your gown?" on one side and "Who did your jewels?" on the other.

Ultimately, though, the fashion event became more about building enthusiasm for the awards ceremony than linking designers with stars.

The academy quickly found that celebrities didn't want to wear a dress that had already been photographed.

Now, said Cates, "it's an opportunity to get people in the mood of glamour that the Ocars present."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Fashion ShowsEntertainmentAcademy AwardsAudrey HepburnJodie FosterSocietyNicole Kidman